Working rigs invariably have to do two things really well: tow and haul. But when you load up the bed and hitch up a seriously heavy trailer, the handling can sometimes feel wilder than Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride—even if you’re within your vehicle’s load limits. If your trailer starts to bob up and down or sway like a pendulum because your tow vehicle can’t control the load, you could quickly find yourself in a very dangerous highway situation.
Installing airbags on your truck or van can help prevent unwanted erratic motion and excessive body roll, resulting in a confident, controlled towing and hauling experience. Air springs have been around for decades, with a wide range of applications: RVs, trains, 18-wheel big rigs, race cars, street rods, and even in the foundations of skyscrapers to cushion against earthquake tremors.
| Air Lift Loadlifter 5000
What they do on a van or pickup, however, is improve the ride quality and stability by keeping your working rig even and level, both side to side and front to rear. With the rear squatting too low, you run the risk of bottoming out (not to mention uneven tire wear, poor steering, and inadequate braking). Every vehicle has flexibility built into the suspension, so they all squat at maximum load capacity.
| Air Lift Loadlifter 5000 Components
| Here are the components of Air Lift’s LoadLifter 5000 Ultimate. Ordering the “Ultimate” version of any LoadLifter kit nets airbags that include an internal jounce bumper to provide three-stage shock absorption and eliminate harsh jarring.
“Adding Air Lift airbags gives the suspension system additional support and smooths out the ride,” sums up Ryan Feyer, marketing manager, Air Lift load support. “Note, however, that this increase in support does not increase the manufacturer’s gross vehicle weight rating,” he points out. (Exceeding the GVWR is dangerous and voids the Air Lift warranty.)
For work truck owners who tow often, the advantages are obvious. Your pickup won’t have its nose (and headlights) pointed skyward, and the whole setup will feel more solid and more aptly suited to handle road conditions. If you’re hauling a heavy load as well, airbags protect your cargo by keeping the bed off the bumpstops while reducing stress on the chassis by transferring weight from the springs to the airbags. Air springs also let you control the comfort factor, eliminating that jarring, rough ride we’re all familiar with. With the flexible rubber components separating the rigid, metal frame and suspension parts, air springs give you a squeak-free, struggle-free ride. After all, compressed air makes for a much better suspension component than steel. Now that’s some levelheaded thinking!
| This Ford Transit 250 van used by a pest control company carries fairly heavy loads of liquid chemicals, indicated by the amount of rear squat. Ride control is an important factor in handling stability and safety on the road. It may be necessary to maintain different pressures on each side of the vehicle. Loads such as water, fuel, and appliances may cause the vehicle to be heavier on one side. As much as a 50-psi difference is not uncommon.
| Air Lift Loadlifter 5000 Hose Fittings Attachment
| Air Lift Loadlifter 5000 Hose Fittings
| Attach the hose fittings and upper mounting plates to the airbags.
| Bolt the axle clamp bars to the bottom of the airbags.
| Air Lift Loadlifter 5000 Bumpstop
| Locate and remove the bumpstops above the rear axle. These can be discarded, since there’s an internal bumpstop in the Air Lift LoadLifter 5000 Ultimate.
| Loosely install the upper mounting bracket for the airbag. Once everything is fitted in place, don’t forget to go back and tighten the mounting bolts.
| Attach the airbag to the mounting brackets, both top and bottom, taking note of clearance for routing the air hoses so they don’t get pinched or chafed. Also, keep them away from heat sources such as exhaust pipes.
| Bolt the 100-psi, heavy-duty air compressor (silver item at right) into a protected area, like on the inner side of the framerail, checking for clearances for both wiring and hoses. The black, rectangular manifold with two hoses (center) contains the electronics that link to the WirelessAir remote control unit. The black cylinder (left) is an inline air/water separator that drains off any condensation.
| Follow the wiring diagram for tapping into the vehicle’s electrical panel. Use an ignition source in the panel so the compressor doesn’t turn on and run down the battery when the vehicle is off.
| Once everything is hooked up, use the WirelessAir remote control unit to add 50 to 70 psi of air pressure to the airbags. Then check for leaks by applying soapy water and looking for any air bubbles. Note that the minimum air pressure should be maintained at all times to keep the air spring in shape, ensuring it will move throughout its travel without rubbing or wearing on itself. If the vehicle’s headlights are shining too high or the vehicle is leaning to one side, then it is not level. Raise the air pressure to correct either of these problems and level the vehicle.