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Photo 2/23 | 2017 Ford F350 Leveling The Load 02 | Here are the springs and hardware for our Air Lift LoadLifter 7500XL kit, which includes the air springs, mounting brackets, airlines, and all the necessary hardware. Depending on the retailer, it can typically be had for $450 or less.
Photo 3/23 | 2017 Ford F350 Leveling The Load 03 | The 7-inch double-convoluted springs themselves are built like tires with reinforced two-ply fabric for maximum strength. They’re adjustable from 5psi to 100psi, offering a great balance of load-leveling capacity and ride comfort. The larger-bellows springs deliver the capacity of smaller springs at reduced air pressure.
Photo 4/23 | 2017 Ford F350 Leveling The Load 04 | The project kicks off with assembly of the air springs’ bracketry, starting with installing adjustable swivel fittings for the airlines with a little Teflon tape on the threads. The fittings will be clocked appropriately for the lines after the springs are installed.
Photo 5/23 | 2017 Ford F350 Leveling The Load 05 | Next, we bolted upper and lower mounting plates to the spring assemblies. The plates are steel, but the springs’ end caps that bolt to the plates are made of corrosion-proof nylon composite.
Photo 6/23 | 2017 Ford F350 Leveling The Load 06 | With spring assemblies complete, work moves to the truck’s chassis and removing the factory jounce bumpers. The air springs will take up the bumpers’ space. The trick here, however, is raising the vehicle so the suspension droops, which allows the springs to be inserted. That means a lift that lifts on the frame or jack that stands tall enough to hold the vehicle at the frame with the wheels off the ground.
Photo 7/23 | 2017 Ford F350 Leveling The Load 07 | These studs are mounted on brackets that clip into the frame and are located under the jounce bumpers. Remove those, too. A simple nudge with a flat-blade screwdriver is all it takes to dislodge and remove them.
Photo 8/23 | 2017 Ford F350 Leveling The Load 08 | New clip-in universal nuts are slipped into the same positions in the frame as the jounce bumper studs. Again, a little persuasion with a screwdriver is all it takes.
Photo 9/23 | 2017 Ford F350 Leveling The Load 09 | The upper mounting brackets bolt into the universal nuts with carriage bolts. The brackets are different for the left and right sides, so it’s important to double-check the instructions before cinching down everything. The studs in on the bracket, seen here, will mount the spring assembly.
Photo 10/23 | 2017 Ford F350 Leveling The Load 10 | Next—and simply enough—set the lower brackets in place. They should be flush against the leaf spring stack and locked around the stock U-bolts.
Photo 11/23 | 2017 Ford F350 Leveling The Load 11 | The springs push up into place and sandwich in-between the brackets.
Photo 12/23 | 2017 Ford F350 Leveling The Load 12 | There is little room at the top of the spring brackets to tighten the hardware and an impact definitely won’t fit, making it a slow, half-turn-at-a-time procedure.
Photo 13/23 | 2017 Ford F350 Leveling The Load 13 | The U-bolt attachment hardware slips around the jounce bumper strike plate and spacer block on the leaf spring stack, sliding into the mounting holes of the lower bracket.
Photo 14/23 | 2017 Ford F350 Leveling The Load 14 | Long carriage bolts hold lower clamps against the bottom of the axle tube and bolt to the bottom spring brackets. Trimming the bottom of the bolts may be required on some vehicles equipped with a rear stabilizer bar. Fortunately, that wasn’t the case with our project.
Photo 15/23 | 2017 Ford F350 Leveling The Load 15 | Lower leg adapters are included with the kit to support the bottom brackets against the axle tube. We initially slipped them into place with a somewhat loose bracket before they were tightened.
Photo 16/23 | 2017 Ford F350 Leveling The Load 16 | Heat shields are included to protect the air springs and airlines from the exhaust system. We bent the tabs on them, as shown, to provide at least a half-inch of space between the exhaust pipe or resonator and the shield.
Photo 17/23 | 2017 Ford F350 Leveling The Load 17 | The heat shield simply attaches to the exhaust system with worm clamps. In our case, that meant placing it around a resonator on the passenger side, which was only a couple of inches from the air spring.
Photo 18/23 | 2017 Ford F350 Leveling The Load 18 | Here’s one of the installed air springs. Apart from some tight confines for turning the hardware, the project has gone very easily to this point. Depending on the vehicle model and model year, there may be some bracket interference with other chassis lines and hoses, such as the brake lines, requiring the lines to be held away with nylon ties. There were no major issues with our Ford project vehicle, though.
Photo 19/23 | 2017 Ford F350 Leveling The Load 19 | Time to route the airlines, which simply run from the swivel valves at the top of the spring assemblies along both sides of the frame. There are two choices for the end points: inside the rear wheel openings or at the rear of the vehicle.
Photo 20/23 | 2017 Ford F350 Leveling The Load 20 | The dually’s wide fenders would have made the rear fender location a little more difficult, so we opted to run the airlines to the rear bumper, necessitating a couple of holes in the bumper.
Photo 21/23 | 2017 Ford F350 Leveling The Load 21 | The Schrader valves were mounted discreetly on the bottom of the bumper, which also provided easy access for air fills. And with the valves for both springs mounted at the rear bumper, it is more convenient than having to go to both sides of the truck for fender-mounted access.
Photo 22/23 | 2017 Ford F350 Leveling The Load 22 | With the airlines installed, we tested the system by inflating the springs to 30psi. After that, the connections were sprayed with a soapy water solution to check for leaks identified by bubbles. We deflated the springs to the minimum pressure to restore the original ride height (no lower than 5psi) and checked the pressure again after 24 hours. According to Air Lift, a 2 to 4psi loss is normal after the initial installation, but if it’s more than 5psi, check the system again for leaks.
Photo 23/23 | 2017 Ford F350 Leveling The Load 23 | Here’s the final installation. Nothing but hand tools and a couple drilled holes were needed for the project. It’s a meaningful enhancement for trucks that work for a living, offering a more comfortable, confident driving experience with a loaded bed or trailer. Not bad for a little more than $400 and an afternoon’s work.