How about another set of airbags for your truck? Not the kind that blow up if you hit something — we’re talking about truck airbags for your suspension.
Airbag suspensions aren’t just for the lowrider and show car crowds. Yes, you can adjust your ride height with these, and you might want to do that too, but the big plus for most owners is the way truck airbag suspensions can help with towing by supporting the added weight of the payload or trailer.
An air chamber or airbag replaces your truck’s springs. The air pressure, which largely dictates the ride height and support for weight, is managed by a solenoid, which increases and decreases the inflation level. These bags bear the weight of the truck to carry it smoothly down the road in a way that’s similar to how the springs flex and absorb bumps via direct physical connection to the suspension. In that sense, the two components are alike, but only in that sense.
If you’re towing, an adjustable air suspension system can help you avoid bouncing, swaying and squatting — which is when the tongue of your laden trailer compresses your rear suspension, resulting in a low, sagging side profile. Not only does this look strange, but it also decreases the stability of your truck as it moves down the road, making it easier to lose control and cause an accident.
Different Bags For Different Applications
An air suspension meant to adjust ride height on a light pickup is not going to be up to a heavy-duty towing job. If you’re serious about hauling weight, what you want to look for as you shop for truck airbags is load-leveling capacity.
Make sure the system you buy has a high enough weight rating for the job you’re taking on. But — and this is important — the real limit is your truck’s Gross Vehicle Weight Rating, or GVWR. No airbag system, no matter how high its load-leveling capacity, will allow you to tow more than the manufacturer’s GVWR. All you can hope to accomplish with airbags is improving the capability you already have through better ride and control. Airbags don’t change the frame strength of your truck or other characteristics taken into account when a vehicle is given its GVWR.
Good news! If you are a DIY-er, this is something you may be able to do yourself. Just make sure you have all the right tools for the job and that you’ve done your research. There are plenty of tutorials online that can offer tips, but ultimately you’ll want to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the best results. You’ll probably also want power tools, good lighting, and a secure lift. Patience and an extra set of hands wouldn’t hurt either.
Remember that this is your suspension we’re talking about — the support that holds up your truck 24/7, moving or parked, towing or not. It’s kind of a big deal, so there’s nothing wrong with letting a pro do it for you if you don’t feel 100% confident. Consider having your local NAPA AutoCare give you a quote for this common modification and weighing your options from there.
Improving ride quality and ensuring proper towing make truck airbags an idea you should explore if your trailers are putting your truck’s factory suspension to the test.
Check out all the towing parts and equipment available on NAPA Online, or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on air suspensions, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.
Photo courtesy of Flickr.
Mike Hagerty is an automotive journalist whose work has been featured on radio, TV, in print and online since 1997. He's the Publisher and Editor of MikeHagertyCars.com, and contributes car reviews to the Los Altos Town Crier and losaltosonline.com. Previous outlets have included KFBK and KFBK.com in Sacramento, California, the ABC television affiliates and Hearst-Argyle and Emmis radio stations in Phoenix, Arizona; AAA magazines for Arizona, Oklahoma, Northwest Ohio, South Dakota and the Mountain West and BBCCars.com.