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Signs of an Air Suspension Failure

A Lincoln luxury car is parked in a driveway; its failing air suspension sags underneath it.

If you’re hauling heavy loads or own a luxury vehicle but have noticed things seem a bit off, you may have an air suspension failure. The equipment that once provided the extra support to tow larger trailers or perhaps just glide over bumps can cause your ride to be less comfortable, on an angle or even dangerous when this happens. Here’s a look at some failures that your air suspension might be dealing with if you notice the ride just isn’t what it used to be.

CompressorMercedes SUV with air supsension

The compressor is the heart of your vehicle’s air suspension; as such, it’s the most prone to failure. Under normal circumstances, the compressor keeps the system inflated, but over time it can wear out from being overworked or running more than it’s supposed to. The best way to spot a faulty compressor is if your vehicle is sitting lower than it normally would. With lower pressure provided to the air springs, the suspension itself will droop and the car will sit lower to the ground. The compressor may eventually lift the vehicle up to the correct height, but at some point it won’t be able to build enough pressure to counter the weight of the car.

Air Springs

The other essential component in an air system is the air springs. The rubber seals inside the springs can wear out over time or the rubber air bags can crack, leaking air out of the system and causing the suspension to malfunction. You’ll notice a less-than-comfortable ride, or your vehicle may even be visually crooked. Aside from that, another indicator is hearing the compressor running more than normal as it tries to keep up with the air that’s leaking out of the system as you drive. Do not let a leaking air spring go for too long, as it will eventually wear out the compressor as well.

Air Dryer

The compressor draws air from the atmosphere and compresses it into the system. As a result, it can also take in moisture suspended in the air. All air systems have an inline dryer that removes moisture, but if this fails, water can corrode seals and moving parts and cause them to deteriorate. While this type of damage isn’t something you’d feel when you drive, you can see it upon visual inspection of the lines and other components. If you spot rust or corrosion, you may have a problem with the air dryer.

Air suspension systems provide extra-smooth handling and can help with towing/hauling ability of your vehicle. But, like any other part on a car, they can fail over time. With some careful visual inspection and assessment of the overall ride and stance of your vehicle, you can spot issues early and get them repaired before they become bigger problems.

Check out all the steering and suspension parts available on NAPA Online or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on air suspension failure, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.

Photo courtesy of Flickr.


Erich Reichert View All

Erich Reichert has been an editor and on-air personality in the radio control car hobby for 12 years. A certified car nut since birth, he has written for internationally published titles such as RC Car Action, RC Driver and Xtreme RC Cars, as well as Stuff Magazine, Road and Track and Super Street. He's covered everything from product reviews and tech articles to high-profile lifestyle pieces and celebrity interviews. Erich found his passion for writing after a successful career as an art director, working with brands such as Pepsico, NASCAR, MTV, Nintendo, WWE, Cannondale Bicycles and HBO. He's also a father, an avid hockey fan and an FIA race license holder who enjoys hiking, playing drums and movies.

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