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 > Installing air bags - report with pictures

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sabconsulting

High Wycombe, UK

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Posted: 03/03/12 12:24pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

I originally wasn't looking to purchase airbags. My truck has always sat pretty much level and handled very well with the camper on. However, with the prospect of using it more off-road, especially on the corrugated tracks of North Africa, I was conscious of the weight its springs were having to carry unassisted, increasing the likelihood of breaking a spring leaf in the middle of no-where. So in preparation for the Morocco trip in October I decided to order some airbags. They arrived this week:

[image]

It came with a load of document (including instructions in Dutch [emoticon] - though the supplier then emailed me the English versions):

[image]

Nice new clean Dunlop airbags:

[image]

The weather forecast said rain all weekend, so I wasn't expecting to get any work done on these. Instead I went off to a vehicle breakers and ordered a van axle and suspension to replace that on my trailer, than returned an incorrect parking brake cable purchased for the Samurai, and went to the hardware store to look for some other bits. I got back about 11:00 and it had stopped raining, so I thought - "why not" and started getting the stuff together to fit the airbags.

Initially I jacked up the rear axle with axle stands under it:

[image]

I then thought a bit more about this and decided to support most of the weight using a couple of axle stands on the chassis rails, so the axles would hand down a bit lower giving easier access, but I still needed to support them or they would just drop off as soon as I undid the U-bolts, hence I placed a couple more axle stands under the axle itself:

[image]

In preparation I had sprayed some penetrating oil on the U-bolt nuts last weekend. I don't know if it made any difference, since they were still pretty covered in mud. Luckily the truck is only 5 years old and the bolts weren't too badly corroded in place:

[image]

With the U-bolts and bump-stops removed:

[image]

The kit included a bottom plate that replaced the bump stops. I had to use a G-cramp to squeeze the U-bolts back together since they had spread by half an inch (either that or the holes on the bottom plate were half an inch closer together than those on the original part I removed. This was a bit fiddly:

[image]

Finally with the plate in place:

[image]

After a well-deserved lunch I returned to fit the top plate. The bump stops hit on a plate that is welded to the chassis but has a couple of holes already in it. The kit included a couple of lozenge shaped nuts to slide into this plate from which the new top plate could be bolted using a couple of countersunk head screws. The instructions didn't say anything about this but I decided to add some nut-lock onto the threads (like I had on the U-bolts) to make sure they didn't come undone.

[image]

[image]

It was now time to bolt the airbag in place (I decided to finish one side at a time). To make it easier to fit I compressed it by hand and secured it compressed using a luggage strap:

[image]

I then attached the air hose using the screw-on connector supplied - finger tight as per the instructions:

[image]

Here is the airbag bolted to the top plate:

[image]

Notice that the air hose comes in from the bottom. This wouldn't be my preference, but I guess they did it this way because on this truck there wasn't enough clearance for it at the top.

My first and only snag with the kit - the U-bolts on the axle are quite long and sit above the level of the bottom plate so the airbag can't sit down flat:

[image]

I therefore decided to simply cut them off so they did not sit proud:

[image]

This was a bit more tricky on the other side because the fuel tank is there so clearance for the 8" angle grinder blade was really tight - but I didn't fancy struggling to cut through these with the little 4" grinder.

The airbag finally fitted:

[image]

Just as I started work on the other side the heavens opened with a big hail storm, followed by heavy rain. Luckily it only lasted 20 minutes, but everything was pretty soggy afterwards:

[image]

With both sides done it was time to route the air lines around the truck. My friend Cees had reinforced his by running them through some armoured fuel pipe. I thought about doing the same, but the guy at the parts store asked his commercial manager what they do on their big rigs and he said they weren't allowed to cover the air lines, I guess because then they can't be inspected for damage. So I decided to just leave them as is for the moment. Here is the run from one side:

[image]

Being that the supply to the airbag is at the bottom on this installation I ran them along the axle, then followed the brake hose up to the chassis:

[image]

My camper, although it sticks out a bit at the back, doesn't have wings so I reckon access to the rear near the license plate is pretty easy, so I clamped the valve bracket on there at one side to drill:

[image]

I used some bolts I had spare from the solar installation, and covered the holes in Lanocote grease to stop them from rusting:

[image]

Remembering the best practice taught to me during my electrical training from when I was 16 I cut the hose with plenty to spare and coiled the remainder up to make a 'service loop':

[image]

Here is the finished valve bracket:

[image]

I then pumped the airbags up to the minimum pressure the instructions said were necessary to keep the bags in shape (7 PSI). I noticed that this did also lift the rear of the truck by a couple of inches.

With the sun going down we took the truck for a quick 5 minute drive (unladen). First impressions are positive. The back might be slightly more bouncy than before, but driving over 'speed-bumps' this morning I noticed how the independent front suspension soaked them up, but the rear suspension was brutal hitting the same thing. With the airbags fitted, going over the few bumps and potholes I did manage to find the rear suspension seemed to give the same ride as the front suspension - a big improvement.

We'll drive it a bit more and see how it feels tomorrow.


Many thanks must go to my friend Cees from Holland who fitted airbags to his Toyota Hilux last year (he carries a smaller British-built truck camper), so I had to opportunity to see his airbag installation close up when we last time during the summer. He also sent me some useful photos and tips from his installation.

Steve.


'07 Ford Ranger XLT Supercab diesel + '91 Shadow Cruiser - Sky Cruiser 1
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tktplz

Lake Bistineau, Louisiana

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Posted: 03/03/12 12:35pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

I've had my Air-Lift bags on my Toyota Tacoma since 2004 and love 'em. I've had 25 80 LB. bags of cement and 34 sheets of 1/4 inch paneling no problems. That's hauling those items at separate times, LOL. Well that and now a TC with no problems. I put on the on-board compressor which gave my Air-Lift System a lifetime warranty. They said to set it to 10 Lbs. minimum to keep the bags inflated properly at all times with a 100 LB. limit. I use 80-90 Lbs in them with the TC on and it sits level even tho it's higher off the ground. It's a Pre-runner Tacoma.
Overall I'm very happy with them.


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recycler

michigan

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Posted: 03/03/12 01:35pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

nice install myself I prefer to buy new u-bolts you shouldn't have any trouble with the lines like you have them

I have firestone bags on mine and they work great have had 8ft firewood logs stacked over cab supported them good


1999 F550 truck conversion

Camper_Jeff_&_Kelli

Seattle

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Posted: 03/03/12 02:47pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Nice installation.
I would suggest one thing I did with my airlines. I installed black plastic split loom over the airlines with black electrical tape to keep the split loom from coming off. This was to protect from failures due to rubbing and whatever else the elements throw at you.
Jeff


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silversand

Montreal

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Posted: 03/03/12 03:01pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Nice write-up Steve!

Cheers,
Silver-


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GoinThisAway

middle TN

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Posted: 03/03/12 04:42pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Air bags are on my wish list as I need to level my camper up side-to-side. Thanks for letting me see what I'll be in for installing them[emoticon]


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rehoppe

Denver & Nathrop Colo or somewhere else

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Posted: 03/04/12 10:03am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Slight HiJack;
Since I have coils on the back of my Cboy Caddy 1/2 ton, I wonder what it would take to dump the metal entirely and just have Air Ride? Hmmm

Back to you rnormal programming.


Hoppe
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Mello Mike

Mesa, AZ

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Posted: 03/04/12 10:54am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Great job, Steve.


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dakonthemountain

Crestline, California

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Posted: 03/04/12 11:52am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Great ! Thanks for sharing your photos of the installation. Glad it worked out without a ton of issues or problems!

Dak


2018 GMC Denali "Extreme" and 23' EVO 2050T Travel Trailer
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sabconsulting

High Wycombe, UK

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Posted: 03/22/12 04:22pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

I've just put the camper on for the first time since adding the air bags etc.

Ironically loading the camper with the airbags deflated it already sits level (I gave Sally the job or unbolting the jacks - hence the wrench she is waving around):

[image]

I then pumped 15psi into the bags, which lifted the suspension only slightly:

[image]

However on driving down the road it did feel quite bouncy, so I dropped it down to 10 psi which was an improvement.

I have got the new tyres on, and I'm running the fronts at 45psi and backs at 50psi, which is a bit higher pressure than I used to run the old tyres at (the old ones gave maximum load at 44 psi), so the tyres might have been adding to the bounciness. The water tank in the camper was empty, so I guess it will ride more smoothly when that is full too.

So I'm not entirely convinced by the airbags at the moment. Though the main reason for fitting them was to be able to take a bit of load off the springs when operating on North African dirt tracks to reduce the risk of spring breakage when miles away from help.

We've got a couple of trips in the camper in the next few weeks, so we can have a play with the pressures and see how we feel about them.

Steve.

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