Mr. Truck 5-25-09
Truck manufacturers have all stretched the rear leaf springs on trucks. The 2008 Ford added another 8 inches to the rear leafs of their Super Duties. So now our 3/4 and one tons ride like half tons, but they can also sag with maximum payloads and tongue weights. It is important to remember, adding accessories to your trucks suspension does not increase your factory GVWR, axle weight rating or payload. The goal is enhancing what you have for maximum load stability.
Instant adjustability is the advantage. Being able to remotely stiffen the rear suspension under a load, does improve stability and eases control. Over-the-road semi-trucks have proved that air bags are reliable. Eighteen-wheelers can have air bags on the tractor, trailer, cab and seats. Our four- and six-wheelers can use help with air, especially at maximum payload and trailer weight.
What caught my attention was Air Lifts’ new wireless air bags remote control. I worry about leaking air lines and the usual culprit is the air lines going all the way to the front of the cab with the flexing between cab and bed and the lines going through the fire wall into the gauge and control switch. Air Lifts eliminated those problems with a remote manifold hosed to the compressor back in or under the bed and controlled by the remote control on your visor next to your garage door opener. When you’re showing off to your friends or hooking up your trailer hitch, you can walk around your truck with the remote. The Wireless AIR (Advanced Integrated Remote) Kit comes with a compressor, manifold, wiring harness and wireless digital controller.
Just like air bags on a semi-truck, you can change truck position. Drop air to release the gooseneck or Fifth wheel or increase air to attach to a trailer coupler. Having the ability to change air pressure in the bags side to side, is an advantage. It’s not always easy getting loads and slide-in campers balanced. Then there’s the wonderful side winds than can irritate you all day driving across most Western states.
Bellows (air bags) are manufactured similar to tires with layers of rubber and cords. Air Lift LoadLifter 5000 bellows are rated to support 5,000 lbs at maximum 100 psi. The bellow brackets attach to the axle housing, spring stack and joist bumpers for a solid installation. Factory jounce bumpers (axle to frame bottom stop) were hard to take out. The embedded bolt stripped out of the rubber on my 70k mile test truck, (vice grips needed). The bottom bracket slides over the jounce bumper strike plate. The bellow top bracket is the only hard part of the installation because you have to align two bolts that you can’t see, they go through the bracket, roll plate and bellows. If they were pointed bolts it would help align it all.
I wired the air compressor to the trailer harness to be on only with the ignition key on. Zip ties come in the kit to keep emergency brake cables, wiring harnesses and the differential breather hose away from the bellows. There is a 15 amp in line fuse for the wire that connects to the battery and a one amp barrel fuse to the ignition side wire. The install manual has handy templates for drilling holes to match the compressor and manifold. There’s a process of joining the wireless manifold and remote controller with a magnet so it’s unique to your truck and not your neighbors’.
The digital wireless remote controller shows air pressure in each bellow and facilitates manual and automatic adjustments. Two memory buttons are available in the remote controller for your favorite settings like loaded and empty. There are also buttons for controlling air pressure settings and independent air bag control. The controller automatically keeps the air pressure you set. The controller can program and control two axles.
On Ford, Air Lift attaches to the jounce bumper strike plate instead of leaf springs, so you can add overload springs such as SuperSprings for supporting the large slide-in truck campers. The Ford application is unique, mounting the air bag inside the frame instead of on top of the leaf springs as with Dodge and GM. Mounting the air bags outside on top of the leaf springs, makes the brackets more accessible, but the Ford application leaves the springs open for other options. With the air bag brackets inside the frame, the top bracket is not as easy to install because the bracket and frame spacer need to be attached first before the bellow.
The kit comes with insulated hoses for running air lines near exhaust and a stainless steel shield which fit my three inch AFE aftermarket exhaust. The manifold wireless control attaches with a hose directly to the compressor. The compressor is small and fast. Each air bag side connects to the manifold separately so you can inflate or deflate individually. I left an extra air line attached so I can repair any holes. I used the manual air valves that came with the Air Lift LoadLifter 5000 in case all fails, to air up at a gas station. The air lines are sweet, just cut the air lines straight, and push-to-connect in the fitting.
Once it was installed, it worked so easy, the compressor is fast, and the two preset buttons on the remote controller for empty and loaded are very convenient. I enjoy the adjustable air on the go, with the remote control from my visor or walking around. It also has a lifetime warranty.
For more info on air bags, please visit http://www.AirLiftCompany.com.
Kent Sundling (alias “Mr. Truck”) spent 20 years wearing out pickup trucks as only a farmer could. With over 1 million miles pulling trailers, Mr. Truck has a unique collection of truck and farm stories that will educate and entertain. Mr.Truck gave up his bib overalls and John Deeres in his quest to save the farm and moved to the big city to sell trucks. After selling trucks for 10 years, this farmer now writes for eight magazines and owns over two dozen Web sites, helping folks find the “Right Truck.” If you have a question for Mr. Truck, you may contact him at his Web site, http://www.mrtruck.net.
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