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AIR RIDE FAQ
- How Reliable is Air Ride?
- To put it simply: incredibly reliable! The reliability of air suspension is highly dependent on the quality of the installation, just like any car modification. If you rush your install, or cut corners to “get the job” done this may come back to bite you. Truth be told, a carefully installed and well maintained air ride setup will last as long as any other aftermarket suspension. The bags themselves will outlive the life of the vehicle. If you won’t be installing your air suspension yourself, be sure to bring your vehicle and air ride components to a qualified and air ride experienced shop!
- Can Air Ride be used in the winter?
- Absolutely! Bag Riders is located in northern Vermont which tends to get very cold and snowy during the winter months. That doesn’t stop any of us from driving our air ride equipped vehicles year round, or prevent us from traveling to resorts in the area to enjoy snow sports. We do recommend a few steps of preventative maintenance during the winter months to ensure the cold doesn’t adversely affect any air ride components. First off, we always add about two caps of air brake antifreeze to our air tanks as soon as the temperature starts to drop around freezing at night. This helps prevent condensation from freezing inside air lines, valves, fittings and otherwise clogging up the system. Furthermore, we tend to empty our tanks and water traps more frequently during the colder months - typically once a month.
- What kind of maintenance is recommended for my air ride system?
- Air ride doesn’t call for much in regards to maintenance. We recommend emptying your air tank every couple of months, and if you have water trap(s) in your system we recommend draining those at least once a month. Both of these procedures are recommended to drain any moisture from the system, making both of these procedures less mandatory in dry climates. We find that it is convenient to drain water traps while you’re filling up your gas tank, and helps keep you in the habit.
- Will Bag Riders install my kit?
- We do not perform installations on customer vehicles. If you are a shop and you wish to be added to our network of recommend air ride install locations, shoot an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org with your information!
- How much does it cost to install air suspension?
- As with any type of vehicle modification or maintenance, rates will vary depending on the shop you go to. Furthermore, since the various management systems for air ride involve different degrees of complication and labor required, your type of kit will generally impact the cost of installation. An air ride installation can range from $500 - $1500+ depending on where you go and the type of system you’re having installed.
- What is the difference between B.O.C. (Bag-Over-Coil) and Threaded Air Struts?
With the recent advancements in air ride technology, we've found that the term Bag over Coil is being used a bit too loosely (read: incorrectly) nowadays. The term Bag over Coil refers to replacing the coil spring on a coil over (or OE strut/shock) with an air spring, typically the Universal Air Aero Sport bag which could be described as a "donut" bag. The Aero Sport bag slips over the pressure tube of your existing shock and is a cost efficient means of bagging a car, so long as you do your homework and measure accordingly!
This process has been around for a while and has a rather wide range of potential results. The B.O.C. approach works great on certain applications, whereas other applications tend to not go low enough, have poor ride quality, or do not have a sufficient amount of lift.
A threaded air strut (for example, the Air Lift Performance Subaru Struts) is completely different than the bag over coil approach since they do not use donut bags and are a completely engineered solution. Air Lift Performance threaded struts are re-valved using Air Lift's propriety valving which is designed to be ideal for the physics of an air spring. When using a threaded air strut, you have complete control over your ride quality since you can adjust the length of your suspension without sacrificing stroke; they are truly the best of both worlds!
- How do I apply Teflon Tape?
Although a relatively simple process, it is kind of hard to explain clearly with words. That said, watch this video!
- How do I drain my tank?
- We recommend draining your tank every couple of months to release water and debris that may have collected inside. Draining your tank can be done in numerous ways. The first thing to remember when draining your tank is to always exhaust all the air from your system before beginning to remove any fittings! That said, the most straightforward method to drain your air tank is to remove it from your vehicle and unscrew a fitting from the tank to drain any water out that has collected inside. We’ve seen creative setups that utilize an elbow fitting on the bottom of the tank connected to an electric valve which is actuated by a push-button as a tank drain. There are plenty of possibilities, but the general idea is that water will collect at the bottom of the tank, so if you plan on draining your tank without removing it be sure that the “drain” is located on the bottom of the tank!
- I think I have a leak... Help!
- Don’t worry! Leaks are very normal, especially with a new installation! That doesn’t mean that you should ignore a leak though, since they are very easy to track down. Grab any squirt bottle and fill it with a bit of soap and water, then begin spraying down any connection in your system. Even the slowest leak will cause bubbles to form. If the leak is audible and coming from a PTC fitting, be sure the air line is pressed firmly into the fitting. We have found that Alkon and SMC fittings are very reliable for PTC connections due to the inner “sleeve” that hugs the inside of the connected air line.
- What are “Hard Lines”?
- Hard lines are something you see everywhere but likely do not realize it. Commonly found throughout any home’s plumbing system, hard lines can be formed from copper, aluminum or steel. Hard lines add a bit of extra “flare” to your management setup, and show that you have invested time and money to not only have a functional air ride management system, but also a setup that is impressive to look at! A quick Google Image Search for “Air Ride Hard Lines” results in plenty of pictures demonstrating the impressiveness of management system connected with hard lines. It is recommended that you use AN fittings with hard lines, rather than PTC fittings used with standard nylon air line.
Management Related Questions
- What is the best management?
This is probably the most common question we receive, and for good reason! However, there is not one answer that is suitable for everyone. Imagine if you asked every enthusiast you know what the best type of car is? You would likely receive a large range of responses. The same goes for air ride management; the best kind of management is ultimately up to the individual who will be using it. For some, manual management may be the ideal solution for a low-budget build, whereas another person may find the precision, quality and reliability of AccuAir e-Level to be the perfect companion for their daily driver or shop stopper.
We offer a selection of pre-built Bag Riders exclusive management packs which include all the management parts you need for your air ride setup, aside from the suspension components.
- Does my choice of management affect the way my vehicle will handle?
The answer to this question is a bit tricky, as the answer could be both yes and no. For starters, all (6) of the Bag Riders Management Packs will handle the exact same, so we’ve got your back there! However, it is absolutely possible to build an inferior management system that will adversely affect the way your vehicle handles. The definition provided on this page for FBSS provides a basic explanation of a system that would not handle as well as our Management Packs. All of our air ride management packs are 8-valve setups, meaning each corner of the vehicle has (2) valves: one for dump and one for fill. In the past, when air ride was merely for show and rarely if ever used on a performance application, it was very common to build a 4-valve system.
In a 4-valve system, front and rear bags are “paired” together. Although this may save a few bucks in parts, the vehicles handling will suffer severely! This is because in a 4-valve setup, since front and rear air springs are paired together, air can transfer between each pair of bags which is especially apparent when cornering. As you may have guessed, 4-valve setups suffer from severe body roll. This type of setup is largely responsible for the common misperception that air ride handles like a boat. In modern day 8-valve setups such as any of the Bag Riders Management Packs, your air springs are isolated for optimal handling characteristics.
- What is the difference between Manual and Analog management?
It is very common to confuse manual and analog setups, but the two systems are very different! The main difference is that analog management systems use electronically controlled valves, whereas manual management systems do not. The word “manual” refers to the fact that you are using your energy to manually/physically actuate valves with your fingers whereas in analog systems it is electricity that actuates the valves. The two systems could be compared to driving a car with a manual transmission vs driving a car equipped with a direct-shift gearbox. When driving a manual transmission, you are physically actuating the gear stick throughout the gears of the vehicle with your arm motions, whereas when driving a DSG equipped vehicle in tiptronic mode you are sending an electric signal that causes the vehicle to switch gears.
Technicalities aside, the two systems have slight differences in performance. First off, Manual Management systems are much slower to lift/drop than Analog Management. This is due to the size of the orifice in a Manual Paddle Valve being very small and thus restrictive of air flow. Also, when installing manual paddle valves you need to find a place to mount them which often times involves sacrificing an interior panel or DIN slot. We have seen creative locations for paddle valves which don’t involve cutting anything, but a wire harness for an analog switch box can come out of the smallest nook in your vehicle which may save some headache.
- What is the difference between Analog and Digital management?
Digital systems have an ECU which receives a digital signal from a controller and acts upon that signal in contrast to an analog system where the buttons you press on the controller send an electric signal to a valve. The ECU or “brain” of a digital system makes advanced features such as presets, system monitoring and quick changes to tank pressure possible.
Check out our selection of digital controllers for further reading.
- What is the difference between Height Based and Pressure Based management?
Digital systems provide preset heights using one of two methods: bag pressure or physical height-based measurement. Neither of these methods can be labeled as “better” than the other as they differ so much in methodology. One thing that must be understood about pressure-based presets is that pressure values are in no way a perfect means of determining the actual height of the vehicle. That is to say a vehicle could be the exact same height with 50 psi in all air springs or 100 psi in all air springs; it is totally dependent on the weight of the vehicle including passengers and cargo. The presets stored in a pressure-based controller are preset pressures, not preset heights. The user should monitor the physical height of the vehicle to ensure that the desired height is reached.
This is where the advantages of height-based managements, such as the AccuAir e-Level system become apparent. No matter what the weight inside the cabin is, a height-based management will remain consistent. Height-based systems like e-Level use height position sensors to determine the height of the vehicle rendering pressure values completely irrelevant. With e-Level you no longer have to deal with the hassle of installing pressure gauges. In a vehicle equipped with e-Level, you and four friends can hop in the car and your “drive preset” will be the same height as when it is just you in the vehicle. For a daily driver or vehicle that will be used to transport passengers, a true height based digital controller is the best option.
Still not exactly sure how these two systems behave differently? Check out this short video we made demonstrating both pressure-based and height-based systems reacting to additional passengers entering the vehicle:
Specific Part Related Questions
- What is the difference between air line size?
- Air line comes in a variety of sizes, each with a different inner diameter which affects the amount of air that can flow to/from a bag when lifting/dropping your vehicle. Simply put, ⅜” air line allows air to flow faster than ¼” air line. ¼” air line is slightly easier to route than ⅜” air line just because it is smaller in diameter and thus bends a bit easier. Keep in mind that if you have ⅜” air line and decide that is too fast you can always control the flow of air via inline flow controls and dump controls.
- Do I need to buy a “Power Kit” with my air ride kit?
Maybe! A power kit serves to provide power to pump and other electronic components in your management (e.g. ECU, Manifold and other accessories). If you already have an aftermarket amplifier with a thick power wire, chances are you can use that same power wire to power your air ride components. You should have a good understanding of how electricity works before making this decision. If you aren’t sure, ask your mechanic, give us a call or shoot an e-mail to email@example.com.
For your convenience, we offer a range of power kits, many of which are assembled in-house and are intended for use with air ride setups.
- Do I need to buy gauges with my air ride kit?
We strongly recommend installing pressure gauges for any non-height based management system. Although bag pressure is not a reliable or consistent means of determining the actual height of the vehicle, you need to have some idea about the length of your suspension in order to stay within your alignment. Whenever you make changes to the suspension geometry of your vehicle it is a good idea to get aligned. Since an air ride system makes your suspension length variable, gauges allow you to have a ballpark idea of where you are aligned and you should try to do most your driving close to those pressure values.
For your convenience, we offer Bag Riders Exclusive pre-built Dual Needle Gauge kits (ideal for 4-corner pressure display), Tank Pressure Combo Kits or an all-inclusive Triple Gauge Combo Kit for all of your pressure monitoring needs!
- Do I need to buy shocks with my air ride kit?
- This is another “maybe” answer. If you are currently sitting on stock suspension and will be installing air suspension, we consider it a wise decision to upgrade your shocks to a shorter aftermarket shock. The OE shocks on vehicles are valved and sized to be ideal for stock suspension height. Therefore, when lowering your vehicle significantly an aftermarket shock will ride better than an OE shock. If you’re making the switch to air from coils and already have a shorter aftermarket shock, you’re likely going to be just fine using the shocks that came with your coil-overs.
- How to adjust the damping setting on Koni Sport shocks
Although a relatively simple process, it is kind of hard to explain clearly with words. That said, watch this video!
- What is a water trap and should I get one?
A water trap serves two purposes: 1) to filter moisture of the air that passes through it and 2) to filter out debris from the air that passes through it. We recommend installing water traps between the air tank and manifold intake port(s). Although we strongly recommend installing water traps, they are ultimately not required but do help protect your investment from water and debris.
You can view our selection of water traps right here!
- How often should I drain my water trap(s)?
- We recommend draining your water traps every couple of weeks, depending on your climate and the recent weather (i.e. if it has been very humid, check your traps more often). We find that emptying your water trap(s) while filling up your gas tank is a good habit to form. If you’re worried about water spraying everywhere, take a plastic baggy and slip it over the water trap before engaging the drain. It is a good idea to relieve pressure from your air tank before draining your water trap(s) to avoid busting an O-Ring in the trap’s drain seal.
- What size water trap should I get?
- In order to minimize potential leak points in your system, we recommend choosing a water trap with NPT port sizes that match the male NPT connection at the end of your compressor(s) leader hose(s). For reference, both 400C and 444C compressors have 1/4" NPT male connections. The size of your water trap will not slow down your compressor(s) output!
- What is the difference between all of these compressors?
Compressors are a bit of a science. You may notice that compressors are rated by duty cycle, which means basically "how long the compressor can run at the specified PSI without stopping to cool down or otherwise rest during a certain time interval, usually 10 minutes". A 400c compressor has a 33% duty cycle at 100psi, which means while filling at or above 100psi, the 400c can run for 3 minutes and 18 seconds (33% of 10 minutes) before needing to cool down for 6 minutes and 42 seconds. To fill from 110-145 psi (the standard pressure cut off), the 400c takes roughly 48 seconds, so it is well within the duty cycle. The 400c is the fastest VIAIR compressor that we sell, outputting 2.54CFM @ 0 psi (scales down becoming slower as pressure in the tank increases), and is often compared to the 444c compressor.
The 444c compressor is slightly slower (roughly 30%) than the 400c, outputting 1.76CFM @ 0spi. It is also marginally larger than the 400c, and also quieter due to its lower CFM output. Since the 444c is larger and slower, it has a duty cycle of 100% @ 100psi and 50% @ 200psi (which should never be the case in an air ride setup). That is to say, the 444c compressor can run continuously at 100psi without having to stop and cool down.
Want a different compressor or dual pack for your air ride kit? Check out our selection of compressors, surely you will find the ideal compressor for your setup!
- Should I get a single compressor or dual compressors with my air ride kit?
- This is truly a personal decision, however there are certainly benefits to running two or more compressors compared to a single compressor. First off, the more compressors you install the faster your tank will fill up. Another benefit of having multiple compressors is that in the very unlikely event that a compressor fails, you won’t be left with no means to fill your air tank. With every Bag Riders air ride kit or management pack, we ship out an inflation valve as part of the fitting pack so that in dire emergency you can use a normal tire fill station to fill your air tank.
- Should I get an aluminum tank or steel tank?
- We always recommend aluminum tanks as they are lighter, and aluminum does not rust like steel does. Since compressors produce warm air which cools down in the air tank, condensation (and thus moisture) will inevitably collect inside the air tank. If you have a steel tank, this may result in rust water or worse-- small flakes of rust that could damage your valves, air lines or bags. We offer a variety of tanks for those that require a different port orientation than the “standard” AccuAir 5 Gallon Aluminum tank that is included with our completed air ride kits.
- What is the deal with tank pressure and pressure switches?
- All Bag Riders complete air ride kits by default operate within the 110-145 pressure range, which is the amount of pressure inside the air tank. This means that the compressor will turn on at 110psi and turn off at 145psi. Every time you increase the air in an air spring, your tank pressure will decrease. By increasing the pressure in the air tank you are effectively increasing the amount of air you have to expense before your compressor(s) will turn on. Air in your system is measured by volume (gallons in your tank) and density (pressure inside the tank). We offer non-adjustable pressure switches in variants of 110-145, 145-175 and 175-200psi (all “compressor on” and “compressor off” values). Systems with a digital pressure sensor for the tank allow you to adjust the on/off pressure in your system without replacing the pressure switch.
Air Ride Lingo
- Push-to-Connect. A type of connection that allows you to easily plug in an air line. This is measured in fractions and should match the size of your air line if you are ordering fittings.
- National Pipe Thread Tapered Thread. Yes, there are a few more “T’s” than the acronym, but this is indeed the correct definition of this acronym. “NPT” is the measurement for the threaded side of your fittings and ports throughout an air ride setup. Often overlooked is the very important word tapered. When threading fittings into a tank or any other port, it is important to remember that since the threads are tapered the fitting will not be able to thread “flush” to the port.
- AN (Fitting)
- A type of thread standardized by American Aeronautical and Navy engineers (hence ‘AN’) and is typically used with “hard line” setups.
- FBSS (4-way)
- Shorthand for “Front-back-side-side” which describes the possible controls of an air ride system. FBSS may be used to describe a 4-way (8 valve) system, essentially saying you have the ability to raise and lower each corner of the suspension individually. This type of modern system is a vast improvement in terms of performance compared to older air ride systems which implemented only 4-valves by pairing the front and rear air springs together. In regards to performance it is very undesirable to pair air springs together as air will be able to transfer between springs while cornering which results in terrible body roll.
- A common abbreviation for "Bag-over-coil" which refers to the method of bagging a car by replacing the shocks on an aftermarket or OE strut/shock with "donut" bags such as the Universal Air Aero Sport. This bag has as a metal tube in the center, allowing you to slip it over your shock's pressure tube.
- Short for Electronic Control Unit, the ECU is what gives digital management the possibility of presets and other cool features. You can think of the ECU as the "brain" to the system. ECU's receive a digital signal and translate that into electric signals to send to the manifold/valves.
- Solenoid (Valve)
- Technically this term refers to electromechanical solenoids found throughout analog and digital air ride systems, often built into the manifold. Simply put, the term solenoid is often times interchanged with valve, which refers to the pneumatic valves that control the air flow throughout your air ride system. Each corner of an air suspension system is composed of (2) valves, one for “fill” and one for “dump” . Therefore, modern “8-way” or “FBSS” systems are composed of (8) pneumatic valves and solenoids to power these valves.
- Similar to how your intake manifold accepts air and distributes it to your engine cylinders, your air ride manifold accepts air from your tank and distributes the air to your bags. In an air ride setup, a manifold is composed of numerous solenoids and generally decreases the installation time of air management systems by reducing the amount of wiring and plumbing when compared to individual valve setups. Examples of manifolds include the AccuAir VU4 Manifold, the Air Lift Performance 3P (Combined ECU and Manifold) and the Slam Specialties Manifold, just to name a few.
- Check Valve
- Sometimes referred to as a one way valve (see: SMC Check Valve), which is a much more descriptive name for this type of valve which only allows air to flow in one direction. These types of valves are found at the end of compressor leader hoses, and are useful for isolating your air reservoir (tank) from your bags. For example, many individuals place a check valve between their air tank and manifold. This allows the user to remove the air tank while keeping air in their air springs, and furthermore provides peace of mind knowing that a tank leak will not cause the air springs to slowly deflate.
- Refers to the travel range of the vehicle’s suspension, typically defined by the shock. This is an important factor to understand when lowering your vehicle significantly, as riding close to the limit of a shock’s stroke is very detrimental to the integrity of the shock. For this reason, we recommend that you install shorter, aftermarket shocks when lowering your vehicle.
- Spring Rate
- Simply put, this refers to the amount of weight required to compress a spring by the given measurement, for U.S. Standards this is typically given in lbs/in. For example, a spring with a spring rate of 140lb/in will compress 1 inch under a 140lb load. When referencing spring rates, a higher spring rate means a stiffer (and usually heavier) spring. In regards to air suspension, the pressure in the bag is the determining factor for spring rate. Therefore, with air ride you have the freedom to define your own spring rate. For applications with threaded struts, you can define your own spring rate without sacrificing stroke by adjusting the length of the strut via the threaded lower bracket.
- A relay is an electrically operated switch found throughout vehicle electronics and a common component in air ride management systems. The basic idea of a relay is to conditionally provide power from a high amperage source to a target via a low amperage signal. The relay takes a very low amperage signal to “open” the connection from the power source to the target receiving power. Relays are commonly used to trigger compressors on and off automatically via a pressure switch, which is another kind of electromechanical device in that a physical action results in an electric reaction.