Air bag suspension pros and cons: Should you really go for an airbag suspension in Australia?
Airbag suspensions have been around a long time. And they work great... until they don’t! Even though a lot of improvements have been made over the years, at the end of the day they’re still just airbags. This short article will help you decide if an airbag system is the smart choice for you...
What is an Airbagman airbag suspension system?
Before you can begin to clearly identify the pros and cons of an air bag suspension, you need to understand how an Airbagman airbag system works.
There are six items included in an Airbagman kit:
- 2 airbags
- metal brackets
- necessary hardware
- nylon tubing
- installation instructions
Here’s how it works:
An air suspension system is powered by either an electric pump or compressor that forces air into the bags (or bellows) typically made out of polyurethane and textile-reinforced rubber.
A compressor inflates the air bags to a certain air pressure in order to maintain a certain ride height. It’s important to note that it’s the air inside the bag that does the work.
Note: Air suspension should not be confused with a hydropneumatics suspension which uses pressurized hydraulic liquid instead of air.
What are the pros and cons of an airbag suspension system?
The Pros: The two main reasons for using an air bag suspension
Car and truck manufacturers are increasingly turning to air suspension as a viable alternative. Doing away with conventional springs allows for a much smoother ride, something you can’t get with metal springs. After all, you are - quite literally - floating on a cushion of air.
If a heavy load or trailer has the rear end of your truck squatting lower than usual, the height-control valve (part of the ECAS*) will keep the load level and stable.
*The Electronically Controlled Air Suspension also features height sensors - height control valves - used to automatically control the vehicle's ride height.
The Cons: The air bag suspension has a few negatives
The biggest drawback of an air bag suspension has always been the installation. It’s not easy to do. Airbag Man recommends that you pay a professional do it. If you’re not an experienced air ride installer, you could spend an entire day and still not get it right.
If you want the smooth ride that air bags offer, you’re going to have to pay for it. Without including labour (installation), you’ll be looking at a couple thousand dollars for everything. If you decide to install it yourself to save on labor costs, you’re going to find that there are quite a few components in the box. If you’re not a professional, the task is probably above your pay grade.
Airbags take a pounding. Unless they’re high-quality, they will eventually leak. If they decide to burst on a road trip, it could compromise your brakes, reduce control of your vehicle and lead to an accident.
You need to think twice about using an air bag on your vehicle if you’re the type to ‘set it and forget it’. This complex system is expensive and needs plenty of TLC! Regular checkups are imperative in order to protect your high-maintenance investment.
How does an airbag system compare with Timbren SES airbags?
First of all, let’s examine the similarities:
Load leveling: Both products can keep your truck level even under the heaviest loads. Here are some of the benefits associated with load-leveling:
- Reduced roll and sway
- Improved steering
- More control
Ride quality: Both products promise better ride quality with or without a load.
Secondly, let’s examine the differences:
Obviously, Timbren SES and air bags use two very different technologies: Aeon® hollow rubber springs vs Airbags filled with air. Even though a Timbren SES product can sometimes be mistaken for an airbag suspension system, nothing could be further from the truth. Airbags use compressed air to lift and lower the truck. Timbren SES products use Aeon® hollow rubber springs. The rubber - not air - does the job of keeping the truck level and stable.
Airbag kits cost much more than Timbren SES products. In fact, cost is one of the biggest differences between the two systems. Installation charges plus the number of additional conveniences and upgrades (e.g. air compressors) can really add up.
Most Timbren SES products take about 30 minutes to install. Due to the large number of parts needed for it to function, an airbag system can take up to 4 hours to install.
Timbren SES kits require zero maintenance. Compared to Timbren SES, airbag systems are higher maintenance, requiring periodic checks for leaks and broken airlines.
Timbren SES products are self-adjusting. Airbags require height-control valves that adjust the amount of compressed air sent through the airlines to the air bags.
Which Australian suspension upgrade is best for you?
So far, we’ve compared Airbag Man airbag upgrades to Timbren SES suspension upgrades. So, which one of these Australian suspension systems is best for you?
A quick observation suggests that Timbren SES products have the best price and the most capacity. And if you were to take a closer look, you’d notice that Timbren SES wins big points for:
- best ride quality loaded or unloaded
- best added stability
- best warranty
Also, Timbren SES upgrades aren’t vulnerable to malfunctioning like an airbag system. In fact, a Timbren SES system is completely bulletproof. (Quite literally!)
Unlike an airbag system, Timbren SES allows you to set it and forget it. In other words, Timbren SES requires zero maintenance.
Additionally, an airbag system doesn’t provide enough stability if you’re hauling a top-heavy load like a truck camper or towing a heavy 5th Wheel.
Think about it: For the past 50+ years, Timbren SES products have remained the smartest choice because they guarantee you maximum control and safety loaded and unloaded.
“Whether we’re towing with our Nissan Titan or our Toyota Tundra, our Timbren SES kit has been a game changer. Reduced all sag in the rear plus helps the tow rigs gain maximum control. Over a year with SES and we would never go back.” @ClicOutdoor