Air Ride Suspension vs Timbren SES
This short article looks at airbag suspension systems as they have evolved over the last one hundred years. That’s right, air ride has been around since the horseless buggy was first created!
More recently, airbag supplemental systems (assisting the primary suspension) have evolved into kits for pickups, SUVs, Motorhomes, and trailers. As you will discover, airbag systems are getting pretty sophisticated, but the price is a little out-of-reach for the average income earner.
What is an Air-Ride Suspension?
Airbag systems for cars and trucks (not to be confused with airbags installed inside the cab that inflate during a collision) can be grouped into two categories:
- Complete air suspensions, intended to replace the standard springs entirely.
- Supplemental systems intended to boost the capacity of the existing suspension.
We’re going to concern ourselves with a supplemental airbag system that serves as an auxiliary spring.
To understand an airbag system, you need to understand an airbag. An airbag used in an airbag suspension system is basically a rubber bladder that holds air, just like a basketball or a football. Some are designed to sit above the leaf spring or outside the coil spring, and some fit inside the coil.
Airbags need to be filled with compressed air. Unlike rubber or metal helper springs, it’s the air in the airbag that does the lifting. Airbags are connected to an air supply of compressed air that is fed into the airbags to raise or lower the vehicle.
An onboard air compressor keeps the air tank full of compressed air as needed. The air tank is connected to the airbags via rubber hoses that are long enough to reach each airbag. When the compressed air in the air tank drops below a certain point, the air compressor kicks in to refill the tank. When the tank has been refilled, it shuts off automatically.
What are rubber springs?
Just like an air ride system, rubber springs can also be used as a primary suspension. Today, however, we’re going to focus on hollow rubber springs that are used as an upgrade to the existing suspension.
Timbren Industries is the manufacturer of Aeon® hollow rubber springs that are sold individually or as a component of the SES suspension enhancement system. Aeon® springs come in different shapes and sizes:
- Round, single convoluted
- Round, double convoluted
- Round, triple convoluted
- Square double convoluted
Aeon® hollow rubber springs have some unique characteristics. One of them is a progressive spring rate: As the load increases, the spring rate of an Aeon® hollow rubber springs increases as well. The other is self-damping: Aeon® springs respond to the load just like a shock absorber.
There is no compressed air in a hollow rubber spring. Aeon® springs are self-adjusting.
What are the similarities between air ride suspension and rubber springs?
Besides the obvious visual resemblance, what other similarities are there?
- Position: Both Timbren SES and an airbag system usually are positioned between the axle and the frame.
- Load levelling: both Timbren SES and an airbag system will improve vehicle handling and its overall performance by reducing suspension sag.
- Reduced body roll and sway: keeping the truck level reduces body roll and sway.
- Improved steering: rear end sag causes lightness in the front end which impacts the steering.
- Better control: it goes without saying that a level vehicle gives you maximum control, reducing the need to ‘white knuckle’ it and lower your speed.
What are the differences between air ride suspensions and rubber springs?
Fundamentally, a Timbren SES system uses Aeon® hollow rubber springs. They do not use compressed air like airbags. When the load is applied, it’s the rubber that does the lifting.
However, airbags are… well, rubber bags designed to hold air. The bag expands just like a balloon as air is forced into the rubber bladder. It’s the air that does the lifting.
If you tried to install an airbag system and then followed up with a Timbren SES kit, you would be struck by two things:
- The airbag kit has a lot more components than the Timbren SES kit.
- The average airbag kit takes about 3 hours to install; the average Timbren SES kit takes about 30 minutes.
The most obvious difference between Timbren SES vs air bags is the manner in which they adapt to various road and load conditions.
Airbags can be manually altered to maintain ride height and, to some degree, driver preference. Needless to say, this makes them quite adjustable.
Timbren rubber springs, on the other hand, automatically adjust to variable loads and road conditions. In other words, these rubber springs are self-adjusting.
With Timbren SES, the hollow rubber springs require zero maintenance. Any tweaking or adjusting is done during installation.
On the other hand, airbag maintenance must be performed as often as required to ensure the airbag doesn’t dip below 5 psi. (This is to make sure that the airbag isn’t damaged.) Also, because it’s air that’s doing the heavy lifting, the bladder that holds the air may start to leak which would dramatically compromise the effectiveness of the entire system.
Even though we’re comparing price, we are not going to make any judgments regarding cost vs value. (Sometimes a product that costs more is considered to have greater value which, of course, isn’t necessarily true.)
Airbag kits are priced somewhere between $500 and $1000.00. (Don’t forget there are more things to buy, like on-board air compressors and other related accessories.)
Timbren SES kits are priced somewhere between $300.00 and $500.00.
Which is better: Air ride suspension or rubber springs?
The above comparison should help you to see which system is more desirable:
- If you don’t have the tools and the skills to install an airbag system, you’re going to need a professional to complete the job. Because Timbren SES kits are simple and easy to install, you could do the job yourself.
- Between the compressor, the airlines and the air bags, a lot could go wrong with an airbag system. A Timbren SES suspension upgrade is virtually bulletproof.
- Unless money is no object, an airbag system is a little out of reach to the average consumer. Timbren SES kits offer the biggest bang for your buck.
Which is better? You should be able to decide that for yourself! For more information, visit www.timbren.com.