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Air Lift SmartAir


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Did a quick search and I can't find anyone on here that's done this mod. Anyone have experience with adding auto leveling to their existing airbags? I don't like the idea of having separate controllers or of having to adjust pressure every time I hitch up. I like the supersprings but after I added the 5100's and upped the front one setting my rear end sags by 1/4 inch or so when loaded even when maxed out. Thanks for the help.

 

http://www.autoanything.com/suspension-systems/69A2969A0A0.aspx?kc=ffproduct&kpid=2969-2341249&k_clickid=_kenshoo_clickid_&k_trackingid=274x

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Funny you should ask…. I just installed a self-leveling system! I’m still in the process of adjusting/tweaking it, but so far I like it. I’ll know a lot more about how I like it after a few months of use.

 

I hadn’t seen that SmartAir system, it must be new. It looks very interesting and would probably be easier to install than what I did. I cobbled together a mechanical system with a tank which has some advantages and some disadvantages.

 

The SmartAir looks like it works as such: The magnet/sensor senses the ride height, if it’s too high the solenoid clicks a valve and releases air from the bags. If the chassis is too low, it clicks on the compressor to fill the bags until it’s at the correct height. That seems simple enough and as long as the magnet and sensor work reliably it should work well.

 

My system works like this: The tank is connected to the compressor with a pressure switch keeping it between 90-120 psi at all times. The mechanical valve senses ride height with a lever. If the chassis is too high, it releases air from the bags. If the chassis is to low, it opens the connection between the bags and the tank so they fill until the ride height is correct. It does this on a delay so it doesn’t try to adjust for every bump you hit in the road. It can go through a couple iterations of this before the tank drops below 90 psi and the compressor kicks on (obviously the size of the tank will determine how often this happens) and is basically silent in operation.

 

I used this valve kit:

 

http://www.summitracing.com/parts/fip-2186

 

With that you’ll need a compressor, tank and pressure switch along with some other fittings, etc. A kit like this

 

http://www.summitracing.com/parts/fip-2047/overview/

 

Should have most of what you need. I already had the compressor so I pieced together the parts myself (though I think I used a bigger tank). I can post a complete list later if anybody wants.

 

Anyway, I think I’ll like this setup better than the wirelessly controlled setup I had before (even when it was working which it wasn’t at times). Especially for hauling around horses--the tongue weight changes so much even for the same trailer depending upon how many horses it has--having it adjust automatically is going to be much nicer than fiddling with the controller all the time.

 

But like I said, I’ll know more about how it’s working after a few months. Making an “air sprung hauling suspension” also be an “extended travel offroad suspension” poses some challenges. I’ll post up some pics, etc, soon.

 

Had the SmartAir system been available when I was looking originally, I probably would have just gotten it as it seems to be the easiest way to get the end results. Some of the advantages of the mechanical system are:

 

No electronics to fail. My fancy Firestone wireless system simply didn’t work at times. This system has one pressure switch. That’s it for electronics.

 

The tank is really nice if for accessories (adding air to tires, etc which I do often at the track). The tank is always full and you can use it independent of your airbag system.

 

It’s quiet. The only time you hear it or even realize it’s there is when the compressor turns on to refill the tank.

 

Some of the disadvantages are:

 

More involved installation likely requiring more tools and know-how.

 

Takes up more space. Even a small tank takes up quite a bit of space. The valve itself is pretty bulky and it’s hard to find a good place to mount it out of the way.

 

Getting the valve mounting/arm actuation vs. your suspension travel wrong could lead to a broken valve. Some careful checking upon installation should avoid this but if you don’t have a lift it may take some elbowgrease.

 

Hopefully that’s enough info to people to ponder for a while.

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That's a really good writeup thank you. I think one thing that might help with your axle articulation issue would be to install a small heim joint at each end of your actuator arm. but that would not do very much for lateral axle movement. The leaf springs should limit it fairly well but if they don't the addition of a track bar would definitely lock you in. I have had my eye on the smartair system for about 6 months or so but I've been hoping that I could make the super springs work out. I think if you go with a via air compressor with enough of a duty cycle you can get rid of the requirement to have an air tank. I personally would get nervous not knowing if my compressor is working or not. does it do a self test every time you crank the truck up to where you can hear it?

 

Just thought about this idea for limiting axle movement. maybe the inclusion of a rear sway bar would be better than a track bar.

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Yeah, the thing is I’m actually trying to increase suspension travel for a better ride when I drive like a maniac offroad. Things like a rear swaybar, etc, while they would add some firmness when towing they’d make for a rougher ride offroad. I know, a truck that’s jack of all trades will be master of none, but I think I can find a reasonable compromise. I think the bags, good shocks and E rated tires are 90% of the battle and should be sufficient for how much I usually tow.

 

The rubber bushings in the linkage seem to have enough lateral flex to work OK but I need to do more testing before I declare them OK. I’ll probably switch to heims soon anyway just to take the worry out of my mind. The main thing I did for the overall increase in travel was extend the arm of the valve so it makes a longer arc. This also makes it less sensitive, but it seems to be plenty sensitive for me always keeping the ride height within +/- ½” or so.

 

The magnet system of the SmartAir might be better for this since you don’t have to worry about a mechanical linkage. I don’t know its limitations however—how much total travel it can measure, how far away the magnet can be and still provide a signal, etc. Of course none of that will matter for on-road towing use. If you get one I’ll be interested to see details on how it works.

 

I agree the pumps can handle not having a tank. They’ll come on a lot more often but it’ll be for a shorter period of time. My system doesn’t have any sort of self-check, but the pump does usually come on at least once every time I drive it. I’m actually sort of the other way—I sort of wish I had a bigger tank so the pump would come on less often.

 

Any of these self-leveling systems is going to work the pump dramatically more than a closed system that just maintains pressure. You’re basically putting a fast leak into the system that opens any time your suspension is extended. There’s nothing wrong with that, it just may be surprising how often the pump comes on to somebody who had a closed system before.

 

One other thing I got to keep my mind at ease is a wireless pressure monitoring system. I put one sensor on the tank and one on the bags (and still have a couple left over for rental trailer tires). I didn’t want gauges cluttering up the interior but wanted to be able to periodically check on things. As long as the tank is between 90 and 120 PSI and the bags have some air in them, things are working fine. It’s pretty interesting to watch the pressure in the bags change in different conditions.

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