Big Block Dart Forums banner
1 - 9 of 9 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,124 Posts
"improves handling and ride quality",is'nt that a contradiction in terms?
 

·
Super Moderator
Joined
·
1,434 Posts
I saw something on the Speed Channel concerning old musclecars upgraded to air suspensions.  the testing seemed to show alot of improvement over the older technology.  trucks have used the air bags for decades so they're pretty reliable anymore.

Ive been seriously considering it myself


(wow...$6k... :eek: )
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
124 Posts
I owned a '96 Lincoln Mark VIII LSC several years ago. I bought it thinking that the LSC sport model would have descent handling. I had heard about the cool air ride suspension that lowered the car at higher speeds... From a handlin standpoint, I hated the car. The Lincoln air suspension has way to much float and bounce IMHO. I sold the car right away and promised myself I would go on much longer and aggressive test drives before I buy cars in the future. Maybe it was just Lincolns system that was to blame (not air in general) since it seems the right shocks would have improved the condition I describe. Unless you want a low-rider, I don't see the big advantage to adjusting ride height on the fly.

John
 
G

·
The Lincoln system is junk. Most of those cars end up sitting weird/driving weird because the system just doesn't work. I think a good air setup would work just fine. I've got no experience with them at all, just wanted to comment on the Lincoln system. Don't use their stock system as a "yard stick" for your decision about air ride setups!
 
G

·
I go through mountains of Air Ride parts here...
Air ride works real nice, but just remember not to expect a Ferrari from a Datsun. Air bags are the ultimate progressive rate spring, which is why the ride quality improves as much as it does. From a smooth-ride perspective, air bags are the only spring better than a torsion bar - t-bars are also a progressive rate, so they tend to ride nicer than any coil spring.   
As for pure handling, linear rate coil springs are the easiest to tune and configure, but there's a fine line to get a decent ride out of them. 50lbs too stiff on the spring rate and it's quite noticable.  T-bars and air bags are both not as nice for handling because they're harder to tune - it's nearly impossible to calculate spring rate changes because they rate goes up the more they move. If Nascar used t-bars or air bags, the cars would be WAY slower because they wouldn't support enough weight in the first 2 inches to keep the cars off the ground.

But we're doing street cars, so we need to find a happy medium between all-out track-ready stuff, and total-mushy station wagon stuff. With this in mind, a softer set of springs coupled with some good shocks is the best combo - I would consider the perfect combo to be air springs for the best ride feel and good double-adjustables for most possible adjustment - that's also the most expensive combo of course, so you have to adjust that statement to also fit your wallet. Even single adjustables make a mountain of difference.

The biggest improvement to handling comes not from the "springs" but from the shocks. If you have leafs and t-bars, and you switch to 4 shockwaves, you'll notice a marked improvement in handling and a slightly better ride. The air provides the slightly better ride, but it's quality shocks inside that provide the handling improvement. And make no mistake, tossing the KYB's in favor of some good adjustable shocks is a major upgrade in performance. Most people don't like to hear that because of the cost, but it's the plain truth. Evaluate each suspension piece separately to have the best perspective on what items will give you the improvements you're after.

Air ride is a reliable system now, because of trucks,  but I think Air Ride uses the analogy a bit too much. Trucks require a decent ride with immensely varied loads - empty to loaded is a 40,000lb difference, so mechanical springs that hold up a loaded truck won't even move when the truck is empty, so the empty truck will shake itself to pieces annd have very little traction when empty. Air will provide a nice ride no matter how much weight is there - just increase the pressure to maintain the ride height regardless of load. For a truck, this is a godsend, because they break fewer parts from vibration and have much better empty traction, so it's much safer to drive empty. Cars don't have such varying loads, so the use is quite different. I will say I love Air Ride's products, but their claim that air pressure changes handling is false. If you change the air pressure, you change the ride height, so pressure-adjusting for ride quality does not work. There is a ride quaity difference with pressure, but it's because the suspension is either topped or bottomed out - once you get the pressure so the suspension travel is ample is both directions, it feels fine. It's also installed by a home-builder, and not designed into the chassis from the beginning, so there are other pitfalls....

In a car, air bags are as reliable as the installer. If the lines are hastily installed, they will leak down over time, causing aggravation. If they're close to your exhaust, they can melt, causing a trauma, usually 30 miles from the nearest wrench. If they're touching something, they can eventually rub through, although I found the firestone air bags can handle minor touching without rubbing through.

Alignment of the mounts is also important with shockwaves or coil-overs. With bushing mounts, I've seen some cars where the mounts were grossly misaligned - the owner assumed if he could flex the shock onto the mounts, the bushings would handle it - eventually the end of the shock would smoosh the bushing out and the end of the shock would break. I've also seen some installs where everything looked good on the lift, and when they lowered the car,  the air fitting hit the frame rail and broke off, requiring them to totally re-make the upper mounts to reposition the shocks - so it's important to move the suspension around to make sure everything clears everything else. I know one fellow who didn't have enough clearance when fully deflated - he broke a shock at one point because of misalignment, and had no choice but to drive the car 3 miles with the driveshaft grinding on the floor...he was not happy.
   Another thing to keep in mind is packaging. Everyone knows that air bags and separate shocks are the cheapest way to go, primarily because you're comparing a $70 air bag and a $30 shock, to a shockwave, which has a $70 air bag, a $180 shock, and $150 worth of machined parts to put it all together.  But if you go separately, keep in mind it's 2 more pieces underneath that you have to find room for, and make mounts for, without getting into your gas tank, exhaust, ect... Lots to think about aside from cost.

Overall, it's cool stuff, but it requires more care and planning with the install than normal springs. But if you do take care with it, I think you'll be pretty impressed with it's operation. I know most people don't think much of on the fly height adjustment, but once you have it, it gets to be alot of fun.
One other pitfall to think about. Everyone goes for the Ride Pro compressor kit because it's alot cheaper. I guarantee within 6 months you'll regret not spending the extra dough for the Level Pro system with all the presets.
 
G

·
One other thing - there's nothing wrong with mixing springs either, like you mention.

If you take out leaves from your springs, and make up the difference with the air bags, you'll still have a nice working package, just keep in mind the softer leaf springs can flex around a bit more, so axle wrap can become a problem if you try to launch the car.
 
1 - 9 of 9 Posts
Top