Air-Ride Equipped - Firestone Industrial Ride-Rite Kit InstallationPosted in How To on November 1, 2012
If you’ve ever spent any time in traffic staring at the back-end of an 18-wheeler looming large in your windshield, then no doubt the block letters proudly spelling “air-ride equipped” has been indelibly emblazoned into your memory; nothing provides more button-busting pleasure within long-haul truckers’ circles than to boast that their crates of lead-laden plastic toys from China making their way across the United States are well cradled in soft cushions of an air-ride suspension. Now you can best any trucker out there, but we’re willing to bet what you’re hauling is a lot better than plastic toys from China.
Although some trucks were built to handle the rocks and trails and provide a pleasant trip back to your driveway (and maybe even to work on Monday), there are some off-road vehicles that weren’t. The Department of Motor Vehicles, not to mention the men with the pointy badges looking to raise revenue for their county, frown on you pushing the envelopes of what they call “street legal” when it comes to crossing the line where the dirt meets the pavement. That being said, loading a 3,000-pound CJ7 onto a 1,500-pound trailer (don’t forget to include several hundred pounds of gear for a weekend out), will increase the tongue weight of your tow vehicle outside that comfy 10- to-15-percent range. The result is an uneven ride, with the front end of the tow vehicle pointing toward the sky; and this could mean reduced front tire footprint and some tricky steering.
The Ride-Rite air helper springs kit from Firestone Industrial is an easy-to-install kit that mounts between the frame and the suspension to provide needed lift to level out the truck (not only from front to rear but also side to side). It is designed to maximize the carrying capacity of your truck, while providing increased stabilization, a consistent ride height, increased control, and a softer ride. The installation is easy to do with tools found in any moderately-equipped garage, but will take up the better part of a day. We took our 2004 F-150 to SoCal SuperTrucks in San Bernardino, California, to watch as Bill Brunner and Nate Rock showed us the right way to install the kit.
Post Installation Notes
After the system is completely hooked up, make sure to double-check your connections before testing the system. Turn on the key and use the controller to inflate the air springs to around 70 psi. Recheck all of the fittings for leaks. Use soapy water and watch for bubbles and listen for air leakage. It is normal for the system to lose three or four pounds of pressure per week when the air springs are inflated past 50 psi. It is not uncommon to have a small pressure difference between the air springs, depending on the suspension system of your particular truck. The distance between the upper and lower mounting brackets must be within a certain specification, particularly for our application (air springs PN#6397), between 5-1/2 and 6-1/2 inches. Anything greater than that, spacers must be used.
There is very little maintenance required once the system is installed and fully operational. The brackets and mounting hardware should be inspected periodically, and any dust or dirt should be cleaned off of the air springs each time the truck is washed. If the truck is to be lifted by its frame, first deflate the air springs, which will allow the springs to extend to their maximum length. They are capable of supporting the weight of the axle and wheels/tires, but in order to avoid any damage it’s best to take extra precaution.