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Air Suspension Information

Old 04-08-2004, 10:08 PM
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Default Air Suspension Information

hey everyone.

over the last few days, i've been recieving a ton of private messages asking about air suspension; kind of odd. so i thought it would just start up a question and answer thread, so everyone can learn from it.

anyone who has put air on their scion or any other car is welcome to give their opinions and advice on air suspension setups. there really is no one perfect way to set up air on any car, and i've already seen several different approaches that all have worked well. the scions are so light that it's really easy to get a reliable setup going. a lot of people trash talk air setups, but then again, they use the cheapest parts they can get their hands on. you get what you pay for.

so yeah... any questions or comments, post them here.
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Old 04-08-2004, 10:23 PM
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how about doing a write up?
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Old 04-08-2004, 10:25 PM
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Can you put a silencer to make the noise when the compressor is recharging quieter? What is the chemical composition of this so called "air" you use?
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Old 04-08-2004, 11:40 PM
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Originally Posted by showpaojoe
Can you put a silencer to make the noise when the compressor is recharging quieter? What is the chemical composition of this so called "air" you use?
um, there are some more expensive compressors that are quieter. also, if you mount the compressor inside the car, it will be way loud. you could soundproof it in a box, but then it might overheat. some of the larger compressors are really loud. the 2 i have aren't that bad, but as far as being totally silent, that's going to be tricky, but it can probably be done.

i don't know anything about chemicals, sorry.
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Old 04-08-2004, 11:44 PM
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Originally Posted by DJ_X_Trodinaire
how about doing a write up?
an installation write up? well i could do that but installing air is not really something you can learn from reading an online post. it is something best left to a professional or someone with experience. i am by far the best person to do a write up on installing air, too. but i can help with specific questions about the scions, since i have hands on experience. there's really nothing tricky or special about doing air on a scion, as far as air installs go.

i used cylinders for my car in the front, but that custom green car used strut bags, which are great, but i didn't feel i would get enough travel with them. i really like that setup, by the way. they did a great job. but it's not a simple setup at all. and i was trying to keep my install simple and easy to install or remove if i need to. i had to make compromises, but i have a daily driver, not a show car. and safety is more important than having the car touch the ground, which was my original goal. it's a little disappointing, but i had to keep safely in mind.
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Old 04-09-2004, 01:25 AM
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I've heard air setups are constantly fu%%ing up the camber-- is this true?-- is there anything I can do to prevent it?
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Old 04-09-2004, 02:12 AM
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Originally Posted by NemoBronsky
I've heard air setups are constantly fu%%ing up the camber-- is this true?-- is there anything I can do to prevent it?
good question. well, on the scions, the only alignment adjustment is in the front. you can adjust camber and caster. camber is the one most people are concerned with since it affects performance and tire wear. a lot of cars have suspensions that are mounted on an A arm, and the camber of the wheel changes as you raise or lower the car. however, on macpherson strut type suspensions, the camber stays the same no matter how much up or down the wheel goes. it's just designed that way for better handling. this is also why you can put a little negative camber on the wheel for better cornering and it stays at the same negative amount in hard or soft turning. but that's a whole other issue.

with some cars, like hondas for example, when you lower them a lot, it really messes with the camber. if you raise the car, it goes positive, and when you lower it, it goes negative. they have camber kits to correct this, which basically just realigns the wheels to a more appropriate setting.

there is kind of a debate as to whether or not you need to realign a scion after removing the struts and putting lowering springs on the car. personally, i feel it is not necessary. i had my car aligned after i took my air suspension off and put lowering springs on my car and even though i had purposely made changes to the camber and caster, it was still within spec for the most part. i don't think simply removing the struts and putting them back on will change the camber much at all, unless you purposely mess with the settings.

when you mount the air cylinders in the front, you have to make sure the wheel is straight up and down. for my brackets, i slotted them a little, and adjusted them so they were as straight as i could make them. i had to readjust a couple times until it looked perfect, but i think i got it pretty good. and i didn't see any unusual tire wear after several thousand miles on low profile tires, which wear faster than stock tires usually. you might be able to get an alignment shop to make sure everything is ok after you install the cylinders, but they might tease you for screwing with your car like that. those guys usually don't appreciate custom work. they like things OEM.

but yeah. the best way to illustrate the whole camber thing is to raise your car up on a lift. notice how the wheels stay straight up and down even when they drop all the way down when the car is lifted up. so the camber isn't changing.

i might be wrong on some of this info but if it is, someone let me know and i will change what i said. i'm just going by my experiences. i am not a professional mechanic at all.
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Old 04-09-2004, 04:23 PM
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air is used,, no chemical, gas, or anything like that. just air.
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Old 04-09-2004, 06:29 PM
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Btw- thanks for doing this.
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Old 04-12-2004, 06:36 AM
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Originally Posted by Alter Ego
air is used,, no chemical, gas, or anything like that. just air.
yeah, compressed air. and air is a gas, technically.

you can used a highly compressed helium tank and hook that up to your air suspension as well. sometimes people do that for shows because it will last the whole day and a lot of indoor shows so not allow compressors to be running. plus it's really hard on your compressors to be on all the time so you can show off your air setup.
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Old 04-14-2004, 06:16 PM
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excuse this rookie question but...

Is their a way to do a coil over / air bag system? I know that some honda people have done this and was wondering if it would also fit on a scion?

Thomas
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Old 04-14-2004, 07:17 PM
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Originally Posted by scionmag
excuse this rookie question but...

Is their a way to do a coil over / air bag system? I know that some honda people have done this and was wondering if it would also fit on a scion?

Thomas
yeah, you could do it but i don't really see why you would. there is an expensive coilover/airbag setup you can get, but it's not meant to lower the car very much. mostly for performance. it lets you lower the car on the track and raise it for street driving. i have seen those kits go for around $3000-5000 plus installation. there might be cheaper ones out there though. remember that a good (in my opinion) traditional coilover setup is going to cost you around $2000-$3000. those $50 sleeve setups that honda guys put on their cars are just for looks and i would not push my car hard on a track with those ever. just my opinion.

i just can't see putting an air/coilover setup on a car that isn't fast enough to benefit from the improved handling. regular coilovers or lowering springs should be fine.

my air setup is pretty much aesthetic. it's not for performance at all. so that's probably the main downside to a traditional air setup.
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Old 04-14-2004, 07:29 PM
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Originally Posted by eric m.

yeah, you could do it but i don't really see why you would. there is an expensive coilover/airbag setup you can get, but it's not meant to lower the car very much. mostly for performance. it lets you lower the car on the track and raise it for street driving. i have seen those kits go for around $3000-5000 plus installation. there might be cheaper ones out there though. remember that a good (in my opinion) traditional coilover setup is going to cost you around $2000-$3000. those $50 sleeve setups that honda guys put on their cars are just for looks and i would not push my car hard on a track with those ever. just my opinion.

i just can't see putting an air/coilover setup on a car that isn't fast enough to benefit from the improved handling. regular coilovers or lowering springs should be fine.

my air setup is pretty much aesthetic. it's not for performance at all. so that's probably the main downside to a traditional air setup.
Not really looking for performance value in the sense of racing... would love a set up that will let me get from point A - point B and also handle well on long trips... the air system is more for a cruizing look if anything...

Thanx...
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Old 04-14-2004, 07:46 PM
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you're not going to believe this but...the ride isn't that bad.

it's almost the same as stock to be honest. and the handling is fine, you just have to take it easy on corners for safety reasons, and to make the air setup last longer. when you have air, you really need to respect it.
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Old 04-14-2004, 10:49 PM
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Eric,
Not trying to hoard your post or anything, but Helium & cylinders = not good. blow your seals quicker then anything.

Most people use either C02 or Nitrogen.
I had a Scuba tank on mine just for shows.. There is your chemical stuff..

To be safe on cylinders, I trust air. Bags: that's another issue.

Also, the noise of the compressor is usually because a compressor does alot of moving when on. that movement usually will vibrate anything it's attached to.
Buy good compressors (ViAirs are good). Use PolyUrethane bushings under the feet, line whatever metal your moutning the comps to with: layers of dynomat and undercarpet jute. That will quiet the noise big time.. The only noise left can be easily silenced with the turn of a radio ****.

Also Eric is correct with body roll in Air rides.
In order to get a nice ride, you'll need air travel, which in turn means you will have some body roll when cornering.
If you want a stiffer ride, mount your valves (also do indepentent) closer to the cylinders.. You'll not only get a faster response, but a little stiffer ride as well.


Air ride is not dangerous, or anything like that.
However it's not maintenance free. I'd suggest anyone looking to install air ride, to become as familar with how things work as possible, oir you'll be paying a shop to do the little stuff that you could have easily fixed at home.
Go to car shows, (truck shows), and ask the owners. 99% of them are nice and willing to share the vast knowledge, just like Eric.

Eric, I commend you for being one to air your scion.. I would have liked to have seen that setup.
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Old 04-15-2004, 12:03 AM
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oh yeah, i meant nitrogen. sorry, my bad. don't use helium unless you want to blow up balloons or make your voice sound funny.

that info you gave, phatfront, is really good. i don't know everything about air suspension but i'm learning and sharing info as i learn it.

there is one thing i did learn. don't ever use just 4 valves. use 8. 2 on each corner. if you use one valve for both sides, you will have a problem with the air transfering from one side to the other on cornering, and you will have a crazy problem with body roll. the good news with the scions and using bags in the rear is that you can put the valves super close to the tank and so the bag will barely move when you corner, but it will move enough to turn properly. plus, the rear isn't independant suspension so that helps stiffen things up a bit back there.

i might convert to cylinders in the rear, and put them where the shocks are now. right now i am still using my stock stocks to help dampen the ride a little, which is why the ride is pretty smooth.

the SMC cylinders i am using have built in accumulators so they are only stiff when in the full up or full down position. i don't know how other cylinders are, but i'm assuming any ones that aren't the cheapest you can buy are similar.

as far as leaking goes, i never have had a problem with leaks. one time i had a hose too close to the ground and it eventually scraped a hole in it. so that was dumb of me, but it was an easy fix and i learned from it.

it's good to keep an "emergency kit" with you if you have air. just some tubing, a couple fittings, maybe a spare valve, and basic tools. my car is set up so i can drive slowly if i lose pressure and it's all the way down, but it's way bumpy. drives like a stagecoach. if you do an extreme setup that won't drive if you lose air pressure, make sure you have the parts to fix any problem, or at least roadside assistance. that's about all i can think of from a cautionary standpoint.

and phatfront or anyone else with experience with air suspension: please post your comments or opinions here. everyone has different opinions but that's fine. in the world of custom work there is no one way to do things, which i think is cool. there are 50 other ways i could have set up my air, but i had to balance cost, reliability, and looks. so that is how i designed my setup.
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Old 04-15-2004, 03:03 AM
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Eric,
If it were me, I'd keep the bags in the rear (I'm assuming your are running 2500's back there).
Ther rear acts like an axle like a truck. using bags and seperate shocks you'll get the best ride.
That's just from the experience of having cylinders in the back of an import. I rode in a focus with bags in the back, and it rode 10 times better. But experimenting is the best way to learn IMO.
I think that converting to cylinders, you'll get more of a bumpy ride, only because of weight..
the cylinders will top out . The SMCs are nice, built like brislands. with the built in bump stops for a smoother ride.
speaking of which, are you running the stock shocks out back?

You are a head of the class in keeping an "emergancy kit" or parts with you. No telling how many times I cussed myself out for not having a union or something after rubbing a hole in the line.. well after doing so once, I converted to copper lines.

Are you still running the air ride kit? Did you get the square looking cylinders?
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Old 04-15-2004, 03:47 AM
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yeah, i just put most of the air suspension back in last weekend. actually, the rear is all in, all the valves are in, and the compressors and tank are in. i just need to make a new bracket for the front cylinders and i will be done. before, i was running this metal plate with rubber bushings that bolted right to the cylinder and to my car, but it was hard on my car and not as safe, since the cylinder couldn't rotate at all. so i am going to redo it with the stock strut top. i am using a 4" x 6" stroke cylinder right now but i might go to a 4x4 if i need to get lower in front. i like having that extra travel though. i see a lot of hondas and stuff and their travel is weak.

my cylinders are round, but i know what you mean by the square ones. i used to work for an automation company and we used the big square ones a lot for heavy robot arms. the 4" cylinders are very strong and have no problem with the little scion. they've been used on mush heavier cars before with no problem, although i have heard of 3" cylinders breaking on a maxima, so i decided to use 4".

i'm going to keep the bags in the back i think. it works well. i heard that bags use about 3 times more air than cylinders, but it's not that big of a deal. i am using 2 of those little firestone (thomas) compressors to save space (and money), but if either of them goes out i am going to get a viair instead. i have one of those furnas pressure switches that cuts out around 150psi, and that's helped to save my compressors a little.

i want to take some pictures of where i mounted everything and how it all fits in so everyone can see. it's actually all really simple once you see it all installed. sometimes i'm scared that something will break on me, but as long as i inspect everything once in a while and make sure not to abuse my car in corners and stuff, it should be fine. one problem i always have is scraping my tank if i drop it down when i'm moving. there is a movie of my sparking on the freeway last year during a scion meet that another member took. it looks cool but i'm afraid that eventually it's going to put a hole in the tank which obviously would be bad. there is only so much i can raise it up though. i might be able to grind off the port on top and bend the legs so it sits up higher, but the best solution would be a longer, thinner tank. i have one of those 5 gallon ones with the 6 ports all over it. most of them are plugged up.

oh, i have a question. i heard you should keep the length of the tubing the same size on each side of the car, from the valve to the bag. i didn't pay attention last weekend when i hooked up the tubing and made it shorter on the right side, and now it goes up a little higher than the left side. my switch is set up to do both valves at once and last time it went up equally every time. is it because the tubing is shorter on that side? i was going to cut a longer piece and replace the short one to see if that helps, but i thought i'd ask first. thanks.
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Old 04-15-2004, 03:51 PM
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only if you have independent switches will it not matter. but it is best to keep equal length tubing between the valve and the bag.

I like the use of one switch for up/down up front and one in back, however you might want to throw in some independent mometary switches just for this case. that way you have control of the pressure at all 4 corners.
Also if you have uneven load in your car (too much weight on one side) it's a nice feature to be able to bump up that side so you don't look like your running down the highway uneven..

Man, All this talk really makes me want to throw air on my car now
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Old 04-18-2004, 02:45 AM
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I just picked up my xB today!! I checked out the rear suspension and saw that baggin it would be a pretty simple task (simple and air ride?? yea right) but I really need some pics Eric!! Just a little direction. I understand your orginal fron cyclinder set up with the plates on the bolt but how else would you do it? I am crazy excited to get this project underway. Thanks in advance.

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