We all know the familiar hiss of a kneeling city bus or the bulging air bags under semi trailers. But air suspension is becoming a more popular aftermarket addition to noncommercial vehicles, as well. Especially big pickups. Firestone is leading the charge with their Ride Rite system. Here’s how it works.
What it does
Most vehicles in stock form use metal springs with hydraulic shocks or struts. Car builders calculate the ideal spring rate based on how heavy the car is, how smoothly they want it to ride, and how tightly they want it to corner. But once they decide that spring rate, that’s the rate the vehicle will be stuck with.
In most cars, this is fine, because discounting a few bags of meat called passengers, or trunkfulls of stolen gold bullion, your car will very seldom just change weights. Trucks, on the other hand, can change weights several times a day. This means the suspension, no matter how it’s set up, will only be optimized half the time. This is the trouble with fixed rate suspension systems.
Air springs, like the Firestone Ride Rite offer variable suspension rates. Augmenting the truck’s rear springs are a pair of air bags. The pressure in these bags can be adjusted as needed, so you can stiffen or soften your suspension depending on load.
This keeps the truck more level, which improves handling, safety, and ride comfort.
The air springs, as we’ve already mentioned, work in tandem with the truck’s rear springs. If the truck uses leaf springs, the air springs, or air bags, will replace the shock absorbers. If it uses coil springs, they will replace the struts and sit inside the springs.
From the springs, a set of hoses run to the Ride Rite compressor, which obviously pumps them up. There are a couple of options here. Generally the compressor is mounted on the frame under the truck. However, if you think you won’t need to adjust your air springs much, you can use a compressor external to the vehicle.
If your compressor is attached to your vehicle, you’ll need a way to control the spring pressure. This is where the control module comes in. Firestone offers a digital, dash-mounted panel you can use to adjust your truck to a specific PSI. They even made a smartphone app called Air Command so you can mess with it from outside the truck.
As groundbreaking truck improvements go, a Firestone air suspension kit is fairly easy to install, too. So if you tow or haul with your truck, SUV, or van, check out Ride Rite. You can find it, along with our other Firestone stuff, right here.
Do you already have a Ride Rite suspension? Let us know in the comments what you think of it.
Andy Sheehan is a blogger, aspiring novelist, and relentless hoon. He plans to will his 2002 Subaru WRX Wagon to his firstborn, plans his daily commute around the swoop of its roads, and doesn’t plan to ever buy an automatic. A cool-car omnipath, he loves the common Mustang or Chevelle, but hunts for the weird and wonderful Velorexes and Cosmos of the autoverse. And when he can afford a garage, he’s going to turn an MX-5 into a race car.