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Homebrew Air Ride? Anyone done it?

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by Harrison, Apr 19, 2009.

  1. If you don't like air suspensions I don't really care so please, spare us the drama. I know that they aren't "traditional" but under a car where they can't be seen that is owned by someone who doesn't care.... it works.

    Has anyone here had any success cobbling together a safe, reliable air suspension on a budget? What I need doesn't look like it would take a Rocket Surgeon to figure out. If I had a source for the bags, the rest doesn't look too tough.

    I'm looking at this kit for the front of my '63 Nova Wagon:
    http://www.ridetech.com/products/Chevy_Nova_62_67_CoolRide_Front-874-953.html

    This is an article detailing it's installation:
    http://www.ridetech.com/files_AR/techarticles/COOLCIIweb.pdf

    Any educated/experienced opinions are welcome.

    TIA, JH
     
  2. Swifster
    Joined: Dec 16, 2006
    Posts: 1,449

    Swifster
    Member

    Air Ride Technologies should have everything you need and I believe everything is available seperately (without buying a kit). I think Firestone makes the bags.

    Someone was trying to show the schematics for the '58 Cadillac system, but the thread was deleted. It's tough to tell a traditionalist that all things they hate were available in the late '50's. I'd check to see how Cadillac set up their system (compressor, tanks, lines, bags, etc.). Just thinking out loud, I'd bet a newer compressor from a '70's model (rear air shock system) would probably work fine.
     
  3. I've done a couple systems for a fraction of the "kit" price. It's pretty basic. Shop Craigs list or Fleabay for bags. Local parts house for lines and fittings. Fab your own mounts from scrap steel. If you have room for a tank pick up a portable air tank from the auto parts place. You don't need a compressor unless you plan on
    "playing" with it. Even a small 5 gallon tank will take you up and down a half dozen times. You should be able to have a whole system installed and working on all four corners for under $300 and two gallons of elbow grease.
     
  4. banditomerc
    Joined: Dec 18, 2005
    Posts: 2,292

    banditomerc
    Member

    Hey Harrison,i am starting the fabrication work this week on my '48 air suspension.I am using what i have.Trading for stuff i don't have ,and buying only what i need.Good luck.As chopped51 wrote,300.00 sounds about right.good luck.
     

  5. NTAPHSE
    Joined: Feb 5, 2006
    Posts: 1,029

    NTAPHSE
    Member

    I've never, ever bought an airbag "kit" because I always thought I could do it cheaper and would rather choose my own components. Here's what I have learned works best.

    Slam Specialties bags - they lift higher and are much stronger than Firestones
    York belt driven AC compressor - unbelievable CFM, you can watch the gauge needle move as it fills the tank, plus you don't have to listen to those electric compressors screaming away and taxing your alternator. Go to Autozone and ask for an AC compressor for a '71 Ford F-150, it will be a little over $100. Read onboardair.com for more info and parts.
    DOT airline only - 3/8" is a good all around size, not too fast, not too slow
    All metal Push To Connect (PTC) fittings - Get them from Parker or your local air/hydraulic source, don't waste time with compression fittings
    Any air tank will do, but don't run too much tank for your compressors. I am running a 12 gallon tank with my York and it's prefect, but I would never run a tank that bug with electric compressors. I used to run two small Thomas pumps per 3 gallon tank.

    I'm a little out of date on valves, but if you check suicidedoors.com you can find all the pieces you need to create a reliable and affordable set up.

    Please don't delete this thread, I just spent 10 minutes typing this up. :)
     
  6. brigrat
    Joined: Nov 9, 2007
    Posts: 5,372

    brigrat
    Member
    from Wa.St.

    Someone was trying to show the schematics for the '58 Cadillac system, but the thread was deleted. It's tough to tell a traditionalist that all things they hate were available in the late '50's. I'd check to see how Cadillac set up their system (compressor, tanks, lines, bags, etc.). Just thinking out loud, I'd bet a newer compressor from a '70's model (rear air shock system) would probably work fine.[/QUOTE]

    Yep, old news! My granny's 55-56? Packard had bags and a compressor so did many Cads..........
     
  7. Squablow
    Joined: Apr 26, 2005
    Posts: 15,037

    Squablow
    Member

    The system in my '64 Olds was put together for a few hundred bucks and works good, but I had the aid of some experienced airbag guys doing the work.

    My brackets are from a 90's Chevy Caprice, they'd be easy to make. I got a full set of Firestone bags used, they're cheap enough to buy new. All of my air line and fittings are from semi trucks, all DOT air brake lines, another friend of mine got me a whole mess of it from a place that builds custom big trucks and gets their brake parts in a kit but doesn't use the provided air line. I have manual valves, way cheaper than electric, got them used but I plan to replace them with bigger manual valves. My air tank is a converted pump-up-your-tire air tank from Fleet Farm, the pressure switch is from a shop style air compressor, and my two air compressors are Thomas compressors that I bought used when another lowrider guy upgraded.

    Even if you end up having to buy a lot of this stuff new, I think a resourceful rodder could put together a functional bag system for $500 or less. You might look into converting an A/C compressor to compress air for your system, the rock crawler 4x4 guys do it all the time for their on-board air systems.

    Buy 4 bags, make brackets, get some line and fittings, fab up a tank, use a converted A/C pump for pressure, run manual valves, you could easily do that for less than $500.
     
  8. briancustoms
    Joined: Jan 17, 2008
    Posts: 51

    briancustoms
    Member

    Pretty much stay away from the "big" names like AirRide Tech cause you can get everything you need for a fraction of the price from www.suicidedoors.com If you are handy with a welder and have access to steel, order the unwelded kits even cheaper and weld them yourself, if you have the ability and materials/tools to copy them, just order one side and build the other side.:D Hopefully Jason Thorbecke isn't on this site.;)

    I also stay away from DOT lines cause they are a pain to route due to kinking. I use regular old shop air hose and the good barbed fittings with either the brass or plastic collar, you can run big pressure that way without even using hose clamps, been building suspensions like that for years without any of the problems with DOT line. Get all your fittings at Home Depot or Lowe's, they have anything you could need.

    I have two Viair 450 compressors feeding a 5 gallon tank, my S-10 pops right up, the compressors run for less than two minutes and the tank is full. One 450 would be fine but it will run longer, and depending on how much pressure you will need, a smaller air tank could work too, I'm filling two 2500 bags up front and two F9000 bags in the rear up to 60 and 40 psi.
     
  9. INXS
    Joined: Dec 3, 2005
    Posts: 347

    INXS
    Member

    Welder Series is an alliance member that is a great source for brackets, bag mounts, gussets, etc. All parts are pre-cut and you just weld them together.

    Plenty of vendors for bags, tanks, lines and fitttings.
     
  10. kirkabilly
    Joined: Aug 4, 2008
    Posts: 40

    kirkabilly
    Member
    from Escalon

    I wouldnt spend too much time messing with Air ride techologies. Way too expensive. Slam Specialties bags are almost a nescessity on older cars because they dont baloon out like firestones. I installed them into a 51 buick with 3/16 of an inch of clearance around them with no problems. You couldnt do this with any other bag on the market. I am not a big fan of engine driven compressors due to the maintenance involved. I install this stuff on a regular basis and I talk people out of the engine drivens for the fact that customers forget to maintain them and then it comes back to me. I have been doing this for 12 years and the technology has come a long way on the compressor side. The viairs are the way to go. I would always run DOT lines. They are fine, and the 3/8 is NOT at all hard to install without kinking. Also, in the event of an overzealous officer of the law, at least it is DOT. I would say it would be hard to do this for 300, unless you score a lucky CL find. 500 maybe, but figure on spending 280 off the bat for a new 2 compressor kit. Dont mess with used compressors. You never know how hard they have been run, and getting stranded sucks. I build all my own cars on a budget, but my 65 buick still has new bags and new compressors in it. Sorry for being so long winded. Hope this helps.
     
  11. kinda repeating what everyone said but....buy slam bags copy the metal work buy your own shocks....youll save about $400.00
     
  12. wsdad
    Joined: Dec 31, 2005
    Posts: 1,258

    wsdad
    Member

    I know you asked for experienced or educated opinions. I'm working on both of those but can't provide them just yet.

    So here's a FNG idea instead: Could we use something off the newer air-ride Lincolns, Ford Windstar or Buick's?

    Here's a website that sells replacement parts. To the left (in the web site) is a list of various cars and the years they were manufactured that used air suspension. We can use that information to go to the junk yard and pull the basic components (bags, brackets, fittings) and fab up the rest as described in other responses to this post.

    I haven't done this, nor have I seen it done yet, but it seems doable.

    http://www.arnottindustries.com/part_BUICK_Air_Suspension_Parts_yid10_pid86.html

    [​IMG]
    Buick rear air struts - $239 per pair brand new

    [​IMG]
    Grand Marquis


    Here's another FNG idea: Why wouldn't Monroe air shocks do the same thing?
     
  13. zman
    Joined: Apr 2, 2001
    Posts: 16,595

    zman
    Member
    from Garner, NC

    PM Kustombuilder here on the HAMB and get yourself a kit from him... Great deals and excellent service.

    Hunh? are you driving this mess on the street?
     
  14. kirkabilly
    Joined: Aug 4, 2008
    Posts: 40

    kirkabilly
    Member
    from Escalon

    239 replacements for the buick, about 70-75 a piece for slam bags...

    Air shocks work as a "helper" to existing springs, and are only rated at about 800# i think. MIGHT work on the rear of a roadster as a stand alone. Have used them to lift the front of a VW. I have a feeling they wouldnt work in this situation....
     
  15. kustombuilder
    Joined: Sep 18, 2002
    Posts: 7,754

    kustombuilder
    Member
    from Novi, MI

    i've been doing this stuff alot of years. tried cobbling kits together and fixed many a cobbled kit someone else put together. never was too happy with any of those cobble jobs.
    in recent years and with the connections I've made i don't know anyone who can piece together a kit with half the quality for the same or better price than i can get the Airlift Crafter Pack. plus you get a warranty and excellent customer support. i can hook you up as well, if your interested. send me a PM and let me know just exactly what your needs are and i'll see what i can do for you. i think you'll like what you hear and i' know you'll like the product. The NEW Airlift DOMINATOR bags are the best in the industry, bar none. ask around, there are ALOT of HAMBers running kits they got from me.
     
  16. kustombuilder
    Joined: Sep 18, 2002
    Posts: 7,754

    kustombuilder
    Member
    from Novi, MI


    Also. air shocks are NOT a spring. the ride will suffer horribly and even on a light weight car the shock mounts and the body of the shock itself where never designed to support the entire weight of the vehicle. you break a shock mount going down the expressway it's going to be a big mess... just something to think about.
     
  17. Shifty Shifterton
    Joined: Oct 1, 2006
    Posts: 4,964

    Shifty Shifterton
    Member

    You know those plug-in 12v "emergency" air compressors? The kind you can score for $5 on clearance? They'll work just fine modified into car-mounted setups if you're not playing with the bags all the time and not concerned with noise. People have been using them for decades to make cheap onboards for load-assist bags that run similar pressures.
     
  18. kustombuilder
    Joined: Sep 18, 2002
    Posts: 7,754

    kustombuilder
    Member
    from Novi, MI



    are you TRYING to get sued??? if your doing that crap on your own car that is one thing. you'll only get sued by the person you run into and KILL when a line does come apart. but if your doing that on other people's cars you will likely get sued by the family of the person that got hit AND the family of the person who's life you endangered when you installed that crap on their car.
    it is actually AGAINST THE LAW to run NON-DOT air line and air fittings on the street. If a DOT line or fitting fails and it was installed properly you haven't got anything to worry about but if something happens to that Home Depot crap you put on there you better hold onto your ass my friend.

    a little planning and thinking ahead will solve any problems you might run into with the hard plastic DOT approved lines getting kinked. they only kink when you try to turn them too sharply. all it takes is a little planning and the proper selection of fittings to avoid all of that. i've done COUNTLESS custom installs over the past dozen years or so and worked on semi truck suspensions and air brake systems for years before that. i'm quite familiar with the right and wrong way to run plastic air line and what fittings work and what fittings will not.

    bottom line people. don't sacrifice safety to save a couple bucks or to avoid having to do a little more work. it's just not worth it!
     
  19. Squablow
    Joined: Apr 26, 2005
    Posts: 15,037

    Squablow
    Member

    A couple more quick comments. I played around with the idea of using Buick Dynaride pumps in my car, they produce high pressure but very low volume. The lines coming out of a stock one are the size of air shock lines. They would work if you design your system around them, using low volume and lots of down time, but don't expect them to keep up with any modern pumps.

    I also have one of those Monroe pumps hooked up to my system as a backup in case my two Thomas pumps died. It seems like it can only get the tank up to maybe 60 psi which isn't enough to lift the front of the car, and it's a good sized pump. Granted, it's a 5 gal tank and a '64 Olds 98 is a huge car, it might work on a very light car with a smaller tank, but again, not a good replacement for a real pump.

    That's why I like the idea of a belt driven A/C pump for a low cost air bag build. Sure they require regular greasing, but if you take care of it I think it'd work fine and provide a lot of pressure.

    Also wanted to mention that a friend of mine has a lot of extra DOT air line and fittings that I could probably get you for half the price of new, and it's never been out of the package. I think it's 3/8" which is pretty standard to use. Let me know if you're interested.
     
  20. southern iron
    Joined: Mar 30, 2009
    Posts: 33

    southern iron
    Member

    dont buy Slam Specialties bags !! yes they lift higher than the rest but also have more problems then the rest .. i work at a shop and we get at least 5 trucks in a month with defective slam bags (bubbles,tears,leaks)..
    conitech is all we use now
     
  21. kirkabilly
    Joined: Aug 4, 2008
    Posts: 40

    kirkabilly
    Member
    from Escalon

    I actually have been leaning towards the dominators for awhile now due to cost, but in a cramped space such as these early cars slams are the only way to go. The dominators do still baloon out a little. I havent seen any of those problem that were mentioned in a slam bag. The originals back however many years ago would sometimes leak out the top, but they fixed that back then.
     
  22. I've used the dodge 2 cyl. a/c compressor on my rockcrawler jeep, worked awesome and it has its own oil resevoir = zero maint. and assloads of air pressure in a blink.
    buuuuuuut, they are big and ugly, maybe mount one running off the rear differential yoke or something hidden would be neat.
     
  23. aldixie
    Joined: May 28, 2008
    Posts: 1,643

    aldixie
    Member

    I cobled together a setup on mine. Got most of the parts at swapmeets. The compressor is an industrial unit that runs on 12v. I think its used for breathing air in emergencies. The tanks came from an 18 wheeler store. I'm using an air manifold that I bought on the auction site for $105. The most expensive item was a set of new bag over shock air ride technologies that I'm using on the rear, they cost $300. My total including bags, tank, air ride gauges and 4 link etc is about $700. Could of done it cheaper but wanted reliability.
     
  24. kustombuilder
    Joined: Sep 18, 2002
    Posts: 7,754

    kustombuilder
    Member
    from Novi, MI



    never used Slam bags but i do know the Firestones balloon out a ton and the older Airlift bags did but not to the extent of the Firestones. the couple vehicles i've used the Dominators on they hardly balloon enough to count as such. i can't imagine a bag ballooning less but i guess it is possible.
     
  25. NTAPHSE
    Joined: Feb 5, 2006
    Posts: 1,029

    NTAPHSE
    Member

    Airshocks can't hold the weight.

    Those Lincoln bags have a 1/8" airline running to them are seem pretty unreliable in the factory application so I don't know that it would be worth spending extra and building custom mounts for them. They also are meant for minute adjustments, hence the tiny air line.
     
  26. kustombuilder
    Joined: Sep 18, 2002
    Posts: 7,754

    kustombuilder
    Member
    from Novi, MI

    i could have gotten you a kit with a warranty for roughly the same price. that includes fittings, line, wires, gauges, all that jazz. and it would have been a 4 path kit. is yours a 4 path or just a front and back only (no individual control of the bags)???
     
  27. kustombuilder
    Joined: Sep 18, 2002
    Posts: 7,754

    kustombuilder
    Member
    from Novi, MI

    great compressors but the only issue with running it off anything past the motor is that if your driving around at low speeds, or not moving at all, when it runs out of air you could be SOL since you will need to get the driveshaft speed up so that the compressor can do it's thing.
     
  28. briancustoms
    Joined: Jan 17, 2008
    Posts: 51

    briancustoms
    Member

    Well, in most states if you modify your suspension by using other than factory equipment or equivelent, it's illegal, so DOT or not it doesn't matter. Goodyear Insta-Grip air line can hold to well over 1000 psi (proven by a past supplier, the fitting failed before the line). The only lines I've ever had to replace because of failure were DOT. The one shop style line I ever had to splice on the side of the road was on my own truck because my titanium got too hot and melted it, took about ten seconds and a razor blade to fix with my "emergency" fitting.

    The getting sued part is easily avoided with a "for off-road use only" clause being signed.
     
  29. MEDDLER1
    Joined: Jun 1, 2006
    Posts: 1,590

    MEDDLER1
    Member

    The getting sued part is easily avoided with a "for off-road use only" clause being signed.[/QUOTE]


    NO CLAUSE OR LIABILITY PAPERWORK OF ANYKIND WILL HOLD UP IN COURT!ESPECIALLY IF SOMEONE IS SERIOUSLY INJURED OR KILLED.
     
  30. SquashThatFly
    Joined: Nov 24, 2005
    Posts: 723

    SquashThatFly
    Member

    I piece together every setup i do with the parts i like the most. Ive used just about every brand of air ride part out there for one suspension or another. Trial and error as well as experience have yielded the best combinations. It also changed depending on use, application, price, needs, climate, etc. I have my favorites and I have many that i flat out dont like either.

    I prefer Slam Specialties airbags for firmer susensions and space concerns (non ballooning). Firestones and Contitechs for softer suspensions and when space isnt much concern. Im not a fan of Airlift bags due to past issues with them but and VERY happy with their customer service. I LOVE AirLifts chrome valves.

    As said before. ONLY run DOT approved air line. Theres a reason its DOT approved
     
    Last edited: Apr 20, 2009

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