It's been three months now since you put that 2/4 drop kit on your F-150, but now you really want to go lower. Seeing other trucks drag frame across the pages of your favorite magazine (this one, of course) makes you yearn for days of ripping up asphalt. You have a lot of friends who have airbags, so why not get them yourself? How hard could it be? It's just a bunch of rubber and air isn't it? Not quite. In this article, we're going to give you some of the ins and outs of airbags. We'll discuss how airbags aren't just a drop-in install process and how you do need to maintain your system to keep it working properly. We'll also take a moment and talk about how to fix your truck if something should happen to break. It's kind of like Airbags 101, if you will, but without the scary teacher and early class hours. So, sit back and take it all in. We're here to teach.
Terms You Should Know
efore you even begin to order your setup, you should probably know what the terms of the trade are. Phrases like "175-psi pressure switch" and "100 percent duty cycle" can really twist you around, if you don't know what they mean. Once you know the terms, ask yourself what you want to use your airbag setup for. Do you want to hop 2 feet in the air, or do you want to just get up and drive every day? Knowing the answers to these questions early on will help you determine what exactly you're going to need to buy and how to save money in the long run.
PSI - Pounds per square inch. You'll see psi all over your air system. Air pressure, or psi, determines the ride height of your truck. The more pressure that's in the 'bag, the higher off the ground it will be sitting. Also, the more psi in the reserve tank, the faster the air can get to your 'bags, and therefore, the quicker your truck will be getting off the ground.
CFM - Cubic feet per minute. In an air suspension, cfm is used to rate how much air a compressor will put out at a given psi. It's basically a measure of airflow. The greater the cfm a compressor is capable of delivering, the faster it will fill up your tank.
Duty Cycle - This one is tricky. The duty cycle is the amount of time an air compressor can run in a given time period. A compressor's duty cycle is determined by a complicated equation that involves two midgets and a monkey. Or it's shown by this formula: Compressor On Time / (Compressor On Time + Compressor Off Time) = Percentage. Does that make sense to you? Well, if it doesn't, don't worry about it. Here's an example: If you have a compressor with a 33 percent duty cycle, it can run for 15 minutes solid. But, then it needs to rest for 30 minutes in order to work properly. Mathematically, it is:
15 Min / (15 Min On Time + 30 Min Off Time) = 33 Percent Duty Cycle
The tricky part about duty cycle ratings is at what psi the manufacturer performs the equation at. If your compressor claims to have a 100 percent duty cycle, see at what psi it lists. If it says "100 percent duty cycle at 50 psi," then that doesn't help you get your Tacoma off the ground. The higher the psi level, the higher the compressor will perform, so a 100 percent duty cycle compressor that is rated at 100 psi is better than a 100 percent duty cycle compressor rated at 50 or 75 psi. This marks the last time you'll ever see math in an issue of Sport Truck-sorry for the interruption.
Picking Your Setup:
Now that you have some information, it's time to use that knowledge to your advantage. First, ask yourself what kind of setup you want. We've broken it down to a few different concepts to make your life easier.
Daily Driver: You cruise your truck to work or school every day, and you want something reliable to get you from place to place. First, consider your storage options. Ten gallons of air will work well on almost any truck, but go with what you can fit. You'll want to run two compressors, as well, or an engine-driven compressor. For valves, you have a ton of options. If this is just a daily driver, and you don't care about showing off too much, you can get away with 3/8-inch orifice valves. If you just want more speed, step up to valves that contain at least 1/2-inch-diameter orifices. The larger the orifice diameter the greater the airflow through the valve and the faster your truck will lift off the ground. Be sure to also match the air-line diameter to the valve diameter for the best performance possible.