This is the burning question that everyone at some point will have wondered!
Air Suspension is an aftermarket system (for most cars) and simply replaces the coil on the damper for an air bag.
Most common platforms and systems run an aftermarket strut/damper kit and usually have a “bag over coil” set up, like the photo below.
Some platforms have a separate spring and damper that sit side by side, rather than together. This is mostly found on the rear suspension only. This means that the spring will have originally sat in a “perch” on the rear arm or beam, so this can be swapped out for a bag to sit on the same perch instead! This is usually done with mounts to support the bag in the spring perch. The damper would sit as normal in the hub mount and work together! See below photo to show how these kits are provided:
The bags lift and lower the car based on the flow of air in to and out of the bags. An Air Management System controls this flow of air and is usually purchased alongside the suspension and installed together at the same time. The Air Suspension will not work without the Management System and visa versa.
There are many different Air Management Systems to choose from, based on your budget/project/ideas etc.
As with most things, the market is varied and this is why it is important for us to make sure everyone understands what they’re purchasing before jumping in feet first!
Most modern Air Management Systems are now commonly “pre-assembled packs” with most components included! This would include an air compressor, to pump air in to the system. An air tank, which acts as a reservoir to hold reserved air in the system, so the compressor is not constantly working. All wiring, hardware and airline to plumb in the system. The idea with this is so everything you’d need to install the kit is always included in the “pack”.
Most systems work on pressure sensors to read the bags PSI level and the tank’s reserve capacity/levels. Should the tank capacity be lower than required, a sensor will tell the compressor to start pumping air in to the tank, to replace the air lost by filling the bags up etc. The compressor will then be told to stop pumping by the same sensor, once a certain pressure/capacity is returned back in to the tank.
We only sell suspension and management systems that hold a manufacturers guarantee/warranty for at least 12 months. We do not retail any kits that we would not be happy with installing on our own cars and any suspension kits that are not “platform specific”. This means that all our kits will be made for your car and fit like your OEM suspension, no cutting or chopping required!
Please note that not ALL platforms/makes/models have a kit available, mostly due to demand, availability worldwide and popularity. Please get in touch with us via the contact page on our sitehere to enquire on your platform and we will reply as soon as we can with a full quote for you.
- IS AIR SUSPENSION SAFE?
To put this simply – YES!
The reliability of air suspension is highly dependent on the quality of the installation, just like any car modification. You will get what you pay for in most areas of vehicle modification! With this modification being such a major change, you can't expect to get it for nothing. So if you do - be suspicious.
If you/anyone else rushes your install or cuts corners to “get the job” done, this may come back to bite you. Truth be told, a carefully installed and well maintained air ride setup will last as long as any other aftermarket suspension. The bags themselves will outlive the life of the vehicle. The rubber compounds in the rubber bag are super strong in all good quality kits, as well as all other components involved! The bags rubber is much more than you see on the outer layer. Just like your tyres, the walls are thicker than you think with more layers strengthening the bag. All components we retail go through vigorous testing and what the market calls "rating tests". This measures the "burst rate" of the tank, bags and other components expected to work under levels of pressured air. The levels they are tested to are a lot higher than the pressures averagely used on the systems, so rest assured that your kit is handling it well!
If you won’t be installing your air suspension yourself, be sure to take your vehicle and air ride parts to a qualified and experienced shop. Ensure that the installer offers warranty on the install side of the work, just so you know the installation and the parts have you covered altogether.
Do your research, chose wisely and sensibly, look after the kit and your modified suspension will last forever.
- WHY CAN'T I FIND A KIT FOR MY CAR?
Not all platforms have a application from some Air Suspension suppliers. This is mainly down to some platforms not being released in all countries where manufacturers produce the kits from, demand on the market for the platform and popularity of the chassis in the market.
For instance, a popular enquiry we receive is customers asking for an AirLift kit for a VW Polo. The VW Polo has never been released in the USA, where AirLift are based. Therefore, they don't know the platform and they don't have a market demand to make it! This is a pattern amongst models such as Vauxhall, Peugeot and Ford for example. These brands aren't well known in the countries that supply Air Suspension and generally aren't a popular vehicle to modify (yet!).
Here at OCD, we have developed our own brand of Air Suspension called BAGSbyOCD. This uses the BC Racing Dampers (a very popular damper in the Air Suspension market). Our BAGS brand is designed to fit almost any BC Racing kit, so if your vehicle has a option available from BC Racing as a static kit - it's likely we can make this in to an Air Suspension Kit! Get in touch for more info and our sales team will look in to this option for you!
- WILL YOUR BAGS SUSPENSION RANGE FIT MY COILOVERS?
Our BAGS are designed only to be used with BC Racing Dampers. This is due to all manufacturers creating different dampers, in different sizes and thread pitch. It wasn't possible for us to create an alternative bag that would fit all dampers, due to the differences in the manufacturing processes throughout the market.
Therefore, our BAGS are only compatible with the BC Racing Specification in damper size, diameter and thread pitch size. This range is available between both the BR Series and V1 Series from BC Racing.
We've only ever known Broadway Coilovers and YellowLine Coilovers fit this exact specification of BC Racing. No other brands are compatible and will have to use a Universal alternative bag and have this fabricated to fit.
- HOW MUCH IS AIR SUSPENSION?
This is a really common question we get and it should be as simple as this! But it's not. *sad face*
It's like walking in to DFS and asking how much a sofa is. There's tonnes of different sofas to chose from in the shop, then options on top of the sofa you do eventually pick! So it's a hard thing to summarise, as it all depends on what you chose and what car want to install this to.
The costs of Air Suspension is really varied. This can be as "budget" as you like or as "high-end" as you like. It's knowing your options and choosing the products to suit you, rather than us choose for you!
On average, Air Suspension usually costs a customer from £3000-£4000 without install costs.
If a customer has this installed professionally, garages charge on average £800-£1000 for a hidden/OEM style installation, where things are kept simple. The costs for a "Show-Style" install can sky rocket depending on the materials required and the labour time of those installing.
Take a further read through our guides to the products and what you need and you'll be budgeting for it yourself in no time! However, if you're still unsure, please do get in touch with our customer sales team and we'll be on hand to answer any other questions we may have not answered throughout these FAQ pages.
- WHAT MANAGEMENT SHOULD I GO FOR?
This is another hard question to ask us, as this ultimately depends on what you want out of your modification.
Do you want something to suit a budget? Something mid-range and popular? Something no-one has heard of before to break the mould? or Something all singing and dancing, effortless and top spec? - We will have something to suit you. We have detailed all the simple pros and cons to all our management pack options on the "Guide To Air Management" page. This should help explain which kits suit which project and give you a clear idea on what to aim for.
Refer to our Guide To Air Management Page for more info.
- WHAT IS THE BEST KIT TO GET?
This is purely down to option! So a tough one to answer. We're obviously already a little biased and think our own brand BAGS Suspension is the best :)
But seriously, you know what's best for you. You will know reading through the spec lists of kits on offer and seeing the pros and cons for yourself. You will know what you've experienced before in the market, which brands have good or bad reputation etc. So trust your instincts and make sure you do your research on the kit/brand and retailer before committing! Any genuine dealer won't mind you questioning or asking advice prior to a purchase - bare this in mind!
Make sure that the kits you're looking at includes all you will need to be satisfied with the handling and performance for your project.
Be sure that the kits includes all components, such as rear shocks. As some kits are offered without the rear shocks, especially those with a separate bag to damper set-up. It's very likely your standard shocks won't support the full drop of the bag and the shock will "bottom out" (hit the max drop in the damper) before all the air is expelled, stopping your car from achieving maximum drop on the rear end. This is one thing to check on, as this is what will also make a kit appear cheaper and listed at a competitive price to other kits you may have seen.
For more info on purchasing tips, see the Guide to Purchasing Air Suspension page.
- WILL AIR SUSPENSION EFFECT THE HANDLING OF MY CAR?
There's a common misconception that Air Suspension will create a "floaty" feel to your vehicle's handling or generally have poor performance. However this is now a bit of a myth. Air Suspension has come a very long way in quality and production, creating a much better quality of kit. The air bags are not floaty in their rebound responses and perform just like a spring normally would.
With the added use of performance driven damper and the added multi-adjustments (camber/dampening/threaded body dampers) the ride and handling of the kits are mirroring the style of those high performance Coilover/Static options!
Obviously, this level of performance and quality will always be reflected in the price and the specification of the kits on the market, so again - do the research in to the kit or get in touch for some reassurance on this side of the kit prior to a purchase.
- HOW LOW WILL MY CAR GO?
This depends on the kit and the chassis it is being installed on. Usually the kits will lower the car a substantial amount, however this can vary given that some vehicles body/chassis may restrict the drop. Such as low wheel arches, large wheels/tyres, lack of available shortened dampers, how the chassis sits when lowered etc.
There are customers that go one to further modify their chassis or arches to help achieve further drop on the chassis. However, we would always recommend looking in to getting this professionally fabricated to avoid any failing parts or disappointment afterwards! This isn't something we tend to do in-house, unless it's something we are personally experienced with. We would suggest anyone wanting an extreme look get in touch with us to discuss air suspension options and then consult with a fabricator or body shop for any further work.
We cannot guarantee with all models that you will achieve the "laying frame" look from your Air Suspension, however we can guarantee an all round lowered look, that we're confident you'll still be happy with!
- CAN AIR RIDE BE USED IN THE WINTER?
Absolutely! We have a wide spread community of our customer base, some being in countries that get nigh-on Baltic in winter months! That doesn’t stop any of them from driving air ride equipped vehicles year round.
We do recommend a few steps of preventative maintenance during the winter months to ensure the cold doesn’t adversely affect any air ride components. First off, we always add about two caps of air brake antifreeze to our air tanks as soon as the temperature starts to drop to around freezing at night. This helps prevent condensation from freezing inside air lines, valves, fittings and otherwise clogging up the system. Furthermore, we tend to empty our tanks and water traps more frequently during the colder months - typically once a month.
The generation of water in the system is totally normal and a natural process when air is put under pressure. This water is totally harmless in the system, if kept to a moderate level and emptied via a tank drain kit or a water trap in the system. We've seen some customers not know of this and come to us with about two litres of collected water sloshing around in the tank! So do invest in a tank drain or water trap and thank us later!
- SHOULD/CAN I SERVICE MY AIR SUSPENSION?
Air ride doesn’t call for much in regards to maintenance. We recommend emptying your air tank every couple of months, and if you have water trap(s) in your system we recommend draining those at least once a month. Both of these procedures are recommended to drain any moisture from the system, making both of these procedures less mandatory in dry climates. We find that it is convenient to drain water traps while you’re fuelling up or washing you car and helps keep you in the habit.
We also recommend to anyone running Camber Top Mounts to give them a touch up with a generic lubricating spray after a wash of your car. This will help keep the bearing inside the mount nice and smooth, stopping it from seizing or perishing easily. It's common for this bearing to require replacing due to debris getting inside or due to a lack of lubrication. These can be costly to repair, so ensure you look after them and this will vastly improve the longevity of the parts inside.
When you're cleaning your car, it's also important to give the Camber Top Mounts and the bags in the arches a good blast with the jet wash. This will help clear any debris from the rubber on your bags and any debris around the moving parts of the top mounts. In turn, this will help the components stay in good condition and avoid any seized bearings or built-up dirt around the bag folds.
- WILL OCD INSTALL MY KIT?
Certainly! We install in-house here at OCD in our spacious and clean workshop! See here for a guide to our install work, levels of install, duration and costs. This cost will be applied up on collection of your vehicle, once all work on the install is complete.
We can offer to install kits that customers provide to us (ie. not purchased through OCD or second hand kits). However, we have a policy that requires this kit to meet a safety standard for us to agree to install it. We hold a massive responsibility for all of our work and our customers well-being. So if we assess the kit as unsafe or incomplete, we won't offer to install it.
We also require the kit provided to us to be that of a manufacturer that we are a authorised dealer for. This is to ensure a smooth installation process, for us to be able to retain the right to the warranty and enable us to source any replacement or serviceable parts etc. We would not be able to offer the same service on kit manufactured by a brand that we are not a dealer of.
- I HAVE A LEAK ON MY SYSTEM - HELP!
Don’t worry! Leaks are very normal, especially with a new installation! That doesn’t mean that you should ignore a leak though, since they are very easy to track down.
Grab any squirt bottle and fill it with a bit of soap liquid and water. Begin spraying down any connection in your system that you think it may be coming from (ie. specific corner).
Even the slowest leak will cause bubbles to form in the spray.
If the leak is audible and coming from a PTC fitting, be sure the air line is pressed firmly into the fitting and cut as straight as possible on the end of the line. A wonky end will make it difficult for the PTC fitting to grab the airline properly and form a seal.
We have found that DOT approved fittings like those made by SMC and the Nickel fitting range are very reliable for PTC connections, due to the inner “sleeve” that hugs the inside of the air line. See our Guide To Air Fittings page for more information on these.
- I HAVE A FIXED KIT, HOW DO I ACHIEVE CAMBER?
With most fixed kits, there isn't much in terms of options to help get any camber on the kit.
Some customers use added "camber shims" to their vehicles, but this needs to be done carefully, so not to adjust the camber so any components are touching the suspension or other vital parts of your car! Too much camber can cause horrors and we're yet to see a cheap one! So watch what you're putting on and check EVERY corner of your car before running on your new camber.
However, if you're running AirLift Slam, we have created a Top Hat to replace the original AirLift issue. This is only available on the fronts of a Mk4/5/6 VW Golf platform. These are designed to sit the strut offset, instead of central in the Top Hat, creating that added camber. These are fixed at this camber setting though and are not adjustable once installed. See here for the listing on our website.
- I HAVE NOTICED CRACKS/WHITE MARKS ON MY AIR SUSPENSION BAGS - IS THIS NORMAL?
This is totally normal! Rubber is after all a pretty natural substance. Once worked in to a mould or through a certain production process, the compounds of the rubber changes and adapts. This rubber compound then reacts over time with the elements being externally mounted, such as rain, road salt, cold/hot weather etc. It's a natural reaction and happens on all sorts of products made from rubber such as tyres and even wellies! If you are concerned about the amount of surface reaction your bags are displaying, send us a photo over and we'll check it out for you.
There are usually several layers of materials in the make up of the air bag designs, just like a tyre has, so any external surface reaction won't effect the performance of the bag and is still safe to run.