Servicing my own car

« Back to Home

What Happens When an Airbag Suspension System Starts to Fail

Posted on

Heavy-duty trucks rely on a very different form of suspension when compared to the average everyday car. After all, there's a lot more weight to handle when out on the open road, while braking and cornering represent quite a challenge to the professional driver. This is why manufacturers fit airbag suspension kits to these vehicles instead of the traditional strut setup. But as these kits have to deal with so much, any operator must maintain them effectively to avoid major road challenges. If you are a new owner of one of these trucks, what are some potential problems here?

How Airbag Suspension Functions

The concept of an airbag suspension is quite simple. A central compressor will feed compressed air to separate bags on each corner of the vehicle. These bags are fixed to the chassis and body of the truck and are controlled by a sensor mechanism. The sensors detect the position of each corner in relation to the rest of the vehicle when in motion. They will then send a message to the compressor to add or subtract some air in order to maintain a comfortable and effective ride.

There is also one other crucial piece of this puzzle, which is the dryer. This device removes unwanted moisture from the air before entering the system. Without the dryer, the suspension setup would be far less effective, and excess moisture could cause corrosion and other degradation instead.

How Things Can Go Wrong

As you can imagine, based on the size of one of these vehicles, a system like this must rely on a network of pipes. These pipes distribute the air from the compressor, which is usually situated next to the engine. As these pipes are often in a vulnerable position underneath the chassis, they can sometimes sustain damage from road debris. In addition, some of the seals and o-rings that connect these pipes can degrade as time passes. When problems arise here, air can begin to leak out. Also, the bags themselves may sustain some damage, and even a tiny pinprick can lead to air loss.

Signs of an Issue

You'll typically get an early warning of these problems. The compressor may be running for longer than it should, indicating a breach somewhere along the line. One corner of the vehicle may begin to sag relative to the others, indicating that the bag in that area is damaged.

Regular Servicing

You can normally avoid many of these problems if you take your vehicle in for a service as recommended. During such a visit, the truck suspension technician will examine each part of the system and try to block any potential issues before they arise.