An air spring system provides a cushion between the vehicle body and wheel to reduce the vibration felt during travel. This blog will explain air spring systems and discuss air suspension advantages and disadvantages, to give you a better understanding of how they work. In particular, it will cover the benefits of air suspension when used in cars, but some of the principles carry over to heavy vehicles like trucks, tractor-trailers and passenger buses and trains.
An air spring system replaces the traditional spring suspension, replacing steel coil springs (or leaf suspension) above the vehicle wheels with airbags made of rubber and polyurethane. These airbags are inflated by an on-board air compressor or electric pump, to a certain pressure to behave in a similar way to traditional springs. The air direction is controlled by air valves that let the air go into different parts of the system to inflate.
One of the main benefits of air suspension cars is the improved comfort behind the wheel, making it good for daily driving. The adjustable air suspension makes for a more comfortable ride on poor quality roads and can improve control when off-roading. The use of airbags above your wheels, rather than springs, also improves the quality of the journey for passengers.
Another advantage of air suspension is less wear and tear on the suspension system and vehicle components, due to reduced harshness and vibration, particularly with heavy-duty driving. Air suspension compensates for potholes, uneven surfaces and speed bumps in the road allowing your vehicle to glide easily over the road surface.
An air spring system allows the driver to adjust the car to suit their personal preferences for ride comfort and handling. When the driver can choose between a harder drive for motorway driving or a softer feel for demanding roads, the driver maintains control no matter the terrain. Higher cornering speeds and greater levels of control when turning corners can be achieved with air suspension, as the vehicle is better suited to the conditions of the road. An adjustable suspension that can lower the vehicle to the ground means the drag can potentially reduce at higher speeds. Additionally, the ability to raise the car for everyday use is extremely handy for off-road driving.
Another advantage of air suspension is its versatility on load. The height of the car can be adjusted according to the load, the ‘kneel' or ‘raise' functions making loading easier from the outset. The purpose of air suspension is to give consistency across all wheels, and there is a lower risk of body roll when turning corners, less risk of breakages and less load shifting and damage caused due to reduced vibrations through the suspension. Plus, better control due to increased firmness provides improved towing capabilities for larger vehicles.
As vehicles with air suspension can be adjusted to road type, they benefit from better fuel economy. For example, a lower ride height for motorway driving means better aerodynamics and reduced wind resistance. Conversely, a suspension that is better suited to a particular road surface with better control can achieve higher corner speeds and lead to time-saving on routes with many turns.