When air suspension began making a comeback on luxury vehicles in the early 1990s, consumers were inevitably forced to pony up big bucks at the dealer when the systems failed. Fixing it with original equipment parts or trading the vehicle were their only two choices. But the power of the internet eventually swung things in favor of the consumer.
Many air suspension and other active suspension repairs that used to be dealer exclusives are now being solved by smaller shops and even the vehicle owners themselves. One pioneer of such ingenuity was a North Carolina goat dairy farmer named Chip Lofton, who replaced air struts on his 1989 Lincoln Continental with passive coil-over-strut assemblies. Lofton figured out how to bypass the suspension warning light and the world’s first conversion kit was born.
Lofton founded Strutmasters in 1999 to help others find a way to escape the firm stranglehold that the dealers had on air suspension repairs at the time. The idea caught on and his company has helped 250,000 vehicles owners and counting hang on to their vehicles up to seven more years.
The idea is simple: Replace complicated and expensive active suspensions with a passive suspension engineered to deliver a great ride at a fraction of the price.
There are lots of choices these days when shopping for an air suspension kit.
- How can you tell one from another?
- Why are some more expensive?
- Which ones will do the best job fixing my vehicle?
Getting the best product from the best company is important because switching from the original equipment to a suspension kit is normally a slight step backwards in ride quality.
Here are a few things to look for:
- Better Coil Springs: Shop for suspension kits that feature steel coil springs manufactured with the cold-winding process. They’re stronger and ride better than hot-wound steel coil springs, which tend to be more brittle and break easier because of being heated. The cold-wound springs last longer and retain more of their intended spring rate. They’re pre-set from the factory, meaning the ride height of the vehicle will stay the same. Cheaper hot-wound coil springs tend to settle and sag over time.
- The Right Shocks and Struts: Look for a company that uses shocks and struts designed and valved for that particular vehicle. Shocks and struts that work along with air springs don’t necessarily work well with a conventional steel coil spring. The best companies use actual vehicles to test different spring and shock/strut combinations.
- Great Instructions: Does the company you’ re considering offer detailed instructions with photos and diagrams? Do they have installation videos to watch? This is vital if you’re trying to tackle this yourself and even helpful for professional installers.
- Customer Service and Tech Support: Choose a company that offers professional service and technical support after the sale. If something goes wrong, who are you going to call? Will they actually answer the phone? Has someone at that company actually worked on a vehicle like yours?
- Cheaper Is as Cheaper Does: Do you really want to put the cheapest parts available on your baby? Remember, an air suspension kit is already a small step back in ride quality. Putting on the cheapest parts you can find is like taking a giant leap backwards. Since this is a permanent fix, it’s worth paying more for a quality product that delivers a great ride.