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Old 01-07-2012, 09:16 AM   #1
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Location: College Station, Texas
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Air Lift Issues on W22

MY 2002 37'Gulfstream SunVoyager on Workhorse W22 was experiencing front end bounce and occasional bottom out on highway roads. I decided to add Air Lift 5000 air springs front and rear with their onboard wireless air compressor system. I chose one of their recommended installation retailers and had the system installed just before a Xmas trip. The cost with installation was about $1500. The installer recommended trying a setting of 75psi first and then adjust in a range between 50 to 100 psi to find the best ride and control. Driving on Interstate 45, i found the best ride and control at about 95psi. Passing over a dip on the interstate, the front end began to bounce followed by a complete loss of pressure in the front air springs. Inspection showed that the left front bag was blown with damage to the plastic plate which forms the base of the bellows and a bent lower bracket. I limped in to the RV park and sent pictures to air lift. They replied that the damage could only have been done by the suspension experiencing "bottom out". How did the suspension bottom out with an air spring installed and filled to 95psi. The best guess is that the travel of the suspension exceeded the travel allowed by the inflated air spring causing the spring to fail, lose pressure, and then bottom out against the lower bracket. The air lift rep suggested that I needed to replace my shocks . I was responsible for replacing the blown air spring and bracket as well. I had these items shipped immediately so i could get back on the road as there is a chance of damaging the air springs if you drive with no air pressure in them. I also ordered new bilsteins all around. Air lift also recommended running with less pressure than the 95 psi to prevent damage. The air spring was replaced. I made it home and had the bilsteins installed. I drove the motorhome back to the RV park with the bags set at 75psi. I extended the slides and leveled the rig with my hydraulic levelers although the RV pad is concrete and fairly level. 5 minutes after I had leveled the left rear air spring exploded. I have had the system less than a month and I am now looking at my 4th trip to the shop and 2nd replacement bag. The problem is that the amount of travel in the suspension appears to exceed the range of the air lift spring. This is what caused the failure when the front end bounced and again when I leveled the rig. The instructions that come with the system note that if you are going to lift the rig with a hoist you need to deflate the air bags. There is no instruction or warning regarding use of hydraulic levelers. I don't know of a class A RV that does not have a leveling system. If this air spring system is installed without an onboard compressor, it would mean that everytime you park and level the rig you would need to deflate the bags, then either have an air compressor handy or find a place to refill the springs. The Air Lift rep on the forum has responded and he has sent this up the chain to see what can be done. I am not ready to throw Air Lift under the bus yet, but I want others on the forum to know of my experience in case they have had similar issues or if they are trying to decide on what would be the best upgrade for their W22. In the interim I cannot go anywhere in the RV due to the damaged bag. IF I don't hear back from Air Lift in the next couple of weeks I will have to decide as to whether it is best to remove and scrap the system or purchase a replacement bag and attach chassis straps to limit travel of suspension.I will also have to put on note next the leveler control pad reminding everyone to deflate air springs before leveling rig. Even with these precautions it raises some questions as to what happens when the body on the rig rolls, with bags inflated, as you navigate difficult slow speed turns into drive or up a grade? Can the body move on the chassis enough to cause inflated bag to fail?

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Old 01-07-2012, 09:54 AM   #2
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curious why you would add a hokey setup like that instead of quality shocks. Even adding a 2nd shock.
If you bottom out routinely... you might well have a broken leaf. I would get the rig on a lift and examine it closely.

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Old 01-07-2012, 10:09 AM   #3
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In retrospect, I should have replaced shocks first. I consider the Bilsteins quality shocks. I may end up deciding that the air lift system may be great for pickups towing 5th wheels but offer little for a Class A rig unless the goal is to level the ride. That's why I thought it beneficial to share my experience with those who might be facing similar decisions. I have read alot of the threads on air springs and I don't recall hearing the air lift system described as hokey until now. I also don't recall hearing much discussion about the issues I bring up. I did have the leaf springs inspected prior to any upgrades and there were no issues found with them. The problem appears to have been bad shocks for the most part. The 2002 Workhorse W22 did not have the Bilsteins as OE and that appears to be the biggest factor with this particular suspension.
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Old 01-07-2012, 01:00 PM   #4
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I used air lifts on my tow vehicle back in my trailer days, Nothing but good things to say about the system.. HOWEVER That is a MUCH lighter ride and lower pressure (4,000 pounds curb weight and 25-50 PSI inflated on the bags)

Air LIft is HQed in Lansing, MI as I recall. Lansing is easy to find though there are a few people living there I wish would move out (But that's a political statement, so I won't take it any farther by posting names or anything)
Home is where I park it!
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Old 01-07-2012, 10:39 PM   #5
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The same air lift 5000 system I installed on the W22 chassis is reportedly used with good result on a variety of pickups. Needless to say there are substantial differences between the chassis of an F350 and a Workhorse W22. Even among Class A rigs that use the W22 there are differences in the amount and degree of body roll ,suspension travel, etc.. I am not saying that the air lift system is flawed, but I have decided that it is not going to work well on my rig. I have no idea if Air Lift would get back to me in 2 days or 2 weeks on this and in the meantime I am stuck with an RV I cannot drive. Fortunately, Air Lift has a 60 day, no questions asked, return policy which I intend to exercise. At least by removing the bags I can drive the RV. I will be out the $600+ I paid for installation and the $150 I paid for replacement of the first bag that failed and the bracket. Bottom line is that the system just did not work well on my rig as evidenced by the failures. As you guys know, there are enough things that can go wrong on a Class A without adding another to worry about.
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