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Old 06-15-2010, 03:06 PM   #1
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Air Bags--worth the cost?

A few days ago I was at Camping World and almost got talked into buying Firestone Ride-Rite air bags for our 08 Allegro, 32LA, Ford. The bags were on sale and the install price was 50% off but before making a major purchase I would appreciate any thoughts/comments on adding the bags. I'm hoping to help with the ride and improve the steering which requires constant adjustment.

Thanks,
RJ
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Old 06-15-2010, 06:54 PM   #2
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Just my opinion, but I doubt if the Firestone air bags will do anything for handling (steering). Maybe have some effect on ride, but that's a subjective thing anyway.

If you want to improve steering on a Ford chassis with leaf spring front suspension, add a Davis Tru-Trak to the front suspension or a Henderson Supersteer Track Bar to the rear. Either one should make a substantial improvement in steering and tracking on all kinds of roads.

Eric's RV Performance Center - Davis Trac Bar
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Old 06-15-2010, 09:12 PM   #3
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RJ, the 2008 F53 chassis already has a front trackbar standard from Ford. Still, in our case we had big time "tail wagging the dog" caused by wind gusts and trucks. I had to predict which way the truck would push us and correct as the truck passed. Talk about "white knuckle".

This was greatly improved with addition of a rear trackbar. Now I have to correct only a little and do not need to be constantly on guard as trucks pass. We still get affected somewhat by wind, the next improvement will be heftier sway bars.

When I was searching this site for recommendations, I found many people also recommended getting an alignment at a good truck alignment shop before doing anything, which I also did.

We also added air bags, but not for handling. We like them for "stealth leveling" (we have the 4-bag pressure controls in the coach) when we do not want to deploy the levelers. I found that inflating the front airbags much past 15PSI caused a lot of bouncing on bad pavement (the old 4-lane sections of I95 north and south of Florence, SC, for example) . I normally run with 5PSI in front and 15PSI in the rear, so the fronts are hardly doing anything.

Wheelbase has quite a bit to do with ride, our wheelbase is 216" with a 34'11" coach. I believe your coach has a 228" wheelbase with about 1' shorter length, you have less rear overhang than we do so you may get better results with the airbags. You certainly should have good results with the rear trackbar.

Good luck!
Stewart
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Old 06-16-2010, 09:59 AM   #4
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I had them on my W22 and loved them. 5 lbs difference could make a completely different ride. Lowering one side by about 5 lbs would take the wander out of the high crowned roads.
My Triple E came with them standard but I added a dash control and small pump. I found that they seemed to stabilize the rear of the coach and took out the bobbing up front if I was lightly loaded.
Go for it.
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Old 06-16-2010, 11:27 AM   #5
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We have RiderRites on the rear our older '88 27 foot Winnie, and Firestones in the inside of the coils on the front - makes substantial improvement in ride and stability, wouldn't be without them!

I have no idea what CW sells them for ordinarily, or what they charge for installation - but they can be bought quite reasonably from a number of Internet sources. On the other hand, depending upon the MH suspension layout, actual installation CAN be a considerable challenge!

Without a doubt, good airbags and quality shock absorbers can easily make up 90% of the ride and handling capability of MH's...
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Old 06-17-2010, 07:17 AM   #6
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Thanks for the replies. Stewart & JCM what bags did you use?

Thanks again,
RJ
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Old 06-17-2010, 08:49 PM   #7
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Firestone ride right. Just Google and you can even see videos about installation. Loved them.
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Old 06-18-2010, 05:45 AM   #8
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I used Ride Rite also. AirLift did not list 2008 chassis at the time.

I did get them installed as I don't have a level enough surface at home and I had to drill 3 holes for each in the rear. Also in front you have to cut off a little stub (with no threads) off a cross-member bolt. My chassis is a 2008 22,000lb F53 chassis.

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Old 06-18-2010, 06:59 PM   #9
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If air bags do nothing else at all, what they WILL do is save your springs, and preserve the ride you have. Spring steel only stays springy for so long holding up all that weight---
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Old 06-18-2010, 07:01 PM   #10
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For what it's worth, w had one of the RideRites leaking air pressure, needing topping off every week or so. Was a bear to get access to remove the old one - had already checked the fill valve and line for leaks as far as I could get access to, but the top of the airbag was inaccessible without removal. So, to be on the safe side. I spent the better part of an afternoon getting the old one out as I awaited the delivery of a replacement (airbag only!). Once removed, the air line fitting at the top of the airbag seemed a bit loose - but since I had it out anyway, I went ahead and restrained the bag extension with a chain, and aired it up to max PSI - then submerged the bag, line and all in a bucket of water - no visible leaks, so I left it in overnight. Next morning, still no air loss - but the new replacement had arrived, so installed it, and kept the old one for a possible spare.

NOW, here's the thing - the old 22 year old bag seemed in perfect condition - no visual deterioration of the outside rubber - or anything else...

The point? IF these tire-like bags can hold up so well, for so long, as far as the rubber condition, WHY do tire sidewalls go bad in just a few short years?
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Old 06-19-2010, 12:46 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RJEV View Post
A few days ago I was at Camping World and almost got talked into buying Firestone Ride-Rite air bags for our 08 Allegro, 32LA, Ford. The bags were on sale and the install price was 50% off but before making a major purchase I would appreciate any thoughts/comments on adding the bags. I'm hoping to help with the ride and improve the steering which requires constant adjustment.

Thanks,
RJ
I too am considering the Ride rite bags for both front and rear on my 02 brave.
I have noticed that it sits a little low these days, probably too much stuff.
Also the steering is a bit, shall we say random. Yes I do have the trucker passing tail wag, but I'm not trying to stop that problem with air bags.

I do think that the ride rite bags will help with the steering problem though, and here is why.

I am able to raise my coach with the leveling jacks to a point high enough to change the wheels. One day while doing just that, I noticed a strange thing. As I raised the coach, the front axle rotated backward, ie, adding positive Caster angle. Some may not understand this, so bear with me. Positive caster angle helps the wheels "center" on the road.

When I let the coach down again, I decided to make a little guage to show me how much the axle would rotate forward.

with my load, the axle rotated to a negative caster angle. So, Raising the coach a little with some "helpers" would give me back some positive caster angle, and thus better steering centering.

Now before you say, ya ya ya, who is this guy and why does he think all this stuff is right.

I am a 35 year veteran vehicle technition.

Been doing this kind of thing for longer than I would have cared to, but still do it. ( maybe just crazy) anyway, yes I think that raising the ride height will improve the handling. It's either that or put some angle shims under the front axle.
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Old 06-20-2010, 10:05 AM   #12
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with my load, the axle rotated to a negative caster angle. So, Raising the coach a little with some "helpers" would give me back some positive caster angle, and thus better steering centering.
Hmm, have you considered an alignment?

Have you measured the ride height and compared to factory specs?

As a professional vehicle technician, I'm sure you know that the caster on a beam axle/leaf spring suspension can be adjusted by inserting wedge shaped shims between the axle nad the spring.
After first establishing the correct/desired ride height of course.

FYI, air bags are spring. They increase the spring rate of the vehicle. They make it MORE STIFF.
It's nice that they can be adjusted to compensate for more wieght being carried, but in all cases pumping them up will make the ride stiffer.

If your leaf springs have sagged, a better option is to go to a truck spring shop, and have them re-arched. This will give you your correct ride height without increasing the spring rate and causing a rougher ride.

Conventional wisdom pretty well supports as fact that the F53 in particular is sprung VERY stiff from the factory, and I'd think making it even stiffer would not be desired.
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Old 06-22-2010, 08:03 PM   #13
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I had a leak with my aibags as well. It was the dash switch that was leaking down - took 2 weeks so it wasn't a major problem. I found this out after replacing both lines from the front switch to the rear bags.
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