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Old 01-17-2020, 10:04 PM   #1
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Opinion of Airlift Air Bags for '99 F53?

We are driving from phoenix to Grand Rapids Michigan again in May and I want to install the Airlift air bags on both the front and rear axles to help mitigate the pounding we take from the horrible roads.
I know the leaf springs have lost most of their arch due to age but I think these air bags might give us a few more years on them.
I am considering the front air bags with jounce bumper inside the bag as this makes sense to me.
My 2001 Dakota also had weak leaf springs in the rear and was sagging and ride had gotten rough. I installed rear overload shocks with springs on the and they restored the ride height and the ride is great now.
Hope the air bags might do the same for our couch.

Anyone install these springs and if so are you happy with the ride?
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Old 01-17-2020, 10:56 PM   #2
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leadman,

Yes I installed the air bags (AB's) on all 4 wheels and IMO they will help with the ride. We've probably have 7,000 on the AB's.

John McKinley (Inventor of the CHF) I believe also installed them. He asked me for my opinion last Spring. He also has some sagging real leaf springs and that is a sure way of helping with that as well.

Here's what I did and so far I'm happy and it has not been a difficult thing to deal with.

When you get your AB system I don't believe it is necessary to install the small air compressor so you can adjust the air while traveling and here's why.

The system you might buy is around $600 just for the air compressor and gauges. I did that install once and this is the issue. They will want you to use a "T" so you'll tie both front and both rear AB's together so they can be filled as pairs. The problem with that is when you hit a bump with one wheel what happens to the increased pressure? If fills the other AB making it harder. With the AB's tied together you can't adjust a corner if needed to. You will only have enough air line supplied to use a "T". The air line is cheap and available at any heavy truck parts shop.

I ran all air lines up to one location under the hood. I'll can send a pic. Each AB is filled using a $40 12-V air compressor (AC). The AC is wired and stays under the hood. I can adjust pressures for all AB's in under 2 minutes. The AC is wired to the wiper motor power which is turned on with the key in the ACC position.

Another thing with the AB's. If you have your AB as say 50 lbs and when camping you lift the rear axle to high there's no place for the air to go as the AB is stretched. You can and will either destroy an AB or blow a hole in the air lines. I know because I did it. There are easy ways of dealing with that issue. I can discuss that more later if you're interested.

We traveled to ME and back this past summer. The total trip was 4,250 miles. We camped over night close to 15 times. Every time we stopped I lowered the AB's to zero before leveling and filled them before we departed the next day. I just didn't want to take the chance of blowing another air line or AB while on the trip.

I usually run about 25 lbs in the front and 35 lbs in the rear. When you install the AB's you have to remove the jounce bumpers so yes buy the ones that have them as part of the AB's. I used Air Lift bags (Lansing MI) which are probably made by Firestone.

I can run my AB's with little or no air if I wanted to. If your leafs are sagging and you remove the jounce bumpers then you'll probably need to keep at least 10 lbs in them as a minimum.
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Old 01-17-2020, 11:16 PM   #3
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I installed Airlift air springs front and rear on my 99 F53 several years ago. The rear have the Airlift wireless air system front are manual fill. They did improve the ride plus you can level side to side front to rear if needed. Just be careful how much PSI you have in them to much will make your ride worse then without them. However, the best ride improvement I made was installing Koni shocks like night and day the difference in the ride. I replaced Bilstein shocks that only had about 3000 miles on them with the Koni-Shocks.
With the Airlift wireless system you control the pressure independently of each other. My front air Springs are not connected together, I manual control how much air I put on each side.
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Old 01-18-2020, 09:45 AM   #4
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Is it possible that the air bags do not have as much travel as the shocks will allow the axle to drop when inflated hard? I guess what I will do is take some measurements before installing the air bags and see what I come up with.
I will look at the Koni website and see if they have the measurements for the Koni FSD shocks I already installed.

I have the large 12vHarbor Freight compressor that I bought last year and it is working well so far. It draws enough power it has to be hooked to the battery or heavy wires. I do have a battery sized cable running to the hydraulic pump at the front for the slide and jacks that I may hook another wire to so I can access it easier and hook the compressor to it when I need to add air to the bags. I have enough hose to reach the rear so no problem there.

After last years trip I had a new vibration in the front even after I replaced the front tires due to one being damaged when hitting a huge pot hole. Found the wheel bearings had flattened rollers and the cups had depressions in them. I had recently performed a brake job and had repacked the bearing and they were good then. Cost me almost $300 for new bearings I installed myself. Hope to not damage any tires or bearings this year.
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Old 01-18-2020, 10:29 AM   #5
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leadman,

You are correct thinking that the shocks will limit axle drop. How much drop you'd have to measure just by lifting the axle until it stopped dropping.

With the air bags (AB's) this is the problem. The more you stretch them the higher the pressures being developed. You are just not sure if you are to high in AB pressures or the axle is dropped to low. The higher the AB pressures the greater the chance the axle drop will effect the AB's.

You can add a cable or chain to limit axle drop but that might bring the wheels off the ground more often than necessary.

Back in 1999 we had a 34' F-53 chassis and I added AB's on all 4 wheels with the on-board AC. I never had one issue with the AB's and I think it's because I had the "T" installed. If the axle drop was an issue nothing ever happened. Maybe the T allowed a leaning RV to build up pressure in other side AB.

If I didn't think we'd have to raise the RV to much sometimes I didn't release the pressures first. When I was done I always checked the firmness of the AB's. If they felt a little to firm I just dumped the air. Why take a chance when it was so easy to refill when we departed.

As far as running a hose to the rear I did think about it but still decided to run all the air lines to one location under the hood. It's just a choice for ease of dealing with the AB's. Any time I can lessen my bent over and crawling around below eye level time I'll do it. Secondly I couldn't find a decent place out of the rain water, road dirt etc for each air fill location. I had enough air line to locate both front AB's schrader valves under the hood. I did look for a location in the rear for both rear valves but figured it was almost as easy to run them both to the front.

I store the air gauge, AC and fill hose, extra valve caps, valve cores and a valve core removal tool under the hood. Already had one valve core fail.

I've done tons and tons of wheel bearing packs. I saw many failed bearings which was easily discovered because there was always metal particles (sparkles) in the bearing grease. That is well known sign of bearing failure. Bearings fail because they get hot and the metal breaks down. That missing and flaking metal causes depressions in the rollers and the races.

I NEVER saw a flattened or distorted tapered roller. If it was flattened it was due to metal loss again caused by excessive heat. Those rollers/races are extremely hard. Yes they could be compressed using high pressure. I'd bet high pressure would crush and break the rollers before they'd distort.
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Old 01-19-2020, 09:46 AM   #6
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There was no metal in the grease and the bearing rollers are smooth other than the flat spots. No metal, no signs of overheating. Bearings were in great shape when I did the brakes a couple of years ago and less than 10k.
I think they are still in the shed, if so I'll try to post some pictures. When I jacked up the MH and spun the tires the flat spots could be felt.
I too have done lots of bearings repacks since I started working as an apprentice for Cummins in 1969. I worked for truck fleets after about 1976 and several factory truck shops when we moved to Az. until I went to work for the City of Phoenix in 1986 until I retired in 2007.

I did order the Airlift kits for the MH yesterday. The fronts have the jounce bumper inside, the rears were not available with this feature. The rears are due for delivery today, the fronts Thursday. Purchased thru Amazon.
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Old 01-19-2020, 09:57 AM   #7
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If you've done as many wheel bearings as I have you had to find it strange to get a flat spot and no metal flake. That's a first for me and as had been said many, many times "You're never to old to learn something new!!!"
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Old 01-19-2020, 10:16 AM   #8
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So how does this system soften the ride?
You still are using the stock leafs. These are advertised as load assist air bags.
With the Kelderman air bags, you replace one of the leafs, thus softening the leaf spring part of the suspension.
This system does not do that. They are helper springs.

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Old 01-19-2020, 10:43 AM   #9
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Gary,

You are correct. In these two cases John Mckinley and leadman are both dealing with leaf spring sag. Adding the bags as John said did soften the ride but it also raised the RV off their jounce bumpers which I believe had deteriorated and are now gone as required to add the AB's.

Nobody is saying this is an air ride system. It is still a leaf spring suspension but I'll mention what somebody (I think it was John Mckinley) mentioned. Go out into your shop and find a 1" steel bar about 2' long. With all your might smack your anvil if you have one. If not just find something solid. After your hand heals properly add a rubber grip to the steel bar and do the same. I'd guess there is a cushioning effect from the rubber grip. That's how an air bag can and does improve a leaf spring ride.

I've always said if I can realize a 5% improvement in the ride and handling that's good enough and much less than buying a DP for an extra $30,000 bucks.
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Old 01-19-2020, 10:49 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by F4Gary View Post
So how does this system soften the ride?
You still are using the stock leafs. These are advertised as load assist air bags.
With the Kelderman air bags, you replace one of the leafs, thus softening the leaf spring part of the suspension.
This system does not do that. They are helper springs.



Youíre exactly right, installed with good leaf springs all the air bags do is make it stiffer. But, if your springs are sagging, the suspension can bottom out and crash against the old, hard jounce bumpers making for a very harsh ride. At 90k miles I only had about 1 1/2 inch of travel and the ride had gotten horrible. Air bags raised the rear end back to where it should be and ride is improved.

My next move is to add an air reservoir so the bag pressure doesnít increase so much when bags are compressed. This should further soften the ride.
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Old 01-19-2020, 06:40 PM   #11
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[QUOTE=jmckinley;
My next move is to add an air reservoir so the bag pressure doesnít increase so much when bags are compressed. This should further soften the ride.[/QUOTE]


You will notice a significant improvement
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Old 01-20-2020, 08:59 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by TeJay View Post
Gary,

You are correct. In these two cases John Mckinley and leadman are both dealing with leaf spring sag. Adding the bags as John said did soften the ride but it also raised the RV off their jounce bumpers which I believe had deteriorated and are now gone as required to add the AB's.

Nobody is saying this is an air ride system. It is still a leaf spring suspension but I'll mention what somebody (I think it was John Mckinley) mentioned. Go out into your shop and find a 1" steel bar about 2' long. With all your might smack your anvil if you have one. If not just find something solid. After your hand heals properly add a rubber grip to the steel bar and do the same. I'd guess there is a cushioning effect from the rubber grip. That's how an air bag can and does improve a leaf spring ride.

I've always said if I can realize a 5% improvement in the ride and handling that's good enough and much less than buying a DP for an extra $30,000 bucks.
Gotcha.
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Old 01-29-2020, 08:16 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by F4Gary View Post
So how does this system soften the ride?
You still are using the stock leafs. These are advertised as load assist air bags.
With the Kelderman air bags, you replace one of the leafs, thus softening the leaf spring part of the suspension.
This system does not do that. They are helper springs.

I am a BIG fan of airbags. I have them on my 1999 F53 and installed them on my son in laws 1999 F53. I have installed many at my job at the RV dealership. Every set I installed at work was my recommendation to the owner to improve the ride. You are correct that removing springs or even cutting them in half is best. The answer to how just adding airbags can help the ride is simple. The airbag is between the frame and the spring. As you add air, the spring is offloaded. Load is applied to the bag. When you hit a bump the jar you feel is a vibration. Much of that vibration is absorbed by the rubber in the airbag. My proof of this is the fact I have installed many airbags and EVERY customer was happy with the results. NOT ONE customer was dissatisfied.
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Old 01-29-2020, 09:39 AM   #14
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My 1996 F53 just shudders as it hits the bumps on the interstate. I have air bags, Bilstein shocks (no change when these were added, would of course use Koni’s if doing it today) I’ve replaced the sway bar bushings front and rear, replaced the front steering stabilizer, and added a home-built rear trac bar. I’m pleased with the handling. Semi’s or SUV’s no longer blow me off the road. But the ride is terrible.

Two questions. What is an example of air tanks I could add to my air bags to soften the bumps? Each of my four bags is aired up individually similar to Teejay’s.

Can I remove a couple of the leaf springs and make a difference? It would have to be the upper springs since the lower ones must remain to hold the axle. What have you done, and what is safe in doing so?
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