AIR SUSPENSION SYSTEM
An air suspension system in a vehicle typically consists of several key components that work together to provide a smoother ride, adjustable ride height, and improved handling. Even while it might appear difficult at first, it is actually rather easy to grasp once you know the fundamental parts and how they interact to provide you with air suspension.
The specific components may vary depending on the vehicle’s make and model, but the following are the fundamental elements of an air suspension system:
1. Air Springs/Balloons (Airbags)
Air springs are the most critical components of an air suspension system. These are flexible, reinforced rubber or rubber-like bellows that replace traditional coil or leaf springs. They contain compressed air and support the vehicle’s weight. By adjusting the air pressure within the air springs, the vehicle’s ride height and stiffness can be altered.
2. Air Compressor
In an air suspension system, the air compressor functions as the system’s lungs by forcing air into the air tank and distributing it to the air springs. The air compressor is responsible for supplying compressed air to the air springs as it starts to fill your tank when your air system is turned on, and they will restart to fill your tank when the pressure in your tank falls to a certain level. Next, it pressurizes the air and sends it to the airbags, allowing you to adjust the suspension’s height and ride quality. The compressor is typically mounted in the vehicle’s engine bay or elsewhere on the chassis.
3. Air Lines and Fittings
These durable hoses and connectors channel compressed air from the compressor to the air springs, withstanding high pressures. They are usually made of durable materials, that transfer air from the air compressor to the air struts, enduring challenging road conditions and climates. These components ensure a robust and reliable air suspension system.
4. Air Suspension Controller/ECU
The air suspension controller, also known as the electronic control unit (ECU), manages the system’s operation. It receives input from various sensors (such as ride height sensors and accelerometers) and adjusts the air pressure in the air springs to maintain the desired ride height and ride quality. The controller can be programmed with different settings to customize the suspension’s behaviour.
5. Ride Height/Levelling Sensor
The ride height sensors monitor the vehicle’s ride height at each corner. They send data to the air suspension controller, allowing it to make real-time adjustments to maintain a consistent ride height, even when the vehicle is loaded or on uneven terrain. Additionally, a levelling sensor electronically monitors the gap between the vehicle’s underside and the road. The information is then utilised by the engine control unit to assist the suspension system in maintaining the vehicle’s level and ensuring a smooth ride.
6. Air Reservoir/Tank
An air reservoir stores compressed air and helps stabilize the pressure supply to the air springs. This can reduce the workload on the compressor and provide more consistent air pressure to the whole system. Next, air is held in the air tank until you air up, where it is pumped by the air compressor. Therefore, the air tank serves as the component to holds and stores compressed air that necessary for raising your vehicle.
Valves are used to control the flow of air within the system, directing it to the appropriate air springs. There are different types of valves, including solenoid valves that are electronically controlled by the ECU.
8. Dampers (Shock Absorbers)
Some air suspension systems may include electronic shock absorbers (dampers) that can be adjusted to change the ride quality and handling characteristics of the vehicle.
9. Wiring Harness
The wiring harness connects all the electronic components, including sensors, controllers, valves, and the compressor. It ensures that data and power can be transferred between these components.
10. Control Panel or Interface
Many air suspension systems offer a control panel or interface inside the vehicle that allows the driver to adjust ride height and select different suspension settings. These can be simple switches or more advanced touchscreens with various present modes.
11. Air Suspension Struts
In some vehicles, air suspension struts are used instead of traditional shock absorbers and coil springs. These struts combine the shock absorber and air spring into a single unit. These air struts work by inflating or deflating the airbag through the assistance of an air compressor and air lines. As the compressor alters the air volume in each airbag, the vehicle’s height is either raised or lowered. Hence, achieving an ideal ride height is easily accomplished by simply adjusting the air pressure directed to the air struts.
Air suspension systems are often found in luxury cars, trucks, SUVs, and commercial vehicles, as they offer a more comfortable and adaptable ride compared to traditional suspension setups. The components and complexity of the system can vary depending on the vehicle’s application and intended purpose.
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