Once the exclusive preserve of stretch limousines and luxury 4wds vehicles because of its beautiful ride, air suspension is now being recognised as the tradesman’s friend for totally different reasons.
One of its big attractions is that it can iron out difficulties presented by unevenly loaded vehicles, which covers most tradesmen’s vehicles, by putting additional suspension support where it is needed under toolboxes or heavy materials being taken to a work site.
Pedders Suspension feels that this extra support and safety is also very important as more tradespeople use their dual cabs, 4wds and utes as recreational vehicles, carrying slide-on campers and towing boats.
Air suspension also helps keep the vehicle level when cornering, stops it bouncing around on hard roads. Air suspension evens it up so there is no erratic braking, and no lights shining up into the faces of oncoming traffic at night.
Air suspension kits range from the simple but very rugged Firestone Ride-Rite air helper kits for hard-working leaf sprung vehicles, to sophisticated full air conversions also using Firestone air springs from All Air Suspension, which distributes Ride-Rite technology throughout NSW in conjunction with the national Airbag Man organisation.
Firestone air springs are the world’s top selling brand. The air springs used in Ride-Rite kits and in Pedders’ full air conversions are identical in construction to the airbags used under massive semi-trailers.
Pedders’ customers include builders, mobile mechanics, electricians, plumbers, and home services providers, such as the tradesman installing industrial and commercial roller doors who needed to bolster his suspension to cope with the loads then to release the pressure afterwards, so the vehicle would ride properly empty. Recent conversions have include 2wd utes (Falcons, for example), 4wd utes, motor homes, F150s, Mercedes Sprinters, Series 100 Landcruisers, the list is endless, because air suspension can fit just about any vehicle around and Pedders Suspension have found tradespeople as a group to be early adopters of advanced air suspension technology.
Typically tradespeople’s 4wds, utes, vans and light trucks have to cope with a huge diversity of road and rough worksite conditions that do their best to knock a vehicle to bits and ruin its tyres. But it’s not only the roads under work vehicles’ tyres that wreck them but what’s on top of the tyres and axles as well.
The suspension suitability to the job in hand can be far more important to safety and performance than the surface on which vehicles are used, feels All Air Suspension. Even on varied city roads, let alone bone-jarring mine, rural and construction sites, tyres and vehicles can take a real beating if their suspensions aren’t up to the job. Even among new vehicles, many aren’t up to the job.
A vehicle that rides beautifully with a load can become bouncy, uncomfortable and unstable when it’s empty, affecting not only ride, but also lessening performance when cornering and braking.
Conversely, a vehicle that’s set up more for highway cruising than hard work often has stability problems when it’s loaded. Apart from shining its lights into the face of oncoming traffic, a serious hazard on roads at night, such a vehicle will be much, much harder on tyres and the driver. Uneven loading will also help shorten the life of the vehicle by stressing the entire chassis and frame.
Ride-Rite kits fit between vehicle chassis’ and leaf springs to absorb the increasing weight of loads that cause vehicles to sag or lean. This imbalance results in hazardous driving conditions and wear and tear on the vehicle's tyres, suspension and frame.
In all these cases, Ride-Rite springs work with the existing suspension to re-level loaded vehicles to their ideal configuration, which is with frame and body parallel to the axle, as in an unloaded vehicle. The kits have benefits when the vehicle is loaded or empty, because the air pressure takes the strain off existing metal springs, preventing sagging and helping them to last longer.
Not only do the Ride-Rite and full air suspensions give better ride and handling, but also their air springs can be inflated to different pressures to cope with uneven loads and varying weight distribution. Many tradesmen will have huge toolboxes, generators, batteries or stocks of materials permanently located on one side or corner of the vehicle.
Using a simple tyre pump or compressor-driven control kits in the cab, air can be added to overcome the inherent imbalance. Vehicle loading heights can also be adjusted, with the suspensions being raised or lowered to match loading dock heights. The loading height adjustment can also be used to enable a vehicle to slip out from under special trays it carries for particular jobs, but which it doesn’t need to carry around all the time and waste fuel.
This inflation pressure flexibility can also be an asset when dealing with different ride surfaces, ranging from roadway to soft, muddy and sandy. It can also be an asset when towing, which is an additional stress to which many work vehicles are subjected (including when their owners are on holiday, towing a boat or camping gear).
Ride-Rite springs can handle 0-7 bar (0-100 psi) and will support loadings of up to 1100kg each (subject to chassis gross vehicle weight limits). They are simple to install using ordinary workshop tools.
Ride-Rite kits are available for a wide range of popular work vehicles including: Toyota (Hilux, Troop Carrier, Prado and Landcruiser) ; Holden (Rodeo, Jackaroo and Commodore ute); Nissan (Patrol and Navara); Mazda (Tribute and Bravo); Mitsubishi (Triton and Pajero); and Ford (Courier, Maverick, Transit, Falcon ute and F Series), plus many others.