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What You Should Know about Airbag Systems

Auto Tech Outlook | Monday, August 23, 2021

What You Should Know about Airbag Systems

Whether the system is manual or computerized, and whether it is installed by a weekend mechanic or a seasoned technician, air suspension can be used to lower a vehicle to increase its street credibility, level out a hefty payload, or improve the ride of a vintage Detroit metal street monster.

FREMONT, CA: Air suspension systems in their early stages were relatively simple. Coil springs were replaced with airbags. An external compressor was used to inflate the bag to the proper pressure or height through a valve on the bag. Changes in technology and utilization increased the system's component count and control. However, modern air suspension systems have a common core of comparable components that vary little between manufacturers. The distinctions are primarily in terms of controls and convenience of installation.

The material used in airbags has remained relatively constant over time. The bag is made of a rubber-polyurethane composite material that provides structural integrity, an airtight seal, resistance to light abrasion from road debris and sand, and resistance to salt and chemical damage.

Airbags are available in three basic shapes:

Double-convoluted bag: This bag is designed in the shape of an hourglass. The design provides slightly more lateral flexibility than the previous iterations.

Tapered sleeve: This airbag functions identically but is meant to fit into a smaller space and provides a slightly more adjustable ride height.

Rolling sleeve: Additionally, this is a special-purpose airbag. The significant distinctions between the two sleeves are around ridden height and spring control and what is appropriate for the vehicle and application.

Nowadays, the majority of air suspension systems include an onboard compressor. Compressors are electric pumps that supply air to the bags via a network of compressed air connections. Compressors are often positioned on the frame of the vehicle or in the trunk. The great majority of compressors are equipped with a dehumidifier. The compressor operates by pulling in outside air, compressing it, and transporting it to the bags. Outside air is frequently saturated with moisture, which can cause havoc in a closed system. Before the air is transported through the system, the drier utilizes a desiccant material to absorb as much moisture as possible.

Compressor systems with fewer components rely on the compressor to maintain, increase, or decrease pressure. Advanced techniques have an air tank to sustain pressure and ensure a uniform pressure transition. Compressors can be triggered manually or automatically and are typically controlled solely by the driver or automatically via an electrical system.

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