Should I Purchase Suspension Air Bags with a Compressor?

by admin on January 29, 2013

It is unquestionable that suspension air bags increase payload and aid in helping stabilize heavy loads. The question at hand is will I benefit by having an on board compressor with in cab controls.


Air bag helper springs & their requirements:

Air bags for your Suspension are like your tires in the way that they will have to be topped off with air from time to time. If you see excessive air leaking and are having to refill them on a daily basis you may have a leak. As far as getting the air into the bags you can either air them up manually using a home compressor or use an on board compressor.


  • Air bags can be installed with the airlines routed together using a union tee and then out to a single Schrader valve


  • They also can be routed to two separate Schrader valves.


All thou it makes it easier to fill with one Schrader there is a drawback to installing air bag this way. If you are only looking to air up the bags to support the load then there will be no problem with this. The union tee does not have a check valve built into it; it will not stop air flow transferring from side to side if the truck starts rocking or while cornering. Because of this if you tee the lines together it will not control sway or rocking side to side.

Air bag helper springs whether from Firestone, Air Lift or Hellwig require 5 psi in the bags anytime the vehicle is in motion. Without this pressure in the bags they will fold up onto itself and rub, creating a hole and we all no holes and air don’t mix.  One could benefit from having an on board compressor in this case. There are many models out there that due the monitoring for you. On all Air Lift models, every time you turn the key on the pressure reading registers back to the compressor. If the pressure has fallen below 5 psi the compressor will kick on until the pressure is back up to safe operating pressure. This will safeguard your bags to make sure you get many years of use from your investment. Other compressor units will reset your bags back to the pressure that you had them set to when the vehicle was parked.


There are many different styles of compressors to choose from. There are literally styles to fit every scenario. On board compressors come in handy when conditions change either on the road or when Mother Nature decides to make some changes of her own. Having a compressor at your fingertips will allow you to make changes to compensate in any condition.

  • Standard duty compressors are an entry level compressor. They include a needle style gauge that reads the air pressure in the bags. They come in single gauge or dual gauge (some dual gauge set ups are actually a single gauge with dual needles).


  • Heavy duty compressors are available for those using the compressor more frequently or want to fill a tank to run other items (air horn, air up tires or air tools).



  • Digital read out displays are available in both the standard and heavy duty set ups. This gauge is smaller than a traditional gauge and can be incorporated into the factory dash configuration easily. This digital read out is very easy to read with larger numbers than the needle style gauges.


  • Compressor kits are available with air tanks providing on demand air for faster air up of the bags. They also will allow for a separate line for accessories. Most will include an additional hose for filling up tires.



  • Kits are available in a remote style read out like Air Lift’s #72000 Wireless Air Remote System or the more economical Wireless One Air System. This is still a digital read out only without the wires needing to feed the display. These kits are quicker and easier to install because you don’t have to drill through the fire wall to bring wires and hose into the cab. You also will not have to worry about where to mount the gauge. The gauge is about the size of a garage door opener and can be stored in a center console, glove compartment or clipped to a visor.
  • Compressor kits also have the option to be automatic never having to worry about what air pressure is in the bags. These kits will utilize a sensor mounted to the axle and the frame. When you put the load on the vehicle and it squats the rear end down the compressor will kick on and fill the bags until the sensor come back into alignment. After un-hitching or unloading the bed the sensors will be misaligned again triggering the release of air in the bags until the sensors realign.

Compressors are a good investment:

  • Easy and quick to change air pressure in bags
  • Monitor air pressure in bags to prevent damaging bags
  • Convenience of not having to find a service station with a compressor if changes need to be made on the road
  • Don’t have to pay for the air at a service station
  • Make changes on the fly if wind picks up or road conditions change
  • Option to run air tools
  • Ability to fill tires


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