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Firestone Ride-Rite Air Springs

Firestone Ride-Rite Air Springs

“Man, I need some help, and fast!” I declared. With a single raised brow and a too-quick response of “Duh!” my fellow editors simply couldn’t resist the temptation to drive home that which I had teed up so nicely. “No! I mean, my truck needs help” I retorted.

The point I was driving at is that each of us at 4X4REVIEW tend to abuse our daily drivers – full-size pickup trucks – in ways that your average Joe simply wouldn’t even think about. I was about to abuse my truck more than ever before, and I needed some help quick.

In fact, just one week after I made that statement, I would undertake an adventure to relocate my family, business, and household from Indianapolis, IN to Dallas, TX; an adventure in which we would traverse nearly half the United States with family, pets and much more all wedged not-so neatly into one rig.

The interior of our ’05 Chevy Silverado HD was stuffed to the gills and the bed was full of heavy liquids, boxes and tools that the movers wouldn’t touch. A 20 foot tandem axle trailer loaded with my heavy FJ40 project rig, a Suzuki King Quad, more liquids and some scrap steel was also attached to our Chevy – a load heavy enough to tax even the biggest and baddest trucks.

Firestone Ride-Rite Air SpringsBut I didn’t have to worry one bit. Because, in between my plea for help, and the moment I yelled “Wagons Ho!”, signaling to my family that it was time to hit the road, much like John Wayne ordering his west-bound wagons, I had made a simple, cost effective, yet critical change to my truck.

 So what was this change you might ask? Airbags my friends… airbags. Nope, not like the big-haired, bubbly airbag you dated in high school, or even the explosive-laden airbag that protects your big squash from becoming one with the windshield. The kind of airbags, or air springs as many call them, I am talking about are the ones that supplement your stock suspension in a non-intrusive, almost absent kind of way.

You see, after our tour of the Firestone Industrial Products factory tour in Noblesville, IN, just weeks before, we learned that air springs can aid in towing and hauling heavy loads in ways that we never contemplated – such as negating that annoying porpoising effect that you get on the highway and smoothing out the ride on a rough road. These however, are just a few of the nice side benefits of what air springs really do for your truck.

What we learned during our tour is that the main advantages of an air spring over its steel leaf and coil counterparts, are variable load-carrying capability, adjustable spring rate, user-friendly height control, low friction action, and road-friendly suspension that actually increases pavement life. As with leaf-sprung trucks like ours, a common cure for hauling heavy loads is to add stiffer springs to the spring-pack, which makes for a bone-jarring ride when heavy loads aren’t present. Our new Firestone air springs however, can be aired up or down with the flip of a switch and the ride quality put back to stock in a matter of a few seconds.

 

Installation – Firestone Ride-Rite Air Springs
Time: 3 Hours
Tools Needed: Drill, 5/16″, 3/16″ and ¼” drill bits, center punch, utility knife, wrenches, ratchet and sockets, side cutters, pliers, wire stripper/crimper, phillips and standard screwdrivers
Difficulty:

 

Installation


 Our kit came with two major components – the RideRite air spring kit (part # 2190), and the Level Command II air inflation system (part # 2158).
  Our team of expert installers from Firestone began by partially pre-assembling the air spring kit, as you can see by the pictures. This step only took a few minutes to complete and is quite simple. Install the top and bottom plates, and air fitting, with the supplied hardware.
Firestone Ride-Rite Air Springs With the air springs pre-assembled, the team moved onto the truck. They started by removing the rubber jounce bumpers (bump-stops) that are mounted to the axle. The brake line bracket and axle vent tube clip were loosened and removed as well, to make room for the frame brace.

The air spring was then bolted to the truck’s frame using the same holes that the bump-stops had used.

Firestone Ride-Rite Air Springs The air spring was then centered onto the bump-stop pad, and attached to the axle tube with the supplied j-bolts, and lower bracket.
Firestone Ride-Rite Air Springs At the same time the air springs were being installed, one of the other technicians had already wired, and mounted the Firestone air compressor onto the frame of the truck, in a secure location that would protect it from debris and destruction. . The air lines were neatly routed, trimmed and pushed into the elbow fittings on the air springs.
Firestone Ride-Rite Air Springs The supply air line was then installed from the air compressor to the Level Command II console, inside the rig. While at the same time, yet another crack technician was just finishing up the mounting of the air gauge, inflate/deflate switch, power source, and input/output air lines into the supplied bracket.

After a few air-leak checks at all of the unions the air system was double-checked for tightness and all other remaining components were buttoned up. We ran the compressor through a few cycles, bringing the air bags from static pressure, to 60 p.s.i. and back down again – all systems nominal.

 

 

The Verdict

FirestoneThis was a trial-by-fire test folks – no time for some sissy, urban product test. We loaded our ’05 Silverado to the breaking point. The bed – full. The interior – stuffed. Heavy, tandem-axle trailer – attached. Heavy Toyota Land Cruiser, Suzuki King Quad, heavy steel – loaded and secured.

With the new Firestone RideRite air helper springs and Level Command II air inflation system, I was able to readjust the load on my trailer, and ultimately “level out” my truck by adding 30 p.s.i. of pressure into the air springs.

My truck was loaded to the hilt (which had nearly doubled its own weight by the way) and ready for the 15 hour drive. As soon as I pulled out of the driveway and onto some streets where I could build up some steam, I immediately noticed how much more smooth, comfortable and stable the ride was. After a few hours on the highway, the truck started porpoiseing (a comment effect of securing a tandem-axle trailer to a pickup truck, where the truck pitches up and the same time the trailer pitches down, and vice versa – over and over again). I calmly reached over, added 5 more p.s.i. to the air bags and the movement vanished immediately. I only had to make two more adjustments throughout the entire trip.

Since that trip, our truck has been loaded with nearly one ton of rocks, heavy bricks, steel, and much more. Each time I could inflate the air bags in just a few seconds, making the ride far more comfortable, and stable.

The Firestone Ride Rite air spring system was, and is, the cure for my plea of “I need help, fast!” and will definitely grace every pickup truck and SUV I ever own.

Firestone Industrial Products Co.
310 East 96th Street
Indianapolis, IN 46240
Phone: 1-800-888-0650
Fax: 1-317-818-8645
Web:
www.firestoneindustrial.com

About Rick Webster

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