Air suspensions are quickly becoming a mainstay in many commercial trucking fleets, especially with many new trucks featuring “air ride” systems aimed towards delivering driver comfort. Unlike traditional steel springs, air suspensions offer a consistently smooth ride regardless of whether the truck is heavily loaded or running empty.
Even when faced with a tough fleet maintenance schedule, neglect is never an option when dealing with your truck’s air suspension. Taking a proactive approach towards maintenance can help prevent problems that could result in expensive downtime.
What to Look For
Start by checking your truck for proper ride height clearances. A truck or trailer that’s riding abnormally low or high may be suffering from incorrect air pressures. Keeping the air springs clean is also important, since dirt, debris, rust and corrosion can lead to abrasion. Use soap and water to remove dirt and grime from the air bag.
You should also keep your eyes and ears peeled for leaks. Check the entire air bag for signs of wear, including abrasions, bulges, tears and cracks. On convoluted air springs, make sure the girdle hoops are correctly positioned and undamaged. You should also check the air valves for signs of clogging as well as physical damage.
It’s always best to inspect your air springs and shocks while inspecting other suspension components. Other problems with your truck’s suspension system can also have an impact on your air springs. For instance, misalignment caused by worn suspension components can cause damage to the bellows, bead plates and other parts of the air spring.
When to Repair or Replace
Since most commercial trucking fleets operate under a broad range of operating conditions with loads of varying types, there’s no commonly accepted standard when it comes to replacing air springs and other air suspension components. In most cases, the right time to replace an air spring or any other air suspension component depends on its physical condition and the amount of use it’s been subjected to, among other signs.
Air springs with obvious and critical signs of damage, including holes, cracks and cuts in the air bag, should be replaced immediately. Other missing and/or damaged components, including fasteners, air lines and air valves, should be inspected and replaced or repaired as necessary. Creating a standardized regimen for checking air ride components can help fleet maintenance crews stay on top of suspension-related problems.
How to Care for Air Springs and Shocks
It goes almost without saying that taking care of your air suspension is essential if you want them to last for a long time. To keep your air springs and shocks in great shape, it’s important to follow these care and maintenance tips:
- Inspect for leaks in the air lines on a regular basis. Damaged, aged or leaking air lines should always be replaced as soon as possible.
- Always keep an eye on your air suspension gauges. If your gauges suddenly max out once you’re loaded, it could be a sign of an issue with your suspension.
- Make sure your loads are always distributed properly. This will prevent your air springs from being overloaded due to improperly balanced weights.
- Never overload your truck beyond your air springs’ rated capacity. Doing so could seriously damage the air springs and shocks, along with other parts of your suspension system.
- If you need to drop a wheel off a curb, do it gradually. A sudden drop-off has the potential to damage the air spring, especially if it’s at its limit.
The next time your trucking fleet is in need of air suspension repair, turn to the experts at Godfrey Brake Service & Supply. With over six decades of experience, our spring shop can tackle air suspension repairs for a broad range of makes and models.