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Lay Out Your S10 on Twenties

Part 2: Bringing down the front with a Shockwave System from AirRide

S-10 on Air Bags

In part one of this three-part series we learned how to install AirRide Technologies’ RoadGRATER 3-link air suspension system to the rear of your S-Series truck. In this installment we'll show you the best possible way to lay out the front of your Chevy S-10 or GMC Sonoma pickup. Once again, we turned to Air Ride and their revolutionary ShockWave air spring/shock combo.

Air Ride Technologies' ShockWave system consists of two specially designed air springs (one per side), each built around a 12-position adjustable shock that installs in the stock location. By combining the shock and the spring into one unit, AirRide eliminated the need to relocate the shocks – providing better wheel and tire clearance and maintaining your S-Series’ turning radius. The kit also includes two custom-designed lower control arms that perfectly integrate with the ShockWave air springs.

A common misconception is that air suspension systems are difficult to install and must be done by a professional installer. This is definitely not the case with the ShockWave system. With a few common tools and a couple hours work, any handy backyard builder can be ridin' on air.

Lowering the Front
Bringing down the front of your S10, Sonoma, or any other truck can be slightly more challenging and a lot more critical than bringing down the rear. With most custom fabricated air bag suspension setups, clearance issues often send many builders and fabricators back to the drawing board multiple times before they’re able to build a system that works properly. Not to mention the fact that if you actually plan to drive the vehicle, you’ll want your front wheels to align to factory specs as well as provide the right amount of suspension travel to give you a nice, smooth ride. Air Ride’s ShockWave system eliminates both of these concerns because the components bolt in the stock location and are designed with clearance and suspension geometry in mind.

Control Arm
AirRide Technologies Tubular Control Arm
1. Here is the factory control arm on the left with the AirRide Techonolgies' Tubular Conrol Arm on the right.
It's no secret that the only way to truly lay your S10 out is to replace your static coil springs with the extreme versatility and suspension travel of adjustable air springs (a.k.a. bags). In order to mount the air bags in place, AirRide developed a custom-fit lower control arm that properly seats the new air spring in the correct location. These beefier tubular control arms are made from heat-treated, TIG-welded steel and powder coated for long-lasting reliability. It’s these revolutionary control arms that are the key to this system and what allows it to provide exceptional ride quality and alignability (Fig 1).

For the Chevrolet S-10 and GMC Sonoma, AirRide recommends replacing the stock spindles with Belltech 2” drop spindles (Fig 2). This simple upgrade will get you down in the weeds and help maintain the critical suspension geometry essential for proper alignment, low ride height and maximum durability. While just about any S10 drop spindles will work, AirRide recommends Belltech because of their superior design, craftsmanship and reputation as a leader in the truck suspension industry.

Belltech Drop Spindle
2. Here is the factory S10 spindle on the left with the Belltech Drop Spindle on the right.
Factory S10 Suspension
3. The stock S10 suspension with the steering and braking components removed.
The Installation
Factory S10 Suspension Removed
4. your factory spindle, spring, and control arm are removed to make room for your new air suspension components.
To begin the air suspension installation, you must first remove the stock lower control arms, coil springs and spindles (Fig 3). The guys at AirRide Technologies showed us a little trick to get the job done safely and easily. With the vehicle supported on stands, loop a chain through the spring and bolt the chain to the lower control arm. Then, using a floor jack, slowly lower the control arm to release the spring (Fig 4). The chain keeps the spring in place as the pressure is released and makes it so the spring can’t get away from you and potentially cause damage to your vehicle.

With the stock suspension removed, the next step is to begin installing the ShockWave. First, you must trim a notch in the upper spring tower to provide clearance for the ShockWave air spring. Measure, trim carefully and be sure to clean up all the edges for a finished look you can be proud of (Fig 5-6).

Cleaning up the upper spring cup
5. The S10's upper spring cup must be notched to allow clearance for the ShockWave air bag.
Grind the edges smooth
6. Make sure you clean up the edges for a professional-looking installation.

Finish off the trimming by drilling a hole and notching out an area to run the air lines down to your air bags (Fig 7).
Drill a hole to notch the frame
7. You must drill a hole and notch the upper spring mount to run your air lines through.
Speaking of air lines, the best time to run them is before the ShockWave is fully bolted in place. Air Ride recommends routing your air lines through the frame rails for added protection (Fig 8-9).
Run air lines through frame
8. AirRide Tecynologies recommends running the air lines through the frame for added protection.
Attach air lines to ShockWave
9. With your air lines routed and connected to the ShockWave, it's time to put everything back together.

With the trimming complete and the lines in place, now it's just a matter of bolting everything back together. The AirRide ShockWaves bolt in place using the factory shock mounting holes and should sit perfectly inside your newly modified spring towers (Fig 10).
Attach ShockWave to Frame
10. The ShockWave from AirRide Technologies should fit perfectly inside the recess you made in the shock tower.
Next, the new tubular control arms are bolted in place and secured to the ShockWave assemblies (Fig 11-12). Adjustments on each spring let you fine-tune your air spring alignment.
Bolt on lower control arm
11. the new Air Ride tubular lower control arm is bolted on...
Attach ShockWave to lower control arm
12. ...and attached to the ShockWave.

Finally, install your new Belltech spindles and replace your rotors and wheels (Fig 13). Now, you’re one step closer to completing your S10 air suspension system. Be sure to check out the next issue where the fun really begins. We'll show you a variety of air management options and help you choose the system that’s right for you. Get ready, because you'll be hittin' switches and surfin' pavement in no time!

Put everything back together
13. Finally, install your Belltech drop sprindles and reattach your brake and steering components.

The Finished Look
14. Now we've got a RoadGrater on the rear and a ShockWave on the front. Next is your air management system.

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Related Links:
  • S-Series on 20's, Part I
  • S-Series on 20's, Part III
  • GMC Sonoma Accessories
  • ShockWave
  • RoadGRATER
  • Truck Accessories
  • Back toStylin' Trucks Articles page
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