Lay Out Your S-Series on Twenties
Part Three: Air Management SystemsIn part one and part two of this series we covered the steps involved in installing a lowered airbag suspension on the front and rear of a Chevy S-Series pickup. Now, for the final installment, it’s time to see what it takes to bring the whole system together. So if you’re ready for some switch-flippin’, frame-draggin’, laid-out fun – read on!
Once your air bag and suspension work is complete, there are really only four main components that make your on-board air suspension system fully functional: lines, tank(s), compressor(s) and a control system. The following guide is designed to help you build or select the complete air management system that meets your needs.Lines & Fittings
1. Lines and fittings are available in all shapes and sizes.
2. Air Tanks are available from one to five gallons to meet your needs.
When selecting an air compressor (or air compressors), there are three main things you need to be concerned with: How fast will it fill up your tank(s)? How long can it operate vs. how long does it need to rest? And how much power does it use to operate? When shopping compressors it’s important to familiarize yourself with the industry terminology used to rate compressors.
3. Choosing the right compressor is the key to your air system.
Another important term you’ll see is “duty cycle.” Duty cycle is the ratio of how long your compressor can continuously run versus how long it must rest before the next cycle. For example, if a compressor can operate continuously for 10 minutes and must rest for 10 minutes before its next cycle, then the compressor has a 50% duty cycle. Some heavy-duty, fan-cooled compressors can operate continuously without rest. These compressors have 100% duty cycle.
A third term you need to know about is “power draw” (a.k.a. current draw). This refers to the power load the compressor puts on your electronic charging system (measured in amps). It’s important not to exceed your vehicle’s peak power output because not only do you run the risk of draining your battery, you may also cause serious damage to other electrical equipment including your alternator. Typical compressors draw around 15-20 amps, while heavy-duty compressors can draw anywhere from 40 amps or more. While bigger more powerful compressors typically create more air flow and faster fill times, you will need extra battery power (and in most cases a high-output alternator) to power such a workhorse.
The control system is basically a series of valves, solenoids, actuators, switches, relays, pressure sensors and gauges that, when properly wired together, let you control air pressure to each of your four air bags. Depending on the system you decide to build, you can either get two-way (front to rear) or four-way (all four corners) pressure control.
4. Complete air systems include everything you need to control your air bag suspension including tank(s), Compressor(s), lines, fittings and a control system.
While it’s possible to piece together your own control system, most builders opt for an integrated kit such as AirRide Technologies’ RidePro E or Dakota Digital’s Air Bag Control system. These systems offer sophisticated digital pressure control and advanced features like auto ride height on start and pre-set programmable ride heights. AirRide Technologies even offers complete air management systems that include everything you need all in one matched kit including: control system, gauges, tank(s), compressor(s) and all the necessary air lines, fittings and wiring for easy, no-hassle installation.
Well, there you have it; your complete down-and-dirty guide to air suspension. Keep in mind, while we used a Chevy S10 for this installation, the same principles and products are available for most full-size and mini trucks. So, with a little time and a lot of research, it’s possible to lay out any truck on air. Good luck, we look forward to seeing your project cruisin’ through the next show.
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