Ford F-150: How To Install Airbag Suspension

These air bags serve a different purpose than the one in your steering wheel. F-150 and F-250 owners that frequently haul heavy loads should check these out.

By Scott Deuty - October 20, 2014

Although most trucks are rarely loaded heavily, there are times when you do carry weight that causes the rear end to sag. Traditionally, people would add a leaf to their rear suspension or use a helper spring. Air springs are a better alternative thanks to their on-demand adjustable capability. They're an inexpensive and temporary way to balance the load while maintaining the original factory ride. They can be installed by the average do-it-yourselfer or by professionals.

Figure 1. Air bag suspension kit

Replacing them on your own: Air bags are mostly a bolt-in modification. It may be necessary to remove obstructions such as brackets and bump stops.

Hiring a professional: Professional installation will cost the price of the air bags in addition to the going labor rate. The amounts provided are estimates based on a direct bolt-in installation. Extra charges may apply for additional fabrication or removing obstructions. Using a professional depends on your workspace and the available tools. Realize that you will be working under the vehicle in limited space whereas a professional will use a lift and have easier access. It may well be worth the extra expense for a professional depending on your abilities and resources

Step 1 - Preparing frame

Your air bag kit will come with instructions as well. Most kits will require that you grind off a metal plate before installing the air bag's bracketry.

Figure 1. Grind off the plate outlined above if your kit mounts to the truck's frame.

Step 2 - Mock up installation

Place the air bag and its mounting hardware in place on the leaf spring. Try to keep the bracket as parallel to the frame as possible. That way, it'll apply lift evenly when you finally lower the truck to its wheels.

Where you mount the air bag will change depending on the brand and model you buy. Most kits are universal, meaning, your experience may vary depending on your truck's model, age, etc.

Figure 3. Set your air bag in place to make sure it fits without obstruction.

Step 3 - Bolt Air Bags

Drill through the frame at the points you've marked above slowly. Install the bracket and air bags with bolts.

Figure 4. Air bag installation

Step 4 - Run the airlines

The next step is to find a convenient place to route the air lines. Everyone does this a little bit differently, but there are some key things you should consider. Don't route them any place where they'll likely melt (like the exhuast) and keep them out places with flying debris (like the wheel well). I like hiding it inside the fuel door so it is up and out of the way of ice and dirt. Leave some slack in the lines to account for suspension to flex.

Pro Tip

Most air bag manufacturers also sell a bolt-on air compressor. This way you can deflate and inflate your air bags on the move.

Step 5 - Finishing Up

Fill the air bags. Use a mix of soap and water in a spray bottle to check for leaks. If there aren't any, lower the truck and go for a drive!

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