Air suspension is primarily associated with commercial vehicles. Nothing could be further from the truth. It has been used in small cars for more than 30 years, and with great success at that.
Air suspension – what is it?
An air suspension, as the name suggests, is a type of suspension in a car. The basic element that makes up this type of suspension is the airbag, which replaces the usual shock absorbers (fitted to most cars) or leaf springs (found mainly in trucks).
The seat cushion must be filled with air in order to be ready for driving. A compressor is responsible for the process of filling the cushion. Another important element of the system is the pressure tank with a valve which regulates the air. However, this is not all. Throughout the system, there is a large number of electronics – sensors, controls and high-pressure hoses. Among the sensors fitted to this type of device are a pressure regulator, a vehicle height sensor and an inertia sensor.
How does the air suspension work?
The principle of operation of the air suspension is very simple. When the engine is started, air will be mixed with the ambient air and, using high pressure hoses, is fed to the airbag using a compressor. Using valves, the computer can control the amount of air in the cushion and hence – adjust the height of the vehicle. The computer actually adjusts the amount of air all the time and adjusts the amount of air for the ride. For example, the car will be slightly lowered if it exceeds a certain speed, resulting in increased driving stability.
Advantages of an air suspension
The biggest advantage of an air suspension is the sheer comfort of the ride. In fact, to appreciate its level, you need to experience it for yourself. Another advantage is the constant ground clearance, whatever the load. Even if the car is fully loaded, it is not visible from the outside, and ride comfort, all the time is at a very high level. Air suspension is an improvement in off-road properties. This is because, at any given moment, you can make our car’s suspension go up a couple of centimetres, resulting in providing you with a ride over bumps.
Disadvantages of air suspension
The biggest disadvantage of an air suspension is that it is expensive to operate. It’s not just the shock absorbers which are expensive. The same is true for the compressor. Of course, there is a golden mean, even when the suspension is completely defective. You can always try to replace the air suspension with a classic suspension, but when deciding to buy a car equipped with such a suspension, it will be difficult to get used to its loss. A pneumatic system requires constant monitoring, so during every visit to a mechanic you should make sure that the technician carefully checks its condition and, above all, its tightness.
Where to find them?
Pneumatic suspension is mainly installed in Premium segment cars and SUVs. Some models only have a mounted air suspension on the rear axle. Here you should pay particular attention to whether it is a “Nivomat” type system. With this type of solution, you will not find a pneumatic system and the operation will be based on the principle of a hydraulic system.