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Old 06-05-2013, 03:50 PM   #81
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Re: Let's talk air bags...

I finally got my front and rear airbags finished this morning on my 1998 E250 EB 2WD. I was under pressure to get them done, so I wasn't able to take pics during the install. A few of the finished install are below and some notes. I assume the frames are mostly the same, but maybe yours is different. Most of the thoughts below should be pretty universal, though.

For the front (Firestone) airbags, I had my mechanic put the bags inside the coil springs while he was working on the front end. This was good and bad, as he didn't follow the directions carefully enough and installed an extra spacer at the bottom. The kit comes with two bottom spacers; you use the flat disc normally, or a sort of cone spacer if you have a protruding bolt or nut. He put both of them on, which I didn't notice until I got home. A few minutes with a Sawzall and I was able to get the offending cone spacer out without having to drop the coils and shocks. Hoses are routed to the front bumper on the passenger side, using existing holes in the bottom of the bumper. The photo below is at the mechanic's shop -- if you look closely you can see the extra spacer on the bottom, inside the coil. (You can also see my spiffy new front end with bigger brakes transplanted from a 2012 E250 and new Bilstein shocks!)



With the front airbags, you need to undo the bottom shock mount and tilt the coil out so you can insert the airbag inside. To do the install the suspension needs to hang free. This is the opposite of the rear install where you want some tension on the leaf springs. The directions for the front install weren't all that great IMO. The install is actually harder than in seems, as once the bags are inside the coils it's very hard to reach the fittings and all that. I have a leak in one side currently, and am having a hard time troubleshooting it now that they are installed.

REARS

The rear bags are actually pretty easy and straightforward. I'll only cover a few things that stood out to me:

1. Do the passenger side first; it's easier. The driver-side frame rail has a lot of stuff behind it and it's challenging to get the bolts in, drill without hitting anything, etc. The passenger side gives you the chance to get used to the install before dealing with all the interferences on the driver's side.
2. Get a nice, new SHARP bit to drill the frame. I got a 7/16" DeWalt bit and it cut through easily. Don't scrimp on a old bit.
3. On my install I had to drill three new holes: one on the passenger side and two on the driver's side. I had to enlarge the other holes. Due to the way the frame is made, there is really only the one place to mount the brackets.
4. Two jackstands are useful. One on the frame in front of the axle, one behind. Give yourself room to work around the axle, though.
5. Keep the jack on the axle so that the leaf springs have some upward tension on them. I used the pre-assembled airbag and frame as a judge for how much tension to have on the leaves.
6. On the driver's side, there is a LOT of stuff inside the frame rail directly behind where you will be drilliing. Be really careful to get it all out of the way before drilling.
7. The carriage bolts they included for mounting the bottom bracket to the leaf springs were too short to use. I had to buy longer bolts. I have a pretty basic leaf pack, too, just OEM E-250 springs. No way they would fit a set of 4x4 springs like Deavers, I imagine.
8. The directions show the bolts being installed from outside the frame rail and the washer/nut on the inside. This is fine on the passenger side, but on the driver's side put the bolt in from the inside of the frame rail (use a washer) and the nut on the outside. Much easier. Looking at Jage's pics, I think he did it this way, too.





I think I may have a leak somewhere in one of the rears, too, but I haven't had time to troubleshoot it yet. I installed one rear airbag just before it got dark last night, and got up at 5:30 a.m. this morning to do the other one (not recommended). The early morning coupled with the driver's side stuff to deal with made for an interesting start to the day.
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front_airbags.JPG   airbag4.JPG   airbag3.JPG  
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Old 06-05-2013, 05:00 PM   #82
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Re: Let's talk air bags...

Thanks for the update Brian. You pretty much learned the same stuff I did but I neglected to write it all up as I said I would. I love the bags though. I ran 60 psi on my last trip with my big rack on the back with firewood, etc. and the ride was great, and also level!

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Old 06-06-2013, 04:02 PM   #83
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Re: Let's talk air bags...

1 part dishsoap to 4 parts water, use in a spraybottle to check for leaks
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Old 06-06-2013, 07:57 PM   #84
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Re: Let's talk air bags...

Quote:
Originally Posted by jage
1 part dishsoap to 4 parts water, use in a spraybottle to check for leaks
My problem is that once the bags are on, it's pretty hard to see the fitting that goes into the airbag to check for leaks. The front ones are nearly impossible as they are in the coil springs and the valve goes straight out the top. The rears are not quite as bad, but still challenging.

I think I'm all good now. Pulled one of the front bag's airlines and recut it and reinserted it into the bag, and seems to be holding fine now. It was the first bag of the four that I did so I didn't have my technique down. Rear bags seem to be holding fine. It's hard to tell without an inline gauge, though, as every time you check they loose a few PSI of pressure since there isn't that much volume in there to begin with. A dual-needle air gauge, at least for the back, is on the future list.
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Old 06-13-2013, 03:34 PM   #85
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Re: Let's talk air bags...

Quote:
Originally Posted by carringb
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chance
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lizard1
.......

Discuss.
In my opinion it’s important to remember that airbags can indeed level an overloaded vehicle, but they don’t actually change axle loads appreciably. The vehicle can “look” as if loaded normally after being leveled but it will remain (over)loaded the same for the most part.
I don't dissagree with that. But keep in mind the vans look like are dragging a$$ without being overloaded. Nothing wrong with that, other than headlight aim. And hitch clearance. But mostly it just doesn't look right.

And yes, they do improve the ride on the vans when they are loaded. At least with the stock springs. Keeping weight off the lower over-loads makes a big difference because that lower spring has double the spring rate of the rest of the leaf-pack.

That’s the basis of my point; and hence concern I have to unintentional overloading. A normal van typically looks like it’s “dragging a$$” before it’s overloaded, thereby giving a visual indication to the driver to back off on further loading. I see that as a good thing. With airbags that keep the van level independent of load the driver may have little indication of true load unless he/she places the van on scales.

With many trailers running between 10 and 15 percent tongue weight (and some even more) it doesn’t take that big a trailer to place 1,000 pounds of tongue weight on the hitch. And with an extended van like mine, based on general dimensions, it would result on adding approximately 1,500 pounds to the rear axle and unloading the front axle by approximately 500 pounds (hence why vans point to the sky). Some vans may be able to handle an extra 1,500 pounds on the rear axle but I expect some would be pushed over factory ratings. Also, I seriously doubt it will improve handling due to remaining poor weight distribution. A good weight distribution hitch can address these problems more effectively and at a lower cost.

Please don't get me wrong -- I like airbags. I just think we need to proceed with caution.
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Old 01-07-2014, 11:27 AM   #86
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Re: Let's talk air bags...

Dug up this thread as I'm thinking of going the air bag route. I currently have a 25' toy hauler and tow with my 2005 E350 2WD V10, lifted with the Action Van kit. I have a weight distribution hitch but want to make sure I've got the most safe set up possible for towing the heavy load.

My thought is to go with a rear air bag kit and air up manually as I would only need to use while towing.

1. I've read that you need to maintain approx 5psi in the bags at all times, with this amount of air will it cause any "lift" in the van while unladen? Don't want to have that stink bug look while empty, although it is just looks it will drive me nuts

2. Also, without the on board compressor is it likely I will have to adjust while on the road? With the toy hauler, I'll have the generator and carry a small compressor, however If I'm towing my boat I won't have that luxury. I do carry a small 12v air compressor in the van and I've read that you could even use a bicycle pump, although a lot of work.

Anyhow just wanting some feedback before I get going.

Thanks!
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Old 01-07-2014, 12:17 PM   #87
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Re: Let's talk air bags...

1) Yes airbags must have some air remaining. 5-20 psi depending on which airbag. It will lift, but only slightly. After the first time add add air, I doubt you would notice.

2) Adjusting while on the road is not necessary. I do it sometimes for changing road conditions, but only because I can. I mostly got the in-cab controls because I'm usually towing often, and even when I'm not the load inside the an can vary a lot.

I just use a bike pump for my front coil-rite air bags, since I don't add lots of front axle weight very often. Really only when I'm carrying a dirt bike up front, or if the roof rack is fully loaded and I know I'll want the extra suspension travel for dirt and gravel roads. So for occasional use the bike pump work just fine.
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Old 01-07-2014, 05:25 PM   #88
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Re: Let's talk air bags...

Quote:
Originally Posted by carringb
1) Yes airbags must have some air remaining. 5-20 psi depending on which airbag. It will lift, but only slightly. After the first time add add air, I doubt you would notice.

2) Adjusting while on the road is not necessary. I do it sometimes for changing road conditions, but only because I can. I mostly got the in-cab controls because I'm usually towing often, and even when I'm not the load inside the an can vary a lot.

I just use a bike pump for my front coil-rite air bags, since I don't add lots of front axle weight very often. Really only when I'm carrying a dirt bike up front, or if the roof rack is fully loaded and I know I'll want the extra suspension travel for dirt and gravel roads. So for occasional use the bike pump work just fine.
Thanks for the prompt reply I've been looking at the firestone sport rite but etrailer.com has the air lifter for $275 after a mail in rebate. Any preference over these two?
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Old 01-07-2014, 05:31 PM   #89
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Re: Let's talk air bags...

Sorry Carringb, just went back to the first page and you already answered the question. Firestone seems to be the way to go....
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Old 01-08-2014, 05:10 PM   #90
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Re: Let's talk air bags...



Will I have to remove the helper leaf springs to install the Firestone sport rite?

Also, did I setup the equal-I-er hitch correctly?



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