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Old 04-03-2013, 10:55 PM   #1
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Let's talk air bags...

So, my 1997 E350 is awesome, but when I tow our race trailer (17' tandem), it gets to saggin in the back and sits nose high.

I was going to do an add-a-leaf kit, but was told to avoid that if possible.

So, thinking air bags. They are capable of a bit more weight capacity and should level me out when pulling and actually maybe help a tad if there is less sag. Dunno.

But, wanted to get an idea of what is out there and what to avoid. Ebay has a slew of stuff and I just want to avoid buying something crappy and having to replace in a short time...

Discuss.
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Old 04-04-2013, 12:13 AM   #2
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Re: Let's talk air bags...

Is your van 2WD? If yes, I highly recommend an out-board mounted kit, and not an "under-frame" kit which replaces the bumpstops. The 2WDs don't have enough space for tall airbags using the under-frame kit, so it really limits wheel travel. I used to have an Air-Lift under-frame kit. It never had a problem, other than it rode worse since it limited travel to about 4".

I now have the FireStone "Sport-Rite" kit, which mounts outboard of the frame. It doesn't have quite as much capacity (3k vs 5k) but with 12' of total travel, it rides as good as stock empty, and better than stock loaded (since it keeps weight off the overloads). Only issue has been snapping the lower spring-plate mounting bolts. This leads to airbag damage. FireStone took care of me, but save yourself the hassle and start with better bolts if you decide on this kit.

One question though.... Are you lifting the front end when you hook up the trailer? If yes, your real solution should probably be a weight-distrution hitch.
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Old 04-04-2013, 06:41 AM   #3
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Re: Let's talk air bags...

I'm debating this exact same thing right now. I tried some cheap helper springs that mount to the top of the rear half of the leaf, but they interfere with the rear AC lines. CarringB, I know you have rear air. Was this a problem for you? Looking at the pic on this link, it looks like they would. Also, I'm not sure if this is the right kit anyway since it says for E150, but the discount certainly looks good if it is. Do you have a part number for your e350 kit?

http://www.suspensionconnection.com/...FQvOnAodTi4AfQ
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Old 04-04-2013, 08:12 AM   #4
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Re: Let's talk air bags...

Quote:
Originally Posted by 86Scotty
I'm debating this exact same thing right now. I tried some cheap helper springs that mount to the top of the rear half of the leaf, but they interfere with the rear AC lines. CarringB, I know you have rear air. Was this a problem for you? Looking at the pic on this link, it looks like they would. Also, I'm not sure if this is the right kit anyway since it says for E150, but the discount certainly looks good if it is. Do you have a part number for your e350 kit?

http://www.suspensionconnection.com/...FQvOnAodTi4AfQ
I'm following this thread as I'm also thinking of adding bags to my 98 E250 EB.

You can check what Firestone airbag fits your van at http://www.firestoneip.com/RideRite/kitSearch.aspx

For my 98 E250 it calls for kit #2165, whereas for an E150 it calls for the 2171 listed in your link. So I assume it's a no-go for that model. The 2165 is about $50 more. See: http://www.suspensionconnection.com/cgi ... 165fv.html

For the E350 looks like Firestone's "kit finder" recommends the #2181 http://www.suspensionconnection.com/cgi ... 181fv.html
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Old 04-04-2013, 10:44 AM   #5
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Re: Let's talk air bags...

Thanks Brian!

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Old 04-04-2013, 11:06 AM   #6
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Re: Let's talk air bags...

If you go with airbags, do not plumb them together! When they are plumbed together, a corner will transfer air from the outside bag to the inside bag and that will increase the lean and increase the air transfer. Run the air lines independently.

I used an AirLift kit on my pickup, with pump, two gauges, etc. and was very happy with it.

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Old 04-04-2013, 11:56 AM   #7
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Re: Let's talk air bags...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ford_6L_E350
I used an AirLift kit on my pickup, with pump, two gauges, etc. and was very happy with it.

Mike
For those with airbags, is it worth the extra expense/hassle to install an onboard pump and gauges just for the airbags? Seems like overkill, but maybe not?
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Old 04-04-2013, 12:29 PM   #8
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Let's talk air bags...

I would say that totally depends on use. I plan to skip the pump because I will be traveling roads only with the same load to and from wherever I'm going, with the exception of using firewood.
But, I have no experience with them.....yet.
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Old 04-04-2013, 02:03 PM   #9
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Re: Let's talk air bags...

Yes, I have rear HVAC, and no, there was not a problem with with interference. There was interference with my Hellwig sway-bar brackets though, so those were trimmed slightly.

pre-'07 E150 kit won't fit because the springs are narrower, to be sure to get the E250/350 kit (it may list newer E150s as well, since they grew up in '07). I have the 2181 kit.

I agree with the comment about not connecting the two sides together. This will reduce roll-stiffness, which is not good in a van. Keep them separate (I can see a 30+ psi difference side to side when cornering).

I have the compressor and cab controls for the rear airbags (air-lift kit). I wouldn't be without it, but can change weights dramatically several times a day. I never added controls to my front air-bags, because I only need to adjust those when I'm carrying a dirtbike up front, or travelling off-road with a fully loaded roof rack.
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Old 04-04-2013, 02:29 PM   #10
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Re: Let's talk air bags...

I found the AirLift compressor very useful when the camper was on the van.

I could do side to side or front/rear leveling with the air bags. Made leveling in some remote campsites much easier.

Mike
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