We’re known for doing a lot of air suspension work. After all, we’re called Switch for a reason. But one of the big questions we get regularly from air-suspension newbies is pretty straightforward: does air suspension ruin ride quality? It’s a good question to ask, and to answer it, we need to go down a little bit of a rabbit hole.
How does my suspension work?
Your traditional vehicle suspension has two major components. Springs, which come in many forms, hold up the weight of the vehicle and allow the suspension to travel up and down. Shock absorbers dampen the ride, giving you that smooth feeling you get while traveling down the road. If you’ve ever seen a car bouncing up and down like crazy on the freeway, chances are the shocks are blown and nobody inside is having a good time.
Springs have what’s called a spring rate. We don’t have to get super technical about the whole thing, but basically they determine how stiff the springs will be and how much weight they can hold. Your car or truck’s spring rate is a static number; it won’t change unless you change out the springs themselves with one that has a different spring rate.
This is good information to have when you’re building a custom car or truck. If you want to build your ride into a handling machine, you could get springs with a different spring rate, one more focused on doing what you want to do. The ride, once paired with the appropriate shocks, will be stiffer, but that’s the price you pay when you want to keep all four wheels planted firmly as you take a corner at high speeds. There are tons of different options out there for softer or firmer springs, and it just depends on what you’re looking to do.
OK, so how does air suspension work then?
Air bags are different. They replace the traditional springs with an air bladder, which fills or empties depending on how you manage the air inside. But what makes this all really interesting is how the springs don’t have just one spring rate. Instead, they have a variable one.
Having a variable spring rate means as you fill the air bag with air, the spring rate will increase. Not only does that lift your vehicle up in the process, but it also makes the suspension much stiffer. As a result, you can fine tune how you want your car or truck to ride by adding or lowering air into the air bags.
But what about how it rides?
Now you might think that will automatically ruin ride quality, but that’s not the case. Just because you’re replacing your stock springs with air bags doesn’t mean you have to put your ride on the concrete. There are lots of folks — including those with lifted trucks — who have air bags to either increase their carrying or towing capacity, or to fine tune their suspension for use on the track. That’s right, because you have a variable spring rate, you can set up your vehicle to ride smooth one day and take the corners like its on rails the other.
So no, air suspension does not ruin your ride quality. What it does is make it adjustable, which means it can ride as smooth or as firm as you like.
If you’re looking to upgrade your suspension, or you just have questions about the kinds of air suspension kits there are out there, just hit us up. We’re here for you.