Unless you really know what you're doing, it's best to have an expert install an air suspension system.

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Air Suspension System Installation

In a little tongue-in-cheek attempt at reverse psychology, RideTech, one of the industry leaders in air suspension systems and components, placed the phrase "Do Not Open" on their installation instructions. The biggest problem people faced in installing their new system was that they never read the instructions. The company felt that maybe people would actually open the manual if they were told not to.

RideTech illustrates a very valuable point. Installation of even complex systems is possible, but people need to read the instructions and follow them. However, an installation should not be attempted by someone with little knowledge of how to work on cars; someone who has never worked on a suspension; or someone who lacks the tools and facilities to do the job safely and competently.

RideTech estimated installation for their muscle car bolt-on kits at 12 to 15 hours for the undercar suspension components, and an additional 10 for the compressor system. Add another five to six hours if you are adding a leveling system. That said, proper installation will go a long way toward saving money by making sure all of the components work right and are set up to avoid the chafing that most often kills an air suspension system.

Air suspension systems are designed to be airtight. Most problems arise when an installer doesn't take the proper precautions, usually outlined in the directions, to ensure the system is as airtight as possible. RideTech approximates that 90 to 95 percent of leaks could be prevented if installers used sealer tape on all threads where advised, and routed lines away from possible chafing points.

The company also emphasized being sure that the bags themselves had the proper clearances so they didn't rub against part of the car, and that they were clear of hot components like exhaust pipes and mufflers. A careful and diligent installer would provide a system that could easily last more than a decade.

Another thing to consider during installation is tuning. Among the additions suggested by most companies is to change the car's shocks at the same time you change the coil springs to air bags. Shocks are designed to work in tandem with springs, and installing a $4,000-plus air suspension system on a vehicle with factory shocks is a waste of money. The change is relatively simple, but it adds another layer of tuning to the entire project.

Air suspension systems are complex and daunting, but they can yield impressive looks and performance if installed and tuned correctly. For lots more information on auto parts, see the links on the next page.