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Airbag info for hauling duties

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Old 01-13-2012, 10:16 AM   #1
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UPDATED: Airbag info for hauling duties

I hope this is the right forum. I searched for information on airbag setups on the various forums on this site, but didn't find the information I'm looking for.

I recently acquired a 1998 Tacoma 4x4. The truck has had an easy life, as evident in the rust-free frame and rear leafs that aren't sagging. I got this truck for use as a DD with minor hauling duties. I installed a Leer cap and noticed that the rear is riding a bit low and rough. The truck is seeing partial use for hauling race tires, spare parts, and tools, so I figure it would be a good idea to beef up the rear suspension.

I considered helper springs, but I think that the lever action would wear out the rear springs quicker. The truck spends quite a lot of time empty (except for the fiberglass cap) so I would want something with a bit of adjust-ability. That said, I came to the conclusion that I should go with a set of airbags.

Looking around on the interweb, I only found two options: Firestone or AirLift. I'm more familiar with Firestone airbags from the MiniTruckin world, but didn't find much information on this site. I'm not keen on the idea of drilling into the frame, but it looks like that is required for these setups? Are there any major pros or cons with either setup?

For what it's worth, I don't plan on running an air compressor. I don't need that constant adjust-ability as I have an air compressor at both of my major destinations, and a small tire air compressor in the truck. I plan to run the air fitting up behind the fuel filler door.


Wordfort complete. Thank you for any insight you can provide.
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Old 01-13-2012, 10:23 AM   #2
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if anyone knows these guys know
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Old 01-13-2012, 03:39 PM   #3
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I have a Gen2 DC with Leer cap.
Rode on the bumpstops for a couple of years (Toyota quaility!)
I bought the Airlift bags and installed them myself in a couple of hours.
No drilling on Gen2, can't speak for yours.
Works well, nice to have adjustability.
I don't have an onboard compressor.
You might get a mini bike pump....the volume for the bags is very low and you really only run maybe 20-25 PSI for hauling.
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Old 01-14-2012, 08:56 PM   #4
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Thanks for the heads up, hopefully the first gen kit also doesn't require drilling. I haven't found any info against the AirLift kit and it is a bit cheaper than the Firestone setup, so I'll probably place my order for them tomorrow.
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Old 01-14-2012, 09:00 PM   #5
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i have firestones, i like them, no drilling on my 08. you may also want to look into Timbren Bumpstops
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Old 01-15-2012, 10:51 PM   #6
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I've got a '98...and RideRites too, but...

I've got a '98...and RideRites too, but...

I've had a turn of heart about my Ride-Rites, but perhaps only because I overloaded mine to the point of (temporarily) deforming my frame.

I used Ride-Rites to boost my '98's load capacity, and it did so splendidly. Until I ran them far too hard, overloaded by max weight by 1000lbs and inflated my bags to bring my rear end up for the 2500 miles of the Alaskan Highway.

By doing so, I displaced the great majority of the weight from two points, the front and rear attachment points of the rear leaf springs, to a singular point directly above the air bag, unsupported by any extra frame support. It collapsed the open-C shape of the frame. (I've since had it bent back).

Upon reflection, I will in due time remove my Ride-Rites and install a set of Timbrens, which compress, but cannot create a singular bearing point, but rather add a third to the existing two. Please consider my mistake before making your decision.

If there's a downside to Timbrens, I'd love to hear about it.
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Old 01-16-2012, 07:56 AM   #7
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Timbrens are not going to be any better. Bags or bump stops both contact the frame and re-distribute load from the leaf spring attachments. Stiffer springs are the only option that wouldn't.

Keep in mind that those load limits are there for a reason!

http://www.tacomaworld.com/forum/2nd...view-pics.html
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Old 02-12-2012, 03:06 PM   #8
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I figured I'd take a moment to update this thread in case anyone does research on these kits in the future.

I packed my tools in the truck last weekend, and noted that I only had 1" of suspension travel. While driving, I was bottoming out on the bumpstops, it rode like crap, and I know my rear wheel bearings probably didn't appreciate the jolts. I have to do the same trip in a couple weeks with the additional weight of a transmission, so I decided to finally make a decision and get it done.

I went with the Firestone kit for a few different reasons. First of all, the kit mounts closer to the axle than the Air-Lift kit, and it has a higher weight capacity. I don't intend on ever exceeding the Air-Lift's capacity, but I'll be happy knowing that I'm running well within range rather than maxing out. Firestone airbags are common in various aspects of the automotive world, so replacement parts should be cheaper and easier to come by.

I paid $280 for the kit, and first impressions were good. The brackets are sturdy and well-made and the hardware is decent.



Installation took more time that originally expected. The instructions are in plain English, but difficult to follow at times. It states to lift the truck and support the axle by jackstands. This is NOT simply a safety disclaimer. The airbags will not bolt in with the suspension at full-droop. If you want to install the kit with the help of a lift, you should chain the axle to the frame before you lift the vehicle in the air. (Also note that this will be required if you want to lift the vehicle after the airbags are installed. The bags can stretch too far and be damaged with the wheels off the ground)

It took me 4 hours to install. Part of that is because of the instructions, another part is because I'm a perfectionist. The most time-consuming steps were cutting off the rubber bumpstops, and drilling the holes for the frame. You will need a small bit for the pilot hole, and a 3/8" bit. These MUST be high-quality bits, or you will dull them on the frame. If you are using a cordless drill, charge up all your spare batteries because you will need them.

The bracket for the frame has four holes, but only two will be used. I recommend a diagonal pattern to avoid weakening the frame anymore than you have to. My truck has the load-sensitive brake bias, and the bracket is located right where you need to drill the holes. The nuts they provide have long tabs, and you have plenty of room inside the bracket to fish the nuts in and tighten them down. Don't worry about clearance, as you will have plenty of room. Note that you may want to adjust the rod for the brake bias so your rear brakes do a bit more work with the rear loaded.

I hit all of the brackets and the frame with undercoat. I suggest you do the same.

With the Leer cap installed but an empty bed, I found that 14psi was more than enough to bring the truck up to correct ride height. Pumping the springs up more (20-30) will provide an additional substantial lift. You wouldn't know it in this picture, but my truck has an engine sitting in the bed:




The truck rides much smoother, with less of a punch to the kidneys when hitting large bumps. I did note that the Rancho shocks do not offer enough dampening for the stiffer suspension and heavier loads. I was considering upgrading to Bilstein suspension all around, but I need to do further research to figure out what will be a bit heavier duty than what I'm running now.

I hope anyone reading this thread will find that useful. I'll try to get some pictures of the installed kit when I have the wheels off at the 300k service.
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Old 02-12-2012, 07:47 PM   #9
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great feedback Shaun. most of the reviews here are for 2nd gens and i really think this will get more 1st gen people to realize that these air bags are for real
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Old 02-18-2012, 08:21 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by t3hWIT View Post
I figured I'd take a moment to update this thread in case anyone does research on these kits in the future.

I packed my tools in the truck last weekend, and noted that I only had 1" of suspension travel. While driving, I was bottoming out on the bumpstops, it rode like crap, and I know my rear wheel bearings probably didn't appreciate the jolts. I have to do the same trip in a couple weeks with the additional weight of a transmission, so I decided to finally make a decision and get it done.

I went with the Firestone kit for a few different reasons. First of all, the kit mounts closer to the axle than the Air-Lift kit, and it has a higher weight capacity. I don't intend on ever exceeding the Air-Lift's capacity, but I'll be happy knowing that I'm running well within range rather than maxing out. Firestone airbags are common in various aspects of the automotive world, so replacement parts should be cheaper and easier to come by.

I paid $280 for the kit, and first impressions were good. The brackets are sturdy and well-made and the hardware is decent.



Installation took more time that originally expected. The instructions are in plain English, but difficult to follow at times. It states to lift the truck and support the axle by jackstands. This is NOT simply a safety disclaimer. The airbags will not bolt in with the suspension at full-droop. If you want to install the kit with the help of a lift, you should chain the axle to the frame before you lift the vehicle in the air. (Also note that this will be required if you want to lift the vehicle after the airbags are installed. The bags can stretch too far and be damaged with the wheels off the ground)

It took me 4 hours to install. Part of that is because of the instructions, another part is because I'm a perfectionist. The most time-consuming steps were cutting off the rubber bumpstops, and drilling the holes for the frame. You will need a small bit for the pilot hole, and a 3/8" bit. These MUST be high-quality bits, or you will dull them on the frame. If you are using a cordless drill, charge up all your spare batteries because you will need them.

The bracket for the frame has four holes, but only two will be used. I recommend a diagonal pattern to avoid weakening the frame anymore than you have to. My truck has the load-sensitive brake bias, and the bracket is located right where you need to drill the holes. The nuts they provide have long tabs, and you have plenty of room inside the bracket to fish the nuts in and tighten them down. Don't worry about clearance, as you will have plenty of room. Note that you may want to adjust the rod for the brake bias so your rear brakes do a bit more work with the rear loaded.

I hit all of the brackets and the frame with undercoat. I suggest you do the same.

With the Leer cap installed but an empty bed, I found that 14psi was more than enough to bring the truck up to correct ride height. Pumping the springs up more (20-30) will provide an additional substantial lift. You wouldn't know it in this picture, but my truck has an engine sitting in the bed:




The truck rides much smoother, with less of a punch to the kidneys when hitting large bumps. I did note that the Rancho shocks do not offer enough dampening for the stiffer suspension and heavier loads. I was considering upgrading to Bilstein suspension all around, but I need to do further research to figure out what will be a bit heavier duty than what I'm running now.

I hope anyone reading this thread will find that useful. I'll try to get some pictures of the installed kit when I have the wheels off at the 300k service.
Hi. I have the Firestone kit in my garage - hoping to install it tomorrow if the rain stops. Where did you install your air lines? (where do you access them)
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Old 02-27-2012, 12:32 PM   #11
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Sorry for the delay; I was out of town and didn't have my laptop with. I installed the lines under the rear taillights, accessed from underneath. The valves face the rear, but I'm going to make a 90* angle bracket so the valves face down. The system is of such a small capacity that the little bit of air leaking out when you connect your air line can throw off the system by 5-15 psi. Be quick when you disconnect your air gauge.
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Old 02-27-2012, 08:24 PM   #12
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Thanks!
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Old 04-23-2013, 08:47 PM   #13
To be continued...
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I know that this is an old thread but, i have been thinking about doing this to my 01 double cab to help with extra weight that I now carry since using it as my work truck.

Just wondering how they seem to be holding up?
Any cons that you have seen?
How's the frame holding up where you had to drill the mounting holes ect...
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Old 04-24-2013, 07:41 AM   #14
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Not apples to apples

But I've had airbags in my Mazda rear coils for 3yrs and they've held up great. On an old 95 diesel tow rig we had some for 7-8yrs with zero issues and LOTS of heavy usage

My Taco will be getting some soon now that we bought a trailer
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