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Installing Firestone Air Bags in '13 Taco TRD OR

Discussion in '2nd Gen. Tacomas (2005-2015)' started by Darth Trader, Jan 7, 2015.

  1. Jan 7, 2015 at 11:51 AM
    #1
    Darth Trader

    Darth Trader [OP] Member

    Joined:
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    Pacific Northwest
    Vehicle:
    '13 Tacoma TRD Off-Road 4D
    The Taco: 2013, 4-door TRD Off Road Manual 6-speed.

    The item: Firestone W217602407 Ride-Rite Kit

    My Experience: I am not a mechanic, I don't even own a set of tools. The only screwdriver I have is on a multi-tool I use to affix my tri-pod mounting plate to my camera. I did take auto shop in school 25 years ago; installed a bug guard on my hood and know how to take off / put on my SnugTop. That being said...

    On road trips with any significant amount of weight in the bed and with passengers in the back seat, my truck bottomed out a lot. In cold weather, it felt even harsher and sometimes damn near dangerous. It really put me off putting anything back there for a trip over 60 miles. I originally thought air bags were for off roading, not vehicle leveling. So I looked into it and found two good videos on youtube about installing air bags. I heard from a fellow Taco owner that Firestone were the way to go so I bought them. I then hi-jacked my father's driveway and borrowed some tools. It didn't look easy, but it looked simple. There was no welding, no major alterations or holes needed in the body work. I'm so glad I did it because I learned a lot and it gave me the confidence I needed to be able to work on my truck hopefully more in the future and keep some of that hard earned cash in my wife's pocket.

    The directions which came with the package and the videos below provide a very good blow by blow account of how the install goes. Instead of trying to better the directions all I would like to include below are a few of the surprises and learning experiences I had along the way.

    It is also worth noting that after my install I was asked by a good mechanic if I had used loctite on ALL the bolts. I did not and I wish I had spoken to him sooner as I would have done this. I also have seen a product called Daystar cradles that would probably have been a good thing to install.

    Here are the videos I used as a guide:


    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MjeFJiD2Hus
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9wHlfjUcGpc

    and although I found this afterwards, this video might be of use:


    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-siJlMTE2oU




    Tools:
    Standard deep and shallow socket set.
    Sawzall
    2 Floor jacks (only one needed)
    2 small jack stands

    The problem with these videos is that the techs have a vehicle hoist. I would be using jack stands and a floor jack. Everything was in the box so I took down the spare tire, chocked the front wheels, raised the truck and put it on jack stands.

    DSCN0251.jpg

    DSCN0253.jpg

    The first technical thing I did was to remove the Jounst Stop (aka bump stop). I had a sawzall. I would recommend a long blade if you have the option. I rented one with a short blade and it did the trick, but it took longer than it should have. The blade was also dull. If you have the option, a long sharp blade should make mince meat of this work. The hack saw option? I couldn't imagine it. It would be so awkward and time consuming as to be not worth it. As per the directions, the severed jounst stop base should be level or flush with the U-bolts atop the leaf springs.

    DSCN0254.jpg

    Next was the pre-assemble of the air bag and placement of it. As it turns out, there was not enough clearance between the frame and the axle. Luckily, I had a second floor jack (though I didn't realise I didn't need it) and was able to left the body of the truck via the frame which gave me a few extra inches of much needed clearance. Here is a picture of the ill-fitting air bag before adding clearance:

    DSCN0255.jpg

    As it turned out, I left about a 2cm gap between the top plate and the frame and this was all the clearance I needed to get in there:

    DSCN0257.jpg
    DSCN0259.jpg

    One of the videos shows a bad placement of the air nipple on top of the air bag plate. I thought it would be best to orient the nipple so that the hose would run along the frame channel:

    DSCN0263.jpg

    I didn't notice this following problem until a couple of steps further but it would have helped to know it right about now. In whatever this bracket is called, there was a lot of dirt. This would hamper installation of the top bracket a little later on. Good thing would be to scrape the dirt out and luckily my old man has a Shop Vac so I finished out the scraping with some powerful suction:

    DSCN0271.jpg
    DSCN0272.jpg
    DSCN0273.jpg

    The bag was built and it was time to place it here. This is when I realized how important a hoist and tool selection was going to be. See those bolts below? It doesn't look bad from this angle, but this is where my tiny camera was not my head:

    DSCN0266.jpg

    not to mention those lines being in the way:

    DSCN0267.jpg

    It is a tight squeeze in there and getting those inner bolts tightened took hours. It was most of the entire install and the reason why, for me, it was a two day job. I firm tightened the two inner bolts (with reference to the frame) then inserted the outer two bolts. Then I went back and cranked them down tight. I can't stress enough again how cumbersome this was. If you have an alternative way of doing it or if you have a better tool selection than I had (end wrench for the inner bolts and ratchet for tightening the nut) please post it below. Here is how I did it on the driver's side:

    DSCN0274.jpg

    And on the passenger's side. Note the inner bolts in first and basically bracing the end wrench against the frame while I tighten the nut with a ratchet. The exhaust pipe is on the passenger side here so it is EVEN MORE of a tighter squeeze. This by far was the longest part of the entire project:

    DSCN0287.jpg
    DSCN0289.jpg

    By the time I got to the big 3/4'' nut which holds the top bracket on, I was ready for a beer. The nut goes on easily as described in the directions but, again, clearance on the inner bolt side is tight. This precipitated the first of two trips to the auto parts store to purchase these big sockets and a set of articulated driver adapters:

    DSCN0276.jpg

    I fully assembled the driver side air bag and then the passenger side. When it came to installing the lower plates, especially on the PAX side, I did notice some misalignment. To my eye it looked like either my leaf springs should have been more inboard or the air bag system's lower plate should have been more outboard:

    DSCN0281.jpg
    DSCN0282.jpg

    The rest of this part of the install was pretty straight forward. Ratchet for the nut, deep socket for the bolt. I did find that the nut makes contact with the hand break cable (is it the hand break cable?). The lower brackets are also nervously close to the break lines. Over time a quick glance at this part of the install to make sure there is no creep of the bracket might be a good thing? Also if I had an angle grinder I probably would have grinded off the part of the nut which might chafe against the hand break cable in the pictures below. I'm not sure here, but I may have over tightened the lock nuts as the lower bracket bent. As they were lock nuts and the bracket was already bent I figured best to just leave it and hope I get good news from the Taco forum! I probably didn't have to tighten them this hard, but because it was my first major anything install I was a little over zealous...

    DSCN0295.jpg
    DSCN0296.jpg

    The air line install also was straight forward. I had never attached an air line to anything other than the valve stem of my tyres. Again, some images on one of the videos shows the nipple of the PAX side air bag basically pointing straight at the exhaust pipe. I noticed at the end of the video they had corrected this. Putting this nipple facing the frame channel is crucial I'd imagine unless you have another reason for facing it inboard. There are more than enough zip ties and the hose insulation which comes with the kit is adequate. Here are some pictures of that part of the install. I don't know if I did a good job or not with the hose routing. The only thing I was concerned with was that the hose didn't bend too much near the rear air valves. Give the hose too much freedom and it may chafe against the spare or dangle. Make it a tight fit and I thought the hose might be at too much of an angle and create a leak at the valve. Or if in real cold temperatures become brittle and snap. Drilling the holes in the electrical hitch fitting was easy. Placement in pictures seemed good. PAX side:

    DSCN0291.jpg
    DSCN0292.jpg

    Driver Side:

    DSCN0293.jpg

    At the final hour excitement turns to disappointment.

    At the most exciting moment of the whole install - inflating the air bags for the first time - my heart sank when one of the valves began hissing like an angry Rattlesnake. I didn't know what to do other than watch the air bag deflate along with my mood. All that work and somehow had I done something wrong? Was the package defective? I sprayed soapy water all along the driver's side air line from nip to nip and could not find a leak. Before I dejectedly started looking for Firestone's customer help line I inserted the deflate side of the valve stem cover into the hissing valve and PRESTO!! The hissing and leakage stopped. Perhaps there was a bit of dust in there or it was stuck open at the factory. It is probably one of those little things all mechanics know, but it was neat to learn a little trick and stop that horrible sound.

    Hose and Rear Fittings attached with sufficient slack I hope:

    DSCN0294.jpg


    At the end of this install I was really chuffed with myself and drank a well deserved 12-pack then sat down and had a proper drink. Everyone told me to just 'take it down to the shop' and 'let a professional do it.' I was determined to prove them wrong and it was a real good feeling to have working air bags. I must have inflated and deflated them a hundred times during the course of that 12 pack. More importantly, on the 1200 mile journey back to Washington with a full bed, the truck did not bottom out once. The ride has changed somewhat, when empty the truck sliced through bumps like butter. It was a virtual Cadillac on dirt roads. But when the air bags are (over) inflated, the front end porpoises like crazy over bumpy roads. I am trying to find the right pressure. So far, when the bed is empty 5-10 psi (5 being the minimum required) per side resembles the ride I had previously before install. When the bed is full 20-30 (depending on temperature) gives is a pretty comfy ride with no BANG! from the back.

    I hope I have covered everything and maybe inspired some newbies like myself to give this a go. If you have any questions, you may know more than me and I'd look forward to replying; chatting to anyone about the install. I want to give a big thanks to mechanic Carl Miller for his advice and can-do attitude which really helped a lot.

    Cheers
     
    Last edited: Jan 9, 2015
    HawkShot99 and UssMoGn like this.
  2. Jan 7, 2015 at 2:57 PM
    #2
    Jefes Taco

    Jefes Taco Well-Known Member

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    I didn't Sawzall the bump stops. I just removed them and set them aside. Not sure why they don't offer that in the instructions except that it's a solve all for most trucks and the instructions aren't vehicle specific.
     
  3. Jan 7, 2015 at 3:04 PM
    #3
    mgord

    mgord Well-Known Member

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    I have the Firestone's and I love them. I put the air fills to the left and right of the license plate. Didn't want to knock them if they were down by the trailer electrical.

    Holds up my camper very well:

    [​IMG]
     
  4. Jan 7, 2015 at 3:20 PM
    #4
    Darth Trader

    Darth Trader [OP] Member

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    Another good idea. Did you have to drill through the bumper? Would I have to buy new Firestone air fills or are they K-mart?
    Thanks for the idea
     
  5. Jan 7, 2015 at 3:24 PM
    #5
    windsor

    windsor Just a guy

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    Myrtle Creek OR
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    Canopy, fitted seat covers.
    Have you thought about the self leveling kit? I love mine. Have it wired to provide power only when the lights are turned on. Also installed a switch wired to the dump valve to drop the bags below set ride height for loading my trailer.
    Only downfall is I haven't installed isolation valves, so it doesn't help with sway like isolated bags do.
     
  6. Jan 7, 2015 at 3:27 PM
    #6
    HolyHandGrenade

    HolyHandGrenade NOOB

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  7. Jan 7, 2015 at 3:49 PM
    #7
    Darth Trader

    Darth Trader [OP] Member

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    I didn't even know of a leveling kit. Sounds awesome. With some skill and more cash I would do this as well as installing an air pump which might be a necessity anyway?

    I do like that each air bag is isolated. The only way I would do the above is if I had those isolation valves (don't even know what they are) installed.
     
  8. Jan 7, 2015 at 3:55 PM
    #8
    Darth Trader

    Darth Trader [OP] Member

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    Thanks and wow man, it's that easy? DONE! That will be the very next thing I do.

    The compressor, I really want one, but I want a clean install like yours or being the grille so will likely have to have someone hold my hand through that one.

    Next cash gusher will be some nice lights on top a Westin brush guard or an Avid light bar.
     
  9. Jan 7, 2015 at 3:57 PM
    #9
    Darth Trader

    Darth Trader [OP] Member

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    That's good advice. Would you have only had to loosen those u-bolts a little bit and slip it out? No danger in that?
     
  10. Jan 7, 2015 at 4:00 PM
    #10
    HolyHandGrenade

    HolyHandGrenade NOOB

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    Ah, the compressor isn't a must anyway. I just like tinkering around in the garage.... :D

    The cradles are a breeze though. Especially compared to the bags.
     
  11. Jan 7, 2015 at 4:05 PM
    #11
    Jefes Taco

    Jefes Taco Well-Known Member

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    Yes and no. I did mine on the ground sans any jack stands.
     
  12. Jan 7, 2015 at 4:07 PM
    #12
    mgord

    mgord Well-Known Member

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    I drilled right through the bumper. Looks good and solid - also out of the way.

    I thought about the air compressor but have other items the money is required for. Purchased a Harley Davidson hand air compressor which works out very well for these air bags.
     
  13. Jan 7, 2015 at 4:24 PM
    #13
    Darth Trader

    Darth Trader [OP] Member

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    With those cradles, those bottom nuts had Loctite on them. Does is strip the thread on the air bag taking those out? Hard getting out? And does the cradle kit include new bolts?
     
  14. Jan 7, 2015 at 4:25 PM
    #14
    nd4spdbh

    nd4spdbh Well-Known Member

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    If you are loading your truck to the point of needing those airbags....

    GET RID OF THE STOCK RUGGED FAILS!!!! They have shitty load ratings, and CRAPPY sidewalls.

    Otherwise nice install.
     
  15. Jan 7, 2015 at 5:22 PM
    #15
    HolyHandGrenade

    HolyHandGrenade NOOB

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    I wouldn't worry about loctite stripping threads. The cradles come with bolts and lock nuts.
     
  16. Jan 7, 2015 at 5:34 PM
    #16
    Darth Trader

    Darth Trader [OP] Member

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    That's just the thing, it didn't seem like I was loading it a lot. Just a couple of packed bags with some customers in the back seat and that thing would hit the rear stops on the lamest bumps. Get rid of the stock tyres? Yeah, looking forward to getting some slightly bigger tyres...
     
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2015
  17. Jan 7, 2015 at 6:18 PM
    #17
    mgord

    mgord Well-Known Member

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    BF Goodrich All Terrain TKO's. Love them and the rating is 3800 lbs per tire. I have the mud and snow tires.
     
  18. Jan 7, 2015 at 8:18 PM
    #18
    nd4spdbh

    nd4spdbh Well-Known Member

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    looks like you have the SUPER weak 2+1 leaf pack.

    Unfortunatly you are not an auto trans otherwise i would say get the driveline vibration tsb done to get the much better 3+1 leaf pack.

    There is a reason why all 6 lug tacomas made after october of 2014 have the 3+1 leaf packs regardless of configuration.
     
  19. Jan 7, 2015 at 10:12 PM
    #19
    Darth Trader

    Darth Trader [OP] Member

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    Yeah, still prefer a 6-spd for a few reasons - though gas mileage isn't one of them. Why would the 3 + 1 not be available for a 6-spd '13?
     
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2015
  20. Jan 8, 2015 at 2:57 AM
    #20
    mgord

    mgord Well-Known Member

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    Mines a 6 speed manual as well. I have an 07 with the leaf tsb done. Not sure it makes much different with the air bags though. You're probably going to have to remove the air bags for them to do the TSB.
     
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2015

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