Airbags for Camper trailer

Submitted: Monday, Jan 13, 2014 at 08:58
ThreadID: 105800 Views:4929 Replies:14 FollowUps:8
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Hello all

was working on the camper this weekend and got to thinking i would like to have the flexibility of lifting the camper a few inches when heading off road and dropping it back down once we camp so the tent will reach the ground. So i am thinking about using airbags to do this lift up when off road drop back down when camping. is this possable? and have any of you out there done this.
i know you can get airbags for leaf springs, would this be what i would be looking at.
i know you can flip the axle to increase ride height though the main reason i am thinking of the above is the tent won't reach the ground if i increase the height by 2 inches. i have also heard of people digging holes when they camp so there tires fit into the holes so the trailer set up is lower or letting tire pressure down for the same outcome, none of this appeals to me. Hope you guys may be able to help with info cheers.
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Reply By: Member - John - Monday, Jan 13, 2014 at 09:08

Monday, Jan 13, 2014 at 09:08
G'day, airbags pumped up will make the trailer ride very very roughly. Can never understand airbag suspension, when you want the extra height, you need supple suspension, but the airbags are at there hardest not making for supple suspension. Just my two cents worth.
John and Jan

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Reply By: olcoolone - Monday, Jan 13, 2014 at 09:09

Monday, Jan 13, 2014 at 09:09
It can be done but you're over complicating something that you would may only ever need to use once every 10 years...... and then you would not use it.

Out of all the camper trailers we have owned we have never had a issue off road with ground clearance.

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Reply By: Dave B ( ADL) - Monday, Jan 13, 2014 at 09:12

Monday, Jan 13, 2014 at 09:12
I would think that if you use airbags to lift your CT 2 inches the suspension would be so hard it would shake the **** out of everything and possibly cause damage.
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Reply By: Ross M - Monday, Jan 13, 2014 at 10:00

Monday, Jan 13, 2014 at 10:00
Range Rover use airbag suspension and the Queen and Prince Philip don't complain about the ride.

Air bags used wrongly may be hard.
Lots of buses use airbags ie ALL.
Trucks use air bags and Bananas are transported on trucks ONLY will air bags so the Nana's don't get shocked and bruised, it is a stipulation of their transport agreement.

Jamming anything into already hard springs isn't going to solve the problem.

What suspension is in the camper at the moment?
They may be, likely to be, crappy, short, hard riding, non compliant ones and then "yes" airbags aren't going to improve things except the ride height.

Possibly longer leaf pack to give a more compliant ride and then airbags to augment them for the off road stuff IF the height is really required.
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Follow Up By: Dave B ( ADL) - Monday, Jan 13, 2014 at 10:20

Monday, Jan 13, 2014 at 10:20
Air bags as such are great, agreed that most trucks and buses use them now.
But if a truck or bus uses airbags to increase the normal ride height by 2 nches and drive some distance on it that way over roughish roads, you will be underneath it replacing blown airbags quicksmart.
cheers
Dave
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Follow Up By: Ross M - Monday, Jan 13, 2014 at 11:03

Monday, Jan 13, 2014 at 11:03
Agree.
Airbags correctly used and of suitable height and still retaining a compression ability are quite ok.

Some large vehicles do ride higher but use a suitable sized airbag not the normal fare. Just pumping up isn't the answer, unfortunately most think that is what is done.
Using compliant leaves and a suitable large dia airbag will work well.
Some army trailers used for sensitive electronic equipment and made by, Trak, use independent airbag suspension for the best results and they have tested them far beyond what we do.
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Follow Up By: Member - Boobook - Monday, Jan 13, 2014 at 11:20

Monday, Jan 13, 2014 at 11:20
The queen has a Landrover Defender that she drives too. Air suspension would be like floating on clouds compared to that.



But your point is valid. I think the difference is air bag suspension ( bus, RR etc) verses Airbag helper suspension as per what the OP is considering.

I had a Glodstream camper with airbag suspension from the factory and it rode magnificantly.
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Follow Up By: olcoolone - Monday, Jan 13, 2014 at 13:39

Monday, Jan 13, 2014 at 13:39
But trucks only run bags with no springs, the original post was to use with leaf springs and add bags.

Sure he could go all bag and no spring but the associated cost for no real advantage would make it uneconomical.

Plus trucks adjust air pressure in the bags automatically to help when empty and loaded making them ride and handle.
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Reply By: Member - Frank P (NSW) - Monday, Jan 13, 2014 at 10:13

Monday, Jan 13, 2014 at 10:13
If you have leaf springs and a beam axle at the moment you will need a major suspension re-design because you will need something like trailing arms to locate the wheels. Adding those plus seats for the bags will involve a major chassis re-design. Can be done, but a lot of trouble. But if you have the skills, time and resources and want to do it for the exercise, go for it. You could end up with rather nice independent suspension.

I think other posters' comments about harsh ride are valid. You will need to research carefully. Simple helper bags are not designed to be the principal spring and will have the wrong rate. You need proper air springs calibrated for the weight of your loaded CT.

Cheers


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Follow Up By: Member - Frank P (NSW) - Monday, Jan 13, 2014 at 12:32

Monday, Jan 13, 2014 at 12:32
Adam,

I read your opening post as suggesting a change over to airbag suspension, not just adding airbag helpers. So if I'm off the beam here, apologies.

Cheers
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Reply By: Adam H - Monday, Jan 13, 2014 at 15:28

Monday, Jan 13, 2014 at 15:28
thanks for all your answers. and yes i will be keeping the leaf springs, Poly air look like they do a kit for leaf springs.
though is it possible to only use the airbags to get though some higher than normal ground clearance areas. so they wouldn't be used a great deal or for long periods of time or am i completely missing the point, just some ideas that i am floating in my head.
cheers Adam
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Follow Up By: Member - Chris_K - Monday, Jan 13, 2014 at 16:38

Monday, Jan 13, 2014 at 16:38
Hi Adam

You are correct Polyair has a kit for leaf springs. They work quite well for sagging springs (due to heavy load) - but would bounce around significantly with an unloaded trailer. If you used it sensibly when under load to raise the height a bit - no problems.

Chris
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Follow Up By: Member - Chris_K - Monday, Jan 13, 2014 at 17:16

Monday, Jan 13, 2014 at 17:16
Sorry - meant to say that they would bounce around if inflated - with an unloaded trailer....
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Reply By: Old 55 - Monday, Jan 13, 2014 at 15:40

Monday, Jan 13, 2014 at 15:40
Hi Adam
Check out GAFFA suspension they have airbags and coilsl for trailers. Google Martins trailers parts or Gaffa Airbag suspension for a look at it

Cheers Rod
AnswerID: 524453

Reply By: stringey - Monday, Jan 13, 2014 at 17:47

Monday, Jan 13, 2014 at 17:47
Hi Adam, I run airbags only on my camper, no springs at all,never had problem. have been on plenty of rough stuff, Gibb River road to kalumbaroo and Broome as well as the OTT to the cape and quite a few others. would not go back to sprung suspension and you are right it is nice to be able to raise the ride height when needed. The trailer rides better than the car over the rough stuff, had no problems with things shaking to bits
Hope this helps you Regards Bill
AnswerID: 524461

Follow Up By: Adam H - Monday, Jan 13, 2014 at 17:58

Monday, Jan 13, 2014 at 17:58
thanks Bill

Was starting to doubt wether it could be done or not. would be able to post some photos. And what brand do you have?
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Reply By: Member - Arsenal Phill - Monday, Jan 13, 2014 at 19:17

Monday, Jan 13, 2014 at 19:17
When we were away for our Christmas camp, we came across a couple of families that had new caravans. They had airbag suspension and were very pleased with it. It seems like a great idea. One of the guys said it was great for levelling the van when pulling up on uneven ground. I have to say I was quite impressed. He didn't however say how it towed, and at the time I didn't think to ask......
AnswerID: 524464

Reply By: The Bantam - Monday, Jan 13, 2014 at 23:27

Monday, Jan 13, 2014 at 23:27
This variable height suspension with air bags, has been discussed at length on another forum.

If it was a motor vehicle..car, truck, buss.....there is a very real legality issue.
If the vehicle is originally fitted with airbags and it is approved and an OEM engineered solution variable height suspension is permitted.

BUT, it is specifically forbidden as an aftermarket modification....they "don't want no low riders here"......how that plays out with trailers is a whole other story.

There are a lot of vehicles suspended on airbags alone, that lower the suspension when stationary for a variety of reasons.....most modern busses, some ambulances and so forth.....but mostly they return to the regulated suspenion height when the vehicle is underway.

In heavy vehicles almost all "road friendly suspensions" are airbags alone.....there are regulating valves that keep the ride height constant regardless of load.....so when lightly loaded or unloaded the spring rate is very soft..as the vehicle is loaded up the spring rate is increased only enough to achieve standard ride height.

If you have ever driven a leaf sprung, heavy vehicle, unladen over a railway crossing you will realise how wonderfull these airbag suspensions are.

I think air bags in all sorts of trailers especially self regulating air bags that maintain ride height would be a great idea...the traileing links and such are no biggie....but there are two major issues.

Cost...an airbag system capable of supporting the trailer alone would be expensive in comparison to anything currently offered on trailers.

AND

there is the need for a supply of compressed air...if the trailer is self regulating...a constant supply of compressed air.
Compressed air is not a problem on trucks lots of stuff including the brakes run on it...but it is a bit of an issue in motorcars.

I've thaught about the very issue in the last few weeks.....think of a car trailer that requires no ramps..I have the trailer ..can ride low on the highway and can be jacked up to negociate driveways and the like.

But I think the expense is going to kill it.

cheers
AnswerID: 524482

Reply By: Smiley Bill - Tuesday, Jan 14, 2014 at 00:13

Tuesday, Jan 14, 2014 at 00:13
Adam H,

Is your c/trailer an off-road model and what brand would it be?

SB
AnswerID: 524484

Reply By: desray (WA - Tuesday, Jan 14, 2014 at 00:13

Tuesday, Jan 14, 2014 at 00:13
Monroe Max-Air Air Shock Absorber... might be worth a look . would lift the trailer when needed ,just blow up a bit more.
AnswerID: 524485

Reply By: 671 - Tuesday, Jan 14, 2014 at 22:26

Tuesday, Jan 14, 2014 at 22:26
Adam
Don't forget air bags are variable rate springs just like bump rubbers on your car. They get progressively harder as you compress them and are like a brick by the time they are around 70% compressed. This is why so many people have damaged their chassis with them. The factory engineers know how to use them but the same can't be said of many people using them in aftermarket situations. Make sure you get everything right. If you fit some that are getting too hard too soon, you could easily damage your axle or crack the trailer.
AnswerID: 524527

Reply By: Member - Crawler88 - Wednesday, Jan 15, 2014 at 13:34

Wednesday, Jan 15, 2014 at 13:34
Hi Adam H,

I have put a set of Firestone helper bags in the rear of my Dodge Ram. For no other reason than to improve stability with a top heavy load however they do work to level the vehicle's ride height with a heavy load on. My suspension is rated for a payload of 1.6 tonne. As I have an imported vehicle, I find that I have to import many of the parts that I sometimes require. The firestone air bag kit that I have used is one that I imported. Its pretty much a universal kit designed for leaf suspension arrangments. retails in the US for approx $330. Adam H, if you are serious, these kits are worth a look.

Firestone RideRite air helper spring kit 2071

Summit Racing is a good supplier, cheap and quick shipping. Type them into google.

Cheers
Crawler88
AnswerID: 524554

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