DRIVING ON AIR: WHY YOU SHOULD DRIVE ON AIR SUSPENSION

DRIVING ON AIR:
WHY YOU SHOULD DRIVE ON AIR SUSPENSION

For anyone who is already into modifying cars, you already know that the possibilities for changing the look and feel of it are literally endless. Everything from replacing the factory wheels, headlights, and taillights to adding aerodynamic pieces like front lips and wings all play a part in a vehicle’s transformation. Lowering a vehicle is one of the best ways to change how your car looks and feels. Not only are you lowering the center of gravity, allowing for better handling (in most cases), it also makes for a more aggressive appearance, since the car itself sits closer to the pavement. This is where, lowering springs, coilovers, and air suspension comes in.

VW Jetta on air suspension and air ride
Photo Credit: Jared Auslander

VW Jetta getting air suspension and air ride installed

Photo Credit: Jared AuslanderIn this day and age, there are a number of ways to successfully lower essentially any vehicle on the planet. Like @_.b7land.yacht._ (Frank Reichard), many choose to use air suspension as their lowering method of choice, which utilizes compressed air to inflate and deflate individual strut bags. With air ride, a driver can lower his or her car to “undrivable” heights and, in some cases, higher than stock all with just the touch of a button.

Photo Credit: Jared Auslander

Air suspension isn’t always an aftermarket modification though. Many automotive manufacturers like Mercedes and Land Rover incorporate air suspension into their vehicles right from the factory!

“BAGGING” A CAR

As the owner of a bagged vehicle, I can tell you first-hand about the pros and cons of the suspension. I primarily had it installed on my 2005 Subaru Baja Turbo to competitively display at car shows. Aside from the fact that virtually no one was “bagging” this kind of car, I wanted to get the Baja as low as humanly possible without having to semi-permanently leave it at that height. My previous car was a built “Bugeye,” which I had coilovers and, while I could theoretically lower it as much as I wanted, my height choice often resulted in punishing results to the car. For instance, I once had my Bugeye so low to the point where I naively (and stupidly) rubbed the passenger front tire through the car’s main wiring harness. But I digress.

VW Jetta getting stock suspension removed for air ride and air suspension
Photo Credit: Jared Auslander
bags for VW Jetta
Photo Credit: Jared Auslander
VW Jetta getting suspension installed
Photo Credit: Jared Auslander

My good friends Rich, Don, and Hans of Tuning Works were the ones responsible for installing air ride on both my and Frank’s vehicles (a 2018 Volkswagen Passat GT), among other customers. Air ride installations make up a substantial portion of their business, and they’ve done hundreds of installations for customers to the point where they can complete one from start to finish in as little as four days.

Photo Credit: Jared Auslander
Photo Credit: Jared Auslander

The guys will tell you firsthand that the actual installation of the strut bags, air lines, compressor(s), tank(s), and wiring is the easy part. It’s the seamlessness of how all of these components are installed along with the creativity in its display that is the real challenge. But with that being said, the guys at Tuning Works pride themselves on consistently completing seamless and creative installations for all their customers.

Supreme tool boxes for air ride suspension
Photo Credit: Jared Auslander
Supreme tool boxes for air ride suspension
Photo Credit: Jared Auslander
Photo Credit: Jared Auslander

When it comes to the creativity side of things, the sky is really the limit. So when Frank asked for his trunk display to be Supreme-themed, they accepted the challenge without the slightest bit of hesitation. He provided them with two Supreme Tool Boxes, which were used as housings for the air compressors and water traps - devices used to keep water out of the air tank and lines. Tuning Works had the air tank powder coated Supreme Red and cut a matching Supreme logo sticker for the tank on their vinyl plotter.

Photo Credit: Jared Auslander
Tank for air ride suspension on VW Jetta
Photo Credit: Jared Auslander
Photo Credit: Jared Auslander

In many cases, the challenge of creating a good trunk display lies installing the necessary components while maintaining as much of the vehicle’s trunk space as possible. A good portion of Tuning Work’s customers want to keep some storage space in their trunks and have easy access to their spare tire (assuming they have one).

Photo Credit: Jared Auslander
Photo Credit: Jared Auslander
Tank boards for air ride suspension on VW Jetta
Photo Credit: Jared Auslander

To retain the functionality of Frank’s trunk, Don fabricated a two-piece floor. The piece sitting closer to the back seats neatly holds the tool boxes, while the piece closer to the trunk lid can be removed so Frank can get to his spare tire. The brain of the air suspension system, Airlift’s 3P Digital Air Management, was conveniently installed on a “plate cover” of sorts, which sits on top of the spare. So if Frank needs to take his spare tire out, his wiring, lines, and compressors won’t be disrupted. To finish things off, both the floor and cover were wrapped in matching trunk carpeting for that OEM look.

Photo Credit: Jared Auslander
Photo Credit: Jared Auslander
Photo Credit: Jared Auslander

None of the aforementioned components can work effectively to inflate or deflate the bags without the air tank though. So to save even more space in the trunk, the team fabricated and installed custom brackets for the tank to sit on that sit nicely behind the back seats. The brackets make it look like it’s floating, which is super cool.

Photo Credit: Jared Auslander
Hidden air tank for air ride suspension on VW Jetta
Photo Credit: Jared Auslander
Photo Credit: Jared Auslander

Frank’s Passat GT is (unofficially) the first model “GT” to receive the air suspension treatment, but certainly won’t be the last. With our show season coming back to life in the Spring, many car owners like Frank will be getting air ride and all kinds of other modifications installed on their cars in the coming months. Once the warm weather hits again, it’s showtime!

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