Many vehicles are equipped with a metal suspension system, composed of coil and leaf springs. Airbag suspension replaces these steel components with heavy-duty rubber airbags that can be inflated using either an in-vehicle or external air compressor. Airbag suspension systems have several advantages over more traditional mechanical springs.
The most important benefit of an airbag suspension system is that it allows the owner to easily adjust the ride height and level of his vehicle. Because the degree of suspension can be matched to the load that is being hauled, the vehicle is made more adaptable and safety is improved. Most often, with an in-vehicle compressor, this adjustment can be made almost instantly. With traditional leaf and coil suspensions, a great deal of work and mechanical knowledge would be required to switch out the parts before hauling heavy loads. The ability to easily adjust air suspension also makes it easy to tow trailers, as it suppresses the pitch of the trailer.
Because of their adaptability, vehicles that are equipped with airbag suspension systems can be driven over a variety of terrains while maintaining a smoother ride and better handling. This is achieved because an air spring relies on a closed volume of air. According to John Kimpel of Firestone Industrial Products, the increase and decrease in pressure caused by traveling over rough terrain creates a natural tendency for the vehicle (and airbag) to return to its normal height. Not only does this quality prevent the vehicle from bottoming-out, it also gives the driver a greater feel for the road.
Because airbag suspensions improve handling and provide the ability to adjust for load weights and trailers, tire wear is reduced. Thus, switching to an air suspension system will save money in the long run as you spend less for tires, as well as other components such as axles and tie-rods, that may be affected by inadequate leaf-and-coil suspensions. The smoother ride offered by airbags also will result in a steady, constant aim of the headlights, further improving safety. Those in favor of street modifications will find that an airbag suspension system also is effective in creating the low-rider look.
Airbag suspension systems also have a hidden advantage in that they benefit the roads on which you drive. Specifically, this refers to the air suspension systems equipped on large commercial vehicles. Once again, John Kimpel states that vehicles equipped with low-stiffness springs, such as airbags, are more pavement friendly than stiffer, metal springs. In the end, this leads to fewer potholes and less money spent on road improvement.