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The frame as well as body of a vehicle is attached to the Besides providing vibration isolation, air springs offer many
rear axle and the front axle by springs. These springs damp the other user-friendly advantages. Over the traditional leaf and coil
road shock transmitted to the body structure by the wheels, when springs. There are two basic types of air springs used in vehicle
they travel over the road. In this way the springs are the protecting suspensions: reversible sleeve and convoluted. Regardless of
units supported directly by the frame of the vehicle. Therefore all whether an air spring is a reversible sleeve or convoluted style, it
the parts which perform the function of protection are collectively will operate on the same principle: A column of gas confined
called a suspension system. These springs are generally of the within a container allows it to use the contained pressure to
laminated leaf type, coil type, torsion bar type, hydraulic springs, generate force.
Plastic springs, and Air springs etc. 1. To prevent the road shocks In the case of air springs, the gas is air and the container
from being transmitted to the vehicle frame. 2. To preserve the is a sealed fabric-reinforced rubber bellow or sleeve. Similar to a
stability of the vehicle in pitching or rolling while in motion. 3. To ball inflated with air, the load an air spring will carry depends on
safe guard the occupants from road shocks. 4. To provide good its diameter and therefore, the area of the column of air supported
road holding while driving, cornering and breaking 5. To maintain and the pressure of air inside it. The two basic relationships used in
proper steering geometry. 6. To provide the requisite height to determining the load-carrying capability of an air spring are:
body structure as well as to bear the torque and braking reactions.
7. To minimize the effects of stresses due to road shocks on the Force = pressure x area ---------------- (1)
mechanism of the motor vehicle and provide a cushioning effect. 8.
To keep the body perfectly in level while travelling over rough diameter2
uneven ground. i.e., the up and down movement of the wheels Area = π x ---------------------
should be relative to the body. 4

The relationships above demonstrate that increasing the

load an air spring can carry (the force) can be accomplished by
increasing the pressure inside the air spring, increasing the
diameter of the air spring (and therefore increasing the area) or
both. The ability to change the load carrying capacity simply by
changing the air pressure, rather than changing out the spring, is a
major advantage air springs have over steel.
Because an air spring consists of a closed volume of air,
the compression of the air spring (jounce travel) will cause an
increase in pressure, while the extension of the air spring (rebound
travel) will cause a decrease in pressure. This allows the air spring
to have an automatic tendency to return to the neutral (design)
height as it experiences disturbances in the driving surface. The
dynamic build-up in Compression also helps protect against
"bottoming out" and can be further increased on the reversible
sleeve air spring by the addition of a "flare" at the bottom of the

Although the basic principles behind both the reversible body attaches to the steering knuckle, which in turn connects to a
sleeve and convoluted air springs are the same, there are some lower control arm through a lower ball joint.
subtle differences between them. Most notably, the reversible The top of the strut is connected to the vehicle body through
sleeve air spring has a piston which is an additional component the upper strut mount, in some cases called a bearing plate. This
that the convoluted air spring does not have. The piston is the bearing plate allows the strut to pivot as the wheels are turned. It
component that is fastened to the moving trailing arm or axle must be flexible enough to handle slight angle changes and
mount and, as a result, plunges in and out of the air cavity within dampen movement of the upper end of the strut. This mount or
the rubber bellows. bearing plate transfers vehicle load to the strut and spring, making
In general, a piston gives the reversible sleeve air spring the upper mount/bearing plate the load carrier and the lower ball
an advantage over the convoluted air spring in that spring, rates joint the follower.
can be further tuned using a variety of piston profiles. For straight
sided pistons, the reversible sleeve air spring has an advantage
over the convoluted air spring, in that a constant load for a given
internal pressure may be maintained over a range of heights. The
two other major components of an air spring are the bead plate(s)
and the fabric-reinforced rubber bellows or sleeve. The bead plate
allows for a rigid attachment to the mounting surface(s) and the
bellow is the dynamically functioning suspension component
which contains the air.
The main advantages of an air spring over its steel leaf
and coil counterparts are variable load-carrying capability,
adjustable spring rate, user-friendly height control, low friction
action, and road-friendly suspension increasing the pavement life.
As already mentioned, the load an air spring carries can be
adjusted over a wide range, without changing the air spring height,
simply by changing the air pressure.
Traditional steel springs need to be replaced if the
height must be maintained. In addition to changing the load-
carrying capability, a change in air pressure will also afford the
benefit of changing the spring rate without changing the height and The strut housing holds the damping unit and fluid. It is
without a significant change in the natural frequency. Steel springs made of heavy gauge steel so that it is rigid enough to provide
exhibit one spring rate for a given height and, once again, will need structural support and withstand road shock.
to be replaced if the height must be maintained. Using air pressure The piston rod of the strut is much larger in diameter
from the compressor, the air spring height can be maintained by a than the piston rod of the typical shock absorber. This is to
closed-loop control system or adjusted to the other desired heights. withstand the side load on the strut shaft. A strut rod will measure
This allows for "load leveling" and "squatting" capabilities that up to 7/8 of an inch in diameter while the piston rod of a typical
steel springs cannot offer. Because there is a flexible rubber shock measures up to ½ of an inch in diameter.
member separating the rigid attachment points to the frame and A coil spring is located between the upper and lower
suspension, there is freedom to move about all six degrees of spring seats. It is held there by tension. The lower spring seat is
freedom without the resistance and squeaks experienced by the welded to the strut housing, while the upper spring seat is kept in
rigid interactions characteristic of steel leaf and coil springs. place by the upper strut mount.
The components of the suspension system perform six basic Struts also have a jounce (or compression) bumper
functions: located under the upper spring seat. The purpose of this component
1. Maintain correct vehicle ride height is to limit suspension travel by not allowing suspension
2. Reduce the effect of shock forces components to hit together.
3. Maintain correct wheel alignment Finally, a large nut at the end of the strut rod holds everything
4. Support vehicle weight together.
5. Keep the tires in contact with the road
6. Control the vehicle's direction of travel 3. Road-friendly suspension
In 1993 a study called the "Dynamic Interaction
Typically, struts consists of a coil spring to support the between Vehicles and Infrastructure Experiment" (DIVINE) was
vehicle's weight, a strut housing to provide rigid structural support initiated by the Directorate of Science, Technology and Industry of
for the assembly, and a damping unit within the strut housing to
control spring and suspension movement. The bottom of the strut
the OECD. Interim results from the study were presented in 1995 4. BASIC PRINCIPLE
and the final report in 1997. Suspension system that has air as its working fluid and
acting as shock absorber is called air suspension system. The
detection of causes and remedy for the problems with suspension
system are discussed here:

The purpose of the study was to quantify the benefits of

heavy vehicles with air suspension on roads. The knowledge
gained and appreciated by the co-operating countries can be shared
with countries that are rapidly expanding their transportation
infrastructures. The end result is a faster payback and reduced
costs of maintaining these infrastructures.
This study was conducted with participation from Interconnected suspension system
European and North American countries, as well as public and As the name suggests the front and rear suspension
private institutions. The purpose of the study was to provide system or the suspension units on the two sides of the vehicle are
scientific evidence of the effects of heavy vehicles and their connected with each other. They are also termed collectively as
suspensions on road systems. Almost 50 per cent of road linked system. It was very much effective as compared to
maintenance costs are associated with effects from heavy vehicles. independent front and rear suspension units and was able to reduce
Further, the amount of dynamic load exerting on roads is directly the tendency of vehicle to bounce, pitch or roll and was able to
associated with the type of vehicle suspension. provide smooth and comfortable drive.
Air suspensions increase pavement life by 15-60 per Types of interconnected suspension system are:
cent. This corresponds to increased static load of 4-12 per cent. A
15 per cent increase in vehicle mass limit can save upwards of 1) Air suspension system
$500 million per annum, while increased pavement life ensures 2) Hydrolastic suspension and
significant reduction in road maintenance cost which forms 90 per 3) Hydro gas suspension system
cent of the annual road budget in OECD countries.
"Road-friendly" suspensions have low spring stiffness Air suspension system
and coulomb friction with optimum damping. Well-designed air The conventional metal springs faced some drawbacks
suspensions best meet these criteria. which were air suspension system overcomes and so they are
For a complete copy of the DIVINE report, visit preferred and used in more these days. Let's see some of the plus
Air suspensions are used on a vast majority of heavy points of this system.
duty vehicles in North America and Europe, with a growing 1) The automatic control devices installed in the vehicle
penetration worldwide. The advantages of air suspension with allows making optimum use of the variable space for
regard to the vehicle, driver and transportation systems are deflection of wheel.
appreciated in both qualitative and financial terms. 2) The height of the automobile remains steady and so the
Firestone Industrial Products Company, LLC, a changes in the alignment of headlamp due to varying
subsidiary of Bridgestone Firestone Diversified Products (BFDP), loads are restricted.
specializes in air spring manufacturing and technology with a 3) It helps to reduce the load while the vehicle in motion
history of more than 60 years of research and development of i.e. the dynamic loading as the spring rate variation
technologically advanced air springs. With headquarters in between laden and unladen weight is much less.
Indianapolis, Ind., and six manufacturing plants located on four 4) It gives smooth and comfort ride of the vehicle.
different continents, the company produces suspension products Air springs are classified into two types:
enhancing the driving experience for drivers of heavy truck/trailer, 1) Bellow type and
buses, rail vehicles, passenger cars, SUVs, light trucks, minivans, 2) Piston type.
vans and motor homes. The air springs shown are mounted on the front and rear axle. The
atmospheric air first passes through the filter where the dirt is
removed and passed on to the compressor. Air is compressed here
and the pressure of air is raised from atmospheric to about 250 1) Due to long period of continuous use the springs
Mpa. This pressure is maintained by the accumulator tank. The might have become weak they must therefore be
safety relief valve is provided on the accumulator as a safety replaced with new one.
device and it opens when the pressure rises above 250 Mpa. This
air then moves to lift control valve and through leveling valves to 2) Some springs do not require lubrication yet they
air springs. might have been lubricated so clean with some cloth.
3) Defects in shock absorber rectify them.
Hydrolastic suspension
In this case the moving part is assembled and fitted at each of • Noise
the wheel location. These units are interconnected by pipes 1) See the manufactures manual if the springs require
carrying the fluid. In this moving unit rubber acts as a spring and lubrication and then provide lubrication for springs.
the fluid under pressure acts as a damping medium. The
connecting rod of piston is connected to the wheel through suitable 2) Pins holding the springs and bushes might have got
linkage in order to receive the movements of the wheel. The loose.
movement of the fluid is controlled by a two way valve assembly.
The valves are arranged at right angle to each other. As the 3) Nuts and bolts holding the springs might be loose
pressure of fluid rises it causes the upper valve to open. In the tighten them.
same way the lower valve opens under pressure and allows the
fluid to flow in downward direction. 6. CONCLUSION
Over the last decade or so air suspension has become
Hydro gas suspension system extremely popular in the custom automobile culture: street rods,
The hydra gas suspension system was designed by trucks, cars, and even motorcycles may have air springs. They are
Moulton Development Limited and British Leyland Motor used in these applications to provide an adjustable suspension
Corporation and is manufactured by Dunlop suspension Division which allows vehicles to sit extremely low, yet be able rise to a
of Coventry (England). The drawbacks of hydrolastic suspension level high enough to maneuver over obstacles and inconsistencies
system were overcome by this design. It is mainly divided into two in the roadways (and parking lots). These systems generally
parts an internal spring and a damper unit and is assembled at each employ small, electric or engine-driven air compressors which
wheel. The springing action is taken by inert gas like nitrogen. sometimes fill an on-board air receiver tank which stores
Weight of the car is supported by some fluid like water under compressed air for use in the future without delay. High-pressured
pressure. Insulation of the interconnected front and rear system is industrial gas bottles (such as nitrogen or carbon dioxide tanks
done generally with hermetic seals. As the wheels in motion come used to store shielding gases for welding) are sometimes used in
across pit or bumps they cause the piston to move and the more radical air suspension setups. Either of these reservoir
diaphragm forces the fluid up which causes the damper valve to systems may be fully adjustable, being able to adjust each wheel's
open and the fluid moves through the opening. air pressure individually. This allows the user to tilt the vehicle
side to side, front to back, in some instances "hit a 3-wheel"
5. AIR SUSPENSION PROBLEMS (contort the vehicle so one wheel lifts up from the ground) or even
"hop" the entire vehicle into the air. When a pressure reservoir is
• Uncomfortable Ride: present, the flow of air or gas is commonly controlled with
The reason of the rough ride you might be pneumatic solenoid valves. This allows the user to make
due to one of the following reasons: adjustments by simply pressing a momentary-contact electric
button or switch.
1) Springs might have got rusted and thereby not able The installation and configuration of these systems
to provide proper springing action. Lubrication should varies for different makes and models but the underlying principle
be done to minimize the friction. remains the same. The metal spring (coil or leaf) is removed, and
2) Shock absorbers might got problems repair or an air bag, also referred to as an air spring, is inserted or fabricated
replace it. to fit in the place of the factory spring. When air pressure is
3) Pins holding the springs together might have got supplied to the air bag, the suspension can be adjusted either up or
loose tighten it. down (lifted or lowered).
4) Pads present at the leaves (curve shaped spring like For vehicles with leaf spring suspension such as pickup
saucer) might be worn out replace them. trucks, the leaf spring is sometimes eliminated and replaced with a
• Suspension becoming flexible: multiple-bar linkage. These bars are typically in a trailing arm
Some of the main reasons for suspension configuration and the air spring may be situated vertically between
becoming loose are: a link bar or the axle housing and a point on the vehicle's frame. In
other cases, the air bag is situated on the opposite side of the axle
from the main link bars on an additional cantilever member. If the
main linkage bars are oriented parallel to the longitudinal (driving)
axis of the car, the axle housing may be constrained laterally with
either a Panhard bar or Watt's linkage. In some cases, two of the
link bars may be combined into a triangular shape which
effectively constrains the vehicles axle laterally.
Often, owners may desire to lower their vehicle to such an extent
that they must cut away portions of the frame for more clearance.
A reinforcement member commonly referred to as a C-notch is
then bolted or welded to the vehicle frame in order to maintain
structural integrity. Specifically on pickup trucks, this process is
termed "notching" because a portion (notch) of the cargo bed may
also be removed, along with the wheel wells, to provide maximum
axle clearance. For some, it is desirable to have the vehicle so low
that the frame rests on the ground when the air bags are fully


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