Tow Rigs are great machines out of the box but after
loading up a camper, trailer with rig and a weeks worth of supplies,
sometimes they could use a little help. One thing we did was to install a
set of Ride Rite airbags on the back of our F350 to help with the loaded
height and sway.
The basic concept of the Ride Rite Airbag system is a
set of heavy duty rubber bags that are mounted between the axle and the
frame. When conditions require, air can be pumped into the bags to raise
up the riding height and to help reduce the sway with larger, top heavy
loads. The Ride Rite system was picked as it is made by Firestone, which
has a long history and is established, and the price was pretty good too.
|Well here is what came on the delivery truck. In the
box was all of the parts we needed plus a great set of instructions.
There are a few different setups out there between the makes and the
instructions listed out the different steps that would be needed. On
our '02 Ford, it would be a straightforward installation.
|First step was to sort through all of the brackets
and read through the instructions to get an idea of what would need
to be done. We opted to get the version that bolted to the frame and
then down to the spring pack. The bag first needed to be bolted to
the top bracket and the air chuck screwed into the top of that. It
was then loosely bolted to the bottom bracket (its slotted for
adjustability) and then stuck into place to see what we it looked
|Turned out that due to the angle of the spring pack
in relation to the frame, we would need to space up one side of the
lower bracket. This is OK and is specified in the instructions. A 1
inch spacer that is supplied was used and it came in within 1/4" of
being level with the frame. We called that good and started drilling
holes through the frame.
|The directions say to mark the holes, drill them,
and then bolt up the bracket. We did this a different way, We got
the bracket into the proper place, and then drilled and marked one
hole and then bolted it up and then drilled each hole one at a time.
This guaranteed that all of the bolts would line up. The holes were
drilled real tight for the bolts so they could not move around. The
top bolts take a lot of stress so Grade 8 hardware was supplied with
the kit. These frames are thick so use a good drill bit or you might
be here all day! Take care that any wiring or fuel lines or whatever
is away from the backside where you will be drilling. You don't want
to punch a hole into something.
|Now for the bottom bolts that go around the spring
pack. Since this is a universal kit, it comes with some real long
bolts. No problem, just use what you need and cut the rest off. Then
a problem came up. Turns out that the nuts and the bolts supplied
did not quite have the same pitch to the threads. They were real
tight and got worse the farther you went. The impact was pulled out
and that just jammed them on even tighter. In the end they were cut
off and a trip to the hardware store got us the nuts and the bolts
that would do the job.
|With the right bolts, the bottom plates were
tightened up and the hard part was over. What was left was running
the air lines and finding a place to mount the inflation valves.
|The kit comes with a coil of red air hose, some zip
ties and two inflation valves. The valves are real nice in the way
that you only need to push the air line into them real good and they
hold and maintain a seal. We mounted our air valves in the back so the
air line was ran on the backside of the frame using stock mounting
used for electrical wiring. The zip ties were used to hold it in
place. Take care to run them so they will not rub on any sharp edges
that could cause a hole.
|Since we didn't want to drill any holes in the back
bumper, we ended up using the two lower holes to mount up the
license plate. This worked out real slick. The air lines for each
bag need to stay separate to help prevent swaying with a heavy load.
If they are connected, the air will simply go from one bag to
another and not help at all in that respect.
Ride Rite recommends running a minimum pressure between
5 and 10 pounds at all times. This is to prevent the bags from sucking in
on themselves if you get the suspension working while unloaded. We set our
ride height fully loaded so that the bumps are just barely above the
overloads. This will allow the overloads to come into play if they are
needed. After the installation was complete, 80 pounds was put into each
bag to check for leaks, besides the rear of the truck raising up several
inches, there were no leaking noises to be heard.
Having the option to set the rear ride height with the
added bonus to help any rear sway that might show up, the Air Bag system
can be a great upgrade to any tow rig.