The Great Debate: Air vs. Hydros

What Goes Up, Must Come Down!

Air or juice? It’s the age-old debate that’s drawn a ton of opinions, so in this issue we’ll be going over the pros and cons of each suspension application. For the most part, these systems were designed to give us the stance and height adjustment we need, and while they’re similar in many ways, there’s still a difference, so read on and get the 411.

Old-school guys, purists, and traditional folks alike will typically vouch for hydraulics, but on the flipside, new-school people tend to go for air. That said, here’s a breakdown of each system; see for yourself which one will float your boat-and I mean that in a literal sense.

Air Suspension: How Does It Work?

An air suspension replaces conventional springs with airbags/bellows. Of course, conventional coil spring suspensions are the easiest to upgrade, with the airbags slipping right in place of the factory coil springs. With the advancement in technology and available parts most of these systems are purely bolt-on and require no cutting.

The airbag uses air to inflate and lift a vehicle that is provided from a reservoir tank or tanks, which are filled by on-board compressors. When the dumps/valves are released, the airbag is deflated, thus bringing the vehicle down. Known best for a smooth ride, handling, and the ability to level vehicles electronically, the technology on airbags has definitely come a long way.

PROS:

  • Much cheaper than hydraulic setups
  • Takes up less space
  • Uses less components/ less maintenance
  • Comfortable and with more of a cushion-type bounce
  • Self-leveling kits are available for air systems
  • If and when there is a leak, at least there is no oil mess
  • You don’t have to cut the frame of your car on traditional setups, as most are bolt-on kits

CONS:

    • Action isn’t as quick unless you’re boarding on a nitrogen tank
    • Void of the traditional sounds of hydraulics
    • Lift on airbag setups are usually limited in height
    • Installation requires a bit more attention. It’s important to know and ensure that your bag does not rub on vehicle parts when inflated or deflated.
    • Less components means less ways to be creative with your air system. Now don’t get it twisted, you can still build a killer install but probably nothing like a hydraulic system that utilizes more parts.
    • You can go up and down maybe twice before your air tank is empty, causing the air compressors to reload your tank … that can take a few minutes of wait.
    • Unless you are using a muffler when you release the air from your system, the loud noise created is hard to understand how that sounds cool
    • The more a vehicle weighs, sometimes it’s best to go hydraulics.

Our Advice

Regardless of the system you choose, both of them will require regular maintenance and inspection. In addition, a correctly installed system (regardless of whether it’s air or juice) will provide you with years of worry-free service, and while both will eventually leak, the proper installation will ensure that the problem won’t come anytime soon.

We also advise you to seek professional consultation if you plan on using either of the systems. While hydraulics seem to have earned a bad rap for being bouncy and providing a bad ride, all we can say is that you can easily make a hydraulic system run as smooth as an air system so long as you dial in all your components and choose the right parts.

Yet regardless of the system you choose, please keep the following tips in mind:

      • Save your money and buy quality components. In the world of car parts it’s safe to say that you will always get what you pay for, so catch a budget and break bread.
      • Choose someone qualified to do your installation. A poor installation only promises one thing: major problems.
      • Regardless of whether you choose air or juice, just remember that at the end of the day it’s your money and your decision, so choose what’s best for you and appreciate either one of the systems.
      • Always remember that it’s all love. The world of car customization is already a competitive environment but let’s keep it friendly. There’s no need to clown someone for not choosing the same path you took. In the end, it’s safe to say that we’re all here for a good time and not a long time, so let’s just touch the ground together because that’s all that matters!

The Installation

The following will go over the step-by-step process for installing one of each of the mentioned systems. The articles will give you a good overall look at what it takes to install them, as well as the difference between the components used in each system.

AIR “FIFTY EIGHT”

AIR SUSPENSION INSTALL

VEHICLE: 1958 Impala hardtop

INSTALLATION: Hoppo’s Custom Suspension Works

PRODUCTS:

        • Hoppo’s Air Suspension Accessories and Installation
        • AccuAir manifold valves, and remote control switch
        • Universal airbag bolt-on kit for Impalas
        • ViAir compressors

As we begin our air suspension install, please remember that an improper install gives airbags a bad name in the industry. There are also a few companies or shops that demonstrate the right installation and parts recommendations for every vehicle. This is why LOWRIDER made the choice to hire the pros at Hoppo’s Custom Suspension Works. Art Tuason is the owner of Hoppo’s, which has ran professionally in business for over 25 years. Art is hands-on, especially when it comes to lowriders, as he has done his share in the lowriding community as a member of Groupe Car Club. He is an ambassador of altered suspensions and an encyclopedia of information on the right choice of suspension system and quality products to use. Not only does Hoppo’s carry the right products for both suspension industries, they also have an in-house machine shop to build better mounting brackets, hydro suspension parts, and award-winning show setups. They don’t stop there either, Art and son and their proud employees care for your ride’s performance as they also provide friendly customer service and craftsmanship installs. We selected a ’58 Impala, a LOWRIDER choice favorite for our step-by-step install in our air suspension feature, because it seems that all the “Bombs” and ’50s-era classics prefer air suspension so not to devalue their investments, so to speak. Follow along as Art and the crew at Hoppo’s provide their expertise and factory-like installation on “Air Fifty Eight.”

We arrived at Hoppo’s Custom Suspension in Ontario, California, with our suspension project vehicle, drove right up to one of the opening bay roll-up doors, and placed it on the hoist to begin the special install.

1. Air Fifty-Eight is stripped of its front and rear coils and shocks.

2. Front and rear, bottom brackets, and elbow fittings are mounted to the Universal airbags.

3. The top round cup-style brackets are mounted to the top.

4. A hole is drilled out to mount the threaded top round cup brackets so that they can be bolted down.

5. Art JR places the rear airbags and brackets into their stationary position to be bolted down.

6. A nice view of the top bracket bolted in place and mounted double-bellow airbag.

7. Another view of the rear bag and cup bracket in its proper and expert right position.

8. Front A-arm brackets are also mounted in place with the single-bellow bag, known as the “Air House.” These Universal bags only inflate straight up and not wide out like a balloon as other product bags do.

9. Because this is a complete bolt on kit, everything lines up in place where it’s supposed to be.

10. The front airbags and upper and lower brackets are bolted into place.

11. The crew at Hoppo’s uses a seal-type trunk spray for a nice clean and detailed look before mounting the entire air suspension setup.

12. Hoppo’s In House Machinery laser cuts out the setup’s mounting brackets and their specialized welder takes over from there to weld together their pre-designed compressor and tank bracket trunk mounts.

13. The dual Air Tanks are installed onto the setup mount bracket.

14. The one and only ViAir compressors are also mounted to the brackets.

15. All the electrical wiring and DOT hoses are connected to the bags, compressors, and tanks.

16. The AccuAir e-Level and manifold valves are set in place.

17. AccuAir’s manifold valve is now connected to complete the setup. This manifold system is guaranteed to take complete charge of any air suspension system’s ups and downs with no issues or problems. This valve system is a must-have.

18. A Hoppo’s craftsmanship air suspension setup on display.

19. Owner Art Tuason completes the system’s powerplant with an Optima Red Top Battery mounted to the front of Air Fifty-Eight’s engine bay. Art says that the lowrider life brings you ups and downs, so why not let Optima Batteries help you get there!

For your up and down means, hit the switches over to www.hopposonline.com.

Monthly Tech Tip

By Axalta Coating Systems

Multiple Paint Patterns in Minutes

This Axalta Paint Tip of the month brings up the fact that many of you custom painters still apply inter-coat clear when spraying multi-colored patterns to a paintjob’s layout scheme.

If you want to get away from the old ways of spraying multiple patterns, and save a lot of time and material money, then switch over to Axalta’s CFX brand of candies. After prepping and sealing any project vehicle you are about to lay out, just spray three coats of Axalta’s CFX Candy, which has a 5-minute flash time in between coats. Three coats of CFX will get you the depth and brightness of the color you are looking for.

It doesn’t matter if you are spraying 5, 10, or 15 colors of patterns either. After that whole process you can get ready for your clearcoat finish! The other advantage is if you get a scratch or chip or imperfection in the panel you don’t have to repaint the whole panel you can simply spot repair it with an undetectable repair. If you haven’t sprayed CFX candies yet, then go to your nearest automotive paint store and get connected with CFX Candies. Spraying and seeing is believing!

For more painter friendly products and technical advice, please feel free to contact product specialist Steven Chaparro at steven.c.chaparro@axaltacs.com.