When the air suspension fails the effects can be startling beyond what
happens with an ordinary coil spring suspension system. Because these
systems can adjust the suspension to three different ride heights another
computer control system is required. This complex suspension control system
is added to vehicles that are already over-burdened with software and
Air suspension failures may range from delays while the system tries to
figure out if the car is level to truly life-threatening defects. At Norman
Taylor & Associates we interview consumers every day who are trying
to cope with cars and trucks that just can’t be repaired who may
have recourse under the
California Lemon Law. An example on the scary side occurred to one of our clients recently.
While driving on the freeway in the fast lane both right side elements
of the air suspension sagged to the lowest ride height. Without warning
the consumer was trying to drive a car that was leaning to the right.
Just getting it over to the side of the freeway safely was more excitement
than any one needs.
You might be surprised at how many models have an air suspension system
installed. The following is a partial list. Not all manufacturers have
air suspension systems on some of their models. As you can see, it is
more often in use on higher end vehicles.
- Rolls Royce
- Mercedes Benz
- Land Rover
The kinds of failure are fairly predictable. At the heart of the air suspension
system is a rubber airbag or bladder. Air bag or air strut failure is
usually caused by wet rot, due to old age, or moisture within the air
system that damages it from the inside. Air ride suspension parts may
fail because rubber dries out. Punctures to the air bag may be caused
from debris on the road.
Air line failure is a failure of the tubing which connects the air bags
or struts to the rest of the air system. This usually occurs when the
air lines, which must be routed to the air bags through the chassis of
the vehicle, rub against a sharp edge of a chassis member or a moving
suspension component, causing a hole to be formed.
Compressor failure is primarily due to leaking air springs or air struts.
Note: To date this is the defect we have seen most often with lemon cars.
The compressor will burn out trying to maintain the correct air pressure
in a leaking air system. Compressor burnout may also be caused by moisture
from within the air system coming into contact with its electronic parts.
This list is by no means everything that can happen. For example, as noted
earlier, the chances that a software error can cause serious problems,
has to be included.
We see it over and over, technology for the sake of technology, because
it is a cool thing to do and gives the maker and opportunity to one-up
the competition gets out of hand. It is too early to know whether this
is a technology that is here to stay or just one of the technological
flavors of the model year.