Airbag replacement in non-strut applications

Personally, I know I’m guilty of not always building my own cars and as anyone in the custom automotive industry knows, that is a cardinal sin. That being said, we still need to make a living so keep bringing those vehicles to us. Regardless, we are going to discuss how to replace an airbag for those instances when one is needed. If you own a vehicle with an air suspension then you know that this is a basic skill you should have. There are two types of bagged vehicle owners, those who have blown a bag and those who will. So without further ado…..

Safety first:

  • Disconnect the battery.
  • Always release the air from your system before raising the car or working on any aspect of the air suspension system.
  • Always wear PPE(personal protective equipment) to help avoid injury.
  • When possible, have the vehicle in a controlled environment with the appropriate tools to complete the job.

1. Align your vehicle on the lift.
2. At this point you will want to “break” the lug nuts on the corner that you need to service. Do not remove the lugs yet.
3. Raise the lift to connect with the jack points only.
4. Air out the suspension system completely.
5. Disconnect the battery. Lift the vehicle and remove the wheel.
6. Remove the nut holding the shock at the top under the hood.
7. Remove any nuts or bolts that are holding the airbag cup, mount or bracket on the top and bottom. For this application, the cup mount was a 17 millimeter and the top mount rests inside a cup.
8. We have a coupler in line with the 1/4 inch air line for easy disconnect. Using a 7/16 and a 1/2 inch wrench, disconnect the coupler. Your airline size may vary and if you do not have a couple, disconnect the air line at the closest point.
9. You should now be free to remove the bag by compressing it. Wear gloves and take care as the bag will expand if you relieve pressure while removing.
10. Using a 14 mm socket, remove the cup and bracket from the bottom and top.
11. Remove the air line fitting from the airbag. This one was a 1/2 inch npt with an adapter for the 1/4 inch air line.12. Compare the old air bag and the new airbag to ensure proper fitment and size with the mounts, bolts and fittings.
13. Clean the old plumbers tape off of the fittings with a wire brush.

Wrap the clean fitting with new plumbers tape to avoid air leaks. The tape should follow the thread so it will move with the fitting as it tightens. 3 passes around should suffice.

14. Install the fitting into the new bag.
Mount the cups/brackets to the bags. In most instances, they can only be mounted one way.

15. Place the new assembly cup first into the lower mount of the control arm. A new bag is harder to compress than a used one so at this point you may have to pull the control arm down slightly to help slide the new bag in. 4 hands are better than 2 and having help makes the task safer. Have one person hold the control arm down slightly. This is why we removed the bolt off of the shock tower. Pull it down only far enough so the shock does not completely leave the shock mount. Once the bag is compressed and slid in place, release the lower control arm to allow the shock to seat back in the shock mount.

16. Reconnect and cup or brackets with the hardware remembering that no more than 20 foot pounds of torque should be used for any nuts or bolts attached to the bag.
17. Clean the coupler fitting with a wire brush and wrap with new plumbers tape. Remove any excess.
18. Connect the line to the coupler.
19. Ensure that the new bag is not hitting anything on any side. Any contact will wear away the bag leading to a rupture in time.
20. Fasten the shock under the hood.
21. Mount the wheel back on the vehicle.
22. Lower the vehicle lift to the ground.
23. Reconnect the battery.
24. Air the suspension up to ride height and check for leaks by spraying mildly soapy water at any air connection. Do not spray any electrical components.
25. Torque the wheel lug nuts.

That’s it and is not a very complicated process. If you are not comfortable in your abilities to attempt the repair yourself, seek out a professional. You are responsible for your safety and determining your abilities. This is a basic guide to give you insight to the task at hand before you choose to attempt it.

As always, if you have any questions about our posts or need to locate a qualified custom automotive business in your area, send us an email and we will give you the information you need.

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