A few months ago, I explained why and how I installed a set of rear airbags to assist the suspension of my 4WD. These supplementary airbags from Airbag Man were primarily to assist levelling the vehicle when either heavily loaded or towing a trailer. They’re not designed to increase the vehicle’s height as such, but to ensure the ride, handling, comfort and safety of my 4WD is retained.
There are, however, other options available — including from Airbag Man — that replace suspension components to allow adjustments to a vehicle’s height, but that’s a product that may suit others.
While it’s been a relatively short time with the Airbag Man airbags, I’ve found them to be working a treat and they’ve survived unscathed after taking on some serious offroad conditions. With the bags set to the recommended minimum of just 3psi, I’ve yet to feel them adversely impede articulation or alter the Jeep’s characteristics while at these low settings. They simply work.
We all know that to inflate or deflate each airbag, you simply access the two valves, which in my case are located on the rear bar. It’s a simple process, needing just an air compressor plus a tyre gauge to adjust the height to your requirements. To deflate, prod each valve with a ‘stick’ which does the job nicely.
This had me thinking that there may be an even easier method — perhaps even a wireless one — which could incorporate my existing on-board ARB compressor.
While I personally don’t need to do this on a very regular basis, there may be several situations where inflating and deflating is a monotonous, reoccurring task. Examples could include tradies that load and unload heavy cargo regularly or 4WDers who hitch and unhitch their trailers to access non-trailer-friendly tracks — anyone who changes their rig’s weight on a regular basis (as well as those who are plain lazy, I suppose).
A quick internet surf and skim through Airbag Man’s website revealed there were, indeed, several options that looked promising. A few emails with the guys at Airbag Man led me to their kit that not only allows access to my ARB compressor for inflation, but to wirelessly inflate or deflate each airbag via a simple remote control. On top of that, they have a digital wireless gauge that showed each airbag’s pressure. How fantastic is that? There were many options available to suit a range of vehicles or circumstances.
WHAT I GOT
After consulting with the guys at AirBag Man, a package turned up a few days later consisting of myriad parts, all nicely packed. At first it looked daunting but after sorting all the parts, it began to make sense. There were essentially four components that would work together.
First, there was the wireless gauge kit. It comprised of the gauge, which plugs to any cigarette socket, and two sensors marked L and R for obvious reasons. Also included was a pair of chrome straight connectors, spare washers, locking nuts and a small wrench, as well as a device to help change batteries within the sensors. In a separate bag were two T-pieces that allow the sensors to be inserted in line with the air hoses.
Second, was the solenoid. This solenoid unit manages the air in from the compressor and in/out to each airbag. There is also an outlet for escaping air when deflating. Along with the solenoid were three chrome straight connectors which lock in the hoses with a simple push by hand.
Third, there was the wireless remote control. While you could control the solenoid with a simple, traditional switch and wiring, I opted for the wireless controller to simplify the process. The small controller, the size of a matchbox, needs to be next to the solenoid and preferably away from heat and moisture. Both the solenoid and remote controller have Deutsch plugs that make connecting together simple.
The last components were a supplied L-piece (though I chose a brass T-piece I had for ease of routing) for connecting the hose coming from the solenoid which is connected to the ARB compressor. This T-piece is paired with a straight fitting 1/4in PTC x 1/4in for attaching the hose.
There were ample air hose and cable ties, more than enough to do the task on hand, plus a few bits including a pair of Y-pieces.
WHAT ELSE DID I NEED
Not much besides plenty of patience and planning. Though, I did find a hose cutter (Airbag Man supplies these too), 14mm and 8mm sockets and basic tools such as Allen keys were essential. An electric drill and 5mm bit was also needed in my case.
I opted for 10m of 7mm split tube which set me back about $24, plus a roll of electrical tape to protect the hoses. For about $6, a bottle of thread/liquid sealer provides a better seal for metal on metal threaded connectors. It also prevents any loose pieces entering the air system, which plumber tape can sometimes do.
The beauty of this challenge was there was no need for any drilling or modifications to the vehicle, except for mounting the solenoid and remote controller box.
The whole process needs little technical skill, but it does need proper planning, and the location of your compressor will define the routing of the hoses. While many choose to run hoses under the cab and along chassis rails, I preferred to keep as much as possible inside the cab, as I wanted to minimise any errant offroad obstacles snagging a hose.
After many hours, I concluded I would locate the solenoid and controller in a gap at the side of the rear drawers, which was conveniently close to the auxiliary battery. I would then route the main inlet hose from the solenoid along the floor, through a rubber grommet on the firewall and up to the compressor. The other two hoses for each airbag were to be routed via another rubber grommet just above the left tail-light, which luckily is easily removed. With a convenient gap in this rear light cavity, I wanted to route these hoses towards the original air valves positioned on the rear bumper.
The first job was securing the solenoid and remote controller, which was straightforward as it was just drilling four measured holes on the side of the drawers and using the supplied Allen bolts. An 8mm spanner and Allen key
Next, I snapped in place one end of the main inlet hose after I encased it in split tube, and routed it toward the compressor by lifting the plastic trims along the lower door sills and eventually pushing it through the grommet in the firewall. It’s worth noting that the hose can be ungainly and, while there is some flexibility, it’s not a hose that can turn sharp right angles or else you’ll kink the hose and suffer poor air flow or leaks.
Once I reached the compressor, I undid the ARB air-chuck off the compressor and, after using thread sealer, I screwed the brass T-piece in place, and then piggy-backed on the original air-chuck, which still allows me to inflate my tyres normally. Then, the Airbag Man-supplied straight fitting 1/4in PTC x 1/4in with sealer was screwed in place. This allows the inlet hose to simply clip in by hand once I trimmed it to length. A few cables ties neatened the job.
Next step was to install the remote pressure sensors, which are the size of a small marble. With easy access to the hoses in the tail-light cavity, I cut each hose and inserted the supplied plastic T-pieces in-line with a convincing clunk at both ends. After dabbing on some thread sealer, I screwed in the two supplied straight fittings which allowed me to firmly screw in the sensors. There is no need to over tighten as the sealant and washers will prevent air leakage.
Once this was done, I replaced the grommet and utilised electrical tape to secure and neaten the job. Reinstalling the rear tail-light was the finishing part for this section.
Crawling under the car, I accessed each original air hose that ran between the airbag and the original inflation valves and neatly cut each hose about 30cm from each valve. This allowed me to clamp on the supplied plastic Y-connectors. The bottom of the Y is reconnected to the airbag line where I cut. For the other two ends, one is reconnected to the original corresponding inflation valve where I cut, and the other is connected to the hose coming from the solenoid. Repeat for the other hose. This configuration still allows a backup method of inflation. A few cable ties secured the hoses up high in the chassis.
With the hoses in place the last task was electrical. The remote controller has three wires attached. The red was connected to 12V power via a 7.5A fuse. The brown, along with the black off the solenoid, are negative so to reach a good earth, I soldered an extra length to reach the battery terminal.
The yellow is an ignition wire. This needed to be connected to any source that comes live when the ignition is set to on — it’s mainly to prevent battery drain. Luckily, I already had a dedicated wire close by.
With everything in place, I placed the wireless gauge in the cigarette plug, switched to ignition and immediately saw/heard an alarm indicating below 5psi (the default low alarm setting that can be customised if needed, as can the maximum).
After switching on my ARB compressor from my in-cab switch and pressing the remote control, I was rewarded with success. I was able to raise and lower each side as expected.
The pressures showed up clearly on the gauge too, though getting the pressure to your preferred, exact number takes some practice. Beauty, my work was done.
The task took me all day but turned out to be a very satisfying outcome. I also found the guys at Airbag Man to be most helpful with nothing being too hard to address.
I highly recommend this kit for those who change their rigs often or those who like to make life easier on the road.
P.S. Airbag Man also supplies its own more compact compressor if you choose. Although it’s not designed to inflate tyres, it could be a worthwhile option for many.