Best Airbag Suspension for Towing a Caravan

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Airbag suspension for towing a caravan

If you’re thinking about hooking up and having a great Aussie adventure, there are quite a few things to consider before you leave the driveway.

Upgrading your tow vehicle’s suspension so that it does its job is one of those important areas. Airbag suspension for towing a caravan is an option many people opt for these days (although it is not necessary).

We chose to install Airbag Man’s Air Bag Suspension to pull our caravan across the country. Here we will take a closer look at what airbag suspension actually is, its advantages for towing, and we will share the installation process with you.

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All about airbag suspension

Airbag Man Suspension

What are airbags?

Airbag suspension systems are essentially strong ‘balloons’ that can be pumped up or down to level your vehicle. They are generally made of very heavy duty rubber or polyurethane, which can withstand the incredible weight and compressive forces exerted on them by a vehicle traveling at high speed.

How does airbag suspension work?

The biggest problem with dropping a caravan or trailer on your towbar is the ‘sagging’ that occurs at the rear of the tow vehicle. Towing with a sag effectively takes the weight off the front axles, compromising your braking and steering ability.

When you hitch up your caravan or trailer, you can inflate the Airbags to prevent sagging at the rear of the towing vehicle. Then, when you disengage, you can let some air out of the Airbags to bring the ride height back down so your vehicle is level again.

Using airbags also gives you the ability to tow without having to use a weight distribution clutch, which is another topic in itself.

Different types of airbags

Airbags come in a range of different styles, so you can be sure that there is something to suit every vehicle and configuration. Here are the three most popular types of airbag suspension available.

Coil Assisted Airbags

  • Mounted in existing coil spring
  • Airbags dampen the spring
  • Provide extra support and stability to the spring
  • Helps distribute the weight of the load more evenly
  • Easily inflated/deflated for vehicle loading
Coil Assisted Airbags
Coil Assisted Airbags

Leaf-assisted airbags

  • Matching Leaf Springs
  • Provide additional support and assistance in carrying the load
  • Helps distribute the weight of the load more evenly
  • Easily inflated/deflated for vehicle loading
Leaf-assisted airbags
Leaf-assisted airbags

Full (coil replacement) airbag suspension

  • Completely replaces coil springs
  • Softer, cloudy ride
  • Suitable for heavier loads
  • Greater lifting capacity
  • Easily inflated/deflated for vehicle loading
Full coil replacement airbags
Airbags for coil replacement

Frequently asked questions about airbags

How do I know if I need airbags?

If you’re carrying uneven loads that cause your vehicle to sag (front, rear, or on either side), you’ll most likely need airbags. If you’re not sure if you need them to tow your caravan, talk to the guys at Airbag Man Suspension.

Do I need an air compressor?

No, you don’t need a compressor, although it is an optional extra that makes life much easier. Each Airbag has its own inflation valve, the same as what you find on your tires. I recommend getting a portable air compressor for your vehicle if you want to regularly inflate and deflate the airbags. If not, you can easily use the air facilities at local gas stations for free (the machines are indeed in working order when you need them!).

Can I use my old suspension/shocks?

Yes, as long as your old suspension doesn’t sag or get tired you can use your existing suspension/shock absorbers.

Can I install airbags myself?

You can buy the Airbag Suspension Kit and install it yourself if you are sure. If not, get a professional to install them.

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Airbag Man Using Airbags for Towing

Connecting with airbag suspension
Connecting the caravan with Full Airbag Suspension

Before heading out, we installed Airbag Man’s Coil Assisted Airbags under the patrol. We have enjoyed using the Coil Assisted Airbags during our first three years of towing. They have always served us very well and allowed us to even out our ride if needed.

But since the evolution of life on the road is such, we decided to upgrade to Airbag Man’s Full Airbag Suspension with in-cab controls. That gave us the ability to air the bags up and down with the push of a button in the cab, making hooking up quicker and easier. Plus, we wanted a smoother ride and more control over ride height.

After experiencing both types of suspension, below are some of the benefits we have found using full Airbag Man Suspension for towing a caravan.

General benefits of installing tow airbags:

  • Adjust the height of the vehicle for coupling and uncoupling
  • Easy to level your ride
  • Eliminates spring subsidence
  • Safer charging
  • Improved steering and handling
  • Better braking
  • Stabilize Body Role
  • Prevents bottoming
  • Less tire wear

Benefits of full airbag suspension

One of the biggest benefits we found with Airbag Man’s Full Airbag Suspension (as opposed to the Coil Assisted Airbags) was the ability to adjust the vehicle height when it came to attaching and detaching the caravan on uneven terrain.

Sometimes we found that the drawbar was just a little too low to get the car underneath, so we could easily lower the pressure in the Airbags to get the tow bar underneath.

And vice versa, sometimes the height of the car was too high and the nose wheel of the caravan did not even touch the ground when uncoupling the bus. With Full Airbags you can easily release some of the air pressure, lowering the height of the car until the nose wheel hits the ground when rolling.

There have also been times when we tried to hook up or disconnect while the car and van were at such different heights that it could have been precariously dangerous. So having the Full Airbags made hooking up much safer in those conditions. We were able to raise or lower the height of the car and van to match the terrain, rather than trying to increase the height with blocks.

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Airbag Man Install Airbag Suspension

Have airbags fitted
Away with the Coil Assisted Airbags and in with the Full Airbags

If you are a handy person, you will not have too much trouble installing Airbag Suspension yourself. All kits come with every piece you need along with a good set of instructions.

If you are not sure about installing the Airbags yourself, Airbag Man has specialists across the country who can install the upgraded suspension for you. Alternatively, you can take it to a local mechanical workshop for assembly.

Who fits our Airbag Man Suspension?

We adjusted all the gauges, wiring, air lines and so on ourselves while camping by the river at Gumma Reserve in Macksville, NSW. It’s amazing what you can achieve while camping off-grid!

It was a little too difficult to fit the actual Airbags while beach camping purely because our car is being lifted and we had no solid ground to work on, or jack that would go high enough.

We knew we needed a hoist for the last piece of the puzzle, so we got it with the guys from Blueflame Automotive in the northern beaches of Sydney, since we went there anyway.

A few hours in the workshop finished the job and we were good to go.

Install video

Watch our full installation video for installing the Airbag Man Airbag Suspension in our Nissan GU Patrol (including On-board Air Control Kit + Full Airbag Suspension), plus see the airbags in action.

Installation instructions

Below is a general guide to installing full airbag suspension in your vehicle to give you an idea of ​​the process. These instructions are for vehicles that already have a built-in air compressor. Please refer to the detailed instructions in your kit for installation or ask a professional to install them for you.

Installing the Built-in Air Control Kit

On-board controls for airbags
Operation on board and meter

The onboard Air Control Kit comes with all the switches and gauges to control your airbags from the cabin.

Install Built-in Air Control Kit
Step 1 Mount air connection to existing air compressor
Step 2 Digital Meter Positioning and Wiring
Step 3 Electric Rocker Switch Positioning
Step 4 Position valve block
Step 5 Aviation and Wiring Connection
Step 6 Toggle Switch to Valve Block Wiring
Step 7 Airlines
Step 8 leak test
Step 9 Put everything back together

Installing the Full Airbag Suspension

Full airbag suspension
Full airbag suspension

The Full Airbag Suspension Kit comes with all the fittings, hardware and associated parts you need for installation.

Install full airbags
Step 1 Remove the coil springs
Step 2 Twist around the control arm pins
Step 3 Trim the upper towers
Step 4 Install the spring seat support
Step 5 Install the bottom bracket
Step 6 Install straight air fitting
Step 7 Pre-assemble airbag & top brackets
Step 8 Install the Bump Stop Extensions
Step 9 Install the airbag on the vehicle
Step 10 Install the inflation valves
Step 11 Fit air line hoses
Step 12 leak test
Step 13 Put everything back together
Step 14 Airbag height & alignment

If you would like to know more about Airbag Man Suspension Kits or have any questions, please feel free to contact the crew at: Airbag Man who are more than helpful.

Do you have Airbag Suspension for towing your caravan? Let us know what you think in the comments below.

Disclaimer – The Full Airbag Suspension Kit was supplied to us (excluding installation) by Airbag Man for the purpose of providing detailed information to other caravanners installing towing vehicle suspension.

Originally published: April 2020 Updated: May 2022

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