Coil vs. Air Suspension – Pros and Cons
When it comes to coil vs. air suspension pros and cons of each are important points of comparison. Each system has its own unique advantages, and depending on your needs and your budget, one may be a better fit than the other.
In this article, we take a look at the differences between coil and air suspensions—how they are made, how they work, and, more importantly, how they fail.
Air suspension pros and cons
Air suspensions have clear benefits for drivers, but the systems themselves also have plenty of drawbacks. Let’s take a closer look.
Air suspension pros
Air suspensions excel at what they are designed to do: provide a very comfortable ride to drivers and passengers. Using a complex system of moving parts and computers, these active suspension systems respond to even minor changes in the road to keep the ride smooth.
Here are just a few of the components that make up your air suspension system:
Air springs. Also referred to as air bags or air struts, the air springs in your vehicle are what support the weight of your vehicle. Made of a flexible rubber, these sacs inflate with pressurized air to get your vehicle to its proper ride height.
Air compressor. This mechanical device generates pressurized air and pushes it into the air springs to keep them properly inflated.
Suspension control module. Your air suspension has an onboard computer that interprets signals from the ride height sensors and instructs the air compressor on how much air to generate and where to send it.
Ride height sensors. Located at each wheel, these mechanical sensors read your vehicle’s ride height constantly and send that information to the suspension control module.
Air lines. Your suspension system uses rubber and plastic air hoses to transport pressurized air from the compressor to the air springs.
Air suspension cons
But it’s that very complexity that leads to the drawbacks with air suspensions. Moving parts, by nature, are going to wear out and need replacing at some point. And when they do, they cause additional wear and tear on all the other components in the system. This leads to inevitable and persistent air suspension problems, such as:
- Broken air spring. Because they are made of a flexible rubber, air springs are especially prone to being punctured, torn, or drying out and cracking. This problem is especially pronounced in colder climates.
- Worn out compressor. Like all components that rely on moving parts, the compressor gradually wears out over time, becoming less and less efficient until it stops working properly altogether.
- Ripped or punctured air lines. Made of flexible plastic or rubber, these air lines can be easily punctured by rocks or other debris from the road. If this happens, the compressor will have to work overtime to compensate.
- Broken ride height sensor. This small mechanical piece has a tendency to wear out over time, due to its constant movement. Once it does, it can cause errors in the ride height reporting, which in turn can cause problems throughout the rest of the system.
The high cost of air suspensions
Another major issue with air suspension systems is the expense. These high-tech systems require equally high-tech parts, most of which are extremely specialized. Anyone who knows anything about car repairs can tell you, anything that falls into those categories is also going to be high-cost.
Just one replacement OEM air spring can cost you more than $1,000, depending on the make and model of your vehicle. These parts, just like many of the other matching sets within your air suspension system, wear out at the same rate. That means once one breaks or fails, the rest are sure to follow.
Eventually, you’ll need to replace all of your air springs to completely fix your air suspension, meaning spending more than $4,000 on air springs alone. That doesn’t include labor or other costly components such as the suspension control module or air compressor.
Coil suspension pros and cons
While they are a much older technology and lack the bells and whistles of an air suspension, coil suspensions still have plenty of advantages over air suspensions. Let’s dive a little deeper.
Coil suspension pros
Coil suspensions do a lot of things well, but they succeed the most where air suspensions fail: simplicity and durability. Their relatively simple design that features robust static parts instead of flimsy moving parts makes for a durable system that stands up to wear and tear
much better and much longer.
Here’s what makes up a coilover suspension:
- Struts. Made from hardened steel, these tubes do most of the job of supporting the weight of your vehicle. Since they don’t need to move, they can be made from heavy-duty materials that don’t wear down easily.
- Coil springs. Steel springs allow for some give to where your vehicle sits, reducing the impact of bumps and dips in the road. Properly tuned and rated, they can provide a comfortable ride that compares to an air suspension.
- Mounts. Located at the upper and lower end of the strut, these seats are what connect the struts to your vehicle.
- Bump stop. Usually made of industrial-grade tough rubber, these pads stop the frame of your vehicle from bumping up against the struts.
Coil suspension cons
It is true that coil suspensions don’t offer the exact same ride quality as air suspensions. Coilover suspensions are passive suspension systems, using mechanical resistance to hold your vehicle up. On the other hand, air suspensions actively respond to road changes.
However, in the hands of quality engineers and manufacturers, coil systems can be tuned and rated to provide the perfect balance of give and support for your specific vehicle. The result is a ride that comes very close to matching the air ride quality.
Often, coil springs can give a vehicle a sportier feel, which some drivers do prefer. The added stiffness can allow the car to feel more responsive in some cases and easier to maneuver.
The cost of coil suspensions
There is almost no comparing the cost of a coil suspension to that of an air suspension. With only a few simple components, a coilover system can cost a fraction of what an air suspension system costs. In fact, many Strutmasters kits which replace all four wheels of your suspension cost only a little more than just one air spring.
Coil suspensions can save you money on labor too. Strutmasters suspension replacement kits are so easy to install, many customers choose to do it at home, using only a few simple tools and a sturdy jack. By comparison, air suspension repairs can have even the most experienced mechanic under the hood for hours and hours, leading to massive shop fees on top of expensive parts.
Coil vs. air suspension: pros and cons
When you compare coil vs. air suspension pros and cons, you get a clear picture of the differences.
Air suspensions may provide a slightly more comfortable ride, but are almost guaranteed to wear out and fail at some point during your vehicle’s lifetime. And when they do, the expense is enormous.
Coil suspensions, on the other hand, may sacrifice a small amount of ride comfort. What you get in exchange is a durable, long-lasting ride that may offer a kind of handling you prefer. If you do experience problems, they are much cheaper and easier to fix.
While air suspensions may be great for some who feel they really need the smoothest ride possible, a coil suspension is a much more economical and practical choice.
That’s especially true when you go with a manufacturer like Strutmasters, who invests real resources into the research and development of their kits. In each kit, the springs are properly tuned and rated to provide the closest possible ride to your original air suspension. These kits are also made from high-quality materials right here in the USA, meaning Strutmasters has a high degree of quality control and quality assurance over their manufacturing.
Convert to a coil suspension today and start saving money
If you’re ready to ditch a troublesome (or soon-to-be troublesome) air suspension in favor of a much more robust and reliable coil suspension, you can search for your make and model in our inventory. Strutmasters manufactures kits for hundreds of car models, but never until we’re completely satisfied with a kit’s performance. Look for your model in the widget below.
Didn’t find what you need or still have questions? Don’t hesitate to reach out to our suspension experts are standing by to help you on email firstname.lastname@example.org. They can line you up with exactly what you need or fill you in on any information you might not have.
Don’t let the cons of an air suspension keep you enjoying your vehicle. Convert your vehicle today and get back on the road.