Aftermarket Suspension Kits: Everything You Should Know
When it comes to replacement parts for your vehicle, you have two categories to choose from: original equipment manufacturer (OEM) and aftermarket suspension kits. OEM parts are made by the same manufacturer that produced the original parts on your car and are often identical. Aftermarket parts are parts designed for your vehicle but made by a third-party manufacturer.
Though the parts may look the same, there are some key differences. People often see OEM parts as a safe bet because they match—or often are—the original part. While this is true, OEM parts come with a very important drawback: isn’t that the exact same part that just broke on your car?
You can always do worse than an OEM part, for sure, but the truth is, you can always do better, too.
Aftermarket suspension kits have the advantage of not being tied to the same manufacturer and specifications of the original part. That means they can choose stronger materials or work out design flaws that caused the original parts to fail. Engineers who design aftermarket parts have the luxury of seeing the mistakes in the original and having a chance to correct them.
What comes packaged in an aftermarket suspension kit?
The items that make up an aftermarket suspension kit depend on whether you are purchasing an aftermarket air suspension kit or an aftermarket coil suspension kit. Let’s look at the differences.
Aftermarket air suspension kit components
Air suspensions are made up of interconnected moving parts and computer-controlled components. Here are just a few of the components that comprise an air suspension kit:
- Air springs. Also known as air struts or air bags, air springs are what supports the weight of your vehicle and keeps it off of the ground. These sacs, made of flexible rubber, inflate and deflate to account for changes in the road.
- Air compressor. This mechanical component generates the pressurized air used to inflate the air springs. It also sends that air to the air springs via the air lines.
- Suspension control module. This onboard computer controls all the operations of an air suspension. It reads signals from the ride height sensors and then determines how much air is needed in each air spring. Then, it instructs the air compressor on how much pressurized air to generate and where to send it.
- Ride height sensors. Mounted at each corner of the vehicle, these mechanical sensors constantly read the height of your vehicle from the road. They also send this information to the suspension control module for processing.
- Air lines. Flexible rubber and plastic air hoses carry air into the air springs from the air compressor.
As you can see, air suspensions are high-tech, complicated systems. That means they usually come at a high-tech, complicated price. And while you can find reputable manufacturers that make high-quality aftermarket air suspension kits, they also come at a considerable cost to install.
All-in-all, you’d have to spend several thousand dollars to purchase and install an aftermarket air suspension kit. For many people, that’s just not an option. But a less expensive solution might be.
Coil suspension kit components
Coil suspensions are much simpler than air suspensions. Instead of moving parts and computers, they are made up of static components that use mechanical resistance to get the job done.
Here is what you’ll find inside a coil suspension kit.
- Struts. Sturdy metal tubes, often filled with pressurized gas, hold your vehicle up off of the ground.
- Coil springs. Steel springs allow for give and travel in your suspension system while still supporting the weight of the vehicle.
- Mounts. Found at the upper and lower end of the struts, mounts connect the struts to the body of your vehicle.
- Bump stops. These thick rubber pads prevent the struts from bumping into the body of your vehicle.
If this kit sounds simpler, it’s because it is. And because these parts don’t need to move or flex, they can be manufactured with much stronger materials. Aftermarket coil suspension kits made by the right manufacturer can be far more durable than an air suspension.
The simplicity of these kits also means they are much less expensive. High-quality suspension replacement kits with coilover suspensions often cost around as much as just one replacement air spring. And since they have fewer components and less complicated ones, they’re much easier to install, saving you tons on your labor bill.
What should you look for in an aftermarket suspension kit?
It’s important to recognize that not all aftermarket suspension kits are made the same. Some manufacturers looking to cut costs do it by cutting corners on their manufacturing. Whether they hire the lowest bidder to make their products or use cheaper materials to do it, the result can be kits that are unreliable or fit poorly.
Here are a few things you should look for in an aftermarket suspension kit:
- Materials. Suspensions hold up the weight of your car—and everything inside it, including you and your passengers. Make sure that the components in any aftermarket suspension kit you buy are made with high-quality materials like strong steel alloys.
- Manufacturing process. Cold-wound springs are the gold standard for suspension springs. This is because hot-wound springs need to be tempered after they are wound, which can make them susceptible to cracking.
- Fit. Every car is different, and that means every car has different needs from its suspension. Some companies think “good enough” is acceptable for their suspension kits. Make sure you find a suspension kit made by a company who puts in the resources to engineer and test each product for the model it’s designed to fit.
- Manufacturing quality. Where was your kit manufactured? Companies that use factories in faraway countries have much less oversight over the process. Look for kits manufactured domestically, so you know that the company making them can easily enforce their standards.
- Accountability. You want to make sure you buy your aftermarket suspension kit from a company that stands behind its products. Look for a company that offers some kind of warranty or guarantee with its suspension kits.
The right aftermarket suspension kit, made the right way
Since 1999, American Air Suspension has been a leader in the aftermarket suspension kit industry. With more than two decades of experience, American Air Suspension has perfected the production of suspension replacement kits that are both reliable and affordable.
The engineers at American Air Suspension design each kit to fit its corresponding model perfectly. With the company’s patented Glide Ride Technology, these coil suspension kits come as close as possible to matching a vehicle’s original air ride.
Each kit is made in the USA, allowing American Air Suspension to maintain strict quality standards and ensure that every component is made with the best materials—right down to the nuts, bolts, and washers.
To vouch for this quality, American Air Suspension offers a one-year warranty on each of its kits. The company also offers a limited lifetime guarantee on the springs themselves. That means that air suspension problems will be the furthest thing from your mind for a long time to come.