Airbag Suspension for Towing a Caravan

Best Airbag Suspension for Towing a Caravan

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If you’re thinking about hitching up and taking off on an awesome Aussie adventure, there are quite a few things to consider for your set-up before you even leave the driveway.

Upgrading your tow vehicle’s suspension so that it’s up to the task is one of those key areas. Airbag suspension for towing a caravan is an option many people are opting for these days (although it’s not essential).

We chose to install Airbag Man’s Air Bag Suspension for towing our caravan around the country. Here we will delve deeper into what exactly Air Bag Suspension is and what its benefits are for towing, plus we’ll run through the installation process.

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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 out your vehicle. They’re generally made from a very heavy-duty rubber or polyurethane, which is able to withstand the incredible weight and pressure forces placed upon them by a vehicle moving at high speed.

How Does Airbag Suspension Work?

The main problem when dropping a caravan or trailer onto your tow ball is the ‘sagging’ that occurs in the rear of the tow vehicle. Towing with a sag effectively lifts the weight off the front axles, compromising your braking and steering capabilities.

When you hitch up your caravan or trailer, you can pump up the Airbags to stop the sagging in the rear end of the tow vehicle. Then when you unhitch you can let some air out of the Airbags to bring the ride height back down so that your vehicle is level again.

The use of Airbags also gives you the option to tow without having to use a Weight Distribution Hitch, which is another topic unto its own.

Getting a Caravan Level for Towing →

Different Airbag Types

Airbags come in a range of different styles, so rest assured that there is something to suit every vehicle and set up. Here are the three most popular types of airbag suspension available.

Coil Assisted Airbags

  • Fitted inside existing Coil Spring
  • Airbags cushion the spring
  • Provide additional support & stability to the spring
  • Helps to more evenly distribute load weight
  • Easily inflated/ deflated for vehicle loading
Coil Assisted Airbags
Coil Assisted Airbags

Leaf Assisted Airbags

  • To suit Leaf Springs
  • Provide additional support and load carrying assistance
  • Helps to more evenly distribute load weight
  • Easily inflated/ deflated for vehicle loading
Leaf Assisted Airbags
Leaf Assisted Airbags

Full (Coil Replacement) Airbag Suspension

  • Completely replaces Coil Springs
  • Softer, cloud-like ride
  • Can accommodate heavier loads
  • Greater lifting capacity
  • Easily inflated/ deflated for vehicle loading
Full Coil Replacement Airbags
Coil Replacement Airbags

Airbag FAQ’s

How do I know if I need Airbags?

If you carry uneven loads that cause your vehicle to sag (in the front, rear or either side), then you’ll most likely need Airbags. If you’re unsure if you’ll need them for towing your caravan, have a chat 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 which makes life much easier. Each Airbag will have its own inflation valve, which is the same as what you’ll find on your tyres. I recommend getting yourself a portable air compressor for your vehicle if you’re going to be inflating and deflating the Airbags regularly. If not, you can easily use the air facilities at local petrol stations for free (granted the machines are actually in working order when you need them!).

Can I use my old suspension/ shocks

Yes, as long as your old suspension isn’t sagging or tired, you can use your existing suspension/ shocks.

Can I fit Airbags myself?

You can buy the Airbag Suspension Kit and fit it yourself if you’re confident. If not, get a professional to install them.

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Caravan Buyers Guide (15-page)

Caravan Buyers Guide

Take the stress out of buying a caravan with this interactive step-by-step guide!

  • 15-page Guide
  • Checklists to tick off
  • Interactive prompts to fill out
  • STEPS INCLUDE: Budget, Set-up, Towing Weights, PPSR Check, Handover, Hitching Up & more!
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Using Airbag Man Airbags for Towing

Hitching Up with Airbag Suspension
Hitching up the caravan with Full Airbag Suspension

Before we hit the road, we installed Airbag Man’s Coil Assisted Airbags under our Patrol. We happily used the Coil Assisted Airbags for our first three years of towing. They always served us really well and enabled us to level our ride out as necessary.

But, such is the evolution of life on the road, 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 flick of a switch inside the cab, making hitching up quicker and easier. Plus, we were keen for a smoother ride and being able to have more control over the ride height.

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

General benefits of fitting Airbags for towing

  • Adjust height of vehicle for hitching & unhitching
  • Easy to level out your ride
  • Eliminates spring sag
  • Safer load carrying
  • Improved steering & handling
  • Better braking
  • Stabilise body roll
  • Prevents bottoming out
  • Reduced tyre wear
Work Out Your Towing Weights →

Benefits of having Full Airbag Suspension

One of the greatest benefits we found for having Airbag Man’s Full Airbag Suspension (as opposed to the Coil Assisted Airbags) was having the ability to adjust the vehicle height when it came to hitching and unhitching the caravan on uneven ground.

Sometimes we found that the draw bar was just a little bit too low to get the car underneath, so we could easily drop the pressure in the Airbags to get the tow hitch to drop underneath it.

And vice versa, sometimes the height of the car was too high and the caravan jockey wheel wouldn’t even touch the ground when unhitching the van. With Full Airbags you can simply release some of the air pressure, which will lower the height of the car until the jockey wheel touches the ground when winding it down.

There have also been times where we were trying to hitch or unhitch with the car and van being at such different heights that things could have been precariously dangerous. So, having the Full Airbags made hitching up much safer in those circumstances. We were able to bring the height of the car and the van up or down to match each other based on the terrain, rather than trying to bring the height up with chocks.

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Installing Airbag Man Airbag Suspension

Getting Airbags Fitted
Out with the Coil Assisted Airbags and in with the Full Airbags

If you’re a handy kind of person, you won’t have too much trouble installing Airbag Suspension yourself. All kits come with every piece that you’ll need along with a good set of instructions.

If you don’t feel confident fitting the Airbags yourself, Airbag Man has specialists all over the country who can install the upgraded suspension for you. Alternatively, you can take it to a local mechanical workshop for fitment.

Who fit our Airbag Man Suspension?

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

It was a bit too difficult to fit the actual Airbags while beach camping, purely because our car is lifted and we didn’t have solid ground to work on, or jacks that would go high enough.

We knew we’d need a hoist for the last piece of the puzzle, so we teed it up with the guys at Blueflame Automotive in Sydney’s Northern Beaches, since we were making our way down there anyway.

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

Install Video

Here’s a great video with the guys at Airbag Man, showing exactly how to install Full Air Suspension underneath a 200 Series Landcruiser.

Installation Instructions

Below is a general guide to installing Full Airbag Suspension in your vehicle, just to give you an idea of the process. These instructions are for vehicles that already have an on-board air compressor. Please refer to the detailed instructions in your kit before installation or get a professional to install them for you.

Installing the On-board Air Control Kit

On-board Controls for Airbags
On-board controls & gauge

The On-board Air Control Kit comes with all switches and gauges to allow you to control your Airbags from inside the cab.

Installing On-board Air Control Kit
Step 1Fit air connection to existing air compressor
Step 2Digital gauge positioning & wiring
Step 3Electric rocker switch positioning
Step 4Valve block positioning
Step 5Airline & wiring connection
Step 6Rocker switch to valve block wiring
Step 7Airline tubing
Step 8Leak test
Step 9Put everything back together

Installing the Full Air Bag Suspension

Full Airbag Suspension
Full Airbag Suspension

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

Installing Full Air Bags
Step 1Remove the coil springs
Step 2Turn around the control arm pins
Step 3Trim the upper towers
Step 4Install the spring seat support
Step 5Install the lower bracket
Step 6Install straight air fitting
Step 7Preassemble Airbag & upper brackets
Step 8Fit the bump stop extensions
Step 9Fit the Airbag assembly to the vehicle
Step 10Position the inflation valves
Step 11Fit airline tubing
Step 12Leak test
Step 13Put everything back together
Step 14Airbag height & alignment

If you want to find out more about Airbag Man Suspension Kits or have any questions, feel free to contact the crew at Airbag Man who are more than helpful.

Disclaimer – The Full Airbag Suspension Kit was supplied (excluding installation) for us by Airbag Man for the purpose of providing detailed information for other caravanners who are setting up tow vehicle suspension.

More Info on Towing Weights:

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6 thoughts on “Best Airbag Suspension for Towing a Caravan”

  1. We currently have a Silverado 2500 on order, eta June 2023 and are looking at installing an airbag suspension helper kit for the leaf springs, do you have appropriate kits available and at what cost.

  2. Have been using Air Bag systems since 2007. First on our Rodeo 4X4 and now on our 2016 Izusu D Max 4X4. They’ve always been a very helpful product. We do quite a lot of outback Gascoyne, Murchison, Goldfields, Wheatbelt, Great Southern, South West and any other W.A. country roads and tracks. Very happy with them.

    1. I have a Toyota Coaster I’m looking at installing a rear set,how much are they?and do u have a garage in Bundaburg qld that could install them at what cost

  3. Hi guys. I have a 100 series toyota landcruiser2004 model.
    I have just brought a 21-6 Silverline van by Jayco.
    It has about 180/200 kts on the ball, and as such takes some weight of the front wheels .
    I have some level riders which I have tried, and with chains on third link return the car to normal with the van in tow.
    But the are a real pain, a to install, use and put up with. As well there is a faint it of extra weight.
    I have watched a couple of videos on this subject , and they say the air bags will return rear of car to normal, but won’t put the load back on the front wheels.
    My son in law has a homemade camping pud he puts on the back of his Navara ute to off set the load,and is very happy with it.
    Can you explain please.
    Cheers Gerry.

    1. Hi Gerry. The main aim of the Airbags is to stop the sagging in the rear of the vehicle. It’s the sagging that causes the front of the vehicle to lift and can negatively affect the steering and handling of the car. The Weight Distribution Hitches are designed to do the same thing, although we aren’t fans of them (you can’t take them off road, for example). Your best bet would be the ring the guys at Airbag Man, they’re super helpful and will be able to fully explain it all to you.

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