Big trucks – especially articulated vehicles – work safer for longer with an air spring maintenance checklist

Heavy truck suspension airbags take a pounding. Unless they are top quality OEM standard air spring suspensions, they may leak sooner rather than later

Heavy truck suspension airbags take a pounding. Unless they are top quality OEM standard air spring suspensions, they may leak sooner rather than later. And even the toughest premium air springs benefit from planned maintenance inspections to ensure optimum safety and service lives over hundreds of thousands of kilometres.

Well maintained suspension is particularly important in winter, when it is relied upon to maintain optimum road contact, steering, braking, and stability in rough conditions.

“Road-friendly air suspension systems increase the ability of trucks, trailers, and coaches to transport loads by levelling the suspension and enhancing stability, control, and safety over Australia’s diverse and demanding network of more than 870,000 km of public roads, says Russell Chown of Air Springs Supply Pty Ltd, national distributor of Firestone Industrial Products, including the original Firestone Airide™ air bags for heavy vehicles.

“Some of the roughest roads are used by some of the biggest articulated road trains, so maintenance becomes doubly vital to their safety and reliability. The bigger the vehicle, the greater the benefit of a regular checklist of inspections. Take articulated vehicles for example, which each year carry about 175 million tonne-kilometres (tkm) of freight in this country, accounting for nearly 80 per cent of the total. Then there is another 40-million plus tkm carried by rigid trucks, which share a sensible checklist to get best performance from airbag suspensions.

Russell says users who find a fault using the checklist should take corrective action to ensure that it is fixed properly – “The Australian heavy vehicle fleet has an average age far greater than the international standard. These are tough trucks, which can go great distances on well sorted air suspensions.”

“But they need top maintenance to do it. It will save fleets and individual owners both time and money to ensure that any emerging issues are detected handy to workshops, rather than out in the middle of nowhere. A little time invested in advance of major journeys can be and ensure maximum productive uptime and the ongoing safety of Australia’s hard-worked heavy vehicle fleet, which includes nearly 360,000 rigids over 4.5t GVM and more than 105,000 articulated trucks, says Russell, who is Sales Manager at Air Springs Supply, which, through its national network established over 50 years, is a leading supplier of both vehicle and industrial air springs to industries including road transport, logistics, rail, mining, energy, manufacturing, construction, infrastructure, earthmoving, and civil engineering. In addition to providing the world’s top selling OEM airbags, Air Springs Supply also offers quality alternatives to a host of other major brands.

Since the 1930’s, Firestone has designed and manufactured more air springs for more applications than any other company in the world. As a result, almost all Class 8 trucks (with gross weights exceeding 15,000kg) and many of the trailers on the road today now ride on air springs. Firestone engineers lead the way in developing and testing anti-vibration solutions for a variety of commercial vehicle applications, including truck cabins and interiors, seats, chassis mounts and powertrain mounts.
Since the 1930’s, Firestone has designed and manufactured more air springs for more applications than any other company in the world. As a result, almost all Class 8 trucks (with gross weights exceeding 15,000kg) and many of the trailers on the road today now ride on air springs. Firestone engineers lead the way in developing and testing anti-vibration solutions for a variety of commercial vehicle applications, including truck cabins and interiors, seats, chassis mounts and powertrain mounts.

 

Preventative Maintenance Checklist

Mr Chown says the following simple checks will pay dividends (noting that users should never attempt to actually service the air suspension on a truck or trailer with the air springs inflated).

 

  1. Inspect the Outside Diameter (O.D.) of the air spring. Check for signs of irregular wear or heat cracking.
  2. Inspect air lines to make sure contact doesn’t exist between the air line and the O.D. of the air spring. Air lines can rub a hole in an air spring very quickly.
  3. Check to see that there is sufficient clearance around the complete circumference of the air spring while at its maximum diameter.
  4. Inspect the O.D. of the piston for build-up of foreign materials. (On a reversible sleeve style air spring, the piston is the bottom component of the air spring).
  5. Correct ride height should be maintained. All vehicles with air springs have a specified ride height established by the O.E.M. manufacturer. This height, which is found in your service manual, should be maintained within 1/4” (6.3mm). This dimension can be checked with the vehicle loaded or empty.
  6. Leveling valves (or height control valves) play a large part in ensuring that the total air spring system works as required. Clean, inspect and replace, if necessary.
  7. Make sure you have the proper shock absorbers and check for leaking hydraulic oil and worn or broken end connectors. If a broken shock is found, replace it immediately. The shock absorber will normally limit the rebound of an air spring and keep it from overextending.
  8. Check the tightness of all mounting hardware (nuts and bolts). If loose, re-torque to the manufacturer’s specifications. Do not over-tighten.
  9. Use the right cleaning media because use of incorrect media can cause damage and void warranties. In the case of Firestone, for example, approved cleaning media are soap and water, methyl alcohol, ethyl alcohol and isopropyl alcohol. Non-approved cleaning media include all organic solvents, open flames, abrasives, and direct pressurised steam cleaning.
The Headquarters of Air Springs Supply, which has a national distribution network built up over 50 years and extending to all parts of the country with quality product and service
The Headquarters of Air Springs Supply, which has a national distribution network built up over 50 years and extending to all parts of the country with quality product and service