Sunday, September 14, 2014

Giving the truck a little bit of a lift

I would like to think that it was something that I did to get a truck and trailer combination that are so well matched for each other, but with the way things came together, I don't think that I can take all of the credit. Never the less, we enjoy having a truck that can pull our trailer so easily, and that the trailer falls into the load and towing capacities of the truck. I haven't been concerned or had to deal with headlights pointing up or the back end sagging too much. But there is always room to make things better, which is why we decided to add air bags to the rear suspension to help improve the ride and comfort while towing.

We purchased the Load Lifter 5000 air bags (Amazon link) from Air Lift, getting the specific model for the 2012 Ford F 350. I believe the air bags themselves are the same, but the mounting hardware is vehicle specific, so if purchasing, please make sure you have the correct kit.
All of the parts laid out, coffee ready, and YouTube videos at the ready.
I read the reviews on Amazon and saw that people used YouTube videos to help with the install, which helped relieve any anxiety about installation difficulty. I even got more excited when the box that the parts came in advertised the companies own YouTube channel. I quickly went there to prepare for the install, only to find out that it is a lot of promotional videos with two videos that were not helpful for me, since the trucks that were shown were not my make or model. Thankfully, a few other searches around YouTube gave me a video of a 2013 F 350. The only difference that I had to work around was that I have the factory installed fifth wheel/gooseneck hitch and they had an aftermarket gooseneck. Click here to watch the video.

There are few items I would like to add after watching their video and doing the install myself. If you have access to a vehicle lift, use it. Walking underneath of a vehicle is so much easier than having to crawl under it. If you don't have a lift to use, take off the spare tire, it will create some much needed room. I was able to fully sit up under my truck with the tire off.

Have a few jacks handy. I used one to hold up the axle so I could get the wheel out of the way, and I used the other on the frame to lift it up and give myself some room to put the airbag in place.

Before you start the installation, make sure that you have all of the parts and pieces needed. Air Lift gives you everything you need for a straight install if your truck is factory stock, but if you have added any towing hitches or plates, you will need different hardware depending on what you have installed and some drill bits to make new holes. Speaking of holes...

Even with my factory truck that was supposed to be a straight forward install, the two main holes through the frame for the big 1/2" bolts was partially blocked by the hitch plate, requiring me to make some wiggle room.
This is where I am supposed to be able to fit a 1/2" bolt. Yeah right.

I notched the hitch plate just enough to get the bolt to slide through. Don't forget to repaint the metal after drilling/grinding.
The only other issue I ran into with the install was with some long carriage bolts running close to some lines. I didn't have enough slack to do any rerouting of the lines, so I wrapped the bolts with some rubber splicing tape that I had in my electrical arsenal. This stuff is thick and made to take some high temperatures, so I think it will hold up just fine.
I did this to both sides of the axle. 
I routed the air lines to the back by the license plate. The plastic part of the bumper made for an easy install point. I kept them separate instead of running both lines to a common fill point with the thought of one bag transferring extra pressure to the other in the instance of a load shift/unbalanced load, and didn't want the problem to be exaggerated by the change in pressure.

After finishing the install, I filled both bags to check for leaks and then went for a test drive with a few heavy tool boxes in the back. I could tell an immediate difference in the way the truck handled over bumps and the way that it absorbed the weight. I am excited to pull the house and see how much better the ride will feel.