There’s chatter that Chrysler may offer an air suspension for its Ram Heavy Duty pickups.
An air suspension uses tough airbags that replace or supplement a truck’s conventional springs and shocks. On-board air compressors adjust the pressure inside the air springs to match a truck’s load.
The Ram Long-Hauler pickup concept, which grabbed attention for its extra-long wheelbase and extended driving range, featured an air suspension at all four corners to help manage huge loads.
In the Long-Hauler, the rear leaf springs were replaced by a Kelderman Air Ride setup with a load-sensing system that can self-level the truck, plus a kneeling system that can lower the ride height for easier access to the truck and for backing up to a trailer.
Air suspensions have two advantages over conventional suspensions: improved ride quality and load carrying capabilities.
Since the earliest days of pickups, heavy-duty trucks in particular have suffered from poor ride quality because of leaf springs. Leaf springs are made by stacking several bands of metal on top of each other to manage loads placed on the back of the truck. But this construction creates a tremendous amount of friction between the springs that is released as the rear flexes. This release of friction translates into poor ride quality, particularly when the truck is empty. The leaf springs settle down as more weight is added.
Recent pickups from Ram have improved their ride quality either by ditching leaf springs entirely — in the case of the coil spring suspension in the 2009-12 Ram 1500 half-ton — or by adding hydraulic body mounts under the cab that act as secondary shock absorbers to calm the truck, in the case of the 2010-12 Ram 2500 and 3500 HD pickups.
By reducing the pressure of the air suspension’s pneumatic bladders, unloaded ride quality can be improved to dampen suspension flex. The heavier the load, the more pressure that’s pumped into the airbags.
Extra air pressure can also be added to raise the height of a truck for better off-road capability.
With Ram’s dedication to improving the ride quality of its trucks, the Long-Hauler appears to show us how serious the brand is considering all avenues of innovation. Airbags could also give Ram HD pickups more hauling capability than other competitors in the segment – bragging rights that would be very important in the market.
If there were an optional air suspension package for a heavy-duty pickup, would you buy it, or would you stick with conventional leafs and shocks?