Buying Your First Semi Truck? What You Should Know About Air Ride Suspensions

Posted on: 12 August 2015


If you're new to being an owner-operator and you're in the market for your first truck, it's important to understand the unique suspension system of air-ride tractor trailers. The system resembles that of a car's air suspension, but is also equipped with air hoses that provide control for both the cab and the trailer. They're large structures, requiring significant air volume to compensate for the weight of both the cab and the trailer.

Air Suspension Structure

  • Air BagsAir suspensions rely on air cylinders instead of the traditional steel suspension components of a standard suspension. The air cylinders feature rigid metal discs on both the top and bottom, and the cylinders themselves are flexible, durable air bags created from a blend of woven and rubber-like material. The cylinders are durable enough to withstand the pressure of cargo weight, which is essential for commercial tractor trailers.
  • Air Compressor Air ride systems rely on an air compressor to fill the cylinders in the pneumatic system. The compressor is essential for maintaining the necessary air pressure along the entire suspension structure because it can cycle on and off as needed to keep the pressure at the programmed level. You may even be able to use the same compressor for the air suspension as you do for the brakes, because it just requires a standard compressor equipped with a piston to force the air into the reservoir.
  • Air ValvesAir suspensions use many different valves throughout the system. One of the most important valves in the system is the check or backflow valve, which allows air to pass in one direction without permitting it to come back the other way. This is important, because it protects the compressor from having to try to seal the air pressure into the system. That way, there's no risk of the piston ring being compromised and causing a leak. The valve ensures that the compressor doesn't have to run constantly to keep the pressure in the system.

Air Suspension Benefits

Now that you understand the core components of the air suspension, it's important that you understand why it's helpful to have. That way, you can better understand whether an air suspension is going to be right for your truck purchase.

  • Suspension Versatility – One of the best things about air ride suspensions is the versatility of the system. You can adjust the air pressure with the press of a button, allowing to keep your trailer stable and supported no matter what the load. If you're new to the industry, you may not know yet what you'll be hauling, and your load weights may fluctuate from trip to trip, so the air suspension is a great way to respond to those changes without sacrificing handling.
  • Load Security – Another benefit of an air ride suspension is the security that it provides for your load. When your trailer is supported by air bags, it reduces the effect of any impact, including the force of bumps on the road. If there's any chance that you might end up hauling fragile or hazardous cargo, you may find this kind of feature beneficial. The air bags will essentially cradle the trailer, allowing it to respond more fluidly to changes in the terrain. This may make the difference between full pay for shipments and pay reductions for broken products.

No matter what your future goals are for your owner-operator business, knowing that you have a truck that can meet your needs is important. With the information here, you can better understand air ride suspensions and their advantages. If you think that you could benefit from a system like this, talk with a used truck dealer who can help you find the truck that fits your needs. You can find a used truck dealer online at a site like