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Firestone Ride-Rite Airspring Defective Design Bent Brackets

forumtruckcampe
Explorer
Explorer
Hopefully this topic hasn’t already been covered, my search of the forums did not find a similar entry. I’m providing the following to help anyone with similar issues as I couldn’t find much information on the internet from my searching.

I've concluded that the Ride-Rite airsprings for a 2016 Ford F150 have a major design flaw. The truck is a long bed 4x4 that is used to carry a Hallmark Camper (advertised base weight about 1300 lbs dry). I had the dealer install Ride-Rite airsprings given I sometimes go on rough roads. Initially per their recommendation I ran them at 50 psi. I found this led to lurching side to side on rough roads, a rough ride and the rear end jacked way up. Given the truck load capacity (per the specs about 2400 lbs), I started running 25 psi which seemed all the truck needed.

However, when under the truck this year I noted severe bending of the Ride-Rite frame brackets and axle brackets (both sides). Turns out at 25 psi there is only 3/4 travel before the Ride-Rite frame stops contact. Since this can easily occur when on rough roads, the metal to metal contact ends up bending the brackets. To get reasonable clearance requires 50+psi. Then manual does not address that you need enough airpressure to avoid bottoming the brackets when hitting bumps. I believe my understanding is correct based on:
- etrailer.com forum with Firestone response was that brackets will be bent if not enough airpressure is used for the load
- the large number of replacement brackets available at multiple sites
- inspection of my damaged installation at various pressures

In my case, using 50 psi results in undesirable characteristics as noted above. In my opinion the there are several defects in the 2016 F150 design (kit 2582):
- the axle jounce bumper function should be retained (it’s removed in the installation) so that metal to metal contact cannot occur; this is ends up bending the airspring brackets and I assume is not good for the truck suspension
- more travel should be provided at reasonable lower pressures
- the manual should explicitly provide an inflation requirement under load (i.e., maintain x inches (3 inch?) clearance)
My conclusion is limited to this one installation, it may be that other kits don’t have this issue.

Given the cost of ordering new brackets and that I don’t like the ride at higher pressures, I removed them ($500+ down the drain) and installed the Timbren SES severe duty kit. The ride is very much improved. I will note that the Ride-Rite bent brackets ended up locally distorting the truck frame at the attach point. This so happens to be the same as the Timbren SES so the rubber springs were out of alignment (cocked at a concerning angle). I solved this mostly by installing some 3x3 inch quarter inch housing frame washers from Home Depot to bridge the deformed portion of the truck frame.
14 REPLIES 14

KKELLER14K
Explorer II
Explorer II
I found out immediately that the brackets were incorrect with my truck. It was obvious, immediately changes would have to be made. I get it installed after major changes and have the mechanical skills to make it right..but not everyone can do that. Airbags are not just a bolt on a go...not when I did mine. Maybe your lucky today, but this is a big job..be prepared. There is a lot to it in the older 2nd Gen but it is well worth it in my situation. lots of pics just ask. I also have the onboard controller and compressor...this changes everything.

jimh406
Explorer III
Explorer III
Several months later and still no pictures. Seems like an attack against Firestone considering there was so long between posts. But, maybe there is another explanation.

'10 Ford F-450, 6.4, 4.30, 4x4, 14,500 GVWR, '06 Host Rainer 950 DS, Torklift Talon tiedowns, Glow Steps, and Fastguns. Bilstein 4600s, Firestone Bags, Toyo M655 Gs, Curt front hitch, Energy Suspension bump stops.

NRA Life Member, CCA Life Member

forumtruckcampe
Explorer
Explorer
I don't believe the truck was overloaded, with no suspension mods, fully loaded w/ camper there's still a lot of clearance from the frame to the axle and the back still rides 1" higher than the front. However I do believe the Firestone design is not appropriate at least for this specific F150 2016 application; the brackets end up being the axle stop unless high pressures are used. To get a reasonable bracket clearance requires at least 50 psi which ends up with a compromised ride and a very high back end.
Fully loaded with the Timbren SES severe duty kit there is still some clearance between the rubber spring and the axle "pad" so there's no load riding on them.

srschang
Nomad
Nomad
I put Firestone Ride Rights on my 2004, 2008, and 2015 3500 Ram Diesels. Never had any problem with them. I decided to put Air Lifts on my 2020 3500 Ram diesel, the only reason being I wanted an onboard inflation system, and liked the Air Lift inflation system better, so I thought I would give them a try. About 10,000 miles on them so far and they are working fine.

But, I usually run 35-40 psi or so, and only onto rough gravel roads once in a while, so my situation isn't quite the same.

Scott


2022 Ram 3500 Dually Crewcab Longbed Cummins, 2019 Northstar 12 STC

HMS_Beagle
Explorer
Explorer
To be fair, they are built to a price point. The bags they are using have approximately 5" of travel between fully extended and bottomed. A typical pickup has 10 or 11" of travel in the leaf springs. You do not use 11" of travel for bumps (typically), the springs are made that soft so that the ride isn't unreasonably harsh when empty, yet can still carry a load by compressing them. This compression is the sag that air bag helpers attempt to limit. The problem is the bags must be set at a height that does not overextend them when empty, nor bottom them when loaded, and this is a large compromise: if set to not over extend, about 1/2 of the load carrying ability of the steel springs cannot be used as the air bag bottoms. If set to use all of the load carrying of the springs without bottoming, they will overextend when unloaded. You are instructed to install them in the former way, but then must run higher pressures and higher loads on the air bags to keep from bottoming them. That results in the high and very progressive total spring rate that people complain about with air bags.

A related problem is that the stiffness of an airbag is proportional to its installed height for a given load carrying ability. On true air suspensions the bags are 10" or more high. It isn't possible to do that on a pickup using the inexpensive brackets that these kits use.

I've installed 6 of these kits over the years, they have their place in eliminating sag for not much money, but they come with significant limitations. On my current truck I installed true air suspension and the difference is huge.
Bigfoot 10.4E, 2015 F350 6.7L DRW 2WD, Autoflex Ultra Air Ride rear suspension, Hellwig Bigwig sway bars front and rear

bigfootford
Nomad II
Nomad II
Agree with HMSbeagle!

Over the years I have had 2 friends that had Firestone bags.. There brackets bent... Inspecting them we found that they were properly installed but engineered wrong.
Air lifts are the best. Mine are 21 years old and do have a bit of rubber cracking but they do not loose air. I run with <>40psi with my 4100lb bigfoot camper on the back of my 94 f250. I installed an onboard compressor that is great. No leaks anywhere.

Jim
2000 2500 9.6 Bigfoot,94 F250, Vision 19.5, Bilstein shocks, air bags/pump, EU2000, PD 9260, Two Redodo 100ah Mini's, Aims 2500 Conv/Inv, 200W. solar, Morningstar Sunsaver 15A/ display panel, Delorme/laptop for travel, Wave-3 heat.

Geewizard
Explorer
Explorer
I've had Air Lift brackets and airbags on my Tundras since 2004. They have worked flawlessly without any issues with the bracketry nor has there been any limits to travel. Perhaps I've just been lucky and perhaps the brackets for Tundras are better designed that those for other trucks.
2021 Winnebago Micro Minnie 1708FB
2014 Toyota Tundra Double Cab
300W solar, MPPT controller, LED lights
Xantrex Freedom X Inverter 3000W
2 Fullriver 105AH AGM batteries
Air Lift WirelessAIR and air bags
Hankook Dynapro ATM 10-ply tires

Grit_dog
Nomad III
Nomad III
Idk what happened to the OPs truck or why, but some of the ensuing responses appear to be a “piling on “ mentality. Suddenly all aftermarket supplementary airbag systems are junk and not worth a darn?
Weird, guess I don’t have a bunch of experience save for a couple older work trucks and our 07 3/4 ton Dodge that I installed a set of used bags on bought off of Craigslist when we got our first camper about 7 years ago. Now I don’t haul the camper all the time, but after probably 30-40k miles hauling a 2 ton plus camper, sometimes with a 6klb boat behind, I’ve had literally zero issues. Even though I’m sure I’ve bottomed out the suspension out multiple times.
I’m sure there are conditions that could damage them, or anything for that fact, but bottom line, betting most work as advertised.
2016 Ram 2500, MotorOps.ca EFIlive tuned, 5” turbo back, 6" lift on 37s
2017 Heartland Torque T29 - Sold.
Couple of Arctic Fox TCs - Sold

HMS_Beagle
Explorer
Explorer
I have for years believed that the Firestone brackets were under engineered. It is just a poor design all around. I had one set that I attempted to install on an F350, no way it was going to work well, even hoping that no damage was done to anything. I called the tech support line and the guy that answered said that they had sold thousands of them and never recorded a complaint. Of course, he took no notes, no name, was not interested in the details at all. Proving that if you do not record any complaints, you can say on the next phone call, "we've never recorded a complaint".

Air suspension works extremely well, and all HD pickups really should have it. But the air bag band aids sold by Firestone and Air Lift are for the most part very poorly engineered. The bracketry is weak, and the design limits suspension travel to a fraction of what it is supposed to be.
Bigfoot 10.4E, 2015 F350 6.7L DRW 2WD, Autoflex Ultra Air Ride rear suspension, Hellwig Bigwig sway bars front and rear

Bedlam
Moderator
Moderator
On the HD trucks, Firestone sells two versions: One version sits under the frame rail and replaces the jounce stop - This is used for setups with goose neck or fifth wheel hardware. The better setup bolts to the outboard side of the frame rail - This gives you a wider support stance and more axle to frame clearance. I do not know if this is an option with the light duty trucks or you only have one choice.

I found if I inflated my airbags to the point where my overload springs did not engage, the ride quality would wallow on the bags. You need to keep the metal engaged and just help the sag with the bags. If this setup creates an unlevel ride, you need more preload in your stock suspension by using blocks or wedges to engage your overloads sooner.

Host Mammoth 11.5 on Ram 5500 HD

jimh406
Explorer III
Explorer III
Glad you found something that will work.

It sounds like you overloaded your truck and found the limitations of it. If you are 1300 dry, my guess is you are way more than that wet. Air bags don’t add capability they simply can make the rig level.

What did Ride-Rite say about the brackets since you aren’t using them any more?

'10 Ford F-450, 6.4, 4.30, 4x4, 14,500 GVWR, '06 Host Rainer 950 DS, Torklift Talon tiedowns, Glow Steps, and Fastguns. Bilstein 4600s, Firestone Bags, Toyo M655 Gs, Curt front hitch, Energy Suspension bump stops.

NRA Life Member, CCA Life Member

joerg68
Nomad II
Nomad II
Picture posting helper: http://photoposting.is-great.net/?i=1
2014 Ford F350 XLT 6.2 SCLB + 2017 Northstar Arrow

Grit_dog
Nomad III
Nomad III
That stinks...sounds like a bad design for sure.
2016 Ram 2500, MotorOps.ca EFIlive tuned, 5” turbo back, 6" lift on 37s
2017 Heartland Torque T29 - Sold.
Couple of Arctic Fox TCs - Sold

KKELLER14K
Explorer II
Explorer II
Pictures?