April 14, 2018
First things first, what does a Air Springs Kit does? It provides additional support (or stiffness) to the existing suspension system as payload increase/decrease. This support (or stiffness) can be adjusted by increasing or decreasing pressure in the Air Springs by using a garage compressor, a bicycle pump, or by installing an on-board compressor in the van.
What does the Air Spring kit do NOT? It does NOT increase the payload capacity of the vehicle. It does NOT increase the ground clearance with the rear wheel axle (an aftermarket lift kit such as the Van Compass Lift Kit will not either, larger diameter tires will).
As we moved forward into the van conversion, we observed that the back of our Transit got closer and closer to the ground (squat). That’s a normal behavior: the more weight you put on a spring (a.k.a suspension), the more the said spring compress. Hey, it’s not a problem as long as we’re within the allowed payload range of 3510 lbs (that’s specific to the Extended-Length, High-Roof, 3.7L, 4.10 Transit. Check your payload according to your model here).
If squatting “is not a problem”, then why did we installed the Air Lift kit? Mainly for these reasons:
1- OFF-ROAD: The extended-length Transit as a loooong overhang behind the rear wheel and likes to kiss the ground; it did not take too long before we bent the bracket that holds the trailer wiring in the back.
With the Air Lift kit, we can increase the overhang ground clearance by approximately 3 inches when going off-road, then lower it back down on paved road. And with the Wireless On-Board Compressor kit, we can do it on the fly without even stopping the van! Neat!
The Air Lift also drastically reduce the rolling. Before we cranked the pressure up to 60 PSI (see “On Second Thoughts” below this page), things wanted to fly off the cupboards when the van started rolling! Now, the van feels much stiffer (in a good way) and when rolling happens its more subtle and stabilize much faster. Yes!
2- ON-ROAD: The Air Lift Suspension kit will ensure a proper weight distribution on four tires and improve safety and comfort of the ride. The increased stiffness also helps when taking curves so the van don’t sag on the exterior side of the curve.
3- OVERNIGHT: We can use the Air Lift kit to level the van (to some extent) when we park for the night. Hang on, we’re not done: the Air Lift 72000 Wireless Compressor include a manifold that allows to adjust the air pressure independently in each air bag (left / right), so we can “roll” the van! (this is more as fine-tuning though; we still carry leveling blocks http://amzn.to/2ubR01d)
What’s the difference between the “normal” lift kit VS the Ultimate lift kit? To install the air springs, the Transit’s factory jounce bumpers need to be removed; the Ultimate kit include internal bumpers to replace the removed ones. If the air bag fails and is run without pressure, the internal jounce bumper will protect the van from bottoming out over a big bump.
Why not go with the 2.5″ Van Compass lift kit instead of the air springs? 1- Money and not-so-easy-to-install. 2- The Van Compass lift kit is “permanent” and will modify the MPG and behavior of the van (we like the fact that we can bring the suspension back to “normal” when we want to).
At last, in “Part B” of this installation you will notice that we chose to power the Air Lift Compressor from the van’s battery through the Upfitter Auxiliary Switch; these switches are only powered when the ignition is at “ON”. Why not powered the compressor from the house battery at all time? Because, as soon as pressure changes in the air springs (for example, from a change in temperature) the system will add/remove pressure to keep it at the selected pressure. This means that the compressor could start in the middle of the night, or anytime when the van is parked resulting in useless battery drain / noise. Voilà pourquoi!
Enough blabla, let’s get to work!
TIME SPENT ON THE JOB: 10 hours (it’s the kind of job you could do in half the time if you would do it again…)
TOTAL COST : 850$ USD
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This is the part where the air springs are installed. You can choose to only perform “Part A”, if so you will need a external compressor or a bike pump to add pressure.
Disclosure: The installation manual included (link here) with the Air Lift kit is very well done, fully illustrated specifically for the Ford Transit! Use it to perform the job properly! The following pictures are just a complement/an overview …
We used the emergency jack for that task. The jack is located under the passenger seat and the tools are located under a compartment on the passenger side:
The jack was installed against the hitch (which is attached on the van’s frames). No need to lift the tires off the ground:
We activated the handbrake and put some rocks under the tires. Safety first!
Here they are:
Just pull down and it will pop off:
Then unscrew the bolt:
First install the two carriage bolts and the button head screw in the bracket:
Then install the bracket onto the frame, with the flange towards the center of the van:
Then, turn the assembly upside-down and install the lower roll plate, the lower bracket and the carriage bolts:
Tip: The air spring won’t fit at first, it’s too tall. Install the lower bracket on the axle then compress the air spring to make it fit! It’s really easy!
On the passenger side, we added some 3M anti-erosion tape to protect against rubbing:
Oh, one last thing! A heat shield has to be installed on the passenger side. It’s pretty straightforward:
If you’re not performing “Part B” (not installing an onboard compressor), you can now install the air lines and the valves. You’re done!
We chose to install the valve below each rear wheel through the plastic trim (with the onboard compressor, the valve are still required in case of compressor failure) :
This is the part where the compressor & manifold are installed. By performing “Part B”, you can adjust the pressure in the air springs on the fly, with the wireless remote! Sweeeet!
Once again, follow the installation manual! Use the following pictures just as a complement…
From the manual:
You need to decide where to install the compressor & manifold. These components are water resistant but not waterproof! If installed outside the van, they should be installed protected from direct splash. To help you with your decision, use these two resources:
It’s easy to do, yet difficult to put in words or pictures; so, here’s the schematic from the manual:
Note: We installed the compressor air filer intake inside the van as suggested in the installation manual, so it would not ingest dust. We used the same route as our Composting Toilet exhaust. We forgot to take a picture of the installed air filter, but you should get the idea:
Check out our Composting Toilet article (faroutride.com/composting-toilet-installation/) for more info on the above routing through the floor.
Again, the installation manual is very explicit about the electrical installation:
It’s just not possible to capture this with an actual picture of our installation, it looks just like a spaghetti, so please refer to the manual!
1- To ground the relay and the compressor, we routed an electrical wire to a recommended ground point as per BEMM (page 128). We used the ground point located in between the driver and passenger seat (point 25):
2- We used the same ground point for the electrical harness (refer to schematic above, “To battery ground”).
3- The positive of the electrical harness is connected to the Upfitter Auxiliary Switch #1, so the system is powered only when the ignition is set to “ON”. Read the introduction of this article for the justification. To learn how to access the Upfitter Auxiliary Switches output, read our article:
Here is how it looks under the van:
Perform the “Installation Checklist” from the manual. That includes checking for clearances, checking for air leaks using soapy water, etc.
From the manual:
Tuning the Air Pressure:
The wireless remote works straight away, no need to program it or anything. Well, you can program some presets but we’re not there yet. It’s much easier than use a T.V. remote!
We just performed the installation (as of july 20th 2017), so we need more time for extensive testing! We’ll report back a bit later!
November 2017 Update:
We think we finally find the sweet spot for OUR weight loading! We raised the pressure up to 60 PSI (left & right) and the van feel MUCH BETTER. We used to recommend the Air Lift Kit mostly for the overhang “issue”, but now we HIGHLY recommend them for handling too! Since we increased the pressure, the van pretty much stopped rolling (left/right/left/right/left/right rolling…) when hitting bumps AND the van feels much better when taking sharp curves (it won’t sag on the exterior side of the curve). We would totally install the Air Lift again if we had to start over!
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Hello! We’re Isabelle and Antoine 🙂 In 2017 we sold our house (and everything in it), quit our engineering careers and moved into our self built campervan. We’ve been on the road since then and every day is an opportunity for a new adventure; we’re chasing our dreams and hopefully it inspires others to do the same!