Air Lift Air Bags, Compressor & Tank Install on a Ford Transit | Air Suspension System

Air Lift Air Bags, Compressor & Tank Install on a Ford Transit | Air Suspension System

Air Lift Air Bags, Compressor, Tank Installation on Ford Transit Heading
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Updated:

The AirLift kit in FarOutVan #1 is one of those things we couldn’t live without after using it for over 4 years full-time. The air bags increase the rear suspension stiffness which restores the sag, reduces sway, and improves the overall handling of the van. The onboard compressor allows you to level the van with the press of a button (left/right and front/back leveling) when camping and to increase the ground clearance on-demand when hitting the back roads. And this time, on FarOutVan #2, we are also adding an air tank to inflate the van and bike tires and to install tubeless tires on our mountain bikes! There are many options out there for ride improvement, but this solution is definitely the most versatile of all! In the guide below, we go through the installation of an Air Lift LoadLifter 5000 Ultimate and WirelessAir Suspension kit on our Ford Transit van. Let’s get to work!

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click a product link and buy anything from the merchant (Amazon, eBay, etc.) we will receive a commission fee. The price you pay remains the same, affiliate link or not.

Portrait-FarOutRide-Van

Time


10 hours

We could do it in half the time by following this guide! 😛

Cost


$1945 USD

You can save about $800 by going for the basic kit (no tank)

Weight


80 lbs

Varies with kit (with/without air tank, etc.)

Material


ITEMQTYDESCRIPTIONBUY
AirLift LoadLifter 5000 Ultimate1Air spring kit for the Ford TransitAmazon
AirLift WirelessAir Tank Kit1Remote, compressor, air tank, and hardwareAmazon
M6 Washers, Stainless Steel
(1/4″ should work as well)
4For compressor installation (see Compressor section)Amazon
5/16″ x 2″ Stainless Steel Bolt,
washers, nuts.
1For air tank installation (see Tank section)Amazon
PTFE Yellow Thread Tape1For various fittings installationAmazon
Inflation Valves2For additional tire fill ports on passenger side and rear of the van (see Tire Fill section)Amazon
Tee fitting2Amazon
Air Line, 1/4″1Amazon
3/8″ Split Wire Loom1To protect the wiring harness (See Electrical section)Amazon

Tools


ItemDescriptionLink
Wheel chocksPrevent the van from rolling forward or backward. Safety first!Amazon
Jack liftTo unload (raise) the suspension
Jack standsSupport the van after it’s been lifted with a jack. Safety first! (step 1)Amazon
Wheel rampsThis is optional, but the extra working space makes the job WAY easier and comfortable!
(16,000 lbs capacity) (step 1)
Amazon
Wire stripperRequired to make electrical connectionsAmazon
CrimperRequired to make electrical connectionsAmazon
Heat GunRequired to make electrical connectionsAmazon
Other common toolsPower drill with various drill bits, ratchet and sockets, wrenches, etc.

Why install Air Lift Air Bags on a van


Reduces rear sag/squat

Ford-Transit-Sag-Squat-Payload-Arrow

Provides additional support to the factory suspension system as payload increases, thus reducing the sag and bringing back the level to an acceptable range. It helps to restore dynamic performances and handling of the van.

Increases ground clearance

Ford-Transit-High-Clearance-Front-Back-Leveling-Arrow

Raises the rear end and prevent dragging on steep incline or for off-roading. The extended-length Ford Transit has a LONG overhang, so that’s especially important!

Note: Larger tires are required to increase the rear wheel axle ground clearance (faroutride.com/ford-transit-larger-tires-upgrade).

side-to-side lEveling

Ford-Transit-Side-To-Side-Leveling-Roll-Adjustment

Adjust the pressure in the left/right air bag independently to level the van side-to-side (available on WirelessAir only, not WirelessOne). We really appreciate this feature when camping/cooking!

Front-to-back leveling

Ford-Transit-Front-To-Back-Leveling-Adjustment-Arrow

Add/remove pressure in the air bags to level the van front-to-back. Be aware, however, that it is more subtle than side-to-side leveling, because of the long leverage.

Ajustability

Compared to the SumoSprings (which are non-adjustable), the Air Lift air bags can be adjusted on-the-fly with the remote for different scenarios: highway (low), off-roading (high), camping (level), etc.

Air up tires

We splurged on the “Tank Kit” which includes a 2-gallon air tank. This allows to use the Air Lift system to air up the tires of the van and the bikes, as well as setup tubeless tires!

What Do air Bags do NOT


Air suspension kit, or any other aftermarket suspension kit for that matter, does NOT increase the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) of your vehicle. In other words, it does not add payload capacity. The GVWR is determined by the manufacturer through a series of standardized tests and take into account braking performance, vehicle stability, durability (chassis, drivetrain, etc.), dynamic stability and handling.

We have more info about that in the following article:


Good To Know


Choosing the right model


Choosing the right model of Air Lift spring kit and compressor system depends on your needs and your budget. Here are the differences between the models:

Air Spring Kits

Load Lifter 5000
Regular
  • Does not fit E-Transit 350, 350HD or dual rear wheel (DRW) models.
  • 5,000 lbs capacity
  • Fully adjustable
  • Buy on Amazon
Air-Lift-LoadLifter-5000-Air-Bag
Load Lifter 5000
Ultimate
  • Same as the regular, but in addition it has an internal jounce bumper helps prevent bottom-out
  • Buy on Amazon
Air-Lift-LoadLifter-5000-Ultimate-Air-Bag (Cross Section Jounce Bumper)

Compressor Systems

(Underlined links below take you to product’s respective Amazon page)

Wireless One
Single-Path (same left/right pressure)
WirelessOne Tank plus EZ Mount Kit (25981EZ) - Air Lift
WirelessOne Tank with EZ Mount
Wireless Air
Dual-Path (independent left/right pressure)
WirelessAir Tank plus EZ Mount Kit (74100EZ) - Air Lift
WirelessAir Tank with EZ Mount

Choosing undercarriage location


There are several potential locations to install the Air Lift compressor system on the Ford Transit undercarriage (especially on the extended-length!):

Passenger side

We plan on installing a grey water tank on the passenger side undercarriage:

Spare Tire

We relocated our spare tire on a Rear-Door Carrier, therefore that space is available. But we plan on installing a fresh water tank in here:

Near rear diff

There’s so much space available, and we don’t want to use it for a “small” install (it’s a potential location for a propane tank):

OUR CHOICE
Driver side

Also a potential location for a propane tank, but we think we found a layout that would still allow a propane tank installation:

Using the Ford Transit Upfitter Switches


If, like us, you’d like to turn your Air Lift system ON and OFF with the upfitter switches, then you should know that there is quite a lot of preparation work to do in order to use them… We recommend doing this beforehand because it is quite the task! We do have a detailed guide about that:


Air Lift System Installation


Pneumatic and Electrical Diagram

AirLift-Suspension-and-WirelessOne-Compressor-with-Tank-Diagram-(Pneumatic-and--Electrical)

This diagram was modified to reflect the installation on our Ford Transit. Refer to AirLift 74100EZ Installation Manual for original diagram.

1. Load Lifter 5000 Air Spring Installation


In Part 1, we install the air bag kit. If you choose to install the air bags without a compressor, this will complete your installation.

Air Lift Air Bags Installation on Ford Transit-4 (All Parts)

1.1. Optional: Raise the van to add extra working space

This is optional, but knowing we have several tasks to perform under the van (Air Lift, Espar heater, water tanks, etc.), we got ourselves a pair of RhinoGear Ramps MAX (the MAX are rated for 16,000 lbs capacity). It’s cramped under the van and the ramps add more working space, which makes our job WAY easier and comfortable:

1.2. Stabilize the van

Activate the parking brake and add wheel chocks to a front wheel to prevent the van from rolling forward or backward. Safety first!

Air Lift Air Bags Installation on Ford Transit-3 (Activate parking brake)
Wheel Chocks Pair

1.3. Raise the back of the van

Use a jack to lift the back of the van. The goal is to unload the suspension and increase the space between the axle and the body by a few inches, thus giving you access to the factory jounce bumpers. Note that we are NOT lifting the van from the ground here, we are only unloading the suspension a few inches and therefore the jack supports a few hundred pounds (our van is currently totally empty), not the entire weight of the van.

That being said, this task is not worth loosing a hand (or worse). So make sure to use a good jack lift and jack stands (last line of defense).

Heads Up!

Only the driver side is shown in the photos below. Repeat all the steps for the passenger side as well!

1.4. Remove the factory jounce bumpers

Pull down on the jounce bumper to pop it off:

Unscrew the bolt with a 13mm socket and remove the cup:

1.5. Install the upper frame bracket

First, insert the two 3/8″ x 1.25″ carriage bolts through the upper frame bracket:

Push the flange against the frame and torque the button head screw with a 6mm hex to 30 ft-lbs. Driver side:

1.6. Pre-Assemble the air springs

Put a roll plate over a bellow, then add the a swivel fitting (finger-tight plus 1-1/2 turn with a 11mm wrench):

Set a bellow bracket over the roll plate and fasten with two 3/8″ x 7/8″ flat head screws with a 7/32 hex (20 ft-lbs):

Turn the assembly upside-down and install the lower roll plate, the lower bracket, and the carriages bolts. The lower bracket should be installed so that the bolts are opposite side of the fitting:

Install the two 3/8″ x 7/8″ hex cap screws, lock washers and flat washers (leave loose for now):

1.7. Install the air springs

Set the air bag like so to start with. The carriage bolt goes in between the brake/ABS line and the axle:

Compress the air spring and install:

On the back carriage bolts only, install P clamps, 3/8″ washers and 3/8″ nyloc nut (leave loose for now):

Also install a 3/8″ washer and 3/8″ nyloc nut over the front carriage bolt (no P clamp).

No photo, sorry!

Install the axle clamp bar with two 3/8″ washers and 3/8″ nyloc nuts (leave loose):

Move the bellows assembly so that they are parallel to the upper and lower bracket. Torque upper hardware with 9/16″ socket to 15 ft-lbs:

Make sure the lower bracket is parallel to the upper bracket, then torque with 9/16″ socket to 10 ft-lbs:

Torque lower bracket hardware with 14mm wrench:

On the driver side, the ABS line is too close to the lower bracket and may rub:

Pull the line out of the holder:

Rotate 180° and push the ABS line back into its holder. This adds clearance between the line and the lower bracket:

Install the heat shield on the exhaust using two worm-type clamps and the provided heat shield:

1.8. Install the air Lines

We chose to install the inflation valves under the plastic trim, roughly 6″ behind the rear wheels. Drill a 5/16″ hole to install the valve:

Install the 5/16″ hex nut and star washer on the inflation valve. Install the valve in the hole, then add the rubber washer, flat washer, and 5/16″ hex nut:

Route the air line from the inflation valve to the air bag. For the moment, we are taking a few detours in order to keep the extra length. We will come back later to trim it (Pneumatic section)!

Make sure to route the air line through the P clamp, then push into the swivel fitting:

1.9. Pump it up!

At this point, you can add air to the air bags (max 100 PSI) and check for leaks:

Inflation valve with the cap installed:

If you are not installing an onboard compressor system, you are DONE!

Air Lift Air Bags Installation on Ford Transit-29 (Overview)

Excellent work!


Air Lift WirelessAir Tank Kit Installation


Now that the air bags are mounted on our Transit van, up next is the WirelessAir Tank Kit (compressor, tank, manifold, pneumatic, and electrical). Installation will differ slightly if you have a different kit (e.g. no tank), but essentially it’s very similar. Let’s get to work!

Air-Lift-WirelessOne-with-Tank-Kit-All-Included-Parts-1-of-1

2. Compressor Installation


Install a 1/4″ NPT x 1/4″ barbed fitting to the compressor (for remote filter subsequent installation):

We are installing the compressor (and other components) in the bay just behind the driver-side front wheel:

Here is how it looks before starting our task:

The compressor will be bolted through the floor. I’m holding it and using a 1/4″ drill bit to mark to location of the holes:

Using the marks done at previous step, pilot the holes with a 1/8” drill bit (wear safety glasses!), then go inside the van open the holes to their final size with a 1/4″ drill bit:

Perform the usual rust prevention task on the edges (smooth, clean, prime, paint) and insert the M6 bolts and M6 washers (these washers are not provided -use stainless steel-):

Go back under the van and install, in this order, on each feet of the compressor: washer -> compressor -> washer -> nut.

The compressor’s air filter is remotely installed in the cabin to minimize dust congestion (per manufacturer recommendation). We route it through a access hole that we previously drilled (for now the filter is left loose, we will arrange it neatly later):

Connect the air filter and compressor with the 1/4″ air line:


3. Tank Installation


Prepare the tank by installing the following fittings (use yellow tape per material section):

  • Water drain valve: install at the lowest port in order to allow to periodically empty the tank from water that will collect.*
  • Blow off valve: overpressure protection and allows to manually empty the tank from air.
  • 1/4″ hex nipple: to connect air filter.
  • Elbow fitting: to connect to inflation valve (tire fill air line).

* Water is a natural occurrence in compressed air (more info). Any compressor air tank must be emptied frequently in order to prevent corrosion.

Use the tank’s drilling template provided in the owner’s manual and drill holes with a 1/4″ drill bit:

The upper-right hole is recessed and does not provide any support… we installed a 5/16″ x 2″ bolt from the back (with a washer under the head) to create a stud:

The compressor is then fastened to the van with three 5/16″ self-tapping screws and the 5/16″ stud:

Connect the compressor to the tank:

Connect the air filter to the tank with the drain pointing down:


4. Manifold and solenoid Installation


On the WirelessAir “EZ Mount” kit (no tank), the compressor, manifold and solenoid come preinstalled on a bracket:

But because we ordered the kit with the tank, the compressor is mounted separately:

Without the compressor mounted in it, we find that the bracket is bulky and not as useful. We could still mount it as-is, but our OCD side wants to do something about that… So we disassembled the manifold and solenoid from the bracket, and rearranged them like so:

We reused the same fittings (swapped their location), except we had to buy a 1/4″ x 1/8″ NPT adapter.

Then mounted them on a bracket we 3D-printed. The bracket supports the solenoid and relieves some load (vibration) to the 1/4″ x 1/8″ adapter (that may be unnecessary, but hey we feel better about it):

Make sure to leave enough space on either side of the assembly, for subsequent connection of the air lines and the wiring harness!


5. Pneumatic Installation


5.1. Air Bags

Route two air lines from the manifold toward the driver and passenger side air bags.
Simultaneously, you can route a third air line from the tank (elbow) toward the back of the van, if you are also installing a tire fill line (see “Tire Fill” section below).

From the manifold toward the back…

… passing the wheel…

… to the driver side air bag.

Trim the existing air line (inflation valve <-> air bag), insert a Tee fitting and connect the air lines (inflation valve <-> air bag <-> manifold):

Same for the passenger side:

Connect the left air spring (driver side) into the port #1 and the right air spring (passenger side) into the port #2 of the manifold:

Don’t forget to add an air line between the air filter (tank) and the pressure switch (manifold):

5.2. Tire Fill

The kit comes with only one inflation valve, so we had to buy additional hardware (2 x push-to-connect inflation valves, 2 x push-to-connect Tee fittings, 1/4″ air line) in order to complete our entire system which includes three inflation ports: driver side (to inflate driver side van’s tires), passenger side (to inflate passenger side van’s tire) and rear of the van (to inflate mountain bike tires):

AirLift Air Suspension Tire Fill Line Install Ford Transit-5

First, we install an inflation valve on the driver side between the rear and front wheel (so that we can air the front & rear tires):

Connect 1/4″ air line to the barbed inflation valve (provided with the kit). The inflation valve is mounted in this existing hole, with washers and nuts on both side:

Connect a Tee fitting to split the high-pressure air line into three routes: to the tank, to the driver side inflation valve, and to the back of the van:

At the very back of the van, driver side, we add a Tee fitting and route an air line through the grommet (factory installed) to the interior of the van:

This is where we installed the mountain bike air fill port. We may relocate it eventually as the conversion progress, but that will do it for now:

From the Tee fitting that was just installed, go across to the passenger side and then toward the front:

Go past the passenger side wheel:

Because we have a running board we cannot install the inflation valve exactly in between the front and rear tire, but near the rear tire will do it. We added a M6 rivet nut into an existing hole (we have a full Guide on Threaded Inserts), added a “L” stainless steel bracket, then mounted the inflation valve:


6. Electrical Installation


6.1. Undercarriage

Crimp a yellow eyelet connector to one of the pressure switch wire (any wire -there is no polarity-) and ground to the frame using a self-tapping screw:

Prepare the electrical harness by crimping butt connectors: pink onto the solenoid valve wires, blue onto the pressure switch wire, yellow onto the compressor wires. Do not heat shrink yet:

Route the electrical harness into the pass-through hole behind the driver seat (compressor wires, solenoid wires, pressure switch wire):

Grab the harness from under the van:

Connect the main harness connector into the manifold (push until you hear a click:)

Crimp and heat shrink the pink butt connectors to the solenoid valve (there is no polarity) and the blue butt connector to the pressure switch (no polarity as well):

Crimp and heat shrink the yellow butt connectors to the compressor (red with red, black with black):
Note: the compressor comes with an eyelet connector and a wire disconnect, trim them off!

Protect the wires and harness with split loom tubing, use cable ties to secure it and to prevent chafing/abrasion from vibration:

Photo coming soon!
(we have more split loom tubing on order…)

6.2. Inside the van

Power Options

There are three wires to connect:

  • Black: 12V negative (ground).
  • Red: 12V positive. Can be connected to an always-on or switchable power source (van battery, or auxiliary house battery).
  • Pink: Ignition signal. The compressor won’t run unless the pink wire is hot (12V).

We want the option to turn the Air Lift system ON or OFF manually, independently of engine run, so we chose to connect the black/red/pink wire to the Auxiliary Upfitter Switch #2 (fused at 40A). Be aware that switch #1 and #4 are fused at 20A, which wouldn’t be enough for the Air Lift system.

Another option would be to connect the black and red cables to the auxiliary house battery (or the CCP), then the pink wire to the Upfitter switch (or ignition signal). All good!

Pull up on the plastic cover between the passenger and driver seat to remove it:

Prepare the wiring harness by adding 3/8″ split loom tubing around it. Route the wiring harness behind the driver seat, between the seats (temporarily remove the two nuts with a M8 socket and pull up to make some room), then inside the passenger seat pedestal (no need to remove the seat):

We routed the harness like so:

Press inward on the glove box (on both sides) to disengage the retaining tabs, then lower the door all the way. We used wrenches to pry the sides:

You can route the wiring harness into the glove box compartment at the very back:

You can’t connect to the Upfitter switch as-is… there is some prep work required and we cover it fully here:

Ford-Transit-Auxiliary-Upfitter-Switch-Summary-Wiring
Ford Transit Upfitter Switch Wiring Guide

Connect the positive (with 30A inline fuse holder -don’t install fuse yet-) and ignition wire (with 3A inline fuse holder -don’t install fuse yet-) to the Auxiliary #2 switch positive wire (blue/red). Connect the negative to the Auxiliary #2 ground wire (black/yellow):


7. First use


Insert the 30A fuse into the red inline fuse holder and the 3A fuse into the black inline fuse holder. Turn ON the power source you chose (we chose the Upfitter switch #2):

  • The compressor will start to run and fill the tank until max pressure is obtained.
  • The manifold will enter pairing mode for five minutes after powering on.
Ford Transit Upfitter Switch No2 Air Lift Turn ON-OFF
Unintentional switching is a no-no with this Upfitter Switches Cover.

Pair and setup your remote (ref OEM User Guide PDF):

  • Insert the battery into the remote.
  • Press any button to wake the remote.
  • If should automatically go into pairing menu (if not, hold center button until the menu shows up, then go into “Pairing”).
  • In “Settings”, select compressor duty cycle (“Tank” or “Air Bags”).
  • In “Settings”, select Air Bag Type (in our case it’s “LoadLifter 5000”).
  • Hold “Preset” button to save a preset (TIP: “Left: 5 , Right: 100” is a preset we use all the time, because the streets are all inclined toward the passenger side for water drainage!)
  • You can also control your Air Lift system with your phone using the “Wireless Air App” (Android | iOS).

We Also Considered


There are several aftermarket ride improvement solutions available:

Sumo Springs

The SumoSprings are a very popular option, due to the low cost and ease of installation. Just like Air Bags, they replace the factory jounce bumper. They will restore the sag and improve the ride under heavier loads. You can choose the firmness at purchase, but they offer no subsequent adjustment.

More leaf spring

More leaf spring can be added to the rear suspension in order to increase stiffness.

Sway bar

A sway bar (or anti-roll bar) is the best way to counteract sway on the highway, but stiffens things up off road… We use our van quite a lot off road, so we pass.

RAS

Increases suspension stiffness to reduce squat and help with stability. Same idea as the SumoSprings and the Air Bags, but in a different way… More info.

Lift Kit

Lift kits raise the body of the van (typically around 2″ height). This is a permanent change that doesn’t affect the suspension behavior. It improves ground clearance, allows to install slightly larger tires, and some do it for the look.

Aftermarket Shock

There’s no limit on how much you can spend on aftermarket components: Fox, Van Compass, Bilstein, etc. While high-end shocks will improve the ride and can be added in addition to air bags, it’s kind of a different topic than what we are addressing here.


On Second Thought


Tank vs No Tank


We don’t have an air tank on FarOutVan #1. Deflating the air bags is pretty quick, but it takes about a minute to fully inflate both of them. With the air tank, inflating the air bags is almost instant! …Not that it really matters, just an observation 🙂

But even better, the air bags inflate from the air tank which means the compressor doesn’t run when leveling the van (almost fully silent!). With FarOutVan #1, when spending the night in a residential area, we had to inflate the air bags in advanced not to get noticed.

Compressor Noise


The Gen 2 compressor is much noisier than the Gen 1 we have on FarOutVan #1 ! To be fair, this time we installed it directly to the floor and we still don’t have any insulation at the time of writing these lines. The compressor is also bigger and has much higher volume displacement. It doesn’t cycle often because of the air tank buffer, but when it does it’s very noisy! We will go ahead and install it on Rubber Mounts Shock Absorber.


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About-Us-Narrow

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. Every day is an opportunity for a new adventure... We’re chasing our dreams, and hopefully it inspires others to do the same!

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4 thoughts on “Air Lift Air Bags, Compressor & Tank Install on a Ford Transit | Air Suspension System”

  1. We are wondering what van model you have as, when we type in our “2024 base, cargo, T-350 high roof extended EcoBoost, Amazon says the load lifter does not fit (my attempt to insert screen shot below). Thank you.
    amazonconfirmedfit | ! This does not fit.
    2024 Ford Transit-350
    See similar products that fit this vehicle ›

    VIDEO
    Air Lift 88213 Load Lifter
    5000 Ultimate Air Spring
    Kit
    Brand: Air Lift

    Reply
  2. Quelle est le débattement ou l’amplitude? Est-ce que c’est possible d’opérer séparément les 4? Par exemple, abaisser au maximum le côté passager et augmenter au maximum le côté conducteur? Idem avant arrière?

    Reply
    • 3 pouces, mesuré au pare-choc arrière. Je viens d’ajouter un petit vidéo dans l’introduction en guise de démonstration.
      À noter, il n’y a pas de air bag à l’avant, donc pas vraiment de lift à l’avant. Le côté gauche/droit peut être opéré séparément avec le “WirelessAIR” (mais pas avec le “WirelessONE”).

      Reply

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