When most automotive enthusiasts hear about upgrading a vehicle’s rear suspension with “air bags” they immediately think of heavy-duty pickups towing monster travel trailers or hauling huge slide-in campers. However, airbags can also be a great addition to your CUV. Let’s dive into how to install air bags in a CUV (crossover utility vehicles).
Installing air-helper springs in coil-sprung CUVs such as Mazdas, Jeeps, Subarus, and dozens of other crossovers can improve ride, handling, and overall safety when the vehicle’s load and towing limits are pushed to the limits, which can easily happen when towing some of the nicely outfitted adventure-style travel trailers that are popular today.
The unibody design and independent, coil-sprung rear suspension of CUVs provides a very car-like ride. But like all suspensions, they sag under heavy load, creating ground clearance issues. Upgrade your crossover with Air Lift 1000 Air Helper Springs and they will carry much of the added weight, keeping the rear of the vehicle level, just like they do on full-size pickups and SUVs. (Air bags don’t increase load/tow capacity, they only lift/level the vehicle.)
How To Choose The Right Air Bags
Air bags for CUVs, such as those used in the Air Lift 1000 kits by aftermarket manufacturer Air Lift Company, are placed inside the rear coil springs with air lines running to inflation valve(s) at the hitch or rear bumper. Changing the air pressure inside these little air bladders allows you to adjust the height of the vehicle’s rear according to the load. The Air Lift 1000 versions can support up to 1,000 pounds of added load.
Air Lift makes finding the correct universal air-helper-spring kit for your CUV simple with an easy-to-use sizing chart. Just input the inside diameter and height of the coil springs used on your vehicle and the automated system generates the part number. In the case of my 2018 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring AWD those numbers ended up being Air Lift P/N 60910.
How To Install Air Bags In A CUV
Installing air bags in your CUV is best done with the vehicle on a hoist and the rear tires removed. But they can be installed using an appropriate floor jack and properly placed jack stands. The more the rear coils can be extended, the easier the air bags can be inserted inside each one.
We found it also helps to disconnect the rear shocks. Again, not absolutely necessary, but with the shocks disconnected, the rear suspension can drop another inch, opening up the space between the coils even more to get the bladder shoved into place. If you find yourself tackling such an install and want to know how to install Air Lift 1000 air bags under your CUV, Air Lift provides excellent instructions with the kit.
Once the air bladders are positioned inside the coil springs the air lines are routed above the muffler and on to the inflation valve or valves, depending on whether you want one inflator to fill both air bags or be able to fill the bags independently using two valves. The whole job can be done in less than two hours using the most basic of hand tools.
Driving A Mazda CX-5 With Air Lift 1000 Air Bags
After a week of driving the 2018 Mazda CX-5 AWD with air bags, I can say the Air Lift 1000 kit, inflated with the minimum of 5 psi, makes the ride a little firmer in the rear when it’s unloaded, or with the family aboard. (This vehicle had 37,453 miles on it before the upgrade and new Bilstein B6 shocks in the rear).
When a 2,000-pound travel trailer with 200 pounds tongue weight was in tow, the cargo area filled with gear, and enough air in the bladders to keep the rear level, the ride was very pleasant—and the handling in corners much more stable than it was without the Air Lift 1000s in play.
The same ride and handling was true when the rear seats in this CX-5 were folded flat and the rear cargo area filled with seasoned-and-split oak firewood, which is one of the many ways I use my Mazda as a utility vehicle. Loaded this way the rear suspension squats a full 3-inches, and the front rises in a similar fashion, making handling feel mushy without the Air Lift 1000 kit in play.
These little CUV air bags really shine when the fully loaded Mazda AWD encounters sharper corners, dips, and off-camber sections of the road, reducing body lean and porpoising that was quite noticeable without the air-helper springs.
Is an Air Lift 1000 kit an absolute necessity for crossover utility vehicles? No. But these simple and easy-to-install Air Lift 1000 kits, which usually cost around $100, make an excellent improvement in the ride and overall handling of coil-sprung CUVs that are being used to tow small travel or adventure-style trailers, or are nearing the vehicle’s maximum load capacity with passengers and cargo.