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Air ride suspension. Is the benefit realistic.


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Having minimised the van 3 years ago from a Rapido 987M that had a near perfect ride with basic conventional metal springing, to a VW Nexa, which has a firm suspension however much its loaded.


I'm now considering having air suspension fitted as my body finds it more unpleasant as the years pass. I'm planning a good 10 years more use.


So ... to any VW owners who have made the change to air ride, is the comfort improved?


Also to any others who have made a similar change.


Will86 now 87

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I did fit Dunlop airride suspension to a coachbuilt Autotrail several years ago as part of a payload upgrade package and it did soften the ride, but whether it would do the same on a VW van is open to question as they are very different beasties?


I would look at mgw / payload and investigate the possib ility of softer walled tyres and / or adjustable shock absorbers first as an easier way to try and take the thumps out of bumps?

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I guess it all depends what you want to achieve, and the reason for installing it?


I had the Airide version many years ago on an Autosleeper Symbol, around 1991 - as the van springs were inadequate, and the van rode rear down, so to speak, the purpose there was to add to the rather poor springs.

However on our current model, a MWB Boxer Burstner Marano, the overhang was considerable, and we had the AS Air Suspension installed as we needed to raise the rear end both to get on the driveway of the property we then lived in, and also on ferries, but it did improve the general ride, and also gave ability to level up on some pitches.

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Am looking forward to the next 12, but the body parts don't function the way they used to. The larger M/H was ideal but turning space where I live became restricted.


An air ride mechanism sounds better but I should prefer a passenger ride first.




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If you want a much softer ride, you'll probably need to go for ‘full’ air suspension that dispenses with your VW’s front and rear coil springs - I don’t think just altering the rear end would be much good comfort-wise.


Examples are shown here




I’m tempted to say “Forget it”, as there’s a good chance that you won’t like the result. If it’s just you doing the driving, you might be better spending your money on a more ergonomic cab-seat.

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Derek mentioned a more ergonomic seat.


Some 4WD vehicles have a drivers seat which has adjustable independent springing between seat and base unit. This may be a possible solution to dampen the bumps - just a thought.


If that appeals, suggest you go to a 4WD Dealership and go for a test drive. Alternatively, check whether VW do this on their options list as they do 4WD versions.

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Bill’s Bilbo Nexa’s suspension uses coil springs front and rear.


There are plenty of ‘kits’ that replace VW’s original springs/dampers




but these are normally fitted to improve handling, customise the vehicle by lowering it, etc. There’s no particular reason to think any of them would provide a softer ride quality - in fact there’s every chance that the ride will end up firmer.


MAD offers coil or air ‘helper’ springs for a VW T5’s rear suspension






but their purpose is to assist the original springs when the vehicle is heavily loaded. MAD springs were commonly fitted to VW-based Compass and Auto-Sleepers coachbult motorhomes that had a short wheelbase, longish rear overhang, large body and ‘entertaining’ cornering behaviour. It’s unlikely that Bill’s Nexa’s rear suspension needs stiffening up (probably quite the opposite) so adding supplementary rear springs will make the ride at the back harder not softer.


I suggested earlier fitting a more ergonomic cab-seat but, having looked at photos of a Nexa, I doubt that’s going to be practicable as the existing cab-seats swivel and are used to make up the bed. Besides which the original cab-seats look pretty good to me. It might be worth discussing with a vehicle seating specialist (eg TEK Seating)




but I now think it’s going to be a non-starter.


It would be worth having the Nexa weighed fully loaded to see if the tyre pressures currently being used can safely be reduced. The following VW tyre pressure listing includes the Transporter




and the pressures quoted for some of the wheel/tyre combinations are quite high. Lowering the tyre pressures will soften the ride, but will also affect the handling. However, if the pressures being used on Bill’s Nexa are unnecessarily high, reducing them may be enough to avoid more major modifications. Large-diameter wheels + ultra-low-profile tyres will usually result in a harsh ride, so if that’s what the Nexa has at the moment swapping the wheels’tyres MIGHT help.


It really depends on how intolerable Bill finds the Nexa’s firm ride and how much he’s prepared to spend. I’ve learnt my lesson fiddling about with car suspension and seating and, nowadays, unless it’s certain an expensive modification will produce the improvement I’m looking for, I won’t make it. (Also, at age 72, I’m a lot less optimistic about the future than Bill. ;-) )

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I agree with Derek's observations in general and it is perhaps surprising how even dropping just one size from 17" to 16" or from 16" to 15" wheels can make a huge difference in ride quality even without adjusting tyre pressures.


I changed a very hard riding BMW 3 series tourer from 18" to 16" rims some years ago and not only was the car's ride transformed and the handing in normal use unaffected, but I sold the old 18" wheels and tyres for more than I paid for the 16"s with new Goodyear tyres fitted!


I was prepared to put new softer dampers on too but that proved not to be needed.


It's far from scientific, but I have looked at cars in Spain and France and have noticed the predominence of 15" wheels on many models that carry 16" or 17" rims in the UK.


My conclusion is that we as a nation are addicted to larger wheels and 'sports' suspension because the motoring media like them and tell us how great they look and how well the car handles on a circuit, not that any of us ever takes their car racing I suspect?


The makers are then conning us into paying a lot more for what essentially costs them very little extra and detracts from the car's ride because we do not stand up to them and insist of trying a model with smaller wheels to compare before we part with our cash?

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Over my years I've owned about 16 VW's, all of the 'T' types, empty vans, buses, the lot, but missing the split windscreen one.. The worst ride was an upmarket one with a sporty suspension which I returned damn quickly.


I even loaded one of them with a large number of concrete paving slabs but it made little difference. There was one, and all I can remember was the colour red, it was near perfect and of course one expects the trend to continue but it didn't. At that time the position was to change vans at 3 years.


The cost of an improvement is not a problem if it benefits my driving ability ... but there is always a limit. I'm an odd never satisfied character in many ways, one of them was to have the ability to produce a very rare engineering skill that I could market world wide. Even to Japanese racing motorcycles.


Having said all that I do seem to be sensitive to movements and have often contributed a harsh ride to the road base material in that when its very wet the surface tends to be more flexible, and as we all know stone size plays a large part in road comfort.


Another personal oddity is that I spent many years travelling 5,000 miles around Europe riding a wooden wheeled bicycle with iron tyres, so have a fair knowledge of road surfaces.


Digesting all that's been said and offered, the tyre pressure route sounds most favourable, its easy and no cost involved.


I will report back.




PS VW Deutschland will be my next contact.



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shaggy - 2016-11-27 11:54 AM


Why not contact a few companies that install air suspension and see if they have fitted it to a similar model, then ask them to contact the owner to see if they don't mind you having a passenger ride in it.


That makes good sense.


I’d also contact Bilbo's (who built Bill’s “Nexa”) and ask about it on forums that specialise in ownership of VW Transporters.


I doubt if VW(UK) or VW(Germany) will be prepared (or even be able) to offer useful advice on retrofitting air-suspension to a Transporter-based UK-converted motorhome, any more than Fiat(UK) or Fiat(Italy) would for my Ducato-based France-built motorhome.

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As well as checking out the tyre pressures (and tyre "types"?), what about just trying some additional cushioning...?


eg http://www.carseatcushions.co.uk/index.php?main_page=index&pg=home


(I don't think I'd be too tempted to set off down the full air suspension route...)


Are the seats abnormally firm or flat? so as to function better when forming part of the bed?...maybe?







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pepe63 - 2016-11-28 1:45 PM


...Are the seats abnormally firm or flat? so as to function better when forming part of the bed?...maybe?



A photo of a Nexa bed being constructed is attached.


There are several on-line Nexa seat-related photos that can be viewed and these suggest that the front seats of all Nexas (whatever their build-year) are standard VW Transporter ones. VW seat squabs tend to be firmish, but that’s no bad thing ergonomically.


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Apologies if this is rubbish, but I thought that Bilbos fitted VW's lowered suspension on the short wheelbase models to keep them under 2m high. Would you get better comfort if you fitted the higher (standard) suspension and accept the slight increase in height?



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