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Helper Springs vs Suspension Air Bags - What to Choose?
Having a load support problem? If you're reading this page you probably know that you want to fix it - but which product is right to solve your situation? Hopefully we can help. One of the more common debates for level load capacity is whether to use helper springs or suspension air bags. With advantages and disadvantages, either product should suffice for load support – but which is better for you and your vehicle?
What They Do
Both steel helper springs and suspension air bag kits are designed to prevent your vehicle from sagging, swaying, and experiencing a rough ride while loaded. Both are actually forms of “helper springs” which will assist your current suspension in supporting a load. Both are available in adjustable forms so that you can articulate the amount of support your suspension provides.
This is probably the determining factor in which product you will choose. Both product lines come with “manual” and “automatic” adjusting setups. Cost and functionality go hand in hand here.
Let’s start with the leaf spring helpers. Hellwig makes springs that fall into two major categories – constant and progressive. Constant rate helper springs will constantly provide your vehicle with their rated weight capacity while progressive models will adjust with the load in your truck on their own. The EZ-550, EZ-990, EZ-1000 and Sport Series are all constant rate hellwig springs, while the LP-25, LP-35 and Pro Series Silent Ride are all part of the progressive (self-adjusting) springs. The EZ-990 and some of the constant springs are adjustable by hand. This is done by increasing or decreasing the torque of the u-bolts to control your ride. However, the progressive rate springs will do the work for you, and are typically a great solution for work vehicles where you do not want to worry about airing up and down all the time.
Now the air helper springs. Air bags can be adjusted increasing or decreasing air pressure with the air lines that are generally located by the license plate (in a manual setup). However, Air Lift and Firestone offer outstanding air compressor systems to adjust your air bag helpers on the go. This makes the task of leveling your load much more simplistic and versatile. There are also auto leveling systems that will engage your air compressor system automatically and keep you at a level ride height. One major advantage of air bags in a commercial scenario is the freedom to adjust your air springs from left to right in case of an uneven load. Progressive helper springs would help this scenario, but not with the precision provided by suspension air bags. Support: Helper springs will range anywhere from 550lbs to 3,500lbs while air bag helper springs will range from 1,00lbs to 5,000lbs. For a full size pickup, air bags will give you more load support than any of our steel helper spring models.
Firestone, Air Lift, and Hellwig all make extremely durable products. All of the air bag kits for truck and suv that we sell come with bellows backed by lifetime warranty. The rubber on air bags can tend to wear over time, especially when they are exposed to harsh weather conditions or misuse. Replacement air bags are readily available if needed, but most issues will be covered by warranty. The heat treated steel in hellwig helper springs are also backed with a million mile warranty – try driving to that mile mark.
All the aforementioned products are quite affordable for suspension products. Helper springs have much more of a range due to the diversity of products. Hellwig EZ-550 constant rate springs start at around $46.95/pair and LP-35 3,500 lbs. progressive springs for pickups are around $245 including mounting hardware. Air bag kits for coil springs will cost a consumer around $89 and our most popular kits for leaf spring applications average $256 with free shipping. Note that these air bag kit prices reflect a manual inflation/deflation setup and air compressor systems are additional.
Overall, if you are looking for the ability to adjust your springs and customize your ride on the go, then an air system is probably the correct route for you. If you are looking to level your load without adjusting it on your own, we would tend to recommend the hellwig helper springs because of their progressive design. The constant rate springs can be very useful as well in certain situations where a self-adjusting spring is simply not necessary.
Also Consider: Timbren Suspension Kits