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Earthman

Rear suspension Air bags, upgraded coil springs, or lifts?

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Hello forum, I’m a 64 year old man planning on a crosscountry trip to the Twilight Zone. Pretty much going where the wind blows me and looking for some adventure. I’m retired but on a limited budget so hopefully I can resolve my issue with limited funds.

I’ve gutted out the inside of my 2001 Nissan Pathfinder LE by taking out the rear and passenger seats, and have replaced them with a bed and cabinets, along with a luggage/cargo carrier on top. Problem is, my rear end is now sagging about 4-5” lower than the front end and the tires are within about 2”-3” from the wheel well. I need to pass over any bumps slowly and carefully or it feels as if I’m bottoming out. I’m hoping my new 255/65r16 (stock) tires I'll have mounted on Monday with help some, along with new heavy duty shocks (not sure what make yet), but I’m sure it will need much more to level this rig out. The GVWR limit is 5300 lb. (curb weight roughly 4000-4300), and currently, with myself and my dog as part of the valuable cargo, I’m at 5050 lb. (weighed at a truck stop big rig scale) So I’m 250 lb. below the weight limit, but it looks like I’m about 250 over the weight limit. I’ve consider upgrading to a heavier duty coil spring or airbags, but just not experienced enough to know what path to take? Other forums have recommended (to another member with similar issues) to try:

  • OEM springs

  • Monroe oe-spectrum shocks

  • Rancho RS9000X adjustable shocks, p/n 999010 or 999116

  • Airlift air bags 

  • coil spring lift

  • bumpstops

  • 2" lift

  • Bilstein 5100 series rear shocks

Honestly, this is pretty much all Greek to me, but I have done some research and it appears the airbags can be done rather cheaply and within my budget, but the concept has me a bit concerned on their durability. New upgraded springs seems to be the best route, but more than I really want to pay at this time. 2” lift may be the answer as well, but once again, something I’ll probably need the pros to do for me. Right now I’m leaning to upgraded shocks and airbags, but I’m just not sure airbags with suffice. It’s important to note, most of my travels with be highway miles, but I’ll be boondocking as much as possible at each short term destination. So I’m guessing a fair ratio of highway to off road would be 30/1. Any suggestion would be greatly appreciated.


 

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Best case, shocks shouldn't be used to make up load capacity. However I do have Monroe spring assisted load shocks on my Acura MDX for towing. I don't like them and wouldn't use them again.

 

Airbags can work. But they are best for variable loads. If this load is going to always be in your truck now, I wouldn't use them. Or I'd use them in conjunction with springs that can handle your base load. I have Firestone airbags on my MDX because that's about the only other option for it for towing. I like them fine.

 

If you search the forums for Land Rover springs, there are several much cheaper options than OME or AC lift springs. I have AC lift springs on my broken down Pathfinder.

 

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I have a similar constant weight in my Pathfinder. I blew out the whole rear suspension including bending the panhard bar. I just replaced everything. I went with NRC9448 coil springs and Bilstein 5100 shocks. Even with all the weight it's sitting at about a 4" lift. I think it will settle to about 3". I would recommend my setup only if you plan on lifting the front too. Otherwise I think NRC9447 would be better for you with the 5100s. 

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As above, you should address the springs & shocks. Bilstein 5100 shocks with LR NRC 9449 - that’s the same 225# spring rate as the NRC 9448 but with a lesser lift (typically ~2-2.5” as opposed to ~4”). There are the NRC 9446 or 9447 but they are 175# spring rate & it seems like you’d benefit from the 225#. You order from Britpart & they arrive in about 2-4 days for less than $100. There’s no reason to do AC springs at all - maybe a couple reasons not to & Rancho shocks aren’t much cheaper but are less smooth than Bilstein by most peoples account.

 

Here’s a cut & paste from another response regarding AirLifts. Personally, I’d spend a little more on springs & shocks because it will perform better, be more reliable & will be safer.

 

I’ve run AirLifts with the bump stops in place for about 12 years. (Same in my Mom’s JGC). While I like the airlifts (& they are cheap, about $100), they progressively deflate over time & twice I blew them out accidentally. Add to that the simple possibility of on trail failure & I wanted the reassurance that still having the bump stops in place gave me. The AirLifts are very hardy & can take it with no problem. I also ran the AirLifts through a single t’d line so I wouldn’t unknowingly have a single side failure. Make sure you check them at least monthly. They need to always have a little residual pressure in them. If you don’t, they will inevitably get pinched & fail. BTW, I had to drill out the hole in the spring mount just a bit to get them to fit properly. Also, I have taken them in & out numerous times without removing anything- just jack that side of the truck up & lubricate the air bag - soapy water even worked just fine. It’s a bit of a struggle but less work than dismantling everything.

 

 

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I've installed a couple of sets of the air bags with fair success, and I suspect they might be sufficient for your issue, as long as you aren't doing any serious wheeling anyway. They are fairly hardy and definitely the cheapest/easiest option. Being able to adjust them is a nice benefit as well.

If you are leery of using them, I would simply go with heavier rated springs (shocks don't really address the issue), and be prepared to install some spacers if the springs themselves aren't enough.

It's basically depends on your comfort/budget factor.

 

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I used spacers and new shocks first but that just raises the rear and no more load capacity because of oem springs , then I read a thread here about getting Land Rover springs from the UK and how awesome they are and cheep , so I ordered a pair last week and the total plus shipping to the US was 96.00 !!! Cant wait to get them and install them ! Have heard so many good things snd experiences with these springs !

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I carry a lot of stuff in my trucks. I don't have a R50, but the rear suspension is very similar to my WD21 Pathfinder and my 2004 Kia Sorento. 

 

With my Pathfinder, I went through several sets of rear springs trying to find a happy balance between lift, load capacity, and road/off road ride compliance. The Rover springs will probably be a reasonable way to go. 

With my Sorento, load handling and ride quality was the criteria when the original springs got tired and sagging. Spring change was more expensive so I opted to try a set of Airlift bags. I got mine for about $80 and spent about 2 hours one evening after work installing them. I have about 2.5  years on them both on and off road. I haven't had any issues with them and still holding air just fine. I haven't had to add any air to mine since I found the balance for me. I have the air line Teed so they both have same pressure and a single valve. 

Pretty much all your heavy trucks (semis, busses, dump trucks) don't run steel springs anymore, they are running air springs. Many of the semi trailers are running air springs now as well. They found that they work better for them because they are lighter and can adjust for the weight of the loads. They also have as good or better life span as well. 

If you are careful with your hose routing, and install of the bags, you will have long life and no problems with them. 

If it was me doing what you have planned, I would lean to the bags for their price and versatility. 

As for the shocks, the Bilsteins are good, but I also really like the ProComp ES 3000. I ran a pair of them on my Pathfinder for over a decade and liked them enough that when I replaced the fronts I got a set of them. The price is just a bit more than the budget ones but they are much better and generally a bit less than the "heavy duty" ones. The only reason the rear ones on my Pathfinder got replaced with a pair of Bilsteins is that I got the shocks for free (came off a brand new Titan that got lifted when I was working for the local Nissan dealership) and the right shock lost a seal and leaked it's oil after 15 years of abuse.

 

I personally hate the Rancho shocks, but the set I had on my Pathfinder were the RS5000, so not adjustable. The ProComps cost less and gave a much better ride for my Pathfinder. It does have heavier rated springs front and rear than stock, but the Ranchos just seemed to be valved wrong for my truck. 

Edited by Mr_Reverse
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