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Air Bags For Trucks With On-Board Scales: Caution

FirstFord

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The purpose of starting this thread is put out somewhat of a warning to those who are considering adding air bag suspension assist to their trucks if their truck is equipped with On-Board Scales.

I had started the process of finding air bags for my '22. I learned that besides the big players, Air Lift and Firestone, there are numerous other manufacturers of air bags now. However, Firestone was the only manufacturer that offered a product specifically for F-150s equipped with On-Board Scales. The other manufacturers either specifically called out an exception of compatibility for On-Board Scales equipped trucks (won't fit), or didn't even recognize On-Board Scales. Firestone Ride-Rite P/N 2627 was the sole product available for my truck. Kudos to Firestone for addressing this option.

But not so fast... After complimenting Firestone, I now have to turn around and throw them under the bus. Firestone advertises "easy installation", "simple to install"... Uh, nope. I'm pretty mechanically inclined, and this was the most obnoxious installation I have taken on in recent memory. I had to literally rework every component by grinding, cutting, or drilling - and even had to rework some fasteners, to get the product installed. The reason? IMHO, Firestone (like so many companies) rushed to market with a product that was not ready for prime time (this specific P/N is a new release for them, and apparently, I got one of the first ones). When the first component fitment issue arose, I contacted Firestone's Customer Service. They got my contact information and said they would forward my issue to Engineering. After some emails and photos sent back and forth, Firestone Engineering said, "Uh, yeah... that part wasn't made to the right print. I don't know when the correctly made part will be available - it would be weeks at the minimum, but likely months...."

However, after further discussion, I was forwarded information and dimensions to rework the part to be more like it should be - this would at least allow me to continue with the installation. That scenario set the stage for the entire installation. The installation did not take "a few hours" - it took DAYS! Hours in actual installation (expected), but many, many more hours in just having my head stuck up by the rear axle, examining, studying, the situation, the relationship of the components with each other and the axle, me acting like I was a mechanical engineer, trying to figure out what was going on - why were the parts not going in, or positioning like they were supposed to. Followed by even more hours of reworking parts.

How could this installation have gone so horribly wrong - where EVERY part had to be modified? I have already mentioned that I think Firestone rushed this part to market, but I also have one additional possible theory: my truck has the Max Tow Package. It is my understanding that trucks with this option use a different rear axle than those not equipped with said option. My theory (and maybe I'm throwing Firestone a lifeline here...) is that P/N 2627 was designed around the "standard" rear axle, and it isn't compatible with the Max Tow Package axle - but this is speculation on my part.

In any case, that has been my experience with this product, so I wanted to put out something of a "warning" to others considering this "upgrade".
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FirstFord

FirstFord

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Update: The system is fully installed, and I love it - it works great! It's the installation that was a royal pita.

I had several emails back and forth with Firestone Ride-Rite engineering. Thankfully, they said they would still honor the warranty, even though the parts had been modified. I offered up my theory of the installation issues possibly being because of the Max Tow Package axle, but they stated they are not of that belief. In defense of their viewpoint, they pointed out how well the components fit the axle in the pictures I sent. I wanted to thank them for the unintended compliment on my work - the reason why they fit so well was because they had to be reworked! Ironic as hell! :LOL:

The location of the rear brake hose manifold bracket welded on the rear axle housing was a big issue. In addition to reworking the components and fasteners, I also had to cut the rear brake hose manifold bracket to make room - psychologically, something hard to do on a new $$$$ truck! It was also necessary to fabricate brackets for the brake likes and wire harness traveling across the axle housing.
 

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I do not have the onboard scales, but...

I have the PacBrake kit, p/n HP10402, and the installation was all according to the instructions on my Max Tow PowerBoost. I will say that it was pretty finnicky given the way they decided to "clamp" part on using what I call a "toggle" similar to a drywall anchor.

Other than that it works great and LOOKS great. No modification required.
 
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FirstFord

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I do not have the onboard scales, but...

I have the PacBrake kit, p/n HP10402, and the installation was all according to the instructions on my Max Tow PowerBoost. I will say that it was pretty finnicky given the way they decided to "clamp" part on using what I call a "toggle" similar to a drywall anchor.

Other than that it works great and LOOKS great. No modification required.
I just took a look at that PacBrake kit - not a deep dive, just kind of a "look-see". Yeah, a lot of similarities, but also a lot of differences. PacBrake and Firestone had different ideas on how to achieve the same goal. And generally speaking, that's not necessarily a bad thing. But in my case, even though I really like them now that they are in, installing the Firestone kit was a mess. I just wanted to give others a "heads-up".
 

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Definitely digging that PacBrake system and the ease of install mounting it outboard of the frame. I had been looking at the Firestone before but couldn't bring myself to do any cutting or permanent mods to make it work. I've got the CCD shocks on my truck so there are no ride height adjusters to mess with mounting in that location either. Just looked and found the PacBrake on sale at Stage 3 for $299 which is a big plus as well.
 

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... PacBrake and Firestone had different ideas on how to achieve the same goal....
Sorry to derail the OPs intent, but what is the goal with air bags?
 
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Sorry to derail the OPs intent, but what is the goal with air bags?
Airbags correct / address sagging in the rear caused by a heavy tongue weight of a trailer, or a heavy payload (or both). Returning the truck to level (from sagging) improves braking and returns the aim of the headlighs where they are supposed to be. They are airbags that mount between the rear axle and the frame. They have zero negative effect on ride. You inflate them when needed, and let the air out when that haul/tow job is finished. I think it is worth noting that almost all airbag manufacturers go out of their way to expressly note that airbags do not increase the payload or towing capacity of a truck - they just level.
 
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EricR

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When towing, isn't a weight distributing hitch a much better answer?

It not only levels the the rear end, it also physically transfers weight from the truck's rear axle to the front axle (and trailer axle).
This will help braking much more than than raising the rear alone.

Here is my truck and trailer (5000 Lbs when loaded up and ready to go) with the SwayPro WDH from BlueOx.

Ford F-150 Air Bags For Trucks With On-Board Scales: Caution 20230821_151131


It also eliminates sway really well.
 
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FirstFord

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When towing, isn't a weight distributing hitch a much better answer?
Nice rig! It looks like you have a lot of fun with that!

However, your operative phrase here is "when towing".... A weight distribution hitch doesn't do a bit of good when you have 1700 lbs of gravel in the bed of the truck. Don't get me wrong or misunderstand me - yes, indeed, weight distribution hitches are well known for the benefits they offer when towing, and I am not arguing against them. But that being said, I would argue that they are not THE answer for every one in every case. I have multiple trailers for a variety of different chores/duties: 1) some you can't put a weight distribution hitch on; 2) if you could, it would start getting expensive getting weight distribution hitches for all of those trailers. And at the end of the day, it still doesn't address hauling, which I do a fair amount of.

Nor am I blindly advocating for airbags for everyone. Everyone has different needs. For how I use a truck, airbags were the best answer, in my judgement.
 

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I just got my new 2023 F150 and will need air bags AND a WDH. The WDH works fine to distribute the weight but with a large enclosed trailer when the wind gets a hold of it, it will pull the truck around especially when a semi passes and over bridge abutments etc. The airbags take most of that out of it.
Ford F-150 Air Bags For Trucks With On-Board Scales: Caution 0824231105


Here is my 16 with E load tires, leveled with Bilstiens, Airbags and WDH with my 28' enclosed loaded which is over 10k rolling. I am looking to upgrade my new 2023 with airbags and looking at what kit to buy. I am not going to put the larger heavier tires on or suspension, I forgot how nice one a new Lariat rides stock lol!
 

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FirstFord

FirstFord

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I just got my new 2023 F150 and will need air bags AND a WDH. The WDH works fine to distribute the weight but with a large enclosed trailer when the wind gets a hold of it, it will pull the truck around especially when a semi passes and over bridge abutments etc. The airbags take most of that out of it.
Ford F-150 Air Bags For Trucks With On-Board Scales: Caution 0824231105-


Here is my 16 with E load tires, leveled with Bilstiens, Airbags and WDH with my 28' enclosed loaded which is over 10k rolling. I am looking to upgrade my new 2023 with airbags and looking at what kit to buy. I am not going to put the larger heavier tires on or suspension, I forgot how nice one a new Lariat rides stock lol!
Another forum member with a nice rig that is serious about towing!

Since you said that you are currently investigating different airbag options, it struck me that this might be a good time for me to maybe articulate my original thoughts a little finer...

I am not poo-pooing Firestone in a blanket criticism - they have been making airbags for a long time, and have fine products. However, I am being critical of their specific kit 2627, which is a new product release for them, and is specific to '21+ F-150s with On Board Scales. If your truck does not have scales, then my critique is not applicable. Firestone has their "regular" kit for non-scale equipped trucks, which I believe they have had in their product line for awhile. For all I know, those kits may be just fine. And there is also the possibility (read: likelihood) that Firestone will get the issues worked out with the current version of 2627 - just don't know when....
 

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Thanks, the Firestone bags are usually very high quality and for the price the amount of pissing around to install them does not seem to be worth it. I have the Airlifts on my 2016 and planned to call them today. The part number they show on the Website for a 2023 does not work on Summit's site as fitting my truck.

I am not 100% sure on the towing scales I do not think I have them. I have a std tow package with the upgraded 3.55 locking diff and the 36 gal tank so there is very little difference between the two. The Ford site list a tow tech high pkg as being included with the Max tow pkg but I can't seem to find what is included in that. The only real difference and I see is that it includes the wt scales and the better sensors for the pro-back up stuff. Personally I am not a fan of the pro-trailer back up option, I have it on my 2016 and used it once and never messed with it again. I am just to used to using my mirrors and backing up the traditional way.

My new ride with 212 miles, I got it with 9. I am only planning to level it with a Ready Lift kit and put airbags in. My 2016 has 295/60 AT/3 10ply tires with Bilstiens and airbags. This made me forget how nice and quiet the new ones ride. My original tow vehicle was a 2002 GMC D-max DRW which I sold and got the 2011 F150 3.5 Lariat in 2011 and never looked back. I drive the thing more than I tow with it and the F150 is a really nice daily that will do cool truck stuff when it needs to. The F250 is a truck and a DRW should be on a job site. With the new 28' trailer I actually ordered a new F250 with 6.7 diesel which they haven't even started building yet and I ordered it back in June. Ford has started offering incentives again on the F150 and I got a really good deal on this one. I have a big tow to Florida at he end of January so I will see how it does. I can't see me getting the F250. I test drove one that was a Tremor and it is definitely all truck. Plus the one I ordered is $82k and will come with NO incentives or promo finaiancing. I just can't see spending that kind of money on a truck I will only need a couple time year.
Ford F-150 Air Bags For Trucks With On-Board Scales: Caution TEMP_1128232044a
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Nice rig! It looks like you have a lot of fun with that!

However, your operative phrase here is "when towing".... A weight distribution hitch doesn't do a bit of good when you have 1700 lbs of gravel in the bed of the truck. Don't get me wrong or misunderstand me - yes, indeed, weight distribution hitches are well known for the benefits they offer when towing, and I am not arguing against them. But that being said, I would argue that they are not THE answer for every one in every case. I have multiple trailers for a variety of different chores/duties: 1) some you can't put a weight distribution hitch on; 2) if you could, it would start getting expensive getting weight distribution hitches for all of those trailers. And at the end of the day, it still doesn't address hauling, which I do a fair amount of.

Nor am I blindly advocating for airbags for everyone. Everyone has different needs. For how I use a truck, airbags were the best answer, in my judgement.
Thanks for the answer!
 

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They have zero negative effect on ride.
I'll disagree with this. I've had them on my last two vehicles. A Ranger and my current truck. There's something about them when you're unloaded when you hit certain bumps that is just ROUGH. And I don't think it's the compression of the bag, but the extension. Like the bag is limiting the suspension droop. Adding air to the bag hasn't seemed to help all that much, for me, either.

When towing, isn't a weight distributing hitch a much better answer?
Why not both? I do. They're great, too, if you tow something you don't have a WDH for, or are hauling.

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I'll disagree with this. I've had them on my last two vehicles. A Ranger and my current truck. There's something about them when you're unloaded when you hit certain bumps that is just ROUGH.
My only response is to say that your experiences are different from mine. The minimum PSI for these Firestone bags is 5 PSI, and the max is 100. When I'm not towing or hauling, I run the bags at the minimum, and I don't even know they are there. When towing or hauling, the ride feels the same as before the bags (or at least it does to this driver) - only now, the truck is level. But then again, "ride feel" is a very subjective thing. My neighbor thinks the seats in his Silverado are more comfortable than the ones in my Lariat. I disagree - I think my seats are more comfortable. To each their own.

Why not both? I do. They're great, too, if you tow something you don't have a WDH for, or are hauling.
That is certainly an option, and some have done that. In my particular case, I just don't see a need for it. And I also don't want to get into the scenario of having multiple WDHs. In some towing scenarios, having a WDH is an absolute must. I'm not in that position. The airbags have satisfied what I was trying to do. And between the two, I find the WDH more of a hassle to deal with. I also have an onboard compressor for my airbags, so I just hit a button to put air in the bags, or release air. I guess I've gotten lazy. :)
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