Pickup trucks designed to tow heavy trailers usually have heavy-duty suspensions — as in sometimes harsh riding — especially when the truck is unloaded. If you find that even your dog doesn’t want to ride with you, you know there’s a problem.
Necessity is the mother of invention, and to solve this rough-riding dilemma, Firestone has introduced its R4Tech Air Suspension System. It’s designed to greatly reduce ride harshness, and allow the driver to easily adjust ride height and firmness to match the load being carried.
Firestone’s R4Tech kit is a hybrid air bag/leaf-spring system designed to replace the original equipment rear leaf-spring suspension that supports much of the weight and controls jounce and rebound. The idea is to help deliver an improved ride by using the variable spring rate of the air bags to better control the rear end of the truck when it is loaded and soften the ride when it is unloaded.
We spoke with Todd Green, a regional manager with Firestone who has considerable knowledge of the R4Tech system. Green added that the R4Tech setup has a kneeling feature, which allows the back of the truck to drop 5 to 6 inches, which can be helpful when hitching up a trailer, or loading heavy items into the truck’s cargo bed. The R4Tech can also level the truck from side to side, which is especially handy with tall, heavy slide-in campers. It also claims to improve headlight aim and driveline angles independent of load conditions, and soak up shocks and impacts at the trailer hitch, reducing the pounding that the trailer takes from rough road surfaces.
The system runs about 30 psi when unloaded, and about 80-100 psi when under a full load. Green said that if, in a worst-case scenario, air pressure is lost somehow (from an air line leak or compressor failure, for example) the air springs have a rubber bumper inside them that will support the load. The ride height will drop several inches, but the vehicle should still be able to limp in for repairs.
Shock absorber damping rates vary according to air pressure in the system, so the damping will match the load. It’s difficult to quantify an improvement in ride quality, but Green summed it up nicely by saying it “makes a one-ton pickup ride more like a half-ton truck.”
Firestone’s Xtra Duty Remote Air Command and Xtreme Duty Remote Air Command Systems allow users to remotely adjust their vehicles for varying load conditions, and inflate items such as tires. The Xtra Duty Remote Air Command system features a wireless controller, heavy-duty compressor and a 1/2-gallon air tank. The Xtreme Duty Air Command system includes the wireless controller, an Xtreme compressor and a 2-gallon tank.
The R4Tech kit comes with Firestone Airide air springs, an air compressor/control system and a Sanluis Rassini leaf-spring suspension, including leaf plates, lower trailing link, J-spring, spring perches and mounting brackets. The R4Tech air suspension system is available for a variety of trucks, check with the manufacturer for applications. The price is in the neighborhood of $2,000, Firestone recommends professional installation for R4Tech systems. However, it installs using the same original mounting holes as the OEM leaf-spring suspension.
Trained technicians are available at 800-888-0650 to answer any product application, installation or other questions. Firestone Industrial Products specializes in air spring manufacturing and technology, and also offers suspension solutions that include Ride-Rite, Sport-Rite, Coil-Rite and Level-Rite air-helper springs. For more information, visit