Can You Run Bags In The Winter?
Author: Carly Augustynowicz
February 17, 2021
If you're living in a state that regularly sees snow and cold weather in winter, and I mean below-freezing weather, not 60°F "winters", it usually isn't the most exciting time of the year for enthusiasts.
There are no car shows and a lot of people store their cars in winter so all we see are minivans and trucks for 5 months...
But, what if you daily your car in winter and you're riding on bags? Can you actually run bags in the winter? Stay tuned to find out!
What is Air Suspension?
First, let's go through all the components of air suspension in case you aren't familiar with details on this type of suspension.
Instead of coilovers or lowering springs, collectively as static suspension, running air suspension, air ride, bags, or whatever you want to call it, is the crown jewel in the enthusiast community, but it also gets a lot of hate as we all know...
There are multiple components that make up an air suspension system like the airbags also known as below or air strut, and the air management system that contains the valve manifold, air tank, air compressor, airlines and wiring harness, and height, temperature, and/or pressure sensors depending on the kit used.
There are also things like water traps and air filters for air ride that are very important, especially in winter. We'll cover this in Pro Tips for Air Suspension in Winter.
The air struts, or the bags, replace the OEM struts on your car and runs airlines to the valve manifold which is where all the airlines join together and are controlled from.
The air compressor pressurizes air before sending it through the valve manifold, the airlines, and then to the air struts.
This is all seamlessly controlled through the ECU, which is basically the brain of a car, and adjusted by the driver using a little remote or an app with pressure and/or height controls.
- Dynamic drive height
- Slammed car in about...3 seconds
- the Pshhhh noise (come on...it's cool)
- Easy to dial in fitment
- Generally, more maintenance involved/more difficult to install
- Some electrical work is involved...
How Does Air Suspension Work?
Know that we know the components of an air suspension system, let's dive into how they actually work so we can understand the challenges faced in winter.
Until recent years, air suspension kits generally were a pressure-based system. This means that when adjusting ride height, you're playing around with PSI in each bag to adjust the height.
Remember seeing that slammed Focus ST that was basically sitting on the ground last year at that car show? Well, it was probably on air and the air struts didn't have much pressure in them so the car sat reallllly low for that stance look.
The more modern and advanced approach to air suspension is a height-based system. Instead of adjusting the pressure in the bags, a height-based system, like the Air Lift Performance 3H system, actually adjusts based on the height of your car relative to the ground.
For pressure-based systems, there is a controller that is used to adjust the PSI in each bag. When the pressure is adjusted, the air compressor supplies air to the air strut or the bags through the valve manifold and airlines which will inflate or deflate each bag (raise or lower the car).
Air Suspension and Winter...
Despite what some of the haters say, air suspension CAN be run in the winter. Now, it may not be the best option for places that get a lot of snow or regularly sees freezing temps in winter, but that doesn't mean riding on air in winter isn't feasible.
The most common issues that drivers run into when riding on air in the winter are frozen airlines and a frozen compressor.
This can occur if the water trap is not regularly checked and drained to prevent it from freezing inside your air tank. The same goes with putting anti-brake freeze, also used in semis, in your air tank so your airlines don't freeze and crack.
In extreme temperatures, the compressor may freeze. Make sure to mount the compressor inside the car, preferably somewhere that gets some warm air from the car when you warm it up in the morning, if you plan to drive during winter.
Pro tips for Air Suspension in Winter:
- ALWAYS have at least 1 water trap and drain it regularly!
- Put anti brake freeze in your air tank to prevent condensation in your air lines
- And/or drain your air tank 1-2 times a month to avoid water condensation
- Keep your compressor air filter cleaned
- Mount your compressor somewhere that it could get some warm air when you warm the car up before driving
- Stay at ride height as long as possible to avoid using the compressor too much
So, should you or shouldn't you run air in winter? Air ride is perfectly fine to run in winter, it just needs some regular maintenance to keep everything flowing as it should.
As an enthusiast, if you're willing to take the proper precautions in the installation process and perform regular maintenance during the winter, running bags is absolutely feasible and can actually be pretty fun!
What do you think? Is running air suspension in the winter a good idea? What's your experience? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!