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Is there any downside to Air Suspension?

Merle

Member
Apr 5, 2019
155
125
Tahoe
Zero shudder here, and as mentioned earlier, the benefits of the air bag suspension is:

* Ride quality
* Ability to load level and keep you driving safer at night with a heavy load
* Adjustable for conditions, such as a snowy driveway
* Reduced maintenance

The drawbacks are

* Increased complexity
* Complex and catastrophic failure

Firestone makes a whole lot of airbags for vehicles, and you can often get a replacement "coil" set for $1000-2000, most notably for truck drivers interested in load-leveling as mentioned above. Eibach makes a set of springs which is about $350 a set.

Springs wear out, and when you load heavy, you're "chasing UFOs" with your headlights. You also can and will bottom out a spring suspension system easier while an air bag system can take a massive amount of weight before any type of failure.

How much weight? Depending on your model, you're looking at 800-1000 lbs of additional weight before you hit the transportation limits enumerated on your door. I've loaded up past that limit and driven on a windy road without consequence (Idaho Energy logs are 8 lbs each, and I had half-pallet at 120 in the back, not counting everything else in the vehicle including myself and passenger).

I have 2008 vehicle with rear springs that is coming on 300,000 miles without problems. I've ripped out the cross-suspension system and upgraded the springs (to increase ride height as well as load) without touching the air suspension as well.

Like I said, if you're the type of guy to pull and replace your linear with progressive spring rates, to take it to the track, or to blast through sweepers when you actually need to come close to the bottom out limits due to compression - go for springs. But if you're like 95% of drivers who would never come close to those limits, or potentially even "loads heavy" and want the safety of being able to see the road at night ... get the air suspension.
 

Hayseed_MS

Member
Jan 19, 2021
637
1,362
Midwest
I would argue that catastrophic failure is not a drawback. It can happen but does not happen enough to say it is inherent in the system. Brakes fail but you cannot say putting a set of brakes on a car is a drawback because they can fail.

I, personally, think you are overthinking the air suspension thing. People have 100,000's miles on them with no issue. Yes, they can go out and can need maintenance, but that is a small percentage of the ones out there.
 
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Acksale

New Member
Feb 20, 2021
1
2
Mass
I will be in the market for a used 2017 Model S in the next few months. Wondering if i should seek coil suspension models or air suspension? My plan is to keep the car long term and i am concerned air suspension could become a maintenance issue down the road. Though i have heard the folks here mention air suspension rides better.

What is the consensus on long term costs to maintain air suspension?

I will be coming from a non Tesla EV and wondering if air suspension is going to ride different from my current coil EV.

I have a Model x with 30,000 miles. The air suspension is being fixed for the 3rd time. It getting fixed and the car will be going away from me $3,000 last time. It went 15 miles before breaking again.
 
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P100D_Me

Member
Nov 12, 2018
995
933
Australia
My car has had two shocks and an air distribution valve replaced (car would lose height when sitting for a few days), they were just chasing a slow leak so replaced multiple items.
The system is good but Tesla recently made it frustrating to live with via a software update, now the car is hell bent on getting to the lowest setting automatically and as soon as possible, I have on multiple occasions hit speed humps in urban areas and shopping centres because it decides to drop to low even though 15 seconds earlier I had set to to max height, you have to constantly hit the tiny text that says "Keep until 24 kmh (15 MPH)" or it'll drop without you realising. Previously it would always keep the set height until the speed thresholds where reached, it wasn't an opt in decision like it is now.
 

phaphaphooey

Member
Mar 26, 2018
96
39
USA
My car has had two shocks and an air distribution valve replaced (car would lose height when sitting for a few days), they were just chasing a slow leak so replaced multiple items.
The system is good but Tesla recently made it frustrating to live with via a software update, now the car is hell bent on getting to the lowest setting automatically and as soon as possible, I have on multiple occasions hit speed humps in urban areas and shopping centres because it decides to drop to low even though 15 seconds earlier I had set to to max height, you have to constantly hit the tiny text that says "Keep until 24 kmh (15 MPH)" or it'll drop without you realising. Previously it would always keep the set height until the speed thresholds where reached, it wasn't an opt in decision like it is now.
I wish I had read this a week ago. I live in an area of the USA that got a bunch of snow that never does so I have been driving on roads with quite a bit of snow. It has been maddening how I will raise the car to clear a drift and it will want to lower 3 secs later even though I am inching along.
 
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cwerdna

Active Member
Jul 11, 2012
3,442
2,292
SF Bay Area, CA
That said, I haven’t heard of the Model S air suspension being problematic on the forum.
There are numerous problem reports. Google for stuff like the below:
site:teslamotorsclub.com "air suspension" repairs
site:teslamotorsclub.com "air suspension" fail
site:teslamotorsclub.com "air suspension" leak
site:teslamotorsclub.com "air suspension" compressor
 

Cheburashka

Active Member
Jan 29, 2018
2,216
2,625
Los Gatos, CA
While it may be an issue - it cannot be listed as a downside to air suspension.

No, they do not make the suspension.

It is a major issue. Because Tesla tries to implement bandaid fixes that result in this:

Tesla recently made it frustrating to live with via a software update, now the car is hell bent on getting to the lowest setting automatically and as soon as possible, I have on multiple occasions hit speed humps in urban areas and shopping centres because it decides to drop to low even though 15 seconds earlier I had set to to max height, you have to constantly hit the tiny text that says "Keep until 24 kmh (15 MPH)" or it'll drop without you realising. Previously it would always keep the set height until the speed thresholds where reached, it wasn't an opt in decision like it is now.

and this..

It has been maddening how I will raise the car to clear a drift and it will want to lower 3 secs later even though I am inching along.

Tesla air suspension is fairly reliable as far as air suspensions go, but it's not without it's issues.
 

cwerdna

Active Member
Jul 11, 2012
3,442
2,292
SF Bay Area, CA
And then, we can talk about people who buy gas cars with hundreds of moving parts that scrape and move and slide, and no one ever gives them a thought, either. Yeah, go simple! They're always breaking and needing repair. On my S, about the only moving parts I replace are my windshield wipers. Four cars, two with 100K miles, now two new ones with 20K each.
As I pointed out at 2017 Model 3 Reliability you had all 4 door handles replaced on a car.

And, you yourself said you used to take your first Tesla in about once a month.
 

P100D_Me

Member
Nov 12, 2018
995
933
Australia
I wish I had read this a week ago. I live in an area of the USA that got a bunch of snow that never does so I have been driving on roads with quite a bit of snow. It has been maddening how I will raise the car to clear a drift and it will want to lower 3 secs later even though I am inching along.
There is no logic behind this change of operation they implemented, I guess the software team that thought this one up have never seen snow or speed bumps. It just doesn't work in the real world and this is one of those frustrating things with Tesla, they need to make operational changes like this menu options and not just put it in there with no actual description of what it is going to do in the release notes.
It would work far better if we could choose....
Option 1 - Always lower suspension automatically (like they have it always do now).
Option 2 - Lower suspension only when above speed threshold once set (how it used to work).
Option 3 - Suspension height follows speed thresholds (eg always go to max height below 15MPH, always go low above 'x' MPH).
They wouldn't want option 3 though because that will probably make the system work much harder.
 

serendipitous

Member
Sep 10, 2019
346
507
Maryland, USA
There is no logic behind this change of operation they implemented, I guess the software team that thought this one up have never seen snow or speed bumps. It just doesn't work in the real world and this is one of those frustrating things with Tesla, they need to make operational changes like this menu options and not just put it in there with no actual description of what it is going to do in the release notes.
It would work far better if we could choose....
Option 1 - Always lower suspension automatically (like they have it always do now).
Option 2 - Lower suspension only when above speed threshold once set (how it used to work).
Option 3 - Suspension height follows speed thresholds (eg always go to max height below 15MPH, always go low above 'x' MPH).
They wouldn't want option 3 though because that will probably make the system work much harder.


They changed the way the UI works recently. I think you've not adapted to it.

When you select your height, by default, it's only in that height very briefly (when it decides to lower I have no clue). You have to tap the blue "Keep until xx mph" text after setting the height if you want it to stay there (up until you exceed that speed). That word Keep may not look like a button but it is. You can also choose to have it always raise at that location, as before.

You can still choose your default between Normal and Low, and you can't keep the car in High or Very High above the (recently lowered) max speeds anyway, so you can't default there.
 

P100D_Me

Member
Nov 12, 2018
995
933
Australia
They changed the way the UI works recently. I think you've not adapted to it.
I understand how the 'keep' works, the problem is in real world operation it is terrible. Having to press two things to ensure your desired ride height doesn't unexpectedly drop is a step backwards. Picture this scenario.....
You are on a long street that has 6 speed humps spaced say 100ft apart, you reach the first one and press 'Max Height'.
Old software - Car would keep Max Height until you went over the speed threshold for that setting (easy to manage).
New software - Car will drop to Low by the time you reach the next speed hump unless you press 'Max Height' PLUS press 'keep'.
I have also had it drop to 'low' even though I've pressed keep, I have no idea what criteria it needs to meet for it to decide it needs to drop, I think there is more than just speed now.
Either way adding the 'keep' option was idiotic and serves no benefit to the driver.
 
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serendipitous

Member
Sep 10, 2019
346
507
Maryland, USA
I understand how the 'keep' works, the problem is in real world operation it is terrible. Having to press two things to ensure your desired ride height doesn't unexpectedly drop is a step backwards. Picture this scenario.....
You are on a long street that has 6 speed humps spaced say 100ft apart, you reach the first one and press 'Max Height'.
Old software - Car would keep Max Height until you went over the speed threshold for that setting (easy to manage).
New software - Car will drop to Low by the time you reach the next speed hump unless you press 'Max Height' PLUS press 'keep'.
I have also had it drop to 'low' even though I've pressed keep, I have no idea what criteria it needs to meet for it to decide it needs to drop, I think there is more than just speed now.
Either way adding the 'keep' option was idiotic and serves no benefit to the driver.

The benefit is that drivers were leaving their suspension height too high, causing strain to drive train parts and excessive wear, so we suffer because so many people were leaving their cars too high for too long for likely no good reason. Do you really find that many speed humps that the base ground clearance is insufficient to cross without scraping, though?
 

BigNick

Disaffected Member
Dec 3, 2017
1,075
1,304
Pennsylvania, USA
I understand how the 'keep' works, the problem is in real world operation it is terrible. Having to press two things to ensure your desired ride height doesn't unexpectedly drop is a step backwards. Picture this scenario.....
You are on a long street that has 6 speed humps spaced say 100ft apart, you reach the first one and press 'Max Height'.
Old software - Car would keep Max Height until you went over the speed threshold for that setting (easy to manage).
New software - Car will drop to Low by the time you reach the next speed hump unless you press 'Max Height' PLUS press 'keep'.
I have also had it drop to 'low' even though I've pressed keep, I have no idea what criteria it needs to meet for it to decide it needs to drop, I think there is more than just speed now.
Either way adding the 'keep' option was idiotic and serves no benefit to the driver.
I haven’t seen this new behavior. Maybe not on all cars?
 

P100D_Me

Member
Nov 12, 2018
995
933
Australia
The benefit is that drivers were leaving their suspension height too high, causing strain to drive train parts and excessive wear, so we suffer because so many people were leaving their cars too high for too long for likely no good reason.
If the suspension system is that fragile then 'fixing' it in software by forcing the car low ASAP wasn't the correct solution.
If a driver is coasting below say 20 MPH at full height what is the problem? If the driver goes full throttle at those speeds with the suspension set to max height then limit the power to solve the problem of stressing the suspension.
Tesla's workaround for faulty suspension design is to now increase the risk of hitting the battery on a speed hump because the car must go low ASAP, I've hit three speed humps already since the update compared to zero times before the update. And yes all three times I had pressed max height, I just probably hadn't pressed the tiny little 'keep' text as well......do these software engineers actually drive these cars in the real world to know how difficult that is to execute when driving?

Do you really find that many speed humps that the base ground clearance is insufficient to cross without scraping, though?
Yes, driving my kids to school I have to go over 10 on my round trip (which isn't that far), our local councils have an obsession with them.
Shopping centre car parks are full of them, big ones too so you must slow to a crawl, those are the ones I've scraped.
 

Merle

Member
Apr 5, 2019
155
125
Tahoe
The benefit is that drivers were leaving their suspension height too high, causing strain to drive train parts and excessive wear, so we suffer because so many people were leaving their cars too high for too long for likely no good reason. Do you really find that many speed humps that the base ground clearance is insufficient to cross without scraping, though?

Eh? What exactly is this excessive strain / wear that you are talking about?

* Tires?
* Axles?
* Motors?
* Suspension?

Driving on the "low" setting isn't going to save any type of wear on drivetrain components, and driving on "high" isn't going to cause increased strain either (logically).

It's about fuel economy, not durability.
 

serendipitous

Member
Sep 10, 2019
346
507
Maryland, USA
Eh? What exactly is this excessive strain / wear that you are talking about?

* Tires?
* Axles?
* Motors?
* Suspension?

Driving on the "low" setting isn't going to save any type of wear on drivetrain components, and driving on "high" isn't going to cause increased strain either (logically).

It's about fuel economy, not durability.

CV joints. Having them at an angle other than horizontal causes strain and contributes to the shuddering issue. Lifting the car up causes them to be at an angle.

It's not about fuel economy.

But whatever, everyone just continue to bitch about every aspect of your car and think that every decision Tesla makes is because they are a bunch of incompetent assholes who personally hate you.
 
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