Replacing Old Air Bags

Replacing Old Air Bags

by Jim & Sandy Kennedy

(Quinlan, Tx, USA )

replacing old air bags 21664200

Replacing Old Air Bags (No, the suspension type).

Being the proud owner of “The Ole Texas T” (1990 Southwind), and priding myself in still being mobile enough (at 66) to take care of the repairs and upkeep of our home away from home. I thought I had met my match with the daunting task of replacing the front suspension air bags after the starboard one blew out on our last trip to the Texas coast.

After receiving the replacement kit and the less- than-detailed instruction sheet, it occurred to me that I was expected to insert these two stiff plastic cylinders (4 inches in diameter) into the coil springs through a hole in the lower “A” frame that measured 2 inches in diameter. The instruction sheet showed this to be accomplished by simply twisting the bag as if you were wringing out a wet wash rag. This would reduce the diameter of the bag and also force out the air inside, and with the use of a provided plug, would keep the bag twisted for insertion.

Superman couldn’t have twisted those bags. But wait!!! I’m getting ahead of myself. I’ve still got to get the old bags out through that same 2 inch hole, and they were 5-6 inches in diameter because air pressure had molded them to the contour of the coil springs.
The distruction sheet… I mean instruction sheet said to use a 1 inch rotary hole saw without the pilot drill to drill a hole in the old air bag through the 2 inch “A” frame hole. Grab the old bag with a pair of needle nose pliers and twist it (wet wash rag style) out the 2 inch hole. Once again, Superman would have been stumped.

The old air bag was every bit as stiff as the new ones. At the age of 66, I have had plenty of time and opportunity to pick up a vast collection of helpful words and phrases that when artfully applied to a situation tend to help the artist overcome any difficulties that may arise… and generally clears out those individuals that don’t want to get dirty.

I am thankful though that my copilot, navigator, closest friend, and wife is not phased by my demonstrations of vocal flexibility. She just sat there near where my feet stuck out from under The Texas T, in case I needed a tool or something. I was almost out of colorful phrases when she said “This cold weather is sure making my joints stiff”. At that point I nearly bumped my head on the lightbulb that appeared above me.

The temp. was around 55 degrees. These bags are plastic. Like the best things in life, they need to be warmed up first. To make a long story shorter, I broke out my trusty 1500 watt hair dryer that I use on those three hairs on my head, warmed up the old bags and with the help of a pair of needle nose vise grips twisted the old bags out the 2 inch hole.

As far as the new bags, I put them in a large canning processor pot of boiling water for about a half hour which allowed them to be twisted, and I held them in place with a couple of large hose clamps. Sprayed them down with silicon lubricant and slid them right into position. I also warmed up the donut pads in hot water which have to be slid in between the spring coils above and below the new bags. Air lines routed and secured. Job done.

P.S. We spend quite a bit of money on play toys for our blue healer/rv pup Molly Dog. But she has adopted one of the old air bags as her favorite toy to throw around the yard. We had to scrub it down and put it in with her other toys.

Smooth roads to all,
Jim, Sandy, Molly Dog, & Sugar Puppy

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Comments for Replacing Old Air Bags

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May 15, 2014


by: Dennis Carver

I am also 66 yrs into life & also own a 1990 Southwinds RV, which is in need of front air bags. Your article saved me a lot of frustration & labor $$$. However, It does appear for a pro mechanic to just drop the A frame & replace the AIR BAGS. Will probably try it your ways first! Thanks for the much needed article!!!

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