Installing Air Bags and a Hitch on a Chevy Colorado

Aug. 15, 2008 By Jarred Meyer

With gas prices on what seems to be an unstoppable climb we are always trying to find ways to spend less at the pump. When it comes to towing, more and more people are leaving the cover on the boat this summer. Not only do I find myself towing a boat during the warmer months, but during November I take a small trailer out to haul some 4 wheelers around.

If you’re like me then you probably cringe at the idea of a weekend fishing trip knowing that you will have to spend a fortune in gas in your full-size pick-up or SUV. Until recently, I used to tow with my full size 1993 Chevrolet K1500, but now I finally have discovered a cheaper alternative with the use of a mid-size pick-up. Most of these smaller trucks have substantially decreased towing capacities or simply sag too much in the back, which I believe tends to steer most people to the larger vehicles. However, kits are available which allow you to fine tune your suspension to handle the heavier loads.

For my 2007 Chevrolet Colorado I located a kit from Air Lift (www.airliftcompany.com). The way it works is your simply add Air Helper Springs to the rear of the vehicle and when towing or hauling heavy loads you can adjust the springs by adding air to level the truck as well as substantially help handling. The springs can be purchased in conjunction with a compressor kit which allows you to consistently monitor and adjust your air springs on the move. I picked up the WirelessAIR Compressor Kit from Air Lift which includes a remote about the size of a garage door opener that allows you to monitor your air bags from inside or outside the vehicle.

I particularly appreciated this design as I did not have to drill any holes through the cab of my new truck in order to mount a control box. It is also very convenient as you simply select the pressure you want on the controller and forget about it as the system will also maintain the pressure. The WirelessAIR Kit also allows you to adjust the air bags independently (left to right) so you can also level unbalanced loads.

The installation of all the components is simple and the air springs are 100% bolt-on and require no drilling. This can be an easy install even for the do-it-yourselfers out there if you follow the included directions. I will also give you a brief overview of the installation.

The kit includes everything you need to install the air spring setup. It can be installed and used without the use of a compressor system but you will need to some way to fill the springs with air. Moving under the truck it is much easier if you remove the spare tire before installation.
Remove the jounce bumper by removing the two bolts on either side. Next assemble the Air Spring onto both of the included brackets.
Install the Air Spring and brackets between the leaf spring and frame rail by bolting the jounce bumper back over the top bracket and clamping the bottom bracket down with the supplied u-bolts. With the Air Spring complete I was ready to begin installing the WirelessAIR kit. It includes everything you need to hook up your Air Springs.
Trying to locate a place to mount the compressor and manifold was the most difficult step of the install as the Colorado engine bay does not have much room. Luckily I was able to locate a few empty spots along the firewall and driver side fender. All that is left then is to route the air lines which is tedious but not diffiicult. After doing a little shopping I finally settled on U-Haul (http://www.uhaul.com/hitches/) due to their fantastic warranty and price. If you purchase a hitch from U-Haul and have them install it you are elligible for thei lifetime unlimited hitch warranty. It covers a multitude of things including collision, accidental overload, jack-knife, theft of vehicle and even corrosion. The warranty costs $5 and will get you total replacement (including labor) if any of the above happens!
U-Haul also offers a two-year Wiring Service Plan if you have them install it. This warranty covers items such as corrosion, accidental handling or damage. I went ahead and installed the wiring myself as I am fairly knowledgeable with electrical components. I needed to pick up a T connector which connects inline with the taillights and splits out a connector to the trailer. U-Haul also offers a trailer light connector with LED indicators built into the plug so that you can verify the connector is getting power.
Lastly I needed to install a ball mount and ball. For this I am using a mount and ball from U-Haul as well. I like the design of the ball as it uses a cotter pin to prevent the nut from backing off as well as a clamping indicating fastener. As you tighten down the ball on the mount, the plastic clamp gets pinched out from the nut. Once you can remove the outside flange of the plastic clamp you know the ball is at the correct torque.
After taking the truck out and driving it around for a while I was very impressed with how it performed. In fact, with the Air Lift Air Springs inflated the Colorado out-performed our full-size Chevrolet K1500. Particularly handling was noticed as the Colorado did not sway like it did without the air springs. Also, when driving over sharp inclines such as speed bumps the back end of the truck did not bounce and cause the front end to loose any traction. This definitely made the ride more comfortable as well as created a more confident driving experience. Other than feeling the load in the acceleration I would say that I could hardly tell I was even towing out boat at all. This Airlift Kit is a must have for anyone out there who plans on towing. And if your looking for a trailer hitch with a great warranty, then U-Haul is a great way to go.

 

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