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No More Free Tire ­Rotations!

Tire rotation is a cornerstone of vehicle preventive maintenance and tire longevity. It is a well-proven fact that tire tread life can be greatly enhanced by regular and timely tire rotation. During rotation, each tire and wheel is ­removed from...

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ASE G1: How To Measure Cold Cranking Amps, Reserve Capacity

The ASE G1 test contains 55 scored, job-related questions, 15% of which will concern electrical maintenance and repairs. From the ASE G1 study guide, you will need to know how to: • Perform battery tests (load and capacitance); ­determine needed...

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ASE A5: Brake Fluid And Bleeding Sequence

The ASE A5 Test includes a portion on brake fluid, bleeding, flushing and leak testing. You must know how to: • Diagnose poor stopping, pulling, dragging, or incorrect pedal travel caused by problems in the brake fluid; determine needed repairs. •...

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When Timing Is Everything: A Look At The 2.5L, 2.0L Powerplants

Last month, we looked at the timing chain setup on the Audi 3.2L engine and saw how a lack of oil changes can adversely affect the tensioners and cause engine failure. We’ve also seen similar issues with the timing chain setups on the 2.5L 5-cylinder...

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Modern Charging Systems: Cover All The Bases During the Diagnostic Process

To quote a familiar situation: “My customer’s car is now on its third alternator in six months and my jobber store refuses to ­warranty a fourth.” In other words, the parts supplier believes that an underlying problem is causing these alternators...

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Audi Fuel System: MIL On/Multiple Low Fuel Pressure DTCs

Due to fuel intrusion into the low-pressure ­system fuel pressure sensor (G410), a false signal may be sent to the controller, resulting in a reading that is out of tolerance. Model: 2007 Audi A4 Sedan V6-3.2L Scenario: The MIL is on and one or...

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Your Guide to the Kia Brake Job

Kias will provide little challenge for any tech currently handling basic brake work. All it takes is paying attention to details and good work habits to make it profitable. An occasional long pedal could be a master cylinder bleeding down, which...

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Toyota Avalon Alignment Spec: 2005-‘11

The Toyota Avalon is sometimes called the “Japanese Buick” due to its size and plush ride. However, the Avalon’s overall suspension design does not vary that much from Toyota’s smaller vehicle platforms. The Avalon comes in four trims:...

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BYOBP Brake Jobs: This Has To Stop

Recently, I was sent a link to a TV commercial on YouTube for a mobile brake business. I will post the link on BrakeandFrontEnd.com. The commercial featured a puppet claiming that the business could save a driver $500 on brakes because shops mark up brake...

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Redline Detection Seeks Nominations for 2nd Annual Redline Rock Star Performance Award

Redline Detection is encouraging anyone who works with, or knows, a talented technician to nominate him or her for the second annual Redline Rock Star Performance Award. The award recognizes a technician for their commitment to family, community and...

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Automotive Lift Institute (ALI) Elects 2015 Board

Jerome Lentz of Challenger Lifts (Louisville, Ky.) has been elected chairman of the Automotive Lift Institute (ALI) Board of Directors for 2015. Voting took place at ALI’s annual membership meeting Nov. 3 in Las Vegas. Lentz’s 2015 term will be...

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Top 5 Tools: John Forro, AST, Automotive Service Technology in Hinckley, OH

John Forro AST, Automotive Service Technology Hinckley, OH ALLDATA Information System: I use this system daily for researching labor pricing, wiring schematics, circuit descriptions, torque specs, etc. One doesn’t need to memorize all the information...

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Home Electrical Battery Air Ride: Compressor Diagnostics

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On most modern vehicles, the compressor and air ride control unit are very intelligent components. Most communicate with the Body Control Module (BCM) on a high-speed serial data bus. These systems have malfunction indicator lights on the dash and require the use of a scan tool to diagnose the system. 
 
Servicing modern air ride systems requires the right service information to interpret the “C” or chassis codes the air ride system can generate. A failure code and an illuminated dash light could be just a failure of the air ride module to communicate with the BCM. This could be due to electrical problems and not a leak in the air system or a compressor failure. 
 

With an enhanced or factory scan tool, it is possible to perform bi-direction tests on the compressor and valves during inspection. This can save you hours of diagnostic time waiting for a compressor to turn on and drain the battery or testing for an intermittent condition. Throwing parts at these vehicles without performing a proper diagnosis can result in an unhappy customer and lost productivity.  
 
The air ride module does more than control the ride height. The software controls the temperature of the compressor so it does not damage itself trying to inflate a leaking air bag. It can also change the characteristics of the air bag in response to how fast the vehicle is going and if it is in sport or towing mode. But most of all, it helps to filter out erroneous ride height readings so the best possible ride is achieved.  
  
Compressor Killers
Most passenger and light-truck compressors are diaphragm types that supply an oil-free air supply to the springs. A piston-type compressor can be found on applications that require a higher volume of air. 
 
Running the compressor for extended periods can over heat the compressor and damage the diaphragm or piston. It is very important to ensure that the source of air for the compressor is clean and as dry as possible.
 
In the air is moisture that can damage not only the compressor, but the valves. When air is compressed, the water vapor contained in the air is condensed into a liquid. If there is no means of removing the water from the system, it will find its way to all parts of the system causing corrosion damage or freezing.
 
Most systems have a dryer that is connected to the compressor outlet to absorb the water entering the system. The dryer contains a moisture-absorbing desiccant such as silica gel. The desiccant can hold a given amount of water and once the desiccant is saturated with water, it will allow water to pass into the system.
 
The dryers that are installed on most systems do not have an indicator that will show when it is saturated and no longer able to absorb water. An additional dryer with a moisture indicator can be added to the original equipment dryer. It can be installed in the supply line and placed in a position where a periodic check can be made.
 
Some systems have filters on the air intake for the pump. The filter removes airborne particles and acts as a noise muffler for the compressor. Some systems even send purged air back through the filter. This filter should be replaced with the compressor, and often this filter is attached to the compressor’s casing. 
 
Another killer of air-ride components is the compressor. As the compressor over heats and wears, it can send debris and oil to the rest of the system. This oil and debris can degrade the air bellows even after the compressor is replaced. This is why it is critical to flush the lines if a compressor has failed.  
 
Some systems have air reserve tanks or accumulators located in the most inconvenient locations, like below the C-pillar or next to the frame rail. If the system experiences a catastrophic failure of the compressor or air bladder, replacement or flushing of the reserve might be required.    
The health of the entire system depends on the quality of the air supply. It is rare for just one component of an air suspension to fail.  
Mechanical and Solenoid Valves
There are various combinations of both mechanical and solenoid valves.

The function of the mechanical or solenoid valve is to exhaust air from the spring(s). Each spring can have a valve. For the Lincoln air suspension system, there are five solenoid valves — one for each air spring or strut and one to exhaust air from the system. 
 
Most valves are used for a pair of load-assist springs. The compressor unit contains a one-way check valve to isolate it from the springs or a reservoir. The Lincoln compressor has a combination one-way check valve and exhaust solenoid valve to inflate or exhaust the springs individually. Whether the valve is mechanical or solenoid, it needs dry air to operate properly.
 
Plastic line is used to transport air in the system in sizes 1/4”, 3/8” and 1/2”. Most fittings are push-on O-ring type ranging in size from 1/8” to 3/8” Male NPT.
 
Air struts for some import vehicles can have even more complex valves, air chambers and accumulators on the strut body to keep the suspension taut under certain conditions. These types of struts will have both an air and electrical connection to control the valves on the strut and the hydraulic valves of the dampener.  
Dynamic Vehicle Trim
The Lincoln Continental Mark VIII is equipped with ride height sensors at each front wheel and one for the live rear axle at the driver’s side control arm. The sensors provide input to the controller for ride height. The suspension controller is programmed for two different ride heights.
 
Parked, the vehicle will maintain this height by compensating for passengers and luggage. When the vehicle is put into gear, the controller will raise the suspension ride height 0.75 inch (20 mm). When vehicle speed exceeds 63 mph (105 kph), ride height is lowered by 0.75 inch (20 mm). When vehicle speed decreases to 45 mph (72 kph), the vehicle ride height is increased. The differential between 45 and 63 mph provides a dead band where the system will not adjust ride height. This prevents the system from cycling with small changes in vehicle speed. With the ignition off and doors closed, the vehicle returns to parked height.
 
The rear air struts on GM vehicles are used to assist the conventional coil springs. Cadillac vehicles with Road Sensing Suspension (RSS) have an electrically operated hydraulic valve located at the base of the air shock. There are sensors located at each wheel that supply input to the ride controller that operates the valves in the air shock and front struts. The suspension height sensor is located on the driver-side control arm and the compressor is located in the rear suspension cradle.
Alternatives
There are suppliers that can provide economical replacements for both springs and struts. These alternatives replace the air ride components with springs and conventional ride control units. On some vehicles that still have 100,000 of miles of useable service left, these kits can offer an economical option for the driver. Also, some remanufacturers are willing to pay for the worn air ride shock or strut cores that come off the vehicle. In some cases, the core could be worth $300! 
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Andrew Markel

Andrew Markel

Andrew Markel is the editor of Brake & Front End and Servicio Automotriz magazines. He has been with Babcox Media for more than 12 years. He is a technician and former service writer and holds several automotive certifications from ASE and ­aftermarket manufacturers. He can be reached at [email protected]
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