By Bryan Martin, special to Land Line
In NASCAR, I have heard it said “rubbin’ is racin.’” That may be true on the race track, but when it comes to truckin’ – scraping ain’t good.
These days, there are a lot of really cool looks on the custom hot rod trucking scene. One of the “hip” trends these days is for the trucks to be long and low. But how do you stay low and have the peace of mind to get around without headaches and the constant worry of dragging fuel tanks or bending the front bumper?
I’ll give ya three quick fixes for the dangers of low riding.
A bumper flip kit will keep you clear from the constant exposure of bending your front bumper because of “chug-holes,” curbs or the hazards of an off-road load or unloading site. A flip kit gives you 3 to 5 inches of additional ground clearance when the bumper is flipped up.
Essentially, it is a kit that allows your front bumper to be hinged at the top. The bottom of the bumper flips up, out and away from the front of the truck adding several inches to the measurement from the bottom edge of the bumper to the pavement. They are great for residential unloads where “curb jumping” is a requirement.
We have a kit that is a fairly easy six-hour install, and you will not need to do any painting or welding. There is no need to buy a special bumper as this kit fits any existing bumper that is 20 to 22 inches tall.
An air bag suspension for the steer axle has been one of our most popular upgrades of the past few years.
Once you remove the spacer blocks from under your leaf springs and, in most cases, remove a leaf (or two) from your front springs, you’re too low to get around. Installing an air bag kit to your steer axle will cure this ailment.
It is an all-day install, best done by a mechanic shop. And a steer axle alignment afterward is imperative. An air bag suspension will allow you to deflate, go low and look cool when parked. But hit the switch, inflate the bags, and you are riding high with adequate ground clearance.
The air bags are carrying the weight of the truck (just like the air bags under your rear suspension and trailer suspension does) and the leaf springs are keeping the axle squarely under the truck. The air bag inflation pressure is controlled by a regulator so each driver can adjust to his liking and obtain optimum ride quality.
An “over-inflate” valve on the rear air suspension is a cheap, effective way to allow more ground clearance for the fuel tanks on your truck. This is a 12-volt electric over air valve. It can be plumbed in from a constant air supply, then routed to the air line downstream from the leveling valve on your drive axle suspension (between leveling valve and air bags).
So when the valve is energized, full air tank pressure is sent directly to all of your air bags, and is not regulated by the ride height valve. This will raise the rear of the vehicle until it is stopped by the travel allowed by your shock absorbers. This typically gains you an additional 2-plus inches of clearance from the bottom of your fuel tanks to the pavement.
You cannot drive in this mode for long as it puts added stress on your driveline angles, strains your universal joints and also exhausts air out of the leveling valve the entire time the valve is switched on. But it does allow for some additional ground clearance while you get over the hump or whatever other obstacle is about to puncture the bottom of your fuel tanks.
It seems as if shippers often send you into the hazard zone where obstacles can provoke the bending of the bumper, tanks or flaps. And who’s not familiar with the potholes on the back parking lot at the “Econo Fuel” Truck Stop? They can wreak havoc on the low-lying areas of your rig. So make note of what I’m saying here today and take action soon. It may cost you a few bucks now, but in the long run it will save you cash on replacing bumpers, boxes or tanks and add leaps and bounds to your peace of mind. LL