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Why Your Toyota Tundra Needs Air Suspension Before Towing A Racecar
BY Kyle Crawford //
November 17, 2021
@mrkylecrawford
Photography: Brandon Cody
@bcody_formative
Owner: Michael Pastuszak
@mikeytwotimes_
  • The 5.7-liter V8 in this 2019 Toyota Tundra SR5 can handle towing a racecar, but suspension suffers.
  • Firestone Ride-Rite created the first pneumatic suspension device in the 1930s.
  • This air spring suspension kit and compressor install in a few hours, offering individual ride height adjustment, better responsiveness, reduced tire wear, and level load/steering support.

There’s a certain amount of bravado associated with packing supplies, tools, spare parts, and other items into your performance vehicle, then heading to your local racetrack to inflict abuse on your prized automotive possession. The bravado winces a little once a minor mishap forces you to pull your cell phone out of your back pocket to call your “buddy with a trailer” or AAA for a tow home. I should know. I’m guilty of all of the above. Someday I’ll grow up and get a truck and a trailer like a real adult. It’s the only way to adequately prepare for the worst, safely and effortlessly get my car to and from the racetrack, and enjoy comfort in the process. Past just getting a truck and a trailer is properly outfitting said truck and trailer to handle the additional weight of the car/trailer in tow. Lots of pickups can tow lots of vehicles, but most of them shouldn’t.

The subject of our discussion today is our friend’s beautifully capable 2019 Toyota Tundra SR5. Because it’s equipped with a 5.7-liter V8, the power, torque, and drivetrain aren’t the areas that need assistance when towing a fun car with a trailer — it’s the suspension. Enter 70-plus-year veterans of the air spring industry, Firestone Ride-Rite, and its dedicated application-specific air spring systems, designed to maximize safe load-carrying capacity, stability, and overall ride quality.

THE PARTS

The Firestone Ride-Rite Tundra rear air spring kit works on both 2WD/4WD models and comes with everything to improve the factory leaf spring support. That includes the innovative air springs themselves, robust brackets, hardware, air lines, and separate valves for inflation. In addition to the standard Tundra rear kit, we opted for the smartphone-enabled Firestone Air Command compressor kit, putting air spring adjustment into those addictive technological pieces of plastic and glass constantly in the palm of our hand. The standard-duty compressor kit includes an ECU, loomed plug-and-play wiring harness to patch into the truck, and enough tubing and hardware to warrant a simple installation.

HOW DO THEY WORK?

After installation, the idea is quite simple. The factory shocks and leaf springs stay in place and continue to do their job, supporting the truck’s weight when routine loads are present. Once larger loads or maximum towing capacity situations arise, with the smartphone capability of the air compressor system, the innovative air springs can be individually tweaked in pressure to accommodate off-center loads, inflate/deflate to absorb road vibrations, lessen interleaf friction, and enhance ride comfort. Picture your skinniest friend trying (and failing) to support a massive rock over their head when your strongest friend joins underneath to help. It’s a lot like that.

WHY DO IT?

To prevent leaf springs from irreversible sagging under constant load, for one. This sagging is an issue when towing at or above the maximum range because the vehicle is no longer level. The adverse effect on steering and braking performance is detrimental to drivability. It’s not only unsafe but changes the truck’s alignment, increases tire wear, and changes headlight projection height.

INSTALLING

The installation was a breeze with all the items laid out and the Tundra raised into the air. From there, it was a matter of fitting the air spring into its home between the frame rail and the leaf spring utilizing the included brackets and hardware.

The compressor kit was then fastened in its hidden location underneath the truck, and we traced all wiring through to the battery for operation. The included air line was routed from the compressor to the air springs in their designated locations. The system was checked over for leaks, the Firestone Ride-Rite Air Command app was downloaded to our smartphone, and this install was finished.

Why Your Toyota Tundra Needs Air Suspension Before Towing A Racecar

THE FINAL RESULT

The result looks fantastic. The hidden compressor, wireless activation, and clean installation on the truck are just the beginning. It offers better performance, safer load support, and longer-lasting Tundra suspension parts. The kit lessens your chances of bottoming out by softening frame-axle interaction. It helps level the vehicle to support steering and braking responsiveness, reduces tire wear, and adjusts the ride height to keep your headlights shining where they need to.

Firestone Industrial Products have been in the air spring manufacturing industry for over 70 years, with millions of commercial vehicle miles logged. The company’s experience is excellent peace of mind for understanding the quality of the product that it creates. After a fairly standard install, our Tundra is now even more capable than it was before, but with some added suspension creature comforts we didn’t know we needed. I might not have my own truck and trailer yet, but I know that proper independent load support is on my list for necessary mods, and it should be on yours, too!


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