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View Full Version : Air Bags for 2000 GMC 1500 ECSB Sierra



JeremyN
11-18-2011, 01:03 PM
Guys,

I have been looking and looking for a 2500HD to purchase, but I just cannot find the right one for me. My wife and I thought that instead of spending a ton of money this year buying a new truck, I would instead put some air bags on my truck. I have a 28BRS and I just don't like how much it sinks when I am pulling. It isn't bad at all if the camper and truck are empty, but when we load up for the trip and put a lot of wood and supplies in the back of the truck, it really sinks down too low for my comfort.

I have been cruising the internet and have found many options. The three most common are Air Lift, Firestone, and Hellwig. I noticed that each of them have a little different mounting pattern though. The Hellwig bags seem to mount directly over the axle, where-as the Air Lift and Firestone bags have you mount them in front of the axle. Does the mounting location matter?

Plus, I have been looking at many different options, from 2,000, to 3,000, to 5,000lb kits. I would like to get an on-board compressor as well. The on-board compressor seems to adjust itself nicely to varying conditions while you are towing and will regulate the pressure nicely.

I guess my main queston here is if there are any people out there using air bags on a 1/2 ton GM vehicle, and what kind of air bag would you recommend me getting?

Thanks in advance.

TGLBWH
11-18-2011, 02:12 PM
Don't have them on a 1500 but do have firestones on a 2500. I would think the different mountings you saw had to do with different trucks and models due to suspension differences. they do make a lot of difference, wouldn't be without them. installation is straight forward on the firestones with enclosed directions. took about an 1 1/2 hours to install. Don't have the compressor but will put one on this year. Good Luck

westxsrt10
11-18-2011, 02:44 PM
We have the 1000 lbs AirLift bags on my 1500 Ram (coils) and they do the job well towing my 26' 7500# bumper pull car hauler. I use a weight distribution hitch on the 1500 and adding the air bags improved the ride.
I'd think the 2000# or 3000#er's should work out fine for your use.
I have the 5000# Firestones on my F-250 only to level things out.

JeremyN
11-18-2011, 03:18 PM
So basically, the concencus here is to use the Firestone? Does anyone have any experience with the Air Lift or Hellwig?

Thanks.

TeJay
11-18-2011, 03:40 PM
We installed Firestone's on the MH (34' Dutch Star) on all four wheels with the on board air compressor. It worked well to reduce some of the sway, bounce and leveled the load. Installed the Airlift on the F-150 rear and as has been said I wouldn't be without. I don't know if I'd install an air compressor but it might be convenient. With the MH we could adjust while traveling down the road. Many side roads are very inconsistent compared to the interstates and the OB compressor came in handy. With a TT once I'm loaded I can adjust and level before I leave home. I suppose once you stopped for a few days or weeks you'd like to reduce the air and use the TV around town etc. Then when you hook up again pump it back to level. I bought one of those 12-V portable air compressors for that purpose. About $20 instead of $200 for the other. The lifts on the MH were on for 10 years and I never had a leak.
Just my thoughts
TeJay

GOTTOYS
11-18-2011, 04:10 PM
Airbags will be of no value when hauling a travel trailer. They are not made to increase the load carrying capacity. They are made only to level the vehicle. It will tell you that in the information that comes with them. A properly set up load distributing hitch is designed to do the same thing. I takes some of the weight off the rear axle of your tow vehicle and transfers it to the front. Air bags are useful if you are pulling a fifth wheel because it doesn't use a load distributing hitch. You will not get any benefit from this set-up pulling a travel trailer. Concentrate on getting your hitch properly sized and adjusted and you will be fine.....Don

JeremyN
11-18-2011, 05:02 PM
Airbags will be of no value when hauling a travel trailer. They are not made to increase the load carrying capacity. They are made only to level the vehicle. It will tell you that in the information that comes with them. A properly set up load distributing hitch is designed to do the same thing. I takes some of the weight off the rear axle of your tow vehicle and transfers it to the front. Air bags are useful if you are pulling a fifth wheel because it doesn't use a load distributing hitch. You will not get any benefit from this set-up pulling a travel trailer. Concentrate on getting your hitch properly sized and adjusted and you will be fine.....Don


Don,

I guess I am a little puzzled with your response and I would like to get more advice and clarification from you. When my dealer set up my weight distribution system, they said that you want the tongue of the trailer just a tad under level. They set it up that way and it pulled home great. But then again, the trailer was completely empty and so was my truck. With the trailer now loaded up and after I put all my stuff (wood, kids bikes, lawnchairs, etc) in the back of my truck, the truck sinks down much more than it did when I originally pulled it home. In fact, I can even tell a difference when I don't have anything in my truck. Just loading the trailer with all of our stuff and pulling with an empty truck, I still notice much more sag than I did when I pulled the trailer home from the dealer for the first time.

I have the distribution hitch that has the bars and chain, so after I noticed how much it was sagging, I went up another link on the chain. That helped to level my setup more (still not as level as it should be), but when I pulled into the dealer like that, the service manager said my bars were way too close to the frame of the trailer and told me to go back to my original link. So I did that and pulled that way all year. My bars are level when you compare them to the frame of the trailer, but you can tell there is a lot of tongue weight cause my truck sinks a lot.

Thinking of it in my head, I am wondering why the bags wouldn't work. My truck pulls my trailer pretty good right now already, even with more tongue weight than I want. Wouldn't bags in the back that help level my truck off, also have a positive effect on leveling the trailer off more than it is right now?

Again, just looking for clarification here. I don't mean to argue. I am kinda new at this stuff, so my thinking is probably backwards of how it is supposed to be! :)

Thanks!

TeJay
11-18-2011, 08:51 PM
I believe that the above average TT owner knows that air bags won't increase your TV's ability to carry more weight. They are primarily used to assist in maintaining a level TV and to some extent a level TT. Yes, as has been discussed the WD hitch is designed to shift weight for or aft as needed to maintain the proper tongue weight which will aid in proper tracking of both the TT and the TV. Once the proper tongue weight is achieved and one is happy with the ride and trailer sway control then air bags can be used to adjust the TV levels if needed. I have been involved with mechanical education for 35 years and will admit that the learning curve on understanding the complicated relationships between TV, WD hitch, TT, anti-sway, etc, etc, is pretty steep. It takes some studying, at least for me, to understand all the factors. It's always a good idea to get proper weights of all axles and tongue weight to better understand and then adjust as needed. There are many places on the net to get this information.
JeremyN, You have a NT trailer so it is not a fifth wheel. After all is adjusted to your satisfaction and your TV lights are in the trees then air bags will solve your problem. It will also give you the option to adjust as needed. Last Summer we went to Maine without the TT. I bought 150 board feet of birds eye maple for some kitchen cabinets. Loaded up and adjusted the bags for level.

If I am off base with this information then I apologize but that's what I did to set my vehicle. The WD hitch was difficult to set up and it took several tries to achieve what felt good to me. The dealer was useless so I studied on my own. Once I got a good ride I needed to raise my TV to achieve level travel.

TeJay



TeJay

Manzan
11-19-2011, 01:07 AM
Depending on your hitch, you can change the angle of the ball and hitch and/or change the height of the ball. If your TV is sagging in the rear, not enough weight is being transferred to your front wheels. This, in essence, make the front end light and can cause steering problems in a lot of rain or snow or ice. Not enough traction. Measure the distance of the top of your wheel wells to the ground both front and rear. When you hook up, the distance change should be the same both front and rear. Gives and safer, more comfortable ride. Air bags will level your ride but do nothing to transfer the weight where it should be.

JohnDar
11-19-2011, 08:33 AM
Properly set up with a WDH, the trailer and truck should both be level, not nose down. If your hitch ball mount can be adjusted up/down, you may need to do that, as well as adjust the position of the chains on the trailer tongue. The other problem may be in how you're loading the trailer and the extra stuff in the bed of the truck. If the load in the trailer is forward, then you've increased the tongue weight and you'll push the rear of the truck down. You may need to redistribute the items in the trailer and restrict how much you add to the bed of the truck.

Your 28BRS is listed as only weighing 5190 lbs. Well within the limits for a GMC 1500 unless you're loading bricks into it. I pulled a heavier TT with an Avalanche and did not have a problem.

JeremyN
11-22-2011, 10:00 AM
Thanks for all the help on this everyone! When I get my trailer from storage in April, I will definitely look at adjusting my hitch a little to see if I can help level it off more that way. I think I might have some room to go up 1 more hole on the hitch itself. If I don't, I will let all you guys know. Maybe I can even take a few pictures of my setup to show you all for some more advise.

As far as loading the trailer, I really try to load as much over the axles and behind as I can. I try not to put too much weight in the nose of my trailer. I will also try to put as much stuff that I currently have in the bed of my truck in the trailer as well. Like I said though, even when the truck is empty, it sure seems like it sinks down a little more than I would like.

As JohnDar said, my trailer is well within the limits of my truck, so I am not looking to necessarily increase my towing capacity. I am just looking become more efficient with what I am towing.

Once again guys, thanks for all the posts below. I really appreciate everyone's help on this.

I hope everyone has a great Thanksgiving holiday!

Manzan
11-23-2011, 12:23 AM
One other thing, make sure your spring bars are heavy enough. Too light would make for excessive bend in them and insufficient weight transfer with too much squat in the TV

JeremyN
11-23-2011, 02:20 PM
Wow, I think I finally got this guys! I did a ton of research on this subject last night and came across a TT forum that explained this quite well. I now understand why putting airbags on the truck, won't help transfer the weight like I thought. A guy said he put his trailer on scale and the weight was 5300lbs. He then hooked it up to his truck and used the WD hitch. He said his trailer weight was about 4700lbs at that point. That meant his tongue weight was about 600lbs.

If I put the airbags on the truck, and not adjust my hitch to transfer more weight to the front axle, my tongue weight won't change. The truck will be leveled off, but my tongue weight will stay exactly the same.

What I am going to do is put my hitch up one hole if it is available. Then pull it around to see if it helps it out. If I am happy with the ride, but would still like a more level setup, I will then put airbags on my truck.

Thanks for all your help again guys. I think I actually get it now!

GOTTOYS
11-23-2011, 02:45 PM
Jeremy, there are actually 3 different adjustments for your hitch. The height of the ball, the angle of the hitch head which affects the tension on the weight bars and the amount of tension on the weight bar chains. it will take awhile to get the right set-up but it's worth the trouble. There should be some detailed instructions online from your hitch manufacturer. If not find a similar hitch design and use their instructions. Reese makes a lot of different styles and it seems that a lot of clones have been coming out lately that may not have very good instructions if any. Good luck..Don

JeremyN
12-12-2011, 02:24 PM
Ok, I am going to start this back up again. I just found a 2003 Silverado 1500HD for sale online. It only has 78,000 miles on it and I think it is a really good deal. Does anyone know what the exact differences are between a 1500HD and a 2500HD?

Thanks.

JohnDar
12-12-2011, 04:36 PM
Ok, I am going to start this back up again. I just found a 2003 Silverado 1500HD for sale online. It only has 78,000 miles on it and I think it is a really good deal. Does anyone know what the exact differences are between a 1500HD and a 2500HD?

Thanks.

Hard to tell without the manual, but using a 2008 GMC Trailering Guide I have a hard copy of, the answer is not much. Just as an apples to apples comparison, the max. trailer weight for a Sierra 1500 with 6.0L V-8 gas engine, 2WD, and 3.73 rear end is 10,200 lbs. For a similarly equipped 2500, the max. is 10,400 lbs. If, however, the 1500 only has a 5.3L engine, then it drops to 8200 lbs. Put 4WD on it, and it goes to 7900 lbs. But, put a 6.6L diesel in the 2500 and it jumps to 13,000 lbs.

Try looking at the trailer hitch on the truck. There should be a tag giving the maximum weights, including max. tongue weight.

I tried looking up a 2003 manual, but got cyber-attacked by some SoaB website claiming to have them. Fortunately, Norton caught it and pooped it out.