Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) Air Suspension

Original Equipment (OEM) Front struts and text
Silver Mercedes E Class at AirRide for OEM air suspension repair

Each week we are contacted by someone with OEM air suspension asking for help. What is OEM suspension and why are they contacting AirRide?

Well OEM stands for Original Equipment Manufacturer. What this means in terms of air suspension is that if your Mercedes, Audi, Range Rover, Porsche, Bentley,,,,etc left the factory when brand new with air suspension then you have OEM air suspension. Mercedes call it Airmatic but most others just call it air suspension. This is not our core market, but we might still be able to help.

We are a supplier of aftermarket air suspension for conversions from coil or leaf spring to air suspension. The two are very different and none of the parts are interchangeable. So if your car left the factory without air suspension then we are often able to supply conversions to give it air suspension. But our conversions are not the same, and are often not for the same purpose. Our kits tend to be for load support of heavy vans or motorhomes which need auxiliary air to stabilise and lift the vehicles, or for performance cars wanting a low stance and an adjustable suspension to make it practical (and legal) to drive on the road.

So why do people with OEM systems contact AirRide so often if its not our market? Put simply its because the replacement parts for OEMs tend to be very expensive and they are looking for a cheaper solution. When cars are new if they need £5k of repairs with new struts or a compressor and the car cost £60k or £100k then the money gets spent. Once the cars are 5-15 years old and worth 10k this becomes very hard to justify, so people seek out a specialist offering a more affordable solution. Sometimes the world of air is misunderstood and customers incorrectly consider that all air suspension is the same and that our parts are a direct replacement. Usually its cost related.

So what can we offer? Do we rebuild worn out struts with leaking bags etc? In short, its bad news – no we don’t, but we can still help. There are very few struts which can be rebuilt, and very few OEM’s offer parts for rebuilding them. There are a whole host of Chinese suppliers which are incredibly tempting as the costs can be in the order of 15-20% the cost of genuine OEM parts. The bad news is that the OEM parts still represent better value for money!! Most of the Chinese offerings are pure junk. We have tried quite a number of parts over the years (simply because they are so much cheaper) but have found that they don’t drive the same (compromising the ride at best and ruining it at worst) and in general they rarely last more than a few months before you are back in the same situation. For this reason our workshop never fits these Chinese parts to customers cars. We also never fit coil springs to replace air suspension as this just spoils the vehicle totally. A vehicle designed to have air suspension never works properly with a coil spring conversion – the saying goes “coil it and spoil it” , and its proven true. It is also classed as a modification which can and will effect your insurance.

We also don't often offer fittings for OEM equipment from our own range and just buy them direct. This is because most European manufacturers use metric or proprietary threads, whereas the aftermarket industry is dominated by American parts which are imperial (usually NPT)

What we do offer is highly experienced air suspension workshop which can often diagnose problems quicker than most franchised or independent single marque dealers because we only work on air suspension. We also charge less than a franchised dealer, but more than an independent per hour. When repairing systems we only use OEM parts. We have repaired some vehicles that have already been in for new bags and compressors at other garages (costing thousands of pounds) and needed cracked lines replacing which was  few hundred pounds. We have also repaired other vehicles which have already had expensive repair bills (in the thousands) which have not resolved the issues, and where the vehicle needed only an O ring costing less than a pound.

Repairing an OEM equipment suspension system will rarely be a low cost option, but the correct solution is to use safe, reliable parts which our experience shows us is to use only genuine OEM parts.

Please call us on 0800 772 0315 or send an email to  ENQUIRIES@AIRRIDE.UK if you need help with your vehicle although please note our location in central Norwich.