Armadillo
Posts: 20
Joined: Wed Aug 08, 2012 11:10 pm
Delivery Date: 27 Jul 2012

Nissan Leaf Air Suspension

Thu Oct 17, 2013 11:55 pm

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I’ve been running this set-up for a while and thought now would be a good time to do the write-up in case anyone else is looking into going this direction.
I’ve never installed or driven a car with air suspension before so it was a bit of a learning experience and definitely a ‘project’, but its been fun and the car certainly gets a lot of looks and now stands out from the other 10 Leafs at my work.

For the Installation:
Front – This required a custom built strut that was put together by airbagit.com. This took a few tries to get right mainly due to the top strut bearing. The idea is you use the strut bearing form the stock strut but this wont work with the Leaf strut because there really is no bearing in the top strut mount. So a custom one had to be fabricated. The air struts that they build typically have 2-1/2 inches of travel up or down from neutral, or stock ride height. Because of the large amount of wheel gap on the Leaf I wanted to go lower than that so I had them custom build the strut for an extra inch of travel. Additionally on the lower clevis mount there is an extra set of mounting holes. Using the top holes provides an additional inch of lowering. So now fully aired out the car is 4-1/2 inches lower than stock and when raised up it is about 1 inch lower than stock height.
However, once the strut was right, the installation was pretty simple, just a basic strut swap. But one additional hang up is the link that connects your sway bar to the strut. The stock one is too long so I had to order another pair from Nissan and I shortened them.
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Rear – I have built two set-ups for the rear mainly because the first set-up didn’t allow enough travel to go as low as I wanted. Both set-ups used a 5 inch double convoluted air spring. This is the typical ‘air bag’ that is pretty common. I built my own mount for it so that it could be mounted directly where the stock spring was located and just replace the stock spring. This works great and will allow the car to lower 3 inches. Since I wanted to go lower I built an extension that inserts into the trailing arm and extends towards the rear of the car. Putting the air spring here allows for more suspension travel and the car will now lower 4-1/2 inches. This also required fabrication of a top mount that you can also see in the picture below.
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For the air management there are many options from a manually operated ball valve to fully digital iphone operated interfaces. I wanted to keep it simple so I found two Single pole/Double throw momentary contact switches that would mount in the existing dash holes, where the blanks are, without any modification.
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The switches are connected to solenoids that open and close manual valves to let the air out of the suspension. I can make the whole car raise up at once and then deflate both rear springs at once and each front strut independently. I am only using a compressor and no tank. So inflating takes a while but I’m not trying to make this thing hop or do any tricks. The compressor I’m using still fits inside the side pocket in the trunk, where the stock Nissan compressor is stored. In fact you can even use the stock Nissan compressor to inflate the suspension if you want. That is what I was doing to test out the system.
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Overall I’m pretty happy with the set-up. The ride is stiffer than stock but still reasonable and can be adjusted based on how much pressure you have in the air springs. The ride gets more squishy and bouncy with less pressure so when driving around its best to have it raised up.
I also noticed that it is bouncier with the second set of rear mounts that I built. This is because the air spring is now located farther back than the shock. So to picture this consider that the pivot point of the rear suspension is in front of the rear wheel. Just an example, say that for each inch of upward wheel travel the shock may compress an inch but the air spring will compress maybe 2 inches. This makes it more difficult for the shock to do its job and dampen the rebound of the spring. Ideally you want the spring closer to the pivot point than the shock so that the shock travels farther than the spring compresses and has more time to ‘react’ to the action of the spring.
Last edited by Armadillo on Tue Oct 22, 2013 11:42 pm, edited 1 time in total.

eglee413
Posts: 21
Joined: Wed Jul 11, 2012 4:51 pm
Delivery Date: 11 Jul 2012
Leaf Number: 019969

Re: Nissan Leaf Air Suspension

Fri Oct 18, 2013 4:52 am

that looks bad ass bro. I still can't get the coilovers to go as low as I want, and the guys at the shop keep telling me just to bag it. For me, I am just always stuck on static its hard to get over that. That and the car is leased :mrgreen:

But your stance is very clean, wish you could drive with the height that low and not have it all bumpy and slushy.

Drivesolo
Posts: 409
Joined: Mon Aug 01, 2011 1:46 pm
Delivery Date: 10 Oct 2011
Location: Pacific NW

Re: Nissan Leaf Air Suspension

Fri Oct 18, 2013 6:16 am

:o !!! Impressive! I never thought a stanced Leaf would look so good. Nice job! You're doing God's work Armadillo. :mrgreen:
2011 SL Superblack - Delivered 10/10/2011
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DaveEV
Posts: 6246
Joined: Fri Apr 23, 2010 3:51 pm
Location: San Diego

Re: Nissan Leaf Air Suspension

Fri Oct 18, 2013 9:26 am

Drivesolo wrote::o !!! Impressive! I never thought a stanced Leaf would look so good. Nice job!
+1 - looks great and nice write up!

Could you post some pics of it at your driving height?

How confident are you in those welds on your rear-arm extension? The welds don't appear to penetrate that deeply, but I'm not an expert.

garsh
Posts: 1173
Joined: Sat Feb 12, 2011 5:27 am
Delivery Date: 05 Apr 2012
Location: Pittsburgh PA

Re: Nissan Leaf Air Suspension

Fri Oct 18, 2013 10:36 am

drees wrote:Could you post some pics of it at your driving height?
I think this is one. He has more on photobucket.
2012 Black SV, bought 2012-04-04, sold 2019-05-10. 7 bars, 101,850 miles.
Current rides: 2018 Tesla Model 3 Performance, 2018 Chevrolet Volt LT

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TonyWilliams
Posts: 10091
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Location: San Diego
Contact: Website

Re: Nissan Leaf Air Suspension

Fri Oct 18, 2013 10:44 am

Those welds on the parts are SCARY !!!! I would probably grind it all off and re-weld everything.

knightarmor
Posts: 97
Joined: Tue Apr 19, 2011 6:18 pm

Re: Nissan Leaf Air Suspension

Fri Oct 18, 2013 9:50 pm

Looks great! Those welds could be cleaned up or new parts redone but otherwise fantastic! I know what you mean about having your Leaf standout from the rest at work!! HAHAHAH

Armadillo
Posts: 20
Joined: Wed Aug 08, 2012 11:10 pm
Delivery Date: 27 Jul 2012

Re: Nissan Leaf Air Suspension

Tue Oct 22, 2013 11:26 pm

eglee413 wrote:that looks bad ass bro. I still can't get the coilovers to go as low as I want, and the guys at the shop keep telling me just to bag it. For me, I am just always stuck on static its hard to get over that. That and the car is leased :mrgreen:

But your stance is very clean, wish you could drive with the height that low and not have it all bumpy and slushy.
Thanks, yeah that's the issue I was having with the coilovers as well. I think Megan Racing can make shorter springs for the front struts, they were looking into it for me. Alternatively there are some coil spring manufacturers that will also custom make a set of springs for about $350. I can give you the info. if you're interested.

Armadillo
Posts: 20
Joined: Wed Aug 08, 2012 11:10 pm
Delivery Date: 27 Jul 2012

Re: Nissan Leaf Air Suspension

Tue Oct 22, 2013 11:37 pm

knightarmor wrote:Looks great! Those welds could be cleaned up or new parts redone but otherwise fantastic! I know what you mean about having your Leaf standout from the rest at work!! HAHAHAH

Yes, I realize the welding is not the prettiest. I don't claim to be a professional welder nor do I play one on T.V. This is a prototype, I wanted to see if it would work better (go lower) than the original setup I was using. If I were going to permanently run this set-up I would re-do it and clean it up. I did perform some dynamic load testing on the parts though before I installed them so I'm confident they will hold together.

But I would need to change the rear shocks or find a way to add a second shock to get the proper damping with this set-up. So they're coming back off until I figure out how to sort it out.

g0ldenb0y
Posts: 1
Joined: Thu Dec 26, 2013 1:03 am
Delivery Date: 13 May 2012
Leaf Number: 1776

Re: Nissan Leaf Air Suspension

Thu Dec 26, 2013 1:08 am

This is beautiful! However, I must concur that those welds on that prototype version are scary. How much did this setup cost you? Finally, does it affect range whatsoever? Keep us posted with any improvements.

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