“The Step” on Black Gap. Big Bend National Forest, December 2018.
Photo: Taylor

I’ve apparently decided that (A) I like my Disco and (B) that I want to give it some love this summer. After my literal brush with Black Gap, I’ve been considering switching from coils back to the factory air bag system. Do you think it’d be worth it?

[UPDATE] Alright, I’m convinced.  Funds will be diverted elsewhere.

Benefits

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The primary benefit of the system is being able to get the butt in the air a little better. The SLS (self-leveling suspension) raises the rear automatically when it thinks it is needed but also allows you to manually raise the rear of the vehicle about 1.5". Not a ton, but it would certainly make my not-so-great departure angle a little better.

Secondary is automatic leveling if the vehicle is fully loaded or if you’re towing. This would be nice, as it looked pretty silly when I was towing the Civic home.

Finally.... GADGETS! I love me some gadgets and I’ve never had a vehicle with air ride.

Mind the gap.

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Downsides

Expensive.

Unreliable.

Mostly unnecessary.

Hmm....

Costs

Speaking of costs, that is the kicker. This stuff isn’t cheap.

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My Landy was originally equipped with air ride and was converted to springs at some point in its past. All that remains of the system are the buttons and warning lights, ride height sensors, compressor mounting bracket, air lines, and air filter. So at a bare minimum I would need to get the bags and compressor.

The cheapest full compressor assembly I can find costs about 260GBP (about $335) plus shipping. Used, salvage, and aftermarket compressors, frankly, aren’t much cheaper. I could wait for a Disco to show up at my local pick-a-part, but those really only show up about every three months and I’m not sure I like the idea of using a salvage part.

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The bags range anywhere from 50GBP to 375GBP depending on brand. Though I’m not usually one to buy the cheapest thing on the market, for 50GBP the Dunlop branded air springs seem like a pretty safe bet. Alternatively I could splurge for the “OEM Quality” ones for 70GBP each.

So for a bare minimum restore we’re looking at $515 to $575 shipped.

That said, one sort of needs rear springs and I’d hate for the system to fail because I didn’t replace one component. The smart move would be to also replace the lines (102GBP), intake filter (34GBP), and position sensors ($60 - $150).

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Those additional parts bring us to a somewhat eye-watering $800 - $900 total, shipped.

Additionally the ECU would need to be re-reprogrammed to expect the air ride, which is an additional headache.

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That is a lot of cash that could probably be better spent elsewhere.

Alternatives

If I was, for some reason, dead set on spending money on the Disco... there are better other things to spend it on. These include:

  • Repainting the roof ($600)
  • Adding rock rails ($400)
  • Adding a roof rack ($1200)
  • Having the leather redyed ($400)
  • Brush guard ($700)
  • Saving up for the next head gasket replacement ($1000)

Thoughts? Opinions? Comments on the weather?