This is an enthusiast's guide for those who enjoy their 8L A3. Some aspects of the guide may apply to Volkswagen's Mk4 Golf and Bora as well as Audi's Mk1 TT.

My name is Raymond and I frequent a number of forums both local to Australia and global as rayray086. I've created this blog for me, as I'm a bit OCD in keeping all the info I need in one package. As of July 2011, my A3T is my daily driver and it is stock standard. I came out of an 8V Mk3 so there's plenty of power for me from the stock 1.8T. I'm mainly interested in the suspension and aesthetics side of things currently. I'm a part-time student currently and have no mechanical qualifications, just a passion in all things automobile.

I'll eventually use this as an outlet to document my build, so I'll be using the appropriate tags/labels to make them easy to find.

As I add info/articles/blogposts on, I hope you guys who make their way to my blog will find the information helpful! Don't be afraid to comment away either - I like getting feedback and knowing that people are reading this.

25 September, 2011

Airride - BagYard vs Airlift struts/bags

Initially I wanted to write a blog on air struts and bags in general, but to be honest, I'm only really considering one brand and that's BagYard.  That said, Airlift seems to be one of (if not the only) competitor with BagYard's stuff, so I'm gonna turn this article into a compare and contrast between the two.  Now the facts that I have on these struts aren't the best as I'm gathering my info from their (incomprehensive) respective websites, various vendors and forum feedback:
  • BY's made in Austria, AL's in the US.  For me, either doesn't matter, warranty issues will be just as hard.  Both have a one year warranty I believe.
  • BY's are custom made shortened Bilstein monotube inverted shocks (from what I know, not damper adjustable but have been setup to offer more "sportier handling").  Custom plates are used to secure the ContiTech bellow airbags (fronts) but OEM mounts and bushings are meant to be used.  The Bomber series uses the double bellow airbag, Supreme series uses a single bellow (they also allow for a user-customisable colour theme as well as their choosing of strut length).  There are provisions for the front sway bar to be connected up. 

    BagYard Bomber Series

    BagYard Supreme series

    The rears use UniversalAir air sleeves I think, but also using the same custom Bilstein shocks if the user chooses to have them ordered (other shocks can be used).  The air-line inlet attachment is from the side and are made so that the mounts are able to clearance over the OEM nipples seen on separate shock/spring setups on VAG cars. 

    BagYard Classic rear sleeves

    All setups use a 1/4" NPT fitting
  • I'm not sure what AL uses but I believe I read somewhere it's their own inhouse-designed shocks catered specifically for airride.  They currently offer two different styles - the Performance Series and Slam Series XL.  PS uses a sleeve setup for the fronts, whereas the SS XL uses the double bellow airbag.  Both utilise AL's own mounting system, which uses 3 locator studs on the mount (requiring 3 holes to be drilled in each front strut tower).  There are no provisions for the front sway bar to be connected up I think.  Both come in 1/4" and 3/8" fittings (user exchangeable).

    AirLift Performance series
    AirLift Slam series XL

    The rears are called Slam Speciaties and are in a tapered sleeve setup.  The air-line inlet attachment is from the bottom/top and the mounting system is a little different (essentially, maximum drop cannot be achieved without modification - Dorbritz Design D-cup brackets must be used as well as cutting off the factory nipples).  3/8" fittings for the rear I think.
    AirLift Slam Specialties rear sleeves

    Dorbritz Designs D-cup brackets
Now for some direct comparisons.

The fronts.  BY uses OEM top mounts and bearings.  Some people don't like that, criticising VW/Audi's weak/fragile design.  That said, from my point of view, this allows aftermarket direct replacements to be utilised, including heavy duty mounts, or even camber-adjustable mounts (I'll do more research and an article later on).  AL's own mounting system has been mentioned to be very good and requires no maintenance.  In the case of failure, the struts can easily be taken out and the mounts can be replaced by AL themselves.  That said, I don't like the idea of drilling through the strut towers - not that I won't do it to get something to work, but if it can be avoided...

The AL fronts come with 1/4" and 3/8" fittings compared to BY's 1/4" only.  The larger 3/8" fitting may allow for faster filling and dumping of air, which is important if the system is used in a show car.  In a daily driver, this isn't very critical.  Seeing some cars using 1/4" from valve manifold onwards, they still air up and down quite fast, well, fast enough for me.

The issue of the sway bar mount isn't a big one for me as the swaybar links are connected to the control arms for the Mk4/8L, as opposed to the strut for Mk5/6.  Actually, it isn't an issue at all lol.  I'm thinking of removing the front sway bar anyway (will write an article on that too).

The shortened nature of the Bilsteins on the BYs allow Mk4/8L setups to lay frame, provided 18" or smaller + low-profile tyres are used.  Obviously some modifications will allow for a more compliant ride (i.e. extended sway bar links/removed sway bar, chassis notch).  The ALs should also do the same.

Now the rears.  The main difference here is the location of the air inlet and the way it mounts onto the car (referring to the Mk4+ setups with the separate spring/shock).  The ability to gain max drop without any modifications make the BY a better solution, as well as having the air inlet on the side.  This should allow for less fuckin' around for air line routing.

I believe AL doesn't have a dedicated rear shock, but one can use any rear shock of their choosing.  OEM can be used, but I'm guessing a new, proven aftermarket solution would be best.  Most vendors offer Bilstein or Koni shocks, which make for a fantastic ride (with comfort and handling in mind).  BY offers the choice of using their custom shortened Bilstein shock but it's not mandatory to use them.  Obviously the ride will be better at lower heights due to an optimised suspension travel.

So there you have it, an article possibly fraught with misinformation.  Again, this is information I'm writing down for my own use later when I finally am ready to put money down on an airride setup.  If anyone reading this knows (accurately) what the details are in this comparison, then please, by all means, pipe up.  I am contactable through the comments.

Threads/websites I used included:

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