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Old January 9th, 2006, 12:59 PM   #1
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Probe Air Suspension Guide/FAQ

I’ve been working for the past few days at compiling my knowledge of air ride suspension systems into an FAQ of sorts. Hopefully this will help you to figure out what you need and what to stay away from. I’m going to list products by name and brand but this is by no means advertising since I’m not a dealer.

One point I like to stress a lot over is; if you want a reliable air suspension, you’re going to HAVE to spend the money. You cannot go out and spend $1800 on new equipment and not have to tweak, adjust, and rebuild your setup time and time again. Spend the money now and do it right or DON’T do it at all. There are many manufacturers of air ride “kits” for multiple cars but I tend to think of these as universal applications and they aren’t all that great. If you buy a kit from a trusted custom Probe builder you’ll most likely get the best results.

Otherwise I suggest you purchase your parts separate and build the system yourself. You can buy a partial kit then get the struts separate for your specific application which is a way to get by for a little less money out of your pocket. You may have a local shop that prefers selling some brands over others because either they are tried and true, easily available, or they are getting the most profit for each sale of that part. Talk to them and see what they say, since you may prefer to have your suspension installed or serviced by them, instead of doing the work yourself. If you decide to go through a local shop hang around at the shop to see if they have people coming back with problems. Try to get some background on their work. There are many shops that come and go within a few years and it’s best to look for the ones that know what they’re doing.

I’m going to list a few various alternatives for each item on the list so you can get some ideas of what it will take to put together a system. The following is the bare minimum you’ll need to get your car on air suspension.

Things you NEED:
-Air Compressor
-Air Tank
-Air Valves
-Air Pressure Tubing
-Air Fittings
-Air Pressure Switch
-Air pressure Gauges
-Air Struts (preferred method)
-Heavy Duty Relay/solenoid

Things you may want to add for comfort and reliability
-Check Valve
-Inline Oil Reservoir
-Water Trap
-Inline Orifices
-High Quality Circuit Audio Breaker
-Computer Programmed Ride Control
Air Compressor

There are many different sizes and manufacturers of air ride compressors. All are loud. I found a way to mount mine under the hood so it wasn’t noisy inside the car. But you could build a box with a fan to circulate the air and isolate the sound inside the car. Only a few are going to be mentioned. Because they what I personally have used on either my car or a friend’s vehicle.
-Thomas/firestone air compressors are something I try to stay away from. The motors are built cheap and burn up after repeated use over a year or two.
-Air Ride Technologies has a few compressors of their own which are built exactly like Thomas and Firestone but with better motors. These are good.
-Vi-air is “OK” but I have seen problems with these where the hose connects to the head port. They have a good warranty though so it’s easy to replace problematic compressors.
-AIM industries sell multiple compressors. I prefer their 3/4hp 12v DC5000 compressor to all other electric compressors out on the market. (Best bang for the buck)

You can get drive line compressors and build custom brackets but I’ve never done much work with them and do not recommend them for someone doing the work themselves unless they have some background with air suspensions and A/C units.

Air Tanks

This subject is straightforward. Although there are a few types available. Ceramic coated tanks: If they’re coated on the inside will prevent rust. Standard are usually just heavy gauge steel and will rust over time. Although it’s not that big of a deal there are ways to get around this problem. Most household air compressors use steel tanks without an internal coating. You’ll need a minimum of 3 gallons for show cars or 5 gallons for daily driven. If you plan to play with your suspension you may want even more. I picked up a 11 gallon bare tank and had a friend Tig weld some brackets on for me. Worked great! Do not build your own tanks unless you are certified and have them pressure tested before use.

-On a side note some use Scuba, Nitrogen, or Nitros Oxide tanks and have them filled with high-pressure air @ around 3000psi. They can then run off of that for a few weeks without having to wait for their air compressors to fill the thanks due to temperature changes or a minor leak. I however don’t recommend this because of the fact that if you are in an accident you have a bomb in your trunk. It’s ok for show cars that aren’t moving around on the street.

Air Valves

There are a lot of valves on the market as well. You can choose between 2-way (cheap) and 3-way valves. I prefer only 3-way valves due to ease of install and less can go wrong. I’ll again name a few I know to work well.

-Air Ride Technologies offers multiple sizes and types of “manifold” systems. They all seem to work well and I haven’t seen many that have problems. They however are expensive. They’re probably the easiest to install however because they come with everything pre-wired and all you have to do is supply a power, ground, and remote.
-Aim industries “manifold” valves (4 valves = 3-way) {I’ve seen a few problems with these but all were due to installation errors}
-Master Image Custom’s manual air valves (hardest to install but most reliable overall)
With air valves a 3/8” port is plenty fast enough any larger and you’ll have problems leveling the car. ¼” is fine as well just seems a tad bit slow. If you’re going to car shows and don’t feel like showing off, this is a great size and they are cheaper as well. With manual valves you’re opening and closing the valves by pushing a lever. With Electric valves you’re opening and closing the valves with a switch. Electronic valves have a lot more that can be expanded upon. Remote installation (trunk), whereas the manual valves have to be somewhere you can reach them.

Air Pressure Tubing

In my past experience I’ve found the black “double layer” tubing to not be as reliable as white/clear single layer polypropylene tubing. You can go to Home Depot, Lowes, or any major home improvement store and find the polypropylene tubing needed for low temperature, high-pressure systems in the plumbing area. If you have a hydraulics and pneumatics supply house you can pick up a few better alternatives.
-Stainless steel braided hose (make sure it’s pneumatic grade.) One problem with this is if you have a blow out you have to have an entire new hose to fix the problem. Second problem with this is it’s entirely too expensive for it’s reliability.
-Stainless steel hard lines usually used between compressor, tank, and or valves due to heat from compressor.
-Last solution is High Temp, High-pressure poly tubing. It’s white in color. I used this in my engine bay with no problems. It can withstand 500 degrees and 300psi at the same time. Keep away from your exhaust though.
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Old January 9th, 2006, 01:00 PM   #2
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continued...

Air Pressure fittings

If you go with poly tubing you’ll want compression fittings. Those can be found at any pneumatic fittings supplier. Almost all threads in air suspension are NPT standards. Try to stay away from anything that isn’t unless it’s specified. Make sure you use plumbing tape on all threads and tighten till there is no leak. Spray soapy water to make sure there isn’t a small leak. For Stainless steel hard lines there is a certain type of fitting to use. It’s similar to what is used for oil fittings.

If you take your parts into a pneumatic supply place they may be able to find better fittings that work for you. They may cost a little more but in the long run it’s worth it. And if you buy enough from them they’ll cut you deals.

Air Pressure Switch

Adjustable is the only way to go. Make sure you have a gauge on your tank that goes to at least 200psi. Set it for roughly around 130-150psi. You can run more but it may work the compressor too much and run hot.
-Barksdale adjustable pressure switch 96xxx series
I haven’t found any others that come even close to theirs in quality over price. Just make sure it’s wired to a relay and a fuse.

Air Pressure Gauges

There’s not a whole lot to be said about these. For best results use oil or water filled gauges. I prefer 100psi for each corner and a 200psi gauge for the tank. They make Dual action gauges for the corners so you only need 2 gauges instead of 4. The gauges from MIC are not accurate and can get “stuck”

Air Bag Struts

There are only a few options here, unless you’re going for a trailer queen or weekend driver. Try to find a company, which sells 4 corners of air struts for our specific car. Remember the front struts are shorter than the rear. Don’t go with some universal system unless you want to invest time and possibly even more money getting the setup fabricated to work. With airbag struts you’ll find that they only drop your car as low as it would sit without springs + 1” above that. The way these are built is by taking a factory sized strut and welding a bottom bracket, which bolts a ring on to hold the bottom part of the air bag. Then a 3/8” plate is bored to the size of a slip fit around the original strut rod and an o-ring is added to keep the air from escaping. Lastly a 1” spacer (bearing) is placed above the plate so that when the car turns it doesn’t put friction on the top bag plate and twist the bag itself. I’d try to get double or triple convoluted bag over a single bellow bag because of strength and the overall diameter is smaller when the bag is inflated.

If you decide you want a custom setup put aside $3000 for R & D. You CANNOT use any type of truck air ride system. Our cars have McPherson struts. There are a few companies out there that say they have air cylinders that work for the front of our cars but without anyone else testing these don’t waste your money. On my car I took an existing air cylinder from CCE and rebuilt it with a 2” diameter rod so that it wouldn’t bend. I had the end caps custom machined with bronze sleeves to help align the rod bore with the piston bore. In all I put around 3k getting everything fixed and rebuilding the cylinders. I also had quite a few problems along the way and I suggest not doing it the same way I did because you can endanger your life if you have a cylinder break on you while driving. Trust me I know!

Heavy Duty Solenoid

Some like to use starter solenoids. I had this at first with my compressor but constantly had to replace it because it would burn up under daily use. Starter solenoids are built to only work for short periods of time. Go and buy a heavy-duty high quality car audio 100amp solenoid. These can be found online or through places like summit. They are built to either be on or off, not just a quick burst of power like a starter requires. They also cost around $60-$100. They are worth the cost.

Options

There are quite a few things that you may decide on to help your system stay in tune.
-One thing I like for just about anyone is an inline oil reservoir. These are placed between the tank and valves and help to automatically oil the valves. They aren’t necessary but you do have to oil the valves on occasion and this makes it a lot less messy.
-Another thing is an inline water trap. Some people use multiple traps. When your compressor is running it creates heat. Heat tends to attract water molecules in the air and condensate inside your air tank. Now water going through your valves isn’t too big of a deal but over time it can rust them from the inside. If you have an oiling system, that will lessen the chance of rust. Water traps only costs around $10-30 and are a great way to keep the valves and tank from rusting.
-Check valves another cheap way of ensuring an air tight seal on the tank is to put a check valve between the compressor and tank. This will keep the air from finding its way back through the compressor head. It does make some noise when the compressor is running but nothing too annoying. (Just a clicking noise)
-Inline orifices can be used to restrict the volume of air in and out of the air bag. This will help to dampen the ride to help with handling.
-The circuit breaker can be used instead of a large fuse on the compressor. This way if the compressor gets too hot it just kicks the circuit breaker. You then let it cool off and start over instead of having to replace expensive fuses. Although it cost around $50-$100, use whatever your compressor manufacturer suggests.
-Computer programmed ride control; Air Ride Technologies and a few others offer systems that can watch the pressure on each corner and adjust either by adding or releasing air into the individual corner while driving. It’s quite a lot of money but if you want to start your car and have it automatically raise and stay at your comfort level while driving this is one heck of a way to do it. Think of it as a smart suspension.

For now I’ll leave this open to discussion to try and answer any more questions there may be. I may add more later, if I think of anything as well.
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Last edited by lowerdfool; January 9th, 2006 at 01:56 PM. Reason: Automerged Doublepost
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Old January 9th, 2006, 08:20 PM   #3
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i talked to u at a meet once. u use to be in 0-60 car club. didnt u break your air cylinders like 4 times? or always sticking or something?
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Old January 10th, 2006, 05:29 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BOOSTD 6
i talked to u at a meet once. u use to be in 0-60 car club. didnt u break your air cylinders like 4 times? or always sticking or something?
Yes, I had many problems with making air cylinders work for our cars. That is one of the reasons I tell people to stick with bag struts. I went through about 3 different sets and about 6 different methods for bracketing. Only my last setup was successful. It used a 2" diameter tool steel 4140 rod. I had a bronze sleeve bored and pressed into the bottom cap and rebuilt some new brackets. Most of my trials and errors were either posted on here or on my cardomain page. I'll be adding more information to this guide once I get some more time. I'll try to explain installation and give some schematics of how air suspension works.
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Old January 13th, 2006, 01:59 PM   #5
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Air ride kit

www.probeaddiction.com has a complete air ride kit for probes.
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Old January 17th, 2006, 12:19 PM   #6
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This was a question through a pm I figured the info might be useful to others.

Quote:
How much pressure should i keep in the tank? i have no idea what is normal and safe
Well, usually around 130-150psi is "normal". You should look into what the compressor can handle "comfortably" and then check to see what the tank is rated at. May be less or may be more, it just depends on what the manufacturers recommend. IIRC it takes around 70-90psi to raise our cars to driving height. But you'll want more than just that due to the volume of air required to raise all 4 corners.


Come on people I know there has to be more questions that you would like to ask. Don't be shy...

fwiw I didn't hyperlink to any manufacturers or "kits" due to probetalk restrictions with advertising.
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Old January 18th, 2006, 02:37 PM   #7
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i noticed some tanks have a port on it for each valve to run to....
im guessing if you dont have 4 ports on your tank your going have to use 3 TEES?

maybe its smarter to run a line to the front and tee it to the left/right bags....
Thats less lines to run $$$, less air to fill also. Maybe not as fast ?
---------------------------
Compressors-
i thought about putting it in the spare tirewell, then getting plywood/particle board and making a floor above it. Under the plywood put dynamat.....

even better could be to cut out the tire well, or even half of it.....then put the compressor under the car. Guess this could be bad on it tho from weather elements....

------------
best to keep compressor close to tank for less lines and volume to fill?
I know u said you had yours in the engine bay....

------------

thier is some more questions me and others probably will have that you can put in your faq.....
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Old January 19th, 2006, 06:13 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Custom GT
I noticed some tanks have a port on it for each valve to run to....
I'm guessing if you don’t have 4 ports on your tank your going have to use 3 TEES?
Yes, either you would use 3 tees or there are fittings that will take port and split it into 4 ports. A good valve block/manifold setup will only need 1 port for its inlet though. It will still need 4 exhaust ports because those feed to each corner. The reason for the multiport tanks is to aid in 2-way valve use. A 2-way valve requires 8 valves in total to run a 4-corner setup. (1 valve for lift/1 valve for lower) They can be Tee'd together and plumbed so 2 valves only need 1 port. So it would look something like this

pressure/tank->[valve] T [valve]->Exhaust

The middle of the T will run to your inlet of the air bag.

Quote:
maybe it’s smarter to run a line to the front and tee it to the left/right bags....
That’s less lines to run $$$, less air to fill also. Maybe not as fast ?
With this setup if you turn a corner it will change the pressure from side to side. It will also only be a front and back setup. I do not recommend using this for daily driven vehicles because as you turn the corner your car leans towards the outside and then after you straighten back up it never returns to level.

Quote:
Compressors-
I thought about putting it in the spare tire well, then getting plywood/particle board and making a floor above it. Under the plywood put dynamat.....

Even better could be to cut out the tire well, or even half of it..... Then put the compressor under the car. Guess this could be bad on it though from weather elements....

------------
Best to keep compressor close to tank for less lines and volume to fill?
I know u said you had yours in the engine bay....
The length between your compressor and tank doesn't matter as long as you have a check valve near the compressor. That will insure you keep air in the tank. Although the more fittings you run the more the possibility for a leak initially. Most compressors sold now for air suspension were originally designed for use in trucks. They're built to be exposed to the elements. Just keep an eye on exposed metal for rusting if you decide to externally mount them. Mine was mainly aluminum so all I had to worry about was corrosion, which is just an eye sore. If you decide to enclose you compressor try to get some sort of air circulation to it. They get hot and can overheat if not properly ran. Also to keep down on noise you can try and isolate the mounting points with rubber. This will keep their vibration from traveling through the body or frame.
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Old January 19th, 2006, 08:06 AM   #9
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I would assume that the ride is not as good as gas over oil struts correct?

I am just contemplating what it would be like to have this as far as cornering and such..

I am fully interested in doing this, and I really don't know why lol.. I had considered making up a set of solenoid driven coilovers, they have kits to convert them so you can change the ride height on the fly I sorta liked that. This would sorta preclude that idea.


AS far as the nitrogen filling, well, you have to make sure your fitting and hoses are rated for 3kpsi, if not, you will see what happens lol... I had a buddy get whacked in the nuts from a fitting that blew off and the hose went crazy lol...
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Old January 20th, 2006, 10:11 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ion332
I would assume that the ride is not as good as gas over oil struts correct?

I am just contemplating what it would be like to have this as far as cornering and such..
Well, it really depends in what you want as a "ride" from your car. If you want it to feel tight and stiff then no any oil filled shock is going to have better results over a gas filled due to the lack of compression. With air suspension you can compress the gas as you go over a bump or around a corner so it acts as an absorber to "smooth out the road". With oil/fluid not being able to compress you change the orfice size so that the fluid moves through the shock either slow or fast which controls how the car handles the bumps. You can sort of do this with air suspension but it will never be as stiff riding as a full on racing shock.

Quote:
I am fully interested in doing this, and I really don't know why lol.. I had considered making up a set of solenoid driven coilovers, they have kits to convert them so you can change the ride height on the fly I sorta liked that. This would sorta preclude that idea.
This sounds interesting but I've never heard of a setup that could adjust ride height on the fly other than a hydraulic, pnuematic, or electromechanical (undeveloped) setup. I have, however, heard of being able to adjust internal strut valving while on the fly which would only change the stiffness of the strut not the ride height. Got any more info on this?

Quote:
AS far as the nitrogen filling, well, you have to make sure your fitting and hoses are rated for 3kpsi, if not, you will see what happens lol... I had a buddy get whacked in the nuts from a fitting that blew off and the hose went crazy lol...
The only fitting that needs to be capable of handling 3000psi is the regulator on the tank. I wouldn't adjust the regulator over 300psi though or you would be in for more problems. Maybe your friend had his regulator set too high?
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Old February 12th, 2006, 02:42 PM   #11
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what about building your own bag strut. I seen you can get a bag off ebay and the circle plates and turn your stock strut into one....

whats your thoughts on that?
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Old February 14th, 2006, 10:57 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Custom GT
what about building your own bag strut. I seen you can get a bag off ebay and the circle plates and turn your stock strut into one....

whats your thoughts on that?
Stick with production built strut bags if you want to sit lower than stock on air. Those slip over bags just don't compare.
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Old February 20th, 2006, 01:49 PM   #13
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alright I have had air ride for 3 years, rides like hell handels like a dream but rides like hell, were do u suggest getting some accummulators from, whats the best.... is there something else that I can get for it to ride nice and smooth, getting to old for the ruff ride, but have so much money invested into it, I will have it till I die or till the wife sets it on fire lol
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Old March 1st, 2006, 04:25 PM   #14
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what/who makes good air struts?
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Old March 9th, 2006, 12:09 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Eclipse
what/who makes good air struts?
I haven't seen much difference in build quality for premanufactured units. Just check on which bag they mount on them. You'll want a heavy duty bag.
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Old March 9th, 2006, 01:41 PM   #16
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fmkustoms.com has alot of air bag parts/accessories, none for the probe but accumulators for the car type dont matter



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Old March 30th, 2006, 07:06 AM   #17
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PLacement of valves....

if they are near each wheel it will drop faster right? how much faster?
and if they are all at one place, then it will lose all that air in the airline each time it lets the air out of the bag, plus the air in the bag....

i could just get a manifold setup with it all in one place....but i want most effiecent over price...
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Old April 4th, 2006, 11:36 AM   #18
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ok got my car bagged. pimp.

front/back/side/side/pancake/3wheel is pimp.
kind of hard doing 1 wheel at a time in the back tho, because of the sway bar.

i love the 10 switch box.....id recommend electric sending units with electric guages....more effiecient, less chance of leaks, less work.....

i left the bumpstop things off the rear struts....seems ok.

the front passenger area pops when it is raising...not sure why yet....

how often do i need to oil the valves? i dont have an oiler yet....
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Old April 14th, 2006, 08:35 AM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Custom GT
ok got my car bagged. pimp.

front/back/side/side/pancake/3wheel is pimp.
kind of hard doing 1 wheel at a time in the back tho, because of the sway bar.

i love the 10 switch box.....id recommend electric sending units with electric guages....more effiecient, less chance of leaks, less work.....

i left the bumpstop things off the rear struts....seems ok.

the front passenger area pops when it is raising...not sure why yet....

how often do i need to oil the valves? i dont have an oiler yet....
Congrats sorry I haven't been on in quite some time. I'd oil about every 3-4 weeks. It doesn't take much just a little bit to keep the valves moving nicely. You'll notice they need it more in the winter than the summer. Make sure it's a good oil and what type of oil to use for your valves. Call the manufacturer if you need more info on what type and weight. You just need enough to keep a light film on the parts. Not submerged like an engine.

As for the valve placement, being closer to the wheel is faster but more of a hassle. I'd stick with a manifold setup. For ease of installation and maintenance.
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Old May 15th, 2006, 07:59 PM   #20
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I've had my first gen. bagged for a little over a year now.. I'm running airbagit.com struts and had no prob. out of them..I have a chrome 5 gallon 9 port tank, 8 single action 1/2" valves, 1/2" air line, 200p.s.i. pressure switch, 2 viair 380 compressors, and a ten switch box.. Pulls the rear wheels.. Oh yeah and I was wondering if the escort strut mounts can be used on the first gen. as well?..Thanks and Peace!!!!!!
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Old June 3rd, 2006, 10:37 PM   #21
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is probeaddictions kit worth anything

I was gonna buy a probe addiction airbag kit but before i do i was wondering if any of you have tried or own that specific kit and if it is any good please respond soon i am about to drop 2100.00 on it so i need all the input i can get
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