Replace air shocks with springs?

My son has a 1999 Lincoln TownCar with approx 150K miles. Recently, the air suspension failed and it now rides very low. He was told that fixing the air suspension would be very costly - over $1000 - but he could have springs installed for less money. Is this true? Does anyone know about this kind of repair?

You can go to websites such as Arnott Air Suspension or American Air Suspension for repair parts, including spring conversions.

Yes, the changeover can be done but you have to consider what type of ride is wanted. The coil spring conversion, while not a bad ride, is “different” from the air ride.
I consider the spring conversion inferior in quality to the air ride but that’s just my personal opinion. It will take a bit of getting used to probably but that does not mean that a spring conversion is bad or unsafe at all.

Here’s what I replace the air ride suspensions on Lincolns with.


As noted, there are options for going to springs.

But before doing that, one does want to be sure of what the problem is with the air system. The most expensive bit is the compressor. Is it dead? The height sensor is also a good chunk of change, but can fail in simple ways - like binding or disconnected linkage.

Other than that problems can just come from having leaky air lines and/or connectors (very cheap) and/or leaky shocks - not very expensive.

So when you say “the air suspension failed” - what exactly failed?

He will have to have someone look at it to find out what exactly failed. Is it easy to find out?

For a trustworthy shop, yes it is easy to find out. He just needs someone he can trust.

He can find out if the compressor runs all by himself - start the car, go to the rear of the vehicle and listen for the hum or a little motor. But if it isn’t running that doesn’t mean it is dead - could just be a wiring issue. The fuse should be checked too, but if blown the reason it blew has to be ascertained.

Has anyone checked the switch in the trunk? Maybe the switch for the airbag suspension got switched off by accident.

Just because there is a problem doesn’t mean it all has to be scrapped!

Town Cars are the same as Crown Vics and Grand Marq’s. A set of steel springs will slip right in. Same shocks. This is an easy fix…

It’s always possible this problem could be nothing more serious than a leaking O-ring on a ride height solenoid or a cracked air line.

There are some common problems with aged air suspension (compressor, saturated drier, or even dry rotted bags (cracks are common around the fold), etc.

If the compressor is running he could try spraying some soapy water on the solenoids and bags to see if any of it bubbles up.
This can be somewhat difficult to do given that the wheels need to be loaded and the air ride switch left on.

These vehicles are known for air bag type springs (not shocks) fail. Moog offers replacement springs for this problem. I hope they offer for your car. Call a parts store and see if Moog offers them.

You folks are awesome! My son just found the switch and flipped it back and forth a couple of times and it worked!! He’s one happy fellow! Thank you all for your input.

Failing air bags is not a design flaw though. It’s a high tech system that is more costly to maintain as compared to a standard coil spring setup but it’s still a good system.

It’s just that aged rubber dry rots just like tires and belts, and bag failures can be considered normal after many years of use.

Things that make you go uuuuuummmmmmmmm. No doubt that rubber rots and this is the problem with these Ford bags but road tractors/semis have air bag suspension that last the life of the truck. Go figure.

Note that air bag failure complaints are often from someone asking about a 10 year old or older vehicle and those bags are not near as thick as the ones on a semi.
If they were that thick the car wouldn’t even need an air compressor to keep them inflated.

If bags were giving up when only a few years old I could see it being a problem. I’d feel the same way about 10 year old tires or a 10 year old serpentine or timing belt.

The air springs are very likely leaking on a ?99. Very often people ignore the symptoms. That would be the rear end sagging while parked and the air suspension light coming on. After these things happen, compressor under the hood works harder than it is supposed to and the air is going through the dryer one way rather than inflating and venting the springs. This saturates the air dryer connected to the compressor. Water gets into the system and trashes the solenoids and compressor.

If your son wants to keep the TC in nice shape, he should have the springs checked and replaced if they are leaking. Replacing the dryer is cheap insurance. The springs and dryer, aftermarket, should cost $100-150. It is not difficult for an experienced mechanic. If the next stop is the salvage yard, go ahead and replace the air springs with poverty coils.

Guy’s, the OP has posted above (yesterday) that the air suspension was okay, it was just switched off.

I see the post now about the switch being flipped but something is strange about having to flip the switch several times.
This is very low current part and the odds of it failing are very very slim.

Hopefully that is all the problem.

I replaced my air suspension on my 1999 Ford Expedition with springs and there was no difference in the ride it 100.00 and I know the springs will not go out.

Got me again, ten years old. No wonder the link for Tester didn’t work. At any rate $200 in parts currently seems like the way to go.