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Air Lift LoadLifter 5000 Ultimate Plus Air Springs Installation - 2018 GMC Sierra 2500

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How to Install the Air Lift LoadLifter 5000 Ultimate Plus Air Springs on a 2018 GMC Sierra 2500


Connor: Connor here today, at etrailer.com. We're going to be taking a look at the Air Lift Ultimate Plus 5000 air helper springs, here for our 2018 GMC Sierra 2500. So whether you're towing or hauling, these Air Lift airbags, here, are going to be an excellent addition to our truck. They're going to give us a peace of mind while we're driving out on the road. They're going to give us a lot more control. Overall, we're just going to feel much more comfortable towing or hauling heavy loads.So we're actually going to have quite a few different suspension enhancement options for our truck here.

However, I truly believe airbags are going to be the best overall option. And the simple reason for this is they're adjustable, meaning we can adjust the amount of air inside our airbags to get the perfect sort of in-between of support and comfort, depending on what trailer we have. If we have multiple trailers, it's going to allow us to adjust that PSI. If we're towing really heavy with a bunch of weight in our bed one day, whereas the next day we're kind of light, we're really going to be able to fine tune those adjustments to get the best ride quality.So before we load our truck up or attach our trailer, we're going to go ahead now and take a couple measurements, here, of the front and rear suspension, to show you how much of a difference our airbags are going to make. So we're going to go ahead and measure from the ground to the bottom edge of our wheel well on the front and the rear.

We're going to start with the rear, here. And our unloaded, factory stock suspension is going to be about 42 inches from the ground, here. So in the front here, that same measurement is going to be about 39 and a half inches.So now that we have our trailer coupled here, let's go ahead and retake our measurements to see what they are now, while loaded. We come to the rear. Again, we're just taking the same measurement we did, from the ground to these top lip here of our wheel-well.

So we're going to be about 40 inches for the rear. So it looks like we did drop a couple inches. So if we come up here for the front and, again, take the same measurement, go ahead and measure from the ground to the top edge of our wheel well. We're going to be about 40 inches, as well. So it looks like we came up about a half inch in the front.So granted, the amount of rise we have in the front and drop we have in the rear is going to be sort of specific to your particular setup, depending on how heavy your trailer is or how much weight we're going to have in the bed of our truck.

However, even with the half inch raised in the front and the two-inch drop in the rear, we're definitely going to see some negative effects of that.So with the sag in the rear, the main thing we're going to be worried about is with our suspension wearing out sooner than its normal life expectancy. However, with the airbags, we're definitely going to be able to improve the longevity of our factory suspension because we're not making it work nearly as hard. So the front, however, is where we're going to see the most serious side effects of towing with our trailer or hauling with the weight in the bed. So, although we only came up a half inch, that half inch is actually going to have some drastic effects when we're out there driving. The number one, and the most important one, in my mind, is going to be the reduced stopping power.See, what happens is, since we're loading weight into the bed of the truck, we're going to be lifting the front end of the truck up. And basically, what this does is it takes weight off our front braking axle, which is going to be responsible for the majority of our stopping power. In fact, about 60% of the vehicle stopping power comes from the front axle here. So when we take that weight off, we can't come to as quick as a stop as effectively as we would without the weight. So it's definitely going to reduce our braking power. It's going to take a lot more effort to slow our rig down.In addition to the reduced braking power, which, in my mind, is sort of the most severe effect of this, we're going to have a few other smaller, minor things that you'll want to keep in mind. Number one is our headlight aim while we're driving at night. Since the front of our truck is lifted a little bit more than what it should be, our headlights are going to be more pointed to the sky. So not only are we not going to get a nice, clear, visible path of where we're going on the road, it's also going to be shining in other motorists eyes.So as you can see here, we have some nice new tires with some meaty tread on them. Now what's going to happen, when we take weight off the front axle, our caster and camber alignments aren't going to be within factory specifications. And basically, what that boils down to is we're going to start to notice some irregular wear patterns on our tire here. And we're going to have to replace those much sooner than we would normally.So last, but not least, the overall feeling and stability of our tow vehicle, here, isn't going to be like it would from the factory. We're definitely going to notice the steering's a little bit looser. We're going to find ourselves wobbling around a little bit more. And overall, we're just not going to feel as confident behind the wheel as we would when we're not towing.So now let's go ahead and take our trailer out to the test course we have here at etrailer, so we can test out the suspension. The first thing we're going to be doing is we're going to be going on our speed bump course here. And it's definitely going to feel a lot bouncier in the rear of the truck. I definitely feel like we're sort of jolting around side to side. The steering wants to sort of take control of itself. So now, we're going to head on over to our slalom course here. No, we need to be careful, but we're going to try to make some slight evasive maneuvers here, once we get up to speed. And right away, you can definitely tell the weight transfer. You can definitely feel it shifting from side to side.So now, with our airbags installed, we've got some air in them. We went ahead and hooked back up to our fifth wheel here. Let's go ahead and retake our measurements. At the rear we're going to measure about 41 and a half inches from the ground to the top inside edge of our wheel well, there. If you remember, our factory-loaded suspension was about 42 inches. So we got about a half inch from factory ride height.Now, if we come back to the front here, again, take the same measurement. It's going to give us about 39 and a half, which is where we we're for the factory. So we're perfect. We're back to level in the front. Let's go around our test course here. Once more, etrailer. We're going to go on the speed bump course first. We can definitely feel we're not bouncing around quite as much. We're not getting that porpoising feeling that we we're earlier, without our airbags.Let's go ahead. Head over here to the slalom course. Our steering is definitely a little bit more responsive than it was before. I will say that we're not having that jostling back and forth, sort of that body roll feature, if you will. We're not having nearly as much of that. We definitely feel a little bit more stable.So in regards to installation, overall, I'm not going to say this one is real difficult to do. You don't really need a lot of mechanical knowledge nor do we really need a lot of special tools to complete this. It is, however, a little time-consuming. So as long as you give yourself enough time, this is definitely going to be something I feel you guys can install by yourself at home.So the first step of our installation, we need to come under our vehicle here, to either side. And then, directly above the axle, sort of have this jounce spring striker plate here. We're going to have the actual jounce spring, or the bump soft, whatever you want to call it, but we need to go ahead and remove these on both sides. Now, in order to remove them. They're sort of crimped into the top of this little cup here, sort of like a spongy, rubbery material. So what we're going to do is we're going to take some pry tools. A flathead screwdriver works just fine for this, as well. We're just going to sort of sneak it in between the jounce spring and the cup here, so we can pry it out.So now that we have this one out, we can go ahead and just repeat that process on the other side. So if we come on here, on the driver's side frame rail, directly behind our gas tank here, in front of our axle, we're going to see a bolt at the top, which is going to be holding our emergency brake cable, here, to the frame. We're going to need to take a 13-millimeter socket and remove that bolt, so our emergency cable can hang free.So now, we're going to take our same 13-millimeter socket we just used, and if we come on the back of our strike plate for our jounce spring, we're going to have a bolt holding our brake line to this jounce spring strike plate. So we need to go ahead and remove that bolt on both sides of the vehicle here. We'll go ahead and repeat that process on the other side. We'll set these bolts aside to be reused later.So now, we're going to step away from our vehicle, a second. We're going to go ahead and assemble our air assemblies here. So we're going to take one of our airbags here. There's going to be a bottom, which is just the two mounting holes. There's going to be a top, which is the two mounting holes and then the nuts are here for our inflation valve. Our air fitting, rather. So what we're going to do now is we're going to take one of our roll plates, which come with our kit here. We're going to go ahead and place that on the top of our bag. We're going to make sure the rolled end of our roll plate is going to be facing down towards the actual bag.So we're going to go ahead and line that up. Now there's going to be two holes to line up there, for the mounting, and then one hole to line up here, for the air fitting. So now we want to take our 90-degree air pins that come in our kit here. They look like this. We're just going to go ahead and thread it on this hole here, just gently by hand, and just finger tight for now. So we want to tighten that as much as we can with our fingers.And then we're going to come back here. We're going to take a 13-millimeter wrench, and we're going to further tighten this, one and a half turns. So just pay attention to the way that the outward valve is facing. So that's one. Now we'll come around here to another half, and that's it. Now we'll go ahead and repeat the same process on our other bag.So now that we have our roll plates on the top of our airbag, here, we're going to take one of our upper brackets here. It doesn't matter which one. There is going to be one for the right- and left-hand side, which we'll need to be careful of when we're putting them on the vehicle. But for this step here, it doesn't matter which goes on which airbag. We're going to take the upper bracket here. We're going to see the cutout here. That's going to line up with our air fitting here. We're going to see this top flange here, which is going to be pointed up.We'll go ahead and set those over there and do as best we can to try to line up the mounting holes, here. And then we're going to take our Allen head screws, which come in the kit. They look like this, and we're going to need to get a 7/32-inch Allen driver here. We can just use a standard Allen key to thread them in, but in order to torque them to spec, you're going to need one that's on a socket, like this one here. So now we're just going to go ahead and install both of our Allen screws.So now, once we have those loosely threaded in place, we can come back with our wrench, here, and tighten them down. We're going to take our airbag assembly here. We're going to flip it over here. We're going to install the lower bracket. We're, again, going to need one of our roll plates here, making sure that the rolled edge is facing down towards the bag. And then we can take one of our lower brackets, here, and get our Allen screw ready. You can install that lower bracket here, but we do need to make sure. because this does need to face a certain way. We see this angled portion here, where it angles down. That's going to line up with the side that has our inflation valve or air fitting, whatever you want to call it.Now we can go ahead and tighten this down. Once we finish this one up, we can just go ahead and repeat the same process on our other airbag assembly. So a little tip here for you guys, before we set the air assembly here up into place on the vehicle, if we compress it a little bit, that's going to make it much more easier to work with, to get it in there. So what we're going to do here is we're just going to press down on this air spring here to let all the air out of the bag. Then we're going to use this red cap, thread it over the fitting there, and it should hold its compressed form.There we go. So now that we have everything buttoned up here, our next step is just to go ahead and set this on the vehicle here. Now, keep in mind our top brackets are labeled L for left and R for right. Left is going to be the driver's side, and the right is going to be the passenger side.It's about how we need it, here. So now, I'm going to go ahead and let out the plug here. You got to be careful on our driver's side here. We have our emergency brake cable, which we let loose earlier. I just temporarily zip tied it up here to a hose, to get it out of our way. We also need to be careful of this bracket down below here. Want to make sure that's on the outside of our lower bracket. But now that we have this side in, just going to go ahead and repeat this process on the other side.So if we come over here to the passenger side, on the front of our jounce spring cup here, we actually missed a bolt earlier. It's just going to be. We're going to remove it using the same 13-millimeter socket, but it's going to ride on the front of our jounce spring plate, which our lower bracket has to go over. So we need to go ahead and take that out now.So now that we have everything into position, we can go ahead and secure our upper bracket to our frame rail here. In order to do that, really going to have a couple options here, depending on whether or not our truck has a fifth wheel hitch. Now, chances are you do. And this truck, in particular, has a factory fifth wheel hitch. So what we're going to need to do to attach the upper bracket. We see this little flange here, which is at the rear of the airbag. There's going to be the same one on the other side at the front, which we can't really show you because it's really hard to see up there, once it's in its position.But essentially, we have a U-bolt that comes with our kit here. We actually have a couple U-bolts. And what we'll do is we'll sneak this up over the frame rail, and then it'll come down out these two outermost holes here. Now we're going to be able to get a U-bolt on the front of the bracket on either side. However, the rear bracket, here. We're not going to have enough room to sneak our U-bolts down because of the outside brackets for our fifth wheel hitch. So what we need to do is we're going to have to drill one hole here, through the center, into our frame, and then use a self tapping screw.But before we do that, we're going to go ahead and install the U-bolt, which is going to go on the front, first. So we're going to be starting on the driver's side. Keep in mind, there's going to be some wires and brake lines attached to the driver frame rail. So we need to make sure that we're not going to be pinching the wires and brake lines against the frame rail between our U-bolt. So we just need to be careful while we're placing that up into position.So we have our U-bolt into position here. We went ahead and installed our lock nut as well as our flat washer here, on both sides. Now, what we're going to do is, I'm not going to torque these down quite yet, but I am going to position the upper bracket where it needs to be. That way, we're going to be centered when we drill our hole here, on the other side. So what you want to do is you want to make sure that, when we're drilling our hole, that the upper bracket is pushed as far inward as it can. Basically, the cup for our jounce spring should be resting on this plate here. So we need to maneuver it a little bit over that way.Then we can go ahead and just snug up some of our U-bolts to hold it in place while we drill our hole. So keep in mind, while we're tightening our U-bolts, we need to make sure that we alternate from each side of the bolt, tightening each nut down a little bit, and then swapping back and forth. So we pull the U-bolt into place, and it's nice and properly tight.So now we can take our 5/16 inch drill bit. We can go ahead and drill through that center hole here. Our upper bracket, if we secured it enough, it should hold it in place. We should have a pretty good template. Now we're going to take one of our self-tapping screws, which looks like this. They come in our kit here. We're going to go ahead and form some threads here in that hole we just drilled. Then we'll tighten that up. We need to be careful while we're tightening this, so we don't use an electric impact or anything like that, and that we follow the manufacturer's torque specifications, because we really want to be careful that we don't over-tighten it.So we want to be careful when we start to get close to being flush with our bolt head, here on the flange, and our mounting plate here. We just want to snug it up till the two touch. Then we can come back with our torque wrench here and torque it down to the specifications.So lastly, we're going to come back here. We're going to torque the two nuts on our U-bolt to the specifications in the manual. And then, once that's done, we can go ahead and just repeat the same process on the other side of the vehicle.So once we have all of our connections made, securing the upper bracket to the frame rail, we're going to be using this bracket as a new, alternative way to secure our emergency brake cable. Let's go ahead and show you how that installs, now. So we're going to take our new bracket here. We have our emergency brake cable. We're just going to loop it over like that. Then we can go ahead and close the ends, doing as best we can to try to align those two holes there. So we're going to have to maneuver it through there, around our gas tank. It's a very tight area to work. You don't really have a lot of space.So now, what we want to do is we're going to be attaching the lower bracket here to our axle. The first thing we want to do is we just want to go ahead and look over the angle of our bags there. We do want them straight up and down. So we just want to sort of look over this lower bracket here to see if we need to move in or out a little bit, But our bags look pretty straight as is, now. So what we can do next is we're going to go ahead, take one of our carriage bolts here. We're going to stick it up and through the slot here on the end of our bracket. We're going to have another one on the other side, as well.Once those are both in there, we're going to take our axle strap here. We're going to go ahead and place it up there, over these two carriage bolts. And we're going to secure it with a 3/8 flat washer and our 3/8 lock nut. So probably only going to be able to do one at a time. But once we get it on there, just a couple threads to hold it in place. Once this is on there, we can go ahead and begin tightening them down, but we want to make sure that we work our way back and forth, like we did for the U-bolts. Tighten this nut a little bit. Work over here. Tighten this nut, and alternate back and forth.We're going to be tightening these nuts down, here, with a 14-millimeter socket. So here's pretty much what we're looking for. We have roughly the same amount of threads protruding through the nut on each side. So once we have that, we can go ahead and torque down our fasteners here to the specifications in our manual. Once we have the lower bracket secure, we can go ahead and reattach our brake lines to the lower bracket here, using these smaller bolts here, and the flat washers which come in our kit here. Now we'll just go ahead and repeat this process on our two other brackets.So the next thing we're going to do is we're going to take our heat shield, which comes in our kit, looks exactly like this. We have two band clamps. We're going to open each of those up, going to take this center point there, and slide it through that little tab like so. Take the other one. Do the same thing. Now we can go ahead and set this up on our tailpipe. Essentially, what this does is it stops the heat generated and passing through the tailpipe from reaching our airbag and causing any damage.So we'll go ahead now and place the heat shield up into position, about where we think we want it, which is going to be about right there. And then we can go ahead and tighten down our band clamps to lock it in place. So in order to tighten these band clamps, you can use a 5/16-inch socket or you can use a flathead screwdriver.So now we're going to take our braided air line, here. We're going to go ahead and attach it to the AN fitting on our airbag. We're going to get it finger tight. And then we're going to take a 14-millimeter wrench, and we're just going to tighten it just a hair, just to snug it up a little bit. But we need to be very careful that we don't over-tighten these and strip them, and they're going to leak.So now that we have it secure to the airbag fitting there, we're going to go ahead and route this to the rear of our bumper here. Depending on where we want to mount it, I'm going to route them more towards the center here because, more often than not, that's where most customers want their inflation valves. So we're going to go ahead and do that now. We need to be careful that we avoid any heat, such as the tailpipe here, or any moving suspension components. So we'll go ahead and do that now. And we'll show you the path we took.So we have our air line running here, directly from the inflation port on the airbag. We need to make sure we have some slack to allow our airbags to expand and contract. And then we have the line sort of routed over, like so. We have it zip tied here to one of our brackets. Then we have it zip tied to the main wiring harness for the vehicle here. All the way on the top of the frame rail. We came up a couple of the cross members here for the spare tire. We just sort of ran it down. As you can see, we have it dangling here.Now, the next thing we're going to do is find a place to mount our inflation valves. I've determined the best location here for this vehicle. It's going to be about right up in this corner area of the license plate cutout. So we're going to take a 5/16-inch drill bit. We're just going to drill one hole over here and then one hole over here. And it is important to check behind this material to make sure that you're not going to puncture anything or damage anything such as the wires. But we've already went ahead and done this. So now we can just get to drilling.So now have our inflation valve here. We have one of the jam nuts screwed down about three quarters of the way. Then we're going to take the other end of our braided steel hose coming from the airbag. We're going to thread that on, then tighten it hand tight, and then just a quarter of a turn. We're going to need two 14-millimeter wrenches for this. Well, not even a quarter of a turn, I should say. Just a little bit to engage and seal everything up.So then what we're going to do is we're going to take one of our star washers here, place that over like so, and then we're going to come up back, loop this through the hole that we made. Once we get that in the hole, we're going to come back with a rubber washer, a flat washer, and then a jam nut. Now we're going to come back with our 12-millimeter socket. We're going to tighten that down. Once we have that on, go ahead and cap it up. Now we can repeat this process on the other side.So now, we're going to go ahead and put some air into our bags. That way, we can spray everything down and test for leaks. So in order to check for leaks, we want to take a solution, here, of soap and water, a soapy water solution. What we're going to do is we're going to spray down all of our lines and fittings and our connection points because we're going to be looking for rapid-forming bubbles. Now, what these rapid forming bubbles are. They're going to indicate that we have a leak. We may need to take the fitting off and re-tighten it.So if we see that air escaping there, from the back of the fitting, that means we have a leak. So we're going to drain the rest of the air from that bag, and just we're going to re-secure that fitting and check it again.Now that we've ensured that there's no leaks, that's going to do it. And that's going to do it today for our look and installation of the Air Lift Ultimate Plus 5000 air helper springs, here for our 2018 GMC Sierra 2500.


Info for this part was:

Employee Jeff D
Installed by:
Jeff D
Employee Robert C
Installed by:
Robert C
Employee Jacob T
Video Edited:
Jacob T
Employee Dustin K
Video Edited:
Dustin K
Employee Chris R
Video Edited:
Chris R
Employee Jonathan Y
Video by:
Jonathan Y
Employee Conner L
Test Fit:
Conner L
Employee David F
Test Fit:
David F

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