Flow Characterization and Redesign of Load-Leveling Valves for Improving Transient Dynamics of Heavy Truck Air Suspensions

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Virginia Tech

This research provides a thorough flow characterization study to compare the functionality of two types of load-leveling valves that are commonly used for air suspension systems of commercial trucks. The first valve features a simple disk/slot design and is relatively compact for installation. The second type is larger and has a sophisticated, chambered design, which allows for considerably quicker fill and exhaust response times in the transient region. A new approach is introduced to estimate the transient mass flow rate of a load-leveling valve under different suspension pressures, without requiring a mass flow meter. An extensive series of dynamic tests are conducted to characterize and compare the two load-leveling valves. A generic heavy-truck pneumatic suspension, consisting of load-leveling valves, airspring, air tank, and air-hose fittings, is configured for testing. The test setup is used to evaluate the transient performance of each type of load-leveling valve in a typical truck suspension. The flow behavior of the system is validated by the force/pressure responses of the air spring due to various displacement excitations. The experimental results describe the detailed flow behavior of both valves. The flow characterization results can be incorporated as one of the most critical parameters for future model development of pneumatic systems. The tests indicate that the leveling valve with chambered design has a far faster transient flow response than the disk valve, although it is more complicated in its mechanical design and therefore costs more. To take advantage of the design simplicity of the disk valve, while also enabling it to have a faster transient response (compared with the chambered design), it is re-designed with larger flow openings and other elements to match the performance of the chambered valve for transient flow. A comparison of the experimental results and simulations validates that the re-designed rotary disk valve performs nearly the same as the chambered valve, but is simpler and costs less. The study's results are directly applicable to improving the transient dynamics of heavy truck air suspensions by providing a better understanding of how load-leveling valves can be used not only to provide ride-height control, but also to influence the roll and pitch dynamics of heavy trucks.

Air Suspension, Heavy Truck, Load-Leveling Valve, Flow Characterization