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I've had the opportunity to drive around a 1996 Lincoln Continental before I purchase it (or another car) and it runs great except that the rear air bags have a slow leak and the Check Ride Control indicator light comes on occasionally.

If I leave it overnight then the airbags are low in the morning. When I start it up, it takes about 20 seconds to fill the airbags and then it runs fine and I usually don't hear the compressor come on all day.

I had the windows open today and I noticed when I went over a few bumps I could hear a sound like air venting. Not like a slow leak but short high pressure blast of air.

What are the short and long term repercussions of driving this car without fixing the leaking airbag(s)?

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    My $.02 - Repair it before it causes other problems. On top of the compressor mentioned in Moab's answer, a lower ride height will usually cause excessive negative camber, which will wear your rear tires faster than normal. If you're on good terms with the seller, you should be able to work the repairs into the final sale price. – MooseLucifer Aug 30 '16 at 22:18
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Causes:

  1. Leaking rear air bag (common)
  2. Leaking rear bag solenoid. (less common)
  3. Leaking air line (Rare)

Most of the time one or both bags have a leak and will get worse over time, the worse the leak the harder it is on the compressor and will eventually cause it to fail.

What I would do.

  1. Replace both rear air bags and solenoids
  2. Replace the compressor filer dryer. (will keep moisture out of your new bags)

Rear Bags

Filter Dryer

Solenoids

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