Modern diesel trucks have all the power you need to haul heavy loads, tackle your daily commute in comfort, and even get respectable fuel economy. They are versatile tools, and we are continually finding new uses for them.
Our 6.7L Cummins–powered 2014 Ram 2500 Big Horn 4x4 has served us well for years as a daily driver and long-distance hauler. With a good set of tires and a handful of practical upgrades, it has worked well for most of our needs. However, we were constantly finding that we could benefit from a winch. Couple this with plenty of close encounters with wildlife on the backroads in North Carolina, and we had officially made the case for a front-end upgrade. Understanding that our tow rig would not see any type of extreme off-roading, we wanted something that would add protection and improve the looks of our Ram. Given there is no shortage of bumper options these days for late-model trucks, we came to our bumper of choice after narrowing price, features, and visual attributes.
Our bumper of choice comes from ARB (yes, the same ARB that makes selectable Air Lockers). The bumper is part of the company’s Modular Series line of bull bars. The “modular” part is rather interesting as it allows you to personalize the bumper by running the lower portion of the bumper only, or adding the center grille protector, along with a set of outer wings that guard the headlight area. It fits a Warn 16.5ti winch, so we could pull whatever we need (including ourselves), and the stock tow points are integrated, so we don’t lose any standard features.
To do the heavy lifting, we took our truck to the off-road experts at Low Range 4x4 in Wilmington, North Carolina. While the install took a few hours, it was an easy bolt-on process.
Along with unbolting your stock bumper, you’ll need to pull the grille. Depending on the year and model of the truck, it may also be necessary to pull the intercooler. We had to do so on ours, but it only added a few minutes to the overall process.
The bumper attaches using brackets that slide over the Ram’s frame horns. You will leave everything a bit loose initially in order to fine-tune the fitment.
Having a winch on the front of our truck was one of the biggest needs. We picked up a Warn 16.5ti-s because it offered 16,500 pounds of pulling capacity. We opted for the s-model because it came with 80 feet of Spydura synthetic rope that is extremely strong. Not to mention the rope is lighter and easier to work with over a conventional steel cable.
ARB designed the Modular Series bumper to work with Warn’s classic 16.5ti workhorse in addition to the Warn’s latest Zeon series winch. If don’t think a winch is necessary for your needs, ARB does provide a very clean steel cover that adds a more finished look when a winch is not being used.
If you were looking for a more extreme, hardcore stubby bumper look, you could stop at this point. This is due to the main center portion of the bumper bolting up separately. One item we especially liked is that we were able to reuse our stock towhooks.
The lower wings of the bumper come with 51-watt Halogen foglights, which can be plugged into your Ram’s stock foglight harness. If you are going with the Full Deluxe grille guard option, you will install the front grille protection at this point.
The optional side wings (included in the Full Deluxe model) offer an extremely clean and form-finished look to the bumper. They are also a nice tie-in feature for those worried about possible animal strikes.
ARB provides a fairlead mounting bracket that also serves as a place to mount the winch’s control box. You can reach the winch from either the top or front of the bumper. Another fun fact is that the bumper is designed in such a way as to accommodate a secure lifting spot for a Hi-Lift Jack—a feature we hope we don’t have to use!
On 2010 and newer Ram 2500/3500 trucks fit with the Cummins diesel engine, the intercooler is mounted very low in the front of the truck. While this is ideal for scooping up cool air, it is a vulnerable position. ARB took this into consideration and provides this guard for the cooler. It protects without greatly impeding airflow.
Since we had a spot for auxiliary lights up front, we installed a set of ARB’s AR32 Intensity LED lights. We are running a spot on the driver side and a flood on the passenger. This setup provides a ridiculous amount of light. The spot reaches nearly half a mile in light distance, and the flood spans close to 100 feet. Since each light is comprised of 32 small but powerful LEDs, very little drain is felt by the electrical system.
Fit and finish is a wildly important part of any bumper. We found the ARB bumper to match up excellently with our Ram’s body lines. We are impressed by the quality of the Integrit powdercoat, too. Since ARB engineered strength into the steel bumper’s design versus just throwing more material at it, we also didn’t have a major weight penalty with the upgrade.