On The Level
One of the most common questions we get from truck owners is how to improve their late-model vehicles to modify looks and be more functional without spending all of their cash, sacrificing reliability, or getting into warranty disputes at the dealer. Our advice usually goes something like this: Get a leveling kit to fit bigger tires, get some good shocks and a steering stabilizer to control them, and make sure your speedo is calibrated after all is said and done.
Because we get questions like this on a regular basis, we thought we'd round up a late-model truck and do a complete story on just these kind of upgrades we'd typically recommend for the average truck owner who drives his rig every day, but still uses it for wheeling, hunting, fishing, camping, or towing.
Starting with a bone-stock 2007 Dodge Ram 2500 Quad Cab 4x4 with the 6.7L Cummins turbo diesel, we hit the phones and rounded up some quality parts to show you what is possible for about $2,000.
For the lift, we turned to ReadyLift Suspension, a company that concentrates on the leveling segment of the suspension market. ReadyLift guarantees its lifts to retain the factory ride, while allowing for the fitment of larger tires. Every ReadyLift product comes with a limited lifetime warranty. Because these lifts are easily returned to stock, this is a great way to modify a leased vehicle, or a vehicle that you plan on selling in stock condition down the road. Leveling kits put minimal stress on the vehicle and do a good job of maintaining the ride and handling to either the same or as near stock as possible.
For the shocks, we solicited Bilstein for a set of their excellent gas-pressurized 5100s. Not only do Bilstein shocks make an incredible difference in ride and handling over stock, their monotube design is nearly fade-free, which means you won't begin to lose control as your shocks heat up on rough terrain. Another reason Bilstein shocks work so well is because they come with specific valving for each application, which spans thousands of part numbers to make sure your vehicle is covered.
We also installed Bilstein's new direct-replacement steering stabilizer, which, like the 5100, features monotube construction. Twin-tube shocks only function properly when they are mounted body down. So when one is turned on its side in a steering stabilizer configuration, a pocket of air forms. This means that the piston will partially travel through air instead of the solid column of oil you get with a monotube shock. In addition to this main advantage of the Bilstein steering stabilizer, Bilstein also uses a digressive piston design for precise damping that can be felt as more control at the wheel.
No leveled truck is complete without a set of larger tires. The owner of this truck decided to go with the tried and trued BFGoodrich Mud-Terrain KM2 in the 35x12.50R17 size, mounted on the stock 17-inch aluminum wheels. We like the BFGs not only because the aggressive tread design works well in a variety of terrains, but because they are also some of the quietest M/Ts currently on the market.
Finally, we chose Hypertec's Max Energy Power Programmer, which allows the user to calibrate the speedo for tire changes, as well as detecting and clearing DTCs, and increasing the top speed. The Max Energy offers three stages of safe performance for the 6.7L. Stage 1 is good for over 26 horsepower and 66 lb-ft of torque, Stage 2 for over 59 horsepower and 130 lb-ft of torque, and Stage 3 for a tire-shredding 85-plus horsepower and 181 lb-ft of torque.
We headed down to OC Motorsports in Costa Mesa, California, where we completed the install in just a few hours. Follow along to see how easy it is to upgrade your fullsize pickup for the better.