The owner of this ’16 Ram 1500 4WD truck was looking for suspension performance improvements and the ability to mount 35-inch rubber under the truck. The independent front suspension (IFS) uses coil spring struts and the rear solid axle uses a five-link suspension with coil springs.
A decision was made to use a 4-inch High Clearance Suspension System from BDS Suspension. BDS makes both 4- and 6-inch versions of this lift to fit late-model Ram trucks without air suspension (the company also offers a 4-inch lift for air ride-equipped Ram 1500s) and offers various shock and rear suspension options. The company’s front lift maintains use of the factory struts and provides new steering knuckles and crossmember components to drop the front differential assembly and lower control arms. The rear lift is achieved by use of either coil spacers or longer, replacement coil springs.
The kits come complete with all the pieces needed to address suspension links, brake lines, sway bars, and ABS sensor wiring. Shock options include BDS-branded gas shocks or optional Fox Racing 2.0 Series shocks. The kits are also FMVSS No. 126 compliant, meaning that they are fully compatible with electronic stability control systems found on these trucks.
The kit was successfully installed on the truck in a driveway over a weekend. The instructions are thorough, and two of us completed the install in about 12 hours using mostly common mechanic hand tools. There was some minor cutting with a hand grinder needed. Hardware torque values are provided throughout the instructions.
Once completed, the truck was aligned and new 18x9 Method wheels with 35x12.50R18LT Nitto Ridge Grappler tires were installed. Since the front struts were reused, much of the factory ride was retained and the new rear coils with Fox shocks rode well on the street and kept the tail well planted in the dirt. We found the truck handled great while bombing down twisty fire roads and had good suspension movement on mild trails.
In the end, approach angle went from a lackluster 22 degrees to 30 degrees with the lift and new tires. Also improved was the departure angle that went from 27 degrees to 31 degrees. With the new tires, ground clearance under the rear axle was improved by just less than an inch. Front axle clearance was reduced by an inch or so with the addition of a steel differential skidplate. However, the aluminum front housing is no longer vulnerable to rocks in the trail.
After removing the front wheels and setting the frame on jackstands, we started the suspension install with frontend disassembly by disconnecting the sway bar links, steering tie rods, and the wiring for the ABS sensors.
BDS provides brake line relocation brackets for the 4-inch kit so we straightened a portion of each factory hard steel line to gain a bit more drop of the steel couplings to the new, lower mounts. The 6-inch kit uses replacement stainless steel brake lines.
The hub axle nuts were loosened using a 35mm socket while the brakes were applied to hold the front axles from turning. We removed the brake calipers and hung them from the frame, out of the way. Then, the lower control arm bolts at the frame were loosened.
Next, the big disassembly began with the unbolting and removal of the factory struts once each upper ball joint had been popped free of its knuckle. The lower control arms were lowered using a floor jack and the struts removed.
The CV axles had previously been pried free from their clips in the differential and could be removed next. Fortunately, there’s no gear oil or other lube leakage to deal with upon axle removal.
Each factory knuckle with unit bearing and rotor assembly was removed from the lower ball joint, and the lower control arms were removed. Note both the OEM knuckle and lower control arm are made from aluminum.
Here’s a comparison of the beefy BDS steel drop knuckle next to the factory aluminum knuckle. You can see the three bolt holes where the unit bearing hub and rotor assembly mount. The assembly is transferred from the original knuckle to the new one.
The front driveshaft was unbolted and supported on a jackstand and the rear crossmember removed. The front differential assembly is held in place by three mounts. It was unbolted from all the mount points and removed from under the vehicle.
The front suspension kit uses a pair of drop crossmembers to move the lower control arms and differential assembly downward. One portion of the original rear crossmember mount needs to be cut off the frame to allow the new pieces to fit. Here, you can also get a glimpse of the electrically assisted rack-and-pinion steering on this truck.
Using the new BDS mounts, the differential was reinstalled, dropping it 4 inches lower than stock. New crossmembers are added, bolting into the original lower control arm mounts.
The lower control arms now mount in the new BDS crossmembers, using the original alignment bolts. You can also see the new skidplate under the differential that connects the two crossmembers. Much of the hardware was left loose at this point until all the pieces were in place and then the fasteners were torqued to final tightness.
The kit includes a driveshaft spacer and longer bolts to compensate for the front differential drop. No rear driveshaft modifications are needed.
BDS provides a pair of strut spacers that attach to the top of the struts in the height needed for the 4-inch and 6-inch kits. Additionally, the kit includes preload spacers that can be placed on the struts to reduce body rake by a bit, if desired. The longer struts were reinstalled on the truck.
Each new knuckle was placed on its respective lower ball joint and each CV axle reinstalled into the differential and wheel hub. The assembly is heavy, so having a second person and/or a floor jack makes life easier. Then, the knuckles were mated to the upper ball joints, and the calipers reinstalled.
One should always do a final check of brake line length. We fully drooped the front control arms and turned the steering to full-lock to ensure there was still slack in the brake lines. The BDS kit was set up just fine.
Here’s the finished front suspension. We rerouted the ABS sensor wiring, added new tie-rod ends from BDS, and installed extensions on the sway bar links. We also hand-torqued the wheel hub nut to 185 lb-ft. Tip: Using an air impact may cause CV joint damage or excessive front bearing preload.
The rear suspension upgrade started with setting the rear frame on jackstands. Next came removal of the original rear shocks, brake line and ABS wiring attachments, coil springs, and the bolt securing the rear track bar to the axle. A floor jack placed under the differential allowed us to easily move it up or down as needed.
The bolts in the upper control arms were loosened and the axle ends removed. This allowed mounting of the new BDS upper control arm mounts. They are secured in place over the original mounts using multiple attachment points. A few new fastener holes must be drilled in the original axle mounts.
Here, you can see the completed new upper mount that relocates the upper control arm upward. No modifications are needed to the lower control arms or mounts.
The owner of the truck opted to install the 3-inch rear coil springs for the rear lift. These were placed under the frame and onto new lower coil spring centering blocks.
We installed the BDS-tuned Fox Racing 2.0 Series shocks using new top hardware provided by BDS. We were cursing the Ram engineer that came up with the nearly inaccessible shock hardware when we removed the original shocks. The BDS hardware was a welcome replacement. We had removed the inner fender liners to make this job easier.
A track bar relocation bracket was added on top of the existing factory mount and secured with several fasteners. After adding longer sway bar links, drop brake line brackets and affixing the ABS wiring, the rear suspension was nearly done.
With the rear tires reinstalled and lowered back on the ground, the factory track bar was connected to the new relocation mount. We used a ratchet strap to pull the axle over to get the bolt inserted into the mount and bar end. All that remained was to do final torque on a few fasteners and the install was complete.