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.
1. The ReadyLift leveling kit for the Dodge Ram HD consists of these two 2-inch spacers an
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.
2.With the truck secured on the lift, the upper shock nuts were accessed through the engin
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.
3.Next, the lower shock bolts were removed.
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.
4.To drop the axle as much as possible, the draglink, sway bar endlinks and track bar bolt
5.We then unbolted both of the shock towers and removed them from the truck.
6.With the shock towers out of the way, we removed the front factory shocks from the vehic
How Does It Work?
The difference in the ride with the new Bilstein 5100s was immediately noticeable. The truck no longer bottoms, then tops out the suspension on a particular roadway cross ditch we test vehicles over. While the ride is smoother and softer than stock, it still feels very controlled and not at all floaty. Power from the Hypertech programmer easily offset the increase in tire size on the Stage 1 setting, and other power settings can be easily installed based on the needs of the driver.
After the install, the Ram did not exhibit any negative attributes from the spacer kit and overall looks and feels better than stock. The owner of this vehicle says there has been no rubbing, the modifications work well, and were exactly what he was looking for.
7.The coil springs and rubber isolator, which we removed at this point, are both reused wi
8.Once the springs were out of the way, we installed the ReadyLift spacers into the coil b
9.Next, the stock coil spring and isolator assembly are placed back on to the truck.
10.The new front Bilstein 5100s were then slid in to place and the lower shock mount was s
11.We then reinstalled the shock towers and bolted them down, before tightening the upper
12.Here is what the finished front assembly looks like. It is important to have any vehicl
13.The factory steering stabilizer was the next part we removed. A puller was required to
14.The Bilstein part is a direct replacement for the factory steering stabilizer and reins
15.With the front finished, we removed the rear shocks and installed the Bilstein 5100s.
16.The owner of this truck chose to replace his stock LT265/70R17 (31.5-inches) with the 3
17.We used Hypertech's Max Energy programmer to calibrate the speedometer since we did not
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