April 1st was the one-year anniversary of the DOR 2014 Ram being at the shop. I special ordered the truck in late February 2014, and at the time I just knew I wanted a Laramie with some options, and I wanted the bumpers to be black instead of chrome. The new trucks just had too much chrome all over the place. At the time, nobody had a Black Appearance Package truck, and we didn't even know what it was when I checked that box on the build sheet. The dealer said I would have some blacked out badges, painted bumpers, and a few random things. I had no idea that it would look this badass, or that everybody and their brother would order it. But I'm still proud that we got one of the first ones. Our truck was born on March 12th around 9 PM at night in Saltillo, Mexico. Then it was packed in a train car and shipped up to the United States, then hauled by 18 wheeler to my local dealer. The dealer did some inspections on it, put a couple of miles on the odometer to make sure everything worked, and then it was all mine. If you haven't ever ordered a custom built truck before, it's a pretty cool process. You can login to the Ram truck site and check the status of your order. You can also ask your dealer and they'll print out a step by step, minute by minute paper that shows what stages your truck has gone through. When it's finally delivered (and it seems like it takes an eternity!), the paperwork will say "built especially for" you; in this case it said Dodge Off Road. It's a really good feeling when you can take home a truck that is exactly what you wanted, without any compromises.

With all of that said, I've now been driving the new truck for over a year, every day.  I've taken it on some long trips hauling trucks, steel, and equipment.  I've taken it off roading a few times - nothing extreme by any means, but through some trails around the lake, in some mud, some light rock crawling, and lots of snow wheeling.  I've driven it when the temperatures were over 110 degrees, and when they were below 0, with ice all over the roads.  So I've really put this truck through it's paces, in a similar fashion that other Ram truck owners would.   It's not my off road toy, but it's nice to know that if I need to go somewhere or just want to have a little fun, this truck is totally ready to roll.   So with that in mind, here are some thoughts that may be helpful to others who are thinking about switching to a newer Ram truck. 

The radius arm front suspension is great for towing.  Radius arms are inherently stiffer than a four link, so they act sort of like a sway bar.  You'll notice about the only thing that isn't larger under the front of the new trucks is the actual sway bar, and that's because of the radius arms.  So for guys who need a daily driver or tow rig, radius arms are great.  For the small percentage of guys who want to wheel their trucks, radius arms really leave a lot to desire.  The suspension binds up much faster, and you'll notice the coil springs look like they are going to bow in the middle and pop right out of the buckets when the suspension extends more than a few inches.  One thing I don't like about the radius arms are the way the bushings are fixed in the axle, like the Super Duty trucks.  So if you remove the radius arms, you still have this big rubber bushing that is part of the axle mount.  You have to press those out.  I would have preferred to see a standard setup where the bushing is part of the arm itself, so when you remove the arms, the bushings go too.  That would make converting to a 4 link much easier.  But still, for what I'm using the truck for, it works well enough and I don't plan on removing the radius arms anytime soon.   

Another thing is the tire rub.  Since the radius arms are so big, the new trucks will rub tires easier than the older models.  I have Method 17x8.5" wheels with 4.75" backspacing, which I've noticed some other companies recommend a higher backspaced wheel.  I have the super popular Toyo MT 37x13.50 tires on here, and I'll say that a wheel with more backspacing would rub the radius arms for sure.  The compromise with 4.75" backspacing is that you can get some rub on the fender or fender flares, if you have them.  I had to use a heat gun to reshape my fender flares a little bit to help clear the tires with a 3" lift.  But after that, and an alignment, the tires do not rub at all.  I can turn lock to lock and still have a small gap between the arms and tires, so it's perfect.  

Speaking of turning, the turning radius is not as good as the older models.  You learn to deal with it, but the new trucks just don't turn quite as sharp.    You'll also notice that the steering takes more effort than previous models.  This really changed with the 2008.5 and up trucks, but I jumped from daily driving a 2001 with a quick ratio steering box, so the change is very noticeable to me.  At first I didn't like it, but the extra effort has grown on me.  It makes the truck feel like it's more resilient to bumps and dips in the road.  Unfortunately, after just a few thousand miles, I could tell that the steering box had already started to loosen up.  We're working on a steering brace to help fix that, but these boxes are the same as the 4th gen boxes, and they just don't have a great track record for longevity.  They are huge, but eventually the push-pull steering will take a toll on the box.  

The crossover steering is pretty nice.  We're working on a replacement tie rod and drag link setup for them, since the TREs are the same internally as before.  I get emails on a pretty regular basis from people who have had their TREs shear like the older models, so I think that is still a problem.  But after one year, I have not had any problems, and the TREs still seem pretty tight.  The tube parts look massive, and that's what catches most people's eye.  But if you look at the actual ball and cup at the end of the TREs, it's the same size as before.  So the only upgrade was just with the tube size, which is good if you ever hit them.  The older ones would fold up pretty easily, which is why I've always been surprised to see companies selling them as an upgrade. 


Moving to the rear suspension, the new 4 link with coil springs is really nice.  There were some missed opportunities from an engineering standpoint, where the coils could have been made longer which would allow them to transition to their dual rate a little softer, and allow for more suspension travel.  One thing I really don't like is how the rear coil springs aren't secured very well.  The front springs have always been held in place by the weight of the truck, but it takes a lot of suspension travel to unload them.  In the rear suspension, these new springs only need a few inches of down travel for the spring to come loose, and they don't have a very tight bucket holding them in place.  So you really have to make sure the suspension can't extend past what the coils will allow, even if the arms and shocks don't bind up.  It really won't take much to pop a coil loose.  

The plastic spacer on top just sits in a small recessed spot in the frame; there is no attachment point.  The spacer can slide around in it's pocket, and the coil can fall right out once the weight of the truck isn't holding it in place. 

Other than that, the rear suspension is awesome and I wish they had done this earlier.  We've had our rear 4 link conversion on the market for a couple of years now, which isn't really an apples to apples comparison to the factory 4 link on the new trucks, but obviously I'm a fan of that type of suspension rather than leaf springs.  You get so much more comfort, performance, and the ability to fine tune your setup.  The 4 link keeps the axle from wrapping up, which was a huge problem with the leaf spring setups.  The new 3500 trucks still run a leaf spring setup because it is better suited for towing heavy, compared to the lighter spring rates with the factory coil springs.  But with some tweaking, the coil spring rear suspension could easily handle as much weight as the leaf spring setup.  I just don't think the Ram engineers have really spent much time on it.  Even just adding air bags to the 2500 rear suspension, you could have one heck of a setup.   For off roading, obviously the rear 4 link is light years ahead of the leaf spring setup.  Get some softer coil springs and a good pair of shocks, and you've got a very high performance rear suspension.  I've been really surprised at how well the rear suspension will articulate, even with the lack of travel from the stock springs.  The 1" rear springs we are using are several inches taller when unloaded, which means they offer more travel than the stock springs.  Just from running our new suspension system with upgraded Fox shocks, the truck has gone from a comfortable yet overly firm ride, with almost no articulation, to a much softer ride with several more inches of suspension travel.  My truck now rides better than my wife's Escalade, which says a lot.  And the whole thing can be done for just a couple grand.  No doubt that switching from 20" wheels to 17" wheels helped a lot, and I'm running 38 psi up front and 33 psi in the rear tires, which is about half of what the factory tires need.  So those changes, plus the suspension, have completely transformed the way the truck rides.  

A topic that comes up from time to time is the rear sway bar.  I've seen all kinds of comments, from the rear sway bars being mandatory, to them being useless.  Here is my take:  I removed my rear sway bar about a month after getting the truck, and through everything I have done with the truck, I have not ever felt like it needed to be on there.  I know that Thuren Fabrication says the truck is too squirrely without the rear sway bar.  That may be true if you unhook the front sway bar.  I still have the front hooked up.  So the "right" answer might be that you need one or the other, but my plan is to simply run a torsion sway bar up front to reduce the rate a little bit, and keep the rear sway bar off.  I "might" hook it back up when I'm pulling my backhoe, which is right at the GVWR limit for my truck.  Other than that, I see no reason to keep the rear sway bar on - loaded or unloaded.  But everybody is different. It's really quick and easy to unhook them and see how you like it yourself.  

One upgrade that I did that isn't related to the suspension, is putting in an Edge Juice with Attitude CTS module with the Hot unlock.  My goals were to get rid of some of the turbo lag, completely remove pedal lag, add a little power, correct the speedometer for the larger tires (the dealer can't do this any more), and get rid of the TPMS light since I'm running my tires at lower pressures than the factory wants.  I went with the Edge setup because it seemed to be the most plug and play, and I've used them in the past with great results.  The module only took a few hours to install, with the hardest part being the actual routing of the wires, and just getting the harnesses installed on the injector rail.  There isn't much room to work.  But once it was done, the truck had noticeably more power, and I was able to set the computer to give me an accurate speedometer.  The TPMS light is still an issue, and the pedal lag is still kind of there, but I've learned how to drive to avoid it.  Turbo lag is basically gone to the point that it doesn't bother me, and the gauges are nice to have.  I usually keep the CTS on level 3, which is a good all-around setting.  I drop it down to 1 or 2 when I'm towing.  For a big truck on 37" mud tires, and no "real" power adders other than this programmer, I'm clocking a 0-60 time around 7 seconds, and have wasted a few sports cars that have tried to cut me off on some lane merges.  It looks like a big cumbersome truck, but between the power of the 6.7 liter Cummins Turbo Diesel, and the upgraded suspension, it feels much more nimble than it really is. 

So after a year of driving this truck, I can honestly say that it's the nicest truck I have ever seen or driven.  The exterior looks awesome, the interior is very high end, and the truck drives like a dream.  There is room for improvement though, and that's where the aftermarket comes in.  We've all been working to provide quality upgrades for the new trucks.  There still isn't a whole lot out there for the new trucks, but so far you have several suspension companies offering quality kits, and we're working on some steering upgrades to help keep these trucks in good shape for years to come.  BDS was the first company to get a suspension to market, and it shows - they aren't very well thought out, but for the entry level "lift kit" crowd, they are a good choice.  If you want more performance and reliability, then there are four companies making high quality setups.  Carli Suspension just released their lineup, which at this point is the highest-end suspension you can get.  Pure Performance has some great kits, which we still need to add to our site.  Their Triple Threat and Chase Series kits are very impressive.  We can order any of the Carli or Pure kits for you, typically at the lowest prices possible.  

The current DOR suspension with Fox 2.0 shocks is a great system for those who don't necessarily need the performance of 2.5" shocks, plus we provide an adjustable rear track bar that Carli does not offer at this time.  I'm actually really surprised that they wouldn't include a new rear track bar with their suspension systems, since the factory track bar is so small.  When I removed mine, it felt like it was made out of recycled beer cans, other than the huge rubber bushings at both ends.  We have some really high-end suspension packages that are being worked out, which will be the most complete kits on the market.  We've been working on some hydro bumps for the front and rear suspension, with 2.5" remote reservoir shocks, and upgraded rear control arms to get rid of the big rubber bushings.  I wish I had more time to work on new products, but this past year has been insane for us, and most days it's all we can to do just build the current parts we offer.  We are hiring quite a bit more help (almost doubling our staff!), so once we are beefed up and have everyone trained, look for some really cool stuff to be released on our site.  There is no time table for any of it, other than it will be ready when it's ready, but we're hoping for some more products to be available this summer.  Keep an eye on our site for updates, as well as our Facebook or Instagram pages if you are into that stuff.  

Thanks for reading!  I hope the info in this post is helpful to those who are looking at upgrading to a newer Ram truck, or who already have one but aren't that familiar with the upgrades that are available.  If you have any questions, please feel free to email us anytime. 


Johnny Illiano

Date 6/8/2015

Dodge Off Road

Date 6/9/2015


Date 7/26/2015

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