Photos and Story by Jody Campbell
A Little Lift for a Big Truck
Superlift's 4" Suspension System for Dodge Ram 2500 Trucks
Sometimes bigger isn't always better. Take for instance, our feature editor, Mike Batchelor - if you've met him, you'd know what I mean. But, for owners of ¾ and 1 ton diesel trucks, bigger is almost always better!
When you buy a modern Diesel truck, you get bigger axles, bigger brakes, and a much bigger, more powerful diesel engine, but you are usually stuck with the same size tires and wheels found on their smaller ½ ton truck siblings. That kinda takes the fun out of buying the biggest, baddest truck on the market.
Our '05 Dodge ¾ ton Cummins diesel is a prime example of this. Stock, it will clear a 33" tire without any lift, and just a mild trimming of the front molding. So why did Dodge decide that a 265/70 R17 tire (a 31" equivalent tire) would look fine in an opening so big that you could hide our feature editor in it? We're not sure ourselves. Not satisfied with the stock tire size or truck height, I decided it was time to get busy, lift the truck and fill the gaping wholes where the baby tires used to live.
After lengthy discussions about gearing, towing capacity and the city driving we do, it was decided that a 4" lift and 35" rubbers were combination that we wanted. The lift would be tall enough to clear the big meats and give us the needed ground clearance for our occasional off-road trip, but keep the nose bleeds to a minimum.
A quick call to Superlift netted us the answer we were looking for. In addition to the 4 inches of lift, we checked a few options on the order sheet, namely the upgraded Bilstein shocks that are custom valved by Superlift for each application. As soon as the kit arrived, we began to tear the truck apart and change its attitude forever. Follow along as we show you what it takes to improve not only the looks and stance of your big Dodge, but also the ride quality as well.
|Installation - Superlift's 4" Suspension for Dodge Ram 2500 Trucks
||A full assortment of metric and standard sockets and wrenches, sawz-all, torque wrench, 3-ton jack, jack stands, screwdrivers, and a dead blow hammer
|Note: The instructions suggest that this suspension modification be performed by a fully qualified professional. We decided to pre-read the instructions a few times and determined that this wasn't too difficult of a do-it-yourself project, so we tackled it ourselves. The installation is really a remove and replace effort with a few twists, and if you pre-read the instructions, are mechanically inclined, and have the necessary tools, you should be able to tackle it yourself in a weekend.
Front Axle Disassembly
| You can start at either end of the truck, but I chose to tackle the front first as it's definitely the toughest. As with any suspension modification you will need to safely chock the rear tires, and have a good set of jack stands to support the vehicle. The instructions walk you step by step through the entire install, so I'm only going to highlight a few of the steps required.
|Put the truck on a pair of sturdy jack stands rated to support the vehicle, under the frame and behind the lower control arms. Another set should go under the axle housing once the tires are removed.
| Disconnect the sway bar links from the axle and save all the hardware. Remove the shocks, disconnect the upper track bar mount from the frame end and let it rest on the axle housing. Remove the drag link from the Pitman arm using the ball-joint separator. Then, make a note of the position of the pitman arm in relation to the sector shaft, and remove the pitman arm using a pitman arm puller.
|Disconnect the brake line brackets, but do not disconnect the brake lines from the calipers or the frame. Lower the front axle off the jack stands enough to remove the front coil springs. Remove the compression bump stops then put the front axle back on the jack stands. Locate the eccentric cam bolts on the lower control arms. Scribe the location of the stock location of these cams. This step is critical to return the front end to relatively close alignment to allow you to drive to an alignment shop. Once the eccentric cams are marked you can remove the lower and upper control arms. This is the only snag in the instructions: the rear upper control arm bolt on the passenger side can not be removed. The OE bolt is installed at the factory, from the inside of the frame prior to the exhaust being installed, and no room to wiggle it past. I reread the instructions - surprise, surprise - and found no way to free this idiotic bolt from its apparent, permanent cavity, without either removing the turbo down-tube, or cutting the bolt off with a sawzall. The instructions made it clear that all original bolts are to be reused, so my blood pressure started to rise. My only apparent option was to cut it off and make a run to the hardware store. My truck and my Jeep are in pieces, which made my blood reach a boiling point. I decided to call the tech line at Superlift and give them a good lashing, but as soon as I called, I was connected to a real live person, who immediately calmed me down, dissipated my fears and explained that I was in fact supposed to cut the bolt off and there was a replacement bolt included in the kit. He also explained that I was to install the bolt the correct way - from the outside of the frame in. Apparently the instructions have already been changed to reflect this and I got an old set, figures.
Front Axle Installation
| Installing the new suspension is the easy part, as all you have to do is follow the instructions.
The first step is to install the new Pitman arm, and torque per instructions. Install the new bushings in the new upper and lower control arms then install the upper and lower control arms in their respective locations being sure to match the part numbers to the locations per the instructions. Align your scribe marks when inserting the eccentric cam bolts and snug, but don't tighten them.
| Next install the coil springs in the buckets, being sure to install the left and right on the correct sides. Install the new front bump- stop lowering brackets and the new front shocks.
| The toughest part of the front end was the installation of the new front track bar bracket. The instructions are very clear and concise for these steps, but it's still pretty tough to drill the new hole in the cross member, as space is rather limited. It's not impossible, but a little patience and ingenuity go a long way on this step. Then, with the bracket installed, reconnect the track bar. The last few steps for the front end are pretty simple; install the lowering links for the sway bar and reinstall the drag link.
The last step, is actually the most important step in the entire process: Torque everything to the required specs in the instructions, then go back and re-torque it all again. Make sure you didn't forget to tighten anything.
Rear Axle Disassembly & Installation
| After getting the front end all wrapped up, the rear end is a breeze. Simply remove the rear tires, set the jack stands under the frame, just forward of the spring hangers and leave the floor jack under the rear differential with a little pressure on it.
Remove the stock shocks from the upper and lower mounts and then remove all of the u-bolts on the leaf spring plates. Lower the axle just far enough to install the lift blocks between it and the leaf springs. Orient the blocks per the instructions making sure they are fully seated in both the leaf springs and the axle perches. Install the new u-bolts (ours had some issues, see picture) and torque to the specs listed in the instructions. Install the rear shocks, the rear drop down brackets for the bump stops, torque everything to specs, install the wheels and tires and put it back on the ground.
The last step is also equally important - crack open a cool drink, take 3 steps backwards and marvel at your damn-fine handiwork.
Testing / Post Installation Comments
I drove the truck very carefully the next morning to the alignment shop and got the front-end aligned by a professional. Unlike most lifts I have installed in the past, the Superlift kit rode and drove almost as good as stock. The truck definitely corners differently with the additional height and the larger tires, but the ride quality is as good as or better than stock. The front end feels very solid and planted with no wandering or play. The rear suspension of course feels exactly as it did before since the spring rate remained unchanged. The most noticeable improvement is the front spring rate and the addition of the Bilstien shocks. Since the shocks are valved specifically for the truck, they provide the perfect dampening rate. Our Dodge gained a total of 5 inches of additional ground clearance (4" of lift, 2" of tire height) under the rocker panels, and 3 inches under the differentials. Off road, the truck feels stable, and balanced. The suspension really doesn't flex any better than it did stock, since the sway bar is still connected and the rear still has the stock leaf springs, but it is definitely a more capable off road machine with altitude change and additional clearance.
After 2 months of driving the truck with the new lift installed I still love it. The first few days I drove the truck with a keen ear focused to any unusual squeaks and rattles, case closed none found.
This installation wasn't without its problems. First, the nuts for the rear u-bolts spit out the nyloc sleeves while I was tightening them. I torqued them to the required specs then replaced them the next day with new ones from the hardware store. The second problem arose when I installed the sleeves into the shock eyes that came with the kit. The kit included two sets of sleeves for the shock eyes one set was to small for the bolts to pass through, so I installed the larger set. After driving the truck to the alignment shop, I realized something was definitely wrong; every imperfection in the road caused a horrific rattle from the rear suspension. It seems that this was turning into a Goldy Locks and the three bears story, this ones two small, this ones two big and after a quick trip to my spare parts bin in the garage I had an old set of sleeves that were just right!
Even after these two minor fixes, and 2 months of driving the truck with the new lift installed I still love it. After correcting the sleeve issue, I drove with a keen ear focused to any unusual squeaks and rattles and after two months it's still silent. Our Dodge diesel finally has the lift and tires to match the attitude the factory gave it.
If you want to give your 4-wheel drive diesel the height it deserves, give Superlift a call, it's the right lift, right now.
|Superlift Suspension Systems
|300 Huey Lenard Loop
West Monroe, LA 71292
Phone: (888) 299-4692
Fax: (318) 397-3040