Leveling the Dodge 1500 4x4
The Dodge Ram has been a very dependable truck (yeah, it's got a Hemi) since driving it off the lot five years ago. After 130,000 miles, little things were becoming apparent. The shocks were worn. The brakes were worn. There was a slight vibration in the steering. It was time for suspension upgrades.
I had always wanted to level the truck. Like most trucks, the rear is higher than the front so that it rides level when loaded. I wanted it level rather than the nose down look. But, options included a lift which would raise the truck four inches or more. That meant no more parking garages where vehicle height was limited.
I found a solution with the ReadyLift Leveling Suspension Kit which advertised maintaining stock height and raising the front end to eliminate the nose down look.
The kit for the Dodge 1500 provided two forged torsion bar keys. The hex slots were clocked slightly different than the stock keys which provided for the front nose lift.
Installation is simple, requiring that the front end be raised (and supported) enough to loosen and remove the torsion bars.
The kit does include a bracket for unloading the torsion bar pressure. The heavy metal bracket the slips over the top of the key holder. Still necessary is a tool to compress the key. The recommended tool is GM OTC 7822A.
Once the torsion key is unloaded, the torsion adjusting bolt can be removed. At this point, the torsion bar can be removed from its socket enough to allow the stock key to be remove and replaced with the new torsion key.
In most cases the torsion bars will loosen and reinstall with no problems. If the truck has seen any off-road action, gentle persuasion may be required or extra bolts may need to be loosened to provide crossmember movement enough for clearance.
As with any modification to a suspension system, a preliminary inspection of all suspension components (including alignment) is highly recommended. During the preliminary inspection of the Dodge, the lower ball joints were found to be slightly out of recommended tolerances and the shocks were worn.
Wheel alignment is critical for safe and efficient vehicle operation. The torsion key replacement changes the geometry of the steering and suspension requiring an alignment.
The torsion bar adjustments require a flat surface and tape measure. With the truck sitting on a level surface, measure the height from a reference point just behind the front wheels and a reference point just ahead of the rear wheels on each side.
For a starting point, assume the height on the left rear is the desired height. Starting with the left torsion adjustment, snug it to the point where the left front is raised to match the left rear height. Some adjust may be needed on the right to fine tune to make the four height measurements equal.
Generally, the left torsion adjustment will have the most effect. This adjustment will make for a stiffer ride and can be tweaked for personal preference. Each 1/4 inch of adjustment of the bolt equal one inch of height at the wheel.
With the torsion bar set, it is time to replace the worn lower ball joints. Spicer provides a very durable ball joint and does have one for the Dodge Ram trucks. While the ball joint does come with a grease zerk fitting, that fitting does need to be removed and replaced with a plug. The grease zerk fitting will interfere with the IFS/CV joint. The Spicer part number for the lower ball joints used is: 505-1294.
The final step is an alignment to set the correct camber and caster of the front tires. This should be accomplished by a certified mechanic with a functional alignment rack and gauges.
With the torsion key, ball joint, and alignment complete, it was time to replace the shocks. The rear height was not changed so the stock shock length was not altered. However, the front was raised slightly more than one inch.
Raising the front meant that stock shocks (10.75 inches collapsed and 15.875 inches extended) would be shorter than required. Bilstein provides a shock in their 5100 series that is 13.26 inches collapsed and 21.51 inches extended. While it is slightly longer than necessary, it is a standard item. Adding 15 inch limiting straps will reduce the downward travel and potential for binding the IFS CV joint. The Bilstein part numbers used are: rear - F4-BE5-2550-H1 and front - F4-BE5-6528-H6.
And, no major work is complete without a look at the brake pads and rotors. With the high mileage, a brake job was due. The front and rear pads were worn as were the front brake rotors. As the front rotors are the most prone to wear, they are recommended to be replaced rather than machined. However, the rear rotors showed minimal wear and required a minimal machining to clean up the rotor surface and ensure it was smooth.
All work completed, it was time for a road test. The road test revealed improved steering control and overall ride improvement. It was like driving a new vehicle.
Work was done by:
Roger Daniels Alignment & Brake
8517 Ablette Road, Shop F
Santee, CA 92071
BAR # ARD214109
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