The new '09 Dodge Ram is a great truck, especially with its sleek styling and new suspension system. Plus the truck won't be too expensive, a base-model 1500 Regular ST 4x2 with a V6 can be had for less than $22,000. Not only did the Dodge engineers add more aggressive lines and a stronger frame, they placed coil springs at all four corners. The rear of the truck features a multi-link coil suspension for increased ride quality and better handling. That is all fine and good, but our question was how will this new suspension system take to being modified?
We contacted Bret Voelkel at Air Ride Technologies to pick his brain about it. As luck would have it, Bret and the crew had already designed an adjustable suspension system for the truck that would drop it down 1/3 over stock and 4/6 fully deflated and still retain good handling capabilities. If you didn't know, Air Ride Tech is in the business of building adjustable trucks that can still rip corners. The system won't lay the frame on the ground, but it will get you pretty dang low.
This is what Bret had to say about it: "We received one of the first '09 Dodge Ram trucks to develop a new system for what certainly will be a popular truck. Even though our test truck wasn't much to look at (it is an official Dodge "test mule" sporting a very stealth-like flat black paint) it turned out to be one great ride - especially after we equipped it with our latest gear."
We begged Bret for his photos so we could show you how much work it takes to install the system on the truck. This is just a general overview of the install, so some small details will be omitted. But don't worry, Air Ride Technologies sends out some of the best instructions in the business.
What's In The Box?
The Level 1 package comes with everything you need to transform your Ram into a ground-hugging, corner-carving rig. The meat of the standard system is a set of single adjustable ShockWaves for the front and CoolRide air springs and external shocks for the rear. Upgrades are available in the way of double adjustable ShockWaves for the front and adjustable aluminum body shocks for the rear for even finer tuning of the suspension. With a single adjustable unit, the compression valving is pre-set at the factory and the rebound valving is adjustable, while the doubles will let you adjust both compression and rebound valving. The RidePro air management system utilizes a solenoid air valve system and electric components to provide accurate control. The control panel provides simple inflate/deflate control. The compressor has a 150 max psi rating and puts out 0.50 cfm @ 150psi and pulls a 19.9 amp draw.
(1.)The truck was secured on a lift and the wheels were unbolted. Then the sway bar end links and shocks came off so the lower ball joint could be popped free. This allowed the factory coil to come out. If you are performing this type of job for the first time be careful the springs are under a lot of pressure.
(2.)The factory shock was held in place with these nuts on the lower control arm. They will interfere with the ShockWaves so they have to go. They are held on by a few very small tack welds, so a few good whacks with a hammer and chisel took care of those pesky nuts.
(3.)A 2-7/8-inch-tall by 1-1/4-inch-wide by 1-inch-deep piece of the frame needs to be cut out to provide clearance for the ShockWave. A grinder fitted with a cut-off wheel works the best. After the cut was made, all the edges were ground smooth and painted black.
(4.)With those modifications out of the way ,the ShockWave was installed, the airline routed, and the front end reassembled. One thing to note is the orientation of the adjustment knob on the bottom of the ShockWave. Adjusting the shock damping is easier if the knob is pointing toward the spindle.
(5.)To create adequate sway-bar-to-Shockwave clearance, a 3/8-inch spacer is supplied and must be installed between the sway bar mount and the frame. You won't have to search the bolt bin because longer bolts are supplied with the kit.
(1.)Out back, things are just as simple as the front. The top of the lower coil spring retainer must be cut off to accept the lower air spring mount. A die grinder with a cut-off wheel works well, and once cut the edges were ground smooth. Obviously the factory coil and shock were removed to access to the lower coil spring retainer.
(2.)Here is the area after being trimmed. The new piece is the lower air spring roll plate. This slips over the retainer and provides a larger area for the air spring to rest on.
(3.)To deal with the large hole in the upper spring area where the air spring will eventually mount, a 4-inch washer is provided.
(4.)There is also a nice machined piece of billet that sits on the top of the air spring to deal with the protruding portion of the upper coil-spring retainer.
(5.)After the mods, the CoolRide air spring found its new home. One thing to note is the bottom of the air spring is not fastened to the axle, so at least 15 psi needs to be in the air springs when lifting the vehicle by the frame. New rear shocks are provided with the kit. They have the proper length and better valving for the new lowered stance.
(6.)Like the front, minor sway bar adjustments need to be made. To retain proper sway bar geometry, shorter PosiLinks are provided along with the hardware to install them.
(7.)The last thing out back is the bumpstops. The upper portion is hacked off with a saw to allow for maximum drop. Don't leave these out because the bumpstops must be reinstalled to prevent damage to the air spring.
Because this truck was an official Dodge "test mule," the crew at Air Ride didn't hook up an air management system at the time. That's why there is a piece of air line sticking out from the front bumper. They just used the shop air to get it up. All the correct components come in the kit, so here are a few tips from Air Ride to mount the stuff right.
The Compressor And Relay ...
The Compressor And Relay
All of the compressors are sealed for moisture and dust resistance so they can be mounted anywhere on the vehicle. It is OK to mount it underneath the vehicle but keep it inside the framerails away from water and debris thrown off the tire. Use the rubber grommets supplied on the feet of the compressor to reduce vibration. A main power wire of 12AWG or larger will be needed to supply each compressor. It will attach to the red wire on the relay. The yellow wire on the relay will go to the red wire on the compressor. The black wire on the compressor should be attached to a clean ground, usually the frame.
The Air Tank The air tank...
The Air Tank
The air tank can be mounted anywhere on the vehicle in any position, just make sure the sensor is not at the bottom. If you have room, you can hide it underneath the truck, but in case you don't the tanks are nice and pretty and will look good in the bed.
The Ride Pro Air Valves ...
The Ride Pro Air Valves
The valves, like the compressor, are sealed and can be mounted in the same locations. Although if the vehicle will be exposed to freezing temperatures it is a good idea to mount them in the engine bay if possible to reduce the possibility of freezing. They can be mounted in any position. Attach the ground strap to a good, clean ground.
Routing The Air Line Make...
Routing The Air Line
Make all air line cuts with a razor or tubing cutter (part # - cut1000). It must be clean and straight or it will not seal. All fittings are DOT approved push-to-connect style. They are very simple to use and are reusable, but keep them away from any sharp edges. Also when passing through a hole in the frame use a grommet. Keep away from intense heat, including mufflers and exhaust manifolds. Use zip ties or other fasteners to secure the airline.
The Final Word
After reading the story we hope you see how easy this system installs into the new Dodge Ram. You are looking at very minor trimming and zero welding to have an adjustable suspension truck. You'll need $2,700.00 for the stage one kit, but since you can install it at home you won't have to add labor costs. Plus unlike other adjustable systems this one is designed to greatly improve the handling of the vehicle, especially when you add some wide performance rubber. Kind of like this Ram we spotted at SEMA with the kit installed.