The 2014+ Ram platform has presented numerous design challenges – none more daunting than mounting big shocks; well, maybe long travel airbags but at least big shocks are possible. After all, why wouldn’t one want the softest on-road ride available while being able to blast past side-by-sides through whoop-sections at your favorite OHV area? The Commuter, Backcountry and Pintop Systems have been available for years – the capability among these systems covers “the 99%” of our customer base. As we grow, that 1% grows; they’re loud and we’re listening.
It took a TON of dirt miles to fully test the Dominator System on this platform. We know the customer begging for this system is not going to treat it like the 99% – this means taking our prototype truck to the brink of destruction to ensure the the System would exceed the customer’s expectations. Don’t let this pretty mega-cab fool you; it’s the second truck to wear this system. The first was our 2014 Ram 2500. We owned the truck for 5 years and got our money’s worth of testing. I’m not going to sit here and tell you there’s no fun in this style of R&D, I’m saying there’s more to our production product than cycling the suspension on a rack and signing off after some light shock valving adjustments on the local back-road.
One Barstow trip, after several hundred R&D Dirt miles, we had what was to be our production Dominator System on the shop 2014. Dan behind the camera, Sage behind the wheel hoping to showcase the big-shock capability. There was one section in particular, a long, sweeping turn with DEEP, off camber whoops. A Pintop equipped Ram would bend the front axle even looking at this section. We’d run it at least 10x before while testing & tuning the system. Sage throttled and, in the middle of the whoops, we heard a loud bang followed by repetitive bottom out. Sage being a seasoned wheel-man stayed off the brakes, kept the wheels straight and let the truck roll to a stop so we could investigate the culprit minimizing potential damage.
The Coil Spring popped out of the bucket, hit the tire and coiled around the Torsion sway bar arm as the truck slid to a stop. Our techs, like any other shop, are careful but not impervious to mistakes. We figured the limit straps were set incorrectly. Even so, the shocks should protect this. With the front shocks topped out (full extension), there’s still tension on the coil & isolator – the limit straps only serve to ease the burden of the entire front axle weight hanging from the internal shock snap ring. Layman’s terms, the front suspension is setup such that the coil will always be under tension with the shock installed – it should NEVER be able to pop out, especially not with limit straps.
Being in the middle of the desert with minimal tools (this was a run to showcase the capability, not a 2-truck tuning/torture test run with a support vehicle), we had no choice but to go search for the coil isolator, pitch some shade and await the cavalry.
Our tech showed up with tools a couple hours later – we trail fixed and we were back enroute to the shop for a deep-dive into the source of the coil departure. We, of course, spend the passing hours discussing what the hell could’ve caused such a failure…
We got back to the shop and threw the truck on the rack. Sage’s instincts amidst the chaos kept the damage to some scratches on the arm and frame paint, nothing more. With the truck put back together, we tested the limit straps – they were perfect. We remove the limit straps to test the length of the shock – they were perfect. We had to remove the lower shock bolt and droop the front almost 3″ to remove the coil spring with the shock disconnected. This left us scratching our heads – NOTHING should’ve allowed the coil to pop out with the proper tried and true coil design, shock design and limit straps to back them up.
The culprit, the factory isolator offered VERY little support to the spring. The lower, angled coil seats native to this Ram platform were a challenge, but, after several coil revision in our initial R&D, the combination of the Radius Arm Drop Bracket and terminating the final wind of the coil after wrapping the front of the coil seat ensured proper back pressure and a linear spring that loaded and unloaded PERFECTLY. This did not solve the lack of support on the upper coil – it was literally the ONLY factory design nuance left to improve. Never had a Ram with the factory chassis suspension infrastructure seen the forces we subjected it to that day.
To Keep with factory parts (should an isolator become damaged, you can source one from your local parts shop), we designed a weld-in extension for the factory isolator support. After all, it makes sense that this may be necessary given all the other items that required “beefing up” to take the abuse of the 3.0″ Shocks. A simple weld in support that extends the full length of the isolator was all it took. Icing on the cake, if you will…
The top portion of the support is machined for a perfect fit to the internal diameter of the factory opening with an engineered bevel to ensure proper weld penetration. A few stitch welds and some smoothing with a grinder secures the support. A quick coat of primer and paint makes it appear factory while offering a fail-proof foundation for the coils for the dirt-road ahead.
With this installed, we headed back to Barstow and experienced NO further issues. We must’ve run the section and, specifically, the line that dislodged the coil 30 more times to ensure all was well. After Barstow, we headed south to Ocotillo Wells to test and film in different terrain. We’re happy to report we feel we’ve addressed ALL factory shortcomings and have a achieved a level of performance not yet possible in this platform short of our custom coilover/bypass builds.
So what does it take to safely run 3.0″ shocks on this platform? We’ve already discussed the lack of coil support and how we address it; further the front requires offsetting the lower shock mounts. Luckily, the Ram platform provides sufficient room to run a stem-top 3.0″ shocks without contacting the factory bucket. Additionally, there are brake lines that run along the radius arms from which you MUST clear the wiper cap of the 3.0″ shocks. We provide a bracket and stainless brake line to re-route and clear the shock. The lower shock mount slightly offsets (outward) the shock path and boasts boxed construction preventing the infamous busted lower, factory shock mount.
The factory shock mount is a stamped, weak, half-welded factory part:
Once cut off and cleaned, the Carli shock mount indexes off the lower coil seat and radius arm mount to locate and welds in. The difference in strength is substantial, obviously.
The Carli Brake line routing brackets pair with the shock mounts and stainless lines for optimal clearance of these monstrous shocks:
The rear required the shocks to be remoted out-board the frame as even the 2.5″ Kings barely clear the factory pocket. The rear, tubular frame crossmember serves as a perfect location for some weld-in, upper shocks mounts:
The lower shock mount bolts in; we sandwich the factory shock mount utilize the factory shock bolt hole (with crush sleeve for structure) and the two existing holes in the factory shock mount to secure our boxed mount indexing the rear shocks outboard for optimal stability:
With the new rear shock position, the front bedside supports must be modified. A simple chop of the lateral support from the vertical allows you to stack the new Carli Lateral support under the factory vertical support. The other side attaches to an existing hole in the control arm bracket with provided hardware.
The point of this article is to give you insight into our R&D and pursuit of perfection. After a tremendous amount of R&D, this kit is ready to roll. We could’ve chalked the coil popping out up to a fluke, reinstalled and re-ran the section. Nope, there’s always something that can be improved and we’ll find it; even if we think we’re done. When this kit is ordered, we want to know with 100% certainty that, if it’s driven as hard as we drove it, it’ll surpass the customer’s expectations.