This was no small change from ten years with a 1978 CJ-7 as my primary transportation! Arriving July 7, 1998 after a three and a half month wait, I couldn't have been more pleased. It's fully loaded - almost! There were a couple things I didn't want, like an automatic. It was ordered with a V10 (why it took so long to arrive, the V10 was on restriction), Quad cab, 4X4, tan leather, alarm, fog lights, 4.10's, posi-track, anti-lock braking, tow package, everything heavy duty possible (which means one ton axles - Dana 60 front & Dana 80 rear), even an engine block heater - never know when you might have a stint in Wyoming (Yes, there is a story here. No, I'm not going to tell it. You're welcome.).
Dave's Random Ram Thoughts
Exterior: My exterior after market work all revolved around the intent to make the truck as red as possible with chrome accents. I like the big old chrome grill and bumper, so I went with that, but borrowed concepts from the sport package to make some other parts red instead of gray or black. The front side windows are blacked out (back and rear side windows are factory blackout).
Bug guards: To not spoil that beautiful front end, I initially put on clear bug guards. None of that smoked plastic stuff - interrupts the visual flow. However, after a half dozen years (sooner if the truth be told) they were getting very yellow so I pulled them off and never put anything back on. Not having a problem with chipping, which is what I was trying to avoide.
Wheels: Options for 16" 8 bolt rims are limited. After considerable searching, I ended up with Epic chrome wheels. Epic and American Racing have an agreement where Epic sells the chromed version and American Racing sells the polished version. I haven't had trouble with the chrome flaking (other than the rough treatment the tire shop's sockets gives it) and since I hate polishing upkeep on polished wheels, it is worth it to me. Matching rims went on the ski boat just to sweeten things up.
Tires and lift: At 1,000 miles I put on after-market tires. I'd used BFG AT's on my CJ-7 with good results. At the time the largest 16" BFG AT's available were 295's. Specs say that from no lift to a 2 1/2" lift, the largest tire you can fit is 33". The 295's definitely don't rub but leave a little "unused" space. When the 295's wore out after 45,000 miles, I replaced them with 315's. They rubbed on the back of the well just a tad and on the left bezel corner when turning sharp right so I installed a front 2" leveling spacer over the front spring (see comments on shocks below) . Gives a much more aggressive stance that I like a lot better, without being unduly tall. Unfortunately at that time BFG AT's didn't come in a 305 size (I've been told they now do) because I'm sure the 305's would be the perfect max fit without a lift, but the 315's sure look good! You can tell the difference in ride quality, acceleration, and especially braking, however, from the increased tire diameter and tire wall stiffness. The BFG MT's come in a 305 but with a 70 instead of 75 ratio, making them slightly shorter than the AT 295's. With everything 'heavy duty' I'm running about 6'8" high with the 315's and 2" front lift. The 4.10 gears combined with the larger tires worked out to a pretty good combination for me. With the stock tires, 4.10 is geared way too low unless rock crawling is your obsession - I was starting out in third gear half the time with the stock tires. I must say that the weight of the cast iron Ram V10 over the front axle makes this an awesome truck in the snow. Having said all that, what I don't know is what variation in ride height there is between different FWD models. Since I got all the heavy duty parts possible when I bought it, it may be that it sits slightly higher right out of the factory than some other FWD Rams.
Flares: Check out the factory flares. No ribbing between the body and flares, and the indentations in the body side panels carry into the flares. They are also just right with the 295's or 315's on 8" rims. Without the flares, the tires stick out. Not sure why they haven't been more popular. I like them much better than any after market flares I've seen. They were new in 1998 and I couldn't find a dealer in town that had them in stock or had even seen them. However, when I put them on, I sure got attention when I drove onto the dealers lot!! At that time, even the biggest after market dealer in town had never seen them before. If you have trouble finding a dealer that knows what they are, try www.bushwacker.com. The ads I've seen look a lot like the ones I got.
Trim stripping: The sport package removes the door guards and tailgate guard, so I peeled them off and like the look a lot better. Getting rid of the black stripes helps intensify the red color. Peeled the emblems off the tailgate.
Color coded bezel: The bezel below the front bumper is now painted red to match the truck instead of contrasting gray. You have to order the smooth finish bezel from the '98 sport package and then paint it yourself, but it ties up the look of the front end. This will work for Ram's through '98, but I expect a 1999 - 2001 could be retrofit with the '98 sport bezel (the '99 and later sport models have a very different bumper). I've never seen this done on another Ram and can't understand why. I think it would be a dramatic improvement to any Ram, particularly on trucks that don't have gray panel painted along the bottom of the cab and bed.
Headlights: Yellowed lenses can be cleaned up. I hand sanded with 600 grit wet/dry, then a Makita quarter-paper orbital sander with 1500 grit wet/dry, then polished with BlueMagic Headlight Lens Restorer. Made a huge difference.
Taillights: To cover up the black around the tail lights, I initially put on the factory red Ram tail light covers. Cheap, quick, and look good, but lasted surprisingly well (you do have to be careful washing or you'll bend/break some of the pieces). By the way, you have to paint the tail light covers yourself but you can get the regular tail lights pre-painted like the sport model comes with. Eventually I decided they needed an update and I picked up some of those chrome tail lights with clear lenses. After painting the black edge on the new tail lights, I gotta say I really like the new look.
Backup lights: Added KC backup lights on each side of the exhaust and wired them into the reverse lights. However, they don't put out as much light as I expected. If I had it to do over would use cheap driving lights, although that would probably blind some drivers behind me since I don't have an on/off switch wired in.
Grill Inserts: Ripped out the plastic grill inserts and put in some of those horizontal aluminum bars, including in the holes in the bumper. Looks good - more chrome. Just in case you were wondering, the whole front "chrome" nose on a Ram is nothing but plastic.
Sound system: Put in a retracting Alpine CD deck, Alpine 300 watt amp driving Quart Q Series 6 1/2" speakers in front doors (with the tweeters inset up high on the front door panels and covered with matching fabric) and Quart 6 1/2" in rear doors, Fosgate 500 watt amp to drive the double 10" JL Audio woofers below the rear seat in a molded JL Audio enclosure made for the Ram (good volume but not the tightest bass in the world). Used to be, I swore by Alpine decks and Quart's higher-end speakers, but I confess to being won over by Focal speakers (only in the Road Glide so far).
Running boards: Put on full length stainless steel running boards and rear mud flaps with a chrome bar across the bottom. The Ram V10 is high enough older people find it difficult to get in and out of even with the running boards, although I don't have a problem enjoying a miniskirt negotiating the height!
Gearing: The Ram V10 granny gear is really a granny gear - Crawl Baby! Yes, the stick is a pain at times in stop and go traffic and when someone is pulling your boat up a ramp, but I'd have to say the biggest thing that bothers me is the long throw which slows down shifting. An automatic is going to pull past you when you make that first shift, but I still am glad I got it - just how I like driving. The clutch engages smoothly, as long as you don't mind the long throw requiring you to take your heel off the floor. After all, it is a truck.
Brakes: Or lack of them. The Dodge Ram V10 brakes are mushy. I like brakes to REALLY haul things to a stop in a big hurry. I don't understand why Dodge didn't put disks on all four from the beginning. The truck pulled to the right right stopping when new (not uncommon). Dealer did some work (replaced arms and calipers) but didn't completely get rid of it. I understand when Dodge upgraded the brakes (1999?) they "admitted" they had a defect and went from a single to dual piston caliper. Don't know if they can be retrofit. When the pads wore out, I put on Stillen sport cross-drilled rotors and their semi-metalic pads. If you have the Dana 60 front axles, be sure you get the 1.5" thick rotors. The usual 3/4 ton axles have rotors that are about a quarter inch thinner. I don't find they stop particularly better, although they do seem to stop a little better when pulling the boat. I'd say they have a little more linear feel but take a little more pedal pressure. There was a slight improvement in the pull to the right when braking. I certainly like the lack of break dust.
At 120,000 miles I needed new pads again. This time I put on the "Yellow Stuff" from EBC Brakes. These pads are a bit spendy, but are made specifically for heavily loaded trucks with oversize tires. My part number was DP41268R, which is specific for the one ton axle I have (Dana 60). What I was surprisingly pleased with was the condition of the Stillen rotors. This is the first time I've changed brake pads on any vehicle and there wasn't any ridge on the edge of the rotor or grooves in the surface. They were in excellent condition, the best I've encountered. They must be made pretty good to last so well. I have to say I now give them a hearty recommendation. Also, the right pad was considerably more worn than the left, not surprising with how it likes to pull to the right.
Exhaust: In '99 I put on a Gibson catback exhaust. It sounded better, and with the K&N air filter I could tell a seat-of-the pants improvement in low end torque, particularly when pulling away from a stop. In 2000 I pulled the Gibson cat-back and installed Edelbrock headers, ceramic coated inside and out, and put in a Magnaflow muffler (throatier and a little quieter than the Gibson) with dual 2 1/2" outlets which end in 3" stainless slash-cut tips. All in all this was some improvement in power and the engine seems to breathe easier (revs better) and more low-end torque. However, if a lumpy, mean sound is what you want, the V-8 engine sounds much more muscular than the Ram V10 no matter what muffler or exhaust system. Has to do with two sets of cylinders firing simultaneously.
This was my first set of headers I've ever put in. I did find a couple negatives. First a slight increase in noise level inside the cab. Ok, it is hard to whine about noise when you also put on a louder muffler, but in the cab you can tell there is an increase in sound levels in the engine compartment, particularly under load. Second, the header bolts don't like to stay seated so I have to check them for tightness a couple times a year.
The factory catalytic converters are reportedly quite free flowing and I'm told you don't get a performance increase by going to an after-market performance "converter." This truck also came with dual converters, which is nice for exhaust flow (typical of non-Calif. models). However, you can sure get a better sounding exhaust when the cats are gutted. When mine were both rattling badly and had no restriction to flow, the exhaust sounded much better. Don't be surprised if you get less than 30,000 miles out of them. The exhaust shop tells me they have short life in the V-10 and I believe them after having three go out in 65,000 miles. However, after the three were replaced within 65,000 miles, I've run another 75,000 more miles and haven't had a single problem. The replacements were the factory units so perhaps Dodge changed something to make them last longer.
In 2010 at 140,000 miles the Magnaflow muffler was well past end of life, with my brazing over cracks failing yet again. I had Flowmaster #524703 muffler installed this has dual 2 1/2" inlets and a single 3" outlet, which was routed to the stock location and terminated in a 4" rolled edge stainless tip (Magnaflow, ironically).
This is the 70 series Big Block II, three chamber muffler. I looked at the 50 Series Big Block. Not only is it noticeably more expensive for no seemingly good reason, The factory graph shows sound levels very close to stock. I ended up with the 70 series which has a graph slightly louder and am very glad I didn't get the 50 series. In fact, the 70 series volume level is what I expected from the 50 series and noticeably quieter than the previous Magnaflow. For my taste it is too quiet. I'm not a fan of really loud exhaust, but I want it to clearly sound like it is aftermarket and have a good rumble. On trips it is nice to have it a little quieter, however.
Some say the Flowmaster has better low end torque than Magnaflow but Magnaflow has better sound. Seat-of-the-pants, I'd say Flowmaster may have a little more torque, and certainly is not less. I do miss the visual look of the dual exhaust but I know that didn't create enough back pressure and just going to a single tailpipe would help torque, so I can't say that any improvement is necessarily due to a better design of the muffler itself, as much switching from dual to single outlets.
Poweraid: I Put in a Poweraid throttle body plate which is "guaranteed" by the manufacturer to add 14 HP. It has groves cut in it to swirl the airflow for better atomization. I've read multiple places (unfortunately after I installed the Poweraid) that a dyno shows a loss of power with the Poweraid on a V-10. After running with it for a few years, I took it off and I swear it revs easier and has better low-end - and I get about 10% better mileage without it (read: about 1 MPG better; whoo-hoo). While it may be good for other engines, it is counter-productive on the V-10.
Mileage: Mileage on an 8 liter, 488 CID V10? This is one of those "If you have to ask..." deals. It typically gets about 9-10 MPG around town and about 10-12 MPG during highway driving. My experience has shown the V-10 gets better MPG if you keep the speed down, like 1500 RPM and lower (around 55 MPH for my gearing). Fully loaded, pulling an 18' fully loaded trailer only dropped the mileage to the 8/9 MPG range, although I didn't have any really steep mountain passes I went over. Also, 3/4 ton trucks aren't subject to the mileage penalty tax, so you at least don't get hit there.
Power: Speaking of the V10, at 300 factory HP, it isn't the rocket you'd expect from those numbers (don't think of a car with a 300 HP engine). Around town there won't be much difference from the V-8. In fact, my seat-of-the-pants tells me the V-8 probably has more acceleration. This engine was designed for torque and when there is real work to do it struts its stuff - like pulling a boat uphill. However, while it won't turn in low quarter mile times, it breaks the rear tires loose easily, even with posi-track and oversize tires. If you want real power, get a Hemi or turbo diesel. My cousin has an 2005 Ram with a Cummins twin turbo and it not only has a noticeably smoother ride, it has significantly more acceleration (completely stock). I got the factory 4.10 gearing in part to compensate for the larger tires I knew I'd be putting on.
I finally pushed the limits of the Dodge V10's power. I drove 2400 miles with the truck fully loaded and pulling a fully loaded 18' flatbed trailer. It would slow down to the 45/50 MPH range on hills, sometimes needing to shift down to third. Starting out from a stop in second gear as I normally do lugged the engine unless it was downhill, so granny gear got used a lot - Gee, it isn't just for rock crawling after all. There is a nice overlap in the gear ratio between 4th and 5th, so most downshifts worked well, but if I needed to shift to third, there isn't much overlap, leaving one wishing for a split-axle. I don't know the weight I had, but it sure was a lot more than pulling a 20' ski boat, which the V10 does with complete ease.
Shocks: At 50,000 I put on RS 9000 adjustable shocks with the in-cab dual control unit, two inch front leveling spacer, new upper and lower control arms with poly bushings (lower needed to be longer to keep alignment correct after the 2" lift and by the way they are heavy boxed steel instead of the factory's thin U steel), and poly bushings on the sway bar. All components are Rancho. The biggest improvement is the vehicle is much more stable. Less body roll in corners or stopping. Ride doesn't seem smoother to me. After all, it still has those one ton springs under it. I like the more level and slightly more aggressive stance the truck now has. The rear fender wells no longer look like they are a lot higher than the front. This is a change I wish I'd done much earlier, although I don't know as I'd do the remote air control again.
Intake limitations: A couple years ago, I decided to do some serious work - things like a cam, roller rockers, and other intake work. After doing considerable research on my options, I was surprised there was so little information available. I called every performance shop in the metro area that I could find and no one had worked on the cast iron v10, not even the local Dodge dealer (Timberline Dodge, now apparently out of business) known for Viper performance modifications and their own race Viper. But while at that dealer, Ken Klickman took the time to do some research, including phoning some high-level personnel involved in designing the Viper heads and who currently is considered world class on Viper header flow modifications. The upshot is that the headers on the cast iron V10 just don't flow well no matter what you do to them, not to mention the rest of the intake system being poor. While I don't doubt that there is some power to be gained in there, it was clear that it would be a small increase for the amount of money spent since I'd have to hire it all out. I'm told there isn't an engine builder in the US for seriously tweaking this cast iron block. Now I understand why so little information is available. Also, if you are considering the SRT-10 Viper powered Ram, ask about clutch life - the dealer relayed some seriously bad examples on clutch life.
Ok, I still haven't completely given up. "Someday" I'm going to check out improved throttle bodies, etc and maybe even put in a cam. Early on I put a K&N filter in but now there are more sophisticated systems than just a filter replacement. If you want to hot rod your truck, learn from me and get a V-8 Hemi or diesel.
Electric Trailer Brake Controller: I finally made my Ram an honest truck. I've pulled a boat with surge brakes for years, but recently picked up an 18' flatbed car hauler with electric brakes on both axles. That necessitated an electric brake controller. Fortunately my truck has a factory plug under the dash. All I had to do was buy an adapter cable, plug it in (look for the blue plug above the parking brake), screw in the mounting bracket at the bottom of the dash, and, viola, trailer brakes! Must have taken me all of ten minutes.
I did substantial research and decided the most advanced controller is the Tekonsha Prodigy. The most recent software release of version 2.6 when I put it in. I highly recommend purchasing through R and P Carriages on eBay. Low prices, great service, additional how-to articles.
I chose Iron Eagle for the flatbed car hauler. My first trailer from them was about a decade ago when I had them make a custom 4X8 utility trailer. Their quality is great and the price is reasonable. If you want cheap and cheesy, go somewhere else, but if you want a well made trailer for near the same price as the cheap ones, check them out.
Bed Liner: I finally broke down and put in a bed liner. Ok, maybe it has been used as a real truck long enough that I needed to cover up the scratches in the bed. After a fair amount of research, I chose Line-X. I wanted a spray in liner and it looks to me like their hot-applied liner is the toughest of the lot.
Fluids: The truck has 140,000 miles and doesn't smoke or burn oil. Have yet to add oil between oil changes. I always use Mobil 1 synthetic oil and a K&N oil filter, part number HP-2004 Oil Filter . Yes, I've changed oil so many times have it memorized. Amazon is a good place to pick it up and save a couple bucks.
Doo-Dads: Put chrome covers on the exterior door & tailgate handles. Tried some "clear" (without the yellow side reflectors) front blinkers; they'd look better if I could find matching headlights.
Right away had problems with pulling to one side during braking. Some front suspension components and disk brakes were replaced. Covered under warranty, improved but didn't solved the problem.
At 147,000 miles, replaced the rear axle speed sensor. What was interesting was the speedometer quit at the same time it didn't want to idle when coming to a stop. Idled fine under any other conditions. As the tach dropped, give it a throttle blip around 1000 rpm and then it would idle ok. No throttle blip, would drop straight to zero and die. Eventually I figured out that the about 1% of the time the speedometer worked, the idle problem went away, so I figured it was actually the computer getting screwed up setting idle mixture for a complete stop when it was still moving. I took it to a local shop and they replaced the speed sensor and also found the black box I had installed a long time ago had blown a channel but fortunately it had a second channel so the switched to it and re-calibrated with a MPH app on a smart phone. If you live near Hanford, CA, I HIGHLY recommend Kenshi's Auto Repair!! They went the extra mile (so to speak) to get me completely setup.
V-10 chat site: http://dodgeramv10.yuku.com/
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