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Q&A How-to: Answers to Dodge/Ram Truck and Trailer Towing Questions!

     Enjoy the many detailed, traditional 'Q&A' exchanges in these article columns...'Q & A' has now moved to open, interactive forum discussions. Visit the forums, you'll want to join—for free!

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AAM 11.5

AAM Axle Rebuilding and Ring-and-Pinion Gear Changeouts!

From: Charles K.
Sent: Monday, September 24, 2012 3:26 PM
To: 
4WD Mechanix Magazine
Subject: Ref: past article on AAM 9.25" beam front axle!

Hello there
 
Found your site and the wonderful writeup on the AAM 11.5 rear axle. Noted at bottom of article ref to the 9.25 front axle! Can't seem to find it. Anyway to get a link/zip of the article??
 
Also have any articles on a 48RE trans or Dodge 3rd gen diesel main seal replacemant/etc..
 
Thanks
 
Charles Kennedy

Hi, Charles…Stay tuned!  I’m in the process of doing the front axle.  (Ran in 2WD over the summer; time constrained, I split the job up.)  I will have a home page blurb when the 9.25” work is in place. Likely, I’ll do that piece in HD video for the 4WD Mechanix Video Network's "4WD Mechanix Tech How-to Channel", as there is considerable overlap between the 11.5” and 9.25” axle builds. 

Thanks for your comments on the 11.5” AAM axle work, I thought the topic deserved this level of attention and detail. There’s a lot of misinformation floating around the internet...Techs and builders deserve better!

See my article on the RH/RE upgrades in the "Automatic Transmission Workshop" section.  The Sonnax upgrades solve a lot of problems…Enjoy!

Regards,

Moses

Safe trailering equipment is as important as the tow vehicle choice!

     Trailering a Jeep 4x4 to the trailhead requires the right tow vehicle and equipment. Safety equipment like an equalizing hitch helps assure trailer stability and control.

     Dodge Ram 'Leveling Lift' and New Noises

Magazine's '05 Ram 3500 lift included a track bar relocation (drop) bracket.

From: Rick O.
Sent: Friday, July 27, 2012 5:32 PM
To: 
4WD Mechanix Magazine
Subject: 2007 ram track bar issue

 

I have an '07 ram with cummins. I recently added a 2 inch leveling kit. I run 305-70-17 bfg mud tires.I have new ball joints and tie rod ends. have new moog bushings in the track bar. I am still getting movement in the track bar and a knocking feeling when going over small bumps and when I make slight turns at highway speeds. 

 

 Last night I watched as my wife rapidly moved the steering wheel back and forth. I could see movement at both bushings, and I could feel a pop type movement in every steering bar and tie rod. I could see the frame move also.

 

The truck has 71K on it. Do you have any suggestions? I have never had the death wobble symptoms, just this knocking feeling coming through the steering wheel. 

 

Thank you.

 

On Jul 28, 2012, at 9:45 PM, Moses Ludel at "4WD Q & A" replied: 

 

Hi, Rick...Are the bushing bolt bracket holes elongated? Clucking can range from steering gear backlash (heard with very slight back-and-forth movement of the steering wheel, prior to applying pressure to the tie-rods or track bar) to a loose or misaligned/binding track bar. 

 

Check all tie-rod clamps for proper tightening torque. Watch as your wife moves the steering wheel right and left in slightly wider arcs each time. See if the cluck is at the track bar frame bracket or elsewhere. 

 

It is common to see the frame move if the axle is stationary, and you're turning the wheels. The track bar will compress and shift the frame laterally. This can also occur with a misaligned track bar, which could be causing the bind and noise you hear.

 

Make sure the track bar is aligned and not binding. If you "lifted" the truck with front springs or spacers without relocating or "dropping" the track bar end, the axle will want to pull or push the frame sideways. Normally, the track bar maintains an arc that holds the axle on center as the springs stretch and compress. 

 

If you installed a front suspension lift without track bar relocation, the bar could be binding as the springs and axle rise and set. Most lift kits provide pieces for relocating or dropping the track bar. The relocation bracket keeps the axle movement on a centered, non-binding arc. 

 

Let me know what you find...Sounds track bar related. 71K should be too few miles for other issues. 

 

Moses

 

Dodge Ram 3500 lift included springs and a track bar relocation bracket, plus longer link arms.

 

Rick back...

 

From: Rick O.

Sent: Sunday, July 29, 2012 5:36 AM

To: 4WD Q & A

Subject: Re: 2007 ram track bar issue

 

Do you have any suggestions or recommendations for a track bar relocation bracket?

 

Rick

 

Reply from Moses...

 

Rick, if that's the issue, there may be an adjustable track bar available. Check with the aftermarket suspension kits, the goal is to have the axles tracking properly and centered when the vehicle stands in a static position.

 

My guess is that the front axle is being tugged sideways now, due to the longer front springs. Whether you relocate a track bar end or substitute a track bar with the proper length, the goal is to have the front and rear axles tracking parallel and centered at static height of the truck.

 

Does this sound consistent with your problem?  A quick test is to raise the front of the truck, set the frame on jack stands, and allow the front axle to drop down under spring tension to maximum drop.  See if the axle pulls off to one side, a sign of the track bar being too short...This could cause bind when the truck's front springs are loaded.

 

Whether you use an adjustable track bar or drop bracket, be certain there is no binding or interference between steering linkage, the track bar, the frame and other pieces. Check clearance over the full range of travel and the lock-to-lock steering angles for the front axle.

 

Moses

 

Rick replies...

 

-----Original Message-----
From: Rick O.

Sent: Thursday, August 30, 2012 5:36 PM
To: 4WD Q & A
Subject: Re: 2007 ram track bar issue

 

Moses, I have an update for you. My issue is now fixed. The intermediate steering shaft has been a long time issue in General motors and Dodge pickups. The upper joint (looks like a drive shaft u joint) had loosened up on one side. It appears that one side is steel and the other is aluminum. The aluminum side was loose. This was causing the knocking noise as I went over bumps. When I was turning at hi-way speeds it appears slight road bumps or the force trying to keep 2 large tires parallel was causing feed back and knocking of this shaft. All this time I could feel this feed back through the steering wheel. I can remember similar feed back in a Suburban I used to own. The feed back was not enough to warrant concern at that time. I was running stock tires and no lift.

 

Borgeson makes an upgraded shaft that sells in the mid $200 range. This one part alone has completely gotten rid of the steering wheel feed back and knocking noise.

 

Thanks again for your help

 

P.S.: The track bar still has some movement with the new Moog bushings, but this is definitely a weak point in Dodge heavy duty pickups. This movement is not causing an issues or noticeable effects at this time.


Moses replies...

 

Rick, I am very pleased to hear that you found the cure. We were addressing the linkage after the steering box and not between the steering wheel and box. This makes perfect sense. I would imagine that you now find the steering more taut, less play and need for input when you're driving straight ahead on the highway, less wander, too.

 

Thanks much for updating me on this upgrade and solution...

 

Regards,

 

Moses

 

The magazine's 2005 Dodge Ram 3500 pulling a vintage CJ-5 Jeep 4WD

 

Picking a Suitable Tow Vehicle

 

 

From: Joe M.
Sent: Monday, August 20, 2012 9:13 AM
To:
  4WD Mechanix Magazine
Subject: Dually / Jeep Trailer
 

 

Hi Moses,

 

I agree with you that if we get a large camper, a dually is the way to go. However, I would rather not have the dually and would prefer the maneuverability of a SRW. I also really don't relish the thought of being an 18,000-20,000 lbs, 45 foot long, 5 axle projectile going down the highway at 60mph!!

 

My current concern is if I trailer our Jeep TJ Wrangler Rubicon along with the current camper (on the truck I currently have), I appear to be so close to the max weight numbers that I am not comfortable with the thought!

 

Like you, I like the flat bed and do not want a dovetail trailer! The Jeep is 13 feet long. I would think that a 16 foot trailer would be fine in view of the wheelbase being less than 8 feet. The deck width (inside of the wheel wells) of the aluminum trailer I am considering is 80" or 6.7 feet, and the Jeep with my 35" Toyos is no more than 72" wide. The aluminum trailer is expensive but with proper maintenance it should last me for as long as I need it!

 

Thanks,

 

Joe M.

 

Moses replies...

 

Joe, I like a 140” or so wheelbase maximum and a Dodge-Ram 3500 chassis for better brakes and other features. Single rear wheel is okay for conventional trailering, always use an equalizing hitch and even a sway control brake if necessary. Often, an equalizing/load distributing hitch takes care of most sway tendency without the need for a sway control device.

 

I do not like a lot of weight in the bed of a truck, as this loads the springs, affects handling and reduces the tire reserve capacity. My preference is tugging a conventional trailer with the right hitch arrangement. Some swear by the Hensley Arrow hitch (http://hensleymfg.com/), and it has a great reputation.

 

I am fine with an SRW pickup and a conventional, pull-type trailer. Ideally, a Hensley Arrow hitch would be the choice, although I have pulled hefty trailers for over four decades with a common load distribution or "equalizing" hitch, electric trailer brakes and a frictional sway control brake.

 

A fifth wheel trailer is another thing altogether. There are pros and cons. Clearly, I would not pull a large fifth wheel with a SRW truck, a dually would be a necessity. When I see a 12'-plus tall, fifth-wheel travel trailer, lurking above an SRW pickup truck and racing toward me on a two-lane highway, I cringe. A rear tire blowout on that truck could be catastrophic!

 

If you could see yourself in a dually 4WD, consider a fifth wheel, and that opens the option of a massive, custom floor plan “garage” equipped toy hauler. Some of these fifth wheel trailers, with a modified floor plan, can accommodate a TJ Wrangler like yours. The big issue is ramp capacity, garage width/length and load-bearing capacity at the garage in the trailer. The models I’ve seen have total wall separation to the living space, much like a forward “apartment” with a garage at the back!

 

Our Dodge Ram 3500 SRW 4WD was a wise choice for gross capacity and added stamina in the chassis and drivetrain. I’m not a big cabover camper buff; they throw off the center-of-gravity and roll center badly—and are more of a handful for a tire blowout than a conventional pull-type trailer with a load distributing hitch.

 

I prefer leaving the truck weighted to the normal hitch/tongue weight (let’s say a maximum of 500 lbs at the hitch for a heavy trailer), easily accomplished when using an equalizing/load distributing hitch. This balance is enough tongue weight for ample traction in all-season driving with 4WD. I’m assuming that, in any case, you will get a 4WD chassis.

 

Also, for highway use, even with the ridiculous, unwarranted bump in diesel fuel cost, it’s cost-effective to have a diesel. Gale Banks swears by the G.M. Duramax, I like the Ram Cummins; either way, you do have the diesel advantages if you intend to keep the truck for over 200,000 miles…Otherwise, get the right axle gearing and do a hemi gasoline engine, not as efficient as diesel but workable if you like gasoline engines.

 

Chrysler offers robust truck V-8s that can move any GCWR trailer—if you order the right gearing. My preference, of course, is the new Ram 3500 truck with a 6.7L Cummins diesel (no exhaust fluid requirement) and the latest automatic transmission.

 

My take,

 

Moses

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