Along with SUVs, trucks are one of the most reliable and long-lasting vehicles out there. And the biggest automobile manufacturers – Jeep, Toyota, Nissan, and Dodge – have at least one pickup in their line-up. Today, I want to talk about the Dodge RAM series and the best upgrades for it. We’ll mostly go over performance mods: the most affordable, accessible, and efficient gear available on the market.
So, if you drive a RAM 1500, 2500, or 3500, this post is exactly what the doc ordered. I’ve been a fan of customized trucks for as long as I can remember and have picked a thing or two over the years. And I believe that replacement air intake kits, exhaust systems, lift kits, and beds should be on your list of must-haves if you’re serious about upgrading your RAM!
Start with a Cold Intake Kit
To be able to compete with the rivals and keep the price to a minimum, engineers usually count every penny on non-essential engine parts. Let’s take the air filtration system, for example. In the RAM trucks, it works properly and keeps the engine (relatively) cool. However, when pushed to the limit, it starts to really struggle – this was proven by numerous independent tests.
Now, if you mostly drive on highways or even pavement, an aftermarket cold air intake might not be the #1 investment for you. But, since most truck owners like to do some off-roading, a replacement intake kit will be money well spent. It can greatly improve the air filtration efficiency (up to 50% more with the best systems) and prevent overheating. This is achieved thanks to an advanced air intake tube.
It should be powder-coated, crafted from aluminum, and have enhanced heat resistance (the best tubes can withstand 400 degrees Fahrenheit). And then we have the filter. It usually consists of three or five layers and traps contaminants that try to get into the engine. Pollen, dust, dirt, rocks, debris – that kind of thing. With a solid kit, a filter replacement will only be in order once you hit the 100K miles threshold.
And together, these two components significantly improve mileage. On average, you can expect to get up to a 10% improvement in fuel efficiency, which is pretty impressive. So, yes, you’ll be killing three birds with a cold intake: keeping weather elements at bay, boosting the airflow, and upping the MPG ratio! Sometimes, air intake kits can also have a positive effect on throttle response.
Think about Replacing the Exhaust System
This is one of the least popular parts of any vehicle, including pickup trucks. Most drivers don’t even think about replacing it until it’s too late. However, a rusty, clogged, and damaged Exhaust System can significantly worsen the engine’s performance. I’ve learned it the hard way that when you close your eyes on problems with the exhaust, it all comes back to bite you with expensive repairs.
So, consider saving some bucks to buy an aftermarket system. The first thing that you’ll notice right from the start will be the improved engine sounds. It will start to resemble that of a race car (like a Mustang motor) and make turning the ignition key a lot more satisfying. Next, in a similar way to a premium intake tube, a top-notch exhaust system can help the engine “breathe” and take most of the pressure off.
There aren’t a lot of factors to consider when buying a new exhaust. As far as the materials go, aluminum and steel are the leaders of the market. Powder coating should also be a part of the deal, of course, as corrosion can take over the entire thing rather quickly. I always check to make sure the installation process won’t cause me headaches. A user-oriented system can be installed with basic tools in less than an hour.
Protect the Cargo with a Bed Cover
Can a Bed Cover really improve your truck’s performance? Yes, it can, especially if it’s got that aerodynamic design (which most covers do). This results in improved acceleration and fuel efficiency because the engine doesn’t have to work nearly as hard as it would with the tonneau area open. The gain in mileage will be decent (around 2 to 3 MPG); the same is true for the boost in acceleration. But that’s not this accessory’s biggest selling point, of course.
I decided to include it in the list of the finest upgrades because protection against the weather and thieves is very important. If you use the RAM truck to carry stuff around regularly and need to properly secure the cargo, a bed cover is in order. The weather can do a number on your stuff in the back (when it’s raining or snowing, or when driving in a dusty area). The thieves tend to be even worse, depending on where you live.
That’s why a tonneau cover is one of the most critical upgrades for any pickup truck, the Dodge RAM included. The best thing about it: you won’t need any compex instructions to handle the installation. The market does offer a lot of different variations, though, meaning you’ll have to consider them all before finding that perfect one. Folks on a tight budget will appreciate the reasonable price-tag and ease of use of a soft rolling cover.
A hard rolling cover, in turn, is more secure, while a hard folding one can carry extra weight on top (300 pounds on average). I just mentioned aerodynamics – you’ll get that mostly with a hard cover. Soft covers aren’t nearly as effective in that regard. A quick tip: look for “weather-resistant” in the specs: that means you’ll get protection against rain and snow thanks to the adjustable tension system.
Put a Lift Kit on your Wish List
A lift kit is one of the most advanced upgrades for any truck, and the fans of conquering the wilderness know this very well. As you might’ve guessed, a lift kit for RAM 1500, 2500, or 3500 creates greater ground clearance. So, why is that important? Well, that greatly improves the off-roading capabilities and protects the vehicle from rocks that are any truck’s biggest enemies.
Increased ground clearance allows climbing steep hills and pushing through the toughest trails without putting the RAM in danger. Besides, a proper lift kit also improves the ride quality and makes you feel more in control over the road. If you’ve got experience driving on challenging terrain, then you already know what this means. And even after you install a set of big tires (like 37-inch wheels), steering will stay consistent.
Now, I have to say that while lift kits aren’t very expensive, the installation process does require some expertise. Mostly, the package consists of rear lift and front strut spacers. And you’ll need to install them properly for that extra lift. Before getting to that, decide how high you want the lift to be. You can go with 1.5, 2, 3, or more inches. Does that affect performance, though? Yes, absolutely!
Remember: the higher the lift, the pricier it will be, and the trickier the installation process will become. That’s because the package will include control arms to keep the suspension steady (they take a while to install). So, if you’re not planning on doing extreme off-roading, a 1.5-inch lift will be a good place to start. For 35-inch tires, a lift of 2.5 inches will do. But for 37-inchers to work, a 3.5-inch lift is in order.
That’s pretty much it for my list of the best upgrades for the Dodge RAM truck. If you’ve got your own all-time favorite mods, I encourage you to share them with us all in the comments. The RAM, especially the full-size 1500 is one of the least expensive trucks on the American market. But, it’s got a really powerful engine under the hood and is crafted from durable and reliable materials.
And, it will most definitely benefit from premium-quality aftermarket gear. Drivers that can’t imagine their lives without off-roading will, most likely, want to invest in a decent lift kit for better performance. A cold air kit, in turn, will greatly improve the MPG ratio and protect the engine. An exhaust system will do the same, while the bed cover can keep the tonneau protected.