This article originally appeared in the August 2020 issue.
When tricking out your heavy-duty diesel pickup, it’s often hard to find a balance between style and ride quality. Luckily, there’s a way to make your truck look good without sacrificing a smooth ride.
Since starting the magazine in 2007, Diesel Tech publisher Ryan Harris has owned 20 different RAMs, Chevys and Fords. In every case, they were great for building horsepower and towing trailers, but offered little when it came to ride comfort.
“I’ve always wanted something that rides better,” Harris said. “I’ve played with leveling kits, shocks and lift kits. Sometimes the shocks would make it better, but leveling and lift kits usually always made it worse. If I wanted something with a good ride, I just had to get a stock truck and leave it alone.”
Harris said leaving the truck alone doesn’t really work when you’re the publisher of a magazine that is centered on upgrading diesel pickups.
“That’s not really an option because you want something that looks good and you want to be able to test different parts, tires and wheels,” he said. “It’s hard to just leave it stock.”
In 2016, Harris found a RAM 2500 with the factory auto-level rear air-ride suspension that rode great and handled the heavy trailers well. So he thought, “How does it get better from here?”
“The next truck I got after that was a 2018 RAM 2500 with the same setup, and the truck rode really well for a stock RAM,” he said. “The front end was still the heavy end and didn't ride great. At first I tried a different leveling kit that came with steering stabilizers, a track bar, steering arms and shocks. That improved the ride quality slightly. But it didn’t handle great.”
When you lift the front end of a solid front axle truck, it messes up the geometry and the ride quality. The axle rotates and is pulled back slightly and the castor angles are off. You have to go all-in and replace a bunch of components to get the geometry back in check.
Last year, Brent Willsey from PowerTech Diesel convinced [Diesel Tech] Contributing Editor Nate King to take his 2019 Ford F350 and add the Carli Pintop suspension system. The system comes with longer progressive-rate coils, remote-reservoir shocks, drop brackets, adds a high-end steering stabilizer and a torsion sway bar. It’s the works.
The truck drove so well with the Carli system that King quit driving his 2019 F150 Raptor in favor of the big F350.
“So I thought, ‘Okay, let’s try that but on the RAM 2500,’” Harris said. “I took it to PowerTech Diesel. They have a really good attention to detail. They’ve done a lot of these Carli kits so they really know what they’re doing. It’s a place I recommend taking stuff for this kind of install.”
After PowerTech installed the full Carli Pintop 3.25-inch suspension system on the RAM 2500, Harris drove the truck around town and was impressed by the smoothness; it was just like King’s F350.
“This truck ran and rode so much better just driving around town,” he said. “We have crappy roads here in Idaho, so it really took the jarring hit out of potholes, curb transitions, and turning into parking lots. It smoothed out the ride significantly better than when the truck was stock.”
Can It Tow?
A smooth drive around town is one thing, but the real test is adding a trailer and driving on the highway.
“I hooked on my Trails West RPM Gooseneck enclosed trailer with two Polaris RZRs. It’s about 11,000 pounds gross trailer weight,” Harris said. “I drove the highways and the truck carried the weight phenomenally well. The truck drove and rode better than it did when it was just bone stock, which was really a big surprise. A nice surprise.”
PowerTech was able to adapt the Carli Pintop system to the factory auto-level rear air-ride RAM suspension by placing a 1-inch spacer beneath the factory air bags and relocating the ride height sensor arms up a little higher on the axle to maintain the proper angle in the linkage joint.
Harris said the Carli Pintop system took out the usual concerns at highway speeds.
Without a trailer or a load, Harris said, “With the Carli suspension system, we were going way faster down rough dirt roads and washboard gravel roads than we ever thought we would be able to. It would just absorb stuff. It took the edge out of the bumps. It didn’t feel like you were about to explode the truck. It felt better the faster you went.”
The Carli system provided Harris with an entirely new perspective on driving heavy-duty diesel pickups around town.
“It’s transformed this 9,000-pound heavy diesel pickup that I used to dread driving to work,” he said. “It's a truck I need for work because I tow trailers constantly, but I hate driving around town because it rides so rough. It transformed that into something I love driving. It’s so smooth, responsive and stays flat. I don't worry about the rough ride in town anymore, and I haven’t given up anything towing trailers.”
The Carli system lifted Harris’ truck about 3.25 inches on the front and 1 inch on the rear. He’s running Toyo Open Country A/T 3s in 35x12.50R20 with about 55 psi for the best ride quality. Harris says 37-inch tires would easily clear, especially given the AEV Conversions RAM HD front bumper.
“Maybe the next set of tires will be 37s, but for now, everything about this truck is just awesome.”