Another 2020 Ram 5500 Flatbed Camper Build

Brad_UT

Well-known member
About two and a half years ago I moved half way across the country up to Utah. For someone who loves four-wheeling, dirtbiking, camping and wide open spaces it’s an outdoorsman’s paradise. I quickly bought a slide-in camper and a bigger truck to haul it. Since then I’ve racked up over 20K miles touring this part of the country. It’s been an unforgettable and amazing experience. And the truck camper rig has served its purpose well -- it allows me to get out just a little bit further than all the other RV’s, away from the crowds and into parts of the wilderness few ever see. That’s what I like.

I’ve learned quite a bit along the way. I’ve pushed the limits of what you can do with a heavy and tall camper. I’ve ripped off roof racks on Idaho’s forest roads. I’ve gotten stuck in the mud flats and in the snow. I got stranded for two weeks in in the middle of winter due southern Utah’s dirt that turns to grease with the slightest amount of rain. White knuckle drives over mountain passes with hundreds of pounds of ice added to already overweight rig. You get the idea here, and so did I eventually. I needed a more capable rig if I was going to keep this up.

This thread is about my Ram 5500 camper build. It’s something that I think only makes sense if you live in an area like the west where you can use it frequently. I am grateful to the others on this forum who have already paved the way by posting their own builds. That information has been invaluable.

The build has been underway for about a month. I’d rather build than post so this thread is a bit late. I'll try and get us caught up this week.

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Brad_UT

Well-known member
The plan is to do a super single conversion, put on an aluminum flatbed and go with a flatbed camper like a FWC Grandby or Hallmark. Kelderman for suspension. Buckstop for front bumper, flares, wheels and skid plates. Continental 40.6"dia MPT81's for tires.

I ordered the truck on June 10th. Was built in Mexico and was here by end of July. (dealer estimated end of September) The drive home was bone jarring and teeth rattling, even for a guy used to a full-ton Duramax. I thought I had just made a huge mistake. But, I held out hope that it would improve later on with air suspension and a load (and it does by alot). Dealer set tires at 95psi which didn't help. Be sure to air down before you leave the lot.

Got it home and took some measurements to establish a baseline alignment. (Kelderman kit will need to be adjusted to restore wheelbase, diff angle and axle position left/right) Started removing all factory rear suspension. Kit went on pretty easy - most things just unbolt, but as others have said, the instructions are absolute garbage. They cover two different height kits for several different generations of Ram trucks. And you don't know which instruction applies to what. Took alot of time to figure out what goes where and ended up having a bunch of extra bolts and brackets left over. That doesn't do much for your confidence.

Being my first Dodge, I was really disappointed by the frame coating. Poor coverage and super thin. Lots of rust underneath brackets. Used POR-15 to recoat. Tried their metal prep primer/wash/whatever and turned out to be a waste of time on any clean/painted metal. Maybe it's just for rust.

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Brad_UT

Well-known member
Rear Kelderman Kit and Wheels
275ft-lbs on the larger Kelderman kit bolts. A good 1/2" impact won't even get you close. Take it slow and have some big tools around. Ordered the wheels bare steel from Buckstop and had them powder coated locally for $500. Monte at Powdered Custom Coatings in Pleasant View did a superb job. Went to several places to see about mounting the tires. Commercial Tire trashed my factory rims dismounting the factory tires so not going there again. Big local 4WD place chickened out. Nobody had a machine. Only one said he could use spoons and not damage the wheels. Big thanks to JJ at Les Schwab on 12th in Ogden, UT for doing a great job. Super happy with the way they turned out.

Drove around the block with the MPT81's in the rear and factory wheels on the front. With 13psi in the bags ride was nice in the rear at least. Front/Rear speed difference made the dash light up like a Christmas tree though. 4WD disabled, ABS disabled, Service everything, no speedo readout, etc. That first one worries me. Let's say Mr. porcupine eats a speed sensor wire while out in Alaska. Dodge disables 4WD? Not good. Going to have to carry spares and see what I can do programming wise in AlphaOBD.
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jonathon

Active member
Nice build! I have to say in the future 5500 with a flat bed is awful tempting both for fun and work.

POR15 is really only good for thoroughly rusted metal. You’re better off using paint and primer on bare metal. Unless your in rock salt country that’s all you really need.
 

Brad_UT

Well-known member
Thanks guys! I'm having a blast building it and I've got a ton left to do yet. Yeah, this is my first time using POR-15. It's a super tough coating and seems to stick to just about anything, rusted, primed or not. It goes on thin and runny but hardens like a rock. Definitely don't want to get it on you. Once dry, you can get it off, but your skin will come with it.

Rear Sway Bar
The Kelderman kit came with a massive ~2" dia sway bar which was going to be overkill for my setup. The factory sway bar on the other hand is kind of wimpy but I elected to use it. Problem is that neither the factory sway bar end links or the Kelderman end links would work. I decided to make up some Heim joint links using a kit from Ruff Tuff Specialties. First time to make these and super easy. Cut your Chromoly DOM tubing to length and TIG weld the ends on. They came out perfect. Eventually I'll fabricate some kind of disconnect mechanism to use when offroad.

I love how the POR-15 covers up all the pinholes in my TIG welds, ha!
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Brad_UT

Well-known member
Buckstop Front Bumper
These guys build quality stuff. Beautiful welds, nice fit and finish and everything is super heavy-duty. Went on without any issues using the engine hoist. Took a few hours to get it leveled, tilted and set in place just right. Added a Warn 16.5 winch, fog lights, air chucks both sides, 120VAC socket for battery maintainer/block heater, 12V Anderson Powerpole connector for jumper cables or future use. Also put a set of air horns underneath just for fun too. Not happy with my wiring birds nest on the left side, but I'll clean that up later.

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Todd n Natalie

Observer
Buckstop Front Bumper
These guys build quality stuff. Beautiful welds, nice fit and finish and everything is super heavy-duty. Went on without any issues using the engine hoist. Took a few hours to get it leveled, tilted and set in place just right. Added a Warn 16.5 winch, fog lights, air chucks both sides, 120VAC socket for battery maintainer/block heater, 12V Anderson Powerpole connector for jumper cables or future use. Also put a set of air horns underneath just for fun too. Not happy with my wiring birds nest on the left side, but I'll clean that up later.

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I like the additions you made to the bumper. Great ideas.
 

jonathon

Active member
Thank you for sharing the pics of the Buckstop bumper inside and out. Are the lights the Baja Designs XLs? Using the factory fog switch for them?
 

Brad_UT

Well-known member
Thank you for sharing the pics of the Buckstop bumper inside and out. Are the lights the Baja Designs XLs? Using the factory fog switch for them?
They are the BD XLR-Pro's, which are cheaper and about half the lumens of their XL80's. I think they'll be plenty bright though. The factory bumper had the LED fog lights. I don't have the truck schematics, but it looked like the harness had a +12V and ground for each light. I used the two wires going one light to feed a relay; switching Batt+ to both lights. Seems to work fine, with no error indications on the dash from driving the relay instead of the LED light. I'm new to all the CANBUS stuff, so kind of learning as I go. I *think* I can turn off that monitoring in AlphaOBD if it becomes a problem, but haven't tried it yet. Just to be safe, I ran an extra wire from the upfitter harness down to the relay so I could use an upfitter switch if it doesn't work.
 

jonathon

Active member
BD has a plug and play Harness to run Squadrons on the halogen equipped trucks; wonder if the wiring is any different on the LED trucks?

Nice part with the upfitter switches is they are all fused and have relays.
 

nater

Adventurer
They are the BD XLR-Pro's, which are cheaper and about half the lumens of their XL80's. I think they'll be plenty bright though. The factory bumper had the LED fog lights. I don't have the truck schematics, but it looked like the harness had a +12V and ground for each light. I used the two wires going one light to feed a relay; switching Batt+ to both lights. Seems to work fine, with no error indications on the dash from driving the relay instead of the LED light. I'm new to all the CANBUS stuff, so kind of learning as I go. I *think* I can turn off that monitoring in AlphaOBD if it becomes a problem, but haven't tried it yet. Just to be safe, I ran an extra wire from the upfitter harness down to the relay so I could use an upfitter switch if it doesn't work.
I just put the xl80s on my ram, they are comical how bright they are... I think you made a good choice.
 

Brad_UT

Well-known member
Update on the front fog lights: The truck doesn't like the left fog lamp wiring just capped off. It shows an open circuit code. The right fog light wire drives the relay coil for the BD lights and it pulls enough current to make the computer happy. I don't think I can disable the bulb out detection with AlphaOBD, but I'll see. If not, I'll put a resistor across the leads so the computer thinks the light is there.

I almost didn't go with these lights. I shelled out major bucks for a 40" BD light bar a while back and it worked for all of 30 minutes before failing, leaving me in the middle of nowhere 50 miles from the nearest road. Repair report from BD said it "had a loose wire." ********, really!?. BD likes to tout their reliability, but I haven't seen it. They were unapologetic. BUT, when it works, holy Jesus. It's plenty bright -- almost too bright. That reflective highway sign that you didn't see coming will burn your retina. Spread is wide and uniform and great for roaming dirt roads at night. Super happy with the performance. I just can't count on it and that pisses me off.

Kelderman Front / 41" MPT81 Tire Clearance: I got a bunch of stuff buttoned up this weekend and pulled the truck out of the garage for it's maiden voyage with the front suspension and tires. I had done some fender trimming but it wasn't enough. I don't think any amount of trimming will let the 41's and stock height Kelderman work without rubbing. I'll work on getting some 1" longer control arms ordered this week. With those, I think I can get away with no lift. DBL Designs in Texas claims to run these tires with no lift, but they didn't say how when I asked, or offer any parts for me to do it.

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I actually cut all the way down between the bolts in this pic. Still not enough to turn the wheels all the way, and that's at full bag height.
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Brad_UT

Well-known member
Buckstop Front Fender Flares
If anyone has instructions/advice on how to mount these monsters, let me know. I asked BS but got the silent treatment. Nothing came in the "kit" either. I'll use rivnuts, but re-use factory flare holes? All/some? How to anchor the folded under bottom side? Re-use factory fender liner? Hell, if there is another good working/looking option out there, I'm all ears. These things look pretty crude/rough.
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Brad_UT

Well-known member
Kelderman Stock Height Front Bag Kit - Install and Review
I had read on this forum that others weren't too happy with the front kit. I think they were talking about the ride quality which I can't comment on yet. Here's some things about the design and install to be aware of.

The bottom bag mount attaches to the factory lower shock perch using the factory bolt. But, the hole in the Kelderman mount is too big for the bolt. Using their recommended bolt torque, I think the intent was to squeeze (bend) the factory metal to grip the lower bag mount. I think that's a crappy design.
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The other problem is with the shock mounting. It's skewed. I used a plumb bob dropped over the top shock mount to find the center of the lower mount. You can rotate the bottom bag mount to make them line up, but when you tighten the lower shock mount bolt to squeeze the bracket, it will rotate the bracket. I lined them up and marked it with a silver marker. After tightening the bottom mount, it moved about a 1/4". This makes the upper and lower shock mounts not inline. The shock sits in there at an angle and that's going to wear out the mount bushings pretty quick.
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I think the shocks they sent me may be too long too. At full suspension compression, the shock bottoms out before the bumpstop in the air bag. That puts alot of stress on the upper shock mount, which is held by three small 5/16" bolts. At full droop, the shock limits travel. That's the way the factory shock worked, but it wasn't mounted off to the side like the Kelderman kit. Instead of a straight pull, you now have lots of bending forces at play. Here's a pic of the shock at "normal ride height."
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The good news about this kit is that I can modify it fairly easily. I was going to get new shocks anyway. If a lift is required, I can fab up a spacer between the bag and lower mount. If the axle moves 1" forward, I can just make the spacer to deal with that.
 
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