-->

Another 2020 Ram 5500 Flatbed Camper Build

Brad_UT

Well-known member
I think I may have finally gotten the front suspension dialed in this weekend. This a huge milestone in the build. If you remember, the Kelderman airbag suspension is NOT a lift kit. But, to run these tires with plenty of clearance you have to lift the truck, move the axle forward, trim the fenders, etc. Sounds simple right?

The problem is that each of these modifications create issues of their own. For example, simply lifting the truck will cause the axle to shift towards the passenger side due to the track bar geometry. It's not much, but it's enough to be a problem. Moving the axle forward about an inch will cause that same track bar to hit the front diff cover too. Both of these were solved for me with the Buckstop track bar relocation bracket. That is a key component which makes this work. I can't thank Ram5500Camperthing and Clinton at Buckstop enough for getting me one of these.

Lifting also meant the Kelderman air bags weren't tall enough. Firestone has a 2" taller version that is almost identical and works great here. Lifting also increases travel and that means that the axle will move forward/back as it goes up and down. That means the lower airbag mounts will move forward and back too. If the bag mount holes aren't drilled in the right spot, the bags will be angled instead of straight up and down. Here's an example of how bad it can be (fully compressed, before any mods, short bags = worst case):

IMG_4159.JPEG

What I needed to do is redrill that lower bag mount hole. To figure out how much and in what direction (remember axle moves left/right too), I hung a plumb bob and marked the position. (This is just a random position to give me a relative movement amount.) I cycled the suspension up and down (from 7" bag height to about 11-1/4" bag height) and recorded the positions.
IMG_4462.JPEGIMG_4464.JPEG

So, we have a range here. The "normal" ride height is somewhere in the middle of these so to figure out how much the hole should move, I basically split the difference. The new holes will be 3/4" back and 1/4" to the left of the existing lower bag mount hole.
IMG_4468.JPEG

If you just drilled a new hole in these mounts, the bag mount flange bell thingy would hang over. I cut a plate from 1/2" cold rolled to fix that. It hangs over the Kelderman mount about a 1/4" on all sides which makes it easy to weld together.
IMG_4476.JPEGIMG_4478.JPEG

The new bags have a stud sticking out the bottom instead of a threaded hole. I trimmed about an inch off the stud and there's plenty of room to get on a nut. You'll need a "crows foot" wrench to tighten it. Perfect harbor freight item since it only has to work once. =)
IMG_4479.JPEGIMG_4493.JPEG

continued...
 
Last edited:

Brad_UT

Well-known member
A few more pics. Here are the two airbags compared. New bag PN is on the right:
IMG_4453.JPEGIMG_4454.JPEG

New bumpstops. These may need to be trimmed or replaced with longer/bigger ones in the future. I'll get the fender flares on and then see where we are. Note there is a hole through the factory bump stop cup up into the frame (not used by the factory bumpstops, but it's there). It just needs to be slightly enlarged to fit a 3/8-16x4 bolt. Access hole above makes it easy to tighten the nut.
IMG_4492.JPEG

IMG_4494.JPEG

Final Result: Driver's side compressed (left) and extended (right):
IMG_4487.JPEGIMG_4482.JPEG
Compressed the bag bottom is a bit forward. Extended the bag bottom is a little back. Side to side movement is similar.

I'm happy with this. Don't quote me on the dimensions though. The jury is still out until I can get some hard offroad miles on this beast.
 

RAM5500 CAMPERTHING

OG Portal Member #183
A few more pics. Here are the two airbags compared. New bag PN is on the right:
View attachment 642335View attachment 642336

New bumpstops. These may need to be trimmed or replaced with longer/bigger ones in the future. I'll get the fender flares on and then see where we are. Note there is a hole through the factory bump stop cup up into the frame (not used by the factory bumpstops, but it's there). It just needs to be slightly enlarged to fit a 3/8-16x4 bolt. Access hole above makes it easy to tighten the nut.
View attachment 642337

View attachment 642338

Final Result: Driver's side compressed (left) and extended (right):
View attachment 642341View attachment 642340
Compressed the bag bottom is a bit forward. Extended the bag bottom is a little back. Side to side movement is similar.

I'm happy with this. Don't quote me on the dimensions though. The jury is still out until I can get some hard offroad miles on this beast.
Beautifully done sir!!

JEALOUS!!!
 

Brad_UT

Well-known member
Buckstop finally sent me the instructions for installing the front fender flares. Big thanks again to Clinton for helping me with that. Turns out I hadn't trimmed the firewall back near far enough. I also looked at the AEV flare recommendations and the amount of trimming is similar. No block off plates were included to patch the cutouts so I made my own. First time doing this kind of thin sheet metal work. Watched some Youtube videos and now I'm an expert. :cool:
IMG_4497.JPEGIMG_4499.JPEG
IMG_4496.JPEGIMG_4498.JPEGIMG_4500.JPEG
Note the Buckstop flares don't follow the top of the wheel well cutout very well so there is a 0.5-1.5" gap visible from the inside. I was able to reuse a piece of plastic from the factory flare to fill some of it. The concern is that this cavity will fill up with mud or ice and next thing you know your fender flares weigh 100lbs a piece.

IMG_4501.JPEGIMG_4502.JPEG
IMG_4503.JPEG

Here shortly I'll get these sprayed with bed liner. Right now it's just coated with Utah's brown snow.
 

akhummer

Member
Wouldn’t it be nice if someone just produced an aftermarket bolt on front fender with a larger wheel opening for these ram chassis cabs? You did a nice job with the mod, most people don’t have the skills, tools, or time do the same. Truck is looking good.
 

Brad_UT

Well-known member
Wouldn’t it be nice if someone just produced an aftermarket bolt on front fender with a larger wheel opening for these ram chassis cabs? You did a nice job with the mod, most people don’t have the skills, tools, or time do the same. Truck is looking good.
Thanks man! Yeah, that would be nice. Unfortunately the only front fender options that I know of are AEV and Buckstop. Both have their issues.
 
Thanks man! Yeah, that would be nice. Unfortunately the only front fender options that I know of are AEV and Buckstop. Both have their issues.
Installation with the AEV Highmarks was fairly straightforward and instructions were pretty good. They look great and feel quality. Only real downside is they’re just not that wide, mine cover exactly half of the tire. I’m planning to make a little extender to go out another inch or so, and I don’t mind them sticking out a little.
 

Brad_UT

Well-known member
CAMPER POWER SYSTEM

Every slide-in or flatbed camper I've seen has a whole bunch of space devoted to batteries, inverter, chargers, fuses, wiring, etc. I have taken a totally different approach with this build. I'm putting it all outside of the camper in the tunnel box. I think this has a few benefits. First, it frees up a ton of room in the camper. Since this is going to be a pop-up without any overhead storage, the more room I can get down low the better. Second, it makes ordering a camper easier. They don't have to fool with all the complexity. And better yet, I don't have to pay them a premium for something I can do better (and cheaper) myself.

If anyone is interested in the particulars, let me know. I enjoy this electrical stuff and can go into quite a bit of detail if it will help make your build better.

Notable Specs:
(3) 100Ah Battleborn Heated Lithium Batteries
Victron Multiplus 3kW 120VAC Inverter/Charger
Victron SmartSolar 100/50 MPPT Solar Charge Controller
Victron Orion-Tr Smart 12/12-30 DC/DC converters (2 in parallel for 60A truck->lithium charging)
Victron Cerbo GX and Touchscreen
~650W Solar panels on camper roof
Automatic fire extinguisher
Vibration isolators for Multiplus and batteries (mil surplus - for those washboard roads)
Vent fans with filters (3 air exchanges per minute)

This is very much still a work in progress, but here it is so far.

IMG_4518.JPEGIMG_4515.JPEG


IMG_4517.JPEG
 

Attachments

Ninelitetrip

Active 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.

Are you still thinking a pop up or maybe composite hardwall?
 

Brad_UT

Well-known member
Holy smokes, work of beauty. Did you drop a Halon system in there? :)
Pretty much. I went looking for small automatic extinguishers and there are some out there, but dang, they're expensive. Finally settled on this thing called BlazeCut T200E. It's a tube filled with a modern version of Halon. A fire will punch a hole in the tube, releasing the gas. Pretty slick and not terribly expensive. I can snake it around inside the cabinet.
blazecut-product_660x440.jpg
 

Brad_UT

Well-known member
Are you still thinking a pop up or maybe composite hardwall?
Definitely a pop-up to keep the overall height down. I trimmed plenty of trees with my old camper setup. Mostly low hanging branches that I didn't see until it was too late.

Been talking to Drew at Bison Overland. Many have seen his aluminum frame camper shells. He's now working to develop a composite panel version.
 
Top