Dodge Ram 101

Mat Mobile

Adventurer
My wife and I have been inspired by numerous travel tales (Drive Nacho Drive, Song of the Road, Desk to Glory, etc.) and have taken steps in the last 5 years to be able to start our own adventure (downsizing our lives, savings of course...). The time has now come to purchase the adventure vehicle.

We plan to go to Newfoundland this summer as a test run, then cross Canada next year, and finally start heading south after the holidays with family. Our vehicle will go all the way down to South America and will most likely eventually be shipped to Europe. We do not plan on doing any hardcore off-roading but we do wish to camp on beaches and not have to worry on rough dirt roads.

After evaluating all sorts of variations from UJOR vans, to sprinters, Westfalias and Four Wheel Campers, I realized that there's no "perfect vehicle" (or at least at a reasonable cost) so the compromise is the following:

- 4x4 Dodge Ram 3500 with a diesel pre-EPA restrictions (2006 to my understanding)
- Palomino camper (SS-1604)*
- Later on, if necessary, a custom service bed for extra storage.

Also, please note that I'm from Montreal Canada so the main issue we have is availability. The above are easy to find in good condition. Other options will "cost me" a lot in terms of currency, customs complications, taxes, etc...

Now I need your help with Dodge Rams as I barely know these vehicles. Just enough to get in trouble that is! :wings:

Please comment on the following comments/assumptions:

A - I think I need a Cummins diesel pre EPA because of the lower cost of fuel (especially in Europe) and increased mileage.
B - I understand that the compromise of the durability of this motor is that it might be more expensive to repair even though it won't happen as often.
C - Availability of Dodge/Cummins dealers in South America and Europe isn't as great as Toyota but it's fair.

Then I have a few questions:

1 - Looking at the payloads (and from professional opinions I received), the best solution seems to be a 3500 because the 2500 seems to be too tight (camper weights 1,600 lbs.). Is this correct?

2 - Dual wheels: Often 3500 Rams with Diesel come with dual wheels. I'm not super interested in that because the wheels aren't interchangeable and rocks can get stuck in between... But if I'm not doing hardcore off-roading, is it that much of an issue? Also, what's the easiest way to convert to 1 wheel? Also, since I'll probably be changing to a service bed, the wider fenders won't be an issue. In other words, should I look at Duallys or cross them off of my list?

3 - What is the cut-off point for the Cummins diesel without the EPA restrictions? 2006? Should I look for a number in the VIN?

My wife and I will start shopping for this vehicle in the coming month so any information or comments before hand would be greatly appreciated!

Thanks in advance and I'll keep you guys updated! :)
 

LimaMikeMike

Observer
2007 mid year was the cut off for emissions on dodge vehicles, (5.9-no dpf, 6.7-yes dpf) the later trucks do have some advantages to them as well especially when deleted and tuned (larger engine, factory exhaust brake, better steering 08.5+ Etc.) you can delete a cummins ram upto 2012 easily, 2013+ newer trucks have some quirks but get better mileage undeleted.

In my opinion I would leery of a palomino pop up, especially if you plan to put lots of miles on it. They use shall we say "standard" rv industry build techniques, and will not last a long time on the pounding of rough roads. Also if you do any cold weather travel you'll come to hate a pop up. Once again in my opinion, if your heart is set on a pop up look at Northstar or Fourwheel camper. I had a hard side Lance 825 and put lots of km on the dempster and local forestry roads, it held up well and was warmer than my old Starcraft pop up.

3500 is ideal for a slide in camper as it has upper overload springs. Ram 2500 payload on my gas 04 2500 was right around 2300lbs. Airbags and a rear swaybar will help with stability, my 06 diesel SB 3500 was 2900lbs. Duallys are overkill for the type of camper you're looking at. But what do I know about payload I bought a Powerwagon to replace my 3500 ********.
 
Last edited:

Mat Mobile

Adventurer
Thanks for the reply Mike!

But I think I might have been unclear in my EPA question. My real concern is with ULSD. I don't think this is available in South America from my understanding.

Here's my reference point: Song of the road "Picking a truck".

So does a simple EGR delete kit with a tuner resolve the issue of ULSD? :confused:

And regarding the Palomino... For sure I would prefer a FWC... But the difference in cost is about double to bring it here in Canada. Mostly because of the currency. Also, I just hate having to take care of the importing. I think the service bed will provide enough support for the camper to make it work. In any case, others have done it like http://panamnotes.com/, Carpe Viam. I'm not looking to build an industructible rig. Just something that works well together and meets our needs.
 

Recommended books for Overlanding

The Alchemist, 25th Anniversary: A Fable About Following ...
by Paulo Coelho
From $10.47
Americas Overland - The Driving Handbook
by Donald Greene
From $20
Vehicle-dependent Expedition Guide
by Tom Sheppard
From $115.7

LimaMikeMike

Observer
For regular sulphur diesel you require a pre 07.5 cummins or a deleted 07.5-12 truck.

The delete consists of removing the diesel particulate filter (dpf) in the exhaust and tuning the engine to remove any fault codes this produces. The EGR delete is optional, but recommended. In some areas it's illegal to modify your emissions. Where I live it is not an issue.

Im unsure of the 13 and up trucks and their capacity for regular sulphur diesel as their emissions are different.
 

D45

Explorer
4x4 Dodge Ram 3500 with a diesel pre-EPA restrictions (2006 to my understanding)
I am a HUGE 2003/2004 fan.........early years of the common rail, but without the issues

The biggest reliability issue with these trucks are the front axle unit bearings and the fuel system

Keep in mind that 2004.5-2007 trucks will always run hotter than 2003/2004 trucks (305/555) and will use more fuel

The 5.9 Cummins is "the same" motor, but many internal differences

2003/2004 trucks did not have a catalytic converter, and another reason why the EGTs were cooler, less restrictions

2003/2004: Holset HE341 Turbo; 54/58/9

2004.5-2007: Holset HE351 Turbo; 60/60/9

04.5-07 HE351:
7 blade 60mm/60/9
19mm wastegate hole non divided

__________________

2003-2004 trucks have an 8 hole nozzles

2004.5+ trucks have a 5 hole nozzle

Both trucks use a different piston bowl design also

555 motors (2003 and early 2004): 5.9 and 6.7 injector nozzles have a wide spray angle due to a reentrant bowl design.

600/610 motors (2004.5+) 5.9 injector nozzles have a narrow spray angle due to the open non-reentrant bowl design.

555 motor: 143* injector spray impacts annular region of 113* piston bowl, concentrating combustion towards the piston dome. 8 hole nozzles with two injection events

600/610-series: 124* injector spray impacts central region of 140* piston dome, propagating combustion towards the cylinder wall. 5 hole nozzles with three injection events

The 2004.5 trucks have a odd piston bowl design, 5 hole nozzles with a less efficient spray pattern..............all this, when coupled with the 3 injection events makes the motors MUCH MORE prone to piston melt downs and higher EGTs

In 2007.5, Cummins went back to the old 2003/20-04 piston bowl design for the 6.7L CTD motors

Fix the unit bearing issue by going with a free spin axle kit and make sure the injectors are up to par...........DO NOT SKIMP

Make sure the injectors are fed by proper filtration, because the stock filter system was not up to specs, as required by Bosch
 

Darwin

Explorer
If you can remove the emission components and 07.5 and later cummins is not a bad option and will run on higher sulfur content diesel fuels, they have the advantage of being more reasonably priced as well. People think a 5.9 3rd gen Cummins is worth gold, and some people will pay it.
 

ulyist

New member
For what it's worth this is my experience with the 2006 dodge 3500 cummins.
Every one that I've known to have injector problems also had a chipped/ tuned truck. Most have been tuned because of the massive power increase available with minimal cost.
the front end and front drive shaft are wear items. Think of a rebuild every 150k. (Km). This may be solved by a decent free spin axle kit.
Payload is not large enough for a 2500 to fit a camper, I was right on the line with a slide in camper on my 3500 srw. Not an issue in Canada but I wouldn't be caught over weight in a foreign country.
Rust is starting to be pretty common with trucks that vintage out here in Alberta, also people do seem to think they are worth the premium for a 5.9. From my Kijiji watching it's easier to get a good price and good condition on a 2010 then a 2006.
 

Regcabguy

Expedition Leader
2003-2007,2500/3500 5.9 Rams are hard to beat. As stated,I'd avoid a Palomino and get a used Northstar(yes I'm biased). The interior room and storage are pretty handy.
Carli and Thuren build some great suspension enhancements to minimize breakdowns and enhance handling both highway and offroad.
I've got triple filtration which should increase the injector longevity. Concerning tuners,EFI on the 2006+ trucks dramatically improves response.
I ran a Smarty before getting EFI for nine years. Even a 30 hp tune works great. I think the 5.9's and the 7.3 Powerstrokes are dogs without some help.
Service records over mileage is very important and usage in the western dry states is helpful.
 

deserteagle56

Adventurer
Then I have a few questions:

1 - Looking at the payloads (and from professional opinions I received), the best solution seems to be a 3500 because the 2500 seems to be too tight (camper weights 1,600 lbs.). Is this correct?

2 - Dual wheels: Often 3500 Rams with Diesel come with dual wheels. I'm not super interested in that because the wheels aren't interchangeable and rocks can get stuck in between... But if I'm not doing hardcore off-roading, is it that much of an issue? Also, what's the easiest way to convert to 1 wheel? Also, since I'll probably be changing to a service bed, the wider fenders won't be an issue. In other words, should I look at Duallys or cross them off of my list?

3 - What is the cut-off point for the Cummins diesel without the EPA restrictions? 2006? Should I look for a number in the VIN?

My wife and I will start shopping for this vehicle in the coming month so any information or comments before hand would be greatly appreciated!

Thanks in advance and I'll keep you guys updated! :)
Here's my setup. 2004 Ram/Cummins dually, 6 speed manual, EZ spin kit, with a 1996 Bigfoot 2500 9.5' camper.


GVWR per the sticker on the door is 12,000 lbs. I have air bags for the truck but took them off - not needed with this camper. Barely touches the overloads as is. As far as rocks stuck between the duals, I know it can happen but it's pretty rare. Never had a problem with this rig or the dually I drive at work (at a mine, so it rarely sees pavement). I had the camper on a single rear wheel truck before but was not happy with the unstable feeling. I was amazed at how much more stable the rig is with the duals - no more sway with wind gusts. No more white-knuckle grip when on an off-camber road. And no more worry about what happens should a rear tire blow out!

As others have said, anything older than 2007 will have the 5.9; 2004 or older and no cat so you can use any good diesel in it. Put a free-spin kit on it and forever cure the front end problems (other than ball joints).
 
Last edited:

ndaciuk

New member
I have a 04.5 2500 with the 6 Speed. Truck has the NV5600, after 04.5 they went to the G56 tranny which is a smoother shifting tranny from what I hear. Has just about 200K on it and has only had front end item wear (ball joints, TREs, unit bearings etc..) other wise has been trouble free. Upgraded the steering box to the 08.5+ and have a Smarty programmer on the lowest level which makes the truck much more responsive and get better milage. I get around 15-17 in town and about 20-22 on highway. Have a 07 FWC camper and cant even feel it, dosent even budge the rear suspension. Love the truck!

 

TeamDoty

Cpt. TeamDoty
I've got an '05 3500 SRW with an 8' bed. You'll find that these trucks have a lot of chronic weaknesses with the front end. There are some great forums that deal specifically with this type of truck and you'll get a LOT of help there too. I'd recommend upgrading the ball joints, universal joints, tie rod ends, unit bearings, etc. As mentioned, Carli is a great brand for ball joints (lifetime guarantee). I run Thuren shocks and a Hellbent Steel front leveling kit in the front along with a Synergy adjustable track bar. Control arms can be another issue with these trucks so get that front end completely bulletproof before you go on any major adventures. Most on those forums recommend additional supplemental fuel filtration or at least going with an upgraded stock type fuel filter element (Baldwin brand). You'll also see recommendations for a 4" deep stock type air filter. There is also a chronic issue with (#4?) fuel injector line... have those checked. Monitor your oil level like a hawk... if you see "more" oil... as in the level seems to increase - get the fuel injectors replaced (with NEW units) immediately. As mentioned air bags in the rear can help with load stability. I'd prefer a manual transmission over my automatic - for offroading... the automatic is a bit of a pill offroad in my opinion but I'm getting used to it! Good Luck!!!
 

Mat Mobile

Adventurer
Thanks for all the information guys!

It pretty much confirms what I found on the net here and there but without confirmation it's always difficult to be sure of the findings... Because, as you all know, everything you find on the internet is true!

:xxrotflma

And also thanks for your testimonials! It really helps!

I'll let you know what happens!
 

Recommended books for Overlanding

Dreaming of Jupiter
by Ted Simon
From $16.43
999 Days Around Africa: The Road Chose Me
by Dan Grec, Dan Grec
From $19.95
Top