Dodge RAM Coil to Leaf Spring Conversionby Richard Rowe
When it comes to building a truck for hard-core off-roading, new isn't always improved. While coil-spring setups are undoubtedly smoother and better-articulating, old-school leaf springs are cheaper, simpler and are just as efficient at lifting a truck as any newer design. If your budget is smaller than your tires, and your Ram's territory is more mud than country, a leaf-spring retro-fit might be just your ticket to the high life.
Cheap Conversion Kits
Nobody makes a leaf spring conversion kit for the Ram, so you're going to have to make your own. Ford used leaf-spring front suspensions on its full-sized trucks (similar in size, frame configuration and weight to a Ram) all the way up through 2005, so that's going to be your best bet for source parts. You're going to need the springs, shackles steering rack, anti-roll bar, shocks and axle from a leaf-spring Ford of a similar year to your Ram's, but avoid using anything from 1999 to 2001 F250/F350; Ford used Dana 50 axles that won't get along well with your Ram and don't offer many gear ratio options.
For parts, you have two basic options: junkyard or new. If you're on a serious budget, then the junkyard will be your cheapest bet, since entire F-250 front clips can be purchased for less than $500 in most places. If you've got a little more to spend and you're lifting anyway (and you are), then consider purchasing high-arch aftermarket springs in lieu of adding lift-blocks to the stock springs.
Get comfortable with the torch, Sawzall and welder; you'll be using them quite a bit for the next hundred hours or so. The entire front suspension and axle will have to go, as will the factory steering rack (on most models). You could try to retain the stock axle, but retrofitting it for leaf-spring purposes is more difficult than simply installing a gear-set into your Ford center-section and using the F-250's steering rack. Not that gear replacements are "easy," but just keep telling yourself that it builds character.
Mounting and centering the leaf-springs are the only easy part of the conversion. You need only lay the leaf-springs on the ground (arches up) and attach the axle to them. Attach the shackles to the leaf spring ends, flip the assembly over and lower the truck down so that the axle is centered in the wheel-well. Weld the shackles in place, gusset them with some 1/4-inch plate steel, and you're in business.
There are only two serious hang-ups to contend with: the steering and drive shaft. Most Ford steering boxes will work with a Dodge Ram's power steering pump, but you'll need to have special adapter lines made. Worst case scenario, you'll either need to adapt a Ford power steering pump to the motor or use a manual steering rack. You'll also need a custom transfer-case-to-axle driveshaft, but that's probably for the best since you'll need a longer one anyway.
- harbor mud image by Steve Mann from Fotolia.com