Story by: Jake Headlee
Photos: Danny Ellender
To say that not all suspension lift systems are created equal is naive. The truth of it is simple, you pay for what you get. A good suspension manufacturer spends a lot of time, effort and money making a well balance kit that addresses all aspects involved, including ride quality, fit and finish as well as replacing or relocating all components affected. RAM 3500 trucks are extremely popular rigs to modify, though the optional Factory Air Assist throws some companies for a loop.
That wasn’t the case for Carli Suspension and their 3-3.5-inch Pintop System, specifically designed for the RAM’s Auto Level Air Suspension. Rear air assist air bags aren’t uncommon in the aftermarket world; it is the OEM world that doesn’t utilize them as much.
When building the kit, Carli Suspension had more than just air bag placement to be concerned about. The air bags adjust based on positioning of sensors tied to actuator arms. When the arms angle from a heavier load on the truck, the air bags automatically inflate, then deflate, as needed. These actuators need to be in the correct position to work properly and by default, lifting the back of the truck would change them.
The can of worms gets opened. To relocate the front radius arms for proper geometry, drop brackets need to be carefully designed. Doing so, however, causes interference with the Auto Level truck’s air tank. Carli Suspension includes components to relocate the air tank. There is quite a lot that goes into a good kit and to get a good scoop, we got in touch with Dan Tourino, Sales Manager at Carli Suspension.
“We’re the only company that engineered the entire kit for the air-assist truck.” Explained Dan. “All items needed to correct geometry and maintain FULL use of the truck’s factory air assist system are included while the additional suspension travel and progressive rear leaf spring pair with custom shock tuning to offer a superior ride and huge boost in handling while minimizing driver fatigue.”
The southern California based company didn’t stop there. They are a performance suspension company and build components that had handle the duress of off-road fun, heavy loads and general on-road driving. “The progressive leaf spring pack is not from our non-Auto Level system and adapted, it’s designed to bear the entirety of the 6,500lb payload should an airbag fail.” Dan explained further. “We provide brackets to lower the actuator links to ensure the bags are NOT over-inflated at the new ride height causing a harsh ride quality. The air tank is relocated to the factory spare tire area (on a Ram, there’s no room for an oversized spare so this area is worthless on a lifted truck) to clear the radius arm drop brackets that correct the front pivot point/alignment.”
The company spent plenty of time in the front end of the truck too. A reduced spring rate was carefully chosen for the front coil springs. To keep geometry correct, radius arm drop brackets were computer modeled based on CAD files from RAM and built from ¼-inch cold rolled steel plate and CNC formed for a precision bolt in assembly. These also correct the dreaded coil bow some common on the stock RAM heavy duty trucks. An Adjustable Track Bar is also included to push the straight-axle back into position at the new ride height.
New front bump stop drop brackets are included as well a Cali Tuned King 2.5-inch Remote Reservoir Shocks at all four corners. The new combination of springs and shocks boasts a 50 percent improvement in straight up and down suspension travel over stock. A key point of the dually drivers out there, this kit is fully compatible with dual rear wheel trucks.
At the end of the day, the base kit from Carli Suspension blows most other kits out of the water. That doesn’t include the additional options that can be added such as replacement fabricated Radius Arms, Torsion Front Sway Bar replacement, Low Mount Steering Stabilizer and more.