2013 Ram 1500 Frame & Suspension: Deep Dive

Frame Ram
With fuel efficiency being a high priority -- if not the highest priority -- the Ram engineers knew they had to do something special with foundation of the 2013 truck.  Not only did they want to try a few weight-saving techniques, they also needed to redesign the setup to accommodate the new segment-first air suspension, too.

Stronger Steel

The optional air suspension is a modified version of the same system Chrysler uses on the Jeep Grand Cherokee, but it’s strengthened a bit to accommodate the greater payload and towing needs. 

The new frame is much stiffer and more efficient thanks to liberal use of the high-strength steel allows the platform to increase stability and handling precision while at the same time decrease noise, vibration and harshness (NVH). In particular, the front rails have increased their yield strength by 20 percent, and the high-strength steel helps save about 30 pounds. 

Frame color view
The remaining portions of the frame are hydroformed to keep the needed strength precisely accurate where needed and to remove unnecessary welding hot-spots that could lead to weakening. As a result, hydroforming ends up saving weight as well.  To improve NVH, new, larger body mounts are on the front frame rails and at the C-pillar. These are not the same type of liquid-filled mounts in the Ram HD.

New box floor cross-members in the bed eliminate seven pounds, and the front bumper has been redesigned to save four more pounds. Another significant weight-saver is the use of aluminum upper and lower control arms in the independent front suspension. By going to this more time- and labor-intensive construction, the new Ram 1500 saves a total of 26 pounds.  

On the subject of weight savings, it’s worth noting that the new Pentastar V-6 and TorqueFlite 8 transmission save about 76 pounds compared with the previous engine and four-speed. Overall, the eight-speed saves the new truck about 30 pounds. 

Riding on Air

Frame air ride
The 2013 Ram will continue to use its class-exclusive coil-spring and multilink rear suspension, and it will remain the standard option on most trim packages. However, new Rams will be adding an all-new airbag suspension to the half-ton lineup. The system uses a small air compressor and dual storage tanks to produce and hold the air and to provide up to four inches of lift.

The new system will offer a class-leading 21-inch step-in height, give the truck another best-in-class ground clearance of 10.7 inches at full extension, and provide best-in-class departure and breakover angles at 27.8 and 24.2, respectively. (We assume the Ford F-150 SVT Raptor has the best uncontested approach angles.)

Another benefit of the new air suspension is load-leveling capability, which automatically detects load on the rear axle -- from payload or a trailer -- and automatically increases air pressure to the rear bags to level the ride height. One of our favorite features of the system is that the owner can use the key fob to dump the air in the bags to lower the entire truck for easy entry or for easier trailer hookup.

Frame front air
The five-setting air-ride system operates automatically, or it can be controlled manually via the console or key fob. The settings are below:

  • Normal Ride Height: Offers almost nine inches of clearance (Ram tells us it’s measured from the doorsill rather than the rear differential — so figure somewhere around six inches of ground clearance). This is the default load-level ride height.
  • Aero Mode: This is an automatic setting that lowers the vehicle height over one inch to improve aerodynamics and fuel economy by one percent, Ram tells us. The mode is activated by vehicle speed.
  • Off-Road 1: Lifts the truck over one inch from Normal Ride Hieght when manually selected to provide slightly more ground clearance. Can be selected in either 2WD or 4WD high or low range. 
  • Off-Road 2: Also must be manually selected and rises two inches above normal ride height. Can also be selected in either 2WD or 4WD high or low range.
  • Park Mode: This setting lowers the vehicle almost two inches below normal ride height. This makes it easier to enter and leave, and it makes it easier to load or unload cargo.

Most of the ride heights can be manually selected with either of the two "truck up" and "truck down" switches at the bottom of the center stack, next to the trailer brake controller. No word yet as to how expensive the air suspension option package will be but we're guessing it will similarly packaged to the Grand Cherokee--meaning, it could be pricey. Additionally, we don't know anything about the payload capacity, GVW rating, or tow ratings of the new frame and airbag suspension, or if the various ratings will change for the standard coil-spring suspensions. We'll have more on those numbers as the information is released. 

Frame cutaway

Frame air switches

Comments

Is there away to lock the suspension up in 2wd, I think others would agree with me that some times you need clearnce and not 4wd or 4wd and not cleance, i have driven on dirt roads that have not needed 4wd but still hit bumpers etc, so i would like the option of overiding the computer and selecting my own suspension stance, if they did this this truck would be a winner.

Chevy who? As Silverado sales slide into the abyss, Dodge Ram is there to take over. It's time to take the battle to Ford. Dodge will be number two shortly but they need to aim for number One and take on Ford head to head.

If that rear air suspension developes a leak when you are out of the warranty period you are screwed.

Air suspension is nothing new. Expeditions had it in the rear in the 90's when they first came out. My GF had one and after about 200k miles the bags had to be replaced. It was almost 1000k just for the rear.

@MoparMadness,
It will never happen there are to many Ford and Chevy loyalist so your dreamin..lol

Lots of moving parts to break. What happened to simplicity? Higher fuel economy = more complication = more expensive.

Yea it you look thier are a lot of low riding Navigators and Town cars around because they developed leaks and peaple can't afford to fix them. I will be getting my Ram without the air suspention.

@unclebud "Lots of moving parts to break. What happened to simplicity? Higher fuel economy = more complication = more expensive."

you hit the nail on the head here, kudos to Ram on these truly innovative ideas, but i would be worried about the Ram for a minimum a year to let it prove itself, like any new vechicle stay clear of new stuff for the first year, let the guinea pigs troubleshoot all the bugs out and buy in year 2 lol

The air suspension is pretty cool but I don't really see the need for it. It may increase the mileage on the highway alittle but once you factor in how much it's going to cost and maintain in the future I don't see it being worth it. Automatically lowering to help get in is cool also but I think the running boards alone are enough. The new 8speed will be interesting to see and also how well it dose on reliability. Well ram is stepping up there game can't wait to see what the others have coming.

@ MikeH- The air suspension is pretty cool but I don't really see the need for it. It may increase the mileage on the highway alittle but once you factor in how much it's going to cost and maintain in the future I don't see it being worth it. Automatically lowering to help get in is cool also but I think the running boards alone are enough. The new 8speed will be interesting to see and also how well it dose on reliability. Well ram is stepping up there game can't wait to see what the others have coming.

MY Brother-in-law is in a wheel chair so something that lowers the truck for easier entry will make it so he can get to his favorite fishing holes all that easier on him. He can have a truck to pull his fishing boat that much more efficiently. Will I buy this truck setup? I don't know but if it makes it easier for my bro' to do things with the family in remote areas then I will definitely look very hard at this brand. I am a Ford guy, but anything that makes doing things with my family better then I will look at what will allow this.

hell this is some of the best news so far....

i wish ram offered leaf springs too....

so we can schoose...

These airbags would have to be good quality and so would the compressor and lines. Our neighbor lady had an Envoy several years ago and twice she came knocking on my door to see if I could look at her suv. Both times the rear suspension had collapsed and bottomed out. One time due to a compressor failing, one time due to an actual airbag leak causing the compressor to run and overheat thus failing again. She drive's a Toyota now. Point being, if Dodge goes cheap on any of the parts, this could potentially backfire on them. Of course Semi's use airbag suspension all the time. It's not cheap though. The problem with volume auto manufacturers is they like to cut every penny out that they possibly can. Here's a nice little video explaining a few things. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DY2dFVtSLAE&feature=player_embedded#!

@GeneHileman53 - You make good points and they are true. The difference here is Dodge is building it and not GM. Quality parts will be used. You want Semi durability? Buy a Dodge Ram.

"You want Semi durability? Buy a Dodge Ram." LOL, now those are words that are not commonly said together! The only thing that Dodge has that is durable is made by someone else: CUMMINS!

@GeneHileman53 : That's a great video explaining the drawbacks of air suspension. It's really an ad for the replacement product but worth watching.

@MoparMadness LOLOL!!!
Durability? stay way from Ram. Chrysler products have shown to be the most unreliable products! cheap ass parts, and shitty quality. why do you think they were selling so shitty, and had to sell out to an italian company, FIAT. yeah, thats cause they had good quality stuff people wanted to buy im sure.

@06 FORD Fx4: Have you forgotten about the great 5.4 spark plug issue? Gas tanks falling out? Trucks catching fire? It has happened with trucks about the age of yours. Now Ford has had a whole bunch of transmission issues and complaints lately. But keep drinking the Kool-aid! If you feel ambitious, look up the msn.com reliability on F-150s and Super Duties!

Everything looks good on paper and initially but my concern is maint. down the road...think 100,000 plus miles on air bag replacement, compressor replacement and what if lines freeze (moisture in) over the winter and what happens if those lines are compromised?

That would suck carrying a load when an air line, bag or compressor fails while on the freeway...yes semi's run air bags all of the time but they have at least an air buzzer when air pressure drops, does this Ram have one?

On our old Smurf's, (International's), we had air buzzers go off often meaning not enough air to run the bags and ofcourse brake system, culprit was usually air lines having issues...

Weakest link would be the air lines...

@Oxi:
I would put my money on the Ram including an air dryer (standard equipment on any semi air ride/air brake system) as a truck without it would not last one winter where I live (northern MN).

Still your point is well-taken. The airlines are certainly the most vulnerable part of any air ride system, but IMHO, the biggest difference between the system they are talking about (with an electric air pump) and the ones in semi trucks would probably be the compressor. Pretty much all semis use a heavy duty engine-driven York (or similar) air compressor that's designed to last a million miles. They're big, heavy, have a dedicated oiling system and they turn slow (because big diesels turn slow). As a result they last a long time.

That's not to say you CAN'T get a good electric compressor (Viair or the like) but I doubt Ram will be able to resist cost-reducing this part into oblivion...

The other thing about heavy truck air systems is that most of them leak like a seive. (This is experience talking...I worked a s diesel tech for years.) However, this usually isn't a problem for a big truck because they produce a vast surplus of air produced by the pump while the engine is running. I'd be worried about the ability of a little electric pump to keep up with any sort of leaks.

@Jason H.,

I still did not read anywhere of an air guage to monitor air and buzzer to warn of low air pressure or a dash warning light...

With air systems a guage should be required as well as a warning of sorts when pressure drops low in the tanks...

I would be happy with a rear bag-assist in combination wtih a higher permissible rear axle weight. Coil springs themselves are not the problem- look at the front axle weight rating on 4wd Diesel Rams and Super Duties. But load leveling would be nice.
I still think the shift know is a huge mistake.
If it saved some money, weight and fuel, I would consider a single speed T-case, like in the V6 Durango. While I've done some hairy things in full-size 4x4s, Snow and light mud traction is really all I need from a big barge like this.

I have had several Land Rovers over the years and they had air suspensions. My hubby and I have taken them to some pretty tough LR runs and it all held up well.

That being said, I agree with one commenter above. I have a family member that is wheel chair partially bound (they can stand for brief periods) and find getting into our current 1500 more than a chanllenge which they do not find with the Land Rover. Thus while the suspension might not be for everyone, I am glad it will be available and the savings from aero mode will be appreciated as well.

Personally, I think Ram went the right direction.

I wonder how expensive the air ride option will be? The price will make or break the system, and it will need to be extremely durable as some posters have pointed out.
I think I'd pass over the ticky box on the order sheet for this option. (at least for the first few years).

my 2010 had aluminum upper and lower control arms already?
why announce it like its new?

This air suspension is long overdue. I've been wishing for this for years! These new pickups ride like garbage, because the manufacturers keep trying to leapfrog each other with payload. I don't need 3000# of payload to haul bicycles, or camping equipment, or even to trailer a boat. Hopefully, this air suspension will bring back a decent riding truck. I'm going to check it out when it comes out.

This is one of the few times where I was able to see the frames. Thanks for sharing this.

cummins owns every diesel engine that goes into a pickup truck do some research and you will find out that your chev and ford have been using a cummins engine for many years, they only stamp it on a dodge but every engine is made by cummins in the same factory

Have not been able to install and get to work an aftermarket electric trailer brake control. It's a 2013 dodge ram 1500 with a tow package but does not have the factory trailer brake control. Dodge is not releasing any of their brake controls so have been trying to use aftermarket, have tried Curt and Drawtite so far. Result is that you get 12 volts on the brake line as soon as you turn the key on, even before engine is on or the brake is depressed. Does anyone have an answer PLEASE. DESPARATE.....

Your blog never fails to amaze me. Looking forward for more updates. Thanks!

Can anyone help me with a question? I need the dodge ram lowered to its lowest point (exit/entry level) in order to get into my parkade. At what speed will it automatically begin to raise?



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