Cool Tech: 2013 Ram HD Smart Brake

Cummins Ram 3500 II

Although we haven't been able to get behind the wheel of a new 2013 Ram HD, we believe the new exhaust brake, called Smart Brake, on the newly up-rated Cummins turbodiesel is worth a closer look. 

The new exhaust brake still uses the same sliding-nozzle turbine design, but now it's controlled by a more sophisticated software mapping program that effectively allows for three different settings. They're all controlled by a single button on the lower switch panel of the new center stack on all 2013 Ram HD models. We're hopeful Ram will at some point move the important activation button to a more prominent location because it looks like it might be somewhat difficult to find, buried along two rows of switches. Naturally, some packages will have fewer buttons than others, but it would make more sense to have this switch on the stickshift or column shifter.  

As we understand it, the setup still uses a single button (with the carryover icon designating its purpose) that will first activate an Auto mode. This fully taps into the various engine and truck sensors around the vehicle (and trailer sensors where applicable) to determine the best and safest way to handle the identified overall weight, given the driver inputs and speeds. 

Cummins Ram HD Smart Brake

Cummins e-brake

In the On setting, engaged by hitting the button a second time, the exhaust brake and correlating software essentially go into a more aggressive mapping configuration where the system is quicker to engage and more comfortable slowing the truck and trailer to lower speeds. This means faster computations and exhaust brake adjustments to better keep the loads and overall speeds reduced (think of it as analogous to shifting your transmission from regular Drive to Tow/Haul).

As you might have anticipated, the third position for the new "two-step" exhaust brake is the Off position. Of course, the exhaust brake is only offered when Ram HDs are equipped with the Cummins 6.7-liter inline-six-cylinder engine but we should note that the new 2013 Ram 3500 models have the 5.7-liter Hemi as an option — and, of course, will not offer exhaust brake capability.

Cummins turbo cutaway II



I agree with the article that the control needs a dedicated position away from the other buttons so you don't need to hunt for it in a braking situation.

Stevador: I agree, with it mixed in with the others you would at the very least have to take your eyes off the road to make sure you hit the correct button, and wiht what looks like a couple of dummy buttons nearer to the tailer brake control, you would think the button would be as close to the trailer control as possible, being that has something to do with slowing the vehicle down also! and as a plus it would be a few inches closer to boot! Oh and one other thing, is the HO engine going to be included with the manual trans.? that and the shift is very cool looking! and just what I would be looking for in a new truck! lets see what would I be able to get a new Ram 2500 with the HO diesel and the 6spd manual 4X4 reg cab for? very interesting!

Ram had the best Super Bowl commercial in my opinion.

Yeah the Farmer's Commercial reminded me of Ford!!! The real truck company pulling America Forward.

well thats dumb

I bet the default is for the "auto" mode so it will work on its own without the owner needing ot remember to turn it on. If memory serves in the last HD shootout from last year the Ram's exhaust brake was already the best. With the new 30k tow ratings it will likely need any marginal improvements it can get. That is a lot of mass to try and slow down. Including the truck we are edging on 40k pounds.

Wish I had a need for a 3/4 ton or 1 ton I'd get the Cummins with the manual 6 speed. Drove a 5 speed Jeep Wrangler last week bring back good memorys.

In the third photo there's a chrome lever with a knob on the top. What's that thing used for. Just kidding guys! Don't see many standard trannies anymore. Refreshing to see them.

GM has had this on their HDs since 2011...

well Gm HD truck wins all the HD shootout and they have the best exhaust brake check all the shoutout of Diesel power magasin and PUTC shootout with mike levin just saying

Ram has had an exhaust brake since 2007! This new one just has more stopping power!

My 2007 Ram 3500 with Cummins has that built-in brake but it's just on/off, no auto position. The button, however, is in the same location as in the 2013. We tow a large fifthwheel, as fulltime rv'ers, and finding that button has never been a problem. Generally, when towing, the button is on all the time. Occasionally when not towing I'll decide to use the exhaust brake as we descend a long grade. Reaching down and turning it on is not a big deal. Yes, it would be nice to have it on the shifter or column but it's not a big deal for me in it's current location.

It is good to see at least one HD truck maker offer a manual transmission. I would much rather have a manual for hauling loads than an automatic. That Ram commercial with Paul Harvey's voice was a classic Super Bowl commercial along with the Budweiser commercial. I use to listen to Paul Harvey's commentary on radio, what a true American treasure who is greatly missed. I enjoyed the Tide commercial as well great humor.

It will be interesting to see how the reviews go for this new model.

I will be looking soon for a new truck

Yes the Ram SB commercial was the best most classy one yet! and as a matter of fact, I do not recall any mention of the name Ram mentioned? all there was was the voice of Paul Harvey, and a couple pictures of Ram trucks. I might be wrong but......all I can remember is hearing about the American Farmer, and God being mentioned.

Sergio apparently knows how to market vehicles really well. Kudos to Chrysler for a couple of good ads.

Any idea on why GM didn't promote the new trucks? Hell I never even saw the Corvette ad and I was watching all but maybe 1 or 2 minutes of the game. It could have been a great opportunity to reveal some of the specs in an ad showing the new V-6 out pulling some competitors or something.

We had the game on at work, but it was during work time (daylight) I gave the guys some leeway, plus we had a BBQ for lunch. Being Australia we don't get you commercials.

Just before Christmas I was in Baltimore, the Inner Harbour and a Ravens game was on. There was thousands of Raven fans wandering around the Inner Harbour.

The stadium was alongside. We went to the National Aquarium, great place, especially for a family.

My brother is an Eagles fan and I bought a Cowboys cap, which he says anyone in South Jersey will be hung drawn and quartered if seen wearing it.

I watched the Redskins and Cowboys game on Thankgiving so I felt sorry for the Cowboys, plus I like the big star on it:)

Exhaust brakes are quite a good idea on a small to medium truck. If I had a truck I would like to see the brake controls on the steering column.

I know some will think that the steering column is becoming cluttered but is is very handy and ergernomic. But I've had vehicle with controls that I thought were in an awkward position, but you do become quite proficient at operating them.


I think it should be near the trailer brake control.

I never thought a jake brake on a semi was an issue on the rh dash.

I'm glad they moved the trailer brake controller to the right for 2013.

I've hit the lefthand mounted one with my knees a few times, plus the r/h mount is closer. But it's not something I am constantly adjusting.

I wouldn't want 80,000 pounds without an exhaust brake. Or any 1 ton and up.

Good to see they still sell manual transmissions. Less cost, and tend to be more reliable, unless a person rides a clutch or abuses it. I wish they would also offer a smaller diesel in 2500s, and 1500s. Back 20 years ago actually had v-6s gassers available in 3/4 tons.

@All American: But it wasn't a Ford commercial, thankfully, I haven't seen any of their commercials with that annoying guy, not Mike Rowe, the other one.

GM didn't have much money lest over after letting all those trucks go for so little.

@Sandman4x4--They did show the "Guts, Glory, Ram" logo at the end of the commercial. The commercial was very effective and got the point over. I doubt that anyone that saw that commercial will ever forget it or what it advertised, which if you remember the Infinity commercials in the early 90s just showed pussywillows and showed the word "Infinity" but never even showed a picture of the car. Ram did show the black Ram dispersed with the still photos of farmers and their families. That commercial will go down as a classic.

It is good to see big rig technology in pickups expected to work like big rigs.
We get spoiled and jaded so quickly.
We are now getting picky about the degree of engine braking, or where the switch is, or how many settings it has.

I remember when the original Jake brake came out. Truckers loved it.

Jeff S. I never did mention the word Ram, and neither did they, all I said was they had a few pictures of Ram trucks, and yes the logo, but all Paul Harvey mentioned was Farmers and God, families and God, hard work and God, oh and did I mention God?

@DMAX244- sure about that? In the PUTC HD shoot-out, the Ram was the only truck where no aditional braking was needed.
Nice that Ram not only continues to offer a manual transmission (if only on the Diesel) but also sells you a manual T-case as a standard. I wish other makers would do the same , where manual transmissions are still available.

@ Mr KNow it all.. actually they had to accelerate the GM trucks becuase the exhaust brake and tranny were so good together... obvioulsy this thread is about the NEW Dodge Exhaust Brake so it doesnt matter any ways... does it??

@sandman4X4 --Sorry I misunderstood you. You are correct but Paul Harvey was never a spokesperson for Dodge or Ram. Paul Harvey did have other sponsors such as Husquavarna but his personal car was a Cadillac. Still a great ad and Paul Harvey was a legend. He could paint pictures with words.

im in the market for a new truck

sierra dodge or ford
ford being my last option

2500 or 3500
not dully
for sure diesel
they are all so close i need opinions

I drive a Class A truck and there all have the smart brake or Jack brakes on the dash...So whats the big deal? Ram truck are the real deal cummins diesel and all.

Hey, Big Al, I hope you enjoyed your stay in Baltimore.

But if you really wanted to see a football matchup, you should watch a college game. Especially any game involving SEC teams, particularly the Alabama Crimson Tide. And gameday at Bryant Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa is an experience to witness. Compared to any college contest, NFL games are as exciting as a bingo contest.

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