*Read Before Proceeding*
The following alignment and handling guidelines provide valuable direction for yourself or your alignment technician. Print and Read this information before taking your truck to the alignment shop or attempting to align the truck yourself.
- Who is this guide for?
- What To Know Before You Get An Alignment
- Why does the toe setting matter so much?
- Why Toe-In Can Cause Problems On Solid Axle Trucks
- How Does Toe-In Work In Conjunction With Caster?
- Adjusting Your Alignment With A Lift Kit Installed
- Dodge Ram 2013+ Radius Arm Truck Guidelines
- Adjusting The Caster Bias Between Driver And Passenger Cams
- 2003-2013 4-Link Dodge Ram Caster Guidelines
- Tire Pressure Guidelines
- Tire Wear Guidelines For Dodge Ram Trucks
- Ball Joints: How Bad Is Bad?
- Axial Ball Joint Play
- Radial Ball Joint Play
- How Do Ball Joints Affect Caster?
In our opinion the solid axle Dodge Ram Truck is quite simple to align but if you’ve never performed an alignment or are unfamiliar with Toe and Caster adjustments it can be difficult to remedy.
It has come to our attention that the average alignment shop has been struggling with the alignment of these solid axle trucks, therefore we have created a How-To guide to assist in this matter.
Regarding Toe-In adjustments, the factory OEM guidelines are sparse when it comes to fully explaining the parameters, measurements, and most importantly the why of the adjustments.
With over a decade of devotion to the Dodge Ram Platform, we have created specifications that differ from OEM specifications and have netted better results in achieving a proper alignment.
Who is this guide for?
Prior to 2008, the Ram Platform was given a “Y” steering linkage that brought on headaches and consistency in the realm of repeatedly having to adjust the alignment.
This Alignment & Handling Guide is for 2008+ Dodge Ram Trucks with the “T” steering linkage upgrade from previous years with a solid tie rod. Also, if you have an aftermarket solid tie rod connecting from knuckle-to-knuckle this guide is for you.
What To Know Before You Get An Alignment
Before you begin aligning your truck's steering or take it to the alignment shop there are a few key items you should be aware of.
- Tell your alignment technician that the specification you want or currently have are not to OEM specifications.
- Ask them if they are comfortable maintaining this guidance.
- If the alignment shop is ok with your preferred specification then proceed. If not, we suggest moving on to a different shop that will comply.
- Ask the technician to provide a printout with all the Toe and Caster adjustments they made with the final result.
- Ask your technician to point out the adjustments made while the truck is on the rack and not after it is removed.
- The total Toe adjustment should be between 0.00-0.05 degrees
- The total Caster adjustment should be between 3.2-4.8 degrees depending on your year, make, and model.
- See printable PDF for specifications
*Note: the driver and passenger caster will never completely mirror each other. More positive caster is welded into the passenger side so it's important to get as close to average between the two as possible for the best result.
Why does the toe setting matter so much?
If you have independent front suspension your Toe-In setting is important because it stabilizes the front wheels at all speeds. The copious amounts of flexible points in your suspension system allow for excessive movement without Toe-In to stabilize the chaos.
Dodge Ram Trucks do not have these problematic flexible points that need controlling. With virtually zero deflection or flexion to alter your Toe-In, it’s our opinion the measurements should be as close to zero as possible. As your components begin to wear your adjustments can vary slightly but we recommend no more than 0.05 degrees. Any more than that and you will feel a noticeable difference.
Why Toe-In Can Cause Problems On Solid Axle Trucks
The Dodge solid axle is a stout but simple piece of your truck that provides direct feedback when adjusting anything below the cab of the truck. When adjusting the Toe-In, it is possible to create a situation where the tires fight each other for position.
Your Toe-In settings play a very important part because if not set properly the fight between the wheels will always be won by one tire or the other. Your truck could possibly pull to the right or left, cause wear on your components, and handle terribly.
Additional factors that make your truck move from side to side could be the road conditions, cross winds, etc so before you start to think you might have an alignment issue, be sure to find a nice long stretch of road that is as smooth as possible and pay extra attention to the handling of your truck.
How Does Toe-In Work In Conjunction With Caster?
The only way Toe-In works well with your Caster settings is if the toe setting is set as close to zero as possible. The purpose of Caster is to work in conjunction with the toe setting so your truck drives down the road straight. Therefore this setting needs to be set prior to adjusting your caster.
The further your toe-in setting is from zero degrees the more the caster will be affected. If the toe-in setting is too far from 0 degrees it will actually cancel out your caster setting because the components are fighting each other for position within the assembly. This is counterproductive so we must reiterate that you review the provided alignment PDF and arm yourself with information before you visit your local alignment shop.
Adjusting Your Alignment With A Lift Kit Installed
You’ve installed your lift kit and want to see if you have the proper amount of caster (extension or contraction of your axle position forward or back) within your front suspension system.
A quick visual without breaking out the measuring tape is to look at the angle difference between your driveshaft and front differential pinion flange. You might have to sit on the ground to get an accurate visual of this but the difference should be minimal.
Having only a slight difference of angle is important not because of the positioning of your truck while sitting still but when you drive your truck this is a point of stress. If the angle of caster is too extreme it will cause undue stress on all rotating connecting points and possibly catastrophic failure.
Increasing the caster angle degree will normally make the steering wheel feel more heavy, and sluggish, assuming the toe-in is set close to zero. Decreasing the caster angle will make the truck feel more responsive and light.
Dodge Ram 2013+ Radius Arm Truck Guidelines
The previous twenty years prior to 2013 the Dodge Ram platform had adjustment cams positioned directly opposite of the newer models. 2013+ Ram adjustment cams are mounted internally while constantly adjusting the axle as you drive. The caster adjustments can handle up to but not exceeding 3.5 inches of lift with stock arms and without radius arm pivot drops.
The cam washers are located near the arm itself so you must understand this prior to making caster adjustments because moving the arrow towards the rear will in effect increase caster.
When adjusting the caster it is important to keep both driver and passenger in balance. Cross caster can quickly become a problem for the handling of your truck. They are supposed to work in harmony with each other. Some alignment shops adjust one side or the other simply to get into their personal parameters or what the alignment machine dictates.
The result of adjusting one side or the other or having differentiating measurements is the suspension could develop a drastic lean to it. But why would it lean? The radius arms can make the front axle act like a giant sway bar. If the caster cams are not in harmony with each other, it causes the axle to react as if you had two different length sway bar links attached.
Adjusting The Caster Bias Between Driver And Passenger Cams
To fine-tune the caster bias between driver and passenger side:
- Loosen the upper radius arms bolts
- Loosen the radius arm hardware at the axle
- Make a small adjustment
- Tighten all hardware
- Take a short drive on a smooth road
- Pay extreme attention to the handling of your truck to see if it steers to one side or the other
- Repeat this process until you fine-tune the caster adjustments
This process will allow the axle to find its neutral position and therefore relax the tension on the axle and cam adjusters.
Pro-Tip: If you have installed our 2.5-inch coils, we suggest using the 1st position marking towards the rear of the truck for the best handling option.
2003-2013 4-Link Dodge Ram Caster Guidelines
As mentioned on the 2013+ trucks the adjustment cams are opposite for these models. This translates to adjusting the cams towards the front of the truck, in reality, increases caster overall.
The factory geometry tends to increase caster degree when left in the stock position and installing a 2-3 inch lift. We suggest decreasing your caster setting in order to relax the position of the axle relative to the differential position.
Pro-Tip: with a 2-3 inch lift installed we suggest positioning the cam adjuster straight vertical for the best handling possible. If you happen to have a wide stance to your wheel/tire setup or heavy tires, you might want to position the marker one line to the rear for more stability.
Tire Pressure Guidelines
It goes without saying that the rear of pickup trucks are lighter than the front due to the weight of the engine versus the weight of the bed empty. What most people don’t understand is that you should run less tire pressure in the rear tires than the front tires.
Due to the weight of the diesel engine you should have more pressure in the front tires by roughly 20PSI unless you are riding with a load in the bed or heavy component such as a camper, 5th wheel, or any other such weight. Tire pressure (and manufacturer) directly affects the handling of your truck and should be adjusted accordingly to your active weight.
The tire rating of your tires will play a part in this equation as well. It’s best to initially air to manufacturer specification and adjust from this setting. If you have D Rated tires it will require more tire pressure than a heavier ply E rated set of tires.
After setting your PSI to manufacturer recommendations we suggest looking at the contact patch of your tires from the front or rear to determine if the tire is squarely contacting the surface. Add 5-10 PSI to the front tires once you have determined the best contact patch PSI amount.
This process will net a result in handling that’ll give a good feel while driving and not feel loose on the road. After finding your front tire setting, we recommend the rear tire pressure be aired to roughly 20 PSI less than the front for the best handling rate.
Tire Wear Guidelines For Dodge Ram Trucks
A good indication of a proper Toe-In setting can be found by looking at the wear pattern on your tires. A lot of information is out there for determining this but a simple rule of thumb is to look at your tire wear pattern.
Simply look at your tires for wear. If the inside of the tire is worn more than the outside it is safe to assume you have too much Toe adjustment outward. Vice versa if the outside of your tire is worn more than the inside your Toe-In adjusted is too far inward. Exceptions are always present but this is the simplest form of checking your Toe adjustments.
Ball Joints: How Bad Is Bad?
Across the Dodge Ram community, it has become a touchy subject with regard to ball joints. We hope to shed some light on the serviceability of your ball joints so you can rest easy or become concerned.
Putting a mileage specification on your ball joints is counterproductive because everyone drives their truck differently. So what indication is best to determine the life left in your ball joints?
It all comes down to play! The axial (up and down vertically in line with the bolt) or radial (perpendicular movement to the bolt or side to side) play is where your focus should be.
Axial Ball Joint Play
From the factory you will have axial (vertical) movement in your ball joints. This is an allowable movement...up to a point. Roughly 1/16th of movement axially is allowable in any particular ball joint. Understand that every additional ball joint compounds this movement. If you have more than one ball joint that is at 1/16th of movement it becomes more of an issue.
Radial Ball Joint Play
Radial play is not allowed and should be replaced at your earliest convenience. Radial (side to side) play can damage attaching components and hardware quickly and is often quoted by repair shops when in fact the “play” that is being demonstrated is axial play. Be aware of the difference between axial play and radial play so you don’t get played.
How Do Ball Joints Affect Caster?
Caster adjustments need zero friction from the ball joints to properly steer your truck straight down the road. If your ball joints are seized up or corroded then the action of the ball joint is limited and therefore limits the efficiency of the caster adjustments.
Your caster settings allow the truck to center itself under movement. If your truck seems to wander all over the road then you might want to check your ball joints because despite any/all claims of high performance a ball joint has one job...don’t interfere.