This page contains many of the modifications I have made over the years to my 1998 Dodge Ram 2500 12 valve Cummins truck. See also My Ram for additional information and pictures of the truck. I hope you enjoy the site. The date and mileage numbers at the top of each mod are the point at which each mod was completed.
Mileage as of 5/22/2016: 422K
Transfer Case Saver
Cold Air Induction
ARP Head Studs
Rock Solid Steering
DSS Steering Stabilizer
DT Trac Bar
Custom Controls Arms
Greaseable Front Wheel Bearings
BD Two Wheel Drive Low
Click for larger images
I built a custom battery hold-down to serve as my filter head mount. I ran the oil return into the oil filler base so I can monitor flow over time if I want. The oil supply comes off of the full flow filter head. I installed a needle valve in the bypass filter head to serve as my oil test port for taking samples. This filter enables me to extend my oil drain intervals and reduce engine wear and cost all at the same time. I have been running Amsoil 15w40 HD Diesel and Marine and Series 3000 HDD 5w30. This bypass filter kit is Amsoil's universal BMK-11.
Based on oil analysis I ran 50 to 60k drain intervals while running OTR transporting RVs. The most I ever ran was 75k.
I have a 30 Amp relay fused directly from the battery and switched by the ignition switch to power the Buss fuse block, which powers many of my accessories. Currently powered items are: gauges, True-Speed speedometer calibration box, BD exhaust brake and BD 2WD Low unit. The Cobra 29 WX NW ST radio pictured above ties into the relay hot wire so it has power all the time. This is the best way to hook up a radio especially if it has the weather feature. If the radio has power it will sound an alert tone when there is a severe weather warning (must be turned into a station) even while the radio is off. It does draw a little power even while off so I leave it unplugged when the truck is sitting for weeks at a time.
This is a real easy conversion and can be done in about 8-10 hours for one knowledgeable person if you fabricate your own parts as I did. There are kits available but they come with unneeded parts for 1998 and up such as a new shift stick, shift knob and backup light switch wire extension. Here is a picture of what's included in a '98 and up kit. The backup light wire for '98 and up is made to fit the NV5600 even better then the NV4500. The shift stick and knob are the same. All you need there is the little shift diagram, which is Mopar p/n 52108192. I built my own transmission to mount adapter plate using 1/4 thick steel with 1/2" diameter holes. The plate is about 5.5" wide by 9" long. Here is a template with dimensions. The NV5600 is exactly 6" longer than the NV4500. This is no problem for a '98, which comes from the factory with an 11" wide cross member. This cross member includes mountings slots to accommodate either transmission. I lengthened my transfer case shift rod just like the one provided in the kit by taking a piece of 1/4" ID pipe 8" long and drilling both ends out to 3/8" ID to a depth of 1". I then cut my factory 3/8" rod toward the back and welded the two pieces into the ends of the 1/4" pipe for a total overall length of 17 3/4". The NV5600 is exactly 6" longer so I had to have my front driveline re-tubed 6" longer and the rear shortened by the same amount. Click here for NV5600 specifications.
I bought a nearly new 2001 transmission with the 1-3/8" input shaft revision. The Clutch that comes in '94-'00 trucks is a 12-1/4" disk with an 1-1/4" hub spline. I bought a 13" clutch, which included a conversion flywheel from South Bend Clutch. The conversion flywheel is a stock '94-'00 flywheel that has been re-drilled to accept the larger clutch. The clutch is an SBC 1947 OFE, which is capable of handling 475 RWHP and 1000 ft. lbs. of torque. This clutch works very well on the street without being too grabby yet still holds the power well. See pictures and information on the latest HD hub design near the bottom of this page. Another way of doing this would be to buy a flywheel for a 2001 or later truck. If you go this rout a starter spacer and longer starter bolts are also required. The spacer is Cummins p/n 3949583 and the bolts are Cummins p/n 3946085. The reason for this spacer is that the larger flywheel relocates the ring gear. 2001 and up trucks with the 13" clutch come standard from the factory with this spacer. There really is no point in using this other flywheel unless you have one kicking around. SBC now provides aftermarket flywheels that are a direct fit 12 valve/13" clutch design. No spacer is required this way. You may also need an exhaust hanger if one didn't come on the 6 speed being installed. Dodge p/n 52103101.
For '97 and older trucks a person would be better off buying the installation kit because these trucks need the new shift stick, knob, insert and extension wire. They also have a complicated transfer case shift lever mounting adapter that the newer trucks do not have since the transfer case shift stick is mounted to the floor pan rather then on the side of the transmission. An 11" wide cross member is also needed, which is Mopar p/n 5003051AA and is not included in the kit. More info here.
The NV5600 is a strong and reliable transmission. I have put 311k on mine with about 115k of those towing RVs from small to large and its still going strong. I run Amsoil MTF, which is specified for this transmission. I ran 100k mile drain intervals while driving OTR and it worked great, however I am not recommending that others run this long.
This split collar replaces the OE snap ring that can fail in Dodge, Chevy and GMC NP241 transfer cases. The split collar has a machined lip that fits into the snap ring groove in the main shaft and prevents possible severe damage caused by snap ring breakage. If this snap ring breaks it allows the main shaft to move back and forth, which will cause major damage if left unrepaired. It can go for some time unnoticed so its best to be safe than sorry. It's a very cheap and easy install and to gain access you simply drop the driveline and remove the rear most tail housing. As you can see my snap ring was just fine but I sure feel better knowing this problem can never bite me. I have done nothing to this T-case other than some seals so it has served well.
To learn more and buy this part see Drivetrain.com
I custom ground my stock fuel plate to a trace of a #5. It didn't come out exactly like the trace but it works pretty well. I have it in the stock position, which according to my G-TECH (old original one) is putting out about 300 RWHP. I never have had it on the rollers.
'89-'98 12 valve Dodge Cummins have no breather system and vent the crankcase out an open hose at the back of the engine between the block and the starter. This causes an oily build up under the truck including drips everywhere you park, especially if you drive a lot as I did for 2.5 years (RV transporter). I got tired of all that mess on my otherwise leak free truck so I built a breather tank (I ran a pill bottle for the first few years). Breather tanks are commercially available but most are pretty tall, which would make finding a good mounting point difficult as a slight down grade is needed on the hose to prevent oil pooling resulting in a blockage and causing back pressure.
This can be done any number of ways and I ended up using scrap out of the scrap metal bin at the shop. The main body is a piece of 2"x4" steel tube about 8" long with 2" angle iron welded on the ends and set back an 1/8" to hold the tank body out away from the frame so as not to trap water. The hose nipples on the ends are 1/2" ID pipe drilled to 3/4". I put a big 3/8" ball valve on there so it would drain easy even when cold.
I have a second tank filled with course steel wool and mounted higher than the main tank. This helps condense the vapors and drain them back into the holding tank. I ran the vent hose from the second tank to a pill bottle to catch any remaining drips (haven't really seen any). I know this is probably over complicated but it works perfectly. I could have incorporated the steel wool in the holding tank but I didn't build it with that in mind when I started.
NOTE - Don't run a system like this in sub-zero weather for extended periods of time. I learned the hard way after driving a couple days in sub-zero temps. I was idling one evening in about -8ºF temps with even lower wind chills and the system froze up, causing 7 qts. of oil to blow out the dipstick tube until I lost oil pressure. I'm sure glad I wasn't sleeping yet or I may have lost the engine if the chime hadn't woke me up. I normally didn't idle at night but this night was going to be an exception since it was extra cold and I had 15w40 synthetic in the engine (prefer 5w30 when this cold).
This crank case ventilation kit is Cummins answer to the problem but is setup only for the 24 valve trucks. It could be made to work on 12 valves as well. You would have to buy a valve cover with the oil filler cap and find a way to get the drain into the block or oil pan. For a '98 12 valve it would be easier since it shares the same block as the early 24 valves so already has the hole at the base of the block for the drain (older ones may also but I haven't looked).
I installed two thermocouples with a Double-Pole Double-Throw switch up by the pyrometer so I could monitor both pre and post turbo temperatures. I soldered all switch connections in order to reduce the chance of signal loss. I used a Competition Series thermocouple kit, Auto Meter p/n 5244 in the manifold. The thermocouple in the exhaust elbow is the 4344 pyrometer kit probe. The gauge pod is an Auto Meter p/n 17203, which fits '98-02 Dodge Rams without the tweeter in the A-pillar. I tapped the fuel pressure sender into the main injection pump feed banjo bolt by drilling the head of the bolt and tapping it for 1/8" NPT threads. I then installed a needle valve to act as a gauge snubber to dampen the harmful mechanical fuel pump pulses that can destroy the sender in a matter of minutes if hooked up direct. I also remote mounted the sender using rubber fuel hose in order to isolate it from damaging engine vibrations.
Turbo Boost: 4305
I built this cold air induction system using the Amsoil EaAU4510 dry cleanable filter, which uses Donaldson's Nanofiber synthetic media. This filter has a 4.5" ID opening and is connected to the turbo hose using a short piece of 4.5" OD exhaust pipe. This will help lower my EGTs a little and should provide a slightly shorter turbo cool down time as compared to the open element I was running. I used 1/4" Plexiglas glued together with Perfect Glue 2 along with metal brackets for added strength. All hardware is riveted in place. I cut a 4" hole in the cowl and connected that to the air box using 4" flexible aluminum dryer vent. The dryer hose hookup on the air box is a 3" RV drain flange with the inside bevel cut out. I also hooked up the OE air box duct into the fender for added air flow. As expected the duct into the cowl increased the turbo noise quite a bit so I did a little sound deadening work in there with foam blocks, which brought the noise level back down to near previous levels. I like a good turbo whistle but it can't get tiresome when driving OTR all day every day. The turbo sides of the air box are covered with an adhesive backed reflective thermal barrier. I also have a stainless turbo heat shield installed to keep the greater portion of the heat away. The replacement OE inner fender I installed didn't come with the factory airbox studs so I used 5/16 bolts with spacers of different heights to mount and level the box. I sandwiched fender washers and rubber washers to help distribute the load a little. I installed a brace between the back corner toward the turbo and the fender to add support.
Here is a picture with dimensions for those who might want to try this. If you have a full size battery that completely fills the tray you will need to modify the box a little as the corner hangs over the end of my tray a tiny bit (Optima battery is smaller). All dimensions are overall outside measurements. The two back corners toward the engine/firewall are 90 degrees. I don't have figures on the other angles. The "V" nose of the box is cut down a little to clear the hood. Use cardboard and build a mock up for best results. If using acrylic as I did, a table saw with fine tooth plastic cutting blade would make this a lot easier and come out nicer than my free handing it with a junky circular saw did. The lid seal and the fender duct seal are standard weather strip.
This filter can be cleaned with low pressure air (15-20 psi) held at a 45 degree angle or vacuumed clean and is guaranteed for four years or 100k miles, whichever comes first, provided the filter has been serviced properly. I have personally had good results with soap and water but I am not recommending that for others. I have had the oil analyzed after cleaning the filters this way and it doesn't appear to have hurt them. I have two filters so I will always have one ready to drop in.
Here is a list of these universal filters. So far I have noticed a small drop in EGTs and maybe a slight reduction in turbo cool down times. I didn't do any careful side by side comparisons so don't have any numbers.
I started out running a K&N filter in the OE box but soon found my silicon numbers were way up (51 ppm) when having my oil tested. The silicon came down as soon as I started running the DuraLite paper BHAF (Big Honkin' Air Filter) filter pictured above on the top left. The problem with that was that the filter was right out in the open sucking in hot engine bay air. This paper filter was so big it would have been hard if not impossible to build a box around so I jumped when I saw the new Amsoil filters, which can be smaller but still flow well because of the advanced synthetic media. My last two oil samples, one with 24k miles on the sample and another with 31k miles on a separate batch of oil show low silicon numbers so it appears to be filtering well.
Below are paper BHAF part numbers as pictured in the upper left photo above.
I finally blew my head gasket (compression to water jacket) while towing a 5th wheel in sub-zero temperatures with strong cross winds and got my boost up to about 38 psi briefly a few times. I was able to drive unloaded 1125 miles home from Canada making sure to keep my boost below 20 psi and it didn't push any more coolant out. I had the head surfaced and a valve job done.
I decided to put it back together with 12mm ARP studs, p/n 247-4203, to make sure it had the clamping force needed for running higher boost. I torqued them to book specs and then line-torqued to 125 ft. lbs. using the molly lube supplied with the studs. I gave it a number of heat/cool cycles and re-torqued in a line method removing each nut one at a time, re-lubing them and bringing them back to 125. I set my waist gate to dump at 25 psi and got back on the road towing. After about 9k miles I did a third re-torque and set the waist gate to 30 psi.
The valve covers had to be modified in order to clear the studs on the rocker pedestals. I used a dremel with a soft metal cutting bit that had cutters both on the side and the end to cut the two webs out as seen in the picture above. I also bottom tapped the holes in the block to get the long studs all the way down, which gains about 1/4" and ends up putting the stud and nut almost flush. The rest of the studs end up with about 1/4" protruding from the nut. The valve covers don't quite touch the head when set in place without the gasket but they don't contact the studs when the gasket is in place and they don't leak.
Notice how good the cylinders look at 250k miles.
Steering & Suspension Upgrades-
I upgraded my steering from the inverted "Y" system to the heavy duty crossover system or "T". The inverted "Y" system has a couple drawbacks. First it's not nearly as strong and second, the toe setting will change as the front end cycles up and down. The solid bar between the two wheels is a lot stronger and holds the toe setting spot on at all times no matter the ride height. The HD system may cause a little bump steer if a truck is lifted a lot without having a dropped pitman arm. I don't notice any bump steer with my 2" leveling kit and stock pitman arm.
I installed stock Moog parts from Carquest for the 1998 year (the HD system was used only in '98 and '99). Notice the size difference in the main tie rod between the wheels and the huge adjusting sleeve. Below are part numbers for the complete setup, which should work for '94-'02 trucks. To the best of my knowledge the pitman arm taper was changed in 2000 so for '00-'02 trucks you can use all the parts listed below except for the upper drag link end, in which case you need to use p/n ES3527. Another option would be to install a pitman arm from a pre year 2000 truck. The original drag link adjusting sleeve will interchange. I went ahead and got a new one so I wouldn't have to fight the rust.
I have no clearance issues at the wheels, as some have reported, even with the 2001 8" factory alloy wheels (original wheels were 6.5" steel on this truck) and the '96 D60 axle, which was changed out because the original '98 axle was damaged in the accident this truck was in before I got it. So there you have it, a 1998 truck, 1996 front axle, 2001 alloy wheels and 1998 heavy duty tie rods and it all works great.
Update for '00-'02 owners: I have seen a few owner reports recently of '00-'02 trucks having a different taper at the steering knuckles as well as the pitman arm making this upgrade unusable for them. Did Dodge randomly use two different tapers during those years? I don't know but it's something to be aware of if planning this upgrade for the years mentioned. I do know that it does work on many '00-'02 trucks as reported in a number of Internet forums.
This is the Rock Solid Ram Truck Steering bushing. This solid bushing eliminates the popping sounds in the lower steering column that many of these trucks develop over time. It also eliminates any side play. The left photo shows the new bushing installed while the right shows the OE parts that get loose and begin popping. I did this job with the column in place and it wasn't too bad. Some guys remove the column for easier access.
This is my steering damper install, which wasn't that hard but did require some extra work. I didn't have a place to mount one since I have a '96 axle under a '98 truck. I bought the shock kit from Carquest, p/n SSD92, which came with all the brackets. I was not able to use the bolt on axle bracket because it stuck out a little too far and caused the shock to hit the tie rod at full right lock so I cut the tab off the saddle clamp and stick welded it to the axle tube near the stock '98 location. I was able to use the tie rod clamp but added a 1/4" thick shim behind it to give more clearance between the shock boot and the tie rod at full left lock.
Above is a picture of Solid Steel Industrial's Steering Stabilizer (DSS). This brace eliminates sector shaft side play and reduces frame flex at the steering box. This brace tightened up my steering greatly. I had replaced everything else in the steering system and still had road wander. You can buy this part direct, which takes longer, or from a few others who are selling it. I bought mine from Source Automotive. PDR and PSC Motorsports also sell it. DT Products makes their own version as well.
Back in 2001 I installed the DT Products adjustable track bar not long after installing the 2" leveling kit so I could re-center the axle and have a longer lasting track bar. In 2006 I replaced the upper rod end at the frame because it was getting quite loose after 170k miles. My replacement rod end from DT began to get a little slop in it after about 106k miles so I bought an Aurora Bearing rod end, which I hope is a longer lasting unit as it cost a lot more. If I had it to do over today I might go with the 3rd generation adjustable track bar and bracket made by Solid Steel Industrial. I think the upper end bushing might last longer than the heim joint. I haven't tested this idea though so its nothing more than a guess.
This is a picture of the 2" Tuff Country spacers. Longer variable rate springs would provide a better ride but this was cheaper. In the front I have Rancho RS9000X 9 way shocks, which are a little under 2" longer then stock and are p/n RS99221. I ran the stock length in the front for a long time but they would over extend quite easily with the 2" lift.
Some of my stock control arm bushings were a little messed up so I decided to build a set that are slightly longer, stronger and much more flexible. I used Currie Enterprises 2" and 2.5" spherical Johnny Joints on the frame end and standard polyurethane bushings on the axle end. All but the upper axle end joints are greasable. The upper arm frame end Johnny Joints were 3/8" too narrow so a couple washers on each side were needed. I used 1.5"x2.5"x0.125" mild steel tube for the arms. The ride feels slightly firmer and more controlled but not harsh. I started out with the JJ's on the axle end but this didn't work for lubing because the grease would come out through the caster adjusting slots rather than being forced into the bushings so I swapped ends. I have put a lot of miles on these arms and they are holding up great. Most of the miles have been over the road but I have done some off-roading including a very rough 10 mile round trip 4 rated trail. So far I have not had any problems.
I'm on a mission to make my front wheel bearings last as long as possible and also avoid being stranded in a cloud of smoke so I added grease fittings to them while I was in there changing axle seals and wheel joints. The job ended up being pretty easy. After removing the rotors I drilled the bearings dead center with a small magnetized and greased bit. Next I used a 7/32" (or#3) bit to enlarge the outer part for 1/4"-28 threads. Next I probed the hole with a magnetized o-ring pick to make sure all metal was removed. I installed a 90 degree grease fitting facing the steering knuckle where I drilled a 5/8" hole through the brake disk shield, spacer plate and steering knuckle. I can now grease the bearings anytime I want without disassembling anything.
A word of caution to those who might try this. These are sealed bearings so be careful how much you pump in there as you can blow the seals out. I started out with 20 pumps while rotating the bearing in a vice. I have since put in another 20 after a lot of miles. I'm using Amsoil grease. The outer seals do leak a little on these bearings so they will go dry at some point and burn up if nothing is done. I have seen the leakage on my truck as well as others I have worked on. There is no need to grease these at every oil change either. If you get plenty in there the first time they should run a long time before additional grease is needed. Be sure to clean the grease fitting before greasing.
I have personally put 355k miles on these bearings since installing the '96 Dana 60 axle back in 2001 shortly after I bought the truck from a body shop. Before buying the truck I failed to notice that a Dana 44 had been installed in place of the original D60 so I had to buy a good used axle. If the bearings are original to the replacement axle, which had 126k on it when installed, then they have about 481k total miles on them. Even after all these miles they are still in pretty good condition. The driver side bearing does have a tiny bit of play in it at this time (first noticed at 387k miles). Of course they will wear out at some point but this will significantly extend their useful service life. It will also prevent being stuck on the side of the road in a cloud of smoke after the bearing has seized up or fallen apart.
On 7/11/03 I installed grease fittings in the lower OE ball joints and so far there is no detectable play in any of the joints and they are the original sealed Spicer joints.
Updated mileage: 5/26/2016
This is the BD 2WD Low kit. I have been wanting to do this mod for many years and finally got it done. This allows me to operate in low range 2 wheel drive, which is great for maneuvering heavy trailers. Another big reason I wanted this was that we have a lot of slick rock where I live in southeast Utah and this comes in handy when creeping along on the sand stone where 4x4 is not needed. This relives the stress on the drive train and allows for smooth cornering as the wheels don't slip well on the sand stone rocks when in 4x4.
I mounted the spool valve to a stainless mirror brace, which is attached to the hydro boost unit. The directions have it mounted to the air horn but I already have a BD spool valve mounted there for my E-brake. I mounted the lighted control switch below the knee bolster next to the brake controller. I took power off of the Buss fuse block that powers many of my accessories.
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