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Correcting Geometry: Aftermarket Ram Control Arms

By:  Connor MC  / Sep 25 2019
Correcting Geometry: Aftermarket Ram Control Arms

Ram pickup trucks have long been known to suffer from premature ball joint failure and sadly, this trend seemingly continues to plague some late model trucks as well. In terms of the aftermarket, swapping your faulty stock units will come into play for lift and leveling kits. In this guide, we'll cover the flaws with the stock units and the importance of aftermarket control arms.

Shop Ram Control Arms

Not always the first suspension piece everyone thinks about but not to be underrated, control arms. If you're looking to level or lift your Ram, you'll want to invest in a proper set of control arms. An aftermarket set will reset your truck's geometry to the proper angles after a lift or level.

Shop Control Arms

The Issue with Stock Ram Control Arms

The stock control arms found on Ram pickups are considered by many to be too weak and possess an inherent design flaw with the stock placement and geometry of the ball joint. Front end popping, loose steering, and short and uneven tire wear are all symptoms of a fast wearing ball joint. Worn ball joints can also cause a downstream effect, affecting other steering parts such as the tie rod ends long before they should be due. The extent of this intrinsic weakness is further magnified when lifting or leveling your Ram pickup, which can cause the ball joint to pop out of its seat altogether.

Most surprising of all is this level of failure can occur during the installation of a lift or level kit, before the Ram even hits the trails. Again, the issue at play here is the OEM seat location of the ball joint. When installing an aftermarket lift or leveling kit on your Ram, it will need to be jacked up in order to access the necessary suspension components. Raising the Ram up and allowing the control arms to reach their full drop is the primary cause behind the ball joints pulling out of their seat.

If your Ram manages to make it through the installation of a level or lift kit, this does not mean you are out of the woods. Many owners report no problems with level or lift kits of 2” and smaller, whereas others are indeed experiencing premature failure once the lift and/or level is complete. The culprit again is the poor geometry of the stock control arm, which is causing undue stress on the ball joint itself as it lacks the proper operational flexibility to function with a change in suspension. Throw on a set of larger (and heavier) tires coupled with a punishing off-road adventure, and it is not difficult to imagine the strain the ball joints are facing.

The Ram Control Arm Remedy

Aftermarket control arms have been designed and manufactured to specifically combat this ball joint issue. It is interesting to note, however, that many of the available aftermarket control arms specify a specific range of lift they are engineered to work with. This implies that different seat positions are required depending on the amount of lift and thus it is not possible to produce a one-size-fixes-all control arm. Therefore, when selecting an aftermarket control arm for your Ram pickup truck, it is important that it is appropriately selected to work with the intended level of lift. Ranges vary from mild (2”) to wild (6”).

On top of the revised ball joint placement and control arm geometry, aftermarket control arms come with a replacement ball joint already pressed into place. These ball joints are a beefier and heavier duty design as compared to the factory; using sealed dust boots, forged housings, low-friction cups, and cold-form steel studs. Most, if not all, aftermarket Ram front control arms and ball joints also feature an external zerk grease fitting used to service the ball joints. Naturally, as the ball joints age, the initial grease applied to them will lose effectiveness and will require top-ups as the miles pile on. The zerk fittings allow this to happen and consequently extend the serviceable life of the ball joint.

Looking past the modified and improved ball joint designs, Ram aftermarket control arms are also built to be physically stronger than their OEM counterparts. Lower gauge steel with thick welds provide superior strength over OEM upper control arms, and are manufactured to withstand significantly more stress before suffering structural failure.

Aftermarket Control Arm Bushings

Regarding ride noise and harshness, aftermarket upper control arms are available with either rubber or polyurethane bushings. Rubber bushings are used with the stock control arms and their softer nature makes them great for dampening noise and road harshness. A consequence of their malleability, however, is their shorter service life. This is further exposed when using a Ram frequently in an off-road environment, where larger suspension movements (due to obstacles) cause compression wear and deterioration to accumulate at a greater rate.

Polyurethane bushings are well known for their more rigid characteristics and are mainly used to firm up suspension components in order to improve ride handling. In the case of a Ram pickup, these bushings deflect less under load which equates to more feedback being transmitted both through the chassis and the steering wheel. They are noisier and harsher than an OEM-like rubber bushing but improve driving feel and have a considerably longer lifespan. Less susceptible to deterioration in the face of harsh weather and oil (that may drip off the engine), lifespan can further be enhanced via routinely greasing the bushing as outlined by the manufacturer.

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