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The 2002-2009 Dodge Ram Heavy Duty

2010 Dodge Ram Heavy Duty (2500/3500 pickups and 3500, 4500, and 5500 chassis cabs)

2009 Dodge Ram 2500 and Ram 3500 changes

Dodge Ram 3500The Dodge Ram heavy duty 2500/3500 pickups got the variable valve timing Hemi for 355 hp and 395 lb-ft of torque, with a standard automatic on 2500 models; all 3500 models got a standard 6.7 liter Cummins turbodiesel and limited slip rear axle. Larger front and rear brake rotors were fitted (360 mm and 358 mm), with twin-piston calipers. The manual transmission-Hemi combination was dropped, and remote start made optional on 6.7-liter Cummins engines. Power Wagon continued, but only in Quad Cab form. The Ram 2500 Box-Off continued with the same changes.

The 6.7 liter Cummins diesel with standard exhaust brake capability had 350 hp and 650 lb-ft of torque with best-in-class low-end torque; it had a 5/100 limited engine warranty and was the cleanest engine in the Heavy Duty segment. A six-speed automatic with two overdrive gears had better launches and gas mileage, and let drivers manually choose gears. Payload was up to 5,130 lb, with 16,850 lb of towing capacity. For more details, including market share and such, see our Dodge Ram 2500/3500 and Dodge Ram 3500 Chassis Cab pages.


Ram engines

There were only three available engines on the heavy duty Rams, but each one was a killer: the Hemi (345 hp — or 355 hp starting in 2009), the carryover V10 (2002-2003), and, from 2002-2004, two versions of the Cummins turbo-diesel maxing out at 555 lb-ft of torque; in 2005, maxing out at 610 lb-ft.

The 345 cid Hemi produced 345 horsepower (5,600 rpm) and 365 lb-ft of torque (4,400 rpm) from 5.7 (5.65 to be exact) liters. That was about the same power as GM's 8.1, but with better mileage. Chrysler claimed that the Hemi had best-in-class acceleration and towing. Hemi engine details. The Hemi was given variable cam timing in 2009, increasing power output to 355 hp and 395 lb-ft of torque, with claims of better gas mileage.

Cummins lovers will be happy to see a new straight-six common-rail turbo diesel in both standard and high output - making 250 horsepower and 460 lb-ft of torque in the standard output version, and, starting in 2005, 610 lb-ft of torque in the high output version. The diesel version could tow 23,000 pounds (gross combined weight). The Cummins was the most powerful diesel engine available in its class. It also had a longer certified engine life than Chevrolet or Ford diesels, with an average major overhaul interval of 350,000 miles and 30-40 percent fewer parts than typical V8 diesels. Starting in 2007, a single 6.7 liter Cummins diesel was available, producing 350 hp.

The high-pressure common rail fuel injection system used pilot injection—the injection of a small amount of fuel that starts combustion, before the main fuel charge was injected. This smoothed out combustion pressure, which could be the primary source of low- and mid-range speed noise in diesel engines. The use of pilot injection during starting also provided gasoline engine-like cold starting capability (verified at -40 F). Maximum torque occured 400 rpm lower than the GM Duramax, and 100 rpm lower than the Ford Power Stroke. The Cummins Turbo Diesel engine also produced 20 percent more torque at 1000 rpm, and 10 percent higher clutch engagement torque than its predecessor. That led to noticeably better vehicle launch when towing and accelerating, better drivability and fewer and smoother shifts.

Picture of 2002 Dodge Ram pickup truck interiorAlso available in 2002 was the original 8.0-liter, V-10 Magnum engine with 450 lb.-ft. of torque at 2,800 rpm, and, on the limited-edition SRT (later years), the 505 horsepower Viper version of that same V-10.

The 545RE transmission (which debuted in 1999 on the Grand Cherokee) was available, but only with the Hemi. This highly responsive, fully electronically controlled five-speed automatic (plus kickdown gear) provided fast downshifts and seemed to have fewer parasitic losses than the other automatics. If you don't get the Hemi, you have to settle for the standard 47RE and 48RE automatics, which were heavier duty than the 545RE and traced their design back to the bulletproof 727 Torqueflites. Both of these were optional with the V10 and standard-output diesel.

Also available were the NV4500 manual five-speed (5.7 and 8.0 engines; NV4500HD with standard output diesel), and the NV5600 six-speed manual (only with high-output diesel). (transmissions) The manual transmissions were no longer available as of 2009 with the Hemi.

2007 diesel engines

As predicted by Allpar in December, Dodge in January announced that it would be selling Rams with a new 6.7 liter Cummins turbodiesel that meets the EPA's standards for 2010 three years early. Sold with the 68RFE six-speed automatic, the new diesel included the Bluetec emissions-reduction system [originally developed by KonTec] as well as Cummins’ own filters and systems, and met requirements for all 50 states. Fuel economy savings were quoted as 20 to 40 percent and reduction of oxides of nitrogen (NOx) was quoted at up to 90% (through an adsorber catalyst). Tom LaSorda claimed that the Ram - Cummins “is the cleanest diesel truck available on the market.”

Dodge Ram Heavy Duty trucks’ relationship with Cummins was established in 1988; Cummins produced the 1.5-millionth diesel engine for the Dodge Ram last year. 80% of Dodge heavy duty truck buyers got the diesel.

A cooled exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) system combined with a uniquely designed piston combustion bowl and a high-flow, electronically-controlled Variable Geometry Turbocharger (VGT™), matching boost pressure with the engine’s performance needs to reduce emissions and improve drivability. Within the exhaust system, a self-cleaning DPF and an oxidation catalyst reduced particulate matter by a factor of 10. The emissions system was designed for a government-certified 120,000 miles. A new closed crankcase ventilation system eliminated crankcase fumes and oil carry-over. As durable as it was powerful, the 6.7-liter Cummins turbodiesel had life-to-major overhaul intervals of 350,000 miles, providing more than a 100,000-mile advantage over the competition (and considerably better durability than the Mercedes engine used on the Grand Cherokee). Nearly 40 percent of the new engine’s parts were carryover, with modifications geared to surpass emissions standards and increase horsepower and torque, while maintaining the durability associated with Dodge and Cummins.

Dodge Ram Heavy Duty models equipped with the 6.7-liter Cummins turbodiesel engine began appearing in dealerships in March, starting at $33,650 including destination.

One engineer described Bluetec: “BlueTec is an addon after-treatment system with certain internal engine parameter changes applicable to any 4 stroke diesel. The technology was originally developed by KonTec of Germany. DCX bought them up and [Mercedes] now takes credit for it.”

oh20 had written: “Dodge is getting ready to announce pricing for the new 6.7L diesel engine and the new 68RFE 6-speed auto transmission. The 6.7L Diesel engine option will carry a list price of $6,100 ($495 higher than the 5.9L diesel, but exhaust brake included at no charge. Models that feature the 6.7 as standard will be increased by $495.) Dodge will also be adding an “Ultra-Clean Diesel System” charge of $995 for all Rams equipped with the 6.7 diesel engine as a separate line item on the factory sticker. This will provide high visibility of the sophisticated emissions systems on the Ram, giving dealers a more effective tool for explaining the diesel price increase.”

Mining Dodge - (“the Spelunker”)

The 2007 Dodge Ram pickup equipped with the 5.9L Cummins diesel engine was the only OEM pickup that could be used for underground mining applications. The Ram came with a derated 175 horsepower in-line six-cylinder engine that was approved by the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) for underground mine usage. With this derated engine, emissions were significantly reduced, which translated to a huge savings for mine operations in terms of lowering mine ventilation costs. Some aftermarket modifications were required for specific vehicle uses, but these Dodge Rams all had the Cummins 5-year/100,000 mile factory engine warranty. (Thanks, Stratuscaster.)

Heavy-duty Dodge Ram pickup trucks 2500 and 3500 - chassis and suspension

The 2003-2007 Dodge Ram 2500 and 3500 featured a new heavy-duty frame, the stiffest ever on a heavy-duty Ram. It used extensively hydroformed and boxed sections tough enough to deliver a segment-leading (in 2003) Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) of 12,000 lbs.

"The new Heavy Duty Ram frames are a quantum leap in the technology of truck chassis design," said Rich Schaum, Executive Vice President, Product Development and Quality. "Not only do they create an incredibly stiff platform that allows us to tune the suspension and steering to new levels, but they also simplify the manufacturing process. We have been able to reduce the overall number of welds needed in the chassis construction, which limits variations in the manufacturing process and improves dimensional integrity and overall durability." (We should note that hydroforming truck chassis was pioneered by General Motors in the TrailBlazer.)

The stiffness of the frame, and the consistent dynamics afforded through the hydroformimg process, contributed to the best steering and handling of any heavy-duty pickup. The 2003 Dodge Ram Heavy Duty pickups also featured a rack and pinion steering system and independent front suspension for two-wheel drive models, and heavy-duty beam front and rear axles for four-wheel drive models. The 2003 Dodge Ram Heavy Duty delivered a chassis that could cover ground smoothly, both on- and off-road, and could take the abuse of hard-working Ram customers.

Designed as a package, Ram's hydroformed frame and standard 17-inch wheels and tires - the largest offered on a heavy-duty pickup - combined to provide excellent ride and handling and reduced NVH characteristics without diminishing durability and load ratings.

While two- and four-wheel drive versions of the 2003 Dodge Ram Heavy Duty used different steering systems, each suspension system was designed to provide excellent feedback and precision.

Two-wheel drive Dodge Ram Heavy Duty trucks featured a new rack and pinion-type steering system that delivered a combination of effort, feel and response tuned to give the driver precise control and positive feedback.

Four-wheel drive Dodge Ram Heavy Duty trucks had a redesigned recirculating ball system made to more exacting tolerances than their predecessors. The new system improved on-center steering feel through lower internal friction, with responsiveness enhanced by a quicker ratio. The 13.4:1 overall steering ratio and 2.75 turns lock-to-lock were especially effective when making tight turns or maneuvering a trailer in close quarters. The system also provided a steady helm for highway cruising, with little of the wander and imprecision normally associated with heavy-duty truck steering.

Since the majority of Dodge Ram Heavy Duty pickups were ordered with four-wheel drive, Ram's off-road performance was a key selling point. To improve off-road performance, the 2003 Dodge Ram Heavy Duty trucks featured new transfer cases and new front and rear beam axles. The beam axle system could sustain the types of off-road load forces the truck would endure, while providing improved load ratings.

Dodge Ram 2500s and 3500s provided a new suspension system for four-wheel drive versions. Front suspension on four-wheel-drives was a refined version of the five-link, coil-spring suspension used on the previous-generation Dodge Ram Heavy Duty, with a new front beam axle. The front beam axle had 8.7 inches of ground clearance, and was rated at 5,200 pounds Gross Axle Weight Rating (GAWR).

No Rear Stabilizer Needed

Rear suspension architecture was common to both two- and four-wheel drive models. The 2003 Ram Heavy Duty used longitudinal leaf springs at the rear, but the springs were three inches longer than 2002 models to improve ride quality. The added length reduces spring stresses. The standard two-stage springs used on 2500 series had three leaves to carry normal loads while providing a comfortable ride and an additional leaf to support heavy loads. The rear box section of the Ram Heavy Duty was widened to create a wider lateral rear spring span that improved the ride and reduced cornering lean. In fact, the new design eliminated the need for a rear stabilizer bar.

Dodge Ram 3500 series pickups featured reduced spring rates for unloaded and lightly loaded conditions to improve ride quality. To support the heavier payloads and towing demands of a 3500, an auxiliary leaf spring setup was created. The auxiliary springs were only employed when the truck was heavily laden, providing improved unladen ride comfort.

Rear axles (10.5 inch ring gears on 2500 models and 11.5 inch ring gears on 3500 and 2500 diesel/manual models) contributed to increased gross vehicle weight ratings, with a best-in-class rating of 12,000 pounds on the 3500 Diesel/4x4. The standard rear axle ratio was a 3.73 with a 4.10 ratio available as an option and provided an additional 2,000 pounds of towing capability. Dodge Ram 3500 rear axles had a GAWR of 9,350 pounds.

A new limited slip differential was available on Ram Heavy Duty. The helical gear design provided torque biasing and eliminated the "chatter" found in friction plate designs. The system required no lubricating additives.

On two-wheel drive Dodge Ram Heavy Duty pickups, new front suspension geometry delivered caster, camber and toe patterns that remained consistent throughout the full range of travel.

Standard ABS and Largest Brakes in Heavy-Duty Class

Dodge Ram Heavy Duty pickups were equipped with standard anti-lock braking and a four-wheel disc system that featured the largest rotors in the heavy-duty segment. At 13.9 inches (353 mm) front and rear, these rotors delivered swept area increases of 42 percent (front) and 45 percent (rear) over the previous-generation Ram Heavy Duty. The larger rotors were made possible by the change to 17-inch wheels and more voluminous linings, which increase braking power, extend lining life, and increase heat dissipation. Overall, the Dodge Ram Heavy Duty's brake system gave the driver a sense of confidence that it could handle any situation. (This should be a major advantage over the prior generations, whose brakes were average but soon outclassed by the Silverado pickups.)

New Transfer Case Choices

Two new transfer cases, a conventional manual shift and new electric shift, were available on 2500 and 3500 four-wheel drive models and provided quieter operation. The manual-shift unit was standard on ST and SLT models. The electric-shift unit was standard on Laramie models.

Dodge Ram 2500 and 3500 quality

"We have a reputation for building tough trucks and in this market, being tough and capable is everything," said Frank Klegon, Vice President, Truck Product Team. "With a GVWR of 23,000 pounds and the ability to tow more than 16,000 pounds, Ram is certainly capable. As for durability and toughness, Ram is already the longest lasting pickup on the market, and the Ram is even better. We plan to expand upon the quality gains made on the Ram 1500, which performed well in the most recent J.D. Power Initial Quality rankings."

Based on the J.D. Power and Associates 2002 Initial Quality Survey, which measures problems per 100 vehicles, Ram 1500 had a 15 percent reduction of problems compared with its predecessor. (That's pretty good for a new model, since generally vehicles improve with age as errors and problems are caught.)

"To make gains over a product that has been in production for eight years is remarkable," said Don Dees, Vice President, Quality (formerly of Toyota). "This is a strong indication of our efforts to focus on quality as we launch the next Dodge Ram Heavy Duty trucks. While the Ram Heavy Duty has a unique chassis design, it shares many design and manufacturing processes with the Ram 1500, and we will certainly take those lessons learned from that successful launch and use them to deliver an even stronger Ram 2500/3500."

Longest Lasting Pickup and Getting Stronger

Further expanding on Dodge Ram's reputation as the longest lasting pickup on the market (based on R.L. Polk & Co. new pickup registrations from 7/87 - 7/00 and still registered as of 7/1/00) and targeting new quality standards, Dodge created a new duty cycle for the 2003 Dodge Ram Heavy Duty designed to improve durability. Aimed directly at the needs of commercial customers, the new cycle included testing the 2003 Ram Heavy Duty in conditions ranging from minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit to 130 degrees Fahrenheit and running the equivalent of 150,000 miles, on and off-road, and at their maximum payload ratings.

The heavy-duty chassis, also simplified the manufacturing process, improving durability, quality control and testing repeatability.

"We have been able to reduce the overall number of welds needed in the chassis construction, which limits variations in the manufacturing process and improves quality and overall durability," said Rich Schaum, Executive Vice President, Product Development and Quality. "This is a chassis designthat will redefine how truck chassis are built. The 2003 Dodge Ram Heavy Duty chassis is a base from which we can deliver a smoother ride - both on- and off-road - improved performance in safety crash tests and in real world safety, yet can still take the abuse of hard-working Ram customers."

Both Ram Quad Cab and Standard Cab models featured larger-than-the-competition interiors and offered excellent head, shoulder, leg and hip room.


Just as the 1994 Dodge Rams redefined pickup safety with the first driver-side air bags, Ram 2500 and 3500 lead the way for 2003 with the first heavy-duty pickup application of side curtain air bags. Dodge Ram Heavy Duty also offered the first power adjustable pedals (on both automatic and manual transmission equipped trucks), and pre-tensioning, constant-force seat belt retractors.

"The integrity and safety of the new Dodge Ram Heavy Duty trucks begins with their new frames," said Frank Klegon, Vice President, Truck Product Team. "These are the stiffest frames ever on a heavy-duty Ram and the extensive use of hydroforming has allowed us to design controlled crush zones into the frame rails and create much better levels of energy dissipation in a severe crash. This new frame also allows us to achieve handling and braking levels never seen before in a heavy-duty pickup." Interior of the 2003 Dodge Ram 2500

The 2003 Dodge Ram Heavy Duty used both conventional safety features, such as air bags, and combined them with accident avoidance features such as excellent steering, handling and braking. Standard anti-lock brakes, the largest brakes in its class and 17-inch wheels and tires - the largest standard wheels and tires on a heavy-duty pickup - all contributed to Dodge Ram's excellent safety capability.

"While advancements continue in the areas of air bags and energy-absorbing frames, accident avoidance systems are just as important for customer safety," said Michael Berube, Senior Manager, Safety Planning and Programs.

"With the new Dodge Rams, we have designed trucks that take handling and braking to new levels for heavy-duty trucks," added Berube. "They are equipped with standard ABS braking systems, the largest standard brakes and tires in the heavy-duty segment and steering systems to provide the driver feedback and handling ability needed to avoid crashes. The adjustable pedals are also an important feature, as they allow drivers of all statures to optimize their seating position."

Also standard on Dodge Ram Heavy Duty were next-generation driver and front-passenger air bags. The passenger side air bag could be turned off on regular cab Rams to accommodate child seats. An air bag status indicator notified occupants whether the right-side air bag had been deactivated.

2004 Dodge Ram Heavy Duty changes

For 2004, Dodge Ram Heavy Duty featured a new automatic transmission for the High Output Cummins Turbo Diesel, a new "Off-Road" package and a factory-built "box off" option for the commercial market.

The 2004 Dodge Ram Heavy Duty now offered a new 48RE automatic tranmission, expanding the capability of the Cummins High Output Turbo Diesel. Built to a durability test aimed directly at commercial customer use, the Ram Heavy Duty was tested in conditions ranging from -40°F to +50°F and running the equivalent of 150,000 miles at 95 percent of their on-the-job abuse level.

For 2004, the Dodge Laramie package added a new all-chrome grille surround and chrome billet grille center to the boldest grille in town. Chrome bodyside moldings and an updated interior, with silver trim adorning the door panels and the instrument panel bezels, furhter distinguish the Laramie from the SLT. The Laramie edition also featured a unique and more distinctive leather seat package, with higher contrast color seat inserts.

Also for 2004, UConnect(TM) hands-free cellular phone system with Bluetooth(TM) technology and a new integrated radio/navigation system were available. Sport models received body color side moldings and Ram added Deep Molten Red as a new exterior color for 2004 models.

For 2004, the high-pressure common-rail injection High Output Cummins Turbo diesel engine became more user friendly, adding the optional 48RE automatic transmission. Producing 305 horsepower (227 kW) at 2900 rpm and 555 lb.-ft. of torque (753 N.m) at 1400 rpm, the Cummins Turbo Diesel provided prodigious torque and a class-leading Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) of 23,000 lbs. A Standard Output Cummins Turbo Diesel is also available, delivering 250 horsepower (186 kW) at 2900 rpm and 460 lb.-ft. or torque (624 N.m) at 1400 rpm.

For 2004, the Magnum V-10 was dropped from the Ram lineup.

The 2004 Dodge Ram Heavy Duty offered a class-executive side curtain air bag system and power adjustable pedals (on both automatic and manual transmission-equipped trucks). Ram also provided standard ABS brakes, pre-tensioning and the first constant force seat belt retractors in a heavy-duty pickup truck. For 2004, Ram HEavy Duty added standard rear-seat head restraints on Quad Cab models.

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