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DESERT DAWG'S 2020 RAM REBEL 4X4 BUILD


Welcome to my build thread! I have been lurking on the forum for bit already and have started to make some modifications to my new 2020 Ram Rebel so thought I would start another build thread. To be honest, I am posting the same build thread on a couple of online forums so apologize to members who have already seen this as I know a lot of folks pop in and out of the various forums!

Of course, this thread will be a work in progress so feel free to join in if you want share ideas or suggestions. I will also try and share some of my off-road adventures and report on what worked (and what didn't).


By way of introduction, I have been active on the various car and truck forums since I invented the Internet (okay, maybe that wasn’t me but definitely one of the first users…lol). But I am true car enthusiast having purchased and owned over 70 cars and trucks ranging from old Broncos to modern day F-Types and loved everything in-between (even some of the junkers)! But over the years, I have become more of an off-road/expedition kind of guy more than a sports car fanatic as off-roading in the high desert and mountains of northern NM and southern CO has become one of my favorite pastimes.


Previously, I have built up many an old classic (CJ5/CJ7, full-sized Cherokee Chiefs, early Broncos, etc.) to quite a few modern trucks (Rams, Tundras, 4Runners, F150s/F250s, Tahoes, Chevys, etc.) so hopefully this one will meet my goal of being somewhat unique while enhancing the factory features and capabilities without breaking the bank (too much). Since I actually take my rigs off-road on "moderate" trailing adventures, my goal is not to build a highly lifted "bro" truck or mall crawler (no offense to others because I have certainly built those as well) but also not trying to build an extreme desert prerunner or rock crawler either. Hopefully, sharing this build thread will help give ideas for others that are like myself looking for tasteful modifications while retaining the vehicle's original purpose as a daily driver, family hauler, or work vehicle but also serve as a weekend toy!





I recently purchased my Rebel but ironically it was not my first choice; I was actually waffling between buying either a new 2020 Raptor or 2020 Power Wagon (yes, two different kinds of off-roading approaches but really liked both). After test driving the Power Wagon, I decided it would not quite fit all of my parameters as a daily driver/family hauler (almost too high/ too big with less comfortable ride but still an amazing machine) so I decided on the Raptor (the Ecoboost engine did not bother me as I have owned (2) other Ecoboost F150s with no issues and they were fun to drive at altitude)! But the more time I spent with the Raptor, the less enamored I became as the truck is a tad too wide for daily parking and mountain trailing (perfect for desert runs) but I eventually just got turned off by the hard plastic interior that came with a +$70K price tag (although the seats and overall performance were worth it). So I scrapped the Raptor and was going to buy another Tundra since my previous one was solid with never an issue and had a lot of fun building and beating it up on the trails. Luckily, before I went in to make a deal after several visits to the Toyota dealership, I took an extra day to visit the nearby Ram dealership and purchased my Rebel immediately after the initial test drive (great interior and the factory ride was amazing for an off-road biased vehicle)! I could have saved myself a lot of time had I considered the Rebel first...lol.


My new Ram Rebel (stock form):








2020 Ram Rebel 4x4 Factory Options

Granite Crystal Metallic Monotone Paint

5.7L Hemi MDS VVT with 8 Speed Auto

Black Leather Interior

Rebel 12 Package

Rebel Level 2 Equipment Group

Dual-Pane Panoramic Sunroof

Trailer Brake Controller

Blind-Spot and Cross-Path Detection System

Rear Wheelhouse Liners

Spray-in Bedliner


My modifications for this truck will be tuned more for daily driver/family use with some off-road capability but not as extreme as some of my other more off-road focused builds. Modifications currently planned include:


+2-inch suspension system (not a spacer system as do not want to limit wheel articulation); purchased/installed but changing out

35-inch tires (currently deciding between another set of Nitto Ridge Grapplers or trying out the General Grabber X3); pending

18x9 wheels (with more negative offset to push out tires towards outside edge of fenders); purchased

ARE Z-Series topper (for securing gear, bikes, etc. when traveling); purchased

Bedrug bed mat; pending

LED off-road lighting (both driving and spot beams); purchased and installed

Front window tint; installed

Aftermarket exhaust (probably Magnaflow)
 

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One of the first mods I did was to install some new LED off-road lights. For the Rebel, I really didn't want anything in the lower bumper area as I might consider a hidden winch system sometime down the road and so wanted to leave that area alone. I also wanted to have a slightly different look this time around rather than the typical LED light bars that I had used on prior builds and now seen on most trucks.


The Rebel front bumper is unique as there is a raised area (bulge) right under the front grille and I thought that would be an ideal spot for some round lights. So I chose to install a couple sets of the Rigid 360-Series LEDs; I measured the space between the bumper and bottom of the RAM logo and determined that the 4-inch round lights would look better fitted under the logo rather than having larger (+6-inch) lights blocking the logo.


I purchased 1-pair of the 360 Series Spot LEDs for long distance illumination and 1-pair of the 360 Series Driving LEDs for near distance illumination; I arranged the setup so that the driving lights are situated on both sides of the spot lights. The nice things about the 360 Series is you can replace the lens if needed and/or paint-to-match the lens surround for a custom look! I chose to leave mine black as it ties in nicely with my truck's paint color scheme.





The nerve-wracking part was precisely measuring and then drilling the (4) mounting holes in my brand new bumper. I located the center line of the bumper and measured the exact location of each drill hole spaced underneath the RAM logo while also taking into account the front bumper curve (I wanted the face of each light to follow the bumper lines). I then created a template on my computer so that I can play with the spacing of all the lights and determined that 2.25-inches of clearance between each of the 4-inch LED lights was the most aesthetically pleasing while still allowing access for adjustments.





The underside of the bumper is pretty clear and easy to get your hands/ratchets under there to mount the lights. Drilling through the steel bumper is easy as long as you use good drill bits and a variable speed drill for slow speed. However, there is a slight bend of the bumper sheet metal where it folds down under the grille so you have to make sure that you leave enough room for the mounting bolts and hardware. At same time, you don't want to have the lights extend too far out from the face of the front bumper. I measured 1-1/4 inch away from the back side of the bumper along the top of bumper as shown above and to ensure clearance within the bumper per below.


Edit: Forgot to mention that also coated the drilled holes with black touch-up paint to prevent rust.





After rechecking everything at least a dozen times...lol...I went for it and very pleased with how I got everything pretty much centered with the Ram logo at exactly 2.25-inches apart and exactly leveled.










For wiring, the Rigids come with their own wiring harnesses and 3-position LED switches (the 360-series have backlighting illumination like the Radiance series light bars). Unfortunately, they don't come with the Deutsch connectors so you have to add connectors if desired. For now, I simply used heat-shrink wire connectors and arranged the harnesses and zipped-tied everything to the body (hiding as much as possible) for a very clean install.

The switches were more problematic as they are 3-position (on-off-on) with six connectors and therefore quite a bit deeper than the standard 2-position (on-off) round switches with three connectors. I wanted to install one switch for each pair of lights so that I could have the backlighting as "running lights" and the off-road lighting only switched on when needed. I also wanted to install the two switches in the flat face of the center console right under the 12-inch screen (right next to the USB ports) but could not determine if there was enough clear space behind the console face that extends under the center stack of the dash (definitely did not want to drill out two 3/4-inch holes only to find out the switches don't fit).

So I removed all of the dash panels surrounding the steering wheel as it looked like there were a couple places up high within easy view and reach to place some switches. Unfortunately, despite the dash panel exterior appearances, there is no room behind the panels for deep switches as anything not taken up by the dash fame or control modules is taken up with additional plastic moldings on the panel themselves (and I didn't want to carve those up either). I did find enough space for (1) switch at the very bottom panel alongside the center console (see below); I did have to fab a small spacer since the switch connection tabs would not completely clear behind the panel but the pressure tabs keeps it secure for now. Since both pairs of lights have their own relays with no 12V power going to the switch, I wired both pairs of lights into the one switch but sacrificed having the backlighting until I can install two separate switches (once I figure out the center console).





But everything works and I love the finished result.

 

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So one of the other mods I went ahead with is my suspension. While the factory supplied Bilsteins provide an amazing street ride, I thought they were a tad too soft for an off-road biased truck although I do realize that 99.9% of Rebel owners will probably only see dirt roads, if that. But I have turned into a snob of sorts regarding my suspensions over the years and have replaced the factory "off-road" suspensions for my brand new Nissan PRO 4X (my previous truck before the Rebel), several Ford FX4s, Chevy Z71s, 4Runner Trail and Sport Editions, and so on. So definitely not picking on RAM in any way other than me just being me.

So like other things with this build, I am looking for excuses to try something new(er). Previously, I ran various systems from Icon, King, Fox, Toytec, Bilstein, Rancho, Pro Comp, BDS, Fabtech, and others so this time I decided to try the new Teraflex Falcon 2019+ RAM 1500/Rebel Sport Tow/Haul adjustable shock system which is advertised as providing up to 2.25-inches of front lift. Considering I wanted to keep a really decent street ride and still maintain a reasonable center of gravity for handling and off-canter wheeling, I thought it might be the perfect solution to provide enough clearance for 34-35 inch tall tires that in turn would net me a tad more lift for better off-road performance.

Teraflex has had a pretty decent name in the Jeep crowd (at least several years back) and researching the new Falcon shocks for full-sized trucks seemed to indicate a very well thought out, high quality system. The front shocks provide multiple (3) ride heights to level the front end and/or compensate for the additional weight of a winch or other accessories (which would support my hidden winch plan nicely). The rear piggyback shocks are adjustable to provide increased rear stiffness and the external reservoirs serve to increase oil and gas capacity for better heat dissipation and decreased shock degradation especially when hauling heavier loads. Teraflex also promises overall improvement of on- and off-road handling, stability, and control. The 2.25" shock bodies are made of 6061-T6 aluminum, 3/4” induction hardened chrome plated shafts, hard anodized billet pistons, and 1-piece Teflon bronze piston wear bands. Each system is tailored specifically for each vehicle to provide "race-inspired performance for increased vehicle stability" and "improved dynamic roll control and low-speed damping".


All sounds and looks great!

There are several folks on the forum that also have installed the Falcon system on their new Rams and seem quite happy. Also, there are some slick videos like the ones from Kid Richmond put out on YouTube (including TFL with their "Rebel Rouser"...lol) that also testified to their performance so I decided to try it out!




However, before I purchased the Falcon system, I had my shop (Desert Rat Off-road Center) contact Teraflex to make sure that the 2020 Rebel would net out about 2-inches of actual lift above the factory ride height (since the Rebel already has about a 1-inch lift from the factory). The response was in the affirmative so I purchased the system and had Desert Rat complete the installation and alignment:


As some forum folks might already know (I had posted my experience with the Falcon system in a couple of other threads), I wasn't happy with the system initially as the ride was way too stiff and I thought I had seriously ruined my truck (the factory Ram-Bilstein system really does set a very high bar in terms of ride quality). It seemed like the Falcon valving was just way too digressive as I felt every minor road imperfection (speed bumps rattled my bones). But after a couple of days of driving, the shocks really settled in as the valve stack figured itself out and the ride is now really quite smooth (not quite as cushy as the factory but very good nonetheless). What did improve significantly was the handling and control along with immediate rebound performance; turn in feel is great and now I don't float over the speed bumps, I can attack them at any speed without drama.

Ram Rebel with Teraflex-Falcon Adjustable Sport Shock system with just over 1-inch of front lift and factory spec'd 33-inch Duratrac tires on stock 18x8 Rebel wheels (apologies for crappy cell phone pics but didn't have my camera when I decided to shoot these):




Falcon did a great job dialing these things in!

So much for the good news and onto to the not so good. Of course I measured my truck both pre- and post-lift; unfortunately, my truck only netted out 1-1/8" of front lift on top of the factory ride height. It seems that the system was designed with 2019 Ram test trucks but FCA made some additional tweaks to the 2020 model year that Falcon (and others I am finding out) were not quite privy too. In addition to variances in actual truck fitments coming off the production line, mine was not going to net out anything near the 2-inches of additional lift that Teraflex had advertised (and despite my attempt of vetting out before the purchase). Some folks here with 2019 Rebels have gotten close, and others here with 2020 Rebels have gotten at least 1.5-inches but none have reported (actual measurements anyway) of achieving a fully leveled stance using the "Level" shock setting. However, non-Rebel 1500s seem to fair better for close to 2-inches of front lift. And all seem to be pretty happy with their Falcon systems even if they didn't quite get the advertised lift height.

Back to the good news; Teraflex is a stand up company and admitted that their advertising might be misleading (and fact they didn't actually have a 2020 model test fitted) so they are going to reimburse me for the cost of the Falcon system once I select a replacement system (more on that later). Desert Rat is also a very stand up company (and fact that I have been doing business there for past 30-years helps as well) and will not charge me to install my next suspension. In the end, a lot of folks only want/need a small front lift but really want improved handling and control, as well as keeping a very comfortable ride, so in that vein I strongly recommend Falcon for your consideration especially if you haul and/or tow.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
In the meantime, I went ahead and ordered a 3-inch Dirt Logic lift system from Fabtech that comes with front Dirt Logic 2.5 coilovers, new heavy duty upper control arms, and rear Dirt Logic extended length shocks.




The Fabtech-Dirt Logic system will cost almost twice what I paid for the Teraflex-Falcon system but also will be getting a more robust off-road system with very good on-road ride quality as well (hopefully near the Falcon level of quality). The Dirt Logic shocks are now constructed with a stainless steel body and patented piston rod for improved durability and corrosion resistance (which has been an issue on older systems in the past).



Proof is in the pudding so will be very curious on how the system actually performs (and if I net out the full 3-inches of lift). The system is on back order due to the COVID-19 situation but hopefully will have it in about another month. So more to come...
 

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Wheel Selection

So while I am waiting for the suspension to come in, I have been thinking a lot about the best wheel and tire combo that I want to run. I am going to post my thoughts on tire selection later as I am still evaluating that, but thought I would walk through my wheel selection process first.

I decided to keep my wheel diameter to 18-inches in order to provide enough sidewall for airing down when needed. In full disclosure, I have built rigs with 20-inch wheels and 35+ inch tall tires and have taken them off-road without any real drama, but having a slightly smaller wheel is a better decision as I have become more experienced and emboldened to take on tougher trails. I also don’t want a wheel that is too wide and stretches the tires out too much; to that end, I limited my wheel choices to no more than 9.5-inches of width.

I also decided not to retain the factory 18x8 wheels as they would be on the lower limit of acceptable mounting widths for 34-35 inch tires. I calculated that I could increase the wheel offset from stock at +19MM to a more aggressive offset between +10MM to -12MM for the wheels to fit (-12MM offset was my own limit for extending the tires too far out from the fender and allowing the tires to throw road/trail debris along the side of the truck and potentially damage the paint). A -6MM wheel would be the limit if I wanted to ensure that most of the 35-inch tire carcass would not exceed ¾ -inch past the fenders. Since my selected suspension limits wheels with 5.0-inches of backspacing, my ideal setup would be a 34.5-34.8 inch tall tire at 11.5-12 inches maximum width on an 18x8.5/9.0 wheel with +0MM offset in order to keep my wider tires within a ½-inch of the fender coverage.

Selecting a wheel I liked was more of a chore than I hoped. First, I didn’t want to default to the same typical black wheels that you find on every Dodge/Ram, Ford, Chevy, Nissan, and Toyota driving around the neighborhood and/or wheels with more exposed metal than my kid’s braces (which I have used in the past…wheels, not my kid’s braces). Secondly, I did not want high gloss wheels and/or extensive milling as that gives a vehicle more of a street/show look; I wanted more of the off-road vibe to match the Rebel's but also not something too aggressive that actually fits/looks better with a highly lifted rig. So my preference was a wheel with black and grey/titanium/anthracite finishing that might tie in better with the Granite Metallic and matte black color scheme of my Rebel.

Finding something that would be functional and meet my needs was getting limited. In the past, I have gone with Fuel, TIS, Moto Metal, American Eagle, American Racing, KMC-XD Series, Diablo, Ultra, OEM, and others but I also considered various designs and sizes offered by Grid, Dirty Life, Black Rhino, LRG, 2 Crave, Centerline, Gear, Raceline, and probably a dozen more manufacturers of off-road wheels. Filtering down to my preferred range of wheel size and offsets, and finally wheel finishing/color scheme, I was able to shortlist my selections down to the following (3) wheels:



And the winner is...
 

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Black Rhino Duggers [18x8.5 +0MM offset] -

I just thought the Duggers were the most off-road focused wheel of the group both in design and functionality with its recessed profile and removable rock ring. Plus, you don't see too many of these around.


Once the wheels arrive, I may take the rock rings and have them painted Granite Metallic to tie in with the truck a little more.

 

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Black Rhino Duggers [18x8.5 +0MM offset] -

I just thought the Duggers were the most off-road focused wheel of the group both in design and functionality with its recessed profile and removable rock ring. Plus, you don't see too many of these around.


Once the wheels arrive, I may take the rock rings and have them painted Granite Metallic to tie in with the truck a little more.

I like those wheels. As a fellow granite metallic Rebel owner I’d have to agree that painting or power set coating the rings granite metallic would be an awesome touch.
 

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My wheels got here sooner than expected! I was stressing a little about the wheel coloring not quite working with the Ram's Granite Metallic paint and matte black trim on the grille, etc. but I was pleasantly surprised on how well the wheels match both. I just mocked up the rock ring so all of the black mounting bolts are not installed:







The replacement rock ring is an exact match with the Rebel's matte black grille surround, fender flares, and other trim while the painted metallic gun black wheel is darker than the website photos and turns out to be almost dead-on too with the rest of the truck. Yah!

Now I need to concentrate on getting the right tires.
 

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I like those wheels. As a fellow granite metallic Rebel owner I’d have to agree that painting or power set coating the rings granite metallic would be an awesome touch.
Per my post above, I may wait until I get everything mounted as I the wheels really do match up very well. Or if I do decide to paint the rock rings, maybe I will pick a color other than Granite Metallic (Army green?) for some pop.
 

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So as you know, I have been looking at various tire options that I feel would really compliment my truck build both in terms of form and function. I really prefer a more purposeful and slightly more aggressive looking theme of the truck especially since this a Rebel that I will use off-road, but doing so is always at the expense of your wallet, mileage performance (for longer road trips), handling dynamics, safety (especially in terms of control and braking), tire life, and road comfort/noise. Tires, besides any suspension changes, are one of the more costly mods you can make on a truck especially when getting into the 34-35+ inch diameter range; I have made mistakes before when I rushed my decision based on some pricing deal that seemed to be too good to pass up or because I ran with someone else's recommendation without thinking it through only to be unhappy with the results.

So my focus has been on more aggressive looking ATs, Hybrids, and MTs that might meet most of my criteria for performing well day to day, provide decent highway comfort, and ensuring decent performance while off-roading so that I can have fun on rocky mountain trails or deep sand dunes. Keep in mind that I am not building a mall crawler or extreme off-roading machine so the tires need to reflect that as well (not all good looks but not purely functional either). Also, my mantra for this build is "try something new" so my shortlist attempts to include tire makes that I have not used or considered previously. But as mentioned before, I have used a large number of tire manufacturers and tire types in the past that worked really well so my initial considerations and resulting shortlist may still include those and/or I may have revisited some of the same tires again if the tire technology/designs had been updated for that specific tire.

So here is my shortlist of tires; please keep in mind that is "my" initial shortlist and definitely may not be yours as some of the decision making process is very subjective. For instance, some very good/excellent tires didn't make it because maybe I just didn't think they would look as good as the others; what may not appeal to me aesthetically may be "da bomb" for someone else! Also, comfort and noise can be very subjective too as what might be too loud or rough riding for me might be very tolerable or even preferred by someone else. And finally, I fall into that minority category of folks that actually beat their trucks up some for fun but maybe not as much as the hardcore rock or expedition wheelers.

I tried to include some of my thoughts on each as well as some basic stats; you may agree or disagree which is great because not every size, truck, or personal use is the same. This is only my shortlist and I haven't pulled the trigger on any tire yet (although in my mind I might be getting down to a top 3). I also included a brief listing of other tires that almost made the shortlist but fell short for some odd reason. Not all tires I reviewed or considered are listed either as there are just too many and/or some where were very similar to another. But if someone has something I missed or maybe has a different experience or perspective, please share!



 

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Yes!!! Those do look good!!!
@rynob79; thanks; can't wait to have them mounted with whatever tire I finally select. And thanks for the posts too as I was beginning to wonder if it was worth updating this build thread since it has been a lonely dialogue up to now...lol.
 

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@rynob79; thanks; can't wait to have them mounted with whatever tire I finally select. And thanks for the posts too as I was beginning to wonder if it was worth updating this build thread since it has been a lonely dialogue up to now...lol.
Haha. I definitely appreciate the posts. I love reading build threads and seeing what other people are doing and why. It can be very educational. Keep it up. I bet plenty are reading and watching.
 

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So as you know, I have been looking at various tire options that I feel would really compliment my truck build both in terms of form and function. I really prefer a more purposeful and slightly more aggressive looking theme of the truck especially since this a Rebel that I will use off-road, but doing so is always at the expense of your wallet, mileage performance (for longer road trips), handling dynamics, safety (especially in terms of control and braking), tire life, and road comfort/noise. Tires, besides any suspension changes, are one of the more costly mods you can make on a truck especially when getting into the 34-35+ inch diameter range; I have made mistakes before when I rushed my decision based on some pricing deal that seemed to be too good to pass up or because I ran with someone else's recommendation without thinking it through only to be unhappy with the results.

So my focus has been on more aggressive looking ATs, Hybrids, and MTs that might meet most of my criteria for performing well day to day, provide decent highway comfort, and ensuring decent performance while off-roading so that I can have fun on rocky mountain trails or deep sand dunes. Keep in mind that I am not building a mall crawler or extreme off-roading machine so the tires need to reflect that as well (not all good looks but not purely functional either). Also, my mantra for this build is "try something new" so my shortlist attempts to include tire makes that I have not used or considered previously. But as mentioned before, I have used a large number of tire manufacturers and tire types in the past that worked really well so my initial considerations and resulting shortlist may still include those and/or I may have revisited some of the same tires again if the tire technology/designs had been updated for that specific tire.

So here is my shortlist of tires; please keep in mind that is "my" initial shortlist and definitely may not be yours as some of the decision making process is very subjective. For instance, some very good/excellent tires didn't make it because maybe I just didn't think they would look as good as the others; what may not appeal to me aesthetically may be "da bomb" for someone else! Also, comfort and noise can be very subjective too as what might be too loud or rough riding for me might be very tolerable or even preferred by someone else. And finally, I fall into that minority category of folks that actually beat their trucks up some for fun but maybe not as much as the hardcore rock or expedition wheelers.

I tried to include some of my thoughts on each as well as some basic stats; you may agree or disagree which is great because not every size, truck, or personal use is the same. This is only my shortlist and I haven't pulled the trigger on any tire yet (although in my mind I might be getting down to a top 3). I also included a brief listing of other tires that almost made the shortlist but fell short for some odd reason. Not all tires I reviewed or considered are listed either as there are just too many and/or some where were very similar to another. But if someone has something I missed or maybe has a different experience or perspective, please share!



Just my $0.02, I love the Ridge Grapplers. Ran them on my Jeep. Heard great things about the Coopers but never ran them. I’ve always had great luck with BFG. I ran the Generals on my sons 2005 1500 Ram and they were noisy and didn’t wear well at all.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Just my $0.02, I love the Ridge Grapplers. Ran them on my Jeep. Heard great things about the Coopers but never ran them. I’ve always had great luck with BFG. I ran the Generals on my sons 2005 1500 Ram and they were noisy and didn’t wear well at all.
So do I actually as the Nitto Ridge Grappler is definitely in my top 3!
 

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Tire Selection

As my shortlist suggests, there is quite a selection available of high quality, great performing tires to choose from. Setting costs aside, I was able to narrow down my shortlist to a Top 3 based my main criteria for good looks, very good grip in most on- and off-road conditions, and on-road noise/comfort. Secondary to those were the preferences for being made in America, balanced proportions once mounted, and tire weight. As it turns out, all of tires shortlisted were made in America but only one by an American-owned company.

First, the tires that I did not carry forward included:

The Goodyear Wrangler Duratrac got dropped despite the fact that I love the available sizing options with the proportions that I prefer and the lighter weight was a real plus over all of the others on my shortlist. In the end, I just did not want to worry about the thinner sidewall when trailing and the fact that these tires do get loud with wear.

The Toyo Open Country R/T also got dropped as I really didn’t like the overall look as much as the others and performance in wet conditions was a concern. Other than that, they seem to be a great option given they are lighter than most of the others and seem to provide really good ride comfort and are quiet even with wear.

The General Grabber X3 was a strong contender for me because I just really wanted to try out this tire. Performance wise, the tire is probably one of the strongest performers in my shortlist but the on-road noise/comfort reviews were mixed (quite a bit) which gave me some pause and it was also the heaviest tire on my list. Finally, hard packed snow is its Achilles heel which threw it down some more since I encounter plenty of that on mountain roads/trails (5000-12,000 ft.) during the winter through early spring. Still, it was close!

Therefore, my remaining Top 3 were (in no particular order):

1. Cooper SST PRO

2. Nitto Ridge Grappler

3. Yokohama Geolander MT G003

The Cooper SST PRO was definitely high on my list as it is the only tire shortlisted that is made in America and owned by an American company. I also have past experience with them and can attest to their excellent grip in dry and wet conditions both on- and off-road with plenty of reviews that reinforce that. And, they are great looking as well (one of my favorites). But in the end, they were just over my preferred limit on weight (69 lbs.) and my first-hand knowledge of how loud they eventually became ruled them out (and that they didn’t meet my build mantra to try something new). However, I have to say that I really kept looking for reviews that maybe contradicted my previous experience with the tire; if I could find enough reviews about how much quieter they are from what I remember, I would tolerate another couple of pounds to run them again.

The Nitto Ridge Grappler just kept coming up as the perfect tire to select (again) as it pretty much does almost everything really well, looks good, and I have had prior experience using them on long road trips as well as on some desert and mountain off-road adventures for a couple of different builds; the ride quality and low noise on long trips, even with wear, is excellent despite the more aggressive looks. But eventually it got dropped as it did not meet my desire to “try something new” and was the smallest tire on the list (although not by much) without selecting an even heavier size. Still, using my build mantra and slightly smaller sizing (to maintain the weight) seem like weak excuses given it is that good of a tire!

So that leaves the Yokohama Geolander MT G003 as my final selection!

This tire meets all of my criteria. The tire’s styling presents aggressive good looks (although just a tad busy compared to some of the others IMHO but still very good looking) and has exceptional grip in both dry and wet conditions for on- and off-road driving. Interesting enough, it purportedly has the best stopping distance under wet conditions (for improved safety performance). The tire carcass has the strength and sidewall protection needed for overcoming tougher trail challenges such as sharp rocks and fallen trees while still handling loose sand, packed/loose snow, and mud yet reviewers mark it as one of the “quieter” MTs out there on pavement. Despite its robust construction, the tire is also one the lighter tires on my shortlist as well. Finally, it meets my build mantra to “try something new”!

And even though price was not a factor, it turns out to be a bonus as these tires are also the lowest priced. So in the end, the Yokohama Geolander MT G003 seems to be the best value overall in terms of style, features, performance, and price!

Since I have had no previous experience with these or any other Yokohama tire, I really had to base my decision on reviews by others. Fortunately, these tires were tested and reviewed by a number of reputable reviewers such as:

OffRoad Extreme: https://www.offroadxtreme.com/engine-tech/wheels-tires/yokohama-geolandar-mt-g003-tire-review/

IH8MUD.com: REVIEW: YOKOHAMA GEOLANDAR M/T G003 | IH8MUD.com

Motor Trend: Yokohama Geolandar M/T G003 Off-Road Tire Review - MotorTrend

Expedition Portal: Field Tested: Yokohama Geolander M/T G003 - Expedition Portal




Per above, there were one or two reviews where they stated that the Yokohama MTs are loud but qualified the statement since “they are a MT tire”; I took this as being somewhat subjective as the tires would be loud compared to a street or AT/hybrid tire but relatively speaking would be quieter than other MTs as also stated in most of the reviews.

There are quite a few other reviews as well if you’re so inclined to search for them. In short, all were consistent with their general evaluations that the Yokohama Geolander MT G003 provides very good to excellent performance in terms of:

  • Good looks
  • Good mix of on-road and off-road driving dynamics
  • Well-built carcass; 3-poly body plies, 2-steel belts, full nylon cap, rim protector, hexagonal bead
  • New triple-polymer tread compound for 8% longer tread life over competitors
  • Aggressive sidewall armor
  • Improved block-to-void ratio
  • Variable pitch tread for reduced road noise
  • Siping depth @ 80% of the tire tread thickness
  • Excellent grip in wet conditions (on-road and wet rock); includes claim of providing 51-feet shorter stopping distance in wet conditions compared to other MTs (did not find the report)
  • Very good performance in silt, soft sand, and hard packed dirt
  • Great performance as well for rock crawling


So I decided the Yokohama Geolander MT G003 is worth a try and will be reporting back on their performance as I take them out under varying conditions.

Now I need to order them and have the tires mounted on the Black Rhino Dugger wheels!
 

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2020 Ram Rebel 4X4
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Discussion Starter #18
So made some progress today as Desert Rat called to let me know that Fabtech should be shipping my Dirt Logic suspension system within the next 7-10 days...whoopee! :D

Was going to order the tires today as well but their pricing was $50/tire higher than Discount Tire. So I called my buddy who manages one of the local stores and he is setting up a deal including buying my Rebel wheels and tires. Hopefully have the tires here within the week and will have them mounted up on the Black Rhino wheels. Can't wait to see how they look!
 

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So made some progress today as Desert Rat called to let me know that Fabtech should be shipping my Dirt Logic suspension system within the next 7-10 days...whoopee! :D

Was going to order the tires today as well but their pricing was $50/tire higher than Discount Tire. So I called my buddy who manages one of the local stores and he is setting up a deal including buying my Rebel wheels and tires. Hopefully have the tires here within the week and will have them mounted up on the Black Rhino wheels. Can't wait to see how they look!
I can’t wait to see how it looks too! I’m excited for you.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
Bed Topper Selection

On previous builds, I have tried out various bed topper options to help hide/secure items around town or during road trips as well as provide an additional measure of protection against the elements. When four wheeling, they are also useful for ensuring that gear and other items stay within the vehicle and not fly out of the vehicle when hitting bumps, dropping into ruts, or bouncing off rocks.

To date, I have used:

Soft Tonneau Covers:

Easily the least expensive option that I used. My only suggestion is to purchase a high quality cover as they typically fit tighter (so less wind deflections) and stay secured. In the past, I used the Truxedo Lo-Pro QT tonneau cover and in general it performed very well and stayed fairly taut at highway speeds (still, had some wind lift) with the self-adjusting spring tensioner and Velcro side rail cover seals.


Pros: Least expensive option, light, easy installation, provides full access to bed, easy to roll up/remove

Cons: Cannot support much weight (more with optional aluminum slat models), does not secure bed (better with the optional aluminum slat models), may lift/flap once worn with age/use (full vinyl models), cannot be used with bed carriers/rack systems, can leak

Hard Tri-Fold Covers

Tri-fold covers are very popular as they provide an additional measure of security, can be loaded with more weight, are relatively cost effective, and maintain a low, clean profile when closed or partially open but still allow full access and use of the truck bed. I had used the BakFlip cover and for the most part it worked really well. I did not like the fact that the panels totally blocks your rear view vision when fully opened. While I did appreciate having something between a full load and the rear glass window (like when hauling motorcycles), it bothered me that I couldn’t see how secure the load was keeping while on the open road.


Pros: Least expensive “hard cover” option, provides easy and full access/use of the truck bed, easy to fold up/remove, supports more weight if needed, can be secured, low profile (when closed)

Cons: Blocks rear window view if fully open, more expensive than soft tonneau covers, security is moderate at best, does not easily work with bed carriers/rack systems, can leak

Retractable Aluminum Covers:

I have used a number of these on past builds ranging from the basic Pace Edwards Jack Rabbit to the Retrax PRO MX to the top of the line Truck Covers USA American Roll Cover. In general, these are excellent options if you want/need more security, provide more load strength, and would like something that works in tandem with bike/ski carriers or cargo baskets over the truck bed while providing easy access to the bed at the same time. The downside is that they take up some front-end bed room to fit the canister and they are a lot more expensive than the previously mentioned options. Avoid the cheaper “plastic” models and pay the extra for the double wall aluminum models for peace of mind, longer term durability, and ease of operation.


Pros: Strong and easy to use, lockable at various positions along bed length, provides easy and full access/use of the truck bed, supports more weight if needed, provides better keyed/locking mechanism for improved security, low profile and does not block rearward view when fully open, works well with over the bed rack/cargo carrier systems (if optioned with Yakima/Thule side rails)

Cons: Expensive, semi-permanent once installed, eats up 10-12 inches of front bed space (although still have space underneath the canister for hauling wood, etc.), requires some maintenance, can leak some, requires drain tubes

Camper Shells/Toppers:

Of all of the options I tried out, this is my preferred bed cover for a variety reasons because form and function really can work well together. First, I really prefer the “expedition” look on my off-roaders. I know some folks can stand the look, but I think the right topper design can really compliment a vehicle’s look. Secondly, I love the security and function a topper can provide; it allows the truck to serve as an overnight camper in a pinch or even as a bug out vehicle (if you are planning for such), can secure weekend purchases from Lowes/Home Depot, etc. when running about town, can haul loads to disposal sites without the need to tarp it, provides immense additional secured storage during road trips for adventure gear, bikes, luggage, and the sort, and finally gives the vehicle more road presence in general as well.

In the past, toppers usually required investing in a more basic models for purely functional or financial reasons or having to move up to more expensive toppers if you wanted more style. Fortunately over the years there are many more offerings in the market that can appeal to a lot of needs and wallets; even the basic models look pretty darn good with various truck manufacturers’ design lines.

Pros: Fully encloses the bed (so weatherproof), provides best security, higher end models have stylish designs and features, can option with roof rails for cargo trays, bike carriers, etc., can be used for multiple purposes such as hauling/securing valuables or serve as a camper, be can optioned with a variety of side access panels or windows, LED lighting, and myriad of other useful features.

Cons: Can be very expensive especially as you add more options, semi-permanent once installed, limits rear view some, limits height of cargo you can load into bed.

For myself, I have only used toppers from Leer, ARE, and Snugtop. In short, all are really, really good.

Leer is a very good option for providing up to date features and design. It was tends to be a slightly less expensive alternative to ARE and Snugtop. I used the Leer XQ 100 on my 2004 Dodge 2500HD 4x4 Cummins. At the time, I thought the Leer was just as good as the first Gen ARE Z-Series and I really liked the way the first GEN XQ 100 side glass abutted up to the cab. Paint match was very good however it did not sit as nicely (at corners) as I had hoped on my truck and had some minor hardware issues with the rear lift. But all in all, a very nice looking topper at the time.

Sorry for the quality (old photo):


Later, I decided to the give the ARE Z-Series topper a try as I thought the lines married up nicely with the F150 I had at the time. The ARE was more expensive that an equivalently optioned Leer. The fitment, paint quality, and hardware was excellent and never had any issues.



After that, I decided to try the Snugtop XTR as I really like the (new at the time) design with the integrated roof bars and single center locking handle. I would use this model topper on my next (3) F150 builds as I thought it went very nicely with trucks’ lines. Interestingly enough, I thought the paint match was just slightly off for the basic white and grey colors but was excellent for the more difficult match of the pearl metallic red. Here’s a couple shots:


For my Tundra build, I went back to Leer, Snugtop, and ARE for another look at their latest offerings. The ARE Z-Series came out ahead with its much better hardware plus the fact I thought it provided the best match with the Tundra’s lines:




The ARE provided excellent paint match and quality as well as overall tight fit and excellent finish throughout.

Cabover Campers:

I have never tried using an in-bed camper but was toying with the idea of having one as my wife and I are looking forward to doing some expedition camping with some friends. But I decided that instead I will probably go with an small expedition camper trailer with my truck topper serving to secure all of the other camping gear as needed.

Missing from my list are the Hard Tonneau covers since I never saw much value in them (awkward to use if you have any loads taller than the side walls of the truck bed). However, lots of folks like them from a styling perspective or the fact that they can fully secure their truck bed and/or rarely have the need to remove them for very large loads.
 
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