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Carli Backcountry — Driveway Install — '21 RAM 3500

5106 Views 35 Replies 9 Participants Last post by  bobbysky509
Truck is a 2021 RAM 3500 without the air system. I ordered the base Backcountry kit along with their torsion sway bar and full progressive leaf springs.

To head off a couple questions I get asked:
"Why didn't you just get a 2500?"
I didn't want rear coils.

"Why are you going to "waste" a 3500 by putting such low capacity rear leaf springs on?"
I don't tow heavy nor load my bed heavy. If I do end up some day needing that extra capacity, I can always add airbags later.

Previous install experience has been a Thuren system on my old '07 RAM 2500, and a Carli Backcountry system on my wife's Wrangler. This install looks a bit more involved, but, hopefully nothing too drastic. No welding is required thankfully.

I wish I had a huge garage and a lift installed. Or even a normal sized garage that would fit the truck inside. My garage is 20' deep, so I'm stuck outside. :cautious:

I'll be posting a lot of pictures and explaining some things along the way that may hopefully help others out in the future when they do their systems.

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Sway bar drop is because I was going to run the factory sway bar while waiting for production to finish on the Carli sway bar.
The Carli bar came in before I got around to installing the system, so now I'll have to sell that or something.
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I have almost 30K miles on the truck now. First time up in the air.
(Yeah, I didn't rotate the factory tires, just going to get rid of the wheels/tires anyways once I get these new ones on.)
I used the jack under the radius arm/axle connection area of each side to lift the truck.
The diff looked a bit too far off-center to try using that.
Rear wheels chocked.
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First part to install is the Radius Arm Drop Brackets (RADB from here on).
This is the most intimidating part to me as it requires drilling the frame. One drilled hole per bracket.
I've never done brackets on previous installs. (Fear not, Carli makes it super simple, to be detailed later.)
Hell of a packing job with them as well.
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The bolts are conveniently divided up into four sections for the different uses.
Not labeled, but, easy enough to figure out which section is what using a tape measure and the contents inventory.
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Discussion Starter · #21 ·
It's been so busy lately with working on the truck, working, and getting ready for Christmas — it's been hard to find the time to make the posts!

Putting the steering stabilizer bracket in is pretty simple. I wasn't able to slide the factory stabilizer into the bracket while on the truck.
Pulled out the stabilizer (easy) to see why it wasn't fitting. The sleeve in the stabilizer is a little bit larger than the opening in the bracket.
Few minutes with a file on both sides of the stabilizer sleeve and it fit.
I did ask Carli about this and they basically said that the bracket is designed for the tolerances of their stabilizer setup.
So, just an FYI, be prepared to have to file a little bit off your stabilizer.
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Next is the track bar. Beast of a unit.
If they offered these already set up to the correct length of 39-1/8" for a nominal fee, I'd probably pay it just to not have to worry setting it up correctly.
It's not impossible or anything, it's just one of things that gets in your head like "I HAVE to get this right, and there's Red LocTite in there, so I can't mess it up!"
But, it's doable, and you do have a bit of time. A pair of 24" adjustable wrenches (Crescent Wrenches) from Harbor freight work wonders.
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Just showing how stout it is.
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The silver "ring" in the center of the hole is the untouched inner wall of the tube. It's thicc.
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Set it up in the bench vice, swiveled so you can use the bench top.
I just stood up on top of my bench with the wrenches once I had the length dialed in and the LocTite applied.
One 24" wrench holding the joint, one wrench turning the nut.
Note: I did NOT have the misalignment spacers in the heim joint when actually tightening it.
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As mentioned above, a cargo straps is one of the options to pull your axle in the direction needed to line up that frame hole.
Axle side bolt first, then frame side.
If the axle is on jack stands, I would suggest lifting it up with a jack under it so that it's able to move freely side-to-side while you do this.
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· Clayton @ DDP Motorsports
2022 Ram 2500 Power Wagon
4,579 Posts
I'm about to make this into a PDF and post it on our site haha. seriously awesome write up and not only us but everyone can't thank you enough for taking the time to do this. Not only are you using your precious time to install it slowly but you are taking EXTRA time to take pictures, document and write it up. That is extremely difficult and time consuming!


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Discussion Starter · #23 ·
Thanks man! I wish I could post faster. Been a super busy week with the truck, getting ready for vacation, and getting into an accident with my GTI last week and dealing with that. This truck is now my only form of transportation right now, so I've had to have anything I was doing wrapped up to drive it the next day. Whew.

I appreciate the kind words!
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i never noticed until now…the factory coils have the last “tight wraps” of the coil on the axle side and the “spread out” coil wrap up top, but on Carli coils, the last couple “tight wraps” go on the frame and the spread out coil wrap sits on the axle side…opposite for some reason 🤔

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Discussion Starter · #25 · (Edited)
Well that time flew by. Sorry to leave it hanging! Hope everyone had a great Christmas.
RIP Betty White.
Godspeed Ghislane Maxwell, I hope your truths come out before your impending suicide or heart attack!
OK, back to the truck.

For some odd reason, the leaf springs were shipped via UPS and not on a pallet, just bare/loose (Purchased through, but not shipped from CJC).
They look like they were beat to **** pretty good on their journey across the country.
I contacted CJC with the pictures, and they had Deaver send me out a box of new spacer pads to replace them.

So this brings me to a point I should make about tackling the install yourself vs. taking it to a shop.
Things may not go perfect. You'll need to be able to handle the little unexpected things here and there.
Cross-shipping another set of leaf springs is not feasible haha. Honestly this was another thing I was pretty intimidated about, having never done it before.
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New pads from Deaver.
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I thought I was going to be all slick, using this transmission tailshaft dolly I'd built to roll around my LT1 assembly from my Firebird from...many...years ago.
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In hindsight, maybe that was a little bit sketchy, but hey it worked. 2004.
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Well that was a terrible idea from the beginning. Needed to be able to hold the center pin to keep it from spinning in order to get the nut off, so I had to lay it on its side.
Impact wrench probably would have handled that though.
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Pads replaced, started stacking the leafs back on top of each other in the fancy cradle.
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Intentions don't always equal execution.
Intention: I'll just put a cargo strap around it, cinch the leaf pack together, and then run the pin up through the bottom!
Execution: Spring pack topples over, falls apart, one end lands on my magnetic screw tray, and sends all the nuts, bolts, and crush sleeves flying all over the driveway and garage.
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The leaf spring centering pin does not offer a lot of room to play with. It also gets beat to **** a bit, so a thread chaser is really helpful.
Advisable to clean up the nut and pin threads before putting it back in.
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Stepped away for a few minutes to rethink my life choices. Remembered I had these clamps hanging on the garage door.
They were perfect. You can clamp each side down a little at a time, and keep the hole aligned as you go.
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2021 Ram 3500 CC/LB 4X4 6.7 HO
606 Posts
Sucks that the springs got beat during shipment, that shouldn't have happened. Shame on the shipper for not packing them better. Nothing like adding a little unnecessary frustration to the mix but at least it appears you're back on track.
I had a similar occurrence installing a Thuren rear leaf add a pack back in 2006 on a 3500 Mega Cab and the center bolt didn't line up right. Seems like things don't always go smoothly and **** happens which is par for the course.
Still better doing it yourself and knowing it's correct even though it can be a PITA!!
Nice work, it's gonna be awesome when all said and done
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Discussion Starter · #27 ·
Second spring I started with the clamps already on. Removed the center pin nut, and backed off the clamps a little bit on each side at a time until the pack was loose.
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Disassembled a layer at a time and laid them out in order. Popped out the old pads, put in the new ones.
Cleaned up the threads, had this second leaf pack done in about 10-15 minutes.
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Next challenge was "Man, where the heck do I put these jack stands to get the truck high enough in the back?
As the truck transitions from cab to bed, the frame gets a lot higher. I found that right in front of the front spring hangers was the best spot.
The metal is doubled-up, and they are still far enough back that it's not a see-saw.
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At this point I went around and took pictures of all the bolts I'd be removing, to make sure they went back in the same way.

You get this in backwards, you're pulling the spring back out of the truck to flip the bolt around.
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The driver's side top shock mount nut is a pretty tight reach with the spare tire in the way.
I saw no reason to keep that tire up there any longer, since I'll have 37s on there.
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Tools to lower the spare are under the passenger's seat. Tons of room with that gone.
Vent hose can get tight, easy to pop that off the axle housing. Just don't forget to push it back on.
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Honestly the worst part about this whole ordeal was removing the parking brake cable off the driver's side.
The reason I struggled was I didn't want to mess with the parking brake adjuster. I wasted an hour but finally got it off.
Putting it back on, I wasted another hour, busted knuckles, curse words, and selling myself to the Devil, but still couldn't get it.

Just do yourself a favor, grab the 1/2" wrench, and loosen this this thing way out to get that cable disconnected.
I first marked the backside with white paint so I knew where to tighten it back to.
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I've had this tool for many years, it's helpful in pushing on a spring to open things up a bit.
Loosen the adjuster far enough, might be able to muscle it. Nice to have though.
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First you've got to push all the prongs in and work the clip out of the bracket.
Then you have to push the spring towards the rear (left in photo) in order to expose the bare parking brake cable so that it fits out the slot.
The spring is a tough one, you can see how it tapers down and actually fits into the end of the clip.
Lots of pressure if you don't relieve it through the adjuster.
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Before I started pulling the springs out, I used a couple moving blankets to lay over the bedsides "just in case" a spring wanted to flop in one direction or the other.
Thankfully it didn't, but they are heavy and awkward. But after having one topple in the garage, I was nervous.
I would say it's a two-person job. I'm sure there are people who can creatively get them done alone, but, grab someone else if you can.
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Taking the leafs out is easy.
I don't really have any pictures of the removal and installation process.
It was cold, raining, and didn't want to keep the neighbor out there any more than I needed to.
Process basically went like this, NOTE, this is NOT a substitute for following along with the Carli instructions that are provided.
  1. Remove the shocks
  2. Support the axle w/ a jack, remove the U-bolts on driver's side, lower axle to clear center pin
  3. Loosen the front bolt to drop the captive nut, don't remove bolt
    1. Beware this is 30MM, not part of most sets
  4. Loosen the rear lower bolt to drop that captive nut, don't remove bolt
    1. The spring hanger comes out attached to the rear of the spring, no need to mess with that one
  5. Cargo strap around the spring toward the front side of the axle, attached to the frame. There's places to hook onto
  6. Remove rear hanger bolt
  7. Remove front hanger bolt
  8. Work with your partner to loosen cargo strap, then slide the spring out from under the truck toward the front
    1. Spring hanger may interfere with removal, use breaker bar to turn hanger-spring nut to straighten that hanger out a bit to get some clearance
    2. This happened to me on passenger side
  9. I put old spring next to new spring, upside-down to transfer hanger
    1. Bolt head is T-60 TORX or I guess Vice Grips if you don't have the right tool
    2. MAKE SURE BOLT IS EXACT SAME DIRECTION or you'll be pulling it back out
    3. Hand-tight, final tightness done after installation
  10. Loosened passenger side U-bolts to allow axle to drop far enough to get new taller spring in
  11. Used my fancy dolly to roll it out to the truck
  12. Worked it up on top of the axle, cargo strapped back in place
  13. Rear bolt installed snug
  14. Front bolt installed snug
  15. Use that big 24" adjustable wrench on the spring to get it to "twist" as necessary to line up bolt holes as needed
  16. Jack axle back up slowly to spring pack, make sure centering pin is in correct location
  17. U-bolts are a bit long, even for a deep socket
    1. Had to cut U-bolts down a bit once I got them installed to get them fully tightened
  18. Do it all again on the passenger's side
    1. Hanger bracket was too tall to slide spring forward, had to turn nut to allow bracket to turn more horizontal
  19. Re-route parking brake cable. Going to use a little muscle and feel a bit awkward pulling it through the frame
  20. Attach it to spring pack using P-clamp
  21. Attach that damn parking brake cable back to the parking brake using whatever prayers necessary
    1. Tighten adjuster back to where it was
  22. When going through torque sequence (follow instructions), need impact wrench to tighten hanger-to-spring nut
    1. Regular ratchet just spins TORX-head bolt, no way to stop it from spinning
    2. Air impact is very cramped inside bedsides with the air couplings hitting everything, electric would shine here
  23. Install rear shocks
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Discussion Starter · #28 ·
With the old and new springs side-by-side, you can see why the factory springs are so harsh and jarring. Once you get through your first 3 leaves, you're slamming into that thick leaf and it's not giving.

Looking at the new springs, the name "Progressive" makes sense. Predictable, stiffness increases in increments vs slamming a thick bar.
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Closer view of the spring pack stacks.
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Here's the passenger side hanger I mentioned. Not enough clearance to pull the spring down with it vertical, need to angle it back a bit via turning that nut.
Also, one more time — If you put that bolt in backwards, you're gonna have a bad time.
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Parking brake cables. Driver's side will need to be worked through there.
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New parking brake cable routing:
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As mentioned, long U-bolts, too long for my deep sockets.
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I used a small clamp to hold this brake arm forward and still while hooking it back up.
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I'm not proud of myself for this, but I was running out of ideas and time to lift the the truck up high enough off the frame in order to get the shocks installed.
I went a half pump at a time on the way up and down, making sure the jack was rolling and staying underneath.
Be prepared to get that extra lift.
Would love to hear your ideas and suggestions to do this better!
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"Use the 24" adjustable wrench to "twist" the leaf pack to get the bolts in."
This made it really easy to get the holes lined up.
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Discussion Starter · #29 ·
Have to forgive me for the filthy pics, and not having the wheel lug center trim rings on. Was in a rush to get out of town. I'll get better pics.

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Tows like a champ!! :LOL: :LOL: :LOL:

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2021 Ram 3500 CC/LB 4X4 6.7 HO
606 Posts
Looks great, wheels and tires tuck in nice
Is the alignment done?
What specs?

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Discussion Starter · #31 ·
Looks great, wheels and tires tuck in nice
Is the alignment done?
What specs?
Offset is +18 I believe. My wheels on my '07 were -12mm and stuck out about 1.5". Figured I'd tuck them in a bit more this time.
Alignment not done yet, wasn't time before the trip. Caster is back as close to factory as I could, and truck is tracking straight.
I'll have it set to "Thuren Specs" here soon though.
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Discussion Starter · #32 · (Edited)
Oh this is embarrassing. In my haste I forgot to post the Torsion Sway Bar.
Another nice piece. I did have some parts left over, I hope that's OK LOL.
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Another oddball you'll need is a deep socket that's large enough to go over the splined shaft, but not too big so that you're outside the bushing there.
Have to use a mallet/dead-blow hammer to work that down so that 11/16 " of the splines are exposed.
Instructions used a 1-1/4” Matco deep impact socket which I did not have. Made the best with what I had.
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11/16" ... check.
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I set one end on a piece of 2x4 on the floor and held the whole thing vertically while working the bracket down, and checking to make sure I was on the wood. Can use your feet to keep it in place too.

To get the other end on, I set it flat on my bench so that the brackets/bushings would be clocked correctly, and then worked the other end on. Set that wood block up against the vice to give me something to push against.

Same thing after, stood it up, worked the other side down to 11/16". Double-check both ends before putting the end caps and the arms on.
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Now one thing that didn't make sense to me in the instructions was the washers to use.
It comes with two, but you don't use the ones you think you'd use, but rather the flat ones. I don't know the difference in application.
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Another important thing was a "following directions" exercise that we did in like 4th grade:
"Read all the instructions thoroughly before you begin."
I set the length for one of the sway bar links, it was late, I was tired, so then quickly set up the other one too.
Had to come out the next day and reset that second one again after doing the measurement in the instructions.
You're only setting the first one to 5.75", the second one is dependent upon the measurement of the truck since is probably not exact.
If you set them both to the same length, and you have a larger distance on one side than the other, your torsion will be in a constant state of torsion in one direction.
Read this part carefully.

Make sure the ends stay parallel when you're tightening everything.
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Driver's side was the "shorter" side, so that got the 5.75" end link.
From here, I measured what the passenger side needed, I think it was 6.25".
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Don't be that guy that crosses them over inside-to-outside!
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Discussion Starter · #33 ·
So I am reading about 5 MPH slow at highway speeds.
Have to look up how to correct that.

No TPMS lights though and I'm running 40 F / 37 R.

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Great write up!! Thank you!!! SO it looks like zero rubbing and no trimming? Are the wheels 17x9 with the +18 offset? Tires 37/13.5/17... Looks great!!!

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Discussion Starter · #35 ·
Great write up!! Thank you!!! SO it looks like zero rubbing and no trimming? Are the wheels 17x9 with the +18 offset? Tires 37/13.5/17... Looks great!!!
Correct, I believe those are the specs for those AEV wheels, and that is the tire size.

I have one slight rubbing spot on that one area I believe I took a picture of...but it rarely happens and I haven't made any trimming to fix it.
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