Give Your Ram 1500 More Suspension Travel for More Off-Road Fun

Click Here to Begin Slideshow Image courtesy Icon Vehicle Dynamics One thing that limits suspension travel on most trucks equipped with off-road suspension packages is their retention of the stock upper control arms and ball joints, the designs of which limit how much the suspension can move up and down. Tubular upper control arms with specialized ball joints can eliminate that problem and give you a suspension that can tackle just about anything you throw at it.

Give Your Ram 1500 More Suspension Travel for More Off-Road Fun

Click Here to Begin Slideshow

Image courtesy Icon Vehicle Dynamics

One thing that limits suspension travel on most trucks equipped with off-road suspension packages is their retention of the stock upper control arms and ball joints, the designs of which limit how much the suspension can move up and down. Tubular upper control arms with specialized ball joints can eliminate that problem and give you a suspension that can tackle just about anything you throw at it.

Icon Provides Equipment

Icon’s Tubular Upper Control Arms mounted on a demo frame with their 2.5 inch VS Series coilovers.
Image from Icon video.

We’re going to look at the Icon Vehicle Dynamics Uniball Upper Control Arm Kit for 2009 and up Dodge Ram 1500 trucks and see how it can allow you to be more aggressive in extreme off-road conditions. Once we’ve reviewed the parts of the kit and how they individually improve your truck’s suspension, we’ll go over the steps to install the kit on your truck. Those who have 4WD Rams can opt for the kit with their new Delta Joint, which improves on the earlier PTFE-lined uni-ball tapers.

Kit Is For Both 2WD and 4WD Applications

Image courtesy actuarialoutpost.com

The upper control arm is the same on both two-wheel-drive and four-wheel-drive applications, so this kit will work on both as well. The arms are made out of precision-welded and CNC-bent 1026 DOM Seamless Tubing with a ball cup that is also CNC-machined. The kit comes with grease-able bushing housings and sleeves that are also CNC-machined. A 17-4 high-grade stainless steel uni-ball taper adapter comes with the kit to provide OEM fitment with the stock spindle.

The uni-ball taper adapters are one inch in diameter and are lined with PTFE to make them smoother and allow freer movement and no worrying about stock OEM ball joint bind. Another option is their slightly newer Delta Joint ball joint replacement, which gives an even greater range of motion. The designs allow for a range of movement that is several degrees greater in all directions, allowing your suspension to take full advantage of the range of motion given by aftermarket off-road shocks like Icon’s 2.5 inch VS Series coilovers.

The Tools Required for Installation

Photo by Enilda Aguilar

Most OEM/stock control arm bushings require you to press the old bushing out and the new bushing in. The new control arm bushings with the Icon kit negate that. There’s no need to press the old bushings out, and the new bushings are two piece and slide in from either side of the control arm mount. This means that most do-it-yourselfers will have most, if not all, of the required tools:
• Jack and two jack stands
• Wheel blocks
• Lug wrench
• Ratchet and extensions
• Sockets
• Wire cutters
• Hammer
• Tie rod/ball joint splitter/pickle fork
• Torque wrench
• Safety glasses

Get the Wheels Off

Park the truck in a flat and level location and apply the parking brake. Using the lug wrench, loosen all the lug nuts one half turn. Place a block on both sides of one wheel. Slide the jack under the front to the front crossmember. Lift the front end until the wheels are off the ground. Place the stands under the frame and carefully lower the truck onto the stands. Remove the lug nuts and wheels. Put on your safety glasses.

Support the Lower Control Arm Assembly

Photo by Enilda Aguilar

Slide the jack under the lower control arm and raise it until it loads the lower control arm assembly to ride height. This keeps the assembly from dropping down and making it harder for you to mate the upper arm and knuckle together. It also allows the bushings to start out at or near ride height. If you’re lucky and have access to a lift, you can use a transmission jack like the one shown in the photo above. Disconnect the clips attaching the ABS wire to the upper arm and disconnect the connector, setting it aside.

Optional Step-Remove Outer Tie Rod End from Steering Knuckle

Photo by Enilda Aguilar

The only reason you have to perform this step is if you’re replacing both upper and lower control arms or replacing the lower ball joints at the same time as installing the upgraded tubular upper control arms and ball joints. What disconnecting the tie rod end does is allow the knuckle assembly to tilt out. However, this means you should remove the caliper and support it first so the brake hose doesn’t get stretched too much.

Dodge, for some reason, bounced back and forth between using castellated nuts and cotter pins and a special type of self-locking nuts. If so equipped, use the wire cutter or needle/long nose pliers and remove the cotter pin after straightening it as much as possible. Remove the nut (usually 18 mm) with the ratchet or a wrench. If you’ve got it, an impact gun/ratchet makes this much quicker and easier. Hammer the end of the knuckle until the bond between it and the tie rod fails and the rod falls out. You could also use a tie rod splitter or a pickle fork to do this.

Separate the Ball Joint and Knuckle

The ball joint nut can be removed after the cotter pin is removed.
Photo by Enilda Aguilar

The upper ball joint is another place I’ve seen both the castellated nuts with cotter pins and self-locking nuts being used. An 18 mm socket or wrench removes this nut either way.

Tool Options

Photo by Enilda Aguilar

You can either use a ball joint separator or just smack the knuckle, as shown in the picture below, until the stud to knuckle joint connection is broken and the ball joint pops loose.

Remove the Control Arm

Either someone lost it or this 2011 Ram 1500 never had the wing nut. Here, the nut is removed using an impact gun.
Photo by Enilda Aguilar

Rumor has it that Dodge put camber eccentrics on the upper control arms on some of their 2009-present Ram 1500 models, while on others camber and caster are adjusted on the lower control arm instead. I haven’t seen this yet, but be aware yours might be so equipped, and you should mark the frame mount and camber eccentric to get the alignment in the ballpark for the drive to the alignment shop - unless you do your own.

Remove the Nut

The nuts on the upper control arm may have a “wing” like this one. It makes bolt removal and installation much easier.
Photo by Enilda Aguilar

Using an 18 mm wrench or socket with a ratchet, remove the front and rear mounting bolts on top of the frame. The nut on some of these bolts has a “wing” on one side of it that rests against the frame and allows you to remove the mount bolt with only a ratchet or air tool. Some are going to be two-handed affairs without the handy wing. With the bolts out, the control arm will come out. A prybar can be used to get it started.

Install the New Control Arms

Image from Icon video.

Apply a little grease to the eight bushing halves and four sleeves included in the kit. Assemble two bushing halves per mount/four per arm and slide a sleeve into each bushing with a load ring between the two halves.

Note: The control arms are side-specific and labeled as to which side they belong on.

Slide the arms into the mounts and rotate and wiggle them until the bolts can slide into their holes. Thread the nuts onto the bolts and run them down to snug. We’ll torque them later. Grease the bushings and wipe off any excess grease.

Assemble the Uniball and Taper Adapter

Image from Icon video.

Slide the tapered pin adapter into the uniball pivot after loosening the components carefully. Slide the dome cap into place and hand-tighten the ½ inch 12-point bolt and tapered pin assembly. The taper pin adapter is now installed up into the uniball with the upper dome cap, with a hand-tight 12-point ½ inch bolt capping it off. The diameter of the inner ball of the uniball must be met by the radius of the upper dome and taper adapter before installing the bolt.

Attach the New Ball Joint Substitute to the Knuckle

Image from Icon video

Line up the taper with the ball joint hole in the knuckle and push/pull the control arm down until enough threads are exposed to properly start the nut. You can use a long pry bar and continue taking advantage of its leverage to thread the ball joint nut on as far as possible.

Torque the ball joint nut to 60 foot-pounds and tighten the nut incrementally until the cotter pin can be installed. The taper may spin as you tighten the nut. Slap a 12 point wrench on that half inch bolt up top and tighten/torque away. The upper control arms can now be torqued to 90-100 lbs-ft. Reattach the outer tie rod end if you’ve disconnected it from the knuckle.

Wheels on the Ground

Lower and remove the jack under the lower control arm. Slap the wheels in place and run the lug nuts down as far as you can with the wheels in the air. Slide the jack under the front crossmember and lift the truck off the jack stands. Remove the jack stands and lower the truck until the wheels rest on the ground. Torque the lug nuts to either the factory spec of your aftermarket wheels, or 100-120 lbs-ft for factory wheels. Lower the truck the rest of the way.

Final Uniball Assembly Steps

Image from Icon video

The 12-point half-inch bolt from above now needs to come out. It’s the one that holds the taper dome atop the Uniball. Apply some RED thread locker (supplied with the kit) and reinstall it, torqueing it to 90 lbs-ft.

Now go get it aligned, and then enjoy your truck’s new and improved suspension travel and the control it gives you when crushing rocks!

Note: All nuts and bolts need to be retorqued after 100 miles, and periodically afterwards.

Icon recommends getting the uniball covers for their control arms, which are, of course, extra. These act as dust caps for the sensitive uniball taper assembly.

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About Mike Aguilar 260 Articles
Mike's love of cars began in the early 1970's when his father started taking him to his Chevron service station. He's done pretty much everything in the automotive aftermarket from gas station island attendant, parts counter, mechanic, and new and used sales. Mike also has experience in the amateur ranks of many of racing's sanctioning bodies.
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