Tall Order: Testing Bilstein’s B8 Coilovers on Our Ram 1500

What’s the problem with conventional thinking? Well, it’s right there in the name – conventional. Misconceptions and in-the-box ideas become the norm as everyone copies the same idea to cash in. In some cases, the copy is a much poorer design and can create more problems than it purports to solve.

But sooner or later, innovation comes along and turns the old ways on their head. Enter Bilstein and its B8 coilovers, which we received recently and installed on a 2014 Ram 1500. The new kit is called the B8 6112 suspension leveling kit (PN 47-242548), and to round it out, we also ordered a set of B8 5160 shocks for the rear (PN 25-288278). The use of snap rings and grooves on the shock body allows for height adjustment without affecting shock travel (more on this later).

The vision of this install was to showcase how the Bilstein shocks did the same job as a spacer-equipped set of front shocks, and did it better. But before we get into the nitty-gritty, we wanted to hear from Bilstein’s Truck and Off-road Marketing Segment Specialist, Brent Davis.

Product Background

Davis explained the vision behind the suspension leveling kit. “We set out to create a solution that would level the front of your vehicle, improve ride characteristics, and maintain proper geometry specifications,” he said. “Past that, we wanted to give the end user the ability to fine-tune their ride height within the confines of available wheel travel.”

Bilstein prides itself on going the extra mile to test its products. In the case of the B8 6112 kit, the R&D team relied on its tried and true process to hunt down issues. “Bilstein meets or exceeds the OEM durability guidelines, a testing process that includes rigorous lab testing scenarios,” explained Davis. “We then complete an array of both on and off-road real-world durability tests and ride tuning. Much of that is done right here in the southern California deserts. This process can be time-consuming, but the great team at Bilstein always produces top-tier products without compromise.”

The rear 5160 shocks are the perfect complement to the B8 6112 kit. They fit in the stock mounting locations, and use a remote reservoir to carry more oil for better heat dissipation.

Regarding the rear 5160 shocks, we were interested in the features and benefits that these shocks brought to the table. “The 46mm monotube design ensures consistent, fade-free performance in all conditions,” said Davis. “Bolstering that are the remote reservoirs, which increase the shock oil capacity for greater heat dissipation. The reservoirs are versatile thanks to a unique swivel banjo fitting, so the reservoir can mount separate from the body, or use an optional clamp to piggyback on the main shock body.”

Installation

We started by putting the truck up on our Bendpak two-post lift. This would let us get easier access to the suspension. After removing the wheels on all four corners, we took out the clips holding in the fender liners and removed those as well.

We took out the rear shocks. These only had two bolts, one on the top mount and one on the bottom. On the Bilstein 5160s, we used a set of B1 reservoir mounts (PN 11-176015) to clamp the reservoir to the shock body and make it a tighter package. Bilstein’s 5160 shocks required no fabrication, and easily bolted up to the top mount. With some force, we pushed the piston up so the shock’s bottom mount would naturally extend to the truck’s bottom mount, and slid in a bolt when the time was right.

Once the rear tires and fender liners were off, we removed the old shocks with just a couple of bolts. Installing the new Bilstein 5160s was simple and followed the same process, just in reverse.

And just like that, we were done with the rear for now. We moved back up front to take care of the B8 6112 kit. On this side, we left the fender liners in and started by removing the brake caliper, ball joint knuckle, and upper control arms. The controls arms would eventually come out completely, as the new shocks would require new arms to work correctly.

On the sway bar, we decoupled the end links to let the lower control arms swing down completely. This let us safely access the struts and coil springs and remove them from the truck. It was here that we noticed the two-inch spacers already installed to level out the truck. With the installation of the Bilsteins, these spacers would become irrelevant.

Bilstein's instructions require reusing part of the OE strut assembly, specifically the top mount. This involves cutting the dust boot 1.25 inches down from the top, and putting that onto the Bilstein strut assembly.

The instructions called for us to reuse the dust boots on the stock shocks. We used a vise to clamp the assembly in place, and then employed spring compressors to push down on the spring and free up the nut holding the assembly together. With that done, we removed the dust boot and made a cut about an inch down from its top.

We stopped working on the stock front suspension for now and turned our attention to the Bilstein shocks. It was time to adjust the overall height using the snap ring and grooves milled into the struts exterior. We wanted to raise the front to equate with the old setup. According to the provided chart, this meant moving the snap ring up to the penultimate groove, equating to about three inches of lift.

Using the snap ring and spreader pliers, we set the height adjustment to match the old setup. Afterwards, it was easy to assemble the spring and cap together to complete the Bilstein strut assembly.

By using snap rings and grooves instead of a spacer, the Bilsteins showcased technology surpassing that of a spacer-equipped strut. The unit as a whole now has greater use of its shock travel, as opposed to limiting the travel in the name height adjustment.

We took the completed Bilstein struts and installed them into the truck. We paired them up with new Rough Country tubular control arms. These control arms were required to work with the new, wider Bilstein struts and springs. We wrapped up installing the arms and struts and made sure everything was torqued to spec before reinstalling the tires and moving on to the test.

The front end is all wrapped up and ready to go for a drive.

Testing

With new Bilstein shocks on all corners and the height leveled out, the truck looks the part. Now it’s time to see what it’s made of with the refreshed suspension.

On the road, the truck drives comfortably. Our local roads have their fair share of potholes and deformations, so this would be a good workout for fresh shocks. Riding over the road, the suspension felt comfortable, soaking up light holes and rebounding quickly on deeper ones. Out on the highway, the Ram rode smoothly and afforded us the high-up view we were used to from driving trucks.

The Bilsteins fit perfectly onto the truck and were well-suited for off-roading. After going over bumps and little mounds, the truck returned quickly to its neutral stance, ready for the next obstacle.

Satisfied, we decided to bring the truck to a nearby off-road trail. It was time to see what these new shocks were made of. It turned out they were made extremely well, and kept us in control over sand, gravel, and dirt. For a spirited drive around a local trail or off-road spot, the Bilstein shocks had much better ride characteristics compared with the stock suspension.

That wrapped up our assessment of the Bilstein upgrades. We were impressed with how the new shocks performed on and off-road, and we were glad to see the same space that a spacer and OE strut used to occupy are now the full travel of a Bilstein strut. We encourage everyone to go check out more about these and other Bilstein products on the company’s website and Facebook page.

Article Sources

About the author

David Chick

David Chick comes to us ready for adventure. With passions that span clean and fast Corvettes all the way to down and dirty off-road vehicles (just ask him about his dream Jurassic Park Explorer), David's eclectic tastes lend well to his multiple automotive writing passions.
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