2014 Ram 1500 Ecodiesel: Hauling Mopar Crate Axles for a Jeep
July 15, 2015
Some of you may remember our 2012 Jeep Wrangler long-term test vehicle. A subset of you may also recall that I bought it from the company when its time eventually expired. It lives in my garage now.
We added many parts during its time in the long-term fleet, but the ridiculously tall 3.21 fuel economy-oriented axles that came with our 6-speed manual-equipped Sport 2-door remain to this day. They're OK if you stick with the stock 29-inch tires and never go off road, but we'd upgraded to taller 33-inch rubber.
I'd corrected the resulting speedometer error, but the only way to get the engine back in its sweet spot was to have the axles re-geared. But something about the 3.21 carrier makes it impossible to go beyond 3.73, which wasn't going to be enough. And a Sport's front axle housing is a lighter Dana 30 unit that isn't worth upgrading. I suffered in near-silence.
Turns out Mopar sells complete front and rear Dana 44 crate axles with 4.10 gearing and e-lockers, just like the ones that come in a Wrangler Rubicon. And they've recently introduced a huge price drop that makes trying to buy used ones off Craigslist a silly idea.
Why all this Jeep talk in a Ram post? The crates are sized just right to fit side-by-side in a pickup truck, so I arranged to be driving our 2014 Ram 1500 Ecodiesel when the axles arrived at the nearby dealer where I bought them.
Each crated axle weighs upwards of 300 pounds, but the dealership had no shortage of burly dudes to help lift them into the truck. As we slid the last one into place, I started making mental notes of whom I might call to help unload them at the other end.
The rough texture of our Line-X spray-in bedliner made it unlikely they'd be sliding around back there, but I hooked into the Ram's large tie-down loops to cinch them down with a hefty ratchet strap anyway. It was a stable load, and the tailgate bore exactly none of it thanks to a pair of 4x4 forklift skids nailed to the bottom of each crate.
My destination was our Redwood studio/shop, the place where we have tools and a Rotary 2-post lift, the same setup I'd used to install a Mopar 3-inch lift kit two years earlier. The crates would remain there until I had a free weekend.
A couple of co-workers that live nearby agreed to help, but I arrived at the shop much earlier than expected. I was on my own. And then I got an idea that involved our RTI ramp.
In my mind, I'd previously discounted it, imagining the ramp to be at least a half-foot taller than the Ram's tailgate. But the reality was they were in agreement by less than an inch. So I flipped the cheese-grater decking upside down to reveal a smooth sliding surface, and in five minutes I had them both out of the truck and scooted up against a wall all by myself.
All I need now is that free weekend.
Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 34,152 miles