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Guide to Leveling & Wheel and Tire Sizing for 06+ 4wd Ram 1500's

This is a discussion on Guide to Leveling & Wheel and Tire Sizing for 06+ 4wd Ram 1500's within the Lifted forums, part of the 4th Gen : 2009 - Present category!

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Old 07-22-2015, 03:43 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Guide to Leveling & Wheel and Tire Sizing for 06+ 4wd Ram 1500's
Hi all! This is a thread that I wrote a couple years ago for another form. I see questions popping up more often than anything relate to leveling and wheel and tire sizing. Although there is a TON of information throughout the forum that would fully answer all the questions that come up, none of it is pulled together in one thread that is easily accessible for everyone to find. I decided to put this thread together to help answer the majority of the questions people will have about leveling their trucks or putting larger wheels and tires on them. This thread is by no means something to outline the only way of doing things. Just because I don’t mention it in this first post doesn’t mean it won’t necessarily work. I will try to include as much information as I can that will be applicable to most people but there are always going to be exceptions.

Determining Your Level Height
A lot of guys will start out their post asking whether or not they need a 2” level or a 2.5” level, or in the base of Bilsteins to set them at 2.1” or 2.8”. While we can give you a pretty good idea on what you need to set them at we cannot be 100% exact. Every truck is built slightly different from the factory; what works on one truck might not necessarily work on another. The best way to determine how much of a level you need is to go out and measure your own truck.

Start with putting your truck on a flat surface (having it on a slope will change the weight distribution and give you inaccurate measurements). Then, running the tape measure from the bottom of your tire straight up through the center of the hub, measure each fender height on the 4 corners of your truck. Write them down labelling each one (LF, RF, LR, RR). From there you will be able to determine what your factory rake is (subtract your front height from your rear height). I would expect most people will see anything between 2.25” and 3.25”. Yes they can be that different, it all depends on the truck.

From there you can determine how much front end lift you will need in order to level your truck. Keep in mind you want to retain AT LEAST 0.5” of rake to avoid looking nose high (bulldogging). But you can have more if you like. This can be achieved by either less lift on the front end or by adding rear coil spacers or blocks to the back end which I will go in to later.
Leveling Options
There are two different ways you can level the front of an 06+ Ram; Bilstein 5100 adjustable front struts or spacers.

Bilstein 5100 Adjustable Front Struts

The Bilstein 5100 adjustable front struts allow you to raise the front end of your truck by raising the lower spring seat on the strut assembly. There are 5 different height settings, 0 (stock), 0.7”, 1.4”, 2.1”, and 2.8”. By setting the lower spring seat at any of those heights you will gain that much front end lift on your truck.

Bilstein 5100 Product Brochure

There are a number of advantages of running Bilsteins over strut spacers:
• You will improve ride quality by installing the Bilstein shocks on your truck. I find they make the front end slightly stiffer but more controlled in doing so. There’s less bouncing which provides a smoother ride.
• The install is “cleaner” and provides fewer areas for things to come loose or break. Because it is still one strut assembly there are only 3 bolts on the top and one on the bottom unlike spacers where you have 6 bolts on top with weak point where the spacer meets the strut.
• The Bilsteins limit the amount of downward suspension travel which will not allow the control arms to overextend which is hard on CV shaft joints, ball joints, and tie-rod ends.
• The Bilsteins DO NOT limit the amount of upward travel giving you more articulation and flex and less chance of bottoming out.

I would recommend Bilsteins to 95% of people who want to level their trucks. In my opinion (and many others) they are the best way to level 06+ Rams. They will provide you with the leveling you need in order to clear larger tires and improve the look of your ride plus they can be used with a lift down the road if you plan on going that route.

Bilstein Install

The install of Bilsteins is not much more complex than strut spacers. The disassembly of parts on your truck is exactly the same. The difference is what you do with the strut once you have it removed from the truck. The only difference with the Bilsteins is that you need a spring compressor in order to disassemble the stock strut and then assemble the Bilstein. You should be able to rent spring compressors from most local auto part stores.


Leveling spacers are installed on top of your factory strut to raise the front end of your truck. Typically there are two heights that guys will use; 2” and 2.5”. The amount of lift you will get from them is fairly straight forward; it’s whatever the spacer size is listed as. Now keep in mind the spacer itself will not actually measure the same as the lift height it provides. Spacers are used in conjunction with rotating the strut 180 degrees and giving it a steeper angle to achieve the front end lift.

There is only one advantage to using spacers over Bilsteins in my opinion….. cost. Spacers are obviously cheaper than Bilsteins but you have to remember what you are getting in comparison. Yes you will achieve your front end lift but you are also missing out on things and putting your front end at slightly more risk at the same time.

Here are the cons of using spacers rather than Bilsteins:
• You are not replacing the front shocks (struts). Therefore your ride quality will be the same if not worse than stock. The reason it could be worse is because now the strut is being used at a different angle (therefore a different rate) than what it was tuned for. Are most people going to notice that difference? No, I’m just giving you the heads up that it is a possibility.
• Because the spacer is simply installed on top of the factory strut the entire strut assembly is now too long when fully extended. This will put your control arms and CV shafts at steeper angles which can be harder on CV shaft joints, ball joints, and tie-rod ends. Again, not everyone will notice this problem. If you’re only driving your truck on the street and never going somewhere that your suspension will be fully extended you having nothing to worry about.
• Spacers limit the amount of upward suspension travel which can lead to bottoming out
All that being said, tons of guys will be able to run standard spacers with no issues at all. I ran them on my 1500 for 8 months with no issues whatsoever. However I do regret not buying the Bilsteins from the get-go because I did end up buying them when I lifted it (and was very impressed with them).

As far as I’m concerned, if you’re buying spacers you better be buying them from Hell Bent Steel. They have the best price on them. If you’re looking at getting them from someone else (where you’ll be spending more money) you might as well pony up the little bit of extra cash, do yourself a favor and buy the Bilsteins.

Spacer Install

The install of strut spacers is fairly straight forward. The strut just needs to be removed, the spacer installed on top of it, and then put back in place.
Bilstein 5100 Adjustable Front Struts
2.5" Hell Bent Steel Spacers
2" Hell Bent Steel Spacers
To be continued on post #2....
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Old 07-22-2015, 03:44 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Default Guide to Leveling & Wheel and Tire Sizing for 06+ 4wd Ram 1500's
Leveling Kit Installation
The install of both Bilsteins and spacers are essentially identical until you actually have the strut removed from the truck. Hell Bent Steel has very detail instructions on how to remove and reinstall the strut which can be found HERE. The only thing I recommend doing that Hell Bent Steel does not is that you remove your caliper from the spindle and tie it up to your frame. It will make removing and reinstalling the strut much easier as you won’t be fighting with the brake line to get the lower A-arm to drop far enough down in order to remove the strut.

If you’re installing spacers you can follow the Hell Bent Steel directions as that is what they were written for. For guys installing Bilsteins I will add a bit of information to help you out as Bilstein does not give very good instructions at all.

As mentioned above you will need a spring compressor in order to disassemble the stock struts and then reassemble the Bilstein struts. They should be available from most of your local auto part suppliers for rental. First off, spray the top retaining nuts with LOTS of penetrating oil and let them sit for a while to let it all soak in. When you disassemble the stock strut you will want to put the spring compressors on but only snug them up. You will want there to be lots of pressure on the spring seats from the spring otherwise you’re going to have a heck of a time getting the top retaining nut off. Once you have the compressor snugged on just take an impact gun and spin the retaining nut off. It should come fairly easy. If not, you’re going to have to spend some time with a wrench and vise grips to hold the strut while spinning the retaining nut off. When you take everything apart be sure to remember what order it comes off in; that’s the order you need to put all of it back together. There’s a small cap on the strut that you will have to tap off with a hammer in order to get the lower spring seat off.

The assembly instructions for the Bilsteins are somewhat poor as far as showing how the entire assembly goes back together. First off set your desired front end lift height by putting the snap ring in the right position. Obviously the lowest one is the stock height setting and they go up from there. The first mistake that I’ve seen guys and even auto shops make is putting the lower spring seat adapter and spring seat on upside down. Both should go on to full cover the snap ring as shown in the Bilstein instructions HERE. You then install the spring (which should still be compressed) and upper spring seat/hardware (in the order it was taken off). The washer supplied with the Bilsteins goes on BEFORE you put the upper spring seat and hardware on; that’s the second mistake a lot of guys make. It is meant to go on before the upper spring seat and to prevent it from sliding down on the shock rod since the diameter of the rod and the diameter of the hole in the spring seat are very similar. If you put it on after the spring upper spring seat rather than before you will most likely have a clunking sound. After you install the upper spring seat and hardware, install the nut that came with the Bilsteins. You will then tighten the nut, decompress the spring and it should all be ready to go back on the truck. From there you can follow the Hell Bent Steel instructions for reassembly.

Obviously if you are not mechanically inclined, do not have the tools, or do not feel comfortable installing the Bilsteins or spacers yourself bring it to a local shop and have them do the install for you.
You need an alignment after leveling your truck. No if, ands, or buts! I don’t care if you installed a spacer, Bilsteins, change the height of your Bilsteins, or if your buddy told you that you didn’t…. you need one. You also need to get the alignment done before you take the new measurements of your truck. Don’t come on here saying that your front end is now higher after leveling if you haven’t taken your truck in for an alignment yet. Of course it looks wonky, your camber, caster and toe are all going to be wrong.
Stacking Leveling Kits
The answer is no! Again, this is one of those things where I don’t care what your buddy told you or what you think… there’s no if, ands or buts. You cannot stack a spacer on top of Bilsteins to get additional front end lift. Typically you do not want to lift your front end any higher than 2.8” without doing a control arm and front diff drop. You will be putting your entire front end out of spec, your control arms and CV shafts will be at ridiculous angles which will be wearing everything out very fast and I doubt any shop will be able to align your front end. If you want that much height you need to start looking into lift kits rather than leveling kits.
Front End Vibrations/Wobble
A lot of guys are worried about possible front end issues once they level or lift their truck. While this is a possibility, very few guys actually have any issues. If you’re installing Bilsteins at 2.1” or 2” spacers you don’t have anything to worry about at all. Bilsteins at 2.8” or 2.5” spacers do slightly increase the risk. Overall it comes back to the A-arm and CV shaft angles. When they get to steep they will vibrate… But again, most people will not have a problem with this. If that’s what’s keeping you on the fence, don’t worry about it… go ahead and level your truck!
Rear Coil Spacers/Blocks
There are some guys who want to lift the front end of their truck as height as possible for either looks or to gain clearance for larger tires but also want to retain either factory rake or a slight amount of rake. Well if that’s you then rear coil spacers (4th gen guys) or blocks (3rd gen guys) are for you. I will be focusing more on coil spacers than blocks as that is what I am familiar with. There are many different sizes available anywhere from 0.75” to 3”+. For guys that want to use them with a leveling kit the max you’ll probably need to go is 1.5” to achieve the look you’re going for. Keep in mind if you start lifting the back end up more than 1” or so you’re probably going to want to start looking at aftermarket shocks that are longer than factory to avoid bottoming out or a rough ride.

Top Gun Customz is probably the best place to get the rear coil spacers. They are priced well and provide fairly good quality products.
Install is very easy. You simply have to undo the rear shocks and sway bar links, drop the rear diff, pull the springs out and install the spacer on top. Then just put it all back together. I will warn you guys though, be prepared to hear some clunking sounds and movement back there with the spacers. I had them on my 1500 and was very happy to remove them once I lifted it.

Wheel and Tire Sizing:
Wheel Offset/Backspacing Explanation
The first thing a lot of guys don’t realize is that when you’re talking about offset and backspacing you’re essentially talking about the same thing; the two are directly related. Offset is the distance (measured in millimeters) off center that the mounting surface of the rim is compared to the center of the rim (the midpoint between both outer lips). Backspace is the distance (measured in inches) from the mounting surface to the back lip of the rim. So obviously if you change one, the other is going to change with it.
A wheel with a 0 offset means that the mounting surface is centered in the wheel. A positive offset (larger backspacing) moves the mounting surface closer to the outside of the wheel which will tuck the wheel further under the truck. A negative offset (smaller backspacing) moves the mounting surface closer to the inside of the wheel which will push the wheel further out from the truck. Now there is a happy medium with this. Obviously you can’t tuck your wheels way under your truck and still have the clearance to run wider tires but likewise you can’t push them out too far or you are going to start having rubbing issues in other areas (which I will go into more later).

The width and offset of the rim determine how much backspacing you will have. Typically backspacing is the key variable that we don’t want to change much no matter what the width of the rim is. All the information you will need regarding offset and backspacing can be found on this chart:

I will go further into detail regarding what offset/backspacing you will need depending on your rim width and tire set up below.
To be continued on post #3...
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Old 07-22-2015, 03:44 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Default Guide to Leveling & Wheel and Tire Sizing for 06+ 4wd Ram 1500's
How to Covert Tire Sizing from Metric to Imperial
First off, the best way to determine the actual imperial height of a metric tire that you’re looking at is to go to the manufacturer’s website. Every manufacturer will have slightly different dimension than what the tire is actually listed as. That applies to both metric and imperial sizes tires. Now that being said, often when you’re looking at tires and trying to determine the size you want you don’t want to be messing around by going back and forth to charts on manufacturer’s sites. So this is how you calculate the imperial size of a tire that’s shown in metric.

We’re going to use a 295/60/20 for example. The first number is the tread width in millimeters. The second number is the aspect ratio which is a number representing the sidewall height of the tire as a percentage of the tread width (for example the sidewall of this tire is 60% of the tread width). And finally the last number is the rim diameter in inches.


The calculation:
Width: 295/25.4 = 11.61”
Height: (((295x0.6)x2)/25.4)+20 = 33.94”

Obviously the guys that know that calculate well will know there are different ways to calculate that (different orders of calculations) but that’s the way I use most of the time.

I have attached an excel spreadsheet to this page that will do this calculation for you. You just need to enter the tread width, aspect ratio, and rim diameter and it will calculate the imperial tread width and overall height for you.
Stock Rim Backspacing and Tire Sizing
Stock Ram 1500 wheels specs are as follows:
17x8 +25 offset (5.5” backspacing)
20x9 +19 offset (5.75” backspacing)
Bolt Pattern:
5x5.5 (5x139.7)
Hub Bore:
Tire Width:

Typically the widest tire you can fit on a stock Rim with no wheel spacers is a 285. Yes there are guys that have got away with more but there have also been guys very close to rubbing with a 285. It comes down to the fact that not all trucks are built exactly the same. Because I want error on the side of caution I don’t recommend trying to go wider than a 285 on a stock rim without spacers. If you do you might rub; the risk yours to take.

To get around that issue wheel spacers are an option. A wheel spacer essentially gives you a more negative offset (smaller backspacing) when installed. A ¼” spacer will subtract 6mm off your offset and is typically enough to clear the upper A-arm with almost all 12.5” (up to 315) wide tires. There are two possible exceptions to that… Toyo Open Country MT’s and Nitto Trail Grapplers. While both those tires are listed as 12.5” wide they actually measure about 13.4” wide when mounted because of the aggressive sidewall (this is one of those times where you need to check the manufacturer’s website to find out what the section width is). Because of this you MIGHT run into problems. Again some guys will get away with it, some guys won’t. You’re taking a chance if you want to run either of those tires on a stock rim. With all other tires up to 12.5” (up to 315) wide on a stock rim, be prepared to rub on the sway bar at or near full lock because of how positive your offset still is. But it shouldn’t be too bad.

Because the width of tire you can run on stock tires can be somewhat subjective and some guys have gotten away with running up to a 305 wide tire this is what I recommend… If you’re trying to mount tires wider than 285’s on stock rims have spacers on hand just in case you need them. There’s a chance you won’t and if that’s the case you can just return the spacers, but if you do need them and don’t have them you won’t be putting your wheels/tires back on your truck and driving it home.

Tire Height:

Now is where we start pulling the leveling information back into this. Obviously the tire height you can run is partially determined by how much of a leveling kit you have.

With Bilsteins at 2.8” or a 2.5” spacer you can run up to a 35x12.5 tire and shouldn’t have any issues (other than the width ones stated above). If anything it will only be minor trimming. Keep in mind most 35x12.5 tires only measure 34.5” tall when mounted. Obviously you do not have to run a tire that big either; the size you want to run with a level can be very subjective. A common size that lots of guys run to avoid looking stuffed is a 295/60/20. Lots of guys should be able to run those without spacers (again, it depends on the truck).

With Bilsteins at 2.1” or a 2” spacer you will most likely run in to problems trying to run a full 35x12.5 tire. Again, there are guys that get away with it but I would say the majority of people won’t. I recommend running a tire closer to 34” in diameter for this set up. This is another example where a 295/60/20 will work very nicely for a lot of guys.
Aftermarket Rim and Tire Sizing
When it comes to aftermarket rim and tire sizing there are literally thousands of combinations you could come up with. Obviously I cannot cover every single one by I will lay out some of the common sizes and set ups that the majority of people will want to run.

Aftermarket rims come in a verity of different sizes. Typically the rim width will be in ½” or 1” increments and the offsets will be in 12mm increments (at least for the range we’ll be looking at). Most guys run either 9” or 10” wide rims with either a 5” or 4.5” backspacing on Ram 1500’s. These are the most common aftermarket rim sizes for Ram 1500’s
20x9 0 offset (5” backspacing)
20x9 -12 offset (4.5” backspacing)
20x10 -12 offset (5” backspacing)
20x10 -24 offset (4.5” backspacing)
I used 20” as the diameter as it is most typical but keep in mind the rim diameter does not make a difference in sizing, only the width, offset, and overall tire size matter.
Tire Height:

As far as height goes the same rules apply to aftermarket rims as they do with stock rims. You typically need either Bilsteins at 2.8” or 2.5” spacers in order to run a full 35x12.5 tire. If you’re running Bilsteins at 2.1” or 2” spacers you should be looking at something closer to 34” in overall height (295/60/20)

Tire Width:

You will be able to clear full 35x12.5 tires with any of the rim sizes listed above but there are a few differences between them. A 20x9 0 offset rim will give you the least chance of rubbing as the wheel/tire is centered on the hub and will provide an tighter sweep throughout the turning radius. As you go to a more negative offset you increase the size of the turning radius and increase your chance of rubbing on the inner fender. This is because the tire is now pushed out further so when you turn the outside edge of the tire will be closer to the inner fender. With 20x10 -24 offset rims it is a fair assumption that you are going to be trimming (or remolding) the inner fender plastic no matter what and will probably need to do a bit of work to the metal lip behind it as well. But, depending on the truck, level size, and wheel and tire set up you might have to trim with more conservative set ups as well. For example I had 35x12.5 Toyo MT’s mounted on 20x9 -12 offset rims on my 1500 with a 2.5” level and they did rub initially. However it was easy for me to fix it (details on that are in my wheel/tire thread which will be linked later on in this post). I will also add that any other tire besides a Toyo MT or Nitto Trail Grappler would not have rubbed. It was the increased mounting width of the tire along with the aggressive side tread that caused the problem.
I will stress again, the diameter of the wheel does not make a difference in any of this sizing. The wheel width, offset, and overall tire size are the only factors that play into this. So don’t ask if there’s any difference if you want to run 18” rims compared to 20” rims. The only limit you have is that a 17” rim is the smallest diameter you can run in order to clear the brake calipers.
How Much Your Tires Will Stick Out
One question I see guys ask all the time is “how far do your tires stick out” or “how far will my tires stick out running *insert rims/tires here*”. While this is also one of those things with thousands of answers, I will outline some of the typical dimensions. Again, these are based on 35x12.5 Toyo MT’s or Nitto Trail Grapplers. Smaller tires or AT tires will not be sticking out as far. These dimensions are also the distance past the fender itself. If you have flares you can subtract the coverage of your flare to find out how far they will stick out.
35x12.5 on 20x9 0 offset rim 1 5/8”
35x12.5 on 20x9 -12 offset rim 2 1/8”
35x12.5 on 20x10 -12 offset rim 2 1/2"
35x12.5 on 20x10 -24 offset rim 3”
Again, because every truck is slightly different these might not be the exact measurements you get. But they will be fairly close.
If you are running a different tire size or different rim size and what to know how far they’ll be sticking out the calculation is fairly easy to do yourself. Start by using one of those measurements as a base point. If you’re running a narrow (or wider tire) subtract (or add) half of the difference in total width to the number. If you’re running a different offset subtract (or add) the entire amount of offset to the number. Again, 1” =25.4mm; 12mm can be considered half an inch.
To be continued on post #4...
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Old 07-22-2015, 03:45 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Default Guide to Leveling & Wheel and Tire Sizing for 06+ 4wd Ram 1500's
I will stress again that this thread is by no means the end all, be all guide to leveling and wheel and tire sizing. It is simply a thread full of all the information to answer the questions that I see pop up on the forum so often. If you have any suggestions or see any information that should be changed please send me a PM and I will look into it. We will be updating this original post as needed.

For those of you who are new to all of this and are reading through this thread to figure out your set up for your truck please read everything as carefully as possible before posting questions. While I do want this to be an informative post/thread and will encourage good questions to be asked, I also do not want it filled up with questions that have already been answered.
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Old 07-22-2015, 07:00 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Thank you
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Old 07-23-2015, 08:48 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Good thread...thank for posting..
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Old 07-23-2015, 08:58 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Super informative! Glad this is all compressed into one thread now.
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Old 07-23-2015, 09:25 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Wow very informative! Thanks for taking the time to type that all up! Kudos!

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Old 08-06-2015, 11:42 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Ha.. i feel better informed but my brain is stressed now! Great write up sir!
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Old 08-09-2015, 10:27 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Thanks for this. Very informative. Is anyone running 35x12.5x20 open country on stock wheels? I am curious if the 1/4" spacers are enough.

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