Do It Yourself: Ram HD Mopar Side Steps
Stepping Up Without Embarrassing Yourself
4wd pickups are tall for a reason. They have to be, or the lower parts of their bodies would get banged up on anything beyond maintained dirt roads, and the mechanicals underneath would take a beating from rocks. Plus, you'd get high-centered pretty easily if it weren't for that adequate clearance under the vehicle.
This of course means the passenger compartment is also higher off the ground. That's why there are various running boards and steps to make it more feasible to overcome the distance between the ground and the comfy confines of the cab.
Usually, those steps and boards require drilling into either the frame, body, or both, creating a new place for rust to start gnawing away. Not so with the Ram side steps from Mopar ($633 for a set for an HD 2500). These steps bolt on without any drilling or welding as if they were made for the Ram. Installing a set is a lazy afternoon's project requiring a minimum of tools, so while you may stop by your local Ram Truck dealer to buy them, there's no reason you couldn't install them yourself.
1. Mopar has the side steps to fit current-generation regular, Quad, and crew cabs. They come with all the hardware, an installation tool, and simple instructions. Seen here is a set for a crew cab, which, like a Quad Cab's, has three mounting brackets per step, while the shorter steps for regular cabs only have two.
2. Mopar has made it as easy as possible to install these steps, but there's one thing keeping it from being a one-tool bolt-on. You need to set the included Rivnuts with the supplied tool. So it's a three-tool job, also calling for a 9/16-inch wrench and a 13mm wrench or socket. Don't sweat it if you don't have a 13mm wrench, as most cheap half-inch wrenches will fit just fine. Likewise, should you have metric rather than standard tools, use a 14mm instead of the 9/16-inch wrench.
To use the included tool, screw the parts together per instructions (see picture) and then put the hex-shaped Rivnut into the hex-shaped hole in the rocker panel. By holding the so-called anvil (the long nut) with a wrench while tightening the bolt, the Rivnut expands in the hole, much like a pop rivet. If you don't have a torque wrench, tighten the bolt three-and-a-half turns to properly seat the Rivnut.
3. On the inside of the rocker panel on a crew cab, you'll see three flat surfaces like this one with two hex-shaped holes at the bottom (where the Rivnuts go) and a slot above. Tape over the slots to help keep debris from getting inside the rockers, which must be removed. Here, we used a socket to turn the bolt on the Rivnut tool rather than a wrench because it's faster and a bit easier. To the right is a Rivnut already installed, and traces of the removed tape should be visible above. Pay attention to the instructions for using the Rivnut tool. There's nothing tricky about it and the instructions are clear, but don't overtighten these aluminum nuts during installation or when later bolting down the side steps. With six Rivnuts to install per side, this is by far the most time-consuming part. There's no need to lift the vehicle for access, and you can use a creeper if you have one.
4. Now comes the rewarding part. Slide in under the cab with a side step in hand (with the slightly curved end facing forward). Next, hang the step by inserting the tabs into the slots, where it'll now hang by itself. You may have to tweak a slot a wee bit, using a screwdriver or other prying tool, so that the bottom edge of the hole moves slightly inward toward the rocker, or the tabs may not all want to slink into place. We had to do that on one hole.
Start a bolt in the center bracket, then carefully start the other five by hand -- carefully, because you don't want to cross-thread a bolt in the aluminum Rivnut. We also put a little anti-seize on the threads to avoid future corrosion issues. Tighten the bolts to 17 pound-feet, which means don't lean on the wrench hard, not even half as hard as most people would. Repeat on the other side and you're done.
5. Stepping back to admire your handiwork, you'll note that the step-in height has gone from 26 inches down to 17.5, yet only 2.75 inches of ground clearance was sacrificed.
6. Running the length of the cab, both front and rear passengers benefit, and had the side steps been 2 or 3 inches longer in the rear, they'd have been great for accessing the front of the bed, too. As is, they still help, without the risk of the step and bed colliding when the vehicle articulates traversing truly rough trail sections.
7. A side benefit is that the steps also act a bit like mud flaps. As seen here, they help deflect mud and pebbles, preventing paint damage.
MoparAuburn Hills, MI 48321