MAXIMUM TRACTION

Quelling a ’12 Ram’s Axle Wrap Issues with Flight Fabrication Traction Bars

With 500 hp and 1,000 lb-ft so easily achieved these days thanks to custom tuning, axle wrap becomes a problem more quickly than you might think. Take a fourth-gen, single-rear-wheel Ram for example. Although spot-on calibration can wake up the 6.7L Cummins and keep the 68RFE automatic alive in the process, the added torque overcomes the factory suspension’s ability to keep the rear axle in place. As a result of differential rotation, excessive driveshaft plunge and leaf spring twist, the truck suffers from wheel hop, driveline shake, and can even become unsettled during transmission upshifts. All the above can contribute to premature U-joint and pinion seal wear, along with other driveline-related failures.

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Made from 1.75-inch DOM tubing, Flight Fabrications’ single-tube, preload-adjustable traction bars offer a simple, clean look and preload adjustability. They feature high-quality Johnny Joints, laser-cut and TIG-welded axle and frame mounts, and—provided you order the bolt-on mounts—come with larger U-bolts and Grade 8 hardware. Powdercoated gloss black, the traction bar system you see here retails for $860.

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For utmost reliability (and simple, affordable serviceability should you ever need it), Flight Fabrications utilizes Currie Enterprises’ forged-steel Johnny Joint rod ends in all their traction bar systems. Johnny Joints have long been known as some of the most durable articulating joints in the off-road industry thanks to the metal spherical center ball being enclosed in urethane, and the fact that they’re externally greasable.

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The front and axle traction bar mounting brackets are made from 1/4-inch steel, which is laser cut for precise fitment. The sections of plate that attach to the frame are professionally TIG-welded in place and offer an aesthetically pleasing finished look. For the axle mounts, both bolt-on and weld-on options are available.

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After positioning the ’12 Ram 2500 on a two-post lift and securing the axle with a jack stand, Flynn’s Shop’s Jake Bosie began the traction bar install at the rear axle. Once the U-bolts were pulled, the U-bolt top plate was also removed. All would be replaced with components supplied in Flight Fabrications’ traction bar system.

It’s no secret that traction bars are an age-old way of stopping axle wrap, but not all traction bars are created equal. Some come with inferior heim joints that quickly wear out, others aren’t beefy enough in critical areas, and some bars even attach to the top of the rear axle instead of beneath it. Since the company has a reputation for offering high-quality, visually appealing traction bars at affordable prices, we decided to give Flight Fabrications a call when we encountered a recently tuned ’12 Ram 2500 in desperate need of rear wheel stabilization. After receiving a set of Flight Fabrications single-tube, preload-adjustable traction bars, we shot down to Flynn’s Shop in Alexander, Illinois, for the install. By lunch, the sleek-looking traction bars were in place and the truck’s power could finally be enjoyed.

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Here you can see the difference in the stock U-bolt top plates and the units supplied by Flight Fabrications. We’ll note that the mounting location and style of the U-bolts also changes with the addition of the traction bars. Instead of straddling the axle tube, the new U-bolts sit in front of and behind the tube, along with them being of a square-bend style and the threaded end sitting below the axle rather than up top.

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With the new 1/4-inch thick steel U-bolt top plate positioned on top of the leaf spring pack, Bosie installed the supplied U-bolts. On any modified truck, added U-bolt clamping force is always welcome, and Flight Fabrications includes larger rod diameter U-bolts with its traction bar kits (5/8-inch in this case, vs. 1/2-inch stock), along with the appropriate nuts and washers.

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Next, Bosie slid the axle mounts over the new U-bolts, followed by the supplied washers and lock nuts. Like the traction bars and mounts, the U-bolts also wear a coat of gloss black. The U-bolt nuts were tightened in a cross pattern using a 24mm socket.

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Bosie threaded the Johnny Joint rod ends into the traction bars (they are right-hand thread). For ultimate thread engagement (i.e., strength), Bosie made sure to thread the rod ends in almost completely and made that his starting point for adjustments to be made later on.

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Each traction bar attaches to its respective axle mount via a 9/16-inch Grade 8 bolt. Once lined up with the hole, Bosie used a hammer to coax each fastener into place. To prevent anything from binding up, the axle mount bolts weren’t fully tightened until the end of the install when the truck was back on the ground.

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After attaching the traction bars to the axle mounts but not yet fully tightening the hardware, Bosie used a set of Matco S hooks to keep the bars from falling (and potentially scratching the powdercoat). He then moved on to determining where the eight holes that mount the front brackets to the frame would be located, so the truck was lowered.

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Any time you’re installing traction bars it’s important that their final mounting position be determined with the truck sitting in its natural state, with all four tires on the ground and under its own weight. It’s also important to keep in mind that if you decide to add bigger wheels and tires after the fact you could be placing your traction bars in a bind without adjusting them to accommodate the added ride height.

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With the truck on the ground, Bosie attached each frame mount to its corresponding Johnny Joint rod end and mocked them up along the frame. Once the frame mount bottomed out on the bottom of the frame rail, he marked two outer mounting holes and two inner mounting holes per side. Then the truck was raised again to make the drilling process as painless as possible.

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On a fully boxed frame such as this particular ’12 Ram, drilling the mounting holes wasn’t as straightforward as it would’ve been on a traditional C-channel. Instead of drilling two holes per side, four holes (a total of eight) would need to be drilled. To keep the bit intact, Bosie made sure to periodically lubricate it with multi-purpose oil.

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The under-seat cargo storage compartment on the driver side of the truck made it impossible for Bosie to drill straight through the outside of the frame, so he was forced to drill from the inside out. Drilling the mounting holes is almost always the most time-consuming part of installing traction bars—and it was no different in our case.

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After all holes were drilled, the frame mounts were installed via the supplied 1/2-inch Grade 8 bolts, lock nuts and washers. The bolts were coaxed through the boxed frame with a hammer and the lock nuts were left loose until the truck was back on the ground and the rod ends of the traction bars were attached to the frame mounts.

“Since the company has a reputation for offering high-quality, visually appealing traction bars at affordable prices, we decided to give Flight Fabrications a call.”

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With the truck lowered back down for the final time, Bosie adjusted the length of each bar by unthreading the rod end from the tube until the center of the Johnny Joint was aligned with the bolt hole in the frame mount. Both 9/16-inch rod end mounting bolts had to be lightly persuaded into position by way of Bosie’s trusty hammer, but a nice, tight fit is essential in this critical area.

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Once the 9/16-inch bolts, washers and lock nuts were in place in the rod ends—and the truck was sitting on the ground in its happy place—Bosie began the process of tightening everything up.

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Flight Fabrications logo plates are an attractive way to advertise the name, and the traction bars can be powdercoated a variety of colors. On Flight Fabrications’ innovative (and extremely popular) ladder bar style traction bars, customers can opt to have the company logo backlit via standard or RGB color changing LEDs.

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The first test drive with the traction bars installed yielded solid results. Rear wheel hop was a non-issue, the truck felt solid under hard acceleration, and transmission upshifts no longer upset the rear suspension. As far as its chassis is concerned, this Ram is ready for any amount of power the owner wants to throw at it.

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Combining Flight Fabrications’ single-tube, preload-adjustable traction bars with a gloss black powdercoated finish makes for a subtle, stealthy appearance under the truck—which was exactly what the owner was after. More importantly, the truck’s 500 rwhp can be applied to the pavement in a manner in which the suspension is kept under control and no driveline components are stressed.

SOURCES

Flight Fabrications
330.715.4266
FlightFabrications.com

Flynn’s Shop
217.478.3811