Category Archives: Trucks

Save a Boat Load Of Money Installing Your Own Tow Hooks On A 2019 – 2021 Ram 2500 or 3500

In September I bought my first new truck from a dealership – a 2021 RAM 2500 with the 6.4L Hemi engine. It was a Tradesman with a crew cab and the 2GA customer package group – meaning it had the Snow Chief, Chrome Appearance, Tradesman Level 2, Shift on the Fly transfer case, Power Black Trailer Mirrors, LED bed lighting, and Trailer controller. What it didn’t have was front tow hooks — seriously. I was actually surprised by this. I’ve used front hooks so many times over the years that to not have them wasn’t an option but I figured I could add them later and bought the truck.

Wow – Have You Seen The Price To Add Hooks?

Well, this surprised me. I shouldn’t have assumed the cost wouldn’t be bad. Let me itemize this for you real quick:

  • Tow Hook – Mopar 68349551AD List $132 Online around $93.36 each – you need two
  • 4 hex flange mounting screws / bolts – Mopar 6512808AA. List $5.10/ea and online they are around $3.84/ea. Again, you need four of them – two for each hook
  • 4 hex flange lock nuts – Mopar 6512809AA. List is $5.10 each and online is about $3.84/ea. Thread is M16x1.50mm. Again, you need four of them – two for each tow hook.
  • That adds up fast. The list total is $304.80 and online is $217.44 – a savings of $87.36 but that does not include shipping or taxes
  • This does not include the bezels / changes to the bumper if you do it by the book
  • This does not reflect labor of maybe 2-3 hours or the shop supply charge either.

Also, confirm with the supplier if they have something before you buy it. When I was looking, hooks were hard to find in stock at any kind of discount plus some dealers say they have things but they do not.

So, this definitely wasn’t looking cheap either in terms of parts or labor if I had a dealer do it or even if I went will all new Mopar parts.

How to save money and not sacrifice quality?

What is quality? Quality means meeting my requirements and what did I require? I cared about brute strength. I talked to some guys and they all told me to go with the Ram hooks but to get them off eBay because salvage yards put them up for sale at a huge savings. Wow, they were right. You can get both hooks off eBay that look like new for less than half the price but usually with no fasteners included.

Search on eBay for 68349551ac or 68349551ad tow hooks. The letter designators (aa, ab, ac, and ad) tells us there have been minor changes and the most current version as of my writing this is the “ad” release. I can’t speak to all of the versions but I can tell you I am using the “ac” hooks, no problem. You could search for an earlier release such as “aa” or “ab” if you wanted – I’m just telling you what I did. If you can get a great deal on the newest version, go for it.

When I looked at the Mopar site, it seems to be the hook for all of the trim styles (Tradesman, Big Horn, Laramie, Limited, Limited Longhorn, Lone Star and Power Wagon) of both the 2500 and 3500 series trucks for 2019-2021.

Note: some eBay sellers list two hooks (meaning the pair) in an eBay listing and some just list one so pay attention.

I also always look at how many sales they have done and their rating as well. I’ll pay more for an established seller vs. gambling on a seeming deal from a relatively unknown seller.

I also noticed some sellers put all of the part numbers in their description so searches pull them up so read the listing carefully.

Click on the following to search for:

  • The 68349551ac hooks (this is what I bought and installed on my 2021 Ram 2500 Tradesman)
  • The current 68349551ad hooks

By the way, the RAM 1500 hook is not the same so make sure you get a 2500 hook for your model year truck.

Okay, for the bolts and nuts, I did actually go with Mopar and bought them online. I have read posts of fellows going to the hardware store and buying Grade 8 – 5/8″ x 4-1/2″ long bolts, washers, lock washers and nuts. It’s an option but I didn’t want to gamble with the metallurgy so I bought the bolts and washers from https://store.mopar.com/ and there are other online sellers you could go to as well.

As far as the bezels and stuff go, honestly, just cut the fake plastic grill out of the way. Yeah, you could spend the time and money to make it look factory but this is a work truck and the tow hooks are near the bottom of the bumper so nobody is going to be looking for the bezel behind realistically.

As for labor, you can totally do this yourself in less than an hour. I think it took me about 30 minutes.

These arrived via USPS Priority Mail maybe 2-3 days after I ordered them. They are like new – I doubt they were ever used. Yes, they do weigh a ton. I guess I could have weighed them but that didn’t occur to me as I really didn’t care. The point is that they sure are beefy. These are the 68349551AC series hooks by the way.

Installing The Hooks

You can totally do this if you are comfortable with cutting on your truck (some guys aren’t and that is okay – find a buddy who is and bribe him/her with beer, BBQ or whatever) and can turn a wrench. I kid you not, you only need a 15/16″ socket, 2-4″ extension and a big ratchet wrench to do this after your cut the little grills out of the way. A torque wrench capable of 80-90 foot pounds is handy but not essential.

This is my 2021 Ram 2500 Tradesman. The hooks go in the openings located right under the left and right sides of the main grill or the next opening over from where the fog light covers are.
That is the driver’s side tow hook opening with the soon to be cut out plastic grill in the way.
The part of the frame rail where the town gook goes is that square opening straight back from the center so I planned to cut the top three horizontal pieces out of the way.
This is an Ingersoll Rand model 529 reciprocating saw used for body work and what not. This thing is amazing. Cheap reciprocating saws have a ton of vibration when they run but not this one. It makes cutting sheet metal as easy as soft grill plastic 🙂 This is a fine 24 tooth blade. Use a fine blade on plastic to avoid any snags and tears. Your other option is to look for one of the small hack saw blade holders or other small saw where you can reach in. The more teeth per inch, the better.
This is right after cutting. I haven’t cleaned up the cuts or blown out the plastic cuttings yet. The tow hook will go straight into that center opening and you will need to jiggle the hook around to get the two bolts through.
This is what I cut out. A fine tooth saw really does a nice job – fast and clean.
Here are the hooks, bolts and buts.
I wanted you to see the side profile of where the bolts engage the hook. The front groove actually has a retaining ring cast into it. I installed the front bolt first – and it will take some wiggling around to get it in and then I did the rear. I did all of this with the truck on the ground by the way, Also, I think the design is pretty interesting. They know the force will be applied by pulling forward so that is where they put their emphasis. The sides of the frame rail clamping against the sides of the hook will further lock it in place not to mention the inevitable rust that will happen sooner or later.
/lbThese are the four Mopar bolts and lock nuts. The wings/tabs on the nuts go into openings in the frames so you can focus on tightening the bolt down to 80-90 ft/lbs. They also limit travel of the nut over time to keep the whole assembly secure.
So push the bolts from the outside of rain through to the inside. This is the driver’s side.
So here you can see the bolts with the lock nuts in place.
This is the passenger side. I had just started the bolts into the nuts when I took this picture.

Torque Down The Bolts

Some guys reported that their hooks rattled and I think they were not torquing them down enough. Yes, they will rattle when you insert them in the frame but not once you tighten them down. Thanks to the WWW, I could not find an absolute “here’s what RAM said for the 2500 tow hook” torque spec. I saw numbers all over the board.

I took a different tact, Mopar says the nut is a M16x1.5 on their website so when I look that up, a class 8.8 bolt has a 245 Nm spec and a class 10.9 has a 335 Nm spec. Converting 245 Nm to ft lbs gives us 180.7 ft lbs. Wow. I divided that by half and took the nuts to 90 ft lbs and called it even. No rattling and the hooks feel solid as a rock. If they loosen up, which I highly doubt, I’ll search around again for the torque spec and/or apply Loc-Tite. Given the design of the locking nuts, I really do not think this is going to happen.

If you don’t believe in torque wrenches, do whatever works for you. Due to a variety of nerve factors, I can’t feel how much pressure I am applying any longer so I torque stuff down to spec.

If you do know a definitive value, please email me and I’ll adjust accordingly.

This is big Ed my 50-250 ft lb 1/2″ torque wrench. I have “bigger Ed” that is a giant 3/4″ unit. I also have a number of 1/4, 3/8 and 1/2 torque wrenches for different applications.

The Result

They are rock solid. I haven’t used them yet but am ready for winter.

Driver’s side. I think I could have left the one top section of the grill but I am also not sure if it would have gotten busted off anyways from shackles, hooks, etc. I also can’t get rid of the slight angle of the hook left to right despite trying to make it flat several times so I am not going to worry about that either,
Passenger side

One last comment, I did go in a week or two later and spray painted all of the exposed bolts and nuts with black paint to slow up the rust on the fasteners. In Michigan, fighting rust is an art form and also a losing battle – that salt that gets put on the roads gets everywhere and eventually takes its toll but I sure do try to delay that 🙂

Summary

You can definitely do the hooks yourself. Save some money and get them off eBay, do what you want with the bolts and then trim the front grills so the tow hooks can slide in. It looks pretty good and will do the job.


Note, I have to buy all of my parts – nothing here was paid for by sponsors, etc. I do make a small amount if you click on an ad and buy something but that is it. You’re getting my real opinion on stuff.

If you find this post useful, please share the link on Facebook, with your friends, etc. Your support is much appreciated and if you have any feedback, please email me at info@roninsgrips.com. Please note that for links to other websites, I may be paid via an affiliate program such as Avantlink, Impact, Amazon and eBay.



How To Easily Assemble A Removable LED Light Bar For Your Truck Or Car’s Roof

Okay, I’m the proud new owner of a 2021 Ram 2500 Tradesman and the original halogen lights were pretty anemic. I did two things to address this – first, I replaced the high beams with Lasfit LED emitters and that’s a story for another day. With that said though, I’ll tell you that upgrading to the Lasfit LED high beams was stunningly worth it – I can’t tell you the last time I was so happy with an upgrade.

Now that I am done gushing over the high beam upgrade, the second thing I did was to investigate installing a LED light bar on the truck. That’s really the focus of this post.

I guess it must be the pandemic because there aren’t a lot of custom fit aftermarket options right now but there are still a ton of lighting options using general fit LED light bars – the kind that you normally bolt on to a bumper, roll bar, etc.

My first thought was to mount a light on the bumper but I run a Western plow in the winter. I could have mounted a 26″ bar behind the front lower plastic grill in the bumper or even cut it out for a clear shot but it wasn’t really appealing to me.

Then I got to thinking about how tall the truck was. My 2021 Ram 2500 with the snow package is sitting pretty tall in the air. The top of the cab is about six and a half feet (80-ish inches) off the ground. If I mounted a light bar up there, it would have the elevation to cast a ton of light.

Lighting Options

Over the years, I’ve used a number of inexpensive light bars off Amazon and had while some brands weren’t so great due to leaking water into the LEDs, I’ve had pretty good luck with Nilight. You’ll read mixed reviews of their customer service but fortunately I’ve not needed to work with them.

So, I started looking at NiLights and was particularly interested in their triple row light bars as they can output a ton of light. Honestly, for any of these vendors, take their lumen and wattage claims with a huge grain of salt – there’s a ton of marketing hype. In general, bigger bars and more emitters give you more light – that’s just a rule of thumb to go by.

So, I’ve had light bars up to 12″ wide in the past but they were double row and nothing to spectacular in terms of light output. So, I figured I wanted another Nilight and some width greater than 20″ and they have a bunch of options.

In terms of mounting, I really didn’t want to go drilling into my new truck. On one hand I could mount a light behind the plastic lower grill in the bumper but I really wanted to go high because I do plan to install LED fog lights in the future.

Magnetic Mounts

So, one way to mount is to use rubber coated magnetic mounts. They are removable and hold pretty good but they honestly do have limits and will blow off the truck if you don’t think things through carefully. I really wanted to go this route, at least for now.

Going with magnetic mounts does require you to think about some things. First and foremost, are they strong enough to hold the light in position? What you will find is that they tend to be very strong and pulling a magnet straight off a good metal roof is genuinely hard but that’s not the real issue. You need them to not gradually slide backward and come off at the speeds you plan. In general, the bigger the surface area of the light (width x height).

As I thought about it, I reigned in my length to 26″. I sure debated the 37″ bar but there were two reasons why I went with the shorter bar. First, guys reported that the actual draw of the 26″ Nilight 18025C-A light bar was around 5 amps and that was good because I planned to power the light from the dash mounted cigarette lighter – more on that shortly.

Second, I wanted to lower the risk of the light sliding around. The 26″ Nilight 18025C-A bar comes with three mounting points but I wanted to add more to make sure it didn’t move so I ordered additional set of the Nilight 90035B mounting brackets. That then gave me the ability to mount five of the magnetic bases. I figured that would do the job.

Powering the Nilight 18025C-A Bar

With all of the lighting gear on order, the next thing to consider was the power. Since it was going to be removable, I wanted the power to be mobile as well and not hardwired.

For those of us old enough to remember the old cigarette lighters you know where the name comes from. For those of you wondering what I am talking about, I am talking about the odd looking tubular 12 volt power receptacle in your car or truck. Back in the day, there was a little plug that you pushed in that would cause a little heating element to get red hot and you could light a cigarette or stogie from it … or anything else for that matter – it was like a little red hot space heater or stove element.

In most vehicles, the units can provide 15-20 amps. In a Ram, my understanding is that the center dash unit has a 20 amp fuse. If you are trying to calculate watts, volts x amps = watts so a 20 amp 12 volt circuit can provide 240 watts.

Remember my earlier comment about light bar watt and lumen claims typically being higher than reality? The 26″ bar listing says 540 watts. That is a ton of juice — maybe it’s what it would be if some old incandescent bulb was used but it’s not really drawing that.

There are these really cool switched plugs that have a on/off switch along with a momentary switch and a 10 foot cord. They are well made but I do wish the wire was thicker but it didn’t cause a problem. Note, you can buy these with either the ground (negative) or positive being the momentary switched circuit. I opted for the positive momentary switch because I could just turn the light on for second, let go and it would shut off. If you don’t want it at all, you can just cut off blue momentary wire.

Adding The Mounts To The Nilight 18025C-A

I should point out that I did try just using the original three mounting points that came with the bar and three magnets. During some highway driving tests during the rain I thought it moved some and didn’t think that was secure enough, at least not to my liking. The lights are modular so adding a couple more mounts was easily done.

The first thing I did was to unscrew the end cap from the end without the wire. I removed the end cap and the gasket so I could then slide in two extra M8 hex nut for the two extra mounts I planned.

I removed the cap from the end with no wire, moved the gasket out the way, and slid in two new M8 nuts. I was then careful to make sure the gasket was positioned correctly when I inserted and started the little bolts by hand before using my power screw driver to run them down snug.

In terms of the mounts, I found that their supplied allen/hex socket screws were really a bad idea on their part. You can’t access them easily at all and they limit adjustments so I switched to regular hex head M8 bolts.

With an M8 bolt in place, you can turn the rubberized magnetic mounting disc and tighten or loosen it accordingly. I replaced all of the little hex head socket bolts with hex heads as shown above. I took the little hex socket bolt into my local Ace Hardware and found replacements of the same length.
As with the bolts on the rubber mounts, I replaced the hex sockets on the body too. I honestly have no idea why they opted for sockets vs. head head bolts. The hex heads allow for more rotation and easy access with an open end wrench.

I did apply blue Loc-tite to the bolts going into the rubber pads. In hindsight, I think this might have been overkill. If I ever want to take the pads off, it will take a bit more effort but then again they aren’t going to vibrate loose so easily either.

To make the spacing symmetrical I just moved in X screw heads from each end, centered the mounting block and tightened it down. In my case, I wanted the light to point straight head so I did have to play with that a bit and then match all of the mounts to the same angle.
Here’s the rear view. Once I figured out the position for the light to be straight ahead, I approximated the angle on the others by paying attention to the location of the top of the mount relative to the cooling fin.

Wiring The Nilight 18025C-A

Wiring is very straight forward – red line in the light’s short lead cord to the red line on the power cord. If you want the momentary positive to trip the light also, connect the blue and red cord together. Only do this if you buy the momentary positive version of the cord.

Here’s the switch assembly and it’s cord with the black cord from the light swooping in from the top left. The small black tool is used to trim back the protective outer
case on cable assemblies so you can then get to the exposed individual wires. They are cheap and very handy. The alternative is careful slitting with a box cutter/razor.
Red to Red, Black to Black and combine the blue momentary positive to the red positive on the power cord – I just twisted them together and then soldered. Only do this if you made sure to buy the momentary switched positive version of the switch. If you mistakenly bought the negative momentary version you will pop the fuse in the nose of the switch housing because that will be a dead short. That fuse is replaceable by the way.

As far as wiring goes, you can use any of the solderless crimp on connectors or you can just solder the lines together. If I know I will need to take something apart then I will use good crimp on fittings. Otherwise, if I want a slim connection that will last, I use a soldering iron and resin flux core solder.

Be sure to test everything before you close up the circuits. I tested the LED light bar itself before I did anything else.

After soldering, I like to put shrink tubes over each line and then over the bundle to keep moisture out and reduce strain. By the way, if you aren’t familiar with shrink tubing, it shrinks when heated – I prefer to use a heat gun but have also used a lighter in a pinch.

If I want to reinforce it further then I may add on a layer or two of quality 3M electrical tape – overkill I know but I don’t want things to fail easily from flexing or moisture.

Shrink tubing assortment sets are very handy to have around.

I also looked at where the light cord was going to rub on my truck’s roof and added a piece of thick decal vinyl to protect the paint.

So the plug and switches work quite well being in the center dash plug like this. Very easy to reach and turn on or off. When on, the little red LED lights up so you do have an in-cab reminder that the bar is on (trust me, at night, you’ll know it’s on).
You can see how I have the cord run. Again, this is meant to be removable and something I can move around as needed. So yeah. there is a loose cord but it is manageable.
So the light us up top and I run the wire in actually just behind the pillar between the driver and passenger doors in the crew cab. I then run the wire behind the driver’s headrest and down along the center console. Note, there is thick vinyl decal paint protector where the line touches the pain – and about two inches on either side just to play it safe.
So the cord runs under the driver side headrest and then up and out the passenger rear door in the crew cab. I wish there was another 2-3 feet of cord so I could have run it to the floor and around the bottom of my chair but you know, it works. I could have spliced in more wire with pros and cons but I decided to keep it simple.
It really clamps down well on the flat portion of the roof but not in the back with the reinforcing bends. I center the light by eyeball aligning the center mount of the bar with the center roof marker light. The actual bottom of the light bar (not the mounts) is about 81-ish” off the ground. Also, you can’t see it but as mentioned, there is thick 3M Vivid vinyl decal material under the cord.
It’s hard to get the 3M Vivid tape to show up unless you get the angle just right to see the edges. There are two pieces here – one wrapping over the edge of the roof and a second wider piece to protect the paint if the cord is blowing around in the wind much.

Nilight 18025C-A Results

Let’s look at some photos that I took at night and the measures at all based on my laser range finder that I measured before hand from the front of the truck:

These are the stock OEM low beams. Notice how they really limit upward light. The bright oak tree trunk you see slightly left of center is at 23 yards. If you can see the silver tarp in the background, that is at 47 yards.
Ok, mow this one is with the Lasfit LED high beams turned on. The leaf pile in the woods is at 57 yards.
Alright, this is with the low, high and LED light bar running. The light output is amazing. You can’t see it in the photo obviously but the light bar was lighting up a ton of stuff to the left and right as well. The next big tree in the left of the photo is at 31 yards and the swing set is at 44 yards. There’s just a ton of light. This is exactly what I wanted – the Nilight LED bar I bought has a mix of flood and spot emitters to generate this much light.
Low beam only from about 7 yards.
Low and High beam lights at 7 yards. The big shadow is the top left light of my plow.
Low, High and Light Bar at 7 yards.

Summary

First off, it is stunningly bright and casts it very well both forward and to the sides – the breadth of the field of light cast actually surprised me. So, in terms of the shear volume of light it is kicking out and it’s ability to light things up in all directions, it definitely exceeded my expectations.

The switch works remarkably well. The switches have a nice feel and I like that there is a fuse in the switch assembly protecting the truck’s outlet. At no time did the cord feel warm due to excessive draw and I can’t see that it is limiting the brightness of the LEDs any so that worked out just fine.

Next, it seems to stay put – even during rain. Most of my driving has been around town and 35-45mph. I did go on the highway at 65-75mph for 10-15 minutes a few times but not for hours on end. I also have no intention of putting this through a car wash – I really am not sure how it would fare one way or the other.

I would recommend that you keep a towel in your truck to clean the roof before you clamp on the light and also inspect the magnets to make sure they are clear — otherwise you are liable to scratch up the roof or where ever you clamp the light to.

I also decided to keep the light stored in an old duffel bag under my back seat vs. having any risk of it coming off. I put a micro fiber towel in there too – I mainly bagged it to prevent stuff from getting stuck to the magnets and then scratching things up.

This is the light bar, duffel bag and towel that I stash under the rear seat.

The only downside is that I would need to know before hand that I might need the light and install it vs. leaving it attached all the time. I figure in the Spring that I’ll look into installing the flood lights and then decide if I want to do anything after that.

Last photo for now 🙂

So, I am very happy with the result and hope this gives you some ideas as well.


Note, I have to buy all of my parts – nothing here was paid for by sponsors, etc. I do make a small amount if you click on an ad and buy something but that is it. You’re getting my real opinion on stuff.

If you find this post useful, please share the link on Facebook, with your friends, etc. Your support is much appreciated and if you have any feedback, please email me at info@roninsgrips.com. Please note that for links to other websites, I may be paid via an affiliate program such as Avantlink, Impact, Amazon and eBay.