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non-prophet 10-14-2012 02:50 PM

2004 Dodge Ram - had to bite the bullet and get a truck
Hello ecomodders. I'm starting this thread preemptively. I had to bite the bullet and get a truck, and I've located an immaculate 2004 dodge ram 1500 that fits my price range. I don't own it yet, but I will this week. I need to carry a payload of 1500 pounds, including four adults and all the gear of a touring funk band. I have been driving a corolla since 2006 which has done me well, but I have to make sacrifices in what I can bring for a show, due to it's capacity. Also, loading and unloading quickly, i have beat the hell out of the interior.

Now I'm faced with at least 30 out of town shows in the next year, and the occasional rental when I need something bigger won't work.

This truck will be driven %90 for this purpose, and then occasionally around the city. I'm keeping the Corolla for my regular driving - as I'm a Realtor in my day job, I can't use a truck for my daily needs - it's just too expensive on gas.

Here's a picture of the truck I'm getting (not the actual one, but the exact same model:

I've done very well with my Corolla just using the driving tricks learned on this forum. My best tank of gas yielded just about 800km (mostly highway).

My first step with the truck will be to take it out and learn how to drive it. I'm not used to the power, and it will have a 5.7 hemi (just rear wheel drive though). The gas pedal is extremely reactive to the slightest touch, so I will have to get used to that first.

I will be driving somewhere in the realm of 20000km in the first year and a half, so a few extra MPG will make a huge difference.

My first thoughts for aero stuff were the simple basics:

1 Front air dam
2 Grill blocking (I'm in Canada and it's almost winter, so I can block a lot).
3 Bed cap - (very important, needs to be secure and watertight - it's carrying instruments, amps, and a PA system - so I don't have much room to mess around with building one) - if someone can recomend the most aerodynamic production model available to me, I would appreciate it.
4 Rear wheel skirts
5 Wheel covers - I still havent seen a method on this forum that is reliable without drilling through the rims. The truck comes with chrome rims, and I need to maintain resale value - so there will be no drilling here.
6 Belly pan (i'm not familiar with the underside of the truck yet to know what needs to be covered, and how to attach it.

EPA is 19 for highway driving (which is all I care about). My first goal is 27mpg

non-prophet 10-14-2012 03:50 PM

I want to make this look good, so I'm planning ahead. Here are some points of inspiration:


non-prophet 10-14-2012 03:55 PM

So, the air dam that extends past the width of the truck... any thoughts?

baldlobo 10-14-2012 03:59 PM

make sure it has mds, that'll help with mpg.

non-prophet 10-14-2012 04:13 PM

From wikipedia " It debuted in 2004 on the 5.7 L modern Hemi V8" The one i have lined up is the 5.7 Hemi v8. How do I confirm it has MDS? It appears that they only added it to the trucks in 2006.

A 2006 is out of my price range still at the moment.

brucepick 10-14-2012 05:59 PM

Re. Flat wheel covers firmly attached without drilling into rim:
I did it by drilling into the acorn lugnut caps. Epoxied 8x32 stainless nuts inside. That gave something to anchor the wheel covers to.

My first version flat wheel covers were perforated aluminum from home depot but I later had to replace with primed 2.7 mm. Lauan plywood. You may prefer plexiglass or ?? I'm pretty sure I wrote it up in a thread in the DIY forum.

non-prophet 10-14-2012 06:08 PM

Thanks Bruce, actually, I vaguely remember your thread. I'll probably do it with aluminum or lexan. I'm planning to paint them to match the cap I get for the bed - which won't end up being the colour of the truck, since I need to find deals wherever I can.

I'll give your thread another read though. I think at the time, I had discounted the idea because I didn't have the facilities to drill through the lugnut caps. I do now though...

rmay635703 10-14-2012 06:10 PM

I have nothing good to say about Dodge autos being that I own one. All I could say is maybe an Aero topper that you can lift up like a pop up camper, smaller tires (diameter, not thickness or width from stock) and lowered.

If you have an MT your dodge becomes infinately more usable and usefull, food for thought in the future when the transmission craps out in 45k (sorry but that seems to be the way it goes)


non-prophet 10-14-2012 06:13 PM

Thanks RMAY, this has to last me for about 3 years. It's a 2004 in immaculate condition, owned by a Dodge employee. It has 200,000 km on it. It's the only truck I've seen in my price range that is doable around here. It literally has been kept like a new vehicle.

What is an MT?

rmay635703 10-14-2012 06:44 PM


Originally Posted by non-prophet (Post 334074)
Thanks RMAY, this has to last me for about 3 years. It's a 2004 in immaculate condition, owned by a Dodge employee. It has 200,000 km on it. It's the only truck I've seen in my price range that is doable around here. It literally has been kept like a new vehicle.

What is an MT?

MT = Manual transmission

Dodge slushboxes are very challenging to hypermile and usually end up with electronic problems. (ask me how I know)

My truck as a Manual can easily get 22mpg, as an Auto its a challenge to get the EPA rating.

non-prophet 10-14-2012 07:06 PM

Ya, I tried my best to find manual... not happening this time around. When I can afford more, I will get manual, diesel etc... I have run out of time to search though.

slowmover 10-15-2012 06:55 AM

Bed topper versus bed cap: Make some guesstimates on cubic cargo capacity needed. Same for weight: total number of passengers plus personal gear.

1] Take truck to certified scale and weigh with driver + full fuel (and any items which will be aboard permanently). This is the adjusted empty weight.

2] Remaining cargo capacity will need to controlled. The Dodge Towing Guide will show factory weight. Show us the numbers for your model.

3] Next step is tires & brakes (examination plus repair/replace) and loading the truck with representative weight. Brake drag needs to be eliminated if present.

On the scale one needs to get the per wheel position weight in order to set the best tire pressure according to the vehicle manufacturer specs (and in reference to the RMA numbers). Get the numbers dead on.

4] With that representative weight, one needs to do some "driving around" to see if any play exists in steering/suspension components. Transient response at highway speeds, braking into a corner, etc aren't just for safety, but keeping FE high. Trucks suffer in transitions from one state to another, and not just in acceleration/deceleration.

Cargo securement is critical. Even if the truck rolled over, the cargo should not move significantly.


As to highway FE, calculate the amount of time actually spent at top travel speed without accel/decel/stops for breaks, fuel, food, etc, on a few representative trips. Then some time looking at all other engine-on time.

A truck is best used by limiting engine hours. Route planning is central to best use. Know all stops in advance, etc. No "hey, pull into that convenience store ahead, willya?" requests honored.

Aero changes are fun, no doubt, but the above (which is barely a sketch) underlies all the rest. The "mechanical baseline". 1/2T trucks are load limited. I'll guess that your gear/pax weights may put you at the limit. So calc first, and buy second.



MetroMPG 10-15-2012 11:27 AM

Does it have a factory MPG gauge? You want one that offers both instant & resettable "trip" (average) MPG or L/100km. This is crucial to adjusting the nut behind the wheel. With the amount of fuel you're going to be burning, don't fool yourself into thinking you don't need or can't afford one - false economy!

Second: ScanGauge or equivalent will also let you accurately monitor coolant temperature, and possibly transmission temperature - important while running partial or a full grille block.

Thirdly, you should know from reading here that after reducing speed, the most effective improvement you can make to a pickup for highway fuel consumption is an aero shell bed cover. You should try very, very hard to organize your gear so that it will fit beneath one.

Adding a traditional square topper will likely reduce fuel economy compared to a tonneau cover, and probably even below an open bed.

Other mods listed make sense.

Lastly - woohoo, funk band!! Got a link to share? YouTube? :)

redpoint5 10-15-2012 11:43 AM

Don't get the truck! Buy an Outback, or a larger SUV if you need even more space, but just don't buy the truck. A Subaru Outback can get you 30mpg and last forever. I'd be surprised if the truck gets 20mpg and goes a year without having to work on something. Not only will you be paying more for fuel, but also tires and insurance. Then you will get real famliar with the local junk yard as you replace stuff you should never have to think about such as door switches, blower motor resistors, or the A/C system.

Trucks are endless money and time sinks. Don't believe me, get the truck. If you must get a truck, get a Tacoma or Ridgeline, or anything other than Ford, Dodge, Chevy.

ksa8907 10-15-2012 02:02 PM

Im not a guru on the trucks, but you may be able to wire in autostick for that trans. Steal parts from a grand cherokee or commander or charger/challenger. I don't know what will swap but you might get lucky.

non-prophet 10-15-2012 03:43 PM

Thanks guys.

Slowmover... these are very good things to consider.

MetroMPG - it has a factory MPG meter, but I will be using a scanguage alongside it. As for the topper, I have to go with what I can get immediately, within my budget, and with no possibility of leakage or any other problems. I'm all ears to a factory made aero topper, but I just have no idea where to find one in Canada. Throughout the year, I will pass by pretty well everywhere on the eastern seaboard, if anyone has suggestions. For now, it will be a leer 100xl i think:

I was wondering if it would be possible to do a little better putting something to help with airflow on the back of it.

Also, here's a link to some music: Amanda Davids | Toronto, ON, CA | R&B/Soul / Funk / Jazz | Music, Lyrics, Songs, and Videos | ReverbNation

I say funk, but there's a lot of soul and jazz in our show. It's just easier not to explain until someone is curious. Amanda plays several keyboards, including a Hammond organ, which takes up the most space and weight when we can bring it.

Redpoint - an outback can't hold nearly enough, both in weight and space. No wagon can. FYI, i tried to do one of these trips in my corolla with about 1100 pounds in it. My gas mileage was terrible, and it was dangerous. Although, any shows that don't require more than 900 pounds of weight, I will probably still take the corolla when I can. Even at it's limit, it does very well on highway mpg.

Ksa - an autostick would be awesome... I will speak to my mechanic about it and see if he has any creative ideas.

It's settled, I'll have this truck on the road thursday. I'm playing an out of town show with it Friday, so I'll start tracking my MPG right away. I dont have time to keep shopping around, and I had to find something that was in good shape, and would be reliable from the getgo without any work.

non-prophet 10-15-2012 03:46 PM

Again, I would love to have an aerotop, but I can't make one myself. I'm all ears if someone can direct me to a factory made one.

Also note, that truck in the picture still isn't the actual truck. Just a picture of the same model with the same topper I found for cheap.

Gealii 10-15-2012 03:56 PM

If your not in favor of making your own aerotop you could try a kammbach off your cap.

Also look at those wheel wells if you don't see it flexing when you have it loaded down look at wheel skirts beings a possibility on top of being a truck dodges are notorious for oversized wheel wells.

Air dam would be beneficial as well.

As for the autostick im sure you cold get the floorshifter (racing style) to control your shifts.

non-prophet 10-15-2012 04:00 PM

Here's video to give a good picture of how much space the gear takes up, and why I'm dead-set on a truck:

gear list for this show setup includes:
-88 key keyboard
-61 key keyboard
-keyboard midi modules, stand, etc.

-2 turntables
-DJ mixer
-table (yes, nobody ever has a suitable table for turntables at a jazz festival, for some reason).

-Full drum kit and hardware

-guitars (the more I can bring, the better, but usually, i can get away with just my 8 string if I have too - it's a bass and a guitar built into one).

-bass amp
-guitar amp
-guitar effects and preamps

-12 channel mixer
-power amp
-2 600 watt stage monitors
-2 200 watt floor wedge stage monitors

-stage signage

I think that covers everything.

Combined weight = somewhere around 900lbs, plus whatever cables and power supplies I need.

Personnel... 4 people, combined weight 650 lbs.

Thus the Ram is the smallest truck I can afford to use. I have very little headroom.

MetroMPG 10-15-2012 04:01 PM

Too bad about that square topper, but I hear you: you're pressed for time and don't want to mess around with fabrication.

Unfortunately, there's no commercial aero topper available. Not yet, anyway. It'll come some day.

You can improve the rear of the bed/square topper combination mainly by extending the overall vehicle length to taper the sides and the top. Think:


But again, it would require some fabrication skills.

non-prophet 10-15-2012 04:03 PM

Hi Gealii, yes, I was thinking about a kammbach type thing on the back. Not sure how to go about it, and whether the lack of anything on the bottom back will render it useless.

I will definitely be making wheel skirts based on the fully loaded dimensions of the truck.

An airdam is of course the first thing I will do, being that it's the easiest, cheapest and least obtrusive.

non-prophet 10-15-2012 04:05 PM

Just saw metrompg's post after writing my last few. That's sort of the idea i think I will be getting at for the first incarnation. IN that truck picture, are the top and bottom extensions equal in length but opposite in angle, do you figure?

non-prophet 10-15-2012 04:11 PM

Actually, i might try to build something that attaches to the trailer hitch at the bottom, and loops around the upper door of the topper to get something like that trucks rear end - hopefully in a way that allows the tailgate to open normally. I have a few ideas in mind.

If i manage to make that work, is there any validity in attaching a fake "cowl induction" on the hood to make it more of a teardrop shape on the front end, or should I generally let the shape start where the windshield is?

MetroMPG 10-15-2012 04:14 PM

You can still get an improvement without a bottom surface. EG: see

Fat Charlie 10-15-2012 04:23 PM

PM me the VIN and I'll tell you what the truck has. Before you actually buy it, price out a set of 20" tires. Then make sure this one doesn't have them.

Gealii 10-15-2012 04:27 PM

I agree with metros last post even a partial kammy should see an improvement. If you take a look at the kammbachs done on hatchbacks from the side they basically look like a triangle most of the time. Some improvement is better than nothing.

Miller88 10-16-2012 02:54 PM

You could get these trucks with 16'' steel wheels. And the bolt pattern was common on Ford trucks for years ... go to a junkyard and find a truck with the 16'' wheels and make wheel covers out of that.

BamZipPow 10-16-2012 02:59 PM

First mod you should consider is an Ultragauge or a Scangauge so you can learn the best way to drive to maximize yer efficiency. I've had both units and I'm partial to the Ultragauge. ;)

How about a van/SUV/crossover and a trailer? ;)

slowmover 10-17-2012 06:38 AM

Maxmum payload is about 1,300-lbs (link above). A 3/4 or 1t with an 8' bed would have been better. Never want to be "over" on axle numbers and especially tire limits, Get that adjusted empty weight from certified scale. Tire date code and Load Index of same! The business of moving loads predictably & reliably is all about working numbers properly. Any other approach is irrational.

A low aero trailer behind a vehicle carrying crew would have been a better mpg solution. Minivan plus teardrop trailer.

Start with tires, brakes, shocks, steering wander. I agree about Scan or Ultragauge, too.

non-prophet 10-19-2012 11:49 AM

Ok, truck is here. FYI, this one is quad cab slt, payload rating is 1680lbs, but 5.7 hemi shortbox.

A trailer and a minivan setup is not an option. It will never be an option.

A) equipment insurance won't cover theft from a trailer on my policy.
B) vans suck to drive.
C) Any combo with a trailer sucks to drive
D) Any combo with a trailer is impossible to park in any of the big cities we frequent.

There are many other reasons, but really, those should be more than enough. Screwing around with parking wastes more gas than anything else. Especially in those cities like New York, where it often involves circling 4km of one way streets to find a spot big enough.

This isn't for camping. It's a touring vehicle.

Scangauge is the first on my list. I found a place that has them in stock in Toronto. Won't have time to get one until next week. I'm having a lot of trouble getting a feel for how to drive at low city speeds efficiently, so the scanguage is high on my list.

I have my maiden highway voyage tonight to Windsor. Taking a light load because I don't have a topper yet. Found a good deal on a topper that I'll pick up tomorrow on my way back in another city along the route.

MetroMPG 10-19-2012 12:13 PM

Does this truck have cylinder deactivation? I once drove one of these Hemi Rams around this model year, and it had the feature.

non-prophet 10-19-2012 12:35 PM

Unfortunately not. This was the best I could find in good shape within my price range. I'm hoping to stick it out for maybe 2 years with it and reevaluate. I'm hoping by then I can afford to get something newer, diesel and manual, but we'll see.

I drove it around town a little today to get used to it. It's pretty bad on gas in the city, but not quite as bad as I expected, so there's a plus (going by the factory eco meter).

non-prophet 10-19-2012 12:37 PM

It will only take 20 out of town shows for this thing to pay itself off in the savings on rentals, so there's another plus.

non-prophet 10-19-2012 01:51 PM

Looking at it closely, there are some large caverns that will get filled with coroplast next week. I want to get a baseline of highway gas mileage first.

slowmover 10-20-2012 08:37 PM


Originally Posted by non-prophet (Post 335128)
It will only take 20 out of town shows for this thing to pay itself off in the savings on rentals, so there's another plus.

Per mile tax deduction for business use? In the US it is about 55-cents/mile.

There is a CAT Scale in Milton. Get the adjusted empty weight (driver, full fuel + any permanent additions) and adjust payload down accordingly.

Check tire date codes. Anything past five years is suspect. Near seven and time to dump. Tire type is vital, as LT would be the only choice I'd want (not lesser types). Load index.

Even though mine is quite different (3/4T versus 1/2T), the brand & year is the same. I much like this truck and hope your luck matches mine, overall. I have a LEER topper that is closely body fitting. Recommend that also (mine does not have side windows: lighter and no view to interior for crooks). I also have the factory bed liner (plastic, not spray in). I use tubs to parcel the interior load . . basically slide it around to access whtat I want. This works well, so I suggest something similar to load your equipment.


non-prophet 10-21-2012 03:36 PM

Alright, so I have some results from a 360km trip. It was the maiden voyage for this beast, and it rained a lot both ways. I don't have a scan gauge yet, so I'm going by the factory eco display.

On the way down to Windsor (from Toronto). a 3.5 hour trip took over 5 hours and we rolled at 10 km/h for a solid stretch around kitchener, as well as a stretch near cambridge.

We averaged 18mpg on the trip down, including a little bit of city driving, and the slow parts of the highway. This is with the truck as is, exposed bed, tailgate up, etc - in the rain.

On the way back, we filled the tires before leaving (they were so low I'm kicking myself for not checking before I left). I averaged 23.4mpg on the 200km trip to London, ontario, where we stopped to buy a topper from someone on craigslist.

Still, same truck, but less rain, and full tires... 4mpg diffrence.

We bought the topper and installed it in London. Drove back to Toronto, 150km. Heavy rain again, 22mpg average.

Quick summary -
350km in rain and bad traffic, low tires - 18mpg
200km in light rain, tires full - 23.4mpg
150km in heavy rain with topper - 22mpg

Not very scientific, but it's a start.

Any ideas on the next move? I have a couple of weeks before I have to take a 600km trip, with a heavier load.

I'll post some pictures later, but the first thing I think I need to do is fill in some of the cavernous spaces on the front.

Next, I have to see if I can fill some of the space between the topper and the cabin (I'll post a picture to show the specific problem - and then all ideas are welcome).

After that, I don't know what my next move is.

non-prophet 10-21-2012 03:50 PM

i should add to that, most of the time on the highway, 100km/h on the dot seemed to be the optimal cruising speed (kept it at 1600rpm most of the time).

non-prophet 10-21-2012 05:47 PM

As I look up truck aero ideas... I keep coming across aerodynamic mudflaps for Semis:
What exactly makes them aerodynamic? IS it hte curve?

non-prophet 10-21-2012 05:53 PM

Here's a better example... they still look to me like they would create drag, but I'm new to this:,0s542x244.png

ksa8907 10-21-2012 07:10 PM

They will create more drag than not having any, but less drag than the typical solid flap.

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