2014 Ram 1500 ST Integrated Brake Controller Installation

I didn’t specifically buy this truck to do any towing.  It was literally going to be just a replacement vehicle for the minivan, which, was falling apart.  Especially after seeing the abysmally low tow ratings for the RAM 1500 ST.  Then I started researching light weight travel trailers and starting thinking “what if”?  Then I found the Lance model 1985 travel trailer.  It has a gross weight well under my truck’s max tow rating.  However, I would need to add a brake controller.

I actually already had a brake controller I could have used but it’s the type that hangs down below the dash and you end up knocking your knees on it getting in and out of the truck.  After doing some research I found it was possible to add the factory supplied brake controller.  I used THIS DOCUMENT as my guide to installing the Ram Integrated Brake Module (RIBM) and everything went (almost) well.

When you order the RIBM, it comes with two bezels, one charcoal grey and the other tan.  I used the grey bezel to match my panel obviously.  It installs into the below space in your panel.  Originally there was a small change holder here.  It removes easily with two screws and the RIBM slides right into place.  Ram supplies an extra screw to hold the RIBM in place.  These are Torx 20 screws.

 

To get at the wiring you have to remove the kneeguard panel just below the steering wheel.  This is super easy as well.  You remove two screws at the bottom of the panel and it snaps out.  Then just let it hang by it’s wiring.

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Here is unfortunately where I stopped taking pictures.  To complete the installation I had to tap into the pink wire in the upper right corner of the above photo.  I then had to run this wire over to the brake controller.  The reason I had to do this is because the RIBM comes with two connection ports.  I had the first connector in my truck.  This is the one that goes to the 7 way plug back at my tow hitch.  The second connector supplies power and connects back to the truck’s EVIC or Electronic Vehicle Information Center.  My truck didn’t come with an EVIC so they didn’t bother to put this second plug in.  So at the other end of the wire I ran I installed a small female pin that fit the male pins on the second RIBM connector. (These connectors are available on Amazon.)

I crimped the pin onto the wire (make sure you use the proper crimpers for this or else use pliers and some solder.) I put some heat shrink over the end so the bare metal connector wouldn’t short against any of the other pins.  To make sure the cable stayed on I used some super strong duct tape to tape the wire to the bottom of the RIBM.

I plugged the red wire into the smaller connector and then installed the RIBM into the panel.  After it was secured I plugged the connector I found under my panel into the second larger connector on the RIBM.  When I turned the key and saw that it powered on I put all the dashboard panels back into place.

I know that CF means controller fault and that’s because there is no trailer connected.  What I don’t know yet is how long it flashes this message.  I didn’t leave it powered on that long because it was starting to rain.  I’ll do some more research today and see if I installed it correctly.

UPDATE:

The CF (Controller Fault) problem has been solved!  When I first read about this installation many of the people who did this before me said that I only needed to hook up the +12V line on the second jack in the controller.  This the the single wire I connected as discussed above.  This was simply not true.  I had to connect the CANBUS + and – lines as well.  Even though I don’t have an EVIC, these lines are needed by the controller.  Otherwise it thinks there is a problem.  After I connected these pins per the document I referred to above, the controller functioned correctly!  I have not connected a trailer to it yet so I don’t yet know completely if the RIBC is fully functional.

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Interim Dreaming

Since I bought an interim truck to hold me over until I can buy the big truck, Cristy and I started thinking about buying an interim trailer to hold us over until we can buy the big trailer.  My Ram 1500 has a max trailer weight of 6050 lbs so I began looking for a lightweight travel trailer I could safely tow with my Ram.  After doing some research I came across Lance Travel Trailers.  Lance is well known for their truck campers but they also make some really nice, light travel trailers.

The largest model my truck can safely tow is the 1985.  It has a maximum weight of 5700 lbs.

The 1985 is small enough to fit into most state and national park campgrounds, easily towed, yet JUST big enough to be livable for more than overnight trips.  It’s literally the biggest little trailer I could find.

Fully loaded the trailer will be over 5000 lbs.  The Ram 1500 owner’s manual strongly recommends using a weight distribution hitch for trailers over 5000 lbs.  For that I’ll go with the Andersen 3344 no-sway hitch.  This type of hitch transfers some of the trailer’s weight to the front wheels of your towing vehicle.  What’s really nice is that no modifications need to be made to your vehicle, the weight distribution hitch clamps to the frame of the trailer’s hitch.

We’re not quite ready to buy the trailer but this is the new plan.  We will still move toward the bigger truck and trailer but for now this is what we will learn the ropes on.

 

Goodbye Sienna, Hello Ram

img_20161119_143059After 18 years of reliable service we decided it was time to put our 1998 Toyota Sienna out to pasture.  I knew that I wanted a Ram 3500 to be our tow vehicle when we eventually start travelling full time.  I also knew that we won’t be able to live that lifestyle for another 7 to 10 years.  There would be no point in having a Ram 3500 as my daily driver for the next 7 years.  But I also knew the Sienna wasn’t going to last another 7 years.  After discussing it with my wife she suggested I get an interim truck.  After searching around a little I finally settled on a bare bones Ram 1500.  This particular truck has storage compartments on either side of the bed, and basic instrumentation.  I went basic so the truck wouldn’t be an attractive target for thieves.

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It’s good to finally have a vehicle that doesn’t sound like it’s about to fall apart, will pass smog, and can tow heavier loads than the minivan could.  I’m even starting to think about a small travel trailer so my wife and I can do some camping.

Anderson Ultimate Hitch 2

I just received comment in my blog from Andersen Hitches.  It seems they have improved the coupling device on their hitch by adding a funnel which guides the ball hitch into the coupler.  This makes hitching up far more easy and gives a little room for “slop” when hitching up.  I know that this feature will definitely be a benefit to me personally. 🙂

Here’s what the hitch comes with…

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You can see the new addition of the funnel and how cleverly designed it is.  It just bolts on the receiver assembly which bolts to the kingpin of your coach.

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Not sure if owners of existing hitches can fit these to their units but it would appear you could add it easily.  If the size of the aluminum billet hasn’t changed then this would be a no-brainer addition.

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You can see that once fitted on the kingpin of your coach, it will be much easier to hitch to your tow vehicle.  You can be 3 inches off-center in any direction and still hitch up easily.

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Andersen seems to be an innovative company that keeps refining and enhancing their products.  I think my mind is made up.  I’m going Andersen Ultimate 2… too!

 

NOTE:  I’ve received no promotion or incentive from anyone to write this article.

 

Project 2023

So after looking at finances and life situations we have to change our timeline for retirement somewhat.  There will be some financial penalties if I retire before the age of 59.5 so we have to push Project 2020 off until 2023.  So the full-time RV life will have to wait just a bit longer.  If you’ve noticed the countdown timer on the side of my webpage you’ll further notice that it has changed to reflect our change in timeline.

RV Dreaming

The great thing about dreams is that you can dream whatever you want.  Dreams don’t have to be grounded in reality.  Sometimes though you can realize your dreams even if only for a short time.  Cristy and I got to do just that for a few hours this past weekend.  We traveled down to Pomona to visit the Best RV Show at the Pomona Fairplex.  Or goal was to evaluate the two models of Grand Design 5th wheel coaches we had been considering.  Then we experienced the first of two surprises this year at the show.

The first surprise was that Grand Design has introduced a new model and we fell in love with it.  It’s Grand Design Solitude 300GK.

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We like the fact that it’s only 35 feet long, has a separate closet for the washer/dryer, and a telescoping TV that reveals a huge picture window when the TV is lowered.   Which is where we’ll probably keep it.  Our absolute favorite model is the new 360RL but at almost 40 feet long is just a little too long for us.  Most state and national parks cap out at 35 feet so that’s what we’re trying to stick to.

The other surprise was that we found out that Winnebago has purchased Grand Design RV.  We aren’t sure how to take this news yet.  It could be very good depending on what the intentions of Winnebago are but it could also spell the end of Grand Design as we know it.  Since we are a few years away from purchasing we have time to find out.

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As I read this press release the more I think that Thor was probably posturing for a hostile takeover of GD and they decided to ally with a name synonymous with the RV industry rather than get swallowed up by Thor.  At any rate as I already said, time will tell.

Despite this news Cristy and I really enjoyed our time away.  We got to be with each other and spend time talking or just being quiet and enjoying the passing scenery.  Car travel has kind of become our refuge from the world.  We load up our snacks, crank up our favorite tunes on Spotify and hit the road.  It’s fun to dream about when this will be our reality.  For now we get to live it in bits and pieces and that’s enough.  For now.

 

Buy a Wind Muff Will You?

I’ve been watching a lot of YouTube videos lately published by folks who live full time in their RVs.  I enjoy dreaming about living that lifestyle and like to live it vicariously through these folks.  The production value and polish they put on the videos is amazing but I have one nit to pick with several of these videlo vloggers.  I have seen more than one person, and sometimes a couple, that are doing a monologe or dialog about what’s going on in their lives but you can only catch about every 5th word because the wind is blowing so hard and distorts the audio.  But the folks putting the video up on YouTube just don’t seem to care whether you hear them or not.  They have to know because they do a lot of post video processing and editing.  I could go on but since a picture is worth a thousand words:

 

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