Wagan Tech’s 40 Amp DC to DC Charger 

It takes some type of fuel or energy to power things, this includes humans as without food (and other necessities) our systems will shut down. In the case of our beloved Cummins-powered trucks, that energy comes from burning #2 diesel fuel. The primary output of the internal combustion is propulsion of the drivetrain; however, supporting systems give and take from the consumption, including the cooling and electrical charging systems. 

Some readers know that the simple diesels from decades past would essentially run forever once started as long as the fuel flowed. They could be hard to cold-start, but they were also difficult to stop. This is because all diesels are ignited using compression ignition (CI), not a spark-ignition (SI) system like a traditional gasoline motor. Diesels are less complex without spark plugs, a coil, distributor cap and rotor, or wires, and while still fundamentally true there are modern complexities, chiefly the electronic fuel-injection. 

Mandatory Electricity 

Our newer, specialized, computer-controlled diesels need their modules to remain awake for everything to work properly (just like gas-powered trucks). Additionally, late-model vehicles are chock-full of countless electronic gizmos, from computer screens, cameras, seat and steering-wheel heaters, and the list goes on. The constant generation of electrical current from an alternator is no longer optional to keep the oil burning, but absolutely essential, even for daylight driving, because battery storage capacity is finite and amps consumed must be replaced.  

High-output alternators easily handle the load of the Cummins cold-start grid heater, or the glow plugs in other automotive diesels, plus the increasingly popular factory-installed inverters that convert the DC current to 120-volt AC to power tools or other plug-in devices. But what about additional intermittent or constant 12-volt DC electrical loads? 

Remote National Forest camping in Colorado. One only has what they bring with them.

RV Amps  

The TDR readership has always included a large percentage of RVers, and because we love our pickups so much, that means mostly travel trailers, big fifth-wheels, or truck campers instead of motorhomes. Solar panels atop an RV to charge coach batteries have been common for several years, as are backup generators to energize power-hungry AC appliances like microwaves and air-conditioners when shore power isn’t available. The solar panels require sunshine, and internal-combustion generators require fuel, so additional free amperage sources are welcomed. 

When an RV is connected to a truck via the 7-way trailer-towing outlet, typically a small amount of juice is delivered to the RV to help charge the coach batteries, often somewhere around 10-amps. The limitation is not alternator capability, but the size of the factory wiring. This small amount of amperage can help keep charged batteries topped if there are minimal loads; however running high-draw devices can lead to deficits. 

Modern Electric-Only Refrigerators

Like modern trucks full of gadgetry, newer RVs can have unprecedented amperage draws as well. The easiest example comes from the overlanding culture where electric refrigerators pioneered the replacement of traditional RV refrigerators, which principally ran on propane or 120 volts AC when plugged-in. Some older RV refers were theoretically capable of running on 12 V-volts, but they were terribly inefficient and would drain batteries fast.

Instead of using the gas absorption method of cooling with propane, modern 12-volt refrigerators have a compressor, similar to the refrigerators in our homes. These can be built-in units, as in my Hallmark Camper, or a portable chest type refrigerator/freezer. These electric refrigerators are generally more efficient and effective, particularly in hot weather, and do not have to be leveled like a traditional RV refrigerator. 

The benefits are being appreciated by more folks all the time, and in the off-grid and overland camping crowd electric fridge/freezers are seen as more rugged and vastly superior. Even the traditional RV market has noticed. My cousin recently purchased a new fifth-wheel trailer to live in (temporarily) after selling his house, and the refrigerator is 12-volt and 120-volt only, it doesn’t run on propane. There is at least one drawback and that is amperage consumption. 

Large refrigerator and freezer for an 8.5-foot truck camper. Consumes up to 5-amps 12-volt DC when running.

Additional Electrical Loads

The large-for-a-truck-camper NovaKool refrigerator with a separate freezer door in my Hallmark Flatbed consumes up to 5-amps when running, and it runs a lot during the summer months. Five amps per hour adds up quickly, pulling a chunk of the total 200 amp-hour capacity we have from two, 100-amp Battle Born lithium batteries. 

My Hallmark is well sealed, but no RV is or can be impervious to dust, they need to breath like a house. With this in mind, and because I spend much time traveling off-pavement and nearly always camp in the dirt, I run one of my roof vent fans while driving to pressurize the living space. This works impressively well to minimize dust intrusion. There is one more big electrical draw inside my camper every 24 hours. 

Although I do not fit the physical stereotype (I’m tall and slim), I use a CPAP machine to help me breathe and sleep every night. This is another substantial electrical draw, a minimum of 4-amps, even with a dedicated 12-volt cord to avoiding the inefficiencies of an inverter. Multi-day road trips with lots of driving still result in a battery charging deficit because the factory RV 7-way provides minimal amperage. The 340-Watts of solar panels help, but they are insufficient to keep the camper batteries charged due to my consumption. A small 700-Watt 2-stroke generator travels in one of the under-bed toolboxes as an emergency back up. I prefer not to use it, and it produces a mere seven amps. So how can one easily generate more electricity? 

Dead camper batteries should be old news after installing this DC charger from Wagan Tech.

Wagan Tech 40 Amp DC To DC Battery Charger

DC to DC battery chargers have been around a few years. They are popular in places like Australia, where the off-pavement backcountry travel market has historically been more robust and innovative. These devices are exactly what they sound like, taking DC amperage from the battery/alternator charging system under the hood and feeding it directly to auxiliary (RV) batteries through large wires. Sounds simple, and it is. But, they need to be hard-wired. Wagan Tech introduced their new DC to DC Battery Chargers in 2022, both a 25-amp model for $300, the $400 40-amp model that I installed. 

New Hole Required

If the auxiliary battery to be charged is on the same chassis, like inside the same engine bay, the installation is easier. If secondary batteries are in a separate RV, the wiring needs to go from the host chassis into the recipient. If the RV is a trailer that is attached and disconnected regularly, then something like an Anderson plug provides a robust connector (and something I intend to add in the future). 

With my Hallmark flatbed outfit, I directly connected new wires from the Cummins engine to the camper batteries, which required a new hole in my Hallmark. The process was not trouble free. 

Parts and Supplies Matter 

In an effort to avoid drilling a new hole, I attempted to use smaller but adequate 8-gauge gauge wires, running them alongside the existing Hallmark 7-way RV pigtail. The new positive and negative wires added too much girth to get the nut onto the knockout plate. This defeat came after hours spent running the wires from the engine bay, along the chassis, and then stuffing them next to the factory Hallamrk wiring pigtail and into the coach. 

Ran these 8-gauge wires from the engine compartment, along the camper’s 7-way plug, through the existing wiring hole, but had to start over.
There wasn’t room for additional wires, I stuffed them through the knockout plate nut anyway, but couldn’t wiggle the nut up to male end to secure the plate. See the gouged insulation? That’s how tight.

When it was obvious that drilling a new hole was required I decided to use larger 6-gauge wire, good for up to 32-feet. The finished total length was less than 20-feet so the wire will easily handle the amperage. Due to time constraints the wire was purchased from a nearby Home Depot, the trade-off being that it is not as flexible or easy to work with as ever thinker, larger welding cable. 

Home Depot didn’t have red 6-gauge so I had to take green. Shown with two 60A Maxi fuse holders.

Measure Multiple Times And Drill Once — A Nice Idea

The new hole in the driver’s side front wall needed to go below the water heater and above the propane locker, and it needed to be approximately 1-inch diameter. After measuring and making countless trips from the front wall into the camper, I was confident about the placement before drilling the pilot hole. Using my cordless right angle drill, I nailed it, but I assumed the 7/8″ hole saw I had was big enough, and I made a nice, clean hole. However, it was too small for the knockout plate bolt to slide from inside the camper, clamped on the 6-gauge wires, through the wall to the exterior to reach the knockout plate nut.  

New 7/8” hole drilled into the front of my Hallmark Camper. Measuring and drilling went well up to this point.

Back to Home Depot to buy a larger hole saw, something near 1 1/4″. As many do-it-yourself folks know, it is relatively easy to new to drill a clean new hole, but difficult (almost impossible) to cleanly make a hole slightly larger. A few times I slowly and carefully tried to get the larger hole saw started, but, of course, the saw just slid on the fiberglass. When trying gently does not work, what is the typical response? Add force. 

The Neanderthal in me came out, and I leaned on the drill to make the saw bite into the fiberglass where I wanted; this was a bad idea. The saw walked on the slippery fiberglass surface, but with increasing force it eventually dug into the exoskeleton wall, making the scar you see in the photo below. I didn’t swear much, but I was slightly displeased with myself! 

Without the benefit of a centering pilot hole, I attempted to enlarge a perfectly drilled hole and made this mess instead.

Disgusted, angry, and frustrated, there was no going back, and I still needed to enlarge the hole. My solution was what I should have done after discovering the hole was just a bit too small; I ran a half-inch bit around the circumference of the hole until it was big enough. 

Running a 1/2” bit around the circumference of the hole to make it larger should have been my first solution, not the second.

Thirty years ago this would have bothered me for weeks. I like to do clean, high-quality work. It’s covered by a plate and will never be an issue to anyone but me, and I’ve put it behind me. With the challenging part completed, it was time to finish the installation and get the Wagan Tech DC to DC Charger working. 

Pulling And Connecting 

The rest of the installation was straightforward and easy, and there were no more hiccups. I fed  the 6-gauge wire through two rubber firewall boots to provide a weather barrier, one from the camper front and one from the inside, then along the frame and into the engine compartment to the driver’s side battery. 

Had two of these stepped, rubber firewall boots leftover from a prior product (purchased after a prior drilling mistake). Stuffed the new hole with one from inside, and another from the front behind the knockout plate. Should be very weather resistant.
This knockout plate was always on the parts list, but also conceals my drilling snafu. Looks tidy and works too.

This Wagan 40-amp unit requires two 60-amp fuses, one as close to the engine bay battery as practical, and another on the Wagan charger output line near the auxiliary batteries. Bolt-down fuses are recommended because they have lower resistance than blade type, which can have higher resistance and create excessive heat. However, the blade-type Maxi fuses are what I found locally, and I’m confident they’ll be sufficient.  

Blade-style 60A fuse holders are what was available locally.

With the incoming hot and ground wires from the engine connected to the Wagan charger, another small hole was drilled in the Hallmark’s battery box to run a hot lead from the charger to my two 100-amp lithium RV batteries. 

New small hole drilled into the camper’s battery box, with the hot, output line from the Wagan 40A DC to DC Charger to a positive terminal.

With the fuses inserted I had the appropriate blinking lights on the front of the Wagan DC to DC Battery Charger; one light showing it was connected to the alternator, and after changing the battery type to LifePO4, that light was on as well. The unit is capable of working with standard, gel, AGM, and lithium batteries. 

Wagan Tech’s instructions are short, simple, and easy to follow, and folks capable of doing basic wiring will likely have no problems doing this themselves. Because of the largish 6-gauge wire and connectors I used a hydraulic crimping tool, and I covered the ends with heat shrink, routed the wires as cleanly as possible, and protected them with split-loom. 

60A fuse lead connected directly to the driver’s side positive post with copper ring. Heat shrink looks good and adds protection.

Mounting Options 

The Wagan charger is designed for a variety of installation environments, including chassis rail, engine bay, interior cabin, etc. The unit has been designed to work in vibrating, wet, dusty and muddy environments, and can withstand temperatures of up to 176°F, so it can be installed in the engine bay. However, to get better charging efficiency, mounting the charger away from high-temperature parts is preferred. 

I simply stuck it to the bottom galley shelf with mounting tape, between the propane locker and battery box. I may add screws later if this is the charger’s permanent home, but it’s not going anywhere on this flat surface. 

Flashing green lights indicate the Wagan Tech DC Charger is connected to the alternator and is feeding LiFePO4 batteries. Simply stuck to a shelf inside a galley cabinet with mounting tape.

Wagan Tech DC Charger Works  

Using more amperage than is being generated during long road trips should be a thing of the past. We’re unlikely to need a generator unless we want to run our air conditioner, in which case we would tote our larger Honda 2000. 

Pumping a massive 40 amps per hour into the Hallmark’s lithium batteries means it takes little driving to fill them; every time we make camp the batteries will probably be full. Even if the lithiums were completely drained we could replenish all 200 amps in five hours! 

Our initial adventures with Wagan DC to DC 40-amp Charger installed were extremely encouraging, the camper batteries were full whenever we stopped, and the voltage was high, as if we’d been connected to shore-power.

The Cummins is a large and expensive generator, but because we are already traveling, delivering essentially free electricity from our alternator to the camper batteries is a game-changer. Why did we wait so long to add something like Wagan’s 40A DC to DC Battery Charger? 

Drive diesel and tell ‘em you saw it in the TDR! (A version of this article was previously published in the Turbo Diesel Register magazine.) 

Tell ’em you saw it on RoadTraveler.net

Copyright J. Langan/RoadTraveler. All Rights Reserved


Instagram: @RoadTraveler 

Twitter: @RoadTravelerNet

YouTube: RoadTravelerNet


Wagan Tech: wagan.com 





Tuffy Security Lids and Safes

Tuffy Security Products

Tuffy Security Products’ teenaged founder Shawn Gregory parked his Jeep at a mountain bike trailhead in 1989, and when he returned he found his Jeep burglarized and all his gear stolen. Gregory replaced the plastic center console with a stout, locking wooden box, which he was soon duplicating for friends. Steel replaced wood as the construction material, and another American entrepreneurial success story began. In 2008, Tuffy’s Jeep-centric product line was expanded to include options for the broader recreational market, as well as law enforcement vehicles. 

If my trucks were not both Tradesmans, there is a center console safe I would have chosen to install, but it doesn’t fit my models. However, Tuffy does make other application-specific, and universal boxes and safes that do work with my Fourth Generation, 2500 Rams. 

One is the heavy-duty, locking, under-floor Storage Security Lids constructed with 16 gauge and 1/8” thick welded steel ($89 each). These replace the factory plastic covers atop the backseat floor. The lids include Tuffy’s Pry-Guard locking system, a continuous steel hinge, and a 10-tumbler, double-bitted security key lock with built-in weather seals. (These do not fit the Mega Cab trucks.) The no-drill installation uses the factory holes and captive nuts, and are simple and easy to mount. However, I still have a few observations and tips on how-to do the job a bit better, with my typical attention-to-details. 

In-floor Security Lid placed before the actual installation.

Ram In-Floor Storage Security Lids Installation 

Removing my rubber floor mat, opening the factory lids, lifting out the OEM plastic liners, then pulling the four T-30 Torx screws was all that was required to prepare to mount the Security Lids. After the OE parts were removed I noticed that there were five holes through the body, not just the four from the removed screws. 

Hole near the bottom/right of image is filled by the stud on the OE plastic lid.

That fifth hole is for a stud on the bottom of the plastic factory lid, which has a rubber gasket at the top, obviously intended to create a seal and keep debris out, as shown in the photograph below. (This indexing hole for the factory plastic cover is at the outer/rear on the driver’s side, and at the front outer edge on the passenger side.) 

Factory indexing stud, with seal, bottom of the OE plastic cover.

Although unlikely in the short term, grit, moisture, and debris could reach this 1/4” hole on the bottom of the body over time or in certain circumstances. If one was to drive through, or get stuck in deep water or mud, intrusion could immediate. Anybody that drives in adverse conditions, including heavy rain, snow, slush, or dust knows that grime gets flung everywhere under the chassis, and leaving holes open to the inside is a bad idea. My solution? Spare plastic clips/plugs, like those used for securing trim pieces and such, slathered with outdoor silicone and stuffed into the holes. 

Viewed from under the truck, the larger of these two holes is not filled by one of the four mounting screws.
Plastic plug slathered with silicone to prevent moisture and debris intrusion.

The OEM plastic liners that nest inside the below-floor storage cavity can be reused, though one won’t be able to simply pull them out for cleaning like the OE setup, because they need to go under the mounting base of the Tuffy lids. As noted in the instructions, leaving the liners out is an option, which also maximizes storage space. Choosing to eliminate the liners increased the volume so that the set of spare Mopar fuel filters from Geno’s Garage I always carry in one of these bins, which always needed to be encouraged to fit inline across the bottom, now fit easily. 

Everything I had in this bin fits just a bit better with the OEM plastic liner removed.

The factory lid screws had some type of sealant on the threads, so I added Permatex white goo Thread Sealant with PTFE to the 6 mm flat head screws provided (turned with a 4 mm hex bit). The Security Lids look great and fit impressively flush with the baseline floor height, allowing my big, one-piece Husky Floor Liner to lay as it did before. These in-floor lids are slick and beefy, and I was immediately happy I installed them. 

Thread sealant on the new screws.
Made-In-USA Thumbwheel ratchet from SK is handy and helps prevent over-tightening.

There is a similar product that interested me, the Ram Underseat Locking Lid ($119), but I chose not to install it is because it’s only available for the driver’s side, not both sides under the rear bench seat. 

Tactical Lock-Box

In addition to the locking lids, Tuffy also provided a Tactical Lockbox, and large and small Portable Safes for my use and evaluation; I’ll detail the Lockbox first. There are several variations in Tuffy’s Tactical Lockbox lineup, the one I ordered is 35” wide, by 12” long, by 5” high, (# 327–350120050–067–100–01), and retails for $469. 

Their line of lockboxes were originally designed for the US government, for both high-security and portability of firearms and other valuable equipment. A patented, anti-twist, push button lock mechanism features a 10-tumbler, double-bitted security key with built-in weather seals. A user-changeable, combination push-button lock enables keyless entry. The box is designed to be secured with a padlock, and/or cable. 

Key and combination locks on this sturdy Tactical Lockbox.

Because I rarely carry passengers, the backseat and floor of my crew cab are used for general cargo, mostly lighter items that don’t need to be secured (UFOs—unsecured flying objects—are dangerous during collisions). The black box sitting on a black floor mat, covered by the black windbreaker I always have at hand, concealed by tinted windows, makes it essentially invisible unless someone has already made entry with evil intent, at which time they’d need to contend with the locks. 

Does this box make my seat look smaller?

 My intended use for this Tactical Lockbox is as one might expect, for larger weapons and tools while out in the field, when they’re not actively being carried. Of course the box can also prevent theft of expensive photography equipment and other valuables as needed when adventuring away from my vehicular base. 

Portable Safes

The final items are smaller and handy, two Universal Portable Safes, one that is marketed for full-size pistols ($99), and another for compact pistols ($79). Occasionally I will use these for firearms, however other small and slim valuables like wallets, passports and such can also be stowed inside. 

Keyless entry is provided by a three-digit, user-set combination lock. A 2-foot long, 2000-pound-tested (and coated) steel cable secures the safe to any sturdy mounting surface (bolted seat leg in my case). The inside is lined with low-density foam to protect the contents, while compression bumpers keep the lid vibration free when closed. 

Universal Pistol Safe for Full-Size on left, and Universal Pistol Safe for Compacts on the right.

The larger safe has been riding under my driver’s seat, completely out of sight, and rarely rattles, moves, or is irritating. These handy little boxes could be used other places too… like inside an RV, garage, or even inside a house, all one needs to do is tether the cable to something difficult to move. 

For years I’ve known about Tuffy Security Products, but failed to look closely at what they might have to fit my vehicles. Even though I’m late to the party, I’m glad I made the trip. 

Tell ‘em you read it on RoadTraveler.net! 

James Langan

Instagram/TruthSocial @RoadTraveler 


Tuffy Security Products: tuffyproducts.com, 800-348-8339 







Throttle Sensitivity Booster from BD Diesel

Throttle Sensitivity Booster V2 module and plug-in harness. Super easy to install and use.

BD Diesel Performance Throttle Sensitivity Booster V2

BD Diesel Performance’s Throttle Sensitivity Booster is a popular, easy to install, plug-and-play product. For folks that like to hot rod around, or do a little racing, it’s easy to understand why a Throttle Sensitivity Booster, or TSB, would be a popular item, but this product’s appeal dives deeper. Few complain about a lack of torque or power from modern turbo-diesels, although not all would judge them responsive. 

Many late model Ram owners complain about accelerator pedal lag, a dead pedal. So it’s not surprising that increasing the fuel delivery for a given amount of pedal travel could eliminate a drivability complaint while simultaneously adding a perceived performance enhancement. With an automatic transmission’s fluid-coupling, there is less concern about shock-load, jumpiness, or other potentially negative drivability behaviors emanating from increasing the sensitivity. However, on manual transmission trucks, might boosting the accelerator impact driver finesse and vehicle sympathy? 

Skeptic Turned Into A Fan?

Do I want a more sensitive accelerator? My answer had been no. As I have shared in past columns, my additional pedal return springs and take-up slack spacer do much to improve the feel, feedback, and drivability of my rigs. I am extremely satisfied with these home brew modifications. So what spurred me to try the second version of BD’s TSB? 

Heavy return springs and spacer add greatly to overall control and feel.

An acquaintance with a 2014 crew cab 3500 with automatic transmission let me drive his Ram, to judge what the 3500 leaf springs feel like unloaded. (I don’t know what some are complaining about, must be car people, it wasn’t too stiff or firm with appropriate tire pressure.) His truck had been deleted before he purchased it used, sported a mild fueling tune, and a BD Throttle Sensitivity Booster. His rig really scooted with little pressure on the go-pedal. 

Some of that energetic behavior was from the automatic transmission, which goes and never stops until you release the skinny pedal. There is no loss of momentum during upshifts like occur with a manual, combined with a higher-rated A/T engine and the performance tune. Though it was also clear that the 3500 was really moving with a small dip into the accelerator. This experience made me rethink trying a BD TSB on one of my outfits. 

Slow To Start And Occasionally A Jerk

My Fourth Generation 2500 G56 Rams have been great, complaints have been few, but there has been a minor irritation: a light throttle surging or hesitation. This behavior is not uncommon on modern drive-by-wire vehicles (cars, trucks, and motorcycles), particularly if fuel metering is held at the exact spot between some, and none. However, the hesitation my 2500s exhibited didn’t occur only at that sour spot, rather a little deeper into the pedal. Fuel delivery would sometimes pulse with a steady but small accelerator application of approximately 10–20% of total travel. It was also slow to respond to input changes. 

The choppiness could be reduced or eliminated with a deeper, more aggressive pedal application, but that is not always desirable or safe. More precise and consistent response from all inputs is better for optimal control, smoothness, and fuel economy. 

After some online research I called BD to confirm what I’d read. The second version of the BD TSB has three different positions: stock, 50% increase, and 100% increase. The control module must be opened to select the different sensitivities, and the boxes are typically under or behind the dash. 

If the optional button kit is ordered, you get three additional choices: a valet mode that reduces pedal sensitivity substantially, a 75% setting, and a “ludicrous” mode, all of which are easily selected with the press of a dash-mounted button. Ludicrous held no appeal, but I was interested in having the 75% setting, plus the easy ability to revert to stock for bumpy off-road situations. With the exception of the  ludicrous position, the BD TSB remains in its current mode after an engine shut-down and restart. 

Initial setup involves the using stock position, pressing the pedal learn button, then cycling the accelerator a few times.
The optional Button Kit includes a button, mounting plate, and mini harness that goes from the button to the main TSB harness.

Geno’s Garage sold the BD TSB Version 2 for $285, and the optional Push Button Kit was $65. The just introduced TS Booster V3 is even less; $265 at Geno’s for 2007–2020 Rams.

In 2019, BD received California Air Resources Board (CARB) Executive Order (EO) approval for their TSB for 2005–2018 heavy-duty Ford diesel applications, and was working on approval for the Dodge/Ram and GM products. That is a big deal! 

Install Notes And Tips

According to BD Diesel, if one is going to run their TSB in conjunction with the BD High Idle Kit (which I have on my 2014 crew cab) one needs to put the Sensitivity Booster on the pedal side, and the High Idle on the truck side of the wiring chain. That’s because if the signal coming out of the High Idle Kit is sent through the TSB first, before going to the ECM, the High Idle module will have a harder time controlling the rpm (just like a person might with a more sensitive accelerator pedal). However, stacking them the other way around, letting the High Idle Kit communicate directly with the ECM, does not adversely affect operation of either accessory. 

Initial test in my 2014, before mounting the module or button.

The installation is a very simple. If one chooses the optional Button Kit, it must be connected to the main TSB wiring harness. The short and adequate instructions tell how, and my closeup images show some details. After following a brief pedal-learning procedure, one simply needs to mount the control box and button where desired and continue motoring.

To add the Button Kit, first remove the blue plugs on the TSB main harness.
Instructions tell which color wire goes into each numbered port.
This orange plastic block is removed from the front of the main harness connector before inserting the Button Kit wires.
Each wire in the correct position, before fully inserted and clicked into place, and replacing the orange block.


Does the lowest, 50% sensitivity increase make the truck feel like it has more power? Absolutely! The perception is that the truck has a higher-power rating, like the maximum fuel delivery has been increased though it has not. Nothing mechanical has changed, the driver is simply getting more juice from the same squeeze. There’s no need to push the skinny pedal unnaturally deep to get moderate or brisk acceleration. If you want more than the 50% setting offers, the optional button puts 75% and 100% at your fingertips. The difference between each position is dramatic. To experience this, one can keep constant pressure on the pedal while toggling from stock up through the higher sensitivity levels; it will make the truck accelerate quicker. 

Button was mounted on the bottom right of dash, using and existing screw. Easy to reach but also out of the way.
With the key on, BD becomes red. In this image the top center light is also on, indicating the 75% setting.

With the lively 50% boost, smooth and precise application of fuel is not difficult. Even the 75% position is fun and controllable with a manual transmission, though my extra return springs and much firmer pedal are surely helping. I’ve mostly preferred 50% when routinely rowing through the gears. The aforementioned light pedal stutter/hesitation is all but gone. 

Initially I connected the BD TSB to Clessie the Carryall Crew Cab. After a few days of testing, I moved it to the Pack Mule regular cab camper outfit. I liked it on both, maybe a bit more in the ‘Mule because of the full-time GVWR load. It really helps the truck accelerate as if it has more toque and power. After the first weeklong road, hunting and camping trip to Eastern Nevada, I knew the BD Throttle Sensitivity Booster was a winner; I ordered a second for Clessie the Carryall. That was several months ago, and I’m still pleased with the modification on both Rams.

Tell ’em you saw it on RoadTraveler.net

Become a RoadTraveler patron. Thanks!

James Langan

Copyright James Langan/RoadTraveler. All Rights Reserved


BD Diesel Performance 



Geno’s Garage 

Geno’s Garage: Dodge/Ram Diesel Parts Specialists



Tire Puncture Plug Repair Overview

Tire puncture repair overview while traveling and attending the SEMA Show in Las Vegas, Nevada.

I carry the tools, know how, and plugged the tire after the show in the convention center parking lot before a dinner meeting on Wednesday evening. Thanks to Extreme Outback Products (Ultimate Puncture Repair Kit and ExtremeAire Magnum 12V Portable Compressor), Wagan Tech (Brite-Nite Wayfinder LED Light), and Hallmark Campers (bright, side eyebrow lights), and the mild weather for making it an easy job.

Initially I thought the puncture was a rock from the rough road I traveled to my camp between days of the show. However, it was an inch-long, 1/4″ bolt that I probably picked up on Highway 95 heading to camp after the first day of the SEMA Show. I don’t blame Cooper Tires for the puncture. Some tires are more rugged than others, but road hazards are real, and all tires are just balloons that can be punctured.

James Langan

Copyright James Langan/RoadTraveler. All Rights Reserved


Extreme Outback Products


Hallmark Campers

Cooper Tire



How To Buy A New Car Or Truck

This article was published in my Turbo Diesel Register column, Still Plays With Trucks, last quarter of 2017. Dodge/Ram pickups were used for the examples, but the fundamentals are the same, regardless of the car or light-truck brand.

2017 Ram/Cummins purchased new, well below invoice, minus rebates, for my Hallmark Nevada flatbed project.

Sticker Shock?

Editor Patton shared that there is occasional, maybe even constant, grumbling from some readers about the cost of new trucks. Of course finances are a private matter, and certain folks have more money and/or better credit opportunities than others, but my perspective is that of a working-man. For 37 years I’ve held blue-collar, tradesman, or professional jobs, and my current vocation, journalism, is judged as a meager living for most if it’s their sole source of income.

One popular (and likely true) statement is that new trucks cost as much than some folk’s first houses. There are possible retorts: bet their current house is valued much higher than their first; the first home had fewer appliances and gadgets; new(er) trucks have more stuff than older luxury cars.

Even in 1996, I would rather drive my new F-350 on long trips than the 1979 Mercedes-Benz 300SD we also owned, my wife’s daily driver at the time. Time marches on, whether we like it or not, newer machines are often nicer.

It’s not news that fancy trims and optional features cost money, both in houses and vehicles; if we want extra gadgets and bling we will have to pay for them. That said, is a new Ram Tradesman really out of the question? Should we reconsider what we require and value?

Doesn’t get much newer than this.

Consider a Tradesman

Since rejoining the TDR staff three years ago, I’ve shared that my 2014 Crew Cab Tradesman is impressively nice, not stripped in any historical sense of the word, and I like it just as much now after logging 50,000 miles. Top-of-the-line options two decades ago are standard on modern platforms. Need a specific example?

My 1996 Ford F-350 crew cab, with a 7.3L diesel, was an XLT, the highest trim offered by Ford at the time (brand doesn’t matter, they are comparable and competitive, then and now). It had power windows and locks, A/C, cruise control, cloth seats, carpeting, AM/FM cassette stereo, plus a couple of uncommon commercial features I ordered. The only notable items that F-350 was missing were keyless remote and an automatic transmission.

My 2014 Ram Tradesman has everything the ’96 Ford had (except the cassette player) plus satellite radio, an informative/interactive EVIC display, abundant torque and horsepower, an exhaust brake, stability and safety systems, higher GVWR/GCWR, rides better empty and loaded, is quieter inside and out, more comfortable, has much longer service intervals, etc. The F-350 cost me $30,000, which was $500 over dealer invoice, not including taxes or registration.

Using a consumer price index (CPI) calculator to adjust for inflation, $30k in May 1996 is equivalent to $45,600 in June 2014 and $46,900 in June 2017, months when I bought new Rams. Interestingly, I didn’t have to pay that much for either of them. I actually paid thousands less for both. Want to know how I did it? First let’s compare apples and pears.

Tires and wheels are an easy upgrade, and something many owners do regardless of the trim they purchase.

2017 Ram Cummins 2500 4×4 6.4’ Box

Regardless of the moniker on the side, a Tradesman drives as well as a Laramie, the chassis is the same. Seating, a few ergonomics, and other high-end features may differ, and everyone must decide for themselves if they want, need, or require those extras and are willing to pay for them. Some things, like seats, can be upgraded after a purchase. It’s easy to say fancy trucks are expensive, but how big are the steps between models?

There is nothing like a graph or table to drive-home a point. In August 2017, using my local Nevada zip code and NADAGuides.com, I researched the base Invoice and MSRP prices for six 2017 Ram 2500s. All were 4WD crew cabs with a 6.4-foot box. To show the raw difference between trims, only one option was added to each truck, the expensive 6.7L Cummins engine that TDR readers care about. According to NADA, a manual transmission is still standard up through a Laramie, but good luck finding one on a dealer’s lot if that’s what you prefer. Longhorns and Limiteds are only made with the 68RFE tranny. (Ram no longer offers a manual transmission heavy-duty truck.) All figures include the $1,395 destination fee that FCA charges for delivery. If you start banging on a calculator, it’s interesting to see how much extra the luxury cost. From a Tradesman to a Laramie there is an MSRP jump of $11,800, then another $10,430 for a Limited. Is a Limited $22,000 nicer than a Tradesman? For some folks the answer is a resounding yes. Others may decide they’d rather spend that $22k on other toys or upgrades, or maybe not at all.

Table One

’17 Ram 2500 CC 4×4 6.4’ Invoice MSRP
Tradesman $46,069 $49,140
SLT $50,633 $54,240
Bighorn $52,297 $56,120
Laramie $56,622 $60,940
Longhorn $62,647 $67,670
Limited $65,922 $71,370

Learn How To Buy A New Vehicle

Obviously a Tradesman costs much less than a Limited, but you can purchase almost any new car or truck for much less than MSRP. It’s not easy to put decades of experience into an article, and some things are difficult to teach from afar, but this is my crash course. The goal is to buy a new vehicle for a low price, quickly, and with limited hassles. It helps if you have experience and confidence, but there is only one way to get those, you have to earn them.

Supply And Demand & Other Fundamentals

The economic laws of supply and demand are real. Some stores may be willing to sell a particular machine for much less than a similar one for a variety of reasons, including the time they have been making payments on it (flooring), the model, and how hard it might be to procure a replacement. Generally, it’s much easier to negotiate a low price for a new rig because the dealer’s invoice, essentially their cost (read on), is readily available. Negotiating for used cars is trickier because the investment is not published, and they are not going to share that information to make your job easier.

Unless you are paying cash, or bringing a check from your bank or credit union, financing options and/or trade-ins may complicate and affect any negotiation. People who think they are going to buy a new vehicle for an extremely low number, while also getting top dollar for a trade-in, are only fooling themselves. It ain’t goin’ to happen. If you insist on a high trade-in value (dealers will rarely pay more than wholesale book) those monies will be made up elsewhere, likely in the price of the new machine. That is why knowing in advance how you are going to pay for your new ride, and whether or not you have a trade, is important to all involved, before getting down to the nitty gritty.

Invoice Not MSRP

Many people negotiate from MSRP down. That is wrong. You should work from invoice, up or down. Invoice prices are online, you just need to insure you have every order code selected, or deleted, so you are comparing the same exact model with the same options. When you feel conformable you can ask for the invoice, politely and with confidence. People do it everyday.

Cost not payments. You should focus on the cost instead of your payment. The payments will always be lower for a given term and interest rate if you finance less. That math can and should be done, but talking about payments is the wrong way to negotiate, similar to working down from MSRP. If you have money and/or excellent credit, you are in the driver’s seat. Once you realize that and learn how to navigate the waters of car buying, it will become fun or at least less hassle.

Long distance helps. Do your negotiations over the telephone or by email when possible. Knowing the vehicle you might want, when, and how you are going to pay for it, puts you in a strong position, and should greatly simplify and accelerate the processes. I’ve located my last four new 4WDs online, either using the manufacturer’s or dealership’s online search engine. Other sites work well too. Once located, I call (or email), speak with a manger who has authority to set a price (sometimes you must talk with a salesperson), introduce myself, state where I’m calling from, the exact vehicle I’m considering (stock number or VIN), and discuss the terms of the possible sale. For the inexperienced, $500 over invoice is often a good place to start. With experience this can take just a few minutes.

17 Ram 2500 window sticker copy


Negotiating over the telephone (or email) can help many make better decisions. Not being on a car lot can prevent impulsive action. Be an intelligent, calculating shopper, not an emotional one. You can be thrilled or excited, but this is a business transaction. Save the happy dance for later. A few dealerships won’t discuss pricing over the telephone. That’s fine, others will, don’t waste your time.Willingness to travel increases the opportunities to negotiate and the selection of rigs that might fit your criteria.

It’s very simple to make a deal slightly above or below invoice, not including any rebates, if you remove the complexity of a trade-in. Manufacturer rebates are yours to apply to the transaction, and it’s helpful to remember the obvious, that they come from the manufacturer not the seller. Negotiate your price without them, they will come off the bottom line, later, after an agreement is reached.

When it gets close to the end, and you have most of the figures compiled, be sure to inquire about the document fee (doc fee). One might argue that this is an example of the seller charging you for their cost of doing business, and in a sense that’s true. However, doc fees are not going away, and some are reasonable, like under $100. Others are hundreds and seem ridiculous. Many states regulate the maximum fee for this service. If the doc fee is too high, you don’t have to trade with that store, but remember to step back and view the big picture. A high doc fee may be acceptable because of the price you negotiated.

Beauty is subjective, but I like the Tradesman trucks.

Dealer Holdback, Profit, And Commissions

Dealer holdback, or just holdback, is essentially a rebate for the franchise from the manufacturer that is built into the pricing. Depending on the brand it may be a percentage of the MSRP or invoice price or even a flat dollar amount. You will not see it listed on NADA or Kelly Blue Book, but it’s in there. If you are allowed to see or are given a copy of the actual document during your negotiations, and know where to look, you may see the number or be able to calculate the figure. The intent of holdback is to inflate the apparent dealership cost, help offset sales commissions, and increase profits overall.

Holdback is considered off limits during most negotiations, but again supply and demand are factors, as is your car-buying expertise. Understanding holdback helps explain how stores can sell cars at, or below invoice, and still turn a small profit to stay in business. When you find a truck advertised for an extremely low price, the dealership may need to move that specific vehicle and are willing to dig into or go below their holdback.

Typically automotive salespersons are paid a commission, often 25–30% of the profit, which is generally defined as the difference between dealer invoice and the selling price above invoice. If you are able to buy a new truck for $500 over (aka a nickel over), the salesman’s 25% commission is $125. That’s not much for the amount of time and effort involved, and sometimes days pass without a single sale. Of course, if you pay MSRP (or more) for a Limited, the commission may be over $1,300. One way to compensate for smaller commissions is with higher sales volume, and this is actually the business model for certain franchises.

There are many variables, and some sales are very profitable, but several dealerships operate on lower profit margins these days. For an example of a low profit sale, let’s use the SLT listed in Table One. One-percent above the $50,633 invoice number is a mere $506. That’s a fantastic price for a buyer but not much for the seller or salesman. There may be other dealership incentives and promotions from the manufacturer, like monthly, quarterly, and yearly sales competitions, but those extras don’t always materialize and can’t be counted on to sustain the business.

How the 2017 Ram 2500 in this article looks today.

Extended Warranties and Service Contracts

Warranty and service contracts are typically sold by the finance and insurance (F&I) department; they are also subject to negotiation. The problem is, like with used cars, you don’t know the cost, and generally there is a fair amount of profit in these contracts. Even when folks negotiate a good deal on a new rig, they may be worn down by the time they get to the F&I office where the actual purchase paperwork is completed. If you say no thanks, similar contracts may be offered later.

These are reasonable and desirable services for many, as they don’t want to maintain or repair their own vehicles. If anything fails, they want to take it to their local store and want it covered. Cool, but read the fine print, there are always a few (or several) exclusions, less with the more expensive policies. If you prefer to work only with a dealership, and many do, then buying a manufacturer-supported contract may be for you. If not, credit unions sell similar products, typically at much lower prices.

Want my take? I never purchase these services, but I also do most of my own work, make modifications that could cause a warranty claim to be rejected, and generally have vehicles paid-off before the standard warranty expires. I have a friend that has bought a few nice used cars, always gets an extended warranty through his credit union and has needed them for major things, including a transmission. There are two sides to every coin, and it’s your call.

Additional Sense About Dollars

Since 2006, I’ve bought four new 4WDs, two Toyotas and two Rams. The 2011 Tundra cost me $800 over invoice, because of less supply and more demand. Eight-hundred over is not a bad price, and many would do well to make a similar deal, particularly if negotiated quickly and easily over the telephone. The $3,000 in manufacturer rebates came off the bottom line, essentially covering the sales tax. The other three were between $500 and thousands under invoice, supply and demand mattered. You must put in the legwork; there are bargains to be had, and rebate incentives can be generous. Consider a Tradesman; if you want a fancier truck, you might be able to get one for much less than you thought, maybe just slightly above invoice. Good luck and enjoy your new ride.

James Langan

Copyright James Langan/RoadTraveler/Turbo Diesel Register. All Rights Reserved.

 A version of this article was also published in the Turbo Diesel Register magazine. 


Parking Brake Adjustment How-To Basics

Informal video about adjusting the parking brake on a 2014 Dodge Ram 2500.

James Langan

Copyright James Langan/RoadTraveler All Rights Reserved

Resource:  Centramatic Balancers