Ram Project Truck – Part 2


I’ve been driving the Ram for over six months now and can honestly say it is the nicest truck I’ve ever owned. Trucks are a very personal thing since we each use them in our own way and for our own unique reasons.  I want a truck I can take to the woods and get dirty, one that will get me through the rough stuff and back home safely, all while doing it in comfort.  I also like my truck to look good since ninety percent of the time it will be driven around town.

Since my last posting, I collaborated with Westin on some great accessories. I wanted a large heavy duty grill guard in stainless steel that also held a winch.  Westin’s new HDX Winch Mount Grill Guard fit the bill perfectly.  This baby is fully welded and has 2″ tubing welded to rubber faced 1-piece uprights.  It bolts directly to the truck frame and the winch tray is rated at over 16K pounds!  The full punch plate grill has an aggressive look that also protects the grill and radiator area.

The HDX Grill Guard is a one-piece design which makes it a large box to pick up and handle yourself. Obviously any truck shop will be happy to install it for you but if you are handy with tools and willing to take the time you can do it yourself.  I had my wife and daughter help me and we did it in a few hours.  If you plan to put a winch on with it, I recommend doing them both together as it is easier than trying to add the winch later.  I added a Westin 11K pound T-Max winch with braided synthetic rope for those times when I forget to be careful!  Installation and wiring of the winch was a snap too.

Truck Front edit
Westin’s HDX Winch Mount Grill Guard is one of the few heavy duty stainless grill guards on the market capable of handling a winch.

Winch 1 Roller Lead

Next on the Westin shopping list was a set of their Pro Traxx 5 Wheel to Wheel Nerf Step Bars. These feature a 5″ oval tube with fully welded domed ends.  The large oval gives you plenty of space for a comfortable step and the domed ends give them a clean look while minimizing snagging on brush while in the field.  Even though this truck has a shell on the bed, I like the extra step on the wheel to wheel model as it helps when tying stuff on the roof rack.  These were really easy to install and took less than an hour.  They are very sturdy and have some room for adjustment so you can get the fit you want.

Step Bar
The Pro Traxx 5 step bars aid in getting in and out of the truck while protecting the rocker panels.


If you spend any time off-road at night, you know the value of lighting. Westin also knows this and makes plenty of super bright LED lights to meet all your needs.  I chose a set of their 10″ HDX B-Force Flush Mount LED lights.  These mounted and bolted directly behind the plate grill and give you a combination of long range spot lights and wide flood lights in one unit.  But the front of the truck isn’t the only place you need lights.  I installed small LED flood lights under the front driver and passenger doors along with a set under the rear of the truck.  These lights provide area lighting around the truck which comes in very handy when in unknown terrain.  Especially snake country at night!

Flush Light
HDX Flush Mount Lights
Rear Light
Rear Underbody Lighting
Side Light
Side Underbody Lighting


In the past, when I needed to add lights to a truck, I had to install switches in the dash and run wires through the firewall into the cab. Ram has solved this problem by providing five factory installed auxiliary switches in the dash.  Since wiring isn’t my specialty and needs to be done right, I took the truck to my mechanic, Robert, at Freer’s Auto.  Robert ran the wires from all of the lights into the engine compartment using the proper relays and fuses.  He then sheathed and sealed the wiring so it can handle years of off-road abuse.  The Ram computer allows you to assign each switch and decide if you want it hot or live with the key only.  I like my stuff hot all the time but if you go this route you need to pay attention you don’t leave one of them on.

Aux Switches
Factory installed auxiliary switches make installing after-market accessories much easier.

New Shoes

Normally I hate to spend money on new tires for a new truck just to go bigger. I prefer to run the factory ones for a few years then upgrade.  However, this Ram came with highway tires which rode great until they hit mud and snow.  Knowing I had a few deer and elk hunts coming up, I opted to upgrade the tires.  Since I was going to all this trouble anyway I figured why not do the wheels also!  After a ton of research, I went with a set of Toyo Open Country A/T II tires.  The reviews on this tire are nothing short of amazing but I have several close friends who swear by these tires and claim they are getting around 60K miles on a set!  The ride is smooth and quiet and the look is aggressive.  So far the off-road capability is great but I will know more in the Fall after a few trips to Wyoming and Colorado.

Wheel Well
The Toyo Open Country A/T II tires and XD Monster Chrome wheels give the truck a nice look while making it much more capable off-road.

By now you know I like my chrome and stainless steel so why stop at the wheels? Once again this was an exhaustive search but I finally settled on the XD Series 778 Monster in chrome.  These are a really sharp looking rim and are built for off-road trucks.  They are made of cast aluminum to help save some weight but built with the off-road racer and rock crawler in mind.  I went with the 18″ size since I like to have a bit more tire sidewall to get the best ride I can.



Rear Wheel
The Bushwacker Color Matched Pocket Style Fender Flares add a nice look while protecting the truck from tire debris.

After all this, I still felt the truck needed one more accessory. Though it came with the factory fender flares I wanted something a little larger to better cover the wider tires.  Bushwacker makes excellent products and their Pocket Style Color Matched Fender Flares were a perfect fit for the Ram.  They come with everything you need to install them including easy to read and understand directions.  The silver color was an identical match to my factory paint and the flares went on using the factory holes.  They really help keep the mud off the side of the truck.  The wider flare with the recessed stainless bolts breaks up the solid look on such a large truck.

Ram makes a great rig but as good as it is there is always room for improvement when it comes to personalization. For some, a vehicle is simply a means of getting from point A to point B.  For others, it is a part of our life, a means to our recreation and sometimes a lifeline back to civilization.  If you are a member of this club, pick a truck that meets your needs.  Then add the accessories that make the truck work good as well as look good.


Westin – www.westinautomotive.com

Bushwacker – www.bushwacker.com

Toyo Tires – www.toyotires.com

XD Wheels – www.wheelpros.com


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John Russo is a life-long hunter, shooter and outdoorsman. He is a retired Police Sergeant from Southern California with over 29 years of service. He has been a SWAT Sniper, Child Abuse Detective and Homicide Unit Supervisor. As the leader of the Police Department's Firearms Training Unit, he has been teaching firearms for over 26 years to law enforcement, military and civilians. His credentials include a laundry list of certifications as an instructor and armorer on all types of weapon systems. John has been writing for various gun magazines for many years and has been published over 100 times on topics ranging from hunting, shooting, guns, training and law enforcement.