Expedition One Range Max Ultra HD Steel Bumpers
I’ve just begun my 2021 Ram 2500 Cummins project vehicle upgrades with the installation of Range Max Ultra HD front and rear bumpers from Ogden-based fabricator Expedition One. But why start with bumpers, and why Expedition One?
What are the Benefits of Installing Steel Bumpers?
In my opinion, adding components that increase the durability of your vehicle by protecting it from collisions with stationary objects, other vehicles, and animals should be a top priority. In the event that any of these examples actually happen, having upgraded bumpers (or armor) could mean the difference between hiking many miles for help, or being able to drive to assistance. In my case, we are using the Ram primarily for towing our Airstream, and the possibility of having a high-speed collision with an animal is one of our biggest vulnerabilities.
Our Airstream weighs approximately 8,000 lbs and doesn’t allow for quick braking or evasive driving maneuvers.
If we’re cruising down the highway at 70 mph with our 8,000-pound trailer in tow, it would be much more dangerous to swerve or slam on our brakes to avoid colliding with an animal than it would be to hold our course. However, the factory bumper on the 2500 was light-duty at best, with significant amounts of plastic used in its construction. In the case of a collision, its ability to protect the truck’s front end (and passengers) is minimal compared to steel.
That’s the main reason why I chose to install a steel bumper with a full bull-bar. It would certainly be a gruesome scene if we hit an animal with the steel bumper, but the outcome would be significantly better for the truck and passengers.
But increased protection is also realized at slow speeds on the trail. A steel bumper protects against collisions with items in your blind spots, such as trees, stumps, or rocks. Plastic OEM bumpers that get hung up on rocks can easily be ripped away, whereas steel bumpers, like the Range Max, are structurally solid enough to support the weight of the vehicle.
OEM bumper removed.
But strength and protection aren’t the only benefits that steel bumpers afford us. With steel (and specifically the Range Max) we get additional recovery points at both ends of the truck, Hi-Lift jack points, the ability to mount a winch, and more locations to mount driving lights for illuminating the trail at night.
In our case, I optioned the rear bumper with dual swing-outs so that I can mount additional equipment like a full-sized spare, jerry cans, and a ladder (the latter to be added once our truck is outfitted with a canopy) all in an easily accessible location.
Finally, aftermarket bumpers have the added benefit of increasing angles of approach and departure when compared to OEM bumpers by increasing ground clearance. On the Ram 2500, the Range Max front bumper provides significantly more clearance than the OEM bumper and wind dam. *Note: the Range Max rear bumper does not improve the angle of departure on the Ram, but some aftermarket rear bumpers may, depending on their design and the vehicle they are being installed on.
Utah-Based Parts Fabricator, Expedition One
A product is only as good as the company manufacturing it, and in the case of the Range Max, Ogden-based fabricator Expedition One stood out in the North American vehicle equipment market for a few reasons.
Left: Expedition One owners, James and Sarah Fonnesbeck. Right: James inspecting laser-cut components.
In addition to using Rocky Mountain-sourced steel whenever possible, Expedition One builds everything at their manufacturing facility in Ogen, Utah, only outsourcing the powder-coating of their products (which is performed locally). All of their designs are created in-house on a computer-aided drawing system before being constructed from raw materials by skilled tradespeople.
Left to right: Wiring harness relocation, front bumper hoisted into place, rear bumper swing-outs.
Because the entire production process takes place at one facility, owners James and Sarah Fonnesbeck are able to keep a close eye on every step of the manufacturing process, ensuring that a high standard of quality is being met through all stages of production. This quality control results in a consistent product, even though each item they manufacture is made by hand.
Installing Aftermarket Steel Bumpers on the Ram 2500
I had initially planned to perform the bumper installation myself, but at the suggestion of Expedition One, I ended up bringing the truck into their shop, and I’m glad that I did.
While I had thought that it would pretty much be a plug-and-play affair, it turns out that the 5th-generation Ram 2500 had some small design differences that required modification of the front and rear bumper mounts for proper fitment. Additionally, there was some trickery required to relocate the vehicle’s rear-facing camera along with its wiring.
Using an angle grinder and cut-off wheel to remove some steel from the factory bumper mounts for proper fit.
Left: OEM Ram 2500 bumper and wind dam. Right: Expedition One Range Max Ultra HD bumper.
Rear bumper clearance and vehicle departure angle remain largely unchanged.
Left: Non-slip tread on rear bumper. Right: Swing out locking pin.
Finally, because of the size and weight of the Range Max bumpers, a track-mounted winch was used to hoist them into position and support them while they were bolted into place. Without a system like this at the Overland International garage, it would have been a much lengthier and more challenging process had I attempted to perform the work myself.
How is Driving Performance Affected by Steel Bumpers?
With the new bumpers installed, I immediately hit the Expedition Portal test track to see how the improved angle of approach fared through a tight and deeply-rutted portion of the trail.
Immediately, I noticed how the enhanced front-end clearance and improved the Ram’s angle of approach made the difference between having to straddle the center of the track (previously, with the OEM bumpers) versus being able to take the truck through the cross-axled terrain to the point of losing wheel contact with the ground. I also realized the improved angle of approach through steep nose-down sections of trail where the previous OEM wind dam and bumper would have made contact with the trail.
Improved approach angle resulting in better front-end clearance when nose-down. Also, note the GIANT tow/recovery points.
Improved front-end clearance when coming through cross-axel and rutted terrain.
While I cannot yet comment on the durability of the Range Max in regard to collisions with terrain or other objects, I will certainly update this article if I experience one.
Final Thoughts: Should you Add Aftermarket Steel Bumpers?
Despite the fact that I am very happy with this particular vehicle upgrade, there are a handful of considerations for anyone thinking about adding aftermarket steel bumpers to their rig, and those start with driver responsibility.
OEM bumpers are specifically designed to crumple during a collision, absorbing a bit of the impact, which (hopefully) results in less damage to vehicles and passengers. However, steel bumpers don’t crumple, and consequently, if your vehicle has steel bumpers, it will do significantly more damage in the event of a collision. This means that as drivers of a modified vehicle, it is our duty to be even more conservative decision-makers, taking extra care to avoid vehicle or pedestrian collisions.
Rear swing outs can support a full-sized spare, ladder, jerrycans, or whatever else you want to bolt on.
Another consideration with aftermarket steel bumpers is the additional weight that will be added to your vehicle. This is a perfect example of why full-size truck platforms are becoming so popular; their generous payload and GVWR. In the case of the Ram 2500 Cummins, I have a 2,300-pound payload, and the combined front and rear Range Max bumpers weigh in at approximately 400 pounds. This additional weight has not (visually) affected my gas mileage. However, for medium-sized truck owners, who have payload limitations, aluminum bumpers can offer elevated levels of protection over OEM, without the weight of steel.
As a final consideration, aftermarket steel bumpers may affect OEM truck functions. In the case of the Ram 2500, the Expedition One Range Max Ultra HD bumpers do have a couple of small instances of this.
First, they are not compatible with the 2021 OEM driver’s side retractable step, which had to be removed for rear bumper installation. And second, when the rear bumper is optioned with swing-outs, the rear-facing camera must be repositioned. This results in the superimposed backup lines that are displayed on the dash-mounted infotainment screen no longer predicting the vehicle’s turning arc accurately. Finally, and this is especially relevant for those of you who tow, installation of the spare tire on the rear swing-out significantly decreased the functional turning radius of our Airstream. However, an extended drawbar could remedy this minor inconvenience.
You can learn more about the Range Max Ultra HD series of bumpers at Expeditionone.com.
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