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We considered the 4x4 Mercedes Sprinter before choosing the Promaster 3500 EXT. We are very happy with the Ram & we have need for the 4x4, but decided to give up on the Mercedes as we do not believe “any” of these large cargo vans are designed for what we identify as long “off pavement“ use. They are ok on groomed dry gravel/dirt roads, but if the road starts getting aggressive then slides or tip overs could happen.

Here are some photos of IMO is pushing our PM to the “off road” limits of what it can handle on a good day. Our PM is not tire or suspension modified.


A rougher road than it looks;
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Got “spinning tire” stuck in a wet spot (got out after 5 mins & placing rough faced rocks under the back side of the drivers front tire). The tire sunk/spun past the steel rim after this photo was taken;
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A road incline in packed sand/dirt that was a bit wet. This incline is probably a 20% grade in places & front wheels dug in at the very top (Marked in Red) Fortunately I could back down & get a better “run” at it with the antislip turned off & a bit more speed. Second attempt it made it no problem.

These two photos were taken @ different times, trying to show how steep these roads are
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Depending upon how dry/wet it is, will make a huge impact on whether or not our van can make it up these roads. Our 4x4 vehicles do not even notice these roads. The PM Van is like 😳😳 “or maybe it is me”

I’m with RD & the others here - The PM or even the “Sprinter” will never be an “off road” or even rough road vehicle.

There may be reasons for “lift kits” & rough terrain tires, like aesthetics, or a rugged look, or leveling the floor, but these vehicles were not designed for “off road” use.

FYI; In BC where I live any off road use is not insured - a roll over is at your own cost.
 

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If you just want to deliver washer machines or cruise to the KOA then you don't need to worry about off road stuff. Some people are a little more adventurous. Putting 275 AT tires is the first step and helps A LOT, you can't get very deep with the stock size and style of tire.

Lifting the front is easy and cheap. Or you can go a couple inches higher with one of the bigger aftermarket kits. If you combine that with the larger "and better looking tire" you all of the sudden have a substantial increase in clearance in the front. There are a couple ways to fix the rear. Simply change the rear beam highth by cutting the center section and lifting it like people have been talking about and doing for years. I'm sure you can find some pics. Or you can use one of the spindle carriers that spaces the rear spindles lower increasing the rear beam height. That with the bigger tire makes a big difference. Al the sudden you have more clearance than a sprinter or transit. These vans are so stiffly sprung these changes won't change the driving dynamics very much at all, it will still sway while driving less than a stock sprinter.

It's still limited to traction, turning of the ESC helps a ton if it's slippery. Less than 1 million pounds of air in the tires also helps. Bring a shovel and have fun taking your living room with you to some crazy spots away from regular people in the camp grounds.
 

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We considered the 4x4 Mercedes Sprinter before choosing the Promaster 3500 EXT. We are very happy with the Ram & we have need for the 4x4, but decided to give up on the Mercedes as we do not believe “any” of these large cargo vans are designed for what we identify as long “off pavement“ use. They are ok on groomed dry gravel/dirt roads, but if the road starts getting aggressive then slides or tip overs could happen.

Here are some photos of IMO is pushing our PM to the “off road” limits of what it can handle on a good day. Our PM is not tire or suspension modified.


A rougher road than it looks;
View attachment 63401

Got “spinning tire” stuck in a wet spot (got out after 5 mins & placing rough faced rocks under the back side of the drivers front tire). The tire sunk/spun past the steel rim after this photo was taken;
View attachment 63402

A road incline in packed sand/dirt that was a bit wet. This incline is probably a 20% grade in places & front wheels dug in at the very top (Marked in Red) Fortunately I could back down & get a better “run” at it with the antislip turned off & a bit more speed. Second attempt it made it no problem.

These two photos were taken @ different times, trying to show how steep these roads are
View attachment 63403

View attachment 63404


Depending upon how dry/wet it is, will make a huge impact on whether or not our van can make it up these roads. Our 4x4 vehicles do not even notice these roads. The PM Van is like 😳😳 “or maybe it is me”

I’m with RD & the others here - The PM or even the “Sprinter” will never be an “off road” or even rough road vehicle.

There may be reasons for “lift kits” & rough terrain tires, like aesthetics, or a rugged look, or leveling the floor, but these vehicles were not designed for “off road” use.

FYI; In BC where I live any off road use is not insured - a roll over is at your own cost.
You absolutely can not get far in a van like yours. im suprised you got out of the parking lot with those tires.
 

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I went with the 1.5" front lift kit from vancompass.com and rhino Havasu wheels. Lift kit is $300. I added Bilstein B6 struts for another $350. You can also go with Koni's for about $100 more. Wheels are about $250 each. I kept the original tires to save some money because they were almost new, but when they wear out I'll look into replacing them with BFG K02s. You can also lift the rear 1.5" and add Fox shocks for another $600 or so, but I just wanted to get rid of the downward slope.

You can get a kit from Wildernessvan.com that lifts the front and rear approx 3", but I thought this was too much.

Again, neither one of these lift kits raise the rear axle.
I have the BFG KO2s on both my 1500 Ram 4x4 & my Jeep Rubicon & I am very happy with these tires performance so far

I did have a bad tire shake on my 1500 Ram, but after they roadforced balanced the wheels/tires this has seemed to clear up the truck shake.
 

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You absolutely can not get far in a van like yours. im suprised you got out of the parking lot with those tires.
@Obrian

Ya, I’m one of those guys that wants it all out of everything & I hear ya about the tires. Tires are a trade off, cost, total mileage, fuel economy, traction, performance, etc.

Like you (at least what I assume from your posts), I am use to slipping around in the mud/dirt on a single chain driven knobby tire with a silly grin on my face.

It is very difficult to find a tire that will work perfectly for everything. The above “mission” is about the most aggressive a road/situation we will ever be on and very rare (we won’t be taking the van there very often). I feel we are pushing the van past the limits of how Ram designed the use. Snow on pavement would be another consideration. Our typical mission is an “asphalt long trips travel van” to experience North America, no what we are currently doing with the Covid pandemic.

Once I burn off the value of the factory tires, I will research the best “fit” for our intended “common” mission (which will not be what is shown in those photos above).
 

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Putting 275 AT tires is the first step and helps A LOT, you can't get very deep with the stock size and style of tire.

Lifting the front is easy and cheap. Or you can go a couple inches higher with one of the bigger aftermarket kits.
I would like to level my van, preferably by raising the front. What is the “easy and cheap” way? Installing the spacer kits seems pretty involved for a home gamer like me.
 

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Yes I do lots of stuff off road, all the **** time. I have to tell you I've had four different sets of AT tires but you should check out Falkens Wildepeak AT. Great compromise, rides so nice and they aren't expensive and so far haven't let me down off road. We drove a crazy old jeep trail the other day with massive ruts and rock shelves, turned off the ESC and got way back in the sticks. Unloaded the moto bikes and had a blast.
 

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I would like to level my van, preferably by raising the front. What is the “easy and cheap” way? Installing the spacer kits seems pretty involved for a home gamer like me.
Yes spacers on top of the struts are the most common way to lift the front. It's no more complicated than changing the strut. Don't worry you're strut bearings will be bad soon and you will need to anyway lol
 

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Desert pin stripes in AZ. It’s a sign of distinction. My 4Runner has them everywhere, even on top! As we say “Oh they’ll buff right out!"
NOT
 

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I've got a few pinstripes on VanGo. Made it up this dirt road with stock tires and dirtbikes loaded in the back. Spent the day riding with my daughter.
Snow all melted by the time we left. Good thing. I was not looking forward to driving down this mountain if it had iced up.
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63420
 

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I have the skidplate meant for a second alternator, although I do not have a second alternator, I can say that making a little more clearance would be a reasonable thing to do. You can see where the skidplate plows the road in deep snow, it pushes the snow out and makes an interesting pattern that you can see in the mirrors.
This looks like a decent option for the skid plate: Ducato / Jumper / Boxer Skid Plate
 

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Ignoring aesthetic issues, lifting the vehicle should only really be undertaken to fit larger tires or you will often decrease your performance, because without larger tires you don't really gain clearance and just create additional leverage on your suspension and raise the center of gravity, which is not a good thing for performance on or off road.

Armoring the underside components with skid plates, and getting better tires (don't have to be bigger) would be my recommendation. Bigger tires are good, but if there is any way to fit them without a lift that should be your avenue to explore. Some judicious work with a plasma cutter and some some cut out fender flares will increase performance if you can fit larger tires without a lift.

As you can tell I am recommending against a lift. One of the best things about the promaster relative to the other options is the good handing created by the lower load floor (and lower center of gravity). This is possible because of the front wheel drive and lack of driveshaft going to the rear axle. Raising it compromises one of the reasons I chose the promaster but you may have different reasons. If the handling characteristics are not one of the important things to you then the lift option might be right for you.

On my vehicles I have always tried to avoid lifts and still fit bigger tires (sometimes because of aesthetics when I was younger). Now the first thing I go for is skid plates. My other car is a subaru crosstrek (MT, because the CVT was a dog when I bought mine) with 3/16 stainless skidplates under the rear diff, transmission, and engine, rocker panel protection bars on the sides, and a winch on the front behind the factor bumper cover. I fitted larger tires without a lift (BFG KO2) and have kept the things I like (low center of gravity also among them). I am not against a little off road fun but creating a higher center of gravity doesn't always create more fun. Its the bigger tires you want and if there is another way I would do that first. Unless you think the lift looks cool and like that, then go for it! I'll admire it because I think it looks cool too!
I'm hoping to offroad "proof" my vehicle because i'm concerned about fire road access stuff etc. with the current clearance and getting stuck. Has anybody gone with bigger offroad tires/suspension upgrades? I'm kind of looking for price range expectancy so I can go into a shop with a little bit more information.
 

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I thought the sloping angle was what helped to give the PM better traction. I saw one blogger say that after his build, when the van was more level; that was when he got stuck in 'sand/whatever'... not before when the slope was still there. As for the tires, as someone said, the A/T? type help with the rough rocks in the SW.. to prevent scarring or cuts in the sides... right?
 

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Hi,
Just for the new folks trying to make sense of this stuff.

We have a 2014 PM with 90K miles and thousands of miles of this is on gravel roads ranging from good 40 mph gravel to pretty bad gravel/dirt, rutted, steep grades etc. The only thing we have done was to put better tires on, which helps a lot in snow and some in other conditions. We have done backroads from the Yukon down to Big Bend NP in Texas -- in all that, maybe 3 or 4 times we decided the road was too much for the PM and turned around -- and in some of these cases its unlikely that even a jeep would have made it.

My personal conclusion is that the PM without raising it or skid plating it is going to be up to just about anything you will normally run into in the way of backroads. Sure, its possible to find really bad roads or jeep trails that the PM won't handle, but unless you are looking for these kinds of challenges, you are not going to find them very often. And, if you do, just turn around and find another road -- you don't have to beat up your vehicle and yourself doing crazy roads (unless this is your hobby).

As others have pointed out, the PM is never going to be a vehicle for jeep trails, but for 99% of the stuff you are likely to run into I think its fine with just some better tires (that don't have to larger than stock).

Gary
 

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Exactly.
I'll bet pinks that I can put some A/Ts on in stock size and go anywhere a lifted van with 1" bigger tires can go.
And if I put actual snow tires on, I'll go even further in snow than a lifted van with A/Ts will.
 

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I thought the sloping angle was what helped to give the PM better traction. I saw one blogger say that after his build, when the van was more level; that was when he got stuck in 'sand/whatever'... not before when the slope was still there. As for the tires, as someone said, the A/T? type help with the rough rocks in the SW.. to prevent scarring or cuts in the sides... right?
The rear sits higher for the same reason the rear of pickups sit higher.
They're cargo hauling vehicles.
The rear spring rates are set so the vehicle rides level with a load in the back.
Whether it's cargo in the vehicle or the tongue weight of a trailer.
The person who lost traction up front, lost it because his weight likely wasn't distributed evenly and the extra weight in back caused less weight on the front drive wheel.
If you keep the heaviest parts of the build in front of the rear wheels, you shouldn't lose traction.
 
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