We started with the exhaust. The factory exhaust manifolds were removed, and the JBA shorty headers installed. It only took about an hour to change the headers. Sure, we got lucky and all the old manifold bolts came out, but even the header install was hassle-free. A couple of the header bolts were a little tough to get started because of our fat fingers, but other than that, they bolted to the cylinder heads and Y-pipe without incident. Next, we removed the exhaust from the catalytic converter back. Again, the install was straightforward and simple. If we could complain about anything, it would be that the new stainless exhaust pipe was hard to clamp down on the old exhaust pipe. It's a good heavy-wall pipe and compressing it was tough. The exhaust note was only slightly louder than stock, but would the work be worth it? We once again called on Mike Norris of Norris Motorsports for some chassis dyno time. Before we did any changes, we previously had gone to Norris Motorsports to get a baseline dyno number for the truck. At the beginning of our test, our 318-powered Ram showed 160.9 hp at 3,700 rpm, and torque was a pedestrian 228.6 lb-ft at 3,700 rpm. At peak horsepower, the air/fuel ratio was a pathetically rich 11.9.

When we returned to the dyno, we were hoping for a moderate increase in horsepower. When the big wheels quit turning, we were stunned to learn we had gained only 2 hp. Something had to be wrong, so we tried again. This time, we got 3 hp. How much of a free-flowing exhaust does a 5.2-liter truck really need? We knew the exhaust would not be a big horsepower builder in our stock configuration, but when the rest of the parts were installed it would definitely play a big part. We also came to the conclusion that since our Ram had 80,000 miles on the odometer, the catalytic converter was possibly hampering exhaust flow. We were concerned with the laws regarding the replacement of the converter, but found under Federal EPA regulation, replacement of original catalytic converters is allowed if the original converter(s) is missing, or the vehicle has more than 50,000 miles on it. A replacement is also allowed if it is at least five years old, and the need for a replacement has been established and documented, or a local inspection program has determined the existing converter is in need of replacement. Since the mileage on our Ram is over 50,000; it's more than five years old; we established a need for replacement, then we could legally replace it. We contacted Random Technologies in Loganville, Georgia, and found they had a replacement high-flow converter for our Ram. they also had one with a 3-inch-diameter exit pipe. We decided that would be a good thing since the rest of our exhaust is now 3 inches in diameter. Once we had the new converter in place, it was back to the dyno. With the JBA Exhaust, the addition of the Random Technologies catalytic converter gave us an additional 5.4 hp. Now, you may be thinking that 8 hp on an exhaust system may not be a big deal, and maybe it's not. But keep in mind, it's quite possible the stock 5.2 liter had reached its breathing potential, and the performance exhaust was a moot point. But when the future upgrades are installed (e.g., cold air kit and microtuner programmer), the exhaust needs to be able to handle the added performance upgrades.

Next on the list was the removal of the factory air filtration system. When we removed the old system, we also removed the throttle body and installed the PowerAid spacer. After the throttle body was reinstalled, the Airaid system was installed and the big wheel was allowed to spin one more time. The air intake system and PowerAid spacer combined gave an additional 8 hp. All together, we've bolted on 16 hp by simply helping the engine breathe better.