Dodge Ram - Common Repairs and Such
- Getting computer codes
- Manual transmission lubricants
- 1970s steering column repairs: ignition switch and turn signals
- The main repairs page • The main Ram page
A number of 2002-05 pickups had axle failures, allegedly due to redesigns ordered by an executive who is no longer there. Since this is a known problem, owners who encounter axle failure should press Chrysler for no-cost or subsidized replacement even if they are a reasonable time out of the warranty period (e.g. a few years and less than 200,000 miles). The redesigned axle is not completely interchangeable.
The 2005 snapless tonneau cover can easily be broken if the directions are not carefully followed. If you need directions for installing it, ask a dealer - there's a TSB (23-027-05) with instructions.
Some 2003-2005 models can have a bit of play in the steering wheel (back and forth) which can be fixed by replacing the steering column upper bearing retainer. There's a TSB on this too.
On modern (e.g. 2003) models, the bulbs in the tail lights can bounce loose fairly often on rough roads. Rubber bands, tape, RTV, etc. are all short term solutions that seem to fail after a few months. Chris Eddy made us aware of this, and “John Auto Tech” wrote that there is no real solution other than replacing the assembly.
Grissom wrote that the NV4500 manual transmission is prone to popping out of (or not getting into) fifth gear because the nut holding the gear on loosens up; he said he’d never seen the problem in other transmissions including the 3500. The problem may get worse, affecting other gears, later.
The front differential cover plate may be bent by a minor accident (e.g. hitting a rock) resulting in loss of oil and the need to replace the front differential and housing. Bob Sheaves noted that heavier-duty covers are sold by 4x4 shops, and costs about $50 per axle. These are good preventive devices for Rams with AAM axles used off-road.
Jim Scarlott’s 1992 D-series wipers stopped working; the motor worked but the rubberized clip/bushing had dried out. These wiper linkage bushings are still sold by Dorman Products, sold in the red-carded Help brand section; they come two per pack, around $8 for four “and around 3 hours of blood and sweat.”
“TexasMopar” wrote that he had a squeak in his 2005 Ram; he heard from other 2002 thru 2008 Ram owners of an occaisional squeak in the front end. He found it was the hood “bumpers,” where the hood contacts rubber bumpers when closed.
Gas mileage (1990 Dakota 3.9)
Radar is getting very low gas mileage with his 1990 Dodge Dakota 3.9. When he first bought the truck his gas mileage was much better. He has taken care of all regular maintenance including oil changes and replaced the air filter, thermostat, plugs and wires. He wonders if neglecting to get a gas filter or check his pump would have anything to do with his low mpg.
Lekota says that he had a 1988 Dodge Dakota with V6 that had the same problem due to a clogged cat converter.
Hawkeye74 replies that there are a lot of factors that can potentially affect gas mileage. He asks Radar if he has recently replaced his tires since his own gas mileage recently dropped when switching to tires with better traction for winter driving. He also points to weather, winter blend fuel, driving style, tire pressure and/ or a bad oxygen sensor as possible causes for his loss in mileage.
Jdustu (2006 Ram Hemi) has been getting low mileage, around 12-13 mpg, while friends with the same truck claim 17-20 mpg. Doug D., who has the saem vehicle, agreed that he was getting around 16-18 mpg. He suggested using 89 octane gas, without ethanol in it, and avoiding “getting into the pedal to hear the Hemi.”
Misfire (1995 Dakota)
95ddakota has misfires in normal operating temperature. The check engine light does not come on and the service codes don’t appear either. His mechanic thinks it is a faulty computer after testing and changing his plugs and egr. 95ddakota wonders if a code would appear to indicate a problem with the computer and if there is any way to test it. Joe66Fury suggests that the problem may be the 02 sensor and that a code may not appear to indicate it; and a failing computer often does not generate a code. T2erns also suggested checking the fuel pressure.
Code 31 (1997 Ram)
Ineon’s 1997 Ram 1500 has 197,000 miles and recently threw a CEL and is showing a code 31 when he flips his key three times.
T2erns noted that code 31 is a broad signal and could indicate a defective purge solenoid, restrictive flow or evaporative system leak; it could be a fuel system problem. “Fuel vapor from the tank is collected by a charcoal canister via hoses. These hoses tend to leak causing a code 31. The collected fuel is again fed to the engine intake by a solenoid called purge solenoid. To determine the specific code you’ll need a scanner that can read the code in Pxxx format,” he says.
Dust_duster encountered the same problem with his 2001 Ram and it turned out that his gas cap wasn’t on tightly enough. He says it should not affect a performance and he also suggested getting a code reader and then clearing the code from the computer’s memory.
Fuel pump needed? (Sputtering on slow-down/idle; Ram Van)
When Rob2001 is driving his van his engine starts sputtering upon slowing down or stopping at a traffic light. When this happens he shifts into neutral and races the engine to keep it going. He suspects that this is a fuel pump problem but is not sure. His fuel gauge is unreliable and drops to empty when he’s at half a tank.
86ahb offers some simple checks to Rob2001 to verify if his problem is a flow issue or has anything to do with the fuel pump, gauge and filter assembly. “First, with the ignition on, is the pump buzzing consistent and staying on? The auto shutdown relay shouldn’t engage. Second, if you don’t have a pressure gauge you can at least check for flow.”
Power window breakdown (1995 Dakota)
Mred’s driver side power window recently stopped working though the passenger side is fine. He replaced the switch and fuse and it still doesn’t work. Valiant67 wrote that the problem might be the wiring that goes from the frame of the vehicle into the door.
Engine running cold (2000 Ram 318)
JA Cumbo’s engine needed to be revved up to 2 or 3K RPM to keep running in the cold. In warm weather the truck runs much better. JOES66FURY suggested the TPS sensor and dusty_duster believes it might be the coolant temperature sensor; it turned out to be the battery.
Two wheel drive inaccessible (1990 Ram 50)
thomasjkt could not get his Dodge Ram 50 to shift into 2 wheel drive. He says the linkage is free but it will not actually shift in the transfer case. 68RT suggests shifting when you jack up one front wheel to release any bind that might be hindering the gearshift. He says, “4x4 is easy to shift into but sometimes hard to get out. If it will shift with a front tire up, then the shift mechanism is good and your tires are binding the gears.” He also suggested a simple shift to reverse and short back up while pulling on the lever to release the bind and checking all the tires are the same exact size as well.
Broken catalytic converters
A 1996 Ram 1500 owner has had problems with the catalytic converters breaking up every year and wanted to know if he could take it out. Hawkeye74 wrote that Federal law makes it illegal for anyone to remove the catalytic converter, even if making the vehicle for off-road use only; and that most vehicles have sensors before and after the converter to monitor its effectiveness, so that a fault code would be triggered, turning the engine light on (and making it impossible to know, afterwards, whether a serious engine problem was taking place). The converter is an extremely efficient way of converting poisonous gases into carbon dioxide and water. NYBo said the ratting noise was probably just a loose heat shield, not the catalytic converter. TheDuke suggested that if it was the converter, that a replacement from Summit Racing would probably last longer. There might also be a problem with the engine which is causing the converters to break – if indeed they are breaking.
30,000 mile maintenance recommendations on a six year old 2001 Ram: a Chrysler tech recommended an oil change, tire rotation, air filter, front and rear differential fluid change, transfer case and transmission fluid and filter change, spark plugs, and PCV valve. VNT recommended taking off the throttle body and cleaning the air passages, freshening up the power steering fluid, bleeding the brakes, rotating the tires, lubricating the spare-tire winch cable with penetrating oil, cleaning the flooboard and frame with Eastwoods Rust encapsulator paint and using chassis black paint as a topcoat. “You might also want to look into some deep trans pan and differential cover and at the least put a B&M Drain plug in you tranny pan so next time you can drain it easily.”
Hawkeye74 got the wrong fluid (75W-90) in his rear differential, which should have 75W-140. VNT wrote, “You probably didn’t damage anything. The higher viscosity gives a little more protection especially if you tow. I would choose a good synthetic gear oil in either viscosity for the rear differential with the additive and I would use 75w-90 for the front. I change mine about every 30 k miles for peace of mind.”
Cleaning the idle air valve
Sixto is planning to remove and clean his idle air valve with brake parts cleaner and then reinstall it.
Vipergg suggested using throttle body cleaner instead since it is made for cleaning the idle air valve.
Nightdriver advised Sixto to be “very careful not to depress the pintle while doing this. Also make sure you know where the o-ring is since it is easy to lose.” He also suggests using Q-tips for carbon build-up on the pintle.
Asemt also advised Sixto to remove the TPS and MAP sensors as well.
Miscellaneous tech tips
When an owner with a 1996 2500 4x4 asked about the time for this - one dealer eestimated five hours and $490, a truck shop 90 minutes and $140 - one person suggested he do it himself, because the main issue is removing the differential cover and carrier. Someone else had a mechanic do it for $385, but said he'd do it himself next time.
A 1996 2500 4x4 owner keeps getting his “Check engine” signal even though he already brought the truck in and was told that there were no fault codes stored and had it cleared for $60. His truck is running fine. He does not want to pay this sum again and wants to know if there is a way to clear the computer himself and then wait to see if the message appears again. Disconnecting the battery for a few minutes worked.
This seems to be normal in Rams with the 46RE four-speed automatic (as are light rackets when changing gears).
A 1982 Dodge Ram Miser with slant six has a rear axle that’s been making noises like its U-joints are bad even though they were just replaced; the owner also wants to know about switching to a new gear ratio (it's now 3.23:1). Tim suggested that he may have more than one axle problem; and suggested a 3.55 ratio ring and pinion. Regarding the axle noise, it sounded like his two rear differential bearings or his spider gears were the problem. The pinion gear has an inner and outer bearing. The advice was to drain and refill the fluid and drive the truck as little as possible, as continued driving will cause damage and make rebuilding the axle impossible.
MoparJoel recommended using a Mopar remanufactured part since the warranty is good at any Chrysler Group dealership, and to tell parts managers that he'll be comparing the price to Jasper to see if that gets a better deal; another option is rebuilding. Some good shops will modify the transmissions to solve problems - one user spent $2300 including improvement of the oil passageways for the add-on overdrive unit, plus heavy-duty kevlar clutches, etc. In his opinion it was worth it.
A user’s truck had a slight vibration when he accelerates from 55 to 60 mph, but at hard acceleration there’s no problem. The tach jumped around as well. It turned out to be the bolts to the lower control arms being loose. (He found out on his way to testing the front wheel bearing by jacking the unit up and grabbing the tire at the bottom and top trying to shake it - there should be no free play).
A 1994 Dakota started to shake when accelerating and cruising at 65,000 miles. There are no fault codes, the oxygen sensor and EGR valve were replaced, the fuel pressure is steady, and cylinder compression is good along with filter, plugs, wires, cap, rotor, and muffler. T2erns suggested the coil, and Vigo suggested checking the U-joints; “If they are loose enough to cause vibration it will be obvious while trying to move the driveshaft around your hand. If they are loose they generally make a clunk/ clank kind of noise when going into drive or reverse.”
A 1999 Ram 360 (5.9) had valve ticking while accelerating from 35-50; it's not present at highway speeds. Advice included upping to 89 octane fuel; checking the solenoid valve on the line from the evaporator canister (starting in 1999, mounted on the passenger side wheel-well); and having the computer reprogrammed, which seems to help. No resolution was posted. A similar ticking noise was reported by another owner who does use 89 octane, with a 318. In this case he found it was a leaking manifold.
A 1996 diesel owner had an intermittent start that sometimes went away for weeks; at other times trying many times worked. Another user said that he had replaced the starter himself in under 20 minutes; the solenoid isn't much cheaper and may not be the problem, so he replaced the whole assembly at a cost of about $155.