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Fiery Ram recall is not as scary as it sounds

by David Zatz on

Ram is recalling over 84,000 2019-20 Heavy Duty pickups with the 68RFE automatic, because heat and fluid pressure can build up inside the transmission. That can cause the transmission fluid to leak out of the dipstick tube, possibly causing a fire.

The fix is a new transmission valve body separator plate and updated programming for the powertrain computer. The recall is W03 (FCA) or 20V043 (NHTSA).  Affected vehicles are the Ram 2500 made from October 11, 2018 to January 23, 2020; and the Ram 3500 made from October 18, 2018 through January 23, 2020.

The 68RFE is one of three transmission options with the Cummins diesel, the other two being a manual transmission (which requires some detuning of the diesel) and an Aisin automatic. It appears to only be available with the Cummins diesel.

Anyone wondering about the proportion of Rams sold can see that the recall affected around 65,000 Ram 2500s and 20,000 Ram 3500s, but that’s a bit misleading, because not all Rams use the 68RFE; and the Ram 3500 is probably more likely to have a different transmission—the Aisin six-speed is standard with the high output (1,000 lb-ft) Cummins diesel.

FCA acted quickly on this recall, having had reports of engine fires on December 4, 2019; finding the possible root cause on January 9; and deciding to do a recall on January 18.

As of today, there are 19 field reports possibly related to the issue, though, oddly enough, no warranty claims. FCA is aware of one minor injury and no deaths. Only around 1% of the vehicles reportedly have the defect.

The 68RFE is a heavy-duty version of a six-speed automatic whose ancestry can be traced back to the A-727 TorqueFlites. It is more closely based on the 545RFE and 66RFE.


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