Dodge Ram 1500 problems: 11 Common Issues (Explained)

All trucks have problems, and while considered a dependable and sturdy work truck for decades, the Dodge Ram 1500, while an overall reliable truck, has its own set of specific issues that may need attention.

Overall, the 2002 Dodge Ram 1500 has the most complaints. The 2002 model is also the worst for repair cost and average mileage at which problems begin.

We’ve already looked at how long the Dodge Ram 1500 lasts, and the Ram models with the most recalls – now let’s turn to the most common problems with the Dodge Ram 1500.

From aesthetic issues like cracking dashboards and rusting parts to major engine problems like cam and lifter failures, we take a look at some of the most common issues Dodge Ram 1500 owners may face.

Before We Dive In…

The Dodge Ram 1500 is a very popular pickup that has been in production since 1981. Any vehicle that remains in production for more than four decades clearly is a good one.

And the Dodge Ram 1500 is one of the best light-duty pickups available. The model is so successful that Dodge spun off the Ram name so that it could be its own brand.

The Ram 1500 is the same model pickup that Dodge first produced. But it is in its fifth generation.

Potent engines, a strong chassis, and available 4X4 drivetrains ensure the Ram 1500 remains highly useful. And a comfortable interior helps to boost its popularity.

1. Excessive Engine Noise with Poor Acceleration

Some Ram pickups with particular engines have an issue with excessive engine noise. Those engines are the 3.7 liter V6 and the 4.7-liter V8 that were used in the 1995 through 2010 Ram 1500 trucks.

Poor throttle response and lethargic acceleration often accompany the issue. So does excessive noise coming from the exhaust area of the engine.

Fortunately, the problem usually is simple to diagnose and fix. It also is reasonably affordable and something many truck owners could do themselves.

Possible Causes and Solutions

The problem usually is one of exhaust leaking from the exhaust manifold on the engine. And a leaking exhaust manifold usually has one of two culprits and possibly both.

A bad gasket could enable air into to manifold and cause your engine to run poorly. It also could affect back pressure within the exhaust system.

Removing the old manifold gasket, cleaning the area, and installing a new one could fix the problem.

It also is possible that one or more bolts are missing. Some bolts might snap off. Others might just loosen and enable an exhaust leak at the manifold.

You can replace the bolts to tighten up the seal. Installing a new manifold gasket also could help to ensure a good seal.

2. Rear Window Leaks in Heavy Rains or Car Washes

You want to stay warm and dry while inside the cabin of your pickup. That could be a bit harder with the Ram 1500, which has a notoriously porous rear window seal.

A hard-driving rain could cause water saturation and enable rainwater to enter the cabin through the sealed rear window.

If you drive through an automatic car wash, the soapy water and final rinse could cause the rear window to leak.

Water damage to the upholstery is a telltale sign that your Ram 1500 has a leaking rear window. It also might leave drips or runs on the interior.

Possible Causes and Solutions

A bad seal usually is what causes the rear window to leak on a Dodge Ram 1500. Whether it is a solid, one-piece unit or has pieces that slide open, the seal is what usually causes leaking.

Replacing the seal with a new one and using the proper adhesive can fix the problem quickly, easily, and affordably.

You can prevent recurring leaks by washing dirt and grime out of the seal and keeping it clean.

Closely inspecting the seal for cracks, dry rot, and insufficient adhesive will tell you if the problem becomes recurring.

3. Engine Will Not Turn Over or Stalls

Sometimes, a Ram 1500 might not turn over when you try to start it. You might get a clicking sound or nothing at all when you put the key in the ignition and try to start your truck.

When that occurs, the truck usually does not get any spark at the plugs. Or it could have another mechanical problem. Fortunately, most of the potential problems are readily identifiable and mostly easy to fix.

Possible Causes and Solutions

The battery and cable connections often are the culprits when the truck will not turn over. If your battery is old or the cable connections are loose, you cannot get your motor running.

A new battery might be required to correct the problem. If you are really lucky, it just has a loose cable that you can tighten to restore the electrical flow.

A bad starter motor or a bad connection with the starter motor also might be the problem. Either tightening or replacing the cable running from the battery to the starter motor might fix it.

Another possibility is a bad cam sensor, which could cause the truck to stall even while you are driving down the road.

Replacing the cam sensor will fix that problem.

4. Excessive Oil Consumption and Engine Knock

You might notice an unusual amount of oil consumption without any telltale signs of oil dripping beneath your engine.

If your Ram 1500 has more than 120,000 miles on it, a bad intake manifold gasket might be the problem. If an engine knock develops at about the same time, you could have a bad intake manifold gasket.

Possible Causes and Solutions

It is common for the intake manifold gasket to weaken and wear out after more than 120,000 miles of service. Like all mechanical things, they have a service life.

The intake manifold gasket on the 3.9-liter V6 and 5.9-liter V8 motors are especially vulnerable. But any Ram 1500 with high mileage might experience the same problem.

You could simply perform preventive maintenance and replace the intake manifold gasket. That will restore the seal and enable the engine to run as designed.

With the new gasket in place, you could regain the full power of your engine. It also could prevent the engine knock that accompanies the problem.

5. Leaking Coolant Near the Water Pump

You might notice the sickly sweet smell coming from the engine area or a small amount of coolant on the ground beneath the truck’s engine.

Those are signs of a coolant leak. And leaking coolant never is good for your engine.

If you ignore a coolant leak, the engine could overheat and suffer extensive damage.

Fortunately, the causes are easy to diagnose and repair.

Possible Causes and Solutions

Coolant usually leaks from a bad radiator, a bad hose, or a loose hose clamp. It also might come from the water pump.

If you have a hole in your radiator, a bad hose, or a loose hose clamp, leaking coolant will accumulate on the floor of your garage near the front of the engine.

You can inspect the hoses for signs of cracking or dry rot that causes the coolant to leak. You can check the radiator for signs of damage that might cause it to leak. And tightening a loose clamp is very simple to do.

If the problem is near the water pump, you might have a bad gasket. Or the water pump might be bad.

You can remove the water pump and replace a leaking gasket. If the water pump is bad, you can install a new one along with a new gasket. That should fix the problem.

6. Cracked Dashboard

A cracked dashboard isn’t the end of the world, but it can turn an otherwise beautiful truck into an unkempt-looking eyesore.

The Dodge Ram 1500’s dashboard usually starts to crack at around 83,000 miles and costs an average of $700 to repair.

2001, 2002, and 2003 models are most prone to dashboard cracking.

Possible Causes and Solutions

Over time, the sun can take its toll on the Dodge Ram 1500’s dashboard. The dashboard’s plastic is prone to splitting and cracking over time.

The problem can be severe or mild.

The best solution to dashboard cracking is prevention. A dashboard cover will protect the dashboard from the sun, especially in hot climates.

7. TIPM Issues

The Totally Integrated Power Module (TIPM) causes headaches for many owners of newer model Dodge Ram 1500 trucks. When the TIPM starts to go, it can trigger a slew of problems with any function that requires electrical input.

When the TIPM starts to wear out, drivers may experience the following:

  • Airbags may deploy at random
  • Airbags do not deploy in a crash
  • The horn may randomly go off
  • Power windows stop working
  • Power windows operate themselves
  • The fuel pump remains on after the engine is turned off
  • The starter cranks, but the engine does not start
  • Doors may lock and unlock randomly
  • Coolant fans fail
  • The ABS may malfunction
  • The A/C may not work
  • The radio may shut off unexpectedly

Most of these issues make it hard to drive the truck, but the airbag deployment issues present a life-threatening danger.

Possible Causes and Solutions

Dodge Ram 1500 owners might attempt to fix electrical problems individually. In this case, the truck can quickly become a money pit, and the issues may continue to evolve.

If the root cause of electrical issues is a weak TIMP, you can fix many problems at once by replacing the TIMP.

Sometimes you can correct problems by re-flashing and re-configuring modules or replacing the relays.

However, in many cases, complete replacement is the best option.

Replacing the TIPM is relatively straightforward for home mechanics, but the component can cost $300 to $500 for most Ram 1500 models.

8. Cam and Lifter Failure

If your Ram 1500 stalls when stopping or idling or seizes up unexpectedly, you may be facing a cam and lifter failure.

Cam and lifter failure can affect all late model Ram 1500s. Cams on all vehicles wear out eventually, but an excessive number of Ram 1500 truck owners report cam and lifter problems under 75,000 miles.

The most common reports involve the number 2 or 3 cylinder misfiring combined with lifters seizing up. In this case, the cam may show premature wear and tear, with one or more lobes heavily grooved and damaged.

Possible Causes and Solutions

How do you know if your camshaft and lifters are failing? If you have a cam and lifter problem, you may hear a knocking or tapping noise while the engine runs.

If you hear knocking or tapping, make sure to address the problem immediately. Otherwise, you could face severe engine damage, including complete engine failure.

To fix the problem, you should replace the camshaft and lifter.

9. Body Structure Issues

Body structure problems can plague owners of Ram 1500s of all model years. While newer models will likely not face body structure issues for several years, Ram 1500 trucks ten years or older may experience a slew of irritating and ugly body issues.

Some problems Ram 1500 trucks experience include the following:

  • Faulty locking mechanisms on tailgates causing them to fall open or get stuck
  • Paint forming bubbles beneath the surface
  • Rusting, especially on bumpers and bolts
  • Decay on the outer wheelhouse and upper wheel arch areas of the truck bed

Body structure problems aren’t just ugly. They can compromise vehicle safety too.

If critical parts become rusted, they can impair performance and the structural integrity of the entire truck.

10. Coolant Leaks

Coolant leaks are one of the more common problems on Dodge Ram 1500 models from 2009 to 2015. Many owners report difficulty locating coolant leaks, even with a pressure test. Sometimes the leaks only occur when the engine is cold.

Drivers may not notice coolant leaks until the engine begins to overheat, which can cause gasket leaks, damage to the head, and other serious complications.

The longer the problem goes on, the more complications can occur and the more expensive they can be to fix.

Possible Causes and Solutions

Worn gaskets, heater hoses, water pump hoses, or a worn-out water pump are likely sources of coolant leaks on the Ram 1500. This source of the leak may not be immediately apparent.

You may have to try replacing one hose or component at a time until you solve the issue.

If you develop a coolant leak and cannot pinpoint the problem, try replacing the most inexpensive and most accessible part to replace first and work your way up until the problem is solved.

11. Transmission Problems

One of the 2012 and 2014 Ram 1500’s most common issues involves transmission problems. Problems can come in a variety of forms, including:

  • Rough starts
  • Engine running rough
  • Hard shifting into first gear
  • Jerky shifting into second gear
  • Hard downshifting when slowing down or stopping

Specific causes of transmission problems can be hard to pinpoint for both owners and service centers. And if the problem is diagnosed correctly, parts can be hard to find, and long wait times for delivery can cause frustration.

Truck owners cite transmission issues as one of the leading reasons they may trade their truck in or pursue refunds.

General Pros and Cons

It has one of the most comfortable truck interiors on the market. And its options for four V8 engines ensure it has plenty of power for towing and hauling.

The Ram 1500 can tow nearly 5 tons while carrying more than 1,300 pounds in the bed.

You can get it with a rear-wheel driver or a 4X4 drivetrain. And fuel economy is very good for a full-size pickup.

The cons against the Ram 1500 mostly are:

  • Tows less than many competitors.
  • Models without diesel engines get average fuel economy.
  • Can be very expensive when equipped with a lot of options.

The Dodge Ram 1500 is a mostly outstanding pickup with just a few negatives that most people often expect from full-size pickups.

Here are some of the top pros and cons of the Dodge Ram 1500:

Pros

Here are some of the best selling points of the newest Dodge Ram 1500 models:

1. Fuel efficient

The electrified 2020 Ram 1500’s hybrid 3.0-liter V-6 EcoDiesel can get up to 32 mpg on the highway.

2. Air suspension

A locking rear differential and height-adjustable coil- or air-sprung suspension deliver the world’s most carlike ride for a truck.

3. Barn-door tailgate option

Dodge Ram’s patented barn-door tailgate model has a vertical 60/40 split that can be dropped down in its entirety like a traditional tailgate or opened side-to-side like a barn door.

4. Incredibly fast

The 702 Supercharged Helicat-powered Hemi motor in the Dodge Ram 1500 TRX can do up to 118 mph.

5. Roomy and quiet interior with plenty of technology features

The most luxurious truck in its class, the Dodge Ram 1500 offers a spacious 45.2 inches of rear legroom, eight varying degrees of back seat recline, and in-floor storage.

6. Electrified V6 and V8 engines

The 2020 and later Ram 1500 hybrid models combine a 3.6-liter V6 engine with Ram’s e-Torque system in the 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6.

Cons

Some downsides of the Ram 1500 include the following:

  • Horrendous fuel economy in some model years
  • Expensive
  • Bulky steering

What Do the Reviews Say?

“The Ram’s standard air suspension delivers great ride and handling, but it’s also a capable workhorse. There are plenty of powertrain options ranging from the capable mild-hybrid V-8 to the efficient diesel and, of course, the supercharged Hellcat V-8 in the Ram 1500 TRX. The Ram 1500 is a well-rounded, legitimately capable, luxurious truck that we’d take over any Ford or Chevy rival.”

https://motortrend.com

“The Ram 1500 offers uncommonly smooth driving manners because of its distinct rear suspension design. You also get unique upscale interior highlighted by the optional 12-inch infotainment display. The V6 and V8 engines are both solid choices, but the reintroduced second-generation EcoDiesel V6 has even more going for it.”

https://www.edmunds.com

 

Year Mileage (Miles) Price ($)
2014 130,305 $19,950
2015 33,833 $17,795
2016 35,488 $8,795
2017 76,424 $27,995
2018 20,359 $37,998
2019 18,756 $39,911
2020 13,423 $39,995
2021 5509 $39,998
2022 19 $139,995

The Dodge Ram 1500 has improved significantly since its first incarnation in 1980.

The current fifth-generation Ram debuted in 2018, and Dodge Ram 1500 owners swear by its durability, reliability, and power.

For decades, the Ram 1500 has been one of America’s favorite work trucks. Still, its luxury add-ons, tech advances, and engine revamps have made it better than ever.

With new electric and hybrid motors, high-tech safety features and advanced in-house displays, look for the Dodge Ram 1500 in some version for decades to come.

Despite some weaknesses, this truck’s huge, die-hard fan following ensures the Ram 1500 isn’t going anywhere.

Resources

Car and Driver. 2021 Dodge Ram 1500

MotorTrend. 2022 Ram 1500

Car Complaints. Interior Accessory Problems

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