Originally sold under the Dodge brand, the Ram 1500 half-ton truck is most known for its stout Hemi and Cummins engines. But they’ve also always been designed for both work and play.
Modern Ram 1500s are really comfortable vehicles with nicely designed interiors. They also come packed with modern amenities and tech, making them good value for money compared to their rivals.
In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the Ram 1500’s common problems and issues…
Table of Contents
1. Hemi Tick
Ram 1500 pickups with Hemi V8s can develop the infamous ‘Hemi Tick’ and start rattling loudly.
This issue typically affects the fourth and fifth gen Ram 1500 starting with the 2009 model, as well as many other Hemi-equipped Dodge vehicles.
It’s typical for Hemi engines to rattle after a cold start, but it should quiet down after a few seconds once the oil pressure has built up inside the engine. The fuel injectors are also quite noisy and are known to constantly rattle.
If the engine keeps rattling loudly after it’s reached operating temperature and while it’s idling, it might have a bad valve lifter.
The Hemi tick is caused by a worn out lifter roller bearing. In a lot of cases, the rattling bearing also grinds down on the camshaft.
This is an even bigger problem in the 6.4-liter Hemi because these are equipped with an oil cooler that can catch the metal shavings and feed them back into the engine — causing even more damage.
Ignoring the Hemi tick can eventually cause:
- Check engine light
- Cylinder head damage
- Camshaft damage
Severe Hemi tick issues are more common in trucks that don’t get regular oil changes and sit idle for extended periods of time.
Fixing the Hemi tick usually requires replacing the lifters and the camshaft. Most dealers charge around $5,000 for this type of repair since it requires tearing apart the cylinder head.
Changing the oil every 5,000 miles using the recommended synthetic oil ensures that the valvetrain and lifters are always properly lubricated, which significantly reduces your chances of having to deal with severe Hemi tick problems.
2. Exhaust Manifold Issues
The Hemi engine’s exhaust manifold can get warped over time and develop an exhaust leak that’s often mistaken for the ‘Hemi tick’ lifter issues.
When the exhaust manifold becomes warped or deformed, it puts a lot of strain on the bolts that attach it to the cylinder head. This eventually causes the bolts to break which creates an exhaust leak. Broken bolts can also cause the manifold’s heat shield to come loose and start rattling.
Exhaust manifold bolts can break in every Ram 1500 equipped with a V8, starting with the 2002 model year up to the current generation.
In a lot of cases, the exhaust leak and the noise associated with it disappear as the engine reaches operating temperature because the manifold and the cylinder head have expanded enough to create a good seal.
Fortunately, exhaust leaks don’t lead to catastrophic engine damage and are quite cheap to fix.
People who’d rather not deal with exhaust leaks again usually upgrade to aftermarket headers. These have the added benefit of improving the exhaust sound and increasing engine power.
3. Transmission Problems
The second generation Dodge Ram 1500 had a bad reputation for reliability due to its widespread transmission failures.
It’s normal to see a second gen truck needing a new transmission or a rebuild at 50,000 to 100,000 miles. There are also many owners who have gone through multiple transmissions throughout the truck’s lifetime.
Succeeding model years of the Ram 1500 had vastly improved transmissions that were more reliable. However, they can still fail if you neglect maintenance or add more power without beefing up the transmission components.
Starting in 2013, Ram also started equipping many models of the 1500 with the BMW derived ZF 8-speed transmission which has an excellent reputation for reliability.
On the Car Complaints website, the 2014, 2015 and 2016 model years have the highest number of transmission issues among modern Ram 1500 trucks.
Fortunately, reports of catastrophic transmission failures are very rare and most transmission issues of the fourth gen Ram 1500 boil down to complaints about hard upshifts and downshifts when cold.
Here’s how one owner described the issue:
“On cold starts, the transmission almost feels like it’s disengaging from the flywheel in first gear, the RPM will increase on its own, and the truck will jerk forward into second. I’ve also had the bump when coming to a stop. Feels like a brick or cinder block slides forward from the back of the truck bed to the front when you’re coming to a crawl of a stop.”
This shifting behavior is completely normal and eventually goes away once the transmission has warmed up. And despite owners worrying about the transmission’s reliability, there hasn’t been any evidence that this issue leads to transmission failures.
4. Third Brake Light Water Leak
Water leaks caused by a faulty seal around the third brake light that’s on top of the rear glass are fairly common in the fourth and fifth gen Ram 1500.
The third generation Ram 1500 can also leak from the third brake light, but it’s more common to see leaks coming from the clearance lights in these older model years.
Aside from getting your seats and headliner wet, water leaks can also cause mold and electrical issues.
Other possible sources of water leaks in the Ram 1500 include the:
- Sharkfin antenna
- Rear window seal
- Rear glass seals
Leaks can be hard to track down because they usually only occur during heavy downpours.
Leaks coming from the third brake light are the most common culprit and are the easiest to fix. Most owners simply make their own waterproof gasket by applying a layer of RTV silicone around the third brake light to seal it up. The same can be done for other leaks, but you may also need to replace the weatherstripping around the other sensitive areas.
5. TIPM Problems
TIPM issues are fairly common in lots of RAM trucks spanning different generations starting with the 2006 model year.
The TIPM, which stands for Totally Integrated Power Module, is used in all Ram, Dodge, Jeep and Chrysler products.
It’s basically a black box that contains a circuit board and lots of fuses and relays. It controls a lot of critical electrical components ranging from the wipers, HVAC to the fuel pump.
Over time, the TIPM can develop cold solder joints which causes random electrical issues. Moisture can also get past the seals either when it gets splashed with water or just by sitting in a humid environment, causing different electrical components to short out.
Symptoms of TIPM issues can vary, but may include:
- Truck won’t start or hard starting
- Power goes out intermittently
- Doors lock/unlock on their own
- Wipers stop working
- Alarm and car horn goes off
- Check engine light
- Truck goes into limp mode
To fix these electrical gremlins, you’ll have to replace the TIPM. Rebuilt units cost around $300 to $800 depending on the model year and usually come with all the fuses and relays already installed.
6. Uconnect Issues
Lots of fourth fifth gen Ram 1500 owners have issues with the Uconnect infotainment system crashing or just showing a black screen, and locking them out of the radio, navigation and climate control.
Other commonly reported UConnect issues include:
- Backup camera glitches
- Wireless CarPlay doesn’t work
- Bluetooth disconnects
- Radio presets get erased
Some owners say that the Uconnect 5 software is better than the previous version, so a lot of old problems may have been fixed. However, it’s still far from perfect.
If your Uconnect becomes unresponsive, you can reset it by holding down the volume and tuner knob. In newer vehicles, you’ll have to hold down the power and browse knobs. If this doesn’t work, try disconnecting the 12-volt battery for a few minutes.
For more persistent issues, it’s best to have the dealer take a look for a more thorough diagnosis.
7. Touchscreen Delamination
Delamination issues are very common with the 8.4-inch Uconnect screen of the fourth generation Ram 1500.
This problem only affects the 2018 model year of the Ram 1500. Older model years with the same screen size don’t seem to suffer from delamination.
Delamination occurs when the adhesive that holds down the top layer (digitizer) of the screen wears out prematurely. It starts as a small bubble but will quickly progress throughout the entire screen.
Aside from the unsightly bubbles, the infotainment screen can start acting strangely as if someone is pushing buttons.
To replace the screen you’ll have to get a new radio which can cost over $1,000. Lots of owners have also successfully replaced just the digitizer which can be easily ordered online for around $100.
8. Backup Camera Issues
Backup camera issues are fairly common in modern Ram trucks.
Issues that owners have reported include:
- Just shows a blue screen
- Camera unavailable error
- Green lines across the screen
- Camera image doesn’t turn off
Most camera glitches can be fixed by checking for loose connections in the tailgate where the camera is mounted. A lot of times, simply slamming the tailgate shut gets the camera working again. Restarting the truck and the infotainment system might also help.
Ram also announced a recall in mid-2022 to fix a software incompatibility problem in the 2022 model year. Even if your truck is not included in the recall, it might be worth checking with the dealer if there are any software updates they can apply.
Camera issues can also be caused by defective hardware. Some defects may cause the image to become blurry or distorted. If cleaning the camera lens doesn’t help, the next step is to have the camera system checked.
9. Cracked Dashboard
Older Dodge Ram 1500 trucks end up having lots of cracks in the dashboard after only a few years.
Once cracks start to appear, it will eventually spread across the entire dashboard until it completely falls apart.
On Car Complaints, a website that keeps track of owner feedback, dashboard cracks are the most reported problem among owners of second generation Dodge Ram 1500s. Pre-facelift third generation Dodge Ram 1500s from 2002 to 2006 also suffer from dashboard cracks.
Here’s how one owner describes the issue:
“In 2004 I purchased my beautiful truck, after four years the top dash cracked by a vent. In the last six years it has slowly crept across my dash and into separate areas.”
Aftermarket replacement dashboards typically cost around $250 and can be easily installed as long as the dashboard frame is still intact. If the frame is also broken, you might be able to salvage a replacement from a junkyard.
10. Instrument Cluster Issues
Fourth and fifth gen Ram 1500s can develop strange instrument cluster problems over time.
With the fourth gen Ram 1500, it’s common to see the instrument cluster flicker. Sometimes it’s just the middle digital screen that flickers, but there are also cases where the entire backlight of the cluster flickers. Even if you adjust the brightness, the flicker will stay.
The flickering can be caused by a faulty 12-volt battery or a loose fuse, both of which are fairly easy to check. Some have reported that they were only able to fix it by replacing the entire cluster.
Another common issue with the fourth gen cluster is that it will sometimes go blank and restart while you’re driving. This is harder to diagnose and fix. Some were only able to fix it by replacing a lot of wiring and the ECU.
Owners of fourth and fifth gen Ram 1500s have also reported having issues with the instrument cluster staying on after the truck has been shut off and consequently draining the battery.
This is usually caused by an electrical or software issue that’s keeping the instrument cluster awake.
It could be as simple as a faulty switch or incompatibilities caused by USB devices and other third-party electronics.
Some owners also report that they only encounter the issue when the passenger door is opened and the PowerStep running boards are manually deployed.
11. Water Pump Failure
Although most Ram 1500 pickups have water pumps that last well over 100,000 miles, it’s fairly common to see them fail at around 50,000 to 70,000 miles.
The water pump is a critical component of the truck’s cooling system since it’s responsible for keeping coolant flowing inside the engine.
It’s considered a wear-and-tear item that needs to be replaced every so often just like the belts, starter, alternator and brakes. But you shouldn’t have to worry about it until you start approaching 100,000 miles.
However, since Rams do have a history of early water pump failures, it’s best to keep an eye out for possible issues once you start approaching 50,000 miles.
Signs of a failing water pump include:
- Bearing noise
- Coolant leak/smell
- High engine temps
Here’s how a few Ram 1500 owners described their experience:
“I changed the water pump on my ‘11 at about 70k miles. It wasn’t leaking but the bearing was making noise.”
“On my fifth water pump now, 2005 5.7 with 210,000 km.”
“Mine’s a gen 3 (2007) and the water pump went (and boy, when it went it dumped everything in a hurry) at 62,000 mi.”
Water pumps should be replaced as soon as they start showing signs of failure. If left unattended and the engine is allowed to overheat, you can warp the cylinder heads and be on the hook for a huge repair bill.
A new OEM water pump should cost around $400 and any competent mechanic should be able to install it in an hour or two.
12. Refueling Problems
Many fifth gen Ram 1500 owners have complained that the gas pump clicks off automatically whenever they try to fill up their tank.
When this happens, they either have to manually squeeze the gas pump trigger until the tank is full, or set the pump to its lowest setting and spend more time at the station.
Some owners have been able to avoid the automatic shut-off by pulling the nozzle slightly out of the filler neck or pointing the nozzle towards the rear of the truck.
Those who have taken their truck in for repair report that the dealer had to replace their fuel tank and filler valve to fix the issue.
13. Power Steering Issues
In recent years, more and more reports of electronic power steering (EPS) failures are popping up for the fourth generation Ram 1500.
Reports of EPS failures have been rising in the 2013, 2014 and 2015 model years. The 2019 Ram 1500 also has multiple reports of intermittent power steering failures.
When the power steering goes out, you’ll need to apply more force to turn the wheel. Parking also becomes more difficult because the steering wheel feels much heavier at low speeds.
Fixing this usually requires replacing the entire EPS system which can cost around $3,000.
Ram also announced a recall for a limited number of 2015 to 2016 models due to a potential power steering failure.
In addition, a number of fifth gen Ram 1500 owners on different Internet forums and on Car Complaints have reported that their steering wheel will intermittently get stuck at the 11 o’clock position when turning left at around 30 to 40 mph.
This only seems to affect the 2019 Ram 1500 which is the first year of the fifth generation model.
When this issue occurs, the steering wheel doesn’t actually get locked into place, but rather introduces some binding or notchiness at the 11 o’clock position. The steering wheel just needs a bit more force once it reaches the 11 o’clock position to get it to turn normally.
Owners who have noticed this problem report that replacing the rack and pinion and the EPS gear fixes the problem permanently.
It’s also worth noting that the 2019 Ram 1500 also had a recall involving almost 200,000 trucks due to an intermittent power steering failure, so the binding problem could be related to this recall.
Ram 1500 Pros & Cons
- Powerful engines
- Excellent ride quality
- Well-appointed interior
- Lots of standard features
- Good towing capacity
- Good off-road capability
- Software and electronic issues
- Feels large and heavy
- Long-term reliability
- Lower resale value
What Do The Reviews Say?
“Our test truck had the V8 engine and the eight-speed transmission. They work so well together that we could recommend this truck on that basis alone. It’s strong, and it’s easy to drive in just about every situation. The same can largely be said for the newly reintroduced EcoDiesel powertrain — especially if you appreciate the pulling power of diesel torque.”
“Wind and road noise is minimal, particularly in higher trim levels. The Ram 1500 expertly soaks up varying road imperfections and does it without the rough ride you’d normally expect from a light-duty pickup.”
“The optional 12-inch touchscreen is a dazzling addition to any vehicle, let alone a pickup truck. It offers a huge map and sharp graphics. The 8.4-inch Uconnect infotainment system is also impressive and offers navigation.”
“The Ram 1500’s build quality, at first, feels and looks great, especially in the more upscale trim levels such as Big Horn, Laramie and beyond. However, after spending some extended time in a long-term test truck, we experienced a few part failures, revealing lesser quality than we originally perceived.”
What’s the Resale Value of a Ram 1500?
Here’s a quick look at used car pricing on Edmunds at the time of writing. Prices quoted are for the Hemi-powered Laramie trim level: