Posted by: Mark Polk | 2017

My Ram 2500 Truck – Transmission and Steering Problems

I have been brand loyal to Dodge (Ram) trucks my entire adult life. I have owned seven Dodge trucks, three used and four new. I am now realizing brand loyalty is not always a good thing. Corporations change ownership, things change and it’s not always for the best. When you combine that, with today’s mentality in the workforce, brand loyalty can be extremely frustrating.

My experience with new Dodge trucks was good from 1999 through 2013. I drove my 2004 Ram 2500 for ten plus trouble-free years. My die-hard brand loyalty started to waiver when I purchased a new Ram 2500 truck in 2014. It had the larger 392 hemi which I really liked, but it also had a bad automatic transmission. Sometimes the transmission would not engage when you put it in drive or reverse, and when it did it made terrible noises and wouldn’t shift properly. I was patient and took it to the dealership on numerous occasions. They tried everything including replacing one of the internal pumps. After a number of attempts to repair the truck I received a call from Chrysler informing me they wanted to buy the truck back or replace it with another Chrysler product. I opted to add more cash to the deal and upgrade to a 2016 Ram 2500 Cummins Turbo Diesel.

I searched the new truck inventory on the Ram website and found a truck that was within my budget. It was in transit to the dealer and would be available soon. The truck was a 2016 Ram 2500 TD.  After a lengthy process the day finally arrived when I surrendered the 2014 truck and picked the new 2016 Ram up at the dealership. The new truck was everything I could ask for and the plan was to drive and enjoy the truck for many years, or so I thought!

On the way home from the dealership I noticed the truck pulled to the right. I had to hold the steering wheel slightly to the left to keep it straight on the road. At first I didn’t think much about it. It was a little annoying, but I figured I would have it checked when I took the truck in for the first oil change.

The truck continued pulling to the right regardless of what road I drove on. I am familiar with the crown in roads. Roads are designed with a crown to help shed water when it rains. We have a 2007 Jeep JK Wrangler and a 2007 Dodge Durango and when I drive either of those vehicles on the same roads they tend to drift to the right slightly due to the crown in the road. When I say drift I mean every hundred yards or so you need to make a slight steering correction because of the crown in the road. It is simply gravitational force that pulls the vehicle in the direction of the crown. But in my 2016 Ram 2500 it is not a slight drift, it is a hard pull. If you let go of the steering wheel you are going in the ditch. And rather than traveling about a hundred yards before a steering correction is required it happens about every 25 yards of travel. My 2004 Ram and the 2014 Ram never pulled like the 2016 Ram does. It is a safety issue.

When I took the truck to the dealership to have the oil changed and the tires rotated I told them to check the steering problem too. When I picked the truck up the service writer said the truck was out of alignment and they fixed it. On the ride home I immediately noticed it was still pulling to the right. The pull was no better than before. A few weeks later my wife returned to the dealership to have the steering checked again. They checked the alignment and handed her a computer printout  stating everything was within Ram tolerances. My wife called me and I told her to ask service manager to drive the truck with her to see what it was doing. They drove the truck and when he released the steering wheel it immediately went to the side of the road. He told my wife it is the crown in the road. I called the service manager and told him that was an unacceptable response, so he called Chrysler and opened a star case on the truck.

A Fiat Chrysler Automobile (FCA) representative called and asked me to take the truck to a different dealer for another opinion. I made an appointment with the second dealer and took it in to have the steering checked. Their alignment technician drove the truck and wrote on the service order that there was something wrong with the steering, and that it pulls to the right. They checked the alignment and told me it was out of alignment. Keep in mind this was soon after the other dealer said there was nothing wrong.

They aligned the truck and told me I could pick it up. On the drive home I noticed it was still pulling hard to the right. We live about an hour and a half from the dealership so about a month later I took it back to the second dealership. They called about the star case and were told to take a set of tires off of a new truck and put them on mine to see how it drives. The alignment technician said it still pulled to the right so FCA said to over compensate the caster adjustment to offset the right pull. I picked the truck up and it drove worse than before. The steering wheel was off center and the truck pulled and wandered left and right. I went back again and they aligned the truck for a third time and handed me another printout saying it was good to go.

The truck still pulled to the right so FCA said they were going to send an engineer or technician to the dealership to inspect the truck. Three months later after not hearing anything I called customer service. They apologized and scheduled an appointment for the FCA representative to look at the truck. I dropped the truck off and it wasn’t long before they called saying I could pick the truck up. When I got there I asked to speak to the FCA rep but they said he already left. I asked for his phone number but they said I could not have it. I was told they put it on the alignment rack and everything was within Ram specifications. So we have another dealership whose alignment technician said there was something wrong with the truck on two different occasions, but now I’m being told there is nothing wrong with the truck.

During my three month long wait, while FCA did nothing, I started researching the steering issue on truck and diesel forums. I was shocked to discover how many other people had the same complaint I have with the same result, a computer printout saying the truck is within specs. The dealer response is always the same too. They check the air pressure in the tires. They swap out the two front tires and test drive it. They rotate the tires. They give you the printout with all green readings and tell you nothing is wrong with the truck.  What is unfortunate is lots of people with this same steering problem just give up and say they will live with it. I on the other hand refuse to pay $60,000 for a truck that can’t drive straight down the road.

I did not hear anymore from FCA so I called the representative I was working with. He told me the star case was closed. I explained the truck was no better so he reopened the case and told me to take the truck back to the dealership. This time they asked me to wait while they checked the alignment and shortly afterwards gave me the notorious printout with all green readings and sent me on my way again.

As a last resort I took my truck to an independent tire shop to have it looked at. Guess what? They said it was out of alignment. It’s funny how the first time I take the truck to three separate repair facilities they all said the truck was out of alignment, right after the last place handed me a printout saying there is nothing wrong! I paid them $80 to align the truck and in less than a mile of leaving the shop I noticed the truck still pulls hard to the right.

To date I have had the truck in to service facilities seven times and I continue to get the same response everybody else gets who is experiencing this problem. Through my research I read where some people say aftermarket ball joints can help with the problem, while others say to try an aftermarket steering stabilizer. I mentioned this to the FCA rep and he told me if I put any aftermarket products on the truck it could void the warranty, yet they won’t try anything out of the norm to correct the problem. I also read if a good alignment tech adjusts the caster to compensate for the crown in the road it will help. One alignment technician with 30 years of experience told me the tolerances Ram uses are too far apart. He said if they keep tweaking it and test driving the truck they can probably fix it. The problem I have is trying to sort out if all of this is just a band aid on a larger problem, or could something actually remedy the problem for good.

At the advice of the FCA representative I contacted a third Ram dealership and talked to the service manager about the steering problem. She told me if I brought the truck to them they would follow the same procedures the other dealerships did. I contacted my rep again and he said another option was to file a claim for arbitration and let a three person arbitration panel review and decide on the case. I chose a documents only arbitration where the panel reviews service records and documents I have, and documents that FCA submits. I filled out all the necessary paperwork and waited to hear the results. They sent me their decision that read, “Although the vehicle was subject to repairs due to a manufacturing defect, they do not rise to the level as to substantially impair the use,value or safety of the vehicle. It’s interesting because in the Manufacturer Response Form (MRF) that FCA submitted to the arbitration panel stated there is no substantial impairment to the use, value or safety of the vehicle. Sound familiar??

On one occasion when my truck was at the dealership they gave me a loaner truck to drive. I decided to film a video of me driving the loaner truck on the same roads I drive my truck on, and then film driving my truck on the same road at the same locations to show the difference in how my truck drives versus the loaner truck. I told FCA that I had video footage demonstrating how my truck’s steering pulls hard to the right while the other truck goes straight down the road. The FCA rep informed me they were not interested in watching a video, so I decided to post the video on our YouTube channel so viewers can decide for themselves.

In my opinion the steering problem presents a serious safety issue. I find it hard to believe that both FCA and the arbitration panel say there is no substantial impairment to the use, value or safety of the vehicle. I felt compelled to write this article and post this video to inform others of problems I experienced with the last two Ram trucks I purchased brand new.

Here is the video, you be the judge.

 

Mark Polk

RV Education 101


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