Any pickup truck aficionado will tell you that Dodge Rams stand apart from the competition.
Ever since Dodge unleashed the redesigned 2nd generation Ram 1500 in 1994, the company has embraced bold, unique styling. Some people love it, some hate it, but there’s no mistaking a Ram for an F-150 or a Silverado.
Pickup trucks inspire strong brand loyalty in consumers, and Ram owners love the truck’s flashy looks and powerful performance. However, if you visit truck sites online, you’ll find some people trashing Rams and saying they’re unreliable lemons.
If you see a Dodge Ram 1500 for sale, you’ll want to know how many miles you’ll get out of it and how much maintenance you can expect to pay for. As you’ll see, the longevity of your pickup depends on what engine it has, what model year it is, and a little bit of luck.
Dodge Ram Basics
Dodge has been selling the Ram pickup since 1981. It is currently on its 5th generation, which was first offered for sale in 2019. In practical terms, a 2020 Dodge Ram is an entirely different truck than a 2001 Dodge Ram, although they will have some similarities in terms of maintenance needs.
One of the most important things to know when predicting the reliability of your Ram is what kind of engine it has. Here is a breakdown of some common Ram engines along with maintenance issues they’re known for.
The HEMI is perhaps the most iconic Chrysler-Dodge engine. Named after its hemispherical combustion chambers, the original Chrysler HEMI was modeled after World War II fighter plane engines.
The 3rd generation HEMI debuted during the 2002 model year. It has been a popular option on Ram pickups ever since. Dodge currently offers three sizes of HEMI on Ram trucks, including a 5.7 liter and 6.2 liters for the 1500 model and a 6.4 liter for the Heavy Duty.
HEMIs are famous for power and durability, but they do have some common reliability issues.
Engine “tick” is probably the most infamous HEMI issue. It most often manifests as a mysterious ticking noise, sometimes without any other problems.
Beware of ignoring the “tick” because it could indicate lifter roller problems. If the lifter rollers aren’t repaired, they could cause the camshaft to seize up, requiring an expensive replacement.
Despite the notorious “tick,” HEMIs are generally durable and reliable engines if properly maintained. A good HEMI can last over 200,000 miles and even up to 300,000.
Cummins diesel engines have been an option on Ram pickups since 1989. They beat gasoline engines on torque and fuel economy numbers and work especially well on Heavy Duty trucks.
Like the HEMI, the Cummins diesel engine is a workhorse, but it has its own common problems.
The Killer Dowel Pin (KDP) is the most iconic Cummins engine problem. This issue happens when a dowel pin dislodges itself and rattles around the engine. If you have bad luck, it can cause catastrophic engine failure and turn your Ram into a junk vehicle.
The good news is that the KDP was most common during the 1989-1998 model years. Unless you’re buying a 20+-year-old truck, you shouldn’t have to worry about it.
Pentastar 3.6 Liter
The base engine for all Ram models since 2012 is the 3.6 liter Pentastar. Chrysler installs this 6-cylinder gasoline-powered engine in many models, including the Jeep Grand Cherokee, Chrysler 300, and Dodge Charger. The Pentastar is under the hood of over 10 million vehicles!
As you can expect from such a popular engine, it has some commonly reported issues. Overheating cylinder heads are the most frequently discussed problem.
Cylinder head overheating is another source of the dreaded Ram “tick.” If left unrepaired, the cylinder head issues can lead to a loss of power in the engine.
Fortunately, this problem is most common in 2011-2013 versions of the Pentastar. Chrysler seems to have tweaked the engine to fix this bug.
No discussion of Ram engine gremlins would be complete without mentioning the fire issues in the 2010 plug-in hybrid models.
The plug-in hybrid Rams were a limited, experimental run of 140 vehicles partially financed by the US Department of Energy. They were impressive for their time, with an electric range of over 20 miles.
Unfortunately, the entire run of plug-in Rams had to be recalled because three of them caught fire. The fires happened while the trucks were turned off and unoccupied, so nobody was injured. The fires were traced back to issues with the chemistry of the battery packs.
While this issue is certainly a dramatic one, you shouldn’t let it put you off buying a 2010 Ram. All the plug-in hybrid models are now off the road, so you don’t have to be concerned about buying a potential fireball.
Other Common Ram Issues
It makes sense to focus on engine problems as they can make your entire truck inoperable and can be expensive to fix. You can’t drive a car that won’t start! That said, some other common Ram issues are worth discussing.
Rams tend not to hold their value on the resale market as well as trucks from other manufacturers. This isn’t a problem if you’re planning on driving your truck until it dies, but you might want to choose another truck if you want to trade it in a couple of years down the line.
Some Ram owners report body rust problems on their old trucks. For whatever reason, the Rams seem to rust a little faster than the competition, regardless of the model year. If you live in a place with a lot of rain and snow, a Ram might not be the truck for you.
Dashboard cracking is a common problem with Dodge Rams manufactured between 1993 and 2001. While the issue is widespread on 2nd generation Rams, Dodge seems to have solved the issue on more recent models.
Model Year and Reliability
Different Ram model years have very different reliability forecasts. The 2020 Ram earned praise for its performance and styling but received an atrocious 1 out of 5 reliability rating from Consumer Reports. This rating is far worse than the 4 out of 5 reliability score given to the 2011 model.
Anecdotal evidence indicates that Rams from the 80s and 90s were built like tanks. Some owners report getting over 500,000 miles of life from their original engines. 500,000 miles is obviously an outlier, but with proper maintenance, you can expect to get 200,000-300,000 miles out of your old Ram.
Modern Rams are much more complicated and advanced than their older brothers, but they can last just as long if well-looked-after.
Ultimately, luck has an important role to play in your truck’s longevity. A certain percentage of cars from any manufacturer will turn out to be lemons. All you can do is take care of your vehicle and hope you bought one of the good ones.
Maintaining Your Dodge Ram
Like any other car, Dodge Rams will last longer and perform better if maintained following the manufacturer’s suggestions. The maintenance schedule will be different depending on the year of your Ram. You can find the maintenance schedule in your car’s manual.
Here is a general maintenance schedule for Dodge Rams:
- 8,000 miles- change oil and oil filter
- 20,000 miles- check front suspension, tie rods, and brakes
- 30,000 miles- change engine filter and cabin filter
- 60,000 miles- all fluids should be checked and replaced/topped off
- 100,000 miles- same as above, plus replacing wires and spark plugs
- 120,000 miles- the 60,000-mile maintenance should be done again
- 150,000 miles- inspect and/or replace all filters
Remember that this schedule is just a guideline. Different trucks have different needs. If you use your truck to haul heavy loads or for serious off-roading, you will have to do more frequent maintenance.
The simplest way to ensure you get the longest possible life out of your Ram is to keep up with your oil changes. It sounds obvious, but many car owners still don’t follow this simple advice.
How Long Do Dodge Rams Last?
In short, it depends on the specific truck. Dodge Rams vary, so the best thing to do as consumers is to research the truck you’re buying. Check out review sites and go on forums to see common issues other owners have had.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions! If you’re buying your Ram used, ask to see the maintenance history. 100,000 miles of light highway driving does way less damage to a car than 100,000 miles of ranch work, so ask what kind of life the truck had before it was put up for sale.
If you have a junk car you need to sell before buying yourself a new Dodge Ram, go here to get an instant quote.