By on December 23, 2017

For a while, it seemed Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ fancy (and confusing) console-mounted monostable shifters and newer rotary-dial shifters were out to give every FCA executive a headache. Unfortunately for them, there’s new safety issue causing vehicle rollaways, and this time it’s from a seemingly tried-and-true bit of automotive gear.

The traditional column shifter.

FCA is now recalling 1.48 million Ram pickups spanning nine model years to prevent further injuries and accidents.

Past recalls and investigations involved operators of monostable shifters incorrectly thinking they had shifted into park (when the vehicle was actually still in drive or reverse), or vehicles with rotary gearshifts rolling away after the driver selected park. This recall concerns the failure of the shift interlock in certain vehicles, which allows the shift lever to be accidentally moved out of the park position.

From the company’s media release:

An FCA US review of field data led to the discovery that Brake Transmission Shift Interlock (BTSI) may not function properly if subject to specific high-temperature conditions for prolonged periods. The conditions are consistent with those that occur when there is protracted brake-pedal application while a vehicle is idling in park.

If BTSI becomes disabled, a vehicle’s shifter may be moved out of park without brake-pedal application, or the presence of a key in the ignition. In such circumstances, a vehicle may exhibit inadvertent movement – if its parking brake has not been set, as recommended in FCA US owners’ manuals.

The automaker claims it is aware of seven “potentially related” injuries and a “small number” of accidents that might stem from the wonky shifters.

FCA says the recall will restore BTSI function in the affected vehicles. There’s a number of Ram models included in the campaign, with most falling under the Heavy Duty banner. The recall includes 2010-2017 Ram 2500 and 3500 pickups, 2011-2017 Ram 3500, 4500 and 5500 chassis cabs, 2016-2017 Ram 3500 chassis cabs (with a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating of less than 10,000 pounds), and some 2009-2017 Ram 1500 pickups.

Trucks from the 2017 model year built after December 31st, 2016, are not included in the recall. If you’re worried about the vehicle sitting in your driveway, there’s a number (866-220-6747) to call. Meanwhile, give your left foot a workout and start using that parking brake.

[Image: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles]

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25 Comments on “Yet Another Transmission Shifter Problem at Fiat Chrysler; 1.48 Million Rams Recalled...”


  • avatar
    gmichaelj

    “Meanwhile, give your left foot a workout and start using that parking brake.” – Always good advice.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      Yes, it’s always good advice, rarely taken. People who don’t learn fully how to use an unusual shifter, or are too careless, are not likely to get in the habit of using the parking brake. That’s what it must be – a habit.

      There are so many people with minimal knowledge how to operate a motor vehicle – or the rules of the road – that only harsher penalties by licensing agencies and insurance companies can have an effect.

      As for a parking pawl or transmission brake for the park position, automakers should cover themselves with a “set parking brake” message on the instrument panel, along with legalese limiting their liability for using just the parking pawl or transmission brake.

      • 0 avatar
        Tele Vision

        Since the mid-Eighties, when I learned to drive, I’ve set the parking brake on all automatic vehicles I’ve owned or driven when parking them. Come to a stop; slip it into Neutral; set the parking brake; release the foot brake, waiting for movement; then slide it into Park. The reason? My Dad’s buddy showed me the parking pawl from a Chevy van he owned. He said, “This little thing is supposed to hold that huge van on a hill? Use the parking brake!” I was amazed at how small the pawl was. That said, the ‘Clunk’ of wrenching ones car out of Park on an incline without the parking brake having been set should be enough to convince anyone to use it. It ain’t there for looks.

  • avatar
    Sub-600

    I look forward to recalls on my Charger because FCA sends nice brochures with current offers at around the same time.

  • avatar
    pwrwrench

    An interesting investigation would be; Why are people so distracted that they don’t know what gear they are in, whether they’re stepping on the brake or throttle, and why they don’t use the parking brake.
    Aside from faulty shifters and self releasing parking brakes.

  • avatar
    EBFlex

    Why include the monostable shifter in this? To fill word space?

    The issue with the monostable shifter in the Jeep Grand Cherokees was the idiot users. The shifter worked exactly as designed and had nothing wrong with it. Including it in an article where there is an actual issue with a shifter is disingenuous.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Denver

      Human frailty is completely foreseeable. Humans are not perfect, far from it. A safe design takes human factors into account and doesn’t depend on people being perfect at all times. Sure these accidents would not happen if people always did the right thing, but they don’t and we know in advance that they won’t. When you are selling a product by the millions, the stupidest 1% of your users is still tens of thousands of users.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      “Why include the monostable shifter in this?”

      Yeah! Why bring up a recent FCA shifter recall in an article about an FCA shifter recall?!?!

      “The issue with the monostable shifter in the Jeep Grand Cherokees was the idiot users.”

      Would it still be the users fault if it was in a Ford product instead?

    • 0 avatar
      Pete Zaitcev

      I think the point here is that the monostatic shifter was not actually at fault, because the same kind of issue is possible with traditional shifters as well. But yes, it’s possible that Steph was trying to pile up word count for no reason. Or, maybe it was an attempt to say “FCA BAAAAAAD”. The article could stand more clarity.

      • 0 avatar
        EBFlex

        Exactly. There was nothing wrong or faulty with the mono table shifter A shifter that was/is widely used in all of the premium vehicles that use the ZF 8-Speed. It works perfectly and exactly as designed. Millions of people every day successfully use that shifter.

        If you can’t figure out a simple shifter, you shouldn’t be allowed on the road.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert.Walter

      Because it was a $hitty implementation of a cool concept.

      This issue is a $hitty implementation of a good concept.

      • 0 avatar
        EBFlex

        You are completely wrong.

        If someone can’t figure out how to use a straw, do we blame the straw?

        A poor craftsman blames his tools. The shifter was not the issue, it’s morons who shouldn’t be allowed to drive.

  • avatar
    Jack Denver

    Human frailty is completely foreseeable. Humans are not perfect, far from it. A safe design takes human factors into account and doesn’t depend on people being perfect at all times. Sure these accidents would not happen if people always did the right thing, but they don’t and we know in advance that they won’t. When you are selling a product by the millions, the stupidest 1% of your users is still tens of thousands of users.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      That sums up the situation nicely and its tech/gadgetry Chrysler/Ram/Jeep buyers weren’t really asking or care for. I’d call it “cost cutting”, a bunch less mechical parts to engineer, install/adjust and a lot less warranty claims. But I’m sure it goes much deeper with FCA using transmissions from the same suppliers of German automakers that no longer have mechanical inputs, except those brands run well executed, dummy-proof shifters from the start with robust electronics.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        This issue isn’t really a tech/gadgetry issue and is just typical Chrylser lack of proper durability testing. This failure is the solenoid that allows you to remove the shifter from park because it overheats and melts in the released position.

        • 0 avatar
          Bill Wade

          My guess is it never occurred to anybody to test the unit for this. Likely it had little to nothing to do with cost cutting.

          The troubling issue is it shouldn’t have taken any time at all to figure out the issue after the first couple of times and then take action.

          Hopefully it isn’t like my Challenger with the alternator recall. Six months later, no parts. I’m hearing the same with the RAM Cummins water pump recall. Both recalls are for fires, a rather serious issue.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            Even if cost cutting wasn’t the original intent of going from mechanical controls to the space age, it has to be saving the carmaker millions upon millions.

            But the Park interlock science had been perfected decades ago, so why is it a problem today, if the interfacing of the old skool with gizmo transmission controls replacing what was once strictly mechical rods and cables isn’t the root cause?

          • 0 avatar
            Scoutdude

            No Mike this affects the old school mechanical levers on the steering column. The soleniod that prevents the shifter from moving out of the park position sticks in the “unlocked” position because it overheats, since apparently they didn’t think people would get stuck in stop and go traffic and sit there with their foot on the brake for extended periods of time. Standard Chrysler procedure to not test things.

  • avatar
    Flipper35

    We wouldn’t need the stupid brake interlock if not for those people that couln’t apply the proper pedal in their Audi’s all those years ago. Just having the key in the “run” position was fine for many years and isn’t even required on manuals. Heaven forbid those people drive a manual Jeep.

  • avatar
    guardian452

    The BTSI solenoid on the Promaster becomes too hot to touch after only a minute or so. Much longer than that and it will melt the shifter housing. I think in practice your foot will get tired of holding the brake before that happens.

    No AT park pawl is designed to hold any vehicle parked, especially on a hill. They are anti-theft devices, plain and simple. FMVSS brake standards test the parking brake only, not anything in the transmission. They are overbuilt to survive this abuse at least until the warranty period expires, that is all.

    When we had to have a vehicle recertified for FMVSS 105 after some modifications, we used a prototype that didn’t even have a park pawl and the proving ground didn’t care.

    FCA’s BTSI solenoid isn’t nearly as problematic as their key lock solenoid and ignition switch. Oy!

  • avatar
    CombiCoupe99

    Why do manufacturers try to reinvent the stuff that already works?

    • 0 avatar
      Richard Baker

      CombiCoupe99:
      Because the public demands new and different. I agree that they should not have reinvented the wheel but they are trying to show how leading edge they are and unfortunately there are problems.

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