By on February 16, 2018

2017 Ram Power Wagon column shifter

We have a particular fondness for the unintrusive, non-gimmicky column shifter here at TTAC. They’re satisfying to shift, pleasingly retro, and free up space between the front seats for any number of things, including a seat. Column shifters also keep your eyes pointed straight ahead, instead of having them wandering around the console or bottom of the center stack, searching for that newfangled dial shifter or push-button array.

Sadly, the column shifters in more than 228,000 Ram trucks are an invitation to danger. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has announced a recall of so-equipped models in the hopes of preventing rollaway accidents.

While FCA says while there’s no known accidents or injuries associated with the issue, the vehicles do pose a risk to occupants and bystanders.

“An FCA US investigation discovered the Brake Transmission Shift Interlock (BTSI) may overheat on certain vehicles equipped with steering column gear-shifters. This condition has been linked to protracted brake-pedal application while vehicles idle in ‘park,'” the automaker said in a statement.

“If overheating occurs, a vehicle’s shifter may be repositioned without brake-pedal application, or the presence of a key in the ignition.”

In this scenario, children left behind in the car (is that still legal?) or a rambunctious dog could knock the shifter out of park, sending the Ram on an unexpected journey. Applying the parking brake before exiting the vehicle is recommended. The issue affects some 228,508 vehicles sold in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico.

Models with the sketchy shift interlock include 2017-2018 Ram 2500 and 3500 pickups, certain 2017-2018 Ram 3500, 4500 and 5500 chassis cabs, and 2016-2017 Ram 3500 chassis cabs with a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) of less than 10,000 lbs. A smaller number of 2017-2018 Ram 1500 pickups have the potential fault, as well.

The bulk of the recalled trucks exist in the U.S., though approximately 42,045 went to Canadian buyers, and 4,066 to the Mexican market. Another 1,422 made their way outside the continent.

[Image: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles]

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26 Comments on “Trusty Column Shifter Can’t Be Trusted in These Recalled Rams...”


  • avatar
    sirwired

    Leave it to FCA to screw up a BTSI; haven’t those things been around about as long as there have been automatic transmissions?

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      I’m assuming the RAMs system at this point is “electronic” and the shifter is merely a switch that tells the transmission what to do. This isn’t the old mechanical days where moving the shifter you could feel and hear things going on with linkages.

      Plus the interlock simply makes you put your foot on the brake before moving the lever out of park – that feature has only been around about 20 – 30 years. I recall one of Dad’s friends trading his 1979 Delta 88 for a 1993 Pontiac Bonneville, it was his first vehicle with BTSI. The poor guy had to be told by the salesman how to get the car in gear during the test drive.

      • 0 avatar
        tonyola

        My family had a ’69 Fairlane and a ’68 Marquis that needed a special trick to start the car in Park – you had to reach over the steering wheel with the left hand and pull up on the shift lever while turning the key, otherwise the car wouldn’t even crank. Apparently Ford had some problems with the transmission starter switch.

        • 0 avatar
          grandprix

          My dad had a ’69 Fairlane……exact same thing

        • 0 avatar
          Lorenzo

          I had a ’68 Montego that did that. The Park detent was weak, so you had to slam the lever into park at first, because it was half in park and halfway in reverse. Then you had to hold the lever in park to turn the key because you wore out the detent slamming the lever. My mechanic fixed it in 10 minutes.

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        “I’m assuming the RAMs system at this point is “electronic” and the shifter is merely a switch that tells the transmission what to do.”

        I’m not so sure. My Charger’s interlock is mechanical and these HD Rams are slightly old school so they might be the same way.

        • 0 avatar
          PrincipalDan

          It would be interested to see a chart (somewhere online) that listed current MY cars and which ones are COMPLETELY drive-by-wire and which are still retaining some mechanical interfaces that most of the competition has abandoned.

          With my old (97) Escort you could hear the interlock click when you stepped on the brake pedal. With my (10) Highlander you hear nothing and feel nothing through the brake pedal when stepping on it to get out of park.

      • 0 avatar
        sgeffe

        Just like when my Dad was introduced to the high-beam switch on the turn-signal stalk. His 1980 Cutlass was PDIed with the brights on, and he ignored my 10-YOA “try the turn signal” before driving home from a family friends’ house, blinding everyone in sight, the first night with the new car.

        Until he RTFM after we got home! I still give him $hit about it to this day!

    • 0 avatar
      SPPPP

      A relative swore off Dodge and Chrysler since about 1985 because she had a rental that popped out of park, rolled down a hill, and into the wall of the neighboring police station.

      This ONE DATA POINT just proves she was right all along. ;)

    • 0 avatar
      JimC2

      Pretty sure this is the thing that keeps you from shifting out of park, not the thing that keeps you from starting the engine in anything other than P or N (starter interlock). Starter interlocks have been around for decades, but I don’t remember the brake pedal-shift out of P interlocks before about 1990.

      Both of them are nannies, but this one even more so.

  • avatar
    iNeon

    The news story is important, but it needs to be mentioned that we’ve all had to take the car out of park to re-seat the interlock switch because the starter won’t engage. These switches have never been all that reliable.

    It’s the first thing we do to troubleshoot a non-start condition– beyond looking at the dome light to see if the battery is flat.

    Not that I’m diminishing any risk of fire or personal/property injury. Just stating that this is likely not the last time these folks will have issues with this switch :)

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      The only issue I’ve had is when the steering column locked in a way that it would’t let me turn the key. They I’d have to torque on the steering wheel a bit to get allow the key to turn and unlock the column.

      I’ve never had a shift interlock go bad or refuse to budge when the brake was depressed. (Fingers crossed, knock on wood.)

      • 0 avatar
        formula m

        Have a 2013 Ram 5.7 with the 6spd column shifter and it doesn’t want to shift out of park when the brake is applied. Can hear a clicking from the ignition and it takes multiple attempts before it will allow the lever to move into another position. Seems to help to step on the accelerator once and rev the motor when it happens. It suddenly will work after when you step on the brake and move the shifter.
        Between this and the air suspension blowing fuses causing the truck to completely deflate down to the bump-stops, it doesn’t give me confidence. The ride is nice when it’s functional, way smoother than a truck should be but it does bottom out easier than I would like over the hard stuff.

  • avatar
    Robert Fahey

    The same company that just botched a confusing rotary dial shifter? Jeez.
    http://www.autonews.com/article/20161226/OEM11/312269968/fca-bedeviled-again-by-shifters

  • avatar
    dal20402

    “Column shifters also keep your eyes pointed straight ahead, instead of having them wandering around the console or bottom of the center stack, searching for that newfangled dial shifter or push-button array.”

    That’s why auto journalists are always so resistant to any attempt to modify vehicle controls. They drive many different vehicles, and usually only have any particular vehicle for a week at most.

    Real owners quickly adjust to the modified control. No owner who’s had the car more than a couple of weeks is having to stare at the center stack to use the transmission controls.

    • 0 avatar
      sirwired

      Yeah, I was wondering at that myself. If you had a shifter with a dial, I imagine you’d be operating it by feel in a couple days without any trouble. (I DO think that Lincoln’s Column of Identical Buttons is stupid though. You know there are issues if your marketing department feels the need to release an instructional YouTube video.)

    • 0 avatar
      ClutchCarGo

      I was wondering why this was a major concern. If I’m shifting out of park, or shifting directions, my foot is on the brake and I’m (presumably) motionless. Why is looking away from the road momentarily to find the shift mechanism risky? As long as you don’t release the brake pedal before you resume looking where you want to go you won’t have a problem.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      If you rent a lot of cars, or use a company motor pool of whatever they bought on sale, you have that problem. Way back in olden times, the ignition was on the right, the light knob and wiper were on the left, and the heater, defroster, and radio were expensive options (Really – the heater on the ’63 Riviera was optional).

  • avatar
    Sub-600

    I remember when standard shifters were often on the column. “Three on the tree” was a popular setup, “four on the floor” was the cat’s pajamas, as they used to say.

  • avatar
    JohnTaurus

    “Column shifters also keep your eyes pointed straight ahead, instead of having them wandering around the console or bottom of the center stack, searching for that newfangled dial shifter or push-button array.”

    Right, I can’t tell you the number of times I needed to shift into park or reverse at speed, only to be distracted and nearly crash because it isn’t on the column.

    Oh wait, yes I can: 0.

  • avatar
    Lou_BC

    “sending the Ram on an unexpected journey”

    You meant to say, “sending the Ram into and unsuspecting Journey”

  • avatar
    Scout_Number_4

    –Models with the sketchy shift interlock include 2017-2018 Ram 2500 and 3500 pickups, certain 2017-2018 Ram 3500, 4500 and 5500 chassis cabs, and 2016-2017 Ram 3500 chassis cabs with a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) of less than 10,000 lbs. A smaller number of 2017-2018 Ram 1500 pickups have the potential fault, as well.–

    I have a 2016 Ram 2500 and received the recall notice.

  • avatar
    thelastdriver

    Also apparently a problem in the Dodge Sprinter series too. A friend who works for the local cable company was parked outside my work. While visible through store windows the entire time after about five minutes it popped out of park (not running, no keys) and rolled into another customer’s vehicle.

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