NHTSA Investigating 1.1 Million Ram 1500 Pickups Over Steering Complaints

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

On Tuesday, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) confirmed that it would be investigating over one million Ram 1500 pickup trucks over complaints about power steering issues.

While the conditions for a regulator-enforced recall have not yet been satisfied, Stellantis may institute a voluntary recall of its own before regulators have completed their probe. In 2016, the automaker recalled a batch of 1500 pickups when it was still Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) over contaminated power steering units. Debris has apparently entered the system, creating a possibility of an electrical short.

That recall was exceptionally small, encompassing a mere 440 vehicles. But it seems like there could be some overlap with the NHTSA noting that consumer complaints yield similarities to the earlier recall. Safety regulators are hoping to use the investigation to determine whether the older recall should be expanded or if this is a new problem that’s impacting Ram’s power steering units.

The relevant documents stipulate that the NHTSA has received 380 complaints from drivers “alleging an intermittent or complete loss of power steering assistance” in certain 2013-2016 Ram 1500 models. A few of those even included crash reports, though none of those appear to have resulted in any injuries.

Parsing through some of the complaints outlined in the report shows that most drivers failed to notice anything abnormal before their power steering went out. In some cases, the system failed briefly before returning to normal operation and would later suffer from intermittent power loss. But there were also reports stating that the system died suddenly and simply never came back. 

The earliest complaint, dated October 2015, noted a slew of annoying electrical issues pertaining to the door locks, interior display, and ignition system that had accompanied the steering issue. But the most recent report, dated May of 2023, focused entirely on the power steering system — with the dealer stating the issue should have fallen under the earlier recall (Campaign Number: 16V167000) but that the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) was not included and resulted in the vehicle going un-repaired.

While some customers reported having to spend upwards of $2,000 to have their pickup fixed, a staggering amount of the complaints noted that no repairs were conducted. This was especially true of vehicles sent in years after the previous recall, with service centers having to tell customers that their VIN wasn’t eligible for free repairs.

There seems to be a lot of variability in how the problem manifests itself. But most drivers reported no obvious signs that the power steering system was about to fail. Mileage also seems to vary, with vehicle mileage ranging between 20,000 and 70,000 in most reports. Though the sweet spot seems to be somewhere around 60,000 miles based on a cursory examination of the relevant documents.

The NHTSA is looking into the issue to see if the issue should be rolled into the previous recall or become part of an entirely new campaign. It may also turn out to be nothing more than a series of unrelated mishaps. However, the volume of consumer complaints leads one to believe some amount of regulatory intervention will take place once the investigation has concluded.

[Image: Ram]

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Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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  • SPPPP SPPPP on Aug 08, 2023

    Debris? "A possible contamination"? Short circuits? Fixing itself? My mind is searching for an explanation that makes sense, but nothing is coming up. I wonder if Fiatsler ... I mean, Stellantis ... even knows what is going on.

    • See 7 previous
    • GrumpyOldMan GrumpyOldMan on Aug 10, 2023

      Great! So now even ICE powered cars will have the possibility of catching fire which cannot be extinguished like the EVs on the Fremantle Highway.

  • Lorenzo Lorenzo on Aug 08, 2023

    Maybe they bought GMs steering gear? That stuff was wobbly.

  • FreedMike This would be a good commuter module for someone with at-home charging ability. But if you just couldn't live without going Nissan for an EV, a base Ariya would be a far better bet, doesn't cost much more, and has way better charging capability (and is not limited to CHAdeMo). And, yes, Nissan dealers will deal like crazy on one.
  • ToolGuy Wave a flag in an American's face and all rational thought disappears. Same thing works with breasts.
  • SCE to AUX "Relevant metrics include how often you interact with your phone, how frequently you speed, how many times you have to stop quickly, how often you drive at night, and even the average distance you drive. Location data has also been rumored to play a role. For example, vehicles that frequently traverse high-crime areas may be subjected to higher rates."Those are very relevant metrics.I don't use these apps, I don't speed, I don't own expensive-to-insure cars, and my rates have not gone up. I've also been an Erie policy holder for 35 years, so I don't shop around every few months looking to save $100.
  • 2ACL Too much, but at least it can get out of its own way. One adjustment I don't think I'll ever make to the modern automobile is sub-160 hp beyond $25k.
  • MaintenanceCosts The black wheel arches and rocker trim are ghastly. Looks like to get them in body color you have to downgrade to the N Line. And you can't get a 360-degree camera on the N Line. Oh well, I'm not a compact CUV customer anyway.