NHTSA Investigating 1.1 Million Ram 1500 Pickups Over Steering Complaints

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

nhtsa investigating 1 1 million ram 1500 pickups over steering complaints

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]

Become a TTAC insider. Get the latest news, features, TTAC takes, and everything else that gets to the truth about cars first by  subscribing to our newsletter.

Join the conversation
10 of 24 comments
  • 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.

  • Theflyersfan The two Louisville truck plants are still operating, but not sure for how much longer. I have a couple of friends who work at a manufacturing company in town that makes cooling systems for the trucks built here. And they are on pins and needles wondering if or when they get the call to not go back to work because there are no trucks being made. That's what drives me up the wall with these strikes. The auto workers still get a minimum amount of pay even while striking, but the massive support staff that builds components, staffs temp workers, runs the logistics, etc, ends up with nothing except the bare hope that the state's crippled unemployment system can help them keep afloat. In a city where shipping (UPS central hub and they almost went on strike on August 1) and heavy manufacturing (GE Appliance Park and the Ford plants) keeps tens of thousands of people employed, plus the support companies, any prolonged shutdown is a total disaster for the city as well. UAW members - you're not getting a 38% raise right away. That just doesn't happen. Start a little lower and end this. And then you can fight the good fight against the corner office staff who make millions for being in meetings all day.
  • Dusterdude The "fire them all" is looking a little less unreasonable the longer the union sticks to the totally ridiculous demands ( or maybe the members should fire theit leadership ! )
  • Thehyundaigarage Yes, Canadian market vehicles have had immobilizers mandated by transport Canada since around 2001.In the US market, some key start Toyotas and Nissans still don’t have immobilizers. The US doesn’t mandate immobilizers or daytime running lights, but they mandate TPMS, yet canada mandates both, but couldn’t care less about TPMS. You’d think we’d have universal standards in North America.
  • Alan I think this vehicle is aimed more at the dedicated offroad traveller. It costs around the same a 300 Series, so its quite an investment. It would be a waste to own as a daily driver, unless you want to be seen in a 'wank' vehicle like many Wrangler and Can Hardly Davidson types.The diesel would be the choice for off roading as its quite torquey down low and would return far superior mileage than a petrol vehicle.I would think this is more reliable than the Land Rovers, BMW make good engines. https://www.drive.com.au/reviews/2023-ineos-grenadier-review/
  • Lorenzo I'll go with Stellantis. Last into the folly, first to bail out. Their European business won't fly with the German market being squeezed on electricity. Anybody can see the loss of Russian natural gas and closing their nuclear plants means high cost electricity. They're now buying electrons from French nuclear plants, as are the British after shutting down their coal industry. As for the American market, the American grid isn't in great shape either, but the US has shale oil and natural gas. Stellantis has profits from ICE Ram trucks and Jeeps, and they won't give that up.