1998 Dodge RAM Cummins 24V Diesel Trucks Have 
Numerous and Expensive Design Flaws and Fragile Features.
The 1998 Dodge RAM 2500 Is Wimpy.

Dodge RAM 2500 Trucks Are Designed to FAIL

Dodge RAM 2500 trucks are designed and built by Chrysler to fail. A class action lawsuit should be brought against Chrysler for these fraudulent actions against the unsuspecting buyer. A lawsuit could be difficult because the recent bankruptcy protects the old Chrysler from the fraudulent practices previously committed. The U.S. government is fostering this corrupt behavior by bankrolling bankrupt companies and not protecting the consumers. However, the new Chrysler is not immune from a class-action lawsuit because the new Dodge RAM 2500 trucks are built the same way.

I am a registered profession mechanical engineer who understands the difference between sound engineering designs and obvious, malicious deficiencies that are intended to fail in an easily predetermined manner. The following deliberate design weaknesses are explained below in detail.

Dodge RAM 2500 Axle Seals Leak

Dodge RAM 2500 trucks are presented in Chrysler advertisements to be “RAM Tough,” but the axle seals are intentionally very weak and ineffective. This applies to the front axle seals on four-wheel drive trucks and on the rear axle seals. Engineers know preciously how to design axle multi-purpose seals for long life in dusty and wet applications. The Dodge axle seals have no member to resist the intrusion of dust; yet, the seals (especially on the front) are openly exposed to road dust billowing up from the tires and ceramic and steel dust being shed from the disk brakes.

Dodge RAM 2500 trucks do not have a seal against the entrance of water. Many owners use these trucks in construction, boat launching, farming, hunting, and off-road recreation; and the owners are very disappointed when told by a repair mechanic that the differential housing is full of water. The single, simple, little seal faces so as to resist leakage of gear oil, but the direction is very weak against the entrance of water that destroys the gears and bearings.

If you drive your Dodge RAM 2500 4WD through a mud puddle,
the front differential will likely become filled with muddy water.
Search the Internet and you will find many reports by owners.

The front axles on the Dodge RAM 2500 4WD should have been designed with a cartridge at the outside end of the axle tube. The cartridge should have included a dust shield on the outside, water seal in the middle, and a multiple lip oil seal toward the inside. The seals should be design for extended life and replacement by removal of the external axle. There should be no need to remove the entire differential carrier (inside gears). The Dodge RAM 2500 seals have a life of about 1,000 hours. In industrial plants and equipment engineering specification typically call for an average life of 100,000 hours. In other words, the Dodge factory design is only 1 percent as effective and 99 percent ineffective. This is appalling. This is a part of the DANA Corporation design.

I personally changed the axle seals on the front and rear the first time. This work would have cost about $1500 dollars if I had gone to the dealer. The front axle seals required a second replacement and the pinion seal and bearings required replacement. The Chrysler – Dodge dealer charged me $1725. The cost for one pinion bearing was $107.00 for a bearing from an unknown source. The bearing installed at the factory came from China. I could have purchase a superior bearing as manufactured by Timken Bearing Company for $21.00. Keep in mind that Dodge could have purchase the premium Timken bearing for approximately $10.00. Therefore, Dodge marked-up the bearing 1070 percent. Chrysler is such a poorly run company that they have gone bankrupt twice even though they mark-up part 1000 percent, charge more than $100 per “flat rate” shop man-hour, and use the most exaggerated estimating service available to establish the labor hours.

Chrysler engineers know these components would barely last through the warrantee period before failing on a statistically known frequency. This must be the “business model” planned by Chrysler, but it is not working well for them. The company has gone into bankruptcy twice that required a U.S. government bailout both times. I suggest we not bail them out the third time.

The adjustment bolt on the front pinion shaft in my truck was over-tightened by a member of the United Auto Workers’ at the Dodge factory. The bearings showed excessive wear from the huge preload caused by the improper adjustment even though the four-wheel drive mode was used less than 100 miles.  The maladjustment may have been deliberately done by the United Auto Workers’ member or it may have been a deliberate maladjustment dictated by Dodge. Either way, Chrysler should be made to correct all of these trucks at no cost to the owners. Buyer should be reimbursed through a class-action lawsuit including punitive damages.

What Can the Owner do About the Weak Dodge Axle Seals?

The front axle seals are a bigger concern than the rear because they don’t last as long and the labor to install new seals is extensive. I regret that I did not try the following suggestions. I would have had to do the work myself again because the Dodge dealer would have refused.

Alternate Axle Seal Fix No. 1

Install two or three seals on each side instead of only one.  The design provides extra space to install two or three on each side. Place them in the correct direction that will allow easy insertion of the axle. Do not install one backwards. A space of ½” (12 mm) between each seal would be good. Completely fill the space between the seals with axle bearing grease using a curved spatula tool cut from a piece of plastic pipe. Extra grease is OK because it is compatible with the gear oil.

Alternate Axle Seal Fix No. 2

Don’t replace the front axle seals on the Dodge RAM 2500 4WD. Install axle sleeves instead.  This method is less work because the differential carrier is not removed.  The axles should be removed and measured before ordering the sleeves. Buy two extra in case one is damages during the installation on the shaft. The axle nut is large. Use a new socket and long flex handle or cheater pipe. Loosen by standing on the wrench before jacking up the truck. Remove the wheel and brake caliper. Remove the bearing mounting bolts with a socket, short extension, and ratchet. Slide the axle out carefully so as to not damage the seal. Measure the axle at the location of the seal wear marks. Install a sleeve on the axle and assemble.

Dodge RAM 2500 Disk Brakes Fail

The front axle disc brake components on my Dodge RAM 2500 were junk from the factory. The truck developed a stuck caliper at 1600 miles. Seven trips to the dealer never resolved systems of hot brakes, pulling left or right, and jerky stops. I removed all of the front brake components after expiration of the 36,000 mile warranty and threw them away. Do not recycle Dodge truck parts in respect for the poor person who buy the rebuilt parts. Throw them in the landfill. Unfortunately, I suffered again because I bought two of these faulty rebuilt calipers. Dodge should be forces in a class-action lawsuit to reimburse all owners who have had these types of brake failures. I have found the best disc pads to be the Bendix MKD459FM Fleet MetLok Brake Pad Set.

"Premium semi-metallic brake pads are for severe duty braking. Robust mechanical attachment, severe duty formulations, and premium shims are included in every set. Provides outstanding stopping power and short stopping distances even under extreme operating conditions. Abutment kits and brake hardware included to help reduce installation time."

DANA Corporation Designed and Furnished the Defective Dodge RAM 2500 Axles and Brakes

The DANA Corporation was the low bidder to design, fabricate, and furnish the front axle and brake assembly for the 1998 Dodge RAM 2500 4WD trucks rated at 8800 GVW (gross vehicle weight). I must bite my tongue when saying "design" in relation to these axles and brakes because the masters of business administration (MBAs) must have done the design, not engineers. These trucks had problems as soon as they were driven off the assembly line. The front calipers has a history of sticking and dragging the brake discs on the rotors. Current replacement parts continue this trend. The front brakes on my truck failed with only 1,650 miles (well before the first engine oil change). I had only washed the truck about three times. One side was literally fried. I had the truck back to various dealers seven times before the 36,000 mile warranty expired. Wow! The dealers certainly gave a sigh of relief when the warranty expired because they could not fix the constant brake pull. First it would pull to one side and then the other. They provided warranty repairs with DANA Corporation parts. Not only is the design exceedingly defective but the quality of the parts was third world country. (That is probably where they came from.) It came as no surprise when DANA Corporation declared bankruptcy in 2007. Too bad for me and all of the other Dodge RAM 2500 owners that DANA didn't declare bankruptcy 20 years sooner.

DANA Corporation

Dodge RAM 2500 Suspension Arm Bushings Fail

The rubber bushings in the lower suspension arms are undersized. They should have been larger and stronger than the upper bushings. The mounting bolts are also prone to rust inside of the bushing sleeve making removal difficult.

Dodge RAM 2500 Suspension Arm Adjustment Caster Cams Fail

The caster adjustment cams on the lower suspension arms are WIMPY. The adjustment bolt has two small flat spots in contact with the cam that is made from very soft metal. The bolt easily turned within the cam. Again, the design has never been near an engineering department. Dodge probably ordered them from the lowest Chinese bidder.

Dodge RAM 2500 Rotating Axle Tubes Stick

Many people think the Dodge RAM 2500 has a "solid" front axle. This claim is false. The axle tube on the passenger side can rotate within a sleeve that connect to the drivers side. Within a few short years the two tubes become locked together making proper independent adjustment for caster by the suspension arm cams. Sometimes the tube jump to a new position making it impossible to adjust the caster for each wheel independently. This is a stupid design that is lacking in the details. This is a part of the DANA Corporation design.

Dodge RAM 2500 Ball Joints are OK, but Dodge Is Promoting a "Ball Joint Scam"

The ball joints on this model do NOT have a wear limit. The weight of the truck presses the ball into the cup under all conditions. Wear make no difference. The Dodge Shop Manual does NOT list a wear limit for this model. However, a retainer keeps the ball and stud within the cup for handling, installation, and while the truck is lifted off the ground. The Dodge factory has shipped trucks with the retainer set to allow sloop in the ball joint. The Dodge dealer check the ball joint for movement after the customer's truck exceeds the warrantee period, never before. The shop manager calls the customer to show him the movement in the ball joint and threatens that the suspension could collapse if the "worn" ball joint is not replaced. This is a part of the DANA Corporation design.

One of the ball joints on my truck is loose. The other is tight. This was discovered by the dealer at about 50,000 miles. I rejected any repair. Now the truck has 225,000 miles and the dealer gave me the same demonstration and warning, but I could see that the movement is exactly the same as it was at 50,000 miles. Certainly wear is NOT the problem; otherwise both sides would wear nearly the same and the wear would increase with mileage. This fraudulent scheme should be exposed and the owners reimbursed through a class-action lawsuit including punitive damages.

Dodge RAM 2500 Tracking Bar Fails

The tracking bar has a mounting similar to a steering tie-rod. The bar keeps the front bend from collapsing to the side. Make sure the truck frame is well supported before removing the old bar. The ball in the tracking bar is undersize leading to early failure.

Dodge RAM 2500 Steering Gear Box Misadjusted at the Factory

The steering gear box on my truck was misadjusted at the factory with excessive steering wheel play. Use a digital level on the steering wheel to measure the free play with the engine off. My truck has +/- 12 degrees loose play. Tighten the adjustment screw on the top of the steering gear box ¼ turn clockwise. The play was reduced to +/- 9 degrees, thus indicating the play was indeed in the gear box and no in tie-rod ends. I tightened the adjustment screw another ¼ turn resulting in a reading of +/- 6 degrees. Do not over-tighten because it can damage the steering gear box.

Dodge RAM 2500 4WD Front End Is a Faulty Design

I was suspicious that the front end on the Dodge RAM 2500 would be a maintenance problem before I made the purchase when new, and it sure is. Every element from brakes, seals, tracking bar, steering gear, and bushings never received sound engineering, testing, or proper assembly.  To make matters worse, the design shows signs of deliberate weakness so as to provide the dealer with a hefty repair income year after year.

Dodge RAM 2500 Fuel Pumps Fail

The fuel pump (also called a lift pump) failed on my truck shortly after passing the warrantee period. The symptoms are misfire. The Cummins engine simply doesn't misfire unless starved for fuel. The numbers of failures were so extensive that Dodge had to place restrictions on the purchase. Since that time, the fuel pump fails every 50,000 miles on a regular basis. Fuel pumps on 18-wheel diesel trucks at this rate; otherwise, these long-haul trucks would require a new pump every 6 weeks. Dodge fuel pumps are junk. Fortunately, I can replace the fuel pump myself; although, it is a nuisance job. I always buy a new pump from a parts supplier, not Dodge; but only the Dodge design is available.

The Dodge dealer will tell you that a new pump placed in the fuel tank is the answer, but this is a lie. The pumps placed in the fuel take fail at the same rate, but they are more expensive for parts and labor. This is not the answer. Aftermarket pumps claim to be better but they are expensive and have very short warrantee periods.

Dodge RAM 2500 Converter Clutch Cycling

Chrysler designed the electrical system in the Dodge RAM 2500 with an inherent malfunction that is caused by normal alternator noise (sometimes called whine). The noise disrupts the power train control module (computer) in a way that causes the computer to cycle the automatic transmission converter clutch in and out. I resolved the problem on my truck with a noise suppressor as described on the following web page.

Dodge RAM 2500 RAM 24V Diesel Converter Clutch Cycling Repair 

 Chrysler should have been forced through U.S. Department of Transportation recalls to repair all trucks with a permanent solution. A class-action lawsuit should be brought against Chrysler to reimburse all Dodge RAM 2500 owners a fixed amount plus punitive damages.

Dodge RAM 2500 Wheel Rims Fail

Dodge described my RAM 2500 in the original sales brochure as “Strong as an ox,” but the chrome steel rim on my truck bent easily under normal driving. This causes the wheels to wobble and vibrate, and it causes the tires to wear unevenly. I had the two rims on the front straightened at a cost of $330, but this is only temporary because they will bend again under normal driving. All owners of the Dodge RAM 2500 equipped with these rims should have new, higher strength rims installed at no charge. I must get the rims on the rear strengthened because I am tired of the constant vibration and the possibility the vibration could damage other components on the rear differential.

A class-action lawsuit should be brought against Chrysler for replacement costs, excessive tire wear, and punitive damages. See the following web page describing these “Rubber Rims.”

Dodge Ram 2500 Rubber Rims. Bent Wheels and Straightening Problems

 Dodge RAM 2500 Leather Seats Are a Fake

The Dodge RAM 2500 leather seats are not leather as claimed in the original sales brochure. The fake seats crack and split giving a life much shorter than those made from real animal leather. Instead, they are a fabric material coated with a microscopically thin layer that could possibly be leather or a synthetic look-alike material. The seats are made from a lamination of synthetic fibers and other synthetic backing. This fraudulent scheme should be exposed and the buyer reimbursed through a class-action lawsuit including punitive damages.

Dodge RAM 2500 Seats Are Very Uncomfortable

The “leather” seats in my Dodge RAM 2500 have very poor padding in the bottom and back parts of the seat. The feeling is like sinking into a hole that has a board in the bottom. Adjustment made by the driver’s power seat electric controls does not correct this condition. The passenger seat should have been a power seat as well with the adjustable lumbar feature. It is more uncomfortable than the driver’s seat without any means to make adjustments other that forward and backward (a feature we never use). The Dodge seats become very uncomfortable during any trip lasting more than one hour.

Dodge RAM 2500 Starter Motors Fail

The starter motor on the Dodge RAM 2500 with a Cummins diesel engine have an intentional design weakness that draws the owner’s truck to the dealers’ shop on a flat bed tow truck. The main copper electrical contacts are made from a thin sheet that limits the number of starting cycles before failure occurs. Electrical engineers are not that stupid.  The design is the obvious intention to limit the life. The copper sheet could have simply been made twice the thickness without any other serious changes. The electrical contacts should have been designed and tested to last at least as long as the commutator and brushes. A class-action lawsuit should be brought against Chrysler to reimburse the owners for failures plus punitive damages.

Dodge RAM 2500 Automatic Transmission Cooler Lines Fail

The flexible hoses that carry automatic transmission oil to the external cooler in front of the radiator has a quick-coupling that fails due vibration. This failure leads to a major automatic transmission failure in many trucks when the leak goes unnoticed. Trucks used in construction and parked outdoors are more susceptible than those that are garaged. The failure goes on year and year without any attempt by Dodge to make a durable replacement. Obviously, the failure to correct the problem is intentional even if the original problem was simple design and testing neglect. A class-action lawsuit should be brought against Chrysler to reimburse the owners for failures plus punitive damages.

Dodge RAM 2500 Grill Emblem Falls Out

The Dodge emblem on the grill of the RAM 2500 simply falls out. They are very expensive and likely to fall out again. A class-action lawsuit should be brought against Chrysler to reimburse the owners for failures plus punitive damages.

Dodge RAM 2500 Tailgate Emblems Fall Off

The plastic glued-on emblems on the tailgate of the Dodge RAM 2500 are partially stripped off by water sprays at an ordinary car wash. One emblem is the Dodge name and the other is 4X4. A class-action lawsuit should be brought against Chrysler to reimburse the owners for failures plus punitive damages.

The space between the front door windows and the quad door windows is covered with a black plastic decal material. Sprays from a drive-thru car wash peels the decal loose at the top and tears off pieces. This is a cheap and dirty design by Chrysler. The area should have been painted black with the same clear coat overlay as done on the rest of the truck.

Dodge RAM 2500 Quad Rear Door Latch Bar Dangerous

The rear door on the “Quad Cab” model has a “U” bar sticking down from the body above the door that is a serious “head-banger.” I try to remember the stupid thing is there but strike my head on it at least 10 times each year. I must remind everyone who enters to sit on the rear seat. I also shield their heads with my hand. The problem is typical of the sloppy design and disregard for the public by Chrysler. A class-action lawsuit should be brought against Chrysler to reimburse the owners with punitive damages. One of the rear door latches on my quad cab was missing one bolt from the factory and the other two were loose.

Dodge RAM 2500 A/C Louvers or Vents in the Dash Fail

The A/C louvers in the dash have vanes and an adjustment control to change the direction of the air discharging into the passenger compartment. The design is very expensive with a plastic gear and rack mechanism to control the center vane. The other vanes link to the center one. The adjustment is harsh and sticky leading to breakage of failure in the linking bar.

The freshman class in a college engineering curriculum could easily spot the reason this design is a failure. The mechanism has mechanical ratio that is backward. A small movement in the control produces a large movement in the vanes. This problem is similar to a worm gear set that cannot be turned in reverse by the output shaft. Dodge designed it backwards. The adjustment control should have had a large movement that would produce a small movement in the vanes. The end pins on the vanes should have been larger with more clearance within the housing. The design is simply stupid.

You can remove the louver assembly to snap the vanes back into the control rod and lubricate the gear and pivot points with sewing machine oil (I hope it is compatible). Use a 25 or 35 thousands feeler gauge. Slide the thin metal gauge between the center assembly and the outer housing on one side only. Pry the two apart gently while pulling out on the center assembly. The pivot shaft should pop out of the housing with hurting anything. Do the same with the other side to remove the entire center assembly. Reassembly is easy by simply pushing the entire unit into the housing until both pivot shafts pop into place.

Dodge RAM 2500 Grill Is Flimsy and Breaks Easily

The front grill is flimsy causing it to vibrate excessively upon closing the hood. I was away of this design defect early and learned to close the hood by pressing down on the bottom of the grill to prevent the vibration. These obvious design defects are simply ignored by Dodge for year after year. They know most trucks will become more work for the dealer’s repair shop at the truck owner’s expense. A class-action lawsuit should be brought against Chrysler to reimburse the owners for failures plus punitive damages.

Dodge RAM 2500 Special Tools and Special Parts

Dodge claims they cannot install the front axle seals furnished by others because they must use a special tool that does not fit the after-market seal. This claim was probably a blatant lie, but what can the owner do? Dodge uses special tools and parts as a tricky tactic to prevent the owner from repairing his own truck or furnishing after-market parts. As an example, the idler pulley on the serpentine belt tensioner requires an odd size T-bit socket. It could just as easily have had a standard hex head. Dodge also uses the tactic of requiring the replacement of an entire assembly rather than just the worn out part. A class-action lawsuit should be brought against Chrysler to reimburse the owners for failures plus punitive damages.

Dodge RAM 2500 Automatic Transmission Has Shifting Problems

Many cars and trucks have automatic transmissions that will not shift if the driver accidentally moves the lever into a lower gear while driving. The Dodge RAM 2500 will shift to 2nd gear with a gigantic BANG when the lever is moved while driving in 3rd gear with "Overdrive OFF". Dodge has been negligible in the design because the control system should have been designed prevent erroneous shifts and make softer engagements as necessary. These transmission design problems are most likely allowed or deliberately incorporated in in the transmission to increase work in the dealer's shop. A class-action lawsuit should be brought against Chrysler to reimburse the owners for failures plus punitive damages.

Dodge Internet Dealer Fails to Issue Refund

Never buy a Dodge part on the Internet website that is run by a Dodge dealer. I ordered a crankshaft damper from one of these sites. They sent the wrong part even though I gave them all of the information for my truck and the VIN number. My emails about the problem went unanswered. I track them down and made contact with a telephone call. They acknowledged their mistake and gave me instructions for returning the incorrect part. The Dodge dealer never issued a credit to my card. I filed a "refute" with my credit card company and supplied them with all of the information. My credit card company said the credit would be applied to my card automatically at the end of the 30 day period even if the Dodge dealer did not respond. Never buy parts from a Dodge dealer.

Cummins 24-Valve Diesel Engine Is Awesome

The Cummins 24-valve diesel engine is the one bright feature of the Dodge RAM 2500. It is truly a shame to place the Dodge truck with numerous design flaws under the awesome Cummins engine.

U.S. Department of Transportation
Promotes the Scams by Car Manufacturers

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) does not protect the consumer, but turns a blind eye to the many car and truck problems that should result in "recall notices" by the manufacturers. The U.S. Congress allows the scams of car and truck manufacturers to continue unchallenged. The car driven by a woman in my neighborhood went full throttle by itself. She didn't realize that stand hard on the brake pedal could over-power the engine, or that the key could have been turned off with the car in gear. It doesn't have to be in the park position in order to stop the engine. Police estimated she was going 70 mph in the 20 mph speed limit zone before hit a tree 8 feet (2.4 meters) above the ground. She had to be pried from the wreckage using the "jaws of life" and barely survived. This was in 2011, long after the "run-away" Toyota problem was covered up. The U.S. Congress and DOT are all in bed with the car and truck manufacturers.

Buying Public Has Been Lulled Into Accepting Failures

Car and truck manufactures have brainwashed the public into believing that bearings, seals, belt, transmissions, and pumps should begin to fail at 70,000 miles and it is normal for the vehicle to turn into a pile of junk when the mileage is past 100,000 miles. Toyota and General Motors cars and truck become a rust bucket with bad blotchy paint after a few short years. They can be seen everywhere. All of this is planned obsolescence by the manufactures who have brainwashed the public into accepting it as normal.

Remember, industrial standards for bearing and seal failures is 100,000 hours of operation. That equals 5 million miles at an average speed of 50 mph. Eighteen wheel long-haul trucks go millions of miles without an axle seal leak but the Dodge RAM 2500 only goes 80,000 miles. This is less than 3 months operating time for the eighteen wheeler.

If you go shopping for a new car or truck, print this web page and take it to the dealer. Ask for a report on the average failure rate for bearings, seals, belt, transmissions, pumps, paint, and rust-through. The manufacturers know precisely what the expected life will be, but they won't tell you.

Warning to Dodge RAM 2500 Buyers

Dodge neither searches for design problems nor redesigns parts to eliminate the problems. Stupid designs can be found all over on Dodge trucks that are manufactured year after year my the millions. In fact, it appears most of the Dodge problems are intention as a scam to increasing the work and income from the dealer's shop. This is truly an evil and fraudulent "business plan." It is now surprise that Chrysler has declared bankruptcy twice and is teetering on collapse in 2012.

Let this be a warning to those who are considering the Dodge RAM 2500 trucks. The Dodge truck will cost you thousands of extra cost in maintenance costs that begin soon after the warrantee expires. Dodge knows the expected frequency for this failures and the dealer has reserved a repair bay just for you. The factory parts will cost you 1000% more and be of lesser quality that you could buy any auto parts store. The labor man-hour estimate is inflated 50% and cost per inflated man-hour is outrageous.

The Dodge RAM 2500 truck could easily cost you $10,000 to $20,000 in unexpected and unnecessary maintenance cost. Add in this cost before you buy. Keep in mind that many of the parts are interchangeable between the different manufacturers. Fords and Chevrolets are just as bad.

Take care,

Kent R. Rieske, P.E.
Professional Mechanical Engineer
Automotive and Lubrication Specialist

You can contact the author by clicking the mailbox above.

Copyright ©  2012 - 2014 by Kent R. Rieske. All Rights Reserved.

Permission is granted to copy this information in whole and without revision providing that full credit is given to the author. This information may not be copied in part and the information may not be included in any material that is offered for sale. You are encouraged to place a link to this article on your website page.

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