Dodge Ram 1500 under investigation for rear differential failures
This new Dodge Ram 1500 rear differential investigation pertains specifically to 2009 and 2010 model year pickups but with little detail as to which configurations of the Ram 1500 are affected (2WD, 4WD, etc), it is hard to estimate right now exactly how many trucks are potentially included in the probe but sources indicate that it could be as many as 230,000 trucks. This is only a preliminary investigation right now but over the next few months, the NHTSA will look to see if there is indeed a problem with the design or manufacturing process that is causing. Should the federal agency find some problem with the rear differential design of the 2009 and 2010 Ram 1500, they could elevate the procedure to an engineering analysis which is often the final step before a recall. However, it should be noted that many of these investigations open without any further action to it could be some time before we know the severity of this issue in the eyes of the NHTSA.
The NHTSA opened the investigation of these Dodge Ram 1500 models after receiving 12 complaints of the rear differential failing and locking up – which then prevented the rear wheels from turning. During 8 of these incidences, the Ram 1500 in question was traveling at speeds over 35 miles per hour and 4 of those 8 rear end lockups results in a loss of vehicle control – either spinning out or skidding uncontrollably to a stop. Unfortunately, one of those resulted in an accident as the Ram 1500 skidded into a concrete barrier when the driver lost control but there was no mention of injury. The majority of the complaints also indicate that when the rear end locked up, the driveshaft was broken as a result and in one of those cases – the shattered driveshaft punctured the fuel tank.
These reports to the NHTSA indicate that the 2009 and 2010 Dodge Ram 1500 rear differential failures were the fault of the rear differential pinion nut. This component holds tight one of the major components of the rear differential with when the pinion nut comes off, the internal workings of the rear end are pretty much guaranteed to fail. In addition to the damage done to the internals of the rear differential, a locked rear end can cause all sorts of other mechanical issues - some of which are mentioned above and all of which can increase the likelihood of an accident.
This is the type of mechanical investigation that could be conducted quickly, not by the government but instead by the Chrysler Group. Should Chrysler engineers find that there is an common occurrence of the rear differential pinion nut coming loose, the company could issue a recall of their own before the NHTSA investigation goes any further. Considering that the basic design of the rear differential in the 2009-2010 Dodge Ram 1500 is fairly standard (and has been for decades), the fix could be something as simple as swapping out the pinion nut for something that is found to more reliably stay tight. The problem is that the Ram 1500 is one of the Chrysler Group’s bestselling models so a recall of two model years worth of trucks could be costly – not because of a costly repair or parts but rather because of the sheer volume of vehicles that could be included in a possible recall.