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Dodge Ram 1500 under investigation for rear differential failures

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has opened a preliminary investigation into select Dodge Ram 1500 pickups over a concern that the rear differential may fail, causing the rear wheels to lock up while moving and vastly decreasing the driver’s ability to control the vehicle.

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.


kcrancho (not verified)    July 26, 2012 - 6:55PM

I have a 2010 Ram 1500 and I had it professionally altered to 6" when it hadd like only 500 miles on it. I love the way it turned out, not to mention I "dressed" it up and it turns a lot of heads!!

I have noticed that when I manually downshift and when it goes into 1st gear, I hear a loud "pop" sound in the rear of the truck???
Also sometimes after driving and I need to stop and put it in reverse, it does the same type of sound????
After reading these investigations, I believe we might have found the cause?!

I will watch these articles very closely now.

Scott (not verified)    July 28, 2012 - 10:59PM

2009 Dodge Ram 1500 Slt 4x4, 45k+ miles

YAP this exact thing happened to me a few weeks ago, i was going about 45-50.
Warranty company was acting stupid about it, took 3 weeks to get truck back, and it took 8 days before they would say they were going to fix it, thus no rental car till they said they would. Then dealers couldn't get part, what a mess!

Thinking about trading off truck at the end of warranty in 2013, the price was 3300 at our dealership in town to fix this, my deducible was $100, thank god I bought the extended warranty when i bought the truck

Anonymous (not verified)    July 29, 2012 - 2:24PM

While traveling approximately 35 mph, this exact issue happened to my 2010 RAM 1500. Incident occurred in Mid June (parts ordered by dealership on June 15th) and still no available parts! I have been informed that parts may be available on August 15, a full 2-months following initial order. Luckily I have had a car to borrow during this period as my extended warranty coverage only covers one week worth of rental...

kcrancho (not verified)    July 29, 2012 - 3:05PM

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

I would raise a little bit of hell with the dealership if your mileage is within drive train warranty!
If it is, tell them to pay for your rental! Because if you rent a car and wreck it, they will charge YOU for "down time"!
Hey it's worth a try as you would be surprised at what you can get when ya raise your voice if you know what I mean....

Ronnie Deciantis (not verified)    September 4, 2019 - 4:43AM

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

95 thousand miles on 2011 ram 1500 , wife works a quarter a mile away from differential is shot , as soon as our warranty was up alot of problems just so happen to go wrong, I also have a 2000 dodge ram 125 thousand miles never a rear end problem

2009 Ram 1500 (not verified)    August 14, 2012 - 1:13PM

60,000 miles and rear pinion seal is leaking. Loose nut. Why can we not get a recall on this. Thank You

RON PITNER (not verified)    October 14, 2016 - 3:34PM

In reply to by 2009 Ram 1500 (not verified)

There has been a recall on the pinion nut. I bought my 2010 ram new, 3 months later they sent me the recall notice, it a pinion nut that could come loose, they repaired it..

Anonymous (not verified)    September 16, 2012 - 11:23AM

Rear end locked up in my husbands 2010 dodge ram 1500 with hemi. When this happened it tore the drive shalt out also.

Cheryl Danzeisen (not verified)    December 22, 2021 - 2:45AM

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

2010 at dodge ram 1500 I just bought and have only put 6,000 miles on it. I had to get another vehicle not by choice. The results of a T-Boned accident. They could not repair my. LOL I guess they can't do that after it rolled six times. LOL I dropped off kids basketball needs went to go leave and it made that noise I already knew what happened. Just not how bad and why. The rear end went out. Had nothing in any gear. Just got RPM'S. Got it to my buddies garage he took off the drive shaft and then undid the screws and stopped. He called me and said he wasn't going to tear into it any further. He being a Dodge Long Horn owner himself and very knowledgeable with fixing about anything that has a motor in it. Told me that what happened and he said it has a defected part. A faulty casting. Called dodge got it to a dodge dealer they looked at it and said that there is no defective part. My buddy's reply to me about what they said is. Either there mechanic is not very smart because it was that obvious to him when he got to look inside to see what failed or they just don't want to fix it. What happened for the rear end to snap like it did when it should have never went out. His words The Rear Pinion Shaft Sheared Off and that's what caused it to snap. Has anyone else dealt with this problem? If so what do I or should I do? I have a claims number started with dodge already. Please I am asking for some help on info on how to deal with it.

John B (not verified)    September 24, 2012 - 2:55PM

2009 Dodge Ram 1500 Sport

Driving at 40km/hr and driveshaft spun out of truck. Dealership said the rear diff yoke nut spun off causing driveshaft to let go. Now needs new rear diff, driveshaft and transfer case. Both rear diff and transfer case were cracked. Truck has 150,000 kilometers of highway drive on it. No warranty and a $4000 bill.

Anonymous (not verified)    October 24, 2012 - 3:05PM

In reply to by John B (not verified)

Afternoon everyone,

You'll be happy to know that after sending the link to this site to my local Dodge dealer after having it towed there. They had the entire repair covered by Dodge Canada. Took about three weeks and I got the truck back running better than ever. Thanks

Anonymous (not verified)    September 30, 2012 - 3:28AM

2009-2010 You've got to be kidding me. I have a 2003 dodge ram. Had the rear rebuilt cause of failure once at 31,000 miles. I now just found metal in my real. Turns out to be c clips that hold the lsd together. I was lucky that the big chunk (size of a quarter) stuck to a magnet in the rear or I too could have had lock up. Truck now has 89,000 miles. My Chevy had over 200,000 on it when I sold it. Never any issues with the rear. If you do a search on the dodge forum you will see that all of these 1500 rears have the same potential to lock up due to broken clips ect. Now Im out of warranty and its up to me to fix it. These problems go back to 2002. Do a search on 2003 models and you will see that all them fail. Dodge ram needs to fix it for all.

Anonymous (not verified)    October 7, 2012 - 10:00AM

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

I have an 02 Ram 1500 only 90k and the clips came out locking up my rear last week.. Dodge want 3k to fix it. There are thousands of people online with the same issue trying to form a class action lawsuit for the years 02 to 07 for the faulty clips that Dodge is well aware of. Call your dealer, I saw on the news this morning (Sunday 9/07/12) that Dodge just announced a recall on this issue due to major accidents. Please tell anyone you know with this truck about this dangerous issue that is bound to happen to them. Online community calls it "The Broken Clip Club". It has thousands of members!

keith (not verified)    September 11, 2014 - 4:03PM

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

I have a 2003 dodge ram 1500 quad cab. Abs light went on pulled out old speed sensor and there was a couple of metal chunks on it. Put new sensor in problem went away. Two weeks later no light on dash but abs kept coming on at about 10 to 5 mph brake pedal was very hard to press. Just brought to shop they took rear end cover off and speed sensor gear on the differential there are teeth missing going to be very expensive to fix. You have to replace the hole differential. Dodge knows there rear ends are big problems but they will not help covering the price to fix.

E.P. (not verified)    November 27, 2012 - 1:59PM

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

They should back this investigation up to 2002. I have a 2003 1500 Quad and on my way in to work yesterday morning, my truck jerked like I had ran over something and I lost my gear. My ABS light came on and when I got it to the side of the highway, I went to the back of the truck and was standing in a puddle of differential fluid. I looked underneath and it looked like someone had blown the back of the drive-train out with a .45. The mechanic calls this morning and tells me that me that it is "destroyed." Just in time for Christmas!!

Ron C. (not verified)    February 5, 2016 - 2:04PM

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

I too have a 2003 1500 reg. cab 4X4 hemi and while going down the freeway at 55 I heard a loud bang. Pulling over I could not see anything visible, drove to work but the noise got worse so I had it towed home. I could not afford a shop to do the work so I started investigating the problem. Turns out the C clips broke apart and some chips fell into the gears making the differential un-buildable. I don't know if you tried locating a replacement rear end from the junk yard but here in the north east it was a joke as a matter of fact, I could not find anyone that knew what I was talking about! After finally locating a rear end I rebuild it going to a posi-traction set up which so far is treating me good, but I am still uneasy about clunking noises probably because I worry to much! Anyway the truck stayed in the garage for a year!! Like some other folks I tried to get some where with Dodge but I think they named it Dodge because they are good at dodging the issues with their product. By the way Dodge calls this truck a light duty 4X4, does anyone know what that means? Thanks for your article, Ron.

charlie allen (not verified)    April 10, 2016 - 10:54AM

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

I have a 2003 ram 1500 128000 miles that the carrier just locked up on, the left wheel started to skip then a growl in the rear end so I took it home took it apart and the gears in the carrier will not move.

Dave (not verified)    December 14, 2017 - 9:15AM

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

C-clips are not the only issue with the 02-03 Ram 1500 rear differential. The pinion seal and out bearing fail regularly. I have had mine fail twice in 2 years. The first failure occurred at 65mph on the interstate. Thankfully it did not completely come apart and I was able to get to my destination, albeit with smoked pinion bearings. The rear end was completely rebuilt and was perfectly silent and trouble free. Then, I went on a road trip this past weekend putting over 300 miles on the truck only to have the pinion fail again due to losing gear oil via the failed seal AGAIN. The web is loaded with stories of this failure, usually with much more scary results such as rear wheel lock-ups resulting in accidents or nearly causing accidents.

Derek Freyberger (not verified)    October 7, 2012 - 12:16PM

I own a 2003 dodge ram. The rear failed twice. Once at 30,000 miles and again just last week with only 89,000 on the truck. Funny I owned a Chevy and never even touched the rear other than brakes.I sold that truck with over 200,000 miles on it with no rear problems ever. I don't know where Dodge gets off saying its only 2009 and up trucks with the problem. Any one with a brain in their head can go to dodge forums and look up 3rd generation rams and see that there many, many, many, rams affected from 2002 and up. The first time my rear heated up and melted the oil inside and sensors completely off. This second time the clips failed and wiped the rear out. I have the new parts right now out on my bench waiting for the shop to fix it again the right way. Detroit truelock differential. I will NEVER buy another Dodge. I can give you a list, hub bearings both gone before 30,000 miles, leaking power steering pump,rattling inside doors, poorly made seats that after 25,000 miles had to be reupholstered due to feeling the metal frame in your A**,bad door seals, transmission slipping after the truck sits over night.,front axle boots failing. I'm sure there is some thing else I'm forgetting. Chevy or Ford for my family. Oh yeah my truck has 89,000 miles on it current and never goes in the mud or woods. It looks brand new.

Bill Griffith (not verified)    June 20, 2014 - 7:42PM

In reply to by Derek Freyberger (not verified)

Hi my 2003 ram1500 hemi,leaving florida to Kansas city,got to Kansas city it started getting noisy,Then a 30 minute period of time burned up the rear end,stayed 0ver two days to get it fixed with all new parts,took off from Kansas city dorve to Denver was ok,stared my way back to Kansas city form Denver made it to salina ans the bearing came apart,the rear end fluid was bu rned so black and was all gummed up in the axle tubes,had to wait 4 daus in salina to get fixed and were are back in florida and rear end is whining.One bad thing about getting your vechicle fixed while you are traveling after you leave the shop the warranty runs out.Dode need to recal 2003 also,the rear end is a piece of junk,I spent 1000.00's of dollars to get it fixed plus hotel rooms at 70.00 a night.Come on dodge take care of your customers.

Sean (not verified)    October 10, 2012 - 8:56PM

owner of 2005 dodge ram 1500 2wd rear-end has been taken apart twice is 6 months- dealership 2nd time 2400.00 and it's not right.

i will never buy another dodge: dealership had truck for 3 weeks- never use Bob Mayberry in Monroe NC

Anonymous (not verified)    November 7, 2012 - 12:33PM

I have a 2009 in yard now that the pinion nut backed off of and locked up while denied my lif3time powertrain claim on it saying it was not properly serviced but fluid changes having nothing to do with nut backing off and drive shaft coming loose at 55 miles per gave no warning at all going good then waiting on recall to get it fixed....

Anonymous (not verified)    November 15, 2012 - 12:01AM

I encourage everyone who has this happen to call the NHTSA and file a complaint. We were going 35mph and the rear end locked and the driveshaft fell out. We just got the truck out of the shop today, and the cause of the problem "Pinion nut backed off" Go figure. Time for Dodge to man up.

Anonymous (not verified)    November 15, 2012 - 7:25AM

This happened to my husband and I also.I asked the dealership if there was a recall at the time and they said no but when I found out there was one later I called Chrysler AND wrote a letter.I was later informed that our truck was not included in the recall because our 09 was manufactured in Dec 08.They really need to issue refunds to everyone that encountered this problem.SICK OF DODGE and their BS.

chris (not verified)    November 16, 2012 - 6:49AM

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

I own a 2005 dodge ram 1500 4wd 5.7 hemi. I love my dodge, but i have had my rear blown out twice. The first time i was going roughly 45mph in traffic on route 28. And i went to slow down and as soon as i hit the brake the rear locked up and i went for a hell of a ride.i could have been hurt bad or even killed as well as people around me my drive shaft was in the middle of the road and fluid everywhere. so i had my mechanic rebuild it using original mopar parts. this happened at 129,000 miles. Exactly a year later it happen again, this time at 55 mph on highway17 right of 95. luckly it was late with no traffic. But this time i had my two year old daughter with me and that was horrifying to her and me. something has to be down. Ive sunk to much money into this truck to be to scared to drive it. If something is not done i will never by another dodge and try to convince everybody i know to stay away from dodge trucks.

Jim (not verified)    December 21, 2012 - 9:44PM

Just replaced the rear end in my son's 2004 Ram 1500. 3rd generation 1500's are very well known for failure. I drive a 2008 2500 with a Cummins and have had zero problems at 150,000 miles. It seems to only be the 1500's. I am on board for a law suit against Dodge for putting a sub par part on a vehicle with no recourse for replacing with quality parts. Its a shame someone it going to have to be killed before they are made to do something about it.