U.S. Safety Regulators Investigate 1.1 Million Ram 1500 Trucks After Reports of Power Steering Failure

The NHTSA has 380 complaints about the problem, including some accidents

After hundreds of complaints, regulators are probing more than 1 million older Ram 1500 trucks.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)’s Office of Defects Investigation opened an investigation in early August into widespread reports of power steering failures in certain 2013-2016 Ram 1500 models. Specifically, the query aims to address one of FCA’s 2016 recalls addressing the problem, and whether that small-scale campaign went far enough. Consumer complaints suggest the problem is farther reaching, with failures happening in vehicles outside the scope of that initial recall.

Some background: Fiat Chrysler (still the U.S. arm of what is now Stellantis) conducted recall campaign 16V-167 on March 23, 2016. Per the ODI report, that campaign aimed “to address a possible contamination of the electrical power steering unit in certain model year 2015-2016 Ram 1500.” The automaker said it determined the root cause to be contamination on the top side of the electric power steering control circuit board, which could short circuit over time and result in the intermittent or permanent loss of power steering.

Through manufacturing records, FCA saw fit to recall 440 trucks to solve the issue. This new NHTSA investigation, for its part, aims to see whether that initial recall should be expanded, or if a different issue is causing the loss of power steering consumers have complained about on their 2013-2016 model year trucks.

As this is just the opening days of the query, there is not a new recall for the estimated 1,106,211 potentially affected trucks just yet. According to the NHTSA’s records, 380 owners have complained of power steering loss and there are three accidents possibly linked to the issue. At this time, officials did not state whether any of those three crashes were fatal or resulted in injuries.

One of the most common NHTSA complaints covers steering problems

Head over to the NHTSA website to review just the 2016 Ram 1500, and you’ll see 873 complaints to the regulator covering various issues. Of all those complaints, 103 concern steering, with other common issues apparently being powertrain and electrical faults.

Five owners complained about their 2016 truck’s steering in the past seven weeks alone. Owners complain that their power steering is either starting to go out or has failed completely, with one owner saying: “Steering stopped working while driving. Previous year [addressing NHTSA recall 16V-167 above] had a recall for this issue and my truck was not included. This is an ongoing problem and the part needed to fix it is unavailable.”

Another owner from St. Clair, Pennsylvania notes that their truck, built shortly after the covered period in the 2015 recall, exhibits the same problem. “Chrysler advises me to take it to the dealer and pay out of my pocket for their obvious, defective build. I have seen numeroys (sic) complaints regarding vehicles outside the stated MD [manufacture date] of this recall.”

One more owner in Millington, Tennessee claimed on July 25 that their 2016 Ram 1500 suffered a similar failure at 100,300 miles. In their case, the truck actually threw a “Steering Failure” message. The owner took the truck to an independent mechanic, who confirmed the electric power steering module needed to be replaced. However, because there is not a current recall campaign for most of the 1.1 million trucks now included in the ODI investigation, the dealer which the owner contacted did not offer to repair the truck. What’s more, the dealer allegedly did not contact the manufacturer about the issue.

Have you had power steering issues in your DS-generation Ram 1500?

More owners still documented their trucks’ failures — in some cases actually happening while the truck was driving down the road. Another 2014 Ram 1500 driver, this time in California, noted their steering wheel “seized and became immobile” at 55 mph. The owner was able to get the truck to the side of the road “using tremendous force.”

If Ram does instigate a recall campaign (or the NHTSA compels them to do so through their investigation), this campaign could be one of the most widespread since the brand’s EcoDiesel debacle, wherein the automaker settled with consumers as well as federal and state regulators to provide extended warranties, cash compensation and so-called “Approved Emissions Modification” (or AEM) updates to affected vehicles including the Ram 1500 and Jeep Grand Cherokee, with dubious success.

Ram discontinued the 3.0-liter EcoDiesel engine last year.

Have you had power steering issues with your past-generation Ram 1500? Let us know your experience at ask@tfltruck.com and we’ll include your stories in a future update, particularly if FCA does kick off a new recall.