Ram HD Pickup Brake Failures Being Investigated By NHTSA

Today the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration opened an investigation of Ram HD pickups over complaints about loss of brakes. The complaints center on the 2017 and 2018 Ram 2500 heavy-duty trucks. Almost 400,000 Ram trucks are affected if a recall is issued.

Why did the NHTSA open an investigation of the Ram HD?

White, heavy-duty Ram 3500 dually truck pulling an excavator on a flatbed gooseneck trailer, mountains visible in the background.
Ram 3500 pulling a gooseneck trailer | EBY trailers

The NHTSA has so far received 134 complaints about intermittent brake failures on the Ram 2500 and 3500 HD trucks. It appears that it can happen at different speeds, with dealerships finding it hard to pinpoint what is causing the problem. Complainants say once both the hydraulic control unit and the anti-lock brake system module are replaced, the problem is corrected. 

The ABS system engages during panic stops. And the hydraulic control unit controls the pressure that locks and then releases the brakes in rapid succession. Also, it monitors the driver’s brake pressure. Warning lights sometimes indicate a malfunction of the ABS system while other times it flags the HCU. Sometimes, it flashes both warnings. 

Some include in their complaints that the dealers are well aware of the problem. Several complain about warnings to service the ABS, then warning to service the HCU, back and forth. But there is another problem with this issue.

Is it easy for Ram dealers to fix the brake problem?

2017 Ram 2500
2017 Ram 2500 | Ram

Owners say the HCU is usually back-ordered, indicating the part is popular. As most of these 2500 and 3500 trucks are work trucks, without getting the truck quickly back on the road, creates a hardship. Another small issue is that the HCU part number has changed, from “68143491aa” to “68143491ab.” It’s a small change for sure but has caused some confusion at the dealer level. 

As this issue isn’t a recall, warranties won’t always cover it. The cost is upwards of $1,000 to fix. Mileage at these failures can be from very low-mile trucks to ones with over 150,000 miles according to the NHTSA.

Have the Ram HD trucks had a lot of recalls?

2018 Ram 2500
2018 Ram 2500 | Ram

Unfortunately, there is an ongoing NHTSA investigation of Ram trucks unrelated to this one, and these trucks have seen numerous recalls since 2019 when the Ram 1500 debuted. The second investigation is over steering linkage separation. As for recalls, there have been 18 for the Ram 2500 and 3500 trucks since 2019. 

In March 2022, problems with the ABS control module software required a recall. Updates at the dealership corrected the software issue. Another recall in late-August 2019, was for brake systems having incorrect assembly fluid. The fluid made the seals in the brake calipers swell, causing the brakes to drag. Overheated brakes could result from this issue. 

So three of the most recent Ram 2500 and 3500 HD recalls have involved issues with the braking system. Let’s hope that the 2023 versions of Ram heavy-duty trucks provide trouble-free service for many years.