Electrical system, engine, fuel system, and brake issues are among the top complaints received by the NHTSA from vehicle owners
When the time comes to get a new full-size truck, many enthusiasts gravitate toward the 2021 Ram 1500 for its amazingly good looks and superior powertrain options. The manufacturer claims this truck was “designed for serious performance.” However, many owners are disappointed to find a plethora of problems. Hundreds of complaints find fault with the vital components and systems needed to keep the truck running safely and smoothly. A very large number report that their vehicles stall and engines shut down unpredictably. There are also complaints that brakes and high-pressure fuel pumps fail, and the electrical system malfunctions.
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Most Common Problems
Owners of 2021 Ram 1500 trucks have been complaining to the National Highway Traffic Administration (NHTSA) about ongoing issues since late 2020. In 2021 and 2022 there were more than 110 complaints each year. By early 2023, total complaints had topped 255, with engine shutdown issues constantly increasing.
In terms of numbers, more than half are filed as engine issues. But more than a third of these are also regarded by the complainants as electrical system issues. The most common problem, which involves the engine stalling and/or shutting down, features prominently in both these NHTSA complaint categories.
Other components and systems that complaints target in relatively large numbers are the fuel/propulsion system, forward collision avoidance, powertrain, and service brakes. Many of the complaints filed as unknown or other are also listed under other NHTSA categories.
There are 8 recalls including an urgent recall that states those affected must not drive the vehicle. NHTSA Campaign Number 21V037000 warns that the master cylinder push rod may disconnect from certain 2020-2021 Ram 1500 Classic SLT trucks. These trucks were built without the retaining clip that secures the master cylinder push rod to the brake pedal. This can cause the brake pedal to separate from the brake system, increasing the risk of a crash.
There is also a recall, NHTSA Campaign Number 22V767000, initiated due to fuel pump failure. Up to 60,413 Ram 1500 and various Jeep vehicles may be affected. The recall states that the high-pressure fuel pump (HPFP) may fail, causing an engine stall. This, in turn, can result in the engine stalling and will increase the risk of a crash.
2021 Dodge RAM 1500 Complaint Summary
|Complaint Category||Number of Complaints|
|Unknown Or Other|
|Forward Collision Avoidance: Automatic Emergency Braking|
|Vehicle Speed Control|
|Fuel System, Gasoline|
Problems with the Engine
To be considered a powerful and capable pickup, there must be a reliable engine under the hood. With either the gas or diesel power options, there have been many complaints, causing people to trust the integrity of the Ram Truck brand.
Most of the complaints filed as being engine issues are from 2021 Ram 1500 owners who have experienced their engines shutting down at a low speed for no reason.
Engine Shuts Down at Low Speed
Typically, as a Florida owner states: When it happens, the driver must stop, place the truck in Park, and restart. Sometimes it puts the brake on and shifts itself into Park when it stalls. This is “very dangerous in traffic or on train tracks. Hundreds of people are posting about the same situation and dealers can’t duplicate it.”
Reading through the many complaints, it seems to happen frequently when drivers are turning, perhaps because they are slowing down. An owner from Pennsylvania states that the “truck stalls while making hard turns, usually at slower speeds. It has also cut off while making a turn into traffic.”
Both these complaints were lodged before the HPFP recall was issued so there’s no indication if this could have been the cause. But there are similar complaints about incidents in early 2023 from owners who haven’t been notified about the recall.
For example, on January 18, 2023, a South Carolina owner’s 2021 Ram 1500 Hemi eTorque shut down while driving. “This has happened approximately a dozen times in the last year. On most occasions, this has happened within the first 5 minutes of driving.” As described by many others, “The vehicle shut off, goes into Park, and the emergency brake engages. A message appears on the dashboard indicating (the) auto park engaged. In order to get moving again, we have to start the car, disengage the emergency brake, and put the car in drive. This is a dangerous situation that will result in serious injury or worse.”
Alarming Concerns from Owner
An owner from Michigan has named his truck “Death Trap.” The Ram 1500 has been in the shop 4 or 5 times in the past year (to May 2022) because the problem has occurred at least 7 times. “My dealer representative admonishes me for being annoyed with them that they can’t find the problem, since in their words, ‘it only happened seven times’.” He describes how the truck suddenly stops, slams on brakes, and stops in the middle of an intersection, at the entrance to a multi-highway, or just out of a parking lot. His case has been escalated and he states that Chrysler, which owns Ram Trucks, has mentioned a buyback. Others haven’t been so lucky.
This is because many dealers maintain there is nothing wrong with trucks that shut down, usually because they can’t replicate the problem or identify an error code.
He challenges Chrysler “to admit, uncover, and rectify this problem before my death trap and those others out there actually cause a fatal accident.” He tells them to listen to their customers and read all the complaints on the NHTSA site about the 2021 Ram 1500 “that are exactly the same as mine.”
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Electrical System Malfunctions
There are scores of complaints filed as electrical system faults that focus on the Ram 1500 stalling and/or shutting down. The descriptions are much the same as those mentioned above. This is not surprising, since about 65% of these complaints are also listed as being engine problems as well. About 56% of the forward collision avoidance complaints are also listed under the electrical system. This also stands to reason since sudden stalling and shutdowns will put those in or around the malfunctioning truck at risk of a crash.
An owner from Maryland puts it bluntly: ”This truck is unsafe and unpredictable as it could just shut down at any time, cause an accident where people could get injured or killed.”
Other Electrical System Problems
There are other electrical system complaints too. For example, an owner from Illinois describes how his new Ram 1500 Classic caught on fire. He had pulled over because he thought the vehicle was overheating. He got out and dialed 911. “By the time they arrived my whole truck was on fire from front to back – the truck got totaled.” To make matters worse, he reports that “the dealership that sold me the truck is refusing to do anything as it was still under warranty.”
A complaint from an owner in California states that their Ram 1500 Eco Diesel stays on after it’s been switched off. Having happened several times that week, they are now too “scared to park in our driveway and garage.”
In the first 3 days of owning a 2021 Ram 1500, a North Dakota owner had the engine shut off 4 times. An error message shows that “the vehicle needs an on/off power cycle to continue. I believe the failure was caused by a loose ground wire or controller that went offline and needs a power cycle to bring all controllers back online. Safety is a concern due to the engine shutting off and needing to coast the vehicle to a safe spot if it will reach one.” At the time of the complaint, the owner was still waiting for a diagnosis from the dealer.
Fuel System Problems
A well-performing fuel system is just as important as the motor, but it appears to be equally defective. There are several issues highlighted in NHTSA complaints. One is that fuel spills (some say flows) out of the fuel lines, potentially creating a fire risk. Another is that the fuel pump fails and sends metal shavings through the fuel system. Then there’s the much-documented problem of the high-pressure fuel pump (HPFP) failing and causing the engine to stall.
As far as the recall is concerned, some owners have experienced the problem, with their HPFPs failing. Others haven’t. Either way, by February 2023, more than 4 months after the recall was instituted, the parts weren’t available to do the necessary repair. This is a major issue since affected owners have been told not to drive their vehicles.
An owner from Texas whose Ram 1500 kept stalling and shutting down had no joy with dealership diagnoses. Eventually, when it was just out of warranty in the first year of ownership, they agreed to replace the fuel pump if the owner paid for it. At the time of the complaint, the owner was attempting to deal directly with the manufacturer.
After an owner from Nevada’s Ram 1500 shut down in August 2022, the dealer’s service representative said it sounded like an HPFP failure. This was confirmed 2 days later. But more than a week later, the owner was notified that there were “metal shavings in the fuel lines and injectors so parts were on order. This failure sounds very similar to the HPFP recall that Ram issued for earlier Rams.”
An owner from California had a similar experience, except that the wheels and steering locked causing the driver to lose control of the vehicle. The dealer diagnosed a failed fuel pump which resulted in metal in the fuel system, but could not explain why the transmission went from Drive to Park while the vehicle was moving. “If this failure had occurred while driving at freeway speed the results would have been catastrophic.”
Problems with the Brakes
When it comes time to stop a vehicle, it’s important to have a functional set of brakes. But hundreds of Ram 1500 Classic trucks have been recalled because the master cylinder push rod could disconnect. These owners have been advised not to drive their vehicles until they receive instructions on the inspection and repair required. Although the recall dates back to February 1, 2021, the recall notice is still active on the NHTSA website. So, presumably, the issue hasn’t been resolved.
Unfortunately, an owner in Georgia wasn’t able to stop a Ram 1500 and crashed in bumper-to-bumper traffic in North Carolina. Attempting to hit the brakes, the pedal went to the floor. The vehicle didn’t stop and it went into the back of a tanker. The airbags didn’t deploy either, but the dealer’s mechanic claimed it was due to braking failure and not related to the deployment of the airbags.
An owner from California was driving down an incline when the brakes engaged without warning. There was also “an abnormal sound” coming from the vehicle. The dealer’s technician was unable to duplicate the issue so no diagnosis was made. When taken back to the dealer and test driven in front of the technician, the failure did occur. But the technician informed the owner that the vehicle “operated as intended” and she should contact Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) for assistance. FCA told her that the feature could be “disengaged.”
Trailer Brake Controller Problems
According to NHTSA complaints, there is also an issue with the trailer brake controller. An owner from Florida states that having bought the 2021 Ram 1500 with a towing package he assumed it would be possible to tow an RV trailer. But the vehicle didn’t come with a brake controller. While the dealer had not revealed any information about this at the time of purchase, the new owner quickly discovered that the electronic trailer brake controller needed was on back order, with 450 orders outstanding. The complaint goes on to say that “I believe that vehicles, RAM Products, will hit the road with no Electronic Trailer Brake Controller, (chip problems), for many years causing many vehicles accident and deaths.”
An owner from Colorado also had trailer brake issues. “While towing a new camper, I was getting ‘trailer brake disconnected’ and ‘Check Trailer Brake Wiring’ messages. It was an “intermittent and unpredictable” issue, which the complaint states “is very dangerous, putting “my safety and others at tremendous risk.” The backup camera also wasn’t working, and the dealership advised the two issues were related. Replacing the trailer brake control module would fix the problem the dealership said. At the time of the complaint, the necessary parts had not yet arrived.
What if your 2021 RAM 1500 is a Lemon?
If you think your 2021 Ram 1500 is a lemon, the best thing to do is contact an experienced lemon law firm like Lemberg Law. Every year, auto manufacturers including FCA buy back, replace, or pay cash settlements to thousands of ‘lemon’ owners. Better still, the law makes FCA pay the legal fees.
If you’d like to pursue this idea, please call our Helpline or fill out a contact form as soon as possible.