Used Vehicle Review: Dodge Ram, 2002 2008 used car reviews trucks dodge
2005 Dodge Ram. Click image to enlarge

Related articles on Autos

First Drives

2006 Dodge Ram Mega Cab, by Grant Yoxon
2003 Dodge Ram Heavy Duty, by Grant Yoxon

Test Drives

2007 Dodge Ram HD Mega Cab Laramie 4×4 diesel, by Justin Pritchard
2006 Dodge Ram SRT-10 Quad Cab, by Peter Bleakney
2005 Dodge Ram Daytona, by Lesley Wimbush
2003 Dodge Ram Hemi 2500 SLT Quad Cab 4X4, by Greg Wilson

2003 Dodge Ram Heavy Duty 2500 4×4 HEMI, by Jim Kerr
2002 Dodge Ram 1500 Quad Cab 4X4 SLT, by Greg Wilson

Manufacturer’s web site

Dodge Canada

Photo Gallery:
Dodge Ram, 2002-2008

If looks could kill, the third-generation Dodge Ram should really have its own legal defense department. Where the second-gen Ram introduced the model’s “big-rig” looks, the subsequent generation redesign took its styling to a new level with an aggressive new front end dominated by a massive grille.

But the third-generation Ram brought a number of under-the-skin improvements as well. Rack-and-pinion steering replaced an antiquated recirculating ball setup; 4×4 models got a new independent front suspension; four-wheel disc brakes became standard along with rear-wheel ABS (four-wheel anti-lock was an option) and 17-inch wheels were made part of the basic package, with 20-inchers being available – all the better to fill those big fenders. Also, optional side curtain airbags were a first for a pickup truck.

In 2002, two body styles were available: a two-door regular cab and a four-door quad cab with front-hinged rear doors were on offer, the two-door extended cab arrangement having been dropped.

Engine choices were a 3.7-litre V6 (215 hp) to the less-efficient 3.9-litre engine; a 4.7-litre V8 (240 hp) replaced the old 5.2-litre V8, while the top engine was a 5.9-litre V8 (245 hp) carried over from the year before. A five-speed manual was standard in base model trucks, while the 5.9-litre got a standard four-speed automatic.

Used Vehicle Review: Dodge Ram, 2002 2008 used car reviews trucks dodge
2003 Dodge Ram. Click image to enlarge

In 2005, the Ram’s transmissions were upgraded, bringing a six-speed manual as standard equipment. A four-speed automatic was the option in lower-end models, while the rest of the lineup got a five-speed auto. The five-speed auto was the only transmission option in top-line models.

The 2003 model year brought with it the now-famous HEMI 5.7-litre V8, which replaced the 5.9-litre engine. Despite its slightly smaller displacement, the HEMI blew the 5.9-litre out of the water, with 100 more horsepower (345 vs. 245) and its 375 lb-ft of torque was an improvement of 40 lb-ft.

In 2008, Dodge made significant improvements to its 4.7-litre V8, boosting power to 310 hp and 330 lb-ft (up from 235 hp and 295 lb-ft) and lowering fuel consumption.

Don’t forget the stump-pulling Cummins turbo-diesel straight-six engines offered in the Ram (5.9 litres in older models and 6.7 litres in later years) and the outrageous SRT-10 Rams, powered by a version of the V10 borrowed from the Viper sports car.

In 2006, the Ram got a mild facelift, and the lineup expanded – literally – with the addition of the Mega Cab model, a four-door truck that offered massive rear seat space. This was also the first year for the Multi-Displacement System version of the HEMI V8.

Used Vehicle Review: Dodge Ram, 2002 2008 used car reviews trucks dodge
Used Vehicle Review: Dodge Ram, 2002 2008 used car reviews trucks dodge
2002 Dodge Ram. Click image to enlarge

Fuel consumption, naturally, depends on engine choice. In early models, the 3.7-litre V6 isn’t significantly more efficient than the 4.7-litre V8 (16/11.3 L/100 km, city/highway, versus 16.5/11.4 for the V8, both with the four-speed automatic), though the big 5.9-litre engine is a real pig, easily topping the 20 L/100 km mark in city driving. Keep in mind these numbers are all for two-wheel drive trucks; adding four-wheel drive will increase fuel consumption, especially a 4.7-litre model with automatic transmission.

The 5.7-litre HEMI V8, added in 2003, was much more economical than the ancient 5.9-litre, posting consumption figures of 17.6/11.8 L/100 km (city/highway) with two-wheel drive and five-speed automatic transmission. The addition of MDS to later versions of this motor appears to have helped, too, dropping consumption figures by about a litre per 100 km in both city and highway driving.

Dodge claimed the redesigned 4.7-litre V8 was easier on gas as well as being significantly more powerful, but Natural Resources Canada’s numbers don’t show that, with ratings of 17/11.6 L/100 km (city/highway).

Leaking front shock absorbers are common in 2006 and 2007 Rams, according to posts here and here, at DodgeTalk.com

Where transmission issues were prevalent in the second-generation Ram (to 2001), Consumer Reports data suggests that Dodge has made some improvements, as transmission reliability ratings improve dramatically for the 2003 model year. A rather unscientific poll at DodgeTalk.com shows that about 46 per cent of posters to the third-generation Ram discussion section have had transmission issues of some kind. I wouldn’t read too much into this, however.

Used Vehicle Review: Dodge Ram, 2002 2008 used car reviews trucks dodge
2005 Dodge Ram. Click image to enlarge

Another lengthy discussion thread looks at the durability of the limited slip rear differential that was available in the third-gen Ram. According to this, the 9.25 limited slip diff is prone to failure of the “clutch pack retaining clips.” This could be part of the reason for Consumer Reports’ “much worse than average” reliability rating for the Ram’s drive system.

If the tachometer in your HEMI-equipped Ram shows frequent engine speed fluctuations on the highway when using cruise control, there’s likely no need to worry. Experienced posters at DodgeForum.com say this is the fuel-saving Multi Displacement System (MDS) at work and is normal (if a little annoying, say some forum members).

Going by the individual category ratings on Consumer Reports, the third-gen Ram appears to be more reliable than the second-gen model, but the publication only gives the newer truck an average overall used vehicle rating. Thing is, the Ram appears to be no worse off in the reliability department than its domestic rivals.

In crash tests, the Ram 1500 earned a “good” rating in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s (IIHS) frontal offset crash test.

The 2002 Ram 1500 Quad Cab earned four stars for driver protection and five stars for front passenger protection in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) full frontal crash test. By 2004, the driver protection rating had improved to a full five stars, which carried through to the facelifted 2006-2008 models.

Neither organization conducted side impact tests.

According to Canadian Red Book, resale values for a used Ram 1500 Regular Cab range from $4,950 for a 2002 model, to $20,100. Both a Ford F-150 and Chevrolet Silverado come out pricier in the older model year range, but while the Chevy winds up being more expensive in the nearly-new market, the F-150 comes in a couple thousand dollars less expensive. Given the wide range of options and powertrain and body configurations that can be applied to full-size trucks, comparison shopping will require lots of research on the buyer’s part.

Judging a truck’s real-world reliability can be tough, given that they’re typically worked a lot harder (through towing, hauling heavy stuff and slogging through dirt) than the average car. In my experience in writing these columns, the Ford F-150 has historically been the leader in full-size truck durability, but I’d suggest keeping the Ram in mind – particularly a newer model with either the 5.7-litre engine or a 2008 with the redesigned 4.7-litre – and looking for one that’s been well cared for and has a bit of the factory warranty left.

Pricing

Red Book Pricing (avg. retail) xxx:

Year
Model
Price today
Price new
2008
Ram 1500 regular cab
$20,100
$26,995
2007
Ram 1500 regular cab
$17,400
$26,395
2006
Ram 1500 regular cab
$15,000
$26,020
2005
Ram 1500 regular cab
$12,750
$26,975
2004
Ram 1500 regular cab
$10,350
$24,910
2003
Ram 1500 regular cab
$8,150
$23,865
2002
Ram 1500 regular cab
$4,950
$21,205

Online resources

The third-gen section at DodgeTalk.com looks like the most useful Ram discussion spot out there, with the same section at DodgeForum.com is a close second. Both are home to many knowledgeable and helpful members. You might have some luck in the Dodge Ram section at TruckForums.com, but this one isn’t generation-specific. DodgeTruckWorld.tenmagazines.com has a 2002+ Ram section, which might be a better bet. For diesel discussions, check out DieselTruckResource.com, a site that caters to Dodge (Cummins) diesel trucks.

Related stories on Autos
First Drives
  • 2006 Dodge Ram Mega Cab, by Grant Yoxon
  • 2003 Dodge Ram Heavy Duty, by Grant Yoxon
    Test Drives
  • 2007 Dodge Ram HD Mega Cab Laramie 4×4 diesel, by Justin Pritchard
  • 2006 Dodge Ram SRT-10 Quad Cab, by Peter Bleakney
  • 2005 Dodge Ram Daytona, by Lesley Wimbush
  • 2003 Dodge Ram Hemi 2500 SLT Quad Cab 4X4, by Greg Wilson
  • 2003 Dodge Ram Heavy Duty 2500 4×4 HEMI, by Jim Kerr
  • 2002 Dodge Ram 1500 Quad Cab 4X4 SLT, by Greg Wilson

    Manufacturer’s Website
  • Dodge Canada

    Recalls

    Transport Canada Recall Number: 2003058; Units affected: 13,309
    2002: On certain vehicles, the detent system on the exterior mirror housing may lose functionality, potentially affecting the driver’s rearward field of vision. Correction: Dealer will install a mirror detent retainer kit on the driver and passenger side outside rearview mirrors.

    Transport Canada Recall Number: 2003059; Units affected: 20,070
    2002: On certain vehicles, the electrical connector at the bottom of the steering column may contain an under-sized terminal in the Heater Ventilation Air Conditioning (HVAC) blower motor circuit. Localized heating from current flow with the blower speed set on high may cause the terminal contacts to relax and lose contact. This can cause the HVAC blower motor to become inoperative. Correction: Dealer will install an approved wiring harness.

    Transport Canada Recall Number: 2002110; Units affected: 5,953

    2002: On certain Ram 1500 4×4 pickup trucks the rear axle flange weld to the axle tube could fatigue and allow the brake caliper assembly to rotate. During rotation, the brake line could separate from the caliper resulting in a brake fluid loss in the rear brake hydraulic system potentially resulting in a crash. Correction: Dealers will install rear brake caliper reinforcement collars on the rear axle tube assemblies.

    Transport Canada Recall Number: 2007389; Units affected: 38,779
    2002: On certain vehicles, the ignition/park shift interlock system may become inoperable. This can allow the shifter to be moved out of the PARK position with the ignition key removed (or in the lock position) or it could allow the ignition key to be removed when the shifter has not been placed in the PARK position. This could allow the vehicle to roll away, possibly causing property damage and/or personal injury or death. Correction: Dealers will replace the gearshift blocker and bracket assembly.

    Transport Canada Recall Number: 2003033; Units affected: 2,922
    2003: On certain 2500 and 3500 series heavy duty pickup trucks equipped with a Cummins diesel engine and a manual transmission, an elevated idle speed may occur after extended use of the cruise control. The engine will run at this elevated idle speed until either key off, or until the accelerator pedal is nearly fully depressed. The customer perception is that the cruise control will not disengage or that the accelerator linkage is sticking. Correction: Dealer will reprogram the software in the Cummins engine controller.

    Transport Canada Recall Number: 2005307; Units affected: 30,357
    2003-2005: Certain Dodge Ram 2500/3500 Heavy Duty pickup trucks equipped with a diesel engine and automatic transmission may experience inadvertent rearward movement. The transmission shift lever position is always displayed as “R” (Reverse) until the parking pawl is completely engaged in the Park position. Only then will the transmission shift lever indicator show “P” (Park). If the driver exits the vehicle while the engine is running, parking brake not engaged and the transmission shifter not fully in the Park gate, the vehicle may experience delayed rearward movement, which could cause a crash. Correction: Dealers will install an Out-of-Park alarm that will alert the operator if the transmission is not fully placed in the Park position when the engine is running and the driver takes his foot off the brake and opens the driver’s door.

    Transport Canada Recall Number: 2003148; Units affected: 263
    2003: On certain 2500 and 3500 heavy duty vehicles, the optional cast-aluminum wheels may exhibit an elevated level of porosity, which could result in reduced wheel durability. Correction: Dealer will replace affected wheels.

    Transport Canada Recall Number: 2004277; Units affected: 12

    2004: On certain vehicles, the alternator wiring harness may interfere with a valve cover stud and short circuit, which could result in an underhood fire. Correction: Dealers will inspect the alternator wiring insulation for damage and repair as necessary, and add a tie-strap clip to the valve cover stud to positively retain the wiring.

    Transport Canada Recall Number: 2004150; Units affected: 735
    2004: Certain vehicles do not comply with the requirements of CMVSS 120. The tire, wheel and inflation pressure information printed on the vehicle certification label does not correspond with the equipment that is available for the vehicle. The certification label specifies a 15″ tire and wheel combination. The minimum load carrying tire available on a 2004 Ram light duty truck is a P245/70R17 and for a heavy duty truck a LT245/70R17. Correction: Dealer will apply a corrected overlay label.

    Transport Canada Recall Number: 2003321; Units affected: 175
    2004: On certain vehicles, the transfer case to transmission attaching fasteners may be below the specified torque. This may cause the transmission adapter or transfer case housing to crack and leak fluid. Continued vehicle operation can result in propeller shaft separation and damage to fuel system components, possibly resulting in an underbody vehicle fire. Correction: Dealer will re-torque the transfer case to transmission fasteners.

    Transport Canada Recall Number: 2007032; Units affected: 6,261
    2006: On certain vehicles, the front wheel bearings may have received an insufficient quantity of grease during the manufacturing process. This may result in bearing degradation and eventual hub assembly separation. Hub assembly separation may result in a loss of vehicle control and cause a crash without warning. Correction: Dealers will replace the front hub and bearing assemblies.

    Transport Canada Recall Number: 2006216; Units affected: 10,969
    2006: On certain vehicles, if certain model rear facing infant child seats are installed in the right front passenger seating position with the passenger seat in a full forward position and the passenger air bag deploys, the vehicle may not meet requirements for low risk deployments during certain crash conditions. Correction: Dealers will replace the passenger air bag cushion and reprogram the occupant restraint control module.

    Transport Canada Recall Number: 2006215; Units affected: 13,544

    2006: On certain vehicles, the right front passenger seat belt assembly may not allow the owner to properly secure some child restraints. This could result in increased injury risk to the child in certain crash conditions. Correction: Dealers will replace the right front passenger seat belt assembly.

    Transport Canada Recall Number: 2006038; Units affected: 5,130
    2006: On certain vehicles, the Anti-lock Brake System (ABS) electronic control unit may cause a loss of electronic brake distribution allowing the rear brakes to lock-up during certain braking conditions. This could result in a loss of vehicle control and cause a crash without warning. Correction: Dealers will replace the ABS electronic control unit with a new one containing an integrated circuit that prevents this condition.

    Transport Canada Recall Number: 2005300; Units affected: 6
    2006: On certain Dodge Ram 1500 4X4 vehicles equipped with NP246 transfer case, the vehicle’s Totally Integrated Power Module (TIPM) contains an incorrect calibration that could potentially result in inadvertent transfer case default to NEUTRAL. If this occurs and the park brake is not applied, the vehicle may roll away and cause an accident without warning. Correction: Dealers will reprogram the TIPM.

    Transport Canada Recall Number: 2006218; Units affected: 345
    2007: On certain vehicles equipped with the 42RLE automatic transmission, the Powertrain Control Module (PCM) may cause a momentary lock up of the drive wheels if the vehicle is traveling over 65 kph and the operator shifts from drive to neutral and back to drive. Correction: Dealers will reprogram the PCM.

    Transport Canada Recall Number: 2007302; Units affected: 3
    2007: On certain 2WD trucks equipped with a manual transmission, the driveshaft yoke may break. This could result in a loss of vehicle control and cause a crash without warning. Correction: Dealers will replace the driveshaft.

    Transport Canada Recall Number: 2007184; Units affected: 2,153

    2007: Certain Ram 1500 pickup trucks equipped with a 34 gallon fuel tank fail to comply with requirements of CMVSS 301 – Fuel System Integrity. The fuel tank may become damaged during certain crash conditions, which could allow fuel leakage to occur if the vehicle rolls over. Fuel leakage, in the presence of an ignition source, could result in a fire. Correction: Dealers will install a fuel tank shield onto the front frame cross member.

    Transport Canada Recall Number: 2007061; Units affected: 194
    2007: On certain Ram 2500 4×4 pickup trucks equipped with a diesel engine, the Certification label, Tire Loading Information label and the Supplemental Tire Pressure label contain incorrect tire inflation pressure information. The labels indicate an incorrect front tire inflation pressure rating of 50 psi (345 kPa) instead of 60 psi (414 kPa). Correction: Updated labels and installation instructions will be mailed to owners.

    Crash test results
  • National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
  • Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS)

    Used vehicle prices vary depending on factors such as general condition, odometer reading, usage history and options fitted. Always have a used vehicle checked by an experienced auto technician before you buy.

    For information on recalls, see Transport Canada’s web-site, www.tc.gc.ca, or the U.S. National Highway Transportation Administration (NHTSA)web-site, www.nhtsa.dot.gov.

    For information on vehicle service bulletins issued by the manufacturer, visit www.nhtsa.dot.gov.

    For information on consumer complaints about specific models, see www.lemonaidcars.com.

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