1998 Dodge Ram Pickup 2500SLT 5.9 24v Cummins diesel from North America
An excellent full-size truck for towing or hauling very heavy loads
Air Conditioner high pressure switch failed in 2003, and was replaced under extended warranty. The replacement switch failed after only 6 months and the a/c system is once again non-functional. I have heard that a/c system failures are fairly common on all makes of diesel trucks due to the higher vibration level of the diesel engine causing premature failure of system components.
The cruise control indicator light on the instrument panel went out, but this hasn't affected the operation of the system; it still works alright.
The cruise control has a tendency to creep the truck's speed up by 6 or 7 miles per hour for the first 5 miles after it is activated the first time on a given day, then the speed drops back to the set point. Once the engine is warm, this bug dissapears. The dealership service department could not figure out what was causing the bug, and the problem was never resolved.
The fuel economy has slowly declined over the years, from 21 mpg during the first 10K miles, to about 17 mpg now. I think this problem isn't in the vehicle, but is caused by a reformulation of the diesel fuel mandated here by the California Air Resources Board and CAL-EPA. I have talked to many diesel pickup owners and often hear complaints that they are not getting the same fuel economy on California diesel fuel as they were getting in other states.
The seat belts are mounted too high and cut into my neck, even at the lowest point of adjustment. The retractor often fails to pull the belt back in when exiting the vehicle, leaving it dangling outside the door sill (a minor annoyance).
Other than the minor problems stated above, the truck has been bulletproof. The engine has never failed to start and runs like a champ.
Towing capacity of this engine is incredible, considering that it has only 6 cylinders. I towed an 8000 lb boat and trailer clear across the country last year, with a cab-over camper mounted on the truck, and got 13 mpg. The total weight of the rig, as measured on a truck scale, was 15,500 lb yet the engine was perfectly willing to pull at 70 mph in 5th gear (on a level grade, of course).
In my opinion the Cummins Diesel is the main reason to buy a Dodge truck. Since it is an inline-6, it is much easier to do routine maintenance like oil and filter changes than the same tasks on the V-8 diesels in Ford and GM pickups.
The truck has never overheated on me, even in the hottest summertime weather when towing my boat, and with the a/c running. It gets 13 mpg towing my 8000 lb boat and trailer, compared to only 7 mpg for the gas engine version. The Cummins diesel engine option costs $4500, and I figure it paid for itself in fuel savings at around 50,000 miles.
The engine is much noisier than a gas engine, but the cab is insulated enough to mute the diesel racket to a tolerable level. I bought this truck specifically for towing a very heavy boat and was willing to put up with the noise to get decent fuel economy and longevity.
CAUTION: The New Venture Gear 4500 5-speed manual transmission has one "Achilles heel": the 5th gear retaining nut has a tendency to back off, causing a 5th gear failure, if the driver frequently lugs the engine while towing. 5th gear should not be used under 1800 rpm while towing a trailer or with a heavy load in the bed (like a big cabover camper). I also question NVG's use of non-metallic syncronisers in this gearbox. Yes, I said non-metallic; the synchros are carbon fiber composite. This requires the use of a very expensive and hard-to-find proprietary gear lube oil, "Castrol Syntorque LT". It costs $100 at a Dodge or Chevy dealership for the 4-quarts needed to do the oil change.
The standard bench seat is surprisingly comfortable (for a pickup truck), and I had no problems driving 14 to 16 hours at a stretch on a cross-country road trip last year. The seat has decent lower back support, although no real hip support since it is a bench, not bucket seat.
All controls are well-placed, easy to read and use, and the gearshift has a good, although not exactly "crisp" feel. The clutch effort is about average for a full-size pickup.
Stability is excellent; the truck tracks straight on the freeway, and brakes straight as an arrow at any speed, thanks to the rear ABS brake syatem. Since the Cummins Diesel does not have a vacuum pump, the power assist for both steering and brakes is hydraulic, provided by the power steering pump. The steering is 4 turns lock-to-lock and the effort required to turn the wheel at a stop is moderate - quite a bit more than on a Ford F-series truck.
The ride quality is about avaerage (for a pickup truck). Since this is a 3/4-ton truck, it is pretty stiffly sprung, and when empty it bounces over potholes with a pretty good jolt. It has a much harsher ride than a half-ton pickup would have. With a 1500 lb camper mounted it is much smoother.
Conclusion: Would I buy another one? Resounding "yes!". The 2004/2005 Dodge Cummins has many improvements, most notably the NVG-5600 transmission, which has been upgraded to a 6-speed, and now uses regular bronze/steel synchros instead of the FRP composite synchros of the older 5-speed it replaces. I understand that the problem that was causing 5th gear failures in the NVG-4500 has been addressed and will not affect this new 6-speed. I have heard that the newer Cummins "high output" diesel doesn't get quite as good fuel economy as the pre-2004 engines; 16 mpg vs. 20 mpg, but there are other factors like regional differences in fuel formulation that affect fuel economy, so it's hard to make a blanket statement.
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes
Review Date: 26th November, 2004
I was surprised to see that someone else has the exact same cruise control problem that I am having with my 1999 Dodge Ram 3500. When I set the cruise control for the first time during a road trip, the vehicle speed will slowly creep up ten to fifteen miles per hour, then settle down and work normally after three or four minutes. The problem comes back if the cruise control is turned off for more than fifteen minutes, then turned back on. I have not been able to solve this strange quirk.
On the topic of the creeping speeds; there is a bit of computer "slack" built into these systems to compensate for the difference in throttle cables between vehicles. What needs to be done is to keep your foot at the exact position required for the speed you want to set. Then, activate the cruise control and set your speed. Then, keep your foot at that position for a few more moments afterwards, approximately 20 seconds. After continued use of this method the computer will adjust to your vehicle, and cruise control will resume to a more normal operation.