About eighteen months ago, I found myself looking to buy a new truck. Ford was repurchasing my 2018 F-150 and while the thought of daily-driving the $1,500 BMW X5 I’d purchased for a goofy trip was financially appealing, I figured functional air conditioning was worth having. And renting trucks for monthly race weekends was both a difficult and expensive proposition. After a good deal of test drives, deliberation, and number-crunching, I purchased a Certified Pre-Owned 2016 Ram 1500 Sport from an unnamed Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge, Ram dealership nearby.
I’d been attracted to the 2013-2018 Rams since they came out. I don’t love trucks with a ton of chrome slathered on every body panel, and the Sport trim of the Ram 1500 turned all the chrome body color. And boy, did Ram offer some insane colors to choose from. I ended up with my top choice, Blue Streak Pearl, though I entertained bright red, neon green, yellow and orange as other factory options.
Thanks to the variety of cars and trucks coming through my driveway lately, I’ve only put about 11,000 miles on the Ram since I purchased it. We started our partnership at 41,500 miles and it’s parked now with just shy of 53,000 on the odometer. It’s been a total diva to own, and yet I find myself forgiving all of what’s broken in our time together. This is a tale of charm.
Preemptive Transmission Replacement and Subsequent (Almost) Stranding
Only a few thousand miles after my purchase, I noticed the ZF-designed 8-speed transmission would produce a thump when the truck was cold and I shifted from Park to Reverse. It was enough to make the truck jolt a bit, even with my foot on the brake, so I brought it in for an “is this normal” gut check and potential diagnosis. After first telling me that nothing could be diagnosed until a Check Engine Light was illuminated, I pressed the service advisor harder to actually let the vehicle cool off and test drive it, instead of just reading what his scan tool said. A day later, I had the truck back with a new valve body and fresh fluid.
Another thousand miles went by and the Reverse engagement was still funky. I called another dealership for their opinion. The new service advisor was far more pleasant to deal with and solved the issue – which I’m still not sure was actually an issue – with a whole new transmission.
Naturally, an O-ring wasn’t seated properly when the transmission fluid heater was hooked back up, and while driving to visit my parents for Christmas a few days later, a passing car flagged me down. Hot transmission fluid was leaking onto my hot exhaust and producing quite a bit of smoke. Having been serendipitously alerted to this little problem less than a mile from a Chrysler dealership, I coasted the truck into their service lane. They got me into a Jeep Wrangler loaner, I made it to Christmas, and picked the truck up leak-free a few days later.
In Which Certified Pre-Owned is Not a MaxCare Warranty
Troubles continued early in 2020. With the transmission doing transmission things flawlessly, I finally got that Check Engine Light to illuminate like the first dealer had requested! Although now it was for a “small evap leak” – always super fun to chase down. The dashboard would occasionally chime and tell me the gas cap was loose, so I replaced it with a new Mopar gas cap. Internet sleuthing lead me to also replace the evap system’s purge valve, a $50 part that takes about 90 seconds to swap.
Both new parts didn’t fix the issue. In August, the fuel gauge also started ping-ponging between Full and Empty whenever I filled the tank. I finally took the truck in and had the dealership (which had been so great to work with before) diagnose the code. My service advisor informed me the check valve going from the fuel tank to the evaporative system had failed, resulting in the evap code. The panic-stricken gas gauge was due to a failing fuel level sensor.
Replacing both parts was the obvious answer, but the check valve is part of a plastic assembly that’s molded in to the fuel tank, and the fuel level sensor is part of the fuel pump. Okay, fine, let’s do this and that CPO warranty covers it all anyway, right?
When I bought my Ram, I specifically chose this one as it was Certified Pre-Owned, which included a warranty until the year 2023 or the odometer reached 100,000 miles. In the finance office, while closing the deal, I asked about buying a Mopar MaxCare bumper-to-bumper warranty. No need, I was told, as CPO was bumper-to-bumper as well.
Turns out Mopar’s CPO program covers the whole vehicle for something like three months. Past that, it only covers powertrain components. Facing a $3,000 repair bill, I made a few phone calls to Chrysler and asked to clarify what, exactly, I had purchased with my truck at one of their dealerships. They took pity on me and helped out with the repair costs, while clarifying what the finance manager at the selling dealership could not.
But Wait, There’s More!
The issues I’ve detailed above have been the big ones, but I’ve also had four exhaust manifold studs snap and be repaired. There’s a factory warranty extension for that issue. While the shop was fixing the fuel tank issues, they noticed my intake manifold gaskets were leaking, so they replaced those – again, under some sort of warranty.
My backup camera occasionally shows nothing but a green screen, but it fixes itself if I open and slam the tailgate shut. The driver’s one-touch window forgets how to one-touch on the way up some days.
Refined, Rowdy, and Charming
No vehicle is perfect. I have no idea how my truck was treated for the first few years of its life. I was mislead on the warranty situation and didn’t do enough research on my own, and was fortunate to receive a “goodwill exception” when something costly did go wrong. Regardless, the number of shop visits I’ve made in just 11,000 miles of driving has been… pretty high.
And despite that, I simply adore this big dumb (very) blue truck. Yes, I like the new Rams quite a bit. They’re far, far more luxurious than mine. But my 2016 Sport has just about every option offered, save for parking sensors, and that’s plenty of refinement. Jason Cammisa once referred to a Mopar product – a Challenger, maybe? – as a bit “rowdy” around the edges, and that also describes my Ram.
I remote-start the truck every chance I get, so I can hear the 5.7 liter Hemi V8 – which achieves 15 miles per gallon on a good day – crank and fire. It’s loud when it’s cold, and the idle lopes for just a brief second before it settles down into something the engineers deemed “appropriate” for the modern, discerning customer. The lack of chrome means more bright blue paint on the nose, and it’s paired to the “Sport hood” with twin vents cut in to the center bulge. The 20″ wheels feature five big fat spokes. Chrysler partnered with Alpine for the sound system, which offers up a powerful amplifier and an almost-painful subwoofer.
The whole thing is very silly, made better when you turn the traction control off, crank up the tunes, and put the “anti-spin” rear differential to work through a hard corner. “Did I just drift my pickup truck?” Yes, you did.
Yes, I’ve been on the receiving end of some hefty repair bills – covered by a variety of warranties, which only go so far. Thanks to COVID inflating used car prices, my Ram is allegedly worth as much as when I bought it. Logic dictates I should replace it while everything is in top shape. But I just can’t. It’s got enough charm and soul that a lot of new trucks seem to lack. Other trucks have newer technology, offer better fuel economy, and wouldn’t have seen a service bay for anything but oil changes in 53,000 miles – and I feel a way about this 2016 Ram that has historically been reserved for much older, much needier BMWs in my fleet.
Every other truck I’ve owned has been some form of appliance. They were run through the automatic car wash every few months and vacuumed out when I thought about it. This Ram, on the other hand? All I’ll say is that it takes some admiration and dedication to hand-wax a half-ton truck.
It’s the first time I’ve consistently parked a truck that I’ve owned and looked back at it. And that’s worth something.