Used Guide: 2009-2018 RAM 1500

Buying a second-hand 4th generation RAM 1500? Shop smart with these 5 tips

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Over many years on sale, the 4th generation RAM 1500 underwent numerous changes both on and beneath its skin to help it keep up with the evolving needs and demands of consumers.

This generation RAM debuted a new multilink rear suspension system, a completely revised cabin, and feature content levels ranging from mild to wild. Specialty and high-end models got climate-controlled leather, a giant sunroof, premium audio provisions, built-in rear seat entertainment consoles, locking exterior storage by way of the available RAM BOX system, and plenty more. 

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Look for the RAM 1500 in various body styles and powertrain configurations to meet a wide variety of needs and tastes, with power available from a range of diesel and gasoline engine options across this generation. 

Below, we’ll look at some highlights of the fourth-generation RAM 1500 model range, and some information and tips that shoppers can use to help make a smarter purchase decision.

Tip Number 1: Recall Work

Most vehicles have at least one recall, the majority have a few, and some, like the RAM 1500, have over 20. Recall work is performed by dealers, free of charge, to address latent safety defects. Having all recall work performed ensures that your truck is as safe as possible — and if the vehicle you’re considering has been serviced regularly at its dealership, chances are that all applicable recall work has been performed already.

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Still, be sure to check. Using the truck’s VIN, owners can find out which (if any) safety recalls are outstanding by contacting a service advisor, or checking online.

Some safety recalls affect many models, and some affect only a few. Some RAM 1500s have more recalls than others, and they can vary by model year.

For access to a list of recalls on the RAM 1500, or any other vehicle, head to the Transport Canada Safety Recalls Database here.

RAM 1500
RAM 1500 Photo by Justin Pritchard

Tip 2: Air Suspension Check

Some owners have reported frustrating problems with the optional air suspension feature installed to some RAM 1500 models. Many have not.

Whether by corrosion, moisture, electronic malfunction or some component failure, this system can sometimes act up — leaking, failing to work, popping up warning lights, and otherwise causing headaches that could cost you money. Many owners who experience air suspension problems say they seem more frequent in cold temperatures, as condensation causes the greatest headaches when frozen. 

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If you’re considering a used RAM 1500 with an air suspension system, boost your purchase confidence by having the system inspected visually and electronically by a qualified technician, and budget for any extended manufacturer warranty coverage available, for maximum peace of mind. 

Work the air suspension through its various height settings on your test-drive, multiple times, and confirm that no warning lights or error messages appear.

Though relatively rare against total sales volume, air suspension system problems can cost you money, so shop carefully.

RAM 1500
RAM 1500 Photo by Justin Pritchard

Tip 3: Which Engine, Which Driveline, Which Model?

It’s 2013 model year and newer units that run the latest 8-speed Torque-Flite automatic transmission, for improved response and mileage. Model-year 2016 saw the addition of the lifted, angry-faced RAM Rebel to the lineup, complete with larger tires and off-road kit designed for the adventurous driver. 

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For a RAM 1500 with EcoDiesel power, look for a model from 2014 and onwards — but be sure to have its emissions system and engine electronics checked out by a technician before your purchase for maximum peace of mind.

Further, remember that modification of the RAM 1500’s engine, whether diesel or gasoline, can cause damage that isn’t covered by remaining warranty. The same holds true for damage caused by repairs using non-authorized parts. That’s why it’s important to know where (and how well) the RAM 1500 you’re considering was serviced, before you buy.

RAM 1500
RAM 1500 Photo by Justin Pritchard

Tip 4: Cabin Blower Fan

Some owners have reported trouble from the RAM 1500’s climate-control blower fan. Most have not. Repairing a broken or poorly-operating blower fan in a RAM 1500 can cost several hundred dollars, so be sure to test it on all speeds and temperatures during your test-drive, confirming that the fan responds as expected, stays running, and doesn’t make any strange noises.

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RAM 1500
RAM 1500 Photo by Justin Pritchard

Tip 5: Transmission Health

Over the years, the RAM 1500 owners’ community has documented numerous problems and solutions to transmission-related trouble experienced by some owners. Best advice seems to be regular changing of the transmission fluid and filter in older models with 5 and 6-speed gearboxes, to help keep things shifting smoothly and reliably. On models with the newer 8-speed transmission, issues tend to be electronic in nature, with clumsy or harsh shifting most often fixed via a software re-flash.

RAM 1500
RAM 1500 Photo by Justin Pritchard

Final Thought

These tips are designed to help test-driving shoppers more easily identify possible trouble areas reported by some owners. An attentive test-drive and shopping process that focuses on the areas above can help you find a first-class example of a second-hand RAM 1500.

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