This is an update of our experience with our Ram 3500 Truck after 15 months on the road. We have traveled from Idaho to West Virginia, south to the Florida Keys, north all the way to Vermont and the Adirondacks, the east coast: Boston, New York City, Washington DC, back to Florida: Ichetucknee Springs State Park near Gainesville and St. Joseph Peninsula State Park near Panama City, Gulf Coast to Goose Island State Park near Corpus Christi, Texas and down to the Rio Grand River, then north to Maumee Bay State Park near Toledo, Ohio, Indianapolis, Indiana, north to Traverse City, Michigan and as I write this Columbus, Ohio. Soon we will be back in West Virginia. How many miles? Well the truck’s odometer reads over 33,000 miles, oh my!
If you read our post “Our Week in Pictures” from March 15, 2014 you would know we bought our Ram 3500 new (ordered it from the factory) from Dennis Dillon Dodge-Ram in Caldwell, Idaho. Why Idaho? It was just the best deal we could find anywhere, and even worth the airfare for four to go get it. From day one we have loved the truck, just nothing negative to write about it. There is plenty of room for us and it is as comfortable as can be with all the fancy features anyone could possibly want.
As far as fuel mileage: when not towing we get 22-24 mpg on the highway, when towing the fifth wheel (16,000 pounds) around 12-14. Our range when not towing is over 700 miles, when towing around 400. When we started our journey diesel fuel prices were hovering around $4.00/gallon and a full fill-up $130 or so (32 gallon tank)! With last year’s drop in the price of a barrel of oil we were given a windfall. In Texas we found our lowest price for a gallon of diesel fuel: $2.14! Things have moderated some but we can still find diesel for well under $3.00/gallon wherever we go. Something we learned quickly was buying diesel fuel at truck stops is more expensive than at local stations. So when we are unhooked we shop around and make sure the truck is full when we begin a trip towing.
Our Ram 3500 with the 6.7L Cummins diesel engine demands DEF (Diesel Exhaust Fluid) to clean up its emissions. The DEF tank holds five gallons, and when full won’t need filled again for 5,000 miles (though while towing this number drops significantly). You can purchase DEF in containers at many locations but it costs twice as much as at the pump, and then you are stuck with disposal of the plastic 2.5-gallon containers, a real waste. Finding DEF from a pump is a challenge and we have only found it at truck stops where the big-rigs fill-up. I purchased DEF in a plastic container once, in Vermont (try finding a truck stop in Vermont). For those of you driving diesel cars, be brave, save the plastic container and a few dollars and head to a truck stop for your next fill-up of DEF, it will be an interesting and fun adventure.
The truck has an exhaust brake, a fantastic feature! With the exhaust brake there’s no need to use the conventional brakes while descending steep grades. On several trips across the Appalachian Mountains we didn’t use the truck and trailer brakes at all, saving us wear on brake pads and rotors. After 33,000 miles the trucks brake pads look almost new, trailer’s too, amazing. There’s also an integrated trailer brake on the truck that balances the truck’s brakes with the trailer’s for maximum braking performance when needed.
As for towing the Ram 3500 is fully up to the task. There has never been a time we felt need for more power, and stability is great (we ordered an eight foot bed giving the maximum wheel-base for extra stability). Road conditions can make things interesting at times and our cringe-factor becomes well elevated. While towing there is no swerving possible and if a dip or rough pavement is encountered you just have to grin and bear it. On a recent stretch of Rt. 2 near Sandusky, Ohio we hit two ridiculous bumps in a row, which caused items in the front of the trailer to rise five or so inches and then down. When stopped, anything hanging on hangers was now at the bottom of our closets. This was by far the hardest bump we have experienced and fortunately a rare occurrence.
The truck is heavy (7,000 pounds) and big (22 feet long). Parking is an adventure; we always find a space well removed. The back-up camera and rear sensors are necessities not conveniences. Has ownership of our Ram 3500 been incident free? Well no. In New York Natasha managed to run into the back of an auto-hauler trailer. Rear of these trailers is low and disappears in front of the Ram’s large hood. Her attention was diverted and she drifted into it. When 7,000 pounds of truck drifts into anything the result is bad. No one was hurt, damage to the auto-hauler trailer was minimal but the truck needed a new bumper, grill, radiator and air conditioner condenser. In Florida I was backing up to get near a hose so I could wash the truck. I had the tailgate down making the back-up camera useless (stupid) and the rear sensor alarm disabled (dumb). When I got out of the truck, to my astonishment there was a dent in the end of the tailgate! My first instant of thought was “when did Natasha do that?” My second instant: “&%$#* how could I be such a moron!” I had hit a low pole and did not even know it. Then just days after getting the tailgate fixed (a real hassle) we are pulling into a Ram Service Center to get fixed what turned out to be nothing at all and Jon, in a fit of temper, kicked open his rear door striking a steel and concrete structure, denting the edge of the door. It is difficult to blame a six year old, though I did try, no this was my fault for pulling in so close. Lucky for us they had one if those wizards that can pull dents out of sheet metal (PDR – Paintless Dent Remover), astonishing to me, $180 later no trace of a dent.
Damage from hitting auto-carrier trailer.
The lessons are: easy as you go, absolutely no tailgating, full attention at all times, never park near anything, and do not assume anything. In addition, front sensors were available as an option on the truck, $1,000. We feel the sensors would have been well worth the extra money, with them Natasha would probably not have rear-ended that trailer. If I had left the tailgate up and the rear sensors activated I would not have backed into that pole. And by using my head when entering the Ram Service Center it would have prevented Jon from damaging the door; this is why they call them accidents, all are preventable. Somehow now we have six months of error free driving (knock on wood).
I am doing the maintenance on the truck. Oil changes come at 15,000 miles and with oil (Rotella T-5 Synthetic) and filter costs $75. It takes four gallons of oil and draining the old is a challenge; sad to say I have made an epic mess each time. The fuel filters must be changed at 15,000 intervals as well: two filters (Mopar), $110 for the pair. Changing the filters is relatively simple. The 6.7L Cummins engine is a marvel. We met a guy at a truck stop with a similar truck pulling an auto-hauler trailer for a living. He had 600,000 miles on the truck and had had no engine troubles! Remarkable.
Ram 3500 at 33,000 miles and 15 months.