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Dodge Ram Pickups Subject of NHTSA Probe for Rear Axle Lock-Up

June 30, 2014

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said over the weekend that it is opening an investigation into certain Dodge Ram pickup trucks. The agency was compelled to start a probe after receiving complaints about the trucks’ rear axles.

Federal safety regulators have received 15 reports of rear axle failures involving 2005 Dodge Ram 1500 pickups, incidents wherein rear axles have locked up without warning while the vehicle is in motion. In some cases, this problem has resulted in the trucks spinning out at high speeds. The investigation specifically covers about 260,000 units.

It was said that the culprit were loose pinion nuts, which caused the rear differential to lock up and the drive shaft to detach from the differential. The rear differential is that which causes the back axle to spin.

The NHTSA noted that the rear axle failure occurred without warning, saying that the complainants heard little to no noise before the mechanical problem happened. Seven incidents happened at speeds of 50 miles (or 80 kilometers) per hour or more. In two incidents, the rear axle lock-up resulted in the truck going into a spin.

One incident occurred in July 2013. The driver was with his two children in the truck, driving on a highway near Elkhart, Indiana. According to the report, he was traveling at a speed of about 70 miles an hour when he heard a loud bang. The driver said that the rear pinion nut came loose, causing a lock-up of the rear axle as well as the detachment of the drive shaft.

The complainant said that he lost control of the vehicle after the incident and that the vehicle came to a screeching stop as smoke started to emanate from it. He also said he and his passengers almost died from the mechanical failure, as their truck was almost rear ended and broad sided on the highway after the drive shaft came off.

The driver spent $4,500 on repairs.

This is the second time the NHTSA has opened an investigation over the same problem in a few years. In July 2012, safety regulators looked into the issue which affected Dodge Ram trucks from the 2009 to 2010 model years. In October of the same year, Chrysler issued a recall for 2009 to 2010 Dodge Ram 1500 and Dodge Dakota trucks. These vehicles came with an axle pinion nut which may loosen and in turn cause rear axle lock-up and/or the detachment of the drive shaft.

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