5 Most Common Ram 3500 Air Suspension Problems

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Navigating the treacherous terrains of off-road adventure or hauling a heavy load down the highway, your Dodge Ram 3500 is an impressive beast of a machine. However, even in this fortress-on-wheels, issues can arise, and to be specific, its air suspension has been known to cause headaches for owners.

Among both minor and major Ram 3500 air suspension problems, some common issues are marked as more significant. These include height adjustment issues, the suspension repair warning message, auto-leveling failure, etc. 

Well, these are just some of the headaches waiting in line for those unfortunate enough to encounter these elusive yet disruptive air suspension issues. So, stay tuned if you’re keen on learning more about common Ram 3500 Air Suspension issues and how best to tackle them like a pro.

Ram Air Suspension Basics

Marketed as the Active-Level Four Corner Air Suspension, Ram’s innovative air suspension system is a remarkable feat in automotive technology. This state-of-the-art feature is not your everyday air suspension package. It resembles an unparalleled control mechanism that allows drivers to adjust the air pressure in each corner of their vehicle independently.

Understanding how Ram’s air suspension works is key to appreciating its potential benefits. It grants drivers an exclusive privilege to manipulate the truck’s height and balance according to their individual preferences. Each wheel responds separately, allowing for precise calibration for optimal road performance.

In addition, this unique system comes with an automatic self-leveling feature that kicks in during heavy-duty tasks. Whenever you’re hauling substantial weight or towing a trailer, the system intelligently self-regulates and maintains optimal balance and stability, making it an ideal choice for drivers requiring high performance from their vehicles.

5 Ram 3500 Air Suspension Problems

Ram 3500 Air Suspension Problems

As we mentioned in the beginning, we have marked the issues that more frequently annoy Ram 3500 owners. Below, we’re going to discuss them in detail, along with potential solutions. So, let’s see. 

1. Overload Indication Complexity

The automatic adjustment feature of the air suspension in the Ram 3500 factory model presents a unique set of challenges. Notably, it eliminates the ability to estimate the load a truck is carrying based on how much its suspension dips. The sole indicator of an overload is when the air suspension is disabled due to the payload appearing on your dashboard.

Further complications arise once this message has been triggered. To reactivate the air suspension feature, you must drive at a speed of 14mph or more. Ideally, drivers should be able to reset this while stationary, but unfortunately, this isn’t possible with this model.

If you attempt to detach a trailer after receiving this message, even if you’ve since unloaded it, you’ll need to elevate the trailer significantly higher than usual. This is because the air suspension doesn’t automatically level out and continues to rise until it reaches its maximum travel limit.

Attempting to reattach your trailer after resetting your vehicle’s suspension can also lead to safety hazards. The trailer may not reach its standard auto-level ride height on the truck ball because you’ll likely exhaust your jack’s capacity before it does so.

Possible Solution:

This problem can be simply addressed by incorporating a small piece of programming that would allow the driver to view the pressure levels of the rear airbags on the steering wheel display. We are confident this issue is readily fixable with just a software update.

Ride Height Adjustment Difficulty

This air suspension issue is also related to the auto-leveling system of the factory air suspension of Ram 3500. Many have reported that the vehicle attempts to fill its shocks with air when attempting to lower the truck to an alternate height and elevate the fifth wheel for removal. 

To counteract this, some users have switched their air system into tire jack mode, which ultimately deactivates the compressor. As a result, a dashboard message appears indicating that the air suspension has been temporarily disabled.

This issue typically arises after weight has been removed from the hitch. Consequently, the truck lowers from its original position, and as drivers attempt to move away, they find that their kingpin becomes ensnared in the hitch.

Our analysis suggests that this problem occurs because switching to ALT Hitch Height decreases pressure in the airbags. It’s important to note that on a 2500 model, there is a full air spring instead of coils, while on a 3500 model, there are supplemental air bags supporting fewer leaf springs – it is not equivalent to simply adding aftermarket airbags onto leaf springs.

Possible Solution:

Addressing this issue requires a comprehensive understanding of the hooking and unhooking process. However, it’s no longer a complex task. Simply follow these straightforward steps to get it done.

  • Unhooking: 

1) Avoid meddling with the Air Suspension by lowering or disabling it. 

2) Extend the front feet until you notice the pin beginning to lift off the plate. 

3) Disconnect your 5th wheel cord and break away the cable, storing them safely in the pin box.

4) Open your tailgate. By this point, the airbags should have lowered the truck and raised your 5th wheel too high.

5) Adjust your pin so that it just contacts the hitch plate again.

6) Activate the release handle on your hitch and carefully drive away from your pin box.

  • Hooking up:

1) Align your pin box with your hitch’s level, possibly setting it about a quarter-inch lower depending on your hitch type.

2) Reverse into your pin box until you hear a latch (I prefer shifting into drive mode and releasing my brake to ensure full latching before putting my vehicle back in the park).

3) Reconnect both cables – power and break away – then close up your tailgate.

4) Finally, retract all jacks back into position.

3. Service Air Suspension Warning Message

Ram 3500 owners often find themselves grappling with issues relating to the air suspension system, a common problem area in this model. Specifically, a serious concern is the Service Air Suspension Warning Message that pops up on the console.

This warning message distresses within the vehicle’s adjustable height mechanism, an essential feature of its suspension system. Generally, this irritation isn’t a standalone event but happens predominantly when proprietors try to tweak the ride’s height according to their drivers’ requirements.

From what numerous Ram 3500 owners have expounded from their experiences, once this warning message manifests itself, it prevents any further adjustments to pay heed to ride comfort or load leveling needs. 

Consequently, the truck’s ability to vary ground clearance level becomes completely paralyzed because of this issue in the air suspension system, leaving many users frustrated.

Possible Solution:

Addressing and fixing this issue with the air suspension system doesn’t require significant technical expertise. Primarily, you should examine fuses 05, 50, and 87 that are associated directly with the air suspension mechanism. These crucial fuses could be poorly seated, which may trigger the warning message.

If these fuses don’t appear securely situated, it is recommended to remove them carefully first and then reseat them properly. Make sure they’re correctly inserted into their slots. 

If you find any irregularity, take them out and place them back in properly. It’s worth noting that these fuses might have been positioned approximately 1/16th too far out during manufacturing, so pushing them in a bit more could be necessary.

Rough Ride 

In many vehicles, a harsh ride quality is often indicative of problems with the air suspension system. However, in the case of Ram 3500, this is an issue all on its own that has left many owners unsatisfied and frustrated. Experiencing rough rides in their vehicles (especially when driving under unladen conditions) has become a common complaint.

The problem appears more pronounced without any payload on the truck bed. Essentially, it refers to how the vehicle feels to drive when there isn’t extra weight compressing the suspension. 

A clear illustration of this comes from owner reports indicating that even minor disturbances, such as potholes, are felt jarringly by those in control of these trucks despite the air suspension designed to assist and ease the impact on the rear leaf spring.

The primary benefit of the air suspension system is its ability to sustain a steady ride height by adjusting the air pressure. Essentially, the air suspension acts as a co-existing spring alongside the leaf spring in the Ram 3500. The rigidity of parallel springs is cumulative. Thus, integrating air springs with leaf springs enhances their combined stiffness. 

It’s logical to infer, then, that incorporating any form of air springs – regardless of their softness, will amplify the overall rigidity of the suspension system. Consequently, this augmentation can lead to a decline in ride quality when leaf springs are paired with parallel air springs.

Hence, it can be surmised that for the Ram 3500 series, having a harsh ride quality isn’t merely symptomatic of other issues but rather a significant problem in and of itself.

Possible Solution:

The aggregate rigidity is significantly diminished when springs are arranged in series. A viable remedy for the issue of a rough ride could be the combination of a leaf spring and an air spring in series. 

However, this method presents a major drawback as it fails to regulate the suspension height, an essential requirement for the Ram 3500. An optimal solution would be to substitute the factory axle with an entirely new 4-link Air suspension axle. 

Utilizing an independent air spring allows for superior ride height and suspension stiffness engineering. Numerous aftermarket options are accessible for this purpose.

5. Auto-leveling Failure

The Ram Active-Level System may occasionally experience issues with self-adjustment. As we’ve discussed before, the Ram 2500 3500 models feature a leveling system designed to preserve rear ride height. When set to factory defaults, Normal Ride Height (NRH) is the default position. 

There’s also an option for Alternate Trailer Height, which reduces the suspension by an inch to facilitate loading tasks. In a fully operational state, you would observe a flashing light during any adjustment to lower ride height. However, if the system encounters any issues and fails to operate as expected, it remains static at a consistent height.

Possible Solution:

It’s possible that the Air Spring has suffered internal damage or deformation within its sleeve, preventing it from inflating under pressure. The installation of a lift kit could potentially cause harm to your air suspension system. 

There have been numerous reports in the past from Ram owners experiencing Ride-Height Adjustment failure after fitting aftermarket Lift-Kit solutions. This issue is particularly prevalent among the 4th generation Ram Trucks (2009 to 2018), with a higher number of reported cases of such Ride-Height Adjustment failures.

Final Words

Now, it’s clear that, despite being a robust and reliable vehicle, the Ram 3500 is not immune to air suspension problems. These issues can cause significant discomfort during driving and lead to more serious damage if left untreated. 

Therefore, it is essential for Ram 3500 owners to regularly inspect their vehicle’s air suspension system and address issues promptly. If you’re experiencing any common problems with your Ram 3500 air suspension system, we strongly recommend seeking professional assistance immediately to ensure your vehicle operates smoothly and safely.