Question: I know you get a boatload of questions each month, and even if this is not published I'm just hoping you can shed some light on the issue. I have a beautiful 2009 Ram 1500 Laramie 4x4 5.7-liter. It has begun to do three things that I'm sure are related, but two dealerships could not find any codes and there are no dummy lights on the dash. The first and scariest is the truck has begun to shut off when driving, leaving me with no power steering or brakes. I'll be driving anywhere between 35 and 60 mph, and then all of a sudden, nothing. After about three seconds or so, the dashboard lights all light up and the truck turns back on. There is no warning or anything -- it simply shuts off. But then it turns back on. The second issue is when driving slowly or making turns into a gas station, the truck shuts off, only in this case I need to put it in neutral for it to turn back on. It does not come back on by itself like with the first issue. I've noticed the engine is always running below 1000 rpm, but not sure this matters. The third issue is when starting the truck, sometimes it fires up and then stalls immediately. I start it again and it runs fine. All of these issues are random, so I may go a week or two in between occurrences, or I may go a day. I haven't noticed any patterns with speed, fuel (full, half, or quarter tank), rpm, cold/hot, wet/dry, etc. Hopefully, you can point me in the right direction. I'm about ready to get rid of the truck, as I cannot have it shutting off on the highway doing 70 with kids in it.
Answer: Keep working with the dealership's service department, and remember, the more detailed and accurate your description of the problem, the easier it will be for the technician to diagnose the failure. For instance, I'm not quite sure about your description of the dashboard lights going on and off when the problem occurs. If the engine is no longer running, with the ignition in the On position, a large number of the malfunction indicators will light up on the instrument panel. If not, you may be losing power from an ignition circuit (possibly the ignition switch). Another important factor is the location of your foot when the engine shuts down. Are you braking, decelerating, accelerating, or at a steady cruise? A shutdown with your foot on the gas, as compared with a stall while braking, is a different animal. With more information, the technician can focus on certain areas to inspect. A couple of gimmies on a phantom shutdown are checking ground connections (especially the PCM ground), along with fuel pressure. You might also suggest to the service advisor that the PCM software be fully updated. There is a re-flash service bulletin that applies to your truck dealing with a whole bunch of drivability issues. If the technician working on the job is coming up empty, he should open a case with the manufacturer's tech line. They have documented histories of failures and fixes that cannot be obtained anywhere else, and a lot of the tech line personnel can lead a technician to the correct diagnostic path. When the check engine light (MIL) comes on and sets a diagnostic trouble code, the PCM records a "freeze-frame" of data. That's simply a still-frame picture of PCM data when the light came on. Some systems also record an on-board snapshot. This is a view of data leading up to and/or following the problem. I don't know if your truck has the capability, but some systems have a function where the technician can switch the trigger point of the onboard snapshot from the MIL coming on, to an engine stall. This could be an advantage in your situation.
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If you have a technical question regarding your pickup, SUV, or van, feel free to contact Alex, a master technician with the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence. Send a letter to him in care of Truck Trend Garage, 831 S. Douglas Street, El Segundo, CA 90245, or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include the VIN with your question. Due to the volume of questions received every month, we cannot guarantee that everyone's question will be personally answered or will appear in the magazine.
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