Trucks are powerful machines that are intended to haul and tow cargo, trailers and other heavy things. Running on internal combustion engines, trucks can generate a lot of heat while driving. A truck in operation is cooled via the cooling system which pumps coolant through the engine block and then dissipates the heat in the radiator. This is a continuous process that occurs while the engine is running.
The Dodge Ram 1500 coolant temperature should be between 195F and 220F during normal operation. Anything above that is considered high. Ideally, the needle should be in the middle of the temperature gauge, although this can differ slightly depending on the environmental and engine conditions.
IMPORTANT! Never open the coolant cap while the engine is hot! It can cause serious steam burn! Wait until the engine is cool before you open the coolant cap.
Understanding The Normal Operating Temperature Range
Engines have an operating range of characteristics for normal operations, for red lining and safety or practical limits. A Dodge Ram 1500 that is running within the speed limits, hauling 2,000 lbs of load, is expected to have oil pressure and engine temperature within normal operating readings.
If the truck is redlining, then the oil pressure and temperature reading would also be elevated. If it went beyond safe limits, the gauges would indicate readings that were off the charts. That is to be expected.
When the truck is within normal range of operations, and yet the gauges are exceeding their normal reading, then that indicates a problem.
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For instance, if under ideal weather conditions, driving within the speed limit on the highway, the temperature gauge shows the engine is overheating (over 220 degrees Fahrenheit) then the driver should slow down, and park at the shoulder.
The temperature needs to go down, before continuing to drive. If the truck is no longer operating normally, then it is time to have it checked by a mechanic.
Continuing to drive a car that is overheating can damage the engine. The engine damage would depend on what caused the overheating. There are several possible reasons why your engine would overheat.
Low coolant levels, low oil levels, damaged radiator or hoses, leaks, or malfunction of the engine components can cause overheating.
When your engine gets too hot, internal damage can occur to components and the engine itself, leaving you stranded on the side of the road or in your driveway.
Why The Dodge Ram 1500 Coolant Can Run Hot?
There are plenty of reasons why the coolant in a Dodge Ram 1500 will run hot. Overheating is the most common problem that a driver can encounter and if your truck is overheating, then there is something wrong either in the engine or the cooling system.
Your coolant may run hot due to any of the following causes:
- There is too little coolant. If there is not enough coolant, the engine will run hotter than it should. Add more coolant.
- There might be a coolant leak. This might be the reason why you have too little coolant. A leak can occur anywhere in the cooling system. It can be due to a faulty gasket or a defective hose. A mechanic can find the leak and fix it. Until then, if the leak is very small, you can add coolant to be able to drive the truck home or to a mechanic.
- The radiator fan is not working properly. The fan blows air into the radiator to cool it down. There are some vehicles without a radiator fan, but the Dodge Ram 1500 needs it because the engine runs hotter than most. If the fan is not working, the engine needs to be shut off and the truck needs to be towed to the mechanic. Running it without a fan will result in engine overheating and cause serious damage.
- Defective water pump. The water pump forces the coolant through the engine, and back to the radiator. If the water pump is not working properly, the coolant will not flow with enough speed, or at all, to dissipate the heat and will not be able to cool the engine, which will result in overheated engine. In this case the truck also has to be towed to the mechanic.
- Low oil levels. The engine oil rests on the pan located at the bottom of the engine. It not only lubricates the engine, it also helps to cool it down as it splashes against the crankshaft, pistons, the cylinders and other internal spaces. If there is a low level of oil, the engine will run hot. Add oil to the normal level. Check the level regularly and if you keep losing oil the truck needs to be checked out by a mechanic.
- A faulty thermostat will give a false temperature reading. A wrong temperature reading can give either a high or a low temperature. Either way, the temperature is wrong and you would not be able to depend on the temperatur. You might have the false assumption that your engine is running fine, until the engine is damaged because of the heat. Normally, the engine temperature gauge needle should be in about the middle during normal engine operation. If the needle is showing too high or too low, this may mean that the thermostat is malfunctioning. This could also mean some other things, like the pump is not working or the fan, or low coolant level. So the truck needs to be checked out by a mechanic.
A faulty cooling system can cause plenty of engine troubles. Without adequate coolant, the engine temperature will continue to get hotter until the engine systems begin to fail.
An overheated cooling system can cause a hose to burst. This will release the boiling coolant over various engine parts. The engine will overheat faster without any coolant, and it may cause the head gasket to blow and damage the engine.
In case the coolant temperature runs hot, it is best to stop the truck by the side of the road, and let the engine cool down before you bring it to a mechanic for any repairs.
Signs Of A Failing Cooling System In A Dodge Ram 1500
Not all coolant failures happen all of a sudden. Since these are usually mechanical or physical in nature, there are signs that can be seen leading up to a possible cooling system failure. Here are six signs that you have a failing coolant system failure:
- Your truck is overheating. This is usually a slow buildup and can occur over a week or longer. It can be a few degrees at first, and then the needle gets stuck and slowly becomes hotter. Don’t wait for the truck to overheat before you have the engine checked.
- The engine is not running as smoothly. This is another gradual change that you might not notice. If the engine is running rough, have it checked by a mechanic.
- Low coolant levels. You should check your coolant levels regularly. The truck manual recommends that you change your coolant every year or two, but you can check the levels on your own, at least once a month or weekly. Low coolant levels are usually caused by leaks within the system.
IMPORTANT! Do not open the coolant cap while the engine is hot! Hot coolant is under pressure and if you open it while it is hot, it will spray everywhere and you can get a serious steam and scalding water burn.
- You have a radiator leak. This can be easily noticed if you regularly look at the garage floor. When parked overnight, and a pool of coolant remains under the hood in the morning, you most probably have a radiator leak.
- The fan is not working. The radiator fan cools the radiator and if it is not working, then the radiator would start heating up. Soon, the engine would also start heating up. Have a mechanic check the radiator fan if it stops working.
If you see any of these signs, bring the truck to a trusted mechanic to fix the problem. These could easily escalate to a bigger problem with engine overheating.
Cause Of Coolant Leaks In A Dodge Ram 1500
One of the leading causes of low coolant level is coolant leak. Coolant system leaks can be caused by any of the following:
- A leak or hole in the radiator. Engine parts experience wear and tear due to normal use. It is expected that over the years some parts develop leaks, tears or holes. Corrosion is also a common cause of radiator leaks. Over the years, sediments develop in the radiator. These could lead to a hole, and it can cause the coolant to slowly leak out.
- A radiator cap that does not close properly. By design, the most vulnerable part of the radiator is the cap. It corrodes, and it can also loosen due to engine vibrations. Regardless, coolant can leak out of a loose radiator cap.
- A blown head gasket is also coolant system problem. It does not have to be a full-blown gasket. Gaskets are used to seal parts of the engine. If the head gasket is blown, all sorts of fluid, including the coolant and oil can leak out.
- Defective water pumps. Most commonly this part gets replaced with a new one when doing most any other engine work. Butif it does fail, it just needs to be replaced.
- A defective or damaged expansion tank. The expansion tank is the small tank beside the radiator or somewhere on the side of the engine where steam condenses, or where coolant can flow back to the radiator. It is like an extension of the radiator as it helps contain the coolant when it expands when hot. If there is a hole or if it does not close properly, coolant can seep out or leak.
These five sources of coolant leaks do not necessarily happen at the same time. It takes time for these problems to develop. With corrosion, heat and water the materials can become brittle and leak coolant.
Cause Of Overheating Engine In A Dodge Ram 1500
Overheating is a relatively common problem with all vehicles. Users have to keep an eye on dash indicators to monitor the engine temperature. The following are the most common causes of an overheating engine in a Dodge Ram 1500.
- Leaks in the cooling system. The cooling system forces coolant into the engine, which flows back to the radiator to cool down before cycling back to the engine. Any leak in the cooling system, from the radiator, hose, water pump, cap and extension tank can lead to overheating.
- Loose clamps and worn hoses. The coolant runs through hoses that are attached to the radiator and other components with hose clamps. If there is a loose hose clamp, the coolant would quickly leak out. In the same manner if a hose has a hole, the coolant can leak out through those holes. Holes can sometimes be created by rubbing parts or a fan being too close to the hose.
- Damaged or cracked radiator. A cracked radiator will leak coolant which will make the engine overheat. If the radiator is clogged with sediment, enough coolant will not flow through, which will cause the coolant to not dissipate enough heat and will make the engine overheat.
- Faulty or damaged radiator fan. A faulty fan will not turn on when it should and the coolant will not get cooled down enough before it returns into the system and this can make the engine overheat.
- Water pump is not working properly. The water pump circulates the coolant through the system. Without the water pump, pumping the coolant, it will not cool down and not cool the engine.
- Low oil level. Oil in the sump is a coolant and lubricant. If there is not enough oil in the pan, the engine would not be lubricated properly, and the internal heat would not dissipate into the oil.
- Faulty thermostat. The thermostat provides readings on the engine temperature. It is critical that it should give the correct readings, otherwise, the owner might not know that the vehicle is overheating.
Any of the above could cause a Dodge Ram 1500 to overheat. However, most of these can be prevented with proper monitoring of the vehicle and instrumentation as well as regular maintenance.
How A Coolant Flush And Maintenance Works In A Dodge Ram 1500
You should have a coolant flush every 30,000 miles or two years, whichever comes first. This ensures that the coolant is kept fresh and has not yet degraded. It also cleans out the radiator of any sediment that may impede the flow of coolant.
Rust, oxidation, sediment and other deposits occur inside the radiator and this can clog the flow of the coolant. Flushing the coolant also removes these solids and prevents any damage to the cooling system.
Coolants include anti-freeze and other additives that help lubricate the water pump, improving its operations and extends its life. Over time, the coolant mixture loses its anti-corrosive properties and does not clean the radiator as well as it should. Two years is the optimal lifespan of a coolant, by then you have to flush it out and replace the liquid.
With a coolant flush, the old coolant is drained, and the cooling system is given a thorough washing, before the new coolant is added. A coolant flush also involves an inspection of the coolant system, including the radiator, water pump, hoses and belts, expansion tank, and thermostat. It also checks for leaks, rust and sediment.
When the coolant degrades, the anti-freeze can become acidic, and can damage the rubber hoses, water pump and any aluminum engine component it comes in contact with.
Dodge Ram 1500 Cooling System Upgrades And Modifications
To improve the performance of the cooling system, and subsequently the engine and the truck, you can add upgrades, accessories and modifications to parts of the coolant system.
The following are the most common parts that are upgraded or modified:
- Bigger Radiator. Heat dissipation involves a large surface for air to pass through. The larger the surface, the better the heat dissipation. Having more cores allows for more surface area in contact with the fins. However, a radiator with more cores or rows is thicker, and will require a fan that can push more air through the radiator. A radiator with a more cores is necessary if you typically operate your truck at higher RPMs.
- Radiator cap. Changing radiator caps does not directly help to lower the temperature or improve the cooling system, but it can be a great help with modified engines. Stock engines will not benefit from an upgraded radiator cap. There are radiator cap replacements that help to increase the boiling point of the coolant, resulting in improved coolant efficiency.
- Silicone Hoses. Changing the rubber hoses to silicone ones improves the flow of coolant and helps lower the temperature. Silicone hoses are easier to remove and replace, can withstand higher temperatures, are more durable, less brittle, and have less chances of cracking.
- Performance Fans. Installing better or more fans can help to control temperature better, especially in tropical conditions. Fans push air through the radiator to dissipate the heat and lower the temperature.
- Coolant and other additives. Technically speaking, you can use distilled water as a coolant liquid. However, water is corrosive and can damage your radiator and cooling system. It will also freeze in the winter if you live where the winters go below freezing temperatures. This is why some will upgrade to a better coolant. There are additives for better corrosion control, improved anti-freeze, or in tropical countries, better temperature control.
Dodge Ram 1500 Coolants And Compatibility
Organic acid technology, also called organic additive technology (OAT) is the recommended coolant for the Dodge Ram 1500. It has a propylene glycol base and is usually colored orange, although it also comes in different colors like dark green, pink, red and bright red, and blue. Double check the label prior to use to ensure that you have the right coolant type.
What Coolant Additives Can Be Used In A Dodge Ram 1500
You can use different kinds of additives for use in a Dodge Ram 1500, as long as the additive meets the standard for the OAT type coolant. The following are coolant additives popular with Dodge Ram 1500 owners. They all pretty much do the same thing, help with cooling and corrosion protection.
- Mishimoto® – Liquid Chill™ Engine Coolant Additive – Helps reduce engine temperatures.
- Red Line® – Fuel System Water Remover & Antifreeze – Removes water from diesel or gasoline systems.
- Royal Purple® – Purple Ice™ High Performance Engine Coolant Additive – Helps reduce engine temperatures, corrosion inhibitor and wetting agent.
- DOMINATOR® Coolant Boost – Provides effective heat transfer and enhanced corrosion protection
- Rislone Hy-per Cool Super Coolant – Lowers the surface tension of the water/coolant mixture, improves the cooling system heat transfer.
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How To Pressure Test The Cooling System In A Dodge Ram 1500
You should perform a cooling system pressure test after the cooling system is filled. The test ensures that there are no leaks after you have inspected, flushed or fixed the cooling system. The following are the steps to a pressure test on a Dodge Ram 1500 cooling system:
- Make sure the coolant is full. Add more coolant if the level is low.
- Remove the radiator cap and connect the pressure tester. You might need to use an adapter to have a tight seal on the cap.
- Place the coolant pressure tester and tighten it.
- Check the radiator cap for the maximum pressure allowed. Do not go over the pressure specified on the radiator cap.
- Pump the coolant tester and do not go over the printed maximum allowed pressure.
Check for leaks along the cooling system. The pressure test will show any leaks in the system during regular operation.
The Dodge Ram 1500 is a tough and durable truck, and with proper care and maintenance is expected to be working for a long time. To maintain its top performance, it is crucial that it operates within a temperature range of 195F to 220F.
If the truck has a higher engine temperature than 220 degrees, it may have some problems and it is necessary to stop driving. Park it along the side of the road and wait for the engine to cool down. If it keeps on overheating, you should have a mechanic take a look at the truck.
Running an overheated engine can damage the engine and necessitate expensive repairs or parts replacement. Always monitor the temperature gauge, especially for older Dodge Ram 1500, to prevent engine overheating.
Valik loves tinkering in the garage and is currently restoring a 2000 GMC Sierra 1500 truck. He also writes about the progress on this blog. When not in the garage, Valik is also a web developer and a blogger. I know, strange, a hand in two completely different worlds. And that is the way he likes to keep it.