2020 Ram 2500 HD Long-Term Test Update: Dipstick Discoveries, Trailer Mishaps

Embarrassing admission with valid explanation: I just checked the oil in our long-term ram 2500 Cummins for the first time at 23,700 miles. Here’s why, per the owner’s manual: “Check the engine oil level at least 30 minutes after a fully warmed engine is shut off.” It seems this big, complicated engine has myriad nooks and crannies that hang on to the 0W40 oil. My driveway and street are both on an incline, so that’s not a good place to check the oil 30 minutes after arriving home, and I don’t ever sit for 30 minutes parked on a level fuel station forecourt waiting to check the oil.

The morning we departed on a big trip to Maine, I checked the oil level parked on my slanted driveway after an overnight cold soak. It looked 3/4 full. The next morning, on a level hotel parking garage floor it looked full. At the next gas stop I checked it after just having switched off the engine. Sure enough, it looked low again. But an after-lunch check, also on flat ground showed it to be full. Impressive, given all the high-speed running it’s had in the 9,000 miles since its first oil change. And topping during a brief refueling stop would surely have overfilled the engine.

Another scientific test conducted on this trip was to see how it behaves as the diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) tank nears empty. When the needle hit the red zone on the dedicated analog DEF gauge, the yellow low-DEF light came on and we got a warning that in 250 miles our speed would be limited to 5 mph. We cleared the message, but it returned every 50 miles for a while, then every 25. The needle seemed to plunge much faster in the red zone than it does in the top three-quarters of its arc. We filled it when the needle hit E, with the remaining DEF range showing 66 miles. We were unable to fit two 2.5-gallon jugs into the 5-gallon tank, so there’s clearly some extra reserve built into that gauge. It should be noted that we’ve been buying plastic jugs of DEF and spending about $9.50 per gallon—pricey, given that truck stops offer it in pumps at $2.99 per gallon. Pumping DEF avoids a lot of plastic and cardboard waste (the bottles come in a box that includes a flexible filler tube) and utterly sidesteps the problem of DEF getting old and potentially clogging the injector, but such pumps are hard to find and the internet warns that they dispense fast and may not shut off without splashing back.

En route to Maine, Guffman got a chance to explore part of the Mohawk Trail, and on the steep descent from Whitcomb Summit in Massachusetts I played with the two-stage exhaust brake and the gear-limit switches on the steering wheel (they work kind of like paddle shifters but are buttons on the front of the wheel). Often toggling the exhaust brake between its “max” and “auto” settings provided all the retardation that was needed, with a dash gauge reading out instantaneous retardation horsepower. Very cool.

We had another light towing task for Guffman this month—a wood chipper. After a couple turns, the truck had identified it as a 20-foot trailer and adjusted the blind-spot detection accordingly. But this episode included a minor disaster. The area adjacent to the hitch receiver is too tight to allow a typical safety clip to click into position on the retainer pin that holds the ball-drop. It stayed attached for the smooth road ride home from the rental agency but didn’t survive the bouncy ride up my cabin’s quarter-mile gravel driveway. This safety clip fell off, the retainer pin worked loose, and the receiver pulled out. It turns out those safety chains will indeed drag a trailer 50 feet! I was fortunate enough to find the pin and retainer, hammer the retainer into place, bending it slightly in the too-small trailer hitch area, and return the trailer. Why the 2500 hitch is too tight for a pin that fits perfectly fine on a Ram 1500 is one of truckdom’s great mysteries.

As our time with the beloved ram 2500 Cummins winds down, we are brainstorming a few final “heavy lifting” tasks to assign this gentle giant.

Read More About Our Long-Term 2020 ram 2500 Laramie 4×4 Cummins:

  • Arrival
  • Update 1: Burdening Our Beast
  • Update 2: King of the Road Trip
  • Update 3: Buyer’s Remorse?
  • Update 4: We Get 895 MPG …

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