Common Causes of Misfiring in a Dodge RAM 1500

by Johnno CaryUpdated August 11, 2023
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There are many systems in place to ensure that the engine in your vehicle will operate as designed. A smoothly running engine is often taken for granted until a problem comes to light and the operator is left to diagnose the problem. A misfire is often chalked up to ignition timing when, in fact, there are a number of reasons the engine could be running rough. If you find yourself in the unfortunate position of having a misfire or the dreaded check engine light in your Dodge Ram, understand that there are many common causes your vehicle might be acting up.

Ignition System

The first process that must be investigated when a cylinder misfire is detected is the ignition system. This consists of the timing, distributor, coil, spark plugs, plug wires, catalytic converter, Oxygensensor/O2 sensor, ignition coil and electrical components, including the charging system. As these components begin to fail, the initial engine misfire will be very slight and difficult to detect. As the components deteriorate into a more advanced case of ill repair, the problem will become more noticeable. Left unattended, this can lead to complete failure, and the vehicle will cease to operate completely. Popping noises back through the intake manifold, severe surging and jerking accompanied by a rough idle and poor acceleration are all signs of an ignition problem. Periodic inspection of the ignition system is recommended to prevent such ignition difficulty. Check the spark plug wires for damage and ensure that they are on the spark plugs tightly. Inspect the coil packs and/or the distributor for damage and wear. If your vehicle is distributor equipped, you should also check the rotor for damage and wear. Check the timing itself with a timing light to ensure it is within specification.

Lean Misfire

Another common reason and typically missed diagnosis for a rough running engine is the lean misfire. In this case, the engine is receiving too much air and not enough fuel. This is most noticeable while the engine is resting at idle since this is when an engine typically requires more fuel to operate smoothly. The lean misfire condition is likely to disappear at highway speeds due to the more efficient flow into the combustion chambers. Some of the causes for a lean condition are EGR valves that are stuck in the open position, leaking intake manifold gaskets, faulty mass air flow sensors if your vehicle is so equipped and plugged fuel filters and bad fuel pumps. Vacuum leaks are also the culprits for some lean conditions in an engine. A close inspection of your rubber vacuum tubing as well as periodic changes of your fuel filter and cleaning of your fuel injectors are invaluable in staying ahead of any fuel-related problems with your vehicle. Once again, it is much better and in most cases more cost-effective to be proactive as opposed to reactive in the maintenance department.

Mechanical Misfire

Perhaps the most costly random misfire malfunction to correct is the mechanical misfire. This problem is linked to a defect in the engine’s internal components. Bad head gaskets, worn piston rings, bad valves, bad spark plugs and worn cylinder walls are all culprits. Damaged or broken rocker arms, broken valve springs, and worn camshaft lobes or lifters are also reasons for mechanical misfiring. Most of these failures will be accompanied by some form of internal engine noise. A worn timing chain will often rattle as it slaps the timing cover, and a broken rocker arm will sound like a big piece of metal is rattling around inside the top of your engine. Other failures such as a broken valve spring may make no noise at all other than the engine popping and pinging. These mechanical failures are often heard as a more consistent noise and will in most cases increase in relative equality with vehicle engine speed. Timely oil changes and periodic maintenance of your Dodge’s power train is required to help prevent this type of failure.


A good way of troubleshooting exactly what is malfuntioning in your car is to use a scan tool on your car’s computer and seeing if the misfire code shows up. If you lack the proper tools to do this, taking it into a mechanic shop or dealership is going to be the next best option. There is a wide variety of things that could be causing a Dodge Ram 1500 to misfire. Things like low fuel pressure, low coolant, uneven fuel mixture, a faulty control module, dysfunctional connectors, bad crankshaft position, new spark plugs, or a needed compression test can all be remedied at an auto shop.

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