One of the most popular chassis to convert to a camper van is the RAM ProMaster. ProMaster vans are used for many purposes, and the RAM brand is built on a reputation for being sturdy and tough. But is the RAM ProMaster chassis actually that reliable?
Many people have exceeded 250,000 miles on their RAM ProMaster, and owners frequently report good service life and reliability from their ProMaster. The ProMaster is widely used and is much loved by owners, whether they are using their ProMaster for business or to camp in the hills.
So what kind of issues can we expect from the ProMaster? How can we increase the service life of our vehicle and get the best bang for our buck? Read on to learn more about how reliable the ProMaster can be.
Ram ProMaster – How Reliable is It?
The RAM ProMaster is a versatile vehicle that comes in a range of build options that fill most any need for a van. Filled to the brim with modern technologies like collision warning systems, blind-spot monitoring, and rear cross-path detection, stability control, and crosswind assist, the ProMaster is built to work. You can purchase the ProMaster in a van, cab, or cutaway configurations in varying levels of trim.
Numerous RVs built on the ProMaster are built on the 3500 window van high-roof 159WB variant of this chassis. This beefy van comes with a PentaStar V6 engine, a 21-foot length, and a 159-inch wheelbase. The gross combined weight rating is 11,500 pounds, and the ProMaster can tow a maximum of 5,100 pounds. In addition, some RVs start with the 2500 and even the 1500 chassis, and they are also popular for DIY camper van conversions.
Exciting as the specs are, we are here to talk about reliability. Reliability is partly a function of luck. Sometimes, you just end up with a bad cylinder head, a bum camshaft, or a defective alternator, which can be true with any vehicle. But reliability is also a function of maintenance. Taking appropriate care of your van will help to increase its reliability.
Service intervals for the ProMaster are consistent with those of similar vehicles. Engine oil and filters should be changed when indicated by the oil change indicator or every 4,000 miles with heavy use, dusty conditions, or when used primarily at low engine RPMs. Do not skip this maintenance as engine lubrication is critically important to any internal combustion engine.
RAM recommends more detailed maintenance inspections at approximately 10,000-mile intervals, beginning at 20,000 miles. More details on your specific models’ recommended service intervals are available in your owner’s manual, with which you should familiarize yourself.
How reliable is the ProMaster in inclement weather? Many ProMaster drivers have reported that the ProMaster can be a little finicky in low-traction conditions.
The front-wheel-drive works well in most situations, but in hilly areas, drivers may run into some traction issues in slippery conditions. The good news: drivers also reported that upgrading to proper snow tires helped these problems immensely. Depending on your specific use, you might consider upgrading the stock tires.
Anybody who has experienced the chill of a Northern winter will know that cold weather can affect your engine. How does the ProMaster handle cold weather? Does it start, or does it grind and chafe against the cold? Most drivers have reported that the ProMaster starts without issue even in single-digit temperatures and even without the optional engine block heater.
Between road salt, rain, ocean spray, snow, and general road grit, rusting can be an insidious and often a serious problem for a lot of cars. At one point, there was a perception in the automotive market that Chrysler vehicles (Chrysler is the parent company of RAM) were prone to corrosion problems. Is this a fair reputation?
Unequivocally, no. While Dodge and RAM vehicles in the early ’00s did have corrosion issues, changes to the manufacturing process have resolved this problem. With proper care, your ProMaster is no more vulnerable to rusting than any other vehicle. If you live someplace where road salt is commonly used, or there are other corrosion risks, you should frequently wash your vehicle and take appropriate care of any nicks or scratches. The ProMaster is not inherently prone to rusting.
So far, we haven’t found any specific gremlins that plague the ProMaster chassis. But does that mean that it is reliable? Well, yes. The ProMaster is built using the finest modern manufacturing techniques and materials. RAM has built some features into the ProMaster specifically to improve reliability.
Indeed, with regular maintenance and responsible driving habits, chances are you can get a long service life out of your ProMaster. On popular ProMaster forums, many owners report their vans exceeding 250,000 miles. At least one owner reported hitting 475,000 miles in their ProMaster!
Of course, if you run your ProMaster for half a million miles, you’ll be well outside of warranty. RAM offers a 3-year, 36,000-mile basic warranty and a 5-year, 60,000-mile powertrain warranty.
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How Long do RAM ProMaster Transmissions Last?
The ProMaster has suffered bad publicity from transmission problems in the past, with a recall in 2016 because of unexpected shifting being one notable example. Different model years and variants are built with different transmissions, and wear patterns vary widely from driver to driver.
Owners of ProMasters from 2017 on should expect normal service life out of their transmission. Make sure to follow the recommended service schedule and get your transmission serviced when appropriate to maximize the life of this crucial component.
How Long Does the Brakes Last on a RAM ProMaster?
Starting and accelerating gets a lot of attention when we talk about cars, but stopping is also rather important. How long can we expect the brakes to last on our ProMaster? With normal usage patterns, one can expect the brakes on the ProMaster to last about 30,000 to 40,000 miles. If you follow the recommended service intervals, you’ll check the brakes for signs of wear starting at the 20,000-mile mark.
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Is Front-Wheel Drive Better Than Rear-Wheel Drive?
Whether front-wheel or rear-wheel drive is better depends on your evaluation criteria. Front-wheel drive vehicles are often lighter and less expensive than rear-wheel drive vehicles, as the drivetrain is smaller. Front-wheel drive (FWD) vehicles generally experience better traction as the weight of the engine sits over the drive wheels. Finally, FWD vehicles generally have better gas mileage than rear-wheel drive (RWD) vehicles.
Rear-wheel drive vehicles transfer power to the rear wheels using a long driveshaft, which connects to a differential. RWD vehicles tend to handle corners and curves better than FWD vehicles. If you need to tow, RWD is a significant advantage as the tongue weight generally sits over or near the rear wheels.
In the case of the ProMaster, they opted to build the vehicle with front-wheel drive probably for several reasons – improved traction, lower step-in height, better mileage, greater cargo capacity, which are all desirable features for a recreational vehicle.
Are Older ProMasters More Reliable?
It’s a common refrain these days that things aren’t made the way they used to be made. In the case of the ProMaster, this is not true. Older models of the ProMaster did have some issues that resulted in recalls and may have contributed to the ProMaster’s reputation for suboptimal reliability.
That said, models since about 2017 have proven to be increasingly reliable. If you’re shopping for a ProMaster van, you’ll probably want to shop for a more recent model and avoid the 2014-2016 years.
All things considered, the RAM ProMaster is a good chassis for an RV or building your own camper van. It can haul a fair amount of weight, has ample space, and offers many attractive, modern safety features. And the RVs that are built on the ProMaster chassis are well-liked by buyers. The only sticking point for a ProMaster-based RV is this past question of reliability.
To be fair, though, this question is well-earned. There have been some high-profile ProMaster recalls over the years for everything from brakes to seat cushions and transmissions, but it is hard to find any brand that hasn’t had its share of recalls. And the hive-mind of the internet likes to remember rusting problems from decades ago. These hazy memories of issues past may cloud the modern reputation of this vehicle.
Take Care of your ProMaster and it Will Take Care of You
Modern versions of the ProMaster have improved overall reliability and a solid fan base. So if you are looking for a van to start your camper van conversion with, you might want to consider the RAM ProMaster van. If you take good care of your ProMaster and follow the recommended service intervals, chances are your vehicle will take care of you.