We have had our Ram Promaster City cargo van since 2018. Almost immediately after purchasing it we drove it from Delaware to Colorado to have our Wayfarer Camper Van Conversion Kit installed. After about 2.5 years of working and traveling in the van, we are finally ready to share about some of the not so great things we’ve found out about it. Keep reading for our take on the problems with the Ram Promaster City. This post isn’t meant to freak you out or scare you if you already own one, but to help alert you to issues that we were dismayed to discover post-purchase.
In the summer of 2019 we were traveling across Canada and stopped in Saskatchewan to get our oil changed. The tech came out to let us know that we were very low on oil. Both of us were thankful that he told us about the problem as it was the first time it was on our radar. For the duration of owning the vehicle we have had it changed like clockwork and so it wasn’t a matter of having driven over and above what was recommended. There also wasn’t a light on the dash to indicate a low oil level. We made a note to check the oil level periodically after that and found that, oddly enough, the engine was consuming oil. (We also at this point ruled out a leak).
To make a very long story short, we are burning about a quart of oil, sometimes more, before we are due for another oil change. This is not okay. The vehicle is only about 2 years old. So far it’s the worst problem we’ve had with the Ram Promaster City. Once we returned home we took our van to the dealer to see if they could help us. They could not. After many appointments at the dealership and two ‘tests’ later we were told that our van was fine and that it did not have an oil consumption problem. We were not happy about this news since we had a new vehicle and were having to add oil, often more than 1 quart. According to the dealer, the dealer states that “the accepted rate of oil consumption for engines used in the vehicles listed above (our Ram Promaster city) is 1 quart (.946 liter) in 2,000 miles (3,200 km). The catch is that in order to pass this test you have to let your vehicle get dangerously low on oil. Why would anyone do that and risk damaging their vehicle? We ran into such a problem on another work trip, while we were under a test, and ended up adding oil.
In April 2020 we actually had our van turn off while we were in ‘Drive’. Luckily, it was as we were pulling into a driveway and there were no cars behind us. Otherwise it could have been really dangerous. We didn’t know what the problem was as there were no lights on the dash. A quick google search revealed that maybe we were low on oil and that the vehicle had gone into ‘limp’ mode. We’re not mechanics but we pulled into a parking lot about a mile away, popped the hood and sure enough, we were low by a quart and a half of oil. The thing is, we had an oil change just 1,300 miles ago.
Update: February 2022. We are still having oil consumption issues and after three separate tests, we still have not received help with the issue. It’s not only a safety issue but an inconvenience and the added expense of putting oil in the van in between changes. We were told after our first oil test, though it consumed enough oil, that there was a change to the protocol and we needed to do it again. After the second test, which also failed meaning the engine consumed enough oil, we were told that the test was performed incorrectly by the mechanic. It seems like each time we go through a test the goal post moves. We reached out to the head of the dealership at Fields in Asheville and were given the number to the customer care hotline (not helpful.) We asked for the contact information of the dealer rep and two weeks later are still waiting a reply.
Very Difficult to Get a New Key
In addition to the oil consumption problem, we’ve also struggled to get a new key. In November 2019, I misplaced one of our two key fobs. It was one of the ones that came with the van. We wanted to have two in case something happened to the one while traveling and set out to replace it. Seven months later and we still can’t get a key! We’ve been to two dealers, one of whom said it would be in in about a week (it arrived 6 weeks later and after numerous phone calls to inquire about it!). The first key wasn’t cut correctly. The dealership ordered another one. It also wasn’t cut correctly. They then ordered a third one. By that time we had already moved back to Asheville (our home base) when we heard from them several weeks later.
So, we started over with the dealership in Asheville. We went to the dealership, ordered and paid for the key. The key comes in a week later and it is also not cut correctly. The dealership orders a second key. Key comes in again and it’s not cut right. Then two more months go by, during which time we made three phone calls with either no solution or no phone calls back. We finally decided to ask for the manager. After several back and forth phone calls and lots of explaining on both ends, the manager has offered to replace all of our locks, front and rear, as well as provide us two new keys – all at no expense to us. Apparently, he has never seen this problem before. We are currently waiting for the dealership to call us once they have all these parts in so we can make an appointment to have them installed. We are pleased that the dealership in Asheville is finally able to offer us a solution but we are baffled at how difficult it has been to solve, what we believe, should be a relatively simple solution.
Some of the forums have suggested we get an aftermarket key and get someone to program it. I was interested in that and even called a locksmith but he said that he wouldn’t do it because if he made a mistake, he could ‘brick’ the van. Basically that means that none of the electronics on the van would work anymore. Uh, no thanks. Some Promaster owners have been able to do this part but we are not skilled (or brave) enough to try.
Update as of July 2020: We finally have two new key fobs! The dealership gave us a loaner car to use that we had for about two weeks as it took them much longer than they thought it would to solve the problem.
So the battery that came with our brand new van was guaranteed for 12,000 miles. We actually were able to get to about 72,000 miles before needing to replace it. However, when it finally went, there were no useful lights on the dash to indicate that we had a problem. One day it just wouldn’t start up. What the dash did show however was that we needed to check the antilock brakes, airbag system and the ESC system. Neither of us are mechanics but we do have AAA so that’s who we called. While I was lining up a tow truck, Caroline actually enlisted the help of our really nice landlord who offered to see if a jump start would help. Matter of fact it did. He was able to get the car running so we headed over to the local O’Reilly Auto Parts store where they tested our battery. It was indeed ‘bad.’ Our van actually started up after the test without a jump start and we immediately headed towards the AAA in Asheville.
Once there, the technician installed a new battery. My Dad, who ran an auto repair shop, advised us to purchase a 72 month / 6 year battery. Turns out that’s the only kind that AAA offers so it was one less thing for us to have to decide. $191 later, we were back on the road again.
Hood Prop Retaining Clip Broke
After owning the van for just a few months, the hood prop on our Ram Promaster City broke. It’s a cheap little plastic part that costs about $12 to replace (see below). We have no idea how it broke but given that it’s plastic, it could have been just about anything. We have yet to replace the clip since the hood prop itself is super short and we ended up holding the hood up with our hands anyway.
What Are Others Saying about the Ram Promaster City?
Cars.com says 67% of drivers recommend this car. It gets 4.2 stars out of 5 based on, as of May 2020, 18 reviews. The first review, written in 2019, says they’re also having an oil consumption problem. Go figure.
Vehie.com is a little more difficult to sort through but there are many reviews of the Ram Promaster (all years.) As of May 2020, there were 124 complaints. The top three reasons owners were unhappy with their van? Electrical system, power train, engine.
I also ran a poll in the Ram Promaster City Facebook owners group and got the following results:
The results of the poll surprised me in that I was shocked that a majority of the owners (30) did not have a problem with their van. We’re happy for them but dismayed to realize that a few others are also having issues with their Ram Promaster City. Namely, oil consumption problems and transmission problems, and a host of others, often with few remedies.
Is the Ram Promaster City Reliable?
It’s average. We both owned Toyotas for several years before getting into this van. I drove a Corolla in high school and college that ended up getting over 300,000 miles on it before I sold it. I also had a Toyota Matrix that was nearing the same mileage. Caroline also had a Toyota 4 Runner that neared close to 250,000 miles. Neither of us had the same amount of problems with those vehicles that we have had with the Ram Promaster City. It seems doubtful that we’ll be able to reach 200,000 miles in this van though we are as hopeful as we can be and as diligent as we can be to routine maintenance.
Problems with the Ram Promaster City (2018) Recap
They say that hindsight is 20/20. It’s true in this case. Had we known what we now know about this van we definitely would have opted for something else. Even with all of the problems, if the dealer or the manufacturer had helped us, we’d probably choose to buy with them again but after this fiasco, never again. You will not get good customer service.
The pros of the van are still true for us, plus and we have already invested our money in it. You can read more about our camper van conversion kit on our Van Life page. If you’re in the learning – phase of figuring out which van might be the best van for you, head on over to our page, How to Choose a Van for Van Life. And as always, we’d love to hear from you! Please leave a comment below or shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Erin McGrady and Caroline Whatley are travel writers, photographers and the authors of Authentic Asheville.
17 thoughts on “Problems with the Ram Promaster City (2018)”
It’s a shame that you have been turned into a travail writer by a company that is well known for producing very faulty vehicles.
Well, the good thing is we were writing and shooting photos well before we had this van!
We were on the brink of buying a Promaster City 2018 on Wednesday and I looked up van conversion, came across you blog and found this article. My husband went to his favorite sight and found this lawsuit out of Michigan. I think it will interest you, this suit is for the engine of the Promaster City.
Putting the brakes on the purchase.
Thanks for such a great blog.
Thank you for the nice e-mail. We appreciate it. Our van is currently under an oil-consumption test so we shall see…Bet of luck in finding your adventure vehicle!
Dear Elin, My name is Andrey, I also own a promaster city, in order to avoid oil consumption, I switched to motul 5w30, according to the specification, and there is no problem)):
Thank you for your honest input. I don’t have a van to convert yet but will keep researching. Haven’t heard complaints from Christian Schaffer and she has been traveling in a Promaster for two of her three years on the road, mainly as a single female. May shoot her a note and ask. Thanks again.
Hey C J, thanks so much for writing. Best of luck in your van search and conversion!
Be aware of possible caliper slide problems.
Front brake calipers have rubber boots covering very small diameter socket head slide bolts. The lower protective boots, perhaps due to road debris, have both been damaged and allow water in. This causes corrosion of the lower caliper slide spools and bolt.. This locks the slide spool in the bottom of the caliper bore and causes premature inboard pad wear.
Last promaster serviced, used for expediting, had this issue with both front calipers. Top protective boots are not down where road debris might challenge integrity of protective boots.
This vehicle had been serviced by a dealership, including a brake check, and cleared for use. Owner was told that he should anticipate a brake service (pad replacement) at one of the next few service intervals. Owner stated dealership had changed brake fluid and brakes had not felt right since.
Vehicle exhibited grinding a few days later while owner was on a transport run out of his home state. Found drivers side inboard pad friction completely gone and approximately a quarter inch on outboard pad. Passenger side inboard pad also worn much more than outboard.
Thanks for the heads up, Bob. Smooth and happy trails ahead to you.
Hi Erin, Do you have any updates regarding your Ram ProMaster City van and the excessive engine oil consumption issue? Did your vehicle qualify for the engine replacement under warranty or any other remedies? I would like to hear more about the experiences of folks who switched engine oil weight to 5W30, let’s see if we can get some more discussion on this. Thanks for all of your work and for sharing your experiences!
All i know is that after multiple attempts to get the dealership to help, they inevitably would find some “new” workaround or loophole to not help us. So, we check our oil and fill it every couple of days. I haven’t heard of anyone switching engine oil weights … to be honest we’ve kind of given up because the process was so exhausting and frustrating. I do know that we will never be purchasing a Ram again and will most likely go with a Toyota truck with a camper on it. Thanks for writing in.
I hear that. I imagine this has been a terribly frustrating experience and an overall sore subject. From the research I have done it appears there is/was a formal Ram (FCA) recall to attempt to address (or sidestep) this issue. It seems some folks who’s Ram ProMaster City vehicles failed the oil consumption test actually received an engine replacement from the manufacturer. Of course they would have had to have had cooperative Ram dealers to help facilitate the approval for this. I have also read that some folks have had success reducing the engine oil consumption of these 2.4L MultiAir “Tigershark” engines by using a heavier weight engine oil. I have an automotive background and can understand how this may be a mild remedy for the oil consumption issue, but also have some concern for other troublesome issues arising if the oil used is too viscous and internal engine components cannot operate correctly or are overly stressed by the heavier weight oil. I am actually looking at potentially purchasing a used, low mile, Ram ProMaster City (may seem foolish to even consider, I know) and I would cautiously try an appropriate heavier weight engine oil if I do purchase it and the excessive engine oil consumption issue presents itself. I don’t know what state your van is registered in and if any emissions testing is required(?). If you have had any emissions testing performed on your vehicle I would be very interested to know the results and if it has ever failed an emissions test while consuming so much engine oil. Please let us all know your experience with this. I am thinking that folks who have a ProMaster City, or any other vehicle with the subject oil consuming 2.4L engine, and the vehicle is still under manufacturer warranty, may be able to use emissions testing results data (state required or independently performed) to help argue their case with Ram and any uncooperative dealer they are seeking assistance from. Let’s all wish for a cargo van version of the Toyota Sienna hybrid van! AWD and 35MPG sounds pretty sweet compared to the other current options for small vans in the USA. Force be with you. Peace
We passed emissions, thankfully. i think some of the pro master city vans are okay…we just happened to get one of the unlucky ones. we will not be trying another oil on ours but best of luck to those who do!