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.
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.
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 may have opted for something else. But for now, we’ve decided to stick with it. The pros outweigh the cons 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.