Dodge Ram 1500 Running Rough - Ignition Wire Problem

Ignition Wire Problems Solved with TSB 18-48-98

Many people have had problems with their Dodge Ram 1500 running rough. The problem prompted the publication of Technical Safety Bulletin 18-48-98. It is available online at with full instructions and illustrations on how to repair this problem. The problem affected Dodge Dakotas, Durangos, Jeep Cherokees, and Grand Cherokees years 1994-1999. 

The symptoms included one or more of spark knock complaints with the vehicle under load, single cylinder misfires, surge in fourth gear with the clutch engaged and perceived torque converter EMCC engagement and disengagement around 45 mph. Here is a scenario sent in by a reader detailing the signs and symptoms of this problem.

Dodge Ram 1500 Running Rough

First, here's the information on the truck:

  • 1996 Dodge Ram 1500 2WD
  • 5.2 liter MFI engine V-8 VIN "Y"
  • Automatic transmission
  • 121,000 miles
  • ABS brakes
  • P/S, A/C, cruise control

Let me give you a little history. On Feb 22, I changed the spark plugs, Bosch Platinum, spark plug wires,Bosch, and PCV valve. I also performed a compression test, where the range of pressure was 130 to 160 psi.

On Feb 29, I found a coolant leak and thought it may have been coming from around the thermostat. Up to this point, the truck had been running fine. In the process of replacing the thermostat, I had to move the alternator. Of course, I forgot to drop the negative lead off the battery, so when I touched the hot lead to the alternator to the frame, it arced.

After changing the thermostat and flushing the radiator, the battery died and I realized the fuse on the alternator had blown. So I replaced the fuse and the battery. After that, the truck wouldn't run right, rough, hesitating, no power. After three or four days, I realized the ECT sensor had gotten unplugged in the process of replacing the thermostat. I plugged it in and the truck ran fine.

On Mar 15, early in the morning on the way to work, out of the blue the truck started running REAL rough, approximately five miles from home. It felt like it was firing on three cylinders. I got the DTC, Code 43, ignition coil circuit failure, according to Chilton's. That night, I replaced the ignition coil, and it ran fine all the way home.

The next morning, Mar 16, it ran fine all the way to work, about 9 miles. I even went to the gym at lunch, about 2 miles each way. After work, about half way home at 2:30 am Mar 17, the engine did the same thing as the day before, ran really rough like it wasn't firing on all cylinders. But from work to the half way point, it ran fine. I had it towed home.

The DTC code 43 had popped back up. I started it up 6 or 7 hours later and it ran fine, so I took it around the block, no problems. I replaced the distributor cap and rotor, cold engine. I took it around the block with no problems.

The next day, Mar 18, it did the same thing to me a little less than half way to work, this time with no DTC. I used one of those spark plug wire testers, the one you hold over the wire and the light flickers if there's current), and I thought maybe my new wires weren't good. So I exchanged them (lifetime warranty). This took about 2 to 2½ hours due to the early morning and getting my wife to come drive me around town.

The truck ran fine the rest of the way to work. That night, less than halfway home, it did the same thing to me, again with no DTC. About three hours later, I tried to come back and drive it home, with a new Intake air temperature sensor in my pocket, I had tested the resistance across the terminals earlier, and it read 2,000 ohms, whereas Chilton's said it should be less than 1,350 ohms.

It started up fine, ran great UNTIL THE ENGINE STARTED WARMING UP. Once the engine got close to running temperature, it did the same thing, ran really rough. I immediately replaced the intake temperature sensor, and it didn't do a bit of good, and I had to leave the truck about 4 miles from home.

This morning (Mar 19), I tried to drive the truck home, and as soon as the temperature gauge started warming up, the engine started running rough and quickly got worse. Again, no DTC.

Please help me. I'm going out of my mind with this thing, Hello, bicycle!

Answer: Ignition Wire Problem Needs Repair

 You are correct in that the ignition wires are your problem. But they are not bad, they are just routed incorrectly. Whenever you change the ignition wires on a Chrysler V-8, the new wires MUST be installed EXACTLY the same way they were. There was a TSB on this problem.

Refer to Technical Safety Bulletin 18-48-98. It is available online at with full instructions and illustrations on how to repair this problem.