Broken Ram 3500 Dually Shows a Camper Can Still Overload a Big Truck

The owner says he’s now facing a $17,000 repair job that his warranty won’t cover.

byCaleb Jacobs| PUBLISHED Dec 29, 2022 1:49 PM
Broken Ram 3500 Dually Shows a Camper Can Still Overload a Big Truck
Mike Pavel
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This broken Ram 3500 with an Eagle Cap camper in the bed went viral as photos showed it snapped on the side of the road in Baja California. Its owners say "the frame just cracked in half," adding in the original Facebook post that it was "not overloaded." Mopar, the factory warranty provider, disagrees and has declined to cover the quoted $17,000 in repairs.

I spoke with owner Mike Pavel on the phone after he'd returned home from the ill-fated road trip. He explained to me that the Ram 3500 had hauled the Eagle Cap 1165 since new, carrying it 25,000 miles across the Rocky Mountains, Pacific Northwest, and then, Baja. It had always performed great up until the incident, with the diesel engine pulling strong despite carrying such a hefty slide-in.

"I did a lot of research before buying the truck and the camper, and both the Ram dealer and the camper company where we bought it said it was the perfect truck," Pavel explained. "They said it should handle the load no problem. I knew the payload capacity on the truck was about 7,800 pounds and the camper dry weight was close to 5,000 pounds, but fully loaded, probably about 6,500 pounds."

If you Google the max payload capacity for a 2020 Ram 3500, you'll see a figure close to what Pavel quoted there: 7,680 pounds. However, that's only the case for a regular-cab, long-bed model with two-wheel drive and the 6.4-liter Hemi V8. The truck in question here is a crew-cab with four-wheel drive and the 6.7-liter Cummins diesel, meaning its payload capacity is significantly lower. It's impossible to know the exact rating of Pavel's truck without having all the details regarding the trim and options, but Ram's spec sheet shows the payload capacity for a 4x4 diesel dually as maxing out at 5,850 pounds.

You flirt with disaster when you have a camper that weighs 4,900 pounds empty, plus weeks worth of gear inside. It's important to keep in mind that payload doesn't strictly refer to bed capacity, either; it also includes weight inside the cabin like passengers, boxes, and so on. Each axle has its own listed maximum as well—a lot of this camper's weight hangs off the rear of the truck—so it's crucial to visit somewhere like a CAT scale that breaks down the load weight comprehensively. Pavel told me he hasn't taken the truck and camper combo across any scales to verify the total weight.

This is unfortunately all too common. Pickup owners are often in the dark about their truck's true capabilities, whether it be because they read a spec sheet incorrectly or a dealer feeds them false information. In turn, improper operation is almost always the reason failures like this occur.

"Of course, Mexican roads—I don't know if you're familiar with Baja—they are very bumpy," Pavel told me. "They're definitely kind of back and forth, and there's dips and stuff. We averaged 55-60 mph on the two-lane roads, which are very narrow, and there's no shoulders at all on the Baja roads, for the most part. So we were very cautious."

At one point, Pavel says he noticed a creaking sound coming from underneath the truck. He inspected the shocks and springs but couldn't find an issue, so he and his wife continued to their designated camping spot. It was days later, on a two-and-a-half-day drive north, that the frame split. They were roughly 100 miles from the United States border.

Pavel describes the truck "surging" forward, like it had a flat tire. He stopped to check everything again but still didn't spot any issues. From there, they traveled at slow speeds of "5-10 mph max," but the problem soon revealed itself as full-on cracks on both sides.

Mike Pavel

They happened to break down next to an auto shop, so a mechanic came to inspect the damage. Using the camper's jacks, Pavel was able to level the rig, and the mechanic welded it roadside the best he could so they could at least drive it again. He even offered to store their camper until the truck was fixed in earnest, so that's where they left it, approximately 800 miles from their home near Lake Tahoe.

Pavel then spoke with his local Ram dealer, which has allegedly seen this happen before. He was told that if the warranty claim was accepted by Mopar that they would then place the truck atop a brand new frame. Pavel was confident that Mopar would see his conundrum and cover the fixes, but as of Dec. 29, that's not the case.

"Mopar denied the claim stating that the truck was overloaded, which is incorrect," Pavel tells me over text. "I now have a claim with my insurance company [and] they’re sending an adjuster today. Reno Dodge set an invoice for repairs over $17,000."

When I asked Pavel if Mopar cited any specific data in denying his claim, he stated, "No, they just went by the load capacity of my truck."

The next steps are currently unclear as Pavel's insurance is yet to make a decision. He told me he's debating on keeping the 3500 once it's finally fixed as a friend suggested stepping up to a Ram 5500, which would be better equipped to handle his camper. Unfortunately, that decision probably should have been made in the first place.

Updated at 4:25 p.m. ET on 12/29/2022: The article now includes more details about the truck's configuration, possible payload capacity, and information about manufacturer weight ratings.

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