Have you tried starting your Ram 1500 only to find it dead as a doornail? All you see is the “Service Shifter” light come on and all attempts to start up the truck are unsuccessful. Perhaps your “SERVICE SHIFTER” warning came on and your truck is stuck in park. This article will discuss the possible causes of your “SERVICE SHIFTER” warning and some possible solutions.
The RAM 1500 “SERVICE SHIFTER” message can be caused by any of the following reasons:
- Faulty/Bad Battery
- Loose Ground Cable to the PCM
- Faulty Shift Mechanism
- Faulty Valve Body in the Transmission
As you can see the ”SERVICE SHIFTER” message can be caused by a multitude of reasons and this article will cover them in detail from the most likely/common causes to the least common causes. Also, we look at how to manually remove the truck from the Park gear to Neutral.
Let’s get into some more detail.
Table of Contents
RAM 1500 Won’t Start “SERVICE SHIFTER” (SOLVED)
If you own a modern 4WD then you absolutely need to own an OBD2 Scanner. This BlueDriver Bluetooth Pro OBD2 Car Diagnostic Scan Tool is all the rage right now since it allows you to connect your iPhone or Android via Bluetooth to monitor live data, read and clear your car’s trouble codes, and check engine light errors like a professional mechanic. PLUS, BlueDriver offers 24/7 professional support allowing you to get in touch with highly trained technicians whenever you need them by phone or in-app chat.
If you do a bit of online research you will quickly realize that the most common cause of the Ram 1500 “SERVICE SHIFTER” error is caused by a faulty battery. In many cases, the battery is only 2 years old and showed no prior signs that it is going bad. Even when you put a volt meter on your battery and it says 12v, if it cannot maintain a strong 12v when under load as you attempt to start the truck it triggers the error code and lights up your dash like a Christmas tree. It is not uncommon for a faulty battery with low voltage to cause the computer to throw out weird codes or messages.
In many cases, even a battery that tests reasonably well under NO LOAD conditions can prove to be problematic enough to trigger the CEL. This is because modern-day electronics can be very sensitive if it doesn’t get the correct level of current you will experience all sorts of electronic gremlins with the CAN Bus and electrical modules.
What is a CAN BUS you ask? Simply put, the CAN or (Controller Area Network) bus is a message-based set of rules and code that is designed to allow the ECU (Electronic Control Units) in many modern vehicles to communicate with each other in a reliable, priority-driven fashion. The incorrect level of voltage can cause the CAN BUS to malfunction and spit out random error messages.
The plus side to this is that the battery is the easiest and most inexpensive component to replace and many Ram 1500 owners have reported that after fitting a new battery even though the existing battery was only 2 years old the “SERVICE SHIFTER” message disappeared and never returned. A good AGM battery is highly recommended to resolve this issue.
Loose Ground Cable
Another cause for the “SERVICE SHIFTER” warning to appear is the loose ground cable.
One owner reported that after replacing the battery, the problem still occurred and after some troubleshooting, it was found that the ground wire to the PCM was loose. Once the wire was secured tightly the problem and message never occurred again. It’s worth a look and even more inexpensive of a repair than replacing a battery.
What is a PCM you ask? A PCM is an acronym for (Power-train Control Module). It is an electronic control unit on your truck consisting of the engine control unit (ECU) and the transmission control unit (TCU). These electronic modules talk to each other, share signals and information, and require the proper voltage to function accurately and reliably.
Check Codes & Disconnect Battery
Many Ram 1500 owners have solved this “SERVICE SHIFTER” issue by resetting the PCM (Power-train Control Module). How do you do this? You need to disconnect the battery for a few minutes to reset PCM. It may fix the issue and is worth the try, although not a guarantee.
Manual Shift Lock Release
What if your Ram 1500 is kicking out “SREVICE SHIFTER” and your transmission is stuck in P (PARK), what do you do then? It has an electronic hand brake and shifter so can you manually override this? Yes, you can! There is a little compartment to the bottom left of the steering wheel with a little bright orange tab you need to pull out. This will release your transmission from park and into Neutral. Make sure your hand brake is engaged and that you are standing on a level surface before you attempt this procedure. It is reported by Ram owners that the information in the 2019 RAM manual is not accurate for the truck regarding this tag.
Safety Override (Seatbelt off & Door Open)
Modern vehicles are built very smartly with sophisticated safety mechanisms. Manufacturers build these vehicles almost fool-proof to save us from ourselves, so to speak. With that being said, these safety mechanisms can sometimes become a real hindrance and complicate our lives unnecessarily. On one forum I read an instance about a gentleman whose dash was lit up with the “SERVICE SHIFTER” message. The problem was twofold with his E-brake refusing to disengage and the truck also wouldn’t shift out of Park. Guess why?
This was simply because he had his seatbelt off and his door was open. How’s that for a safety feature?
Faulty Shifting Mechanism
When your gear or transmission shifting mechanism fails your shifter will be stuck in Park with the “SERVICE SHIFTER” message lit up on the dash. The shift interlock solenoid is a component in the gear selector mechanism of a Dodge Ram. This mechanism is responsible for ensuring that the component can only be shifted out of the Park position when the brake pedal is pressed. Make sure you are depressing the brake pedal when you attempt to remove the truck from Park.
WATCH – Ram 2019+ (New Body) Shift Lock Release (VIDEO)
What can cause Dodge Ram Not to Start?
Just clicking can be caused by any of the following:
- Loose Battery cables
- Corroded battery cable and connections
- Dead Battery
- Faulty Starter
- Bad Alternator
What Can cause your Dodge Ram to go into Limp Mode?
Limp mode is a car’s protection feature that activates when a fault is detected. Limp mode is designed to reduce speed and disengage all non-essential functions. It is triggered by abnormal signals from car components, such as faulty sensors, transmission issues, or low fluid levels. Do not ignore LIMP MODE and do not drive it like this for extended periods.
Why Won’t My Dodge Ram Shift Out of Park?
It won’t shift out of P (park) unless you press with a reasonable amount of pressure on the brake pedal to activate a specific switch. Once said switch is activated, the current is sent to a solenoid that releases the shift lock. If either the shift lock or the switch is not working properly, you will not be able to get the vehicle out of the park gear.
Invest in a Decent OBD Scanner & Fault Code Reader
In this day and age that we live in with everything becoming more complex with electronics, we risk being ripped off and lied to by dealerships if we don’t come prepared. A decent OBD scanner will be able to tell you exactly which component is faulty and this can save you thousands in the long run.
Many issues are easy enough to diagnose if we have the right equipment and you can either repair it yourself if you have the tools and skill and save a lot of money and time or approach your dealership armed with more knowledge about what the problem is, thus not being messed around, as is often the case. Purchase your MOTOPOWER OBD Scanner and Engine Code Reader (AMAZON)
RAM OWNERS EXPERIENCES & FEEDBACK
User Experience #1
I have a 2019 Dodge ram 1500 Laramie with the 8 gear transmission. I was pulling up to the gas pumps at a Costco and was fourth in line so I placed the vehicle in park so that I would not risk rolling forward into somebody. The shifter service warning came up on the center of my display and now I cannot shift it out of park. does anybody have any suggestions I’ve got a friend coming with a code reader because I have seen people say that that may clear it otherwise I have to have the vehicle towed. And to make life a little better of course it’s a Sunday.https://www.ramforumz.com/threads/service-shifter-warning-unable-to-shift-out-of-park.280051/
User Experience #2
had a similar problem on my few months old 2017. It went into PARK on its own while driving and would not shift out of park. “Service Shifter” indicated. Luckily the transmission was smart enough not to lock up. I had to pull over and turn the truck off and sit. Eventually, it would go back to normal and operate. This happened 3-4 times before I took pictures of the error and sent it to the dealer. They replaced the shifter assembly and it has been good since. My opinion of Ram wasn’t too favorable at that time, I imagine you feel the same way as I did, especially with the screw up in the manual for your park release.https://www.ramforumz.com/threads/service-shifter-warning-unable-to-shift-out-of-park.280051/
User Experience #3
Yup. Talked to the tech. Said he’s seen the problem before after I told him what I read. Said it was the switch @ $800+ for parts/labor/diagnostics and it isn’t covered under the drive train warranty. It will be by the time I get done with Dodge because it prevents you from USING YOUR DRIVE TRAIN!!! Asked the service manager if this wasn’t the problem would I have to pay for the additional parts/labor/diagnostics and he said they’d comp me for the part and diagnostics under 60 days. Well, then you ask 60 days is it?! I love my truck but this is a fairly common Ram issue that needs to be addressed. More to follow…https://www.ramforumz.com/threads/service-shifter.253119/
- Photo by Paul Kansonkho on Unsplash
There are many advantages with all these fancy electronics in trucks today, unfortunately, that also means more potential issues cropping up as soon as the warranty expires. Older trucks were built to last but that is not the case anymore. I want to note that batteries on these Rams seem to last about 2 years on average. Even a battery that tests reasonably well under no load conditions can prove to be problematic enough to trigger the CEL.