Cracked dashboards conjure up images of classic cars with faded and split vinyl pads. Back in the day, it was common for vinyl dashboards to shrink with age and crack down the center and around the defroster vents. But why do second generation Dodge trucks from the late 90s and early 2000s suffer from the same issue? Here’s why Dodge Ram dashboards crack and disintegrate with age.
Hard Plastic Dashboards—Worse than Vinyl?
It’s a running joke in the MOPAR community that 1994-2001 Dodge Ram dashboards crack. But it’s more than that—the dashes of Ram trucks from the era basically explode into hundreds of little pieces. But why? It seems that these trucks have dash cracking problems that far exceed even the nastiest 70s economy car. Whereas old dashpads were padded foam with a thin vinyl wrap, the reason Dodge dashboards crumble violently is because they’re made of hard plastic.
Sun Damage and Brittle Material
Have you ever sat in a 1995 Jeep Grand Cherokee? You’ll immediately notice that the interior plastic (especially on the dash) feels extremely brittle and cheap, even for a 1990s Chrysler product. It seems that, during the 1990s, Chrysler was committed to using cheap hard plastic throughout its entire lineup. It seems apparent that, instead of using high-quality material, Chrysler simply opted to make it thicker. And initially, it seemed to work.
If your Dodge Ram dashboard fell apart, you’ll notice that the plastic pieces aren’t thin. In fact, they’re quite thick—that wasn’t the problem. Chrysler failed to consider what happens to brittle plastic when it ages. Over time, sun radiation and temperature changes degrade the plastic causing it to harden and shrink. And since it’s inflexible and can’t stretch, it just blows apart instead. This wouldn’t be the first (or the last) time that Chrysler cheaped out on build quality.
Dodge Ram Dash Replacement Options
So, it happened, and your Dodge Ram 1500, 2500, or 3500 dash crumbled. Maybe you hit a pothole, or perhaps your girlfriend put her feet up on the dash. Either way, it’s ruined now, and it gets worse every time you drive the truck. Whatever you do, don’t use duct tape or glue to piece it back together. Unfortunately, you can’t just get it re-covered like a vinyl dash. But this problem is common, and the free market pulled through to save the day.
In 2020, you can get an OEM replacement dash on eBay for between $200 and $350, which is a good option if you’re going for that mint factory look. But if you just want to cover the gaping hole in your dash, you can pick up a molded (hard) plastic dash cover for around $80 or $90. Molded covers don’t look identical to the original, but they cover holes and give the truck a much cleaner look. Just be sure to pick out all the bits and pieces of broken Chrysler before installing one. The last (and cheapest) option is the classic felt dash cover, which you can find on Amazon for less than $30.
If you go with the OEM dash, it’d be best to buy a soft cover to prevent it from cracking (again) in the future.