1990 Dodge Dakota Problems

RepairPal has identified the most common problems with the 1990 Dodge Dakota as reported by actual vehicle owners. We'll tell you what the problem is and what it'll take to fix it.

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Known Problems

The AC/heater (HVAC) system may unexpectedly switch to the defrost mode when accelerating. This system is operated by engine vacuum and should be inspected for any vacuum leaks if this problem develops.  There is also a revised vacuum check valve available to address this concern.

Fuel pump failures are common on higher mileage models, Resulting in a crank no start condition.

If the threads strip where the front brake caliper mounts to the steering knuckle, a steering knuckle repair kit is available. A new steering knuckle is not normally necessary.

The distributor pickup plate commonly fails causing intermittent stalling, or the engine may not start (usually when the engine is hot).

Common areas for engine oil leaks include the camshaft plug, camshaft seal (sprocket end), valve cover gaskets, cylinder head gasket and distributor.

The timing belt may need replacement at 60,000 miles or sooner in hot climates. The square-toothed design and high heat contribute to the accelerated wear.

Coolant can leak from the area where the water pump mates to the water pump housing because the sealant degrades over time. Coolant can also leak where the water pump housing mates to the engine block, which is sealed with an O-ring.


Black smoke from the tail pipe, hard starting, and a rough idle can be caused by a leaking fuel injector. With the air cleaner removed and the engine idling, fuel can be seen leaking from around the injector (O-ring leak), or from the nozzle (fuel injector leak).

Various drivability problems can be caused by vacuum leaks. This engine has plastic tubes that become brittle and crack over time. These tubes can be replaced by normal vacuum hose but be careful when changing the Tee fittings or hose connectors because some have built in restrictor orifices (usually color coded). If the restrictions are missing, drivability problems will most likely result.

A water leak from the roof seam at the rear of the cab can look like the windshield seal is leaking at the upper corners. If the water leak is not from the windshield, the roof seams and fasteners holes should be sealed.

Clogged or restricted oil cooler lines can cause premature automatic transmission failure. If the transmission fails due to lack of lubrication, the oil cooler and lines should be inspected for kinks, blockage or restriction.