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Dodge Dakota Problems

RepairPal has identified the most common problems with the Dodge Dakota based on complaints from actual vehicle owners. We'll tell you what the problem is and what it'll take to fix it.

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37
Known Problems

The upper ball joints may fail due to moisture damage. Our technicians tell us 2000-2001 models were recalled for this issue. For more information on this recall, please click here»

On the 3.9L V6 and 5.2L V8 it is often misdiagnosed as a leaking oil filter gasket, the oil filter adapter can seep from between the adapter and engine block.

The transfer case in the Dodge Dakota has multiple gear ratios, which can be selected by moving the switch in the cabin to 2Hi, 4Hi, or 4Lo. It has been known to shift to 4Lo without warning, at any speed, and whether the vehicle is on or off. If this occurs at highway speeds, the result can be catastrophic failure of the transfer case.

This is caused by a faulty four wheel drive shift motor, selector switch (in the cab) or the wiring between the two. The most common cause is the transfer case switch, which is an electric motor mounted on the transfer case. 

To correct the issue, inspect the wiring to the transfer case switch motor for damage, and replace the shift motor if needed. Disconnecting power to the shift motor will lock the transfer case in its current setting.  

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.

If the HVAC (heater) housing is not properly sealed at the bulkhead (firewall), water can leak into the passenger compartment. Foam sealant should be used to seal any gaps and the evaporator drain tube can be modified to prevent further water entry.

The outer exhaust manifold studs can break and cause exhaust leaks. The outer studs, clamps, and nuts will need to be replaced and are now being tightened to a reduced torque value (20 Nm/180 in lbs).

On the 3.9L V6 and 5.9L V8 the engine oil leaks at the distributor can be misdiagnosed as leaks from the intake manifold seal, oil pan gasket, or rear crankshaft (rear main) seal. A revised distributor is available if oil is found inside the distributor.

On 3.9L V6 and 5.9L V8 engines, the intake manifold gasket may leak and cause increased oil consumption and a spark knock during acceleration; the gasket should be replaced.

If the vehicle has been parked for an extended period, and the transmission takes a few seconds to engage when shifting into gear from park, it may be caused by the torque converter draining back into the transmission. If the fluid level is correct, a "drainback relief valve" is available that installs in the oil cooler pressure line.

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.