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).
Problems for specific Dodge Dakota years:
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Most reported Dodge Dakota problems
On the 3.9L V6 and 5.2L V8, an intermittent connection in the crank position sensor wire connector can cause poor engine performance or the engine may crank but not start.
On the 3.9L V6 and 5.2L V8, rerouting the ignition coil wire and spark plug wires can help solve a misfire and/or surge problem that occurs at approximately 45 mph. A service bulletin was published that outlines the specifics of the repair. It states the rerouting procedure should be performed before other repairs are done for misfires, surging or spark knock.
clearcoat coming off have noticed quite afew dodge dakotas with this problem
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.
A surging or bucking during acceleration can be caused if the distributor is moved or mis-indexed. This is a result of the cam and crank position sensors being out of synchronization. Wear of the oil pump drive gear can cause similar symptoms because it allows excessive free play in the distributor drive. The distributor drive gear and bushing should be replaced if the rotor tip moves back-and-forth more than 3/16th of an inch when checking drive gear free play.
If the transmission delays initial gear engagement after being parked overnight or longer, it may be due to a suspect transmission cooler return filter. If the transmission was recently serviced and the part number for the cooler return filter contains an "AB" suffix at the end, a new filter should be installed.
A clunk or popping sound heard while turning may mean the intermediate steering shafts need realignment. Replacement of the upper intermediate shaft may be necessary.
If the engine cranks but does not start, or starts and stalls, the fuses should be inspected, especially the power door locks fuse. The power door lock fuse provides power to a module that sends the Powertrain Control Module (PCM) the "OK to start" signal.
A loud buzzing or whining noise when the transmission is in reverse may be caused by the regulator valve in the transmission valve body. A revised regulator valve was released that does not resonate. Careful diagnosis should be performed because other issues can create this same type of noise.
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 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.