Serviceability Report: Dodge Dakota ... Easy to Fix?Posted 9/8/2011
By Craig Van Batenburg, AAM
The top six car and truck companies in the United States are Toyota, GM, Ford, Honda, Chrysler and Nissan. The Dodge brand is coming back. Big truck and SUV sales are slowing down, and smaller trucks are on an upward trend, so you will be seeing more of them in the future. Let's look at this segment.
In 2000 the Dakota hit sales of more than 175,000 units, but last year it was a dismal 13,000. The V6 is the best-selling engine because the RAM1500 gets about the same gas mileage as a Dakota with a V8. Why write an article about a truck that appears to be dying? If Fiat can save Chrysler it will only happen if they sell vehicles, lots of them, so I think that if this truck stacks up well to the competition we should recommend it to our customers. We will compare the 2004 Dakota V6 automatic 4WD to the current 2011 model.
The Dodge Dakota was first sold in 1987, and it gave Chrysler a unique pickup truck to market against the compact Ford Ranger, Chevy S-10 and the Toyota and Nissan pickups. From 1987 to 1996, it was the largest (in size) small truck offered in the United States. That meant owners could haul more and tow more without moving into a full-size, quarter-ton truck. The first-generation Dakota came with a choice of four- and six-cylinder engines, rear- or four-wheel drive, and a single cab configuration - though a unique convertible model was sold from 1989 to 1991.
Midway through this model life, Dodge added a longer-cab model that still only had two doors, a halfway solution to the Dakota's competition and its four-door models. Over the years many people came to enjoy the uniqueness of the Dakota. After many years of sales that were respectable, the truck needed an overhaul to compete with the Tacoma that was enlarged and gaining in market share. Enter the 2005 to current.
After 2004, the 2005 was sold with the option of a V6 or one of two V8 engines available. The standard engine was a 3.7 L PowerTech V6; the two 4.7 L V8 engines were the standard PowerTech V8 and the V8 high output or HO. The 3.7 L V6 produces 210 horsepower and 235 pound-feet of torque. The standard output 4.7 L V8 produced 230 hp and 295 pound-feet of torque. The high output 4.7 L V8 produced 260 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque.
Both the 3.7 L and standard output 4.7 L V8s were available with the six-speed manual transmission in 2005 and 2006. For 2007, that option was deleted on the V8 models. Automatics continue to dominate the truck world.
What happened to the good old stick shift days? Now the standard engine is the 3.7 liter V6. As of 2010, the Dakota is considered a part of the Ram lineup. However, the "Dodge" emblem still exists on the tailgate, and the truck is interchangeably referred to as a Ram Dakota or Dodge Dakota. The redesigned 2005 Dakota shared its platform with the Dodge Durango SUV of the same year. The new model was 3.7 inches longer and 2.7 inches wider and features a new front and rear suspension, and rack-and-pinion steering. Dodge did revert back to five lug wheels from the prior generation's six lug wheels, due to cost. The way things are going, I believe the Dakota really needs increased sales to stay in the marketplace.
Ease of service is about average for this truck. P0499 will set when some of the connectors under the hood corrode. Twenty years ago I called Autoline Telediagnosis (now known as Identifix) because I had a 1987 Honda Accord LXi that was beating me up. I learned about a product called "Stabilant 22a" that cleans, protects and keeps the connectors from making a high resistance connection again. I think this truck will require many applications of this solution to stay reliable as it ages. As most of you know, automatic transmissions can be troublesome. Using a good scan tool and a low amp probe with a scope can help you see the solenoid valve operation and determine clutch wear without a teardown. The tricks of the trade are some of the technician's most valuable assets, and they are usually learned the hard way.
So the Dakota is rumored to cease production this year. If this is true, the replacement may be a better answer to what the world needs today. Any vehicle that has its basic design from the '80s is not in tune with the issues of foreign oil, climate change and national security. The fleet will change - probably sooner than most people are ready for. Trucks will change as well. I sure hope the newer designs are well thought out and easier to repair than some of the contraptions we had to keep running in the past.
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