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Dodge Dakota Reliability and Common Problems

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When you’re in the market for a reliable pickup truck, you can’t go wrong with a Dodge Dakota.  All of its model years have something great to offer, from advanced safety features and superb fuel efficiency to great steering and excellent engine performance. Its resale value is also good, only depreciating by 12% in five years.

Are Dodge Dakotas Reliable?

The Dodge Dakota enjoys above-average reliability ratings, with some model years scoring better than others. RepairPal gave it a rating of 3.5 out of 5.0, ranking it 19th out of 32 compact pickup trucks in its category. Cars.com rated the 2000 Dodge Dakota a 4.4 out of 5.0. Meanwhile, US News & World Report ranked the 2010 Dodge Dakota 2nd out of 10 best 2010 compact pickup trucks, giving it a rating of 8.6 out of 10.

With these figures, it’s apparent that with careful handling and regular maintenance, the Dodge Dakota can easily enjoy a long service life.

Top Dodge Dakota Problems

Although the Dodge Dakota is one dependable compact pickup truck, it still has its fair share of problems. Here are the most commonly reported issues for different model years:

Intermediate Steering Shaft Noises

Many owners of the 2006 Dodge Dakota have complained about odd noises coming from their vehicle’s intermediate steering shaft. They say that their truck would steer in increments rather than smoothly. When braking, turning, or rolling over bumps, the steering wheel would clunk or pop. In some cases, there was excessive play in the steering wheel.

To fix this problem, the upper intermediate shaft may need to be replaced completely. As of this writing, Dodge has not issued any recalls to address this problem.

Damaged Exhaust Manifold Bolts

According to owners of the 2006 Dodge Dakota, odd noises from the exhaust manifold during start-up are typical for some units of this model year. These ticking noises were more commonly observed during the colder months of the year. This symptom may also be accompanied by an illuminated check engine light and engine stall.

2006 Dodge Dakota ST Wikimedia
Odd noises from the exhaust manifold during start-up are typical for some units of the 2006 Dodge Dakota. Image source: Wikimedia.

Upon inspection, they determined that their exhaust manifold bolts were severely corroded or were completely broken.

Upper Ball Joint Failure

Upper ball joint failure is among the most frequently reported 2003 Dodge Dakota problems. Many owners have complained of clunking noises and jolts from the front driver’s side when turning their vehicle. Upon inspection, they discovered that their upper and lower ball joints were leaking grease. Aside from producing odd noises, faulty or worn ball joints may make your steering feel clunky.

The upper ball joints on a 2003 Dakota may fail due to moisture damage. Dodge has issued a recall to address upper ball joint failure in its 2000-2001 models but has yet to issue one for other model years.

Brake Cylinder Lock-Up

According to owners of the 2002 Dodge Dakota, problems with its brake cylinder are common for some units of this model year. Their front brakes would overheat, lock up randomly, and their vehicle would pull to one side.

In some cases, they also noticed smoke from the front tires caused by overheated and cracked brake pads. Aside from replacing their brake pads, other drivers had to replace their warped rotors, brake hoses, and calipers.

Although there have been many complaints about this particular problem, Dodge has not issued a recall to address them.

Coolant Loss and Engine Overheating

Coolant loss and engine overheating are some of the most commonly reported 2001 Dodge Dakota problems. According to many owners, their pickup truck would leak antifreeze, causing the engine to overheat frequently, even in cool weather. They would hear a knocking sound and notice steam coming from their grille as their engine began to overheat.

2001 Dodge Dakota Sport Wikimedia
Coolant loss and engine overheating are some of the most commonly reported 2001 Dodge Dakota problems. Image source: Wikimedia.

Coolant leaks are commonly caused by worn gaskets around the thermostat housing, water pump, intake manifold, and timing cover. Your truck’s warranty may cover the repairs needed to fix this problem.

Engine Problems

Many owners of the 1999 Dodge Dakota reported a wide variety of engine problems affecting their trucks. Some noted that their truck kept randomly shutting off while driving or when it got hot. In some cases, the vehicle would crank up and run after cooling down. These things often happened with no warning.

Upon inspection by the dealer, they found out that an intermittent connection with the crank position sensor wire connector was contributing to their vehicle’s reduced engine performance.

Oil Leaks

According to owners of the 1997 Dodge Dakota, oil leaks are common for some units of this model year.

Leaks typically develop around the valve cover, intake manifold, timing cover, distributor O-ring, and the rear main seal. Using fluorescent engine oil dye can help determine where the leak is while replacing the gasket should stop it.

If you’re in the market for a Dodge Dakota, be prepared to embrace the good and the potential bad. As long as you know the common issues with the specific model year you’re planning to get, buying this compact pickup truck should come with little risk. By doing your research, you can make sure that the seller has cleared everything before taking your pre-owned Dodge Dakota home.

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Vehicle Reliability

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