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Dodge Dakota Differential problems

ponyksponyks Posts: 2
Just took my 98 Dakota in for a standard oil change. The dealer called to recommend we have them change the differential fluid (it has the limited slip differential). We always do what they recommend since be bought it new 10 years ago. On the way home (5 miles later) I hear terrible noises from the rear of the car, grinding and popping. I have it towed back to the dealer. They now say it seized up and it needs new clutches. $700+ labor and $400+ parts and they want us to pay the parts. It only has 75K miles and is never used for heavy use (no towing). I told them no way this could be a coincidence and that they must have caused it when replacing the fluid. There were no symptoms before taking it in for the oil change. They say they put in the proper TWO types of lubricant, and that the machine used to remove and replace the lubricant couldn't have caused it to happen.

Any experience or advice?

Comments

  • dustykdustyk Posts: 2,926
    ...and that the machine used to remove and replace the lubricant couldn't have caused it to happen.

    Hmmm. I think this is an interesting comment. It implies that they mechanically removed the fluid from the differential with a machine, which further implies they did not remove the differential cover.

    Removing the differential cover is a key component in changing the fluid and this is what the Dodge Dakota service manual directs. Now, if the cover is removed it requires cleaning the cover flange and reinstalling the special RTV sealant when the cover is reinstalled. This increases the cost (for the sealant) and the labor time. It's a short cut.

    Some might want to make this job simple, but there's a reason why you should remove the cover. This permits inspecting the interior components of the differential for possible damage or excessive wear, as well as the magnet that's mounted to the bottom of the differential housing. The magnet is placed in the housing to capture metal contaminants and metal parts that may have broken off, such as the small tabs on the end of the clutch steels. With the cover off, the interior can also be flushed and cleaned out, something you can't do without remove the differential cover.

    At this point I see no evidence that the changing of differential fluid caused this problem and it's possible this was just coincidence. That's assuming, of course, they used the correct lubricant and the Limited Slip Additive (Friction Modifier), Chrysler part number 04318060AB. Unfortunately, this problem with Dakota differentials is not totally uncommon, although '97 & v'98s seemed far less likely to experience it, in my opinion.

    I'm not sure, but it sounds like your dealer is willing to eat the labor. This may not be a bad deal for you. I just hope they don't take anymore short cuts in the repair. Special tools are required to do this job right and it requires correct set up or else you'll be back in no time doing the same thing all over.

    Only you can be the judge if this dealer is competent and thorough.

    Good luck,
    Dusty
  • So, from your comment I gather that:
    (1) they likely did not DIRECTLY cause this problem
    (2) by not removing the cover plate, they did not do the mtce as suggested by the manual.

    Could it be that there was debris that could have been caught had they done it properly? And this debris could have been 'loosened' up by the fluid change, then causing the problem? In other words, the mtce triggered the issue, but it was still normal wear and tear that is the true culprit?

    If so, then maybe that is why they are offering to pay 100% of the labor + the new fluid, and just charging for the parts (clutches + whatever else totaled $400+). I'm still trying to judge if they are being fair or not.
  • dustykdustyk Posts: 2,926
    Pony,

    So, from your comment I gather that: (1) they likely did not DIRECTLY cause this problem, (2) by not removing the cover plate, they did not do the mtce as suggested by the manual.

    Yes.

    Could it be that there was debris that could have been caught had they done it properly? And this debris could have been 'loosened' up by the fluid change, then causing the problem? In other words, the mtce triggered the issue, but it was still normal wear and tear that is the true culprit?

    Yes, again. However, by just changing the fluid itself I would not expect that any metal particles that had attached to the magnet would become transient again. My suspicions, based on what you've told me, is that they used some sort of device to remove the fluid. My vision is it incorporated some type of suction, and in order to remove all or most of the fluid, a tube would need to be inserted into the differential through the fill hole. I think that inserting a tube into the differential had the potential of dislodging debris from the magnet by mechanical action (the tube coming in contact with the magnet surface knocking off material). This process is not uncommon with those wishing to not disturb the differential cover and going through the time it takes to clean everything up and reseal it. Like I said in my earlier post, its a short cut.

    If so, then maybe that is why they are offering to pay 100% of the labor + the new fluid, and just charging for the parts (clutches + whatever else totaled $400+). I'm still trying to judge if they are being fair or not.

    Yes, I think so and I'll tell you why. I worked in this business and I know dealers pretty well. A scrupulous dealer will generally not make any accommodations on repairs unless you are a good customer of the service department AND/OR there was contributory circumstances on their part. In this case, I suspect you rely on this dealer's service department for most of your service needs and have a good rapport with the service staff.

    Is the dealership being completely honest with you? Well, that is still hard to say. But I suspect they would prefer not to have an indepth discussion on this subject by offering you free labor, and this indicates they have a conscience and believe that there is a possibility they may have caused the problem and that they want to keep you as a customer.

    The easiest thing to cover by a service manager is the labor. Parts are another story altogether. In this case, if the service manager believes the technician may have caused this problem, he may be forcing the tech. himself to make the repair for free. Or if the tech. is young and new the service department may be covering it. Although this isn't ethical, labor losses can be made up on warranty submissions, if you understand what I'm saying.

    By the way, even the $400 is cheap. A complete limited slip differential pack is around $700 from Ma Mopar. I'm guessing they are just replacing side (spider) gears, or something else, not clutches.

    If you've had a good relationship with this dealer and wish to maintain it, you might consider not forcing the issue. It would be hard to actually prove that something they did caused the problem, and if you could it would likely cost you nearly the amount they want to fix the vehicle, not counting lost time and frustration. And in the absence of any other evidence of unethical or professional behavior on the part of this service department, it is, after all, purely possible that it was a complete coincidence. However, I would specify that in the future if any maintenance be done on the differential, that the cover should be removed and the interior components be inspected and the inside of the housing be manual cleaned.

    Good luck, my friend.

    Best regards,
    Dusty
  • So another year has gone by and after the last oil change. I had them do a front brake job.
    I get it back and it is noisy and vibrates every time that I slow down. This goes on for a week before it stops by itself. Then, I notice another sound. It is very random, never consistent, only happens when going around a right turn, never a left turn. It is not related to slowing or tapping the breaks. Better when it is cold, but after an 8 hour drive to eastern Washington it is very loud and regular.
    So I take it to my shop, they now cringe when I come in the door. The owner pulls the lead mechanic off his current job and I take him for a test drive. He can hear it. So I leave the car for a day and I go back late to pick it up. They opened the deferential and poured pieces of the limited slip deferential parts out.
    The main gear is worn, the drive shafts are worn and it will take $2000.00 to rebuild. And there are no used ones available in any of the junk yards. So it is drivable for now, no long trips and any day it could fail completely
  • carvermancarverman Posts: 101
    edited September 2011
  • I had scraping noise in my front end (98)when a shop replaced both calipers. This would happen on certain kinds of turns (right hand I believe and
    going around right bearing curves. I took it back to the shop that replaced
    the calipers, but they were too busy to take the wheels off to inspect the
    calipers/pads and told me I was "good to go" on the highway. On the road
    the noise became worse. I eventually pulled in to a campground and pulled
    the wheels off to inspect the rotors and found out that the mechanic did
    not ensure that the outboard brake pad spring clips ( on the drivers side)
    did not seat firmly in the holes on the caliper, so one pad was riding on
    the rotor skewed and rubbing on the top. I only had about 505 braking
    power! Fixed it myself right there and then.

    The destroyed Limited slip differential sounds more something like the
    limited slip additive (Chrysler pt# 04318060AB) was not added to the
    hypoid 75w-90 gear oil. There are 2 friction disks and 3 plates in the
    trak-lok differential. Without the additive, the friction disks will slip so
    much they overheat and eventually destroy themselves.

    I have a limited slip diff as well. Had the oil changed around 60,000 miles
    and because the shop did not have the chrysler friction modifier, I went
    to a UAP store and got Prolab TDA-62 limited slip differential treatment
    to prevent slippage. You use only half of the 250ml plastic bottle to
    add to the hypoid gear oil, saving the rest for the next diff oil change.
  • My Chrysler owners manual omits the rear differential fluid specs, and only mentions to change it at 60,000 miles. The limited slip rear diff takes 4.4US pts or 2.1liters which
    includes the limited slip friction modifier. Since I was nowhere near a Chrysler dealer to
    get the pt#043118060AB friction modifier it requires, I had them install 2 liters of
    75w-90 and 125ml of the Prolab TDA-62 to make up the 2.1 litres., three years ago.

    No problems with my differential in over 13 years.
  • carvermancarverman Posts: 101
    edited September 2011
    Further to the discussion on dakota limited slip differential failure and my comments on
    Dustyk's comments.

    Differentials are unique mechanical items. Gear clearances between the pinion and crown
    gear are critical as well as the spiders and bearings. If the gear oil is checked on a regular
    basis and there is no leakage from the pinion shaft seal (as in my case), the fluid level
    should not be down enough to cause harm under ordinary driving circumstances.
    Towing house trailers or spinning the wheels may present different load -thrust issues
    on the differential gears and especially on the limited slip clutch plates.
    Changing the differential oil without adding the friction modifier for the clutch plates is
    a receipe for failure on the clutch plates. The reason the friction modifier is added to the
    high viscosity 75w-90 gear oil is to allow the composition clutch plates to grab onto the
    steel plates and stop the wheel from spinning. Lack of that additive will cause the
    friction material to breakdown over time.

    Now I don't know about the specific dealer that was involved in the differential fluid change
    above, but I do know that mechanics at dealerships don't do the oil changes as those are
    done by grease rack novices working for far less money than the mechanics.

    A grease rack employee may or may not know the specific requirements of a specific differential on each chrysler vehicle and there are a few versions of these chrysler
    differential out there in the trucks. There is a tag on each differential case to indicate
    the type and gear ratio, but few oil change "experts" consult these, and if the owner
    is not around to provide specific instructions on addition of special lubricants, those
    could be erroneously omitted.

    The best thing to do at with any limited slip diff oil change is to carry the friction modifier in
    your vehicle, and provide it to the garage/oil change place WITH SPECIFIC INSTRUCTIONS
    on how much should be added to each differential.

    I heard a horror story from a fairly new 4x4 Ram truck owner at a gas pump that he had
    complete failure in the transfer case, because the dealership grease rack FORGOT to
    add fluid after draining it. These things can happen with interruptions or employees
    that are not concientious in the way they do their work. The dealership acknowledged
    that it was their fault and rebuilt the failed driveline.
  • Here's my thoughts on your differential problem failure.

    IF there was no obvious noise from the differential PRIOR to going to
    the dealers to get the differential fluid changed AND the differential
    started to act up and fail within 5 miles of driving, THEN obviously the
    failure has to do with something they did or didn't do during the service.

    I would be pretty peeved off if that happened to me and seeking compensation from the dealer on that failure. My 98 is 13 years old
    now and had it's diff fluid changed around 60,000 miles and a pinion
    seal replaced at the same time. I was there at the indie garage that
    did it all the time and got the special friction modifier ahead of time
    and gave it to them with specific instructions on how much to add.

    My truck only tows a small utility trailer occassionally and I have never
    experienced any problems with the differential in the 13 years that
    I've owned it since new and certainly no failures after the fluid change
    3 years ago...so IMO..there has to be some other unknown in your case.
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