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Dodge Dakota Radiator and Cooling Problems

moquelvogmoquelvog Posts: 21
I recently went on a long road trip. During that time my engine temp peaked at about 240 w/ no A/C. (norm being around 190-200) Red line is 260. The first thing I changed was the thermostat. Didn't change a thing. I am hesitant to change my water pump because (1) it looks like it would be difficult and (2), I am not losing any water. The pressure in my upper and lower hoses seem to be sufficient. The strange thing is that the faster I go, the hotter is gets. if I go over 70mph, the truck would red line for sure. (Common sense would say the faster I go- more air in the radiator- the cooler the engine.) Once I back down to around 40mph, the truck cools to about 210 rather quickly. At a loss for what might be the problem. Any help out there?


  • dustykdustyk Posts: 2,926
    Your symptom is typical of a clogged or bad radiator. Check the fins that are between the cooling tubes. Move your hand over each row. I think youy'll find some that are loose and can move between the tubes. If the fins are okay I would backflush the radiator.

    Best regards,
  • Thanks Dusty. Funny you sent that tonight... I just finished replacing my fan clutch and water pump today. (I also cleaned my radiator.) I haven't taken it out yet to see if it acts up again, but essentially I have a completely rebuilt cooling system so if it continues to get hot, :cry: Thanks again for the advice.
  • OK. So I almost rebuilt my entire cooling system, yet when I am stuck in traffic, idling, my temp goes up way beyond normal range. When I am moving, the temp goes back down. The radiator is the only thing I haven't replaced. Is that my suspect?

  • I noticed my dakota was heating up when I would idle for awhile. I checked the anti-freeze and found it to be low in the radiator. I could also smell the anti-freeze, like it was getting onto the manafold. I put anti-freeze in it and made sure the overflow was at the right capacity also. After I run it for awhile I could still smell the anti-freeze. I checked it again and found the radiator low again. The overflow was still at capacity. It appeared that the anti-freeze was going out the overflow tube and maybe splashing onto the engine. What would cause it to heat up like this. Could it be a bad radiator cap or what.


  • My 4.7 liter Dakota 4x4 just started overheating yesterday. I replaced the thermostat and that seemed to cure the problem. I let it run at idle for 20 minutes after putting antifreeze into it(the type that says it is compatible with all others) and then drove it over 30 miles, including a couple of stops along the way, and the temperature stayed just below the center of the normal range. I did detect a slight odor of antifreeze just as I pulled into my driveway, but did not see anything leaking and decided the smell was due to spillage when replacing the thermostat. Last night, I started into town and it overheated big time. I pulled off the highway as quickly as possible, and checked under the hood. There was quite a bit of coolant on the drivers side of the engine, and very little on the passenger side. I sat for half an hour to allow it to cool off, then tried to start it. The engine would fire but not keep running.. I had it towed home. This morning I tried to start it and it starts and runs fine, but I didn't keep it running. I checked all of the hoses and couldn't find any holes. I am going to get more coolant and refill the system. Then I'll start it and see, firstly if it I can see anything leaking and secondly if it starts to run hot. It isn't like this was a gradual onset of a problem, so I don't think the radiator is clogged. The temperature has always ran at the center of the normal range until it overheated the first time. When I go and get collant, I might also buy a nre radiator cap, because there is quite a bit of coolant around the cap.
  • c32077c32077 Posts: 1
    Hello all,

    Just this morning I was going in to work and I noticed that the truck wasn't heating up inside as it normally would have. I looked at the temp gage and it was readin very low as if it hasn't been running. Then it just spiked like crazy into the red. My check gages light came on and I pulled over. I opened the hood to check for a problem but nothing seemed to be apparent. Then the hose on the passenger side burst at the bottom and started spraying coolant. My coolant level was fine. I waited about half an hour and drove it back home. The temp gage rose slowly this time but eventually back up into the red. When I got it home I let it sit for a while and checked the fluid level again. It was still good and it hadn't leaked very much in the driveway. When I was inspecting the hose I could feel something inside the hose at the bottom. Not sure what it is unless the thermostat for this truck is very odd shaped. It kind of felt like rod or something similar about pencil thin and about 4 or 5 inches long. Does anyone know what this is and if this could be my problem?

    When I pulled over the first time. I walked to a parts store and grabbed a manual. It didn't seem to offer much help in troubleshooting. I figured I'd come here and see what you guys can do for me.

    Thanks and I appreciate any help you can give.

  • Well, you can tell from my first post, I am far from an expert, but my son and I did replace the thermostat on my Dakota and it looked like any other thermostat to me. I definitely didn't see a 5" rood sticking out into the hose. Your problem does sound like a sticking thermostat to me. Sounds as if it stuck wide open at first, then closed and stuck there. So far, since replacing lost coolant and getting a new radiator cap, my Dakota hasn't overheated again and I've driven it several hundred miles since then. I hope it remains so, because since my wife's 89 Jeep Cherokee failed inspection due to having a badly rusted out floor board, the Dakota is our only vehicle.
  • I have a 2004 Dodge Dakota Pickup and the temp gauge is running high but not overheating. My electrical cooling fan is not coming on - relay is okay, fuse is okay, and the fan is okay. The thermostat seems ok too. Any ideas what may be wrong? Is there another thermostat I should be looking at?
  • I am the original owner of this truck with 124,000 miles on it. It has been a fine truck with no regrets. However, back in December it ran really hot and cracked one head and warped the other. To make a long story short, both heads were replaced, water pump, thermostat (3 times), radiator and fan clutch all were replaced eventually since then. Also just replaced the catalytic converter the other day. It will still run past the center mark while on the interstate causing the electric fan to stay on, which is uncalled for at highway speeds, but the temp controls the fan so it comes on anyway. It will keep climbing a little more to around maybe 220 degrees. I stop on the side of the road and check the lower hose to see if the thermostat has opened and it has not yet opened which is the strangest thing in the world. The thermostat has been replaced 3 times and is 195 degrees. I have tested these in boiling water with 2 thermometers in the pot and they open at around 205 which is okay. Why in the world it will not open while in my truck while driving on the interstate is beyond me. There is nothing else that anyone can do even all the mechanics are scratching thier heads on this one. Does anybody have any ideas on what could be happening here? By the way, it runs at normal temp while doing city driving.
  • esperesper Posts: 1
    I have 2001 quad cab having the exact same problems. I replace the water pump twice, thermostat 3 times a new fan clutch, new radiator cap, radiator flush and still overheats. I wanted to know if you ever figured out why and if you fixed it. Im at wits end. Help. PLEASE
  • I haven't actually. Since its been winter, I haven't had a need to look into it further, but as the season heats back up I am going to do the only left... change out the radiator. Do me a favor, if you do it first, please let me know if that works. I'll do the same if I end up changing it out first. Thanks.

  • Just this weekend I trucked to the top of Wolf Creek Pass in my 2001 4.7L Dakota. When I stepped out of my truck I could smell coolant immediately and it was my car leaking it. When I popped the hood it appeared that the coolant had been spewing from the overflow bottle. This is the first time I've ever had this problem and cannot seem to figure out exactly what it could be. My fist suspicion is that the radiator cap has gone bad and the pressure is now incorrect. Does this sound like the culprit?

    So after that I drove it into town, topped it off with coolant and proceeded to drive home. After going back over the pass I stopped at a gas station and found the same problem of leaking coolant from the overflow bottle. Unsure of what to do I drove it back to Boulder without a problem. But as I pulled into my drive, coolant was leaking once again.

    Any solutions?

  • I,m having the exact same problem. Did you ever figure it out?
  • moquelvogmoquelvog Posts: 21
    I have a 97 Dodge Dakota 5.2L with an ext transmission cooler. This apparently is rare and a new radiator will be upwards of $300. If I buy a radiator with an internal transmission cooler it is about $180. Can I do a conversion?

  • moquelvogmoquelvog Posts: 21
    Nevermind my previous post. After doing some research, I found out why such a drastic price difference. I didn't know that a manual transmission like mine, does not require a cooler. Just one of those things you learn I guess. So I am forced to purchase a radiator with an ext cooler mount which is rare i.e. the higher price. Obviously I can't convert because there is no need for a trans cooler. With that said, anyone have a radiator they want to sell?

  • Can anyone tell me where the thermostat is located on a 2003 with a 4.7 engine?
  • dustykdustyk Posts: 2,926
    The engine coolant thermostat is located where the lower radiator hose connects to the engine. Its a much nicer job if the vehicle is on a hoist, but you need to remove the lower splash shield that's under the front of the engine. There are two bolts that secure the thermostat housing to the engine.

    I would recommend using a factory gasket instead of those paper types commonly sold at auto parts stores. I apply a very thin film of RTV on the gasket before I install it, although I've never seen a leak on a factory installed one. The factory gasket appears to be a better grade of material. I use RTV because I use to own Chevies!!

    Best regards,
  • Thank you dustyk for the information. We got changed, so hopefully this will solve our problem. Have a great week. :)
  • I was going to flush the radiator on my 2000 4x4 Quad Cab 4.7 but for the life of me I can't find the drain any help.....
  • seventy7seventy7 Posts: 11
    The rad drain tube is located on the lower left portion of the rad (if you are sitting in the driver's seat). You may have to take off the plastic stone guard first.

    See my old post for an overly-detailed description at:
  • I have coolant in the reservoir and coming out the overflow. Coolant is low in the engine and radiator. I have had the system pressure checked three times, replaced the supply and return hoses, thermostat, and cap. Thursday I had the system back flushed for the second time and coolant topped off and the reservoir filled the proper level. Today I checked the system and have no coolant in the supply hose and the reservoir is overflowing.
    Does anybody have any ideas? Please. Radiator or Pump which one is it cause that’s all that’s left.
  • Forgot to add that its a 2002 4.7 V8
  • Hey dusty
    I have the same problem with my dakota v-6 magnum. But I have radiator fluid leaking from what appears to be the housing for the thermostat. Could that be a freeze plug or is it probably the housing bolt rusted out? I appreciate your expertise!

  • dustykdustyk Posts: 2,926

    My apologies but I've been away hunting and just got back yesterday.

    Since you do not mention the year, but refer to your engine as a "Magnum," I'm gpoing to assume you have a 3.9. If there is any leaking from the thermostate housing I suspect a hair line crack or it is badly warpped. Replacing the housing should solve your problem.

    Best regards,
  • I have the same did you make out...what was it.
  • heater barely blows warm air..never hot. have replaced thermostat, temp gauge reads same as before. coolant level always good, doesn't leek. any advice welcome.
  • I had the same problem on my 97 dakota. I read on here somewhere about a reverse flush of the heater core. If you look at a Haynes manual you will see two 3/8 hoses, one that flows into and one that flows out of your heater core. Notice the direction that it flows. (Mine flows from passenger to driver) Go to your local home garden center and pick up a replacement 3/8 female garden hose end. (This is so you can insert the 3/8 end in the radiator hose and the other end you can hook up to the garden hose.) Disconnect both radiator hoses at their first connection point before and after the heater core. Hook up the garden hose to the end of the radiator hose so that the flow is in the opposite direction that the coolant normally flows. (At this point I would recommend putting a bucket under the other side to catch all the liquid coming out.) Then just turn the garden on full blast for 5-10 mins. Then put everything back together again.

    I did this and it worked great. I went from having little to no heat on a cold morning to having to turn the heater down because it was too hot. It still takes the truck getting to norm operating temp to get the heater that hot, but it does work.

    Hope this helps.


  • 1998 Dodge Dakota, 4-Cylinder, Stock

    I recently noticed that during the cooling cycles the car goes through from going to ~210 down to ~185 (when the radiator fan is on), a significant amount of steam (I think) is produced from the radiator. I initially noticed this when I turned off my car and got out to see steam coming from the grill. It is not enough to see when the car is moving, but if the radiator fan is turned on at a stop light, you can see steam coming out from under the hood. The engine never overheats!

    When I open the radiator cap, coolant is filled to the brim. The reservoir also indicates a sufficient amount of coolant. Oil level is slightly low, right on the "add" line.

    Is this something I should be worried about? Again, the engine doesn't overheat.

    Thank you.
  • dustykdustyk Posts: 2,926
    When you remove the radiator cap, is there adequate pressure?

    If there is around 13 pounds of pressure and there is no signs of coolant loss, either from the radiator or the coolant expansion tank, you are probably experiencing steam from the collection of moisture under the hood or possibly snow, if you live in a snow climate. I wouldn't worry about it, but would monitor the expansion tank for signs of coolant level change when cold.

    If there is little or no pressure released when the radiator cap is removed, the cap is likely defective. In this scenario the steam you see is probably hot coolant vapors being released. Over many cool down cycles you will notice coolant loss in the expansion tank. the fix is to replace the radiator cap.

    Best regards,
  • tommy97tommy97 Posts: 17
    I'd like to do a total cooling system flush on my '97 Dakota 2WD (V6/3.9L).

    Should I just following the basic procedure suggested by the Prestone flush kit, in which you add water to an in-line Tee (hose going to heater core inlet) and open drain at the bottom radiator, etc.?

    Or there a better way that requires - in addition - removal of one or more plugs in the engine block itself?

    Any thoughts are appreciated.
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