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Dodge Dakota Transmission Problems



  • so i am going to pick up a 1997 dodge dakota. it belonged to my father and has ben sitting for about a year now. it needs oil every time it is to be ran ( or at least did when it ran last ) and my dad described the enginge as being "loose". i am not quite sure what that means... what do i need to do the get it "run-worthy"?? what kind of fluids and gaskets or what not do i need to check to ensure a good two hour drive back home??

    thanks toms!!

  • dustykdustyk Posts: 2,926

    A Dodge using motor oil, especially at a rate you describe, is very unusual. I suggest you inspect the engine for sources of a leak. Any two engine components that share a gasket are candidates for a leak, but because of the year I would first inspect the front and rear intake manifold gaskets. The valve cover gaskets would be my next suspect. Beyond that, there are no commonly found leak points on either the 3.9 V6 or the 318 V8.

    If this vehicle has sat dormant for a long period of time its possible you might have a rusted through oil pan. I once had a Chevy pick-up that experienced this...although it was a daily driver...but I have seen this on a few other trucks that realized long periods of non-operation.

    If you can't find a leak, then the engine is probably consuming the oil. Again, extremely unusual for this to be caused by poor piston ring sealing, but if this engine had ever been overheated badly it could have seriously scored cylinder walls. What is more likely is hardened valve guide seals, especially if this is a low mileage truck at this age.

  • jt8manjt8man Posts: 5
    Hello Dusty,

    I have a 2001 RT with 84k miles. It just started to have a problem getting into 2nd gear. Slow accel not as bad as hard accel where it revs really high and jumps, decel and it up shifts. Fluid level is good and clean. No other problems...Any suggestions before I take it to the shop??

  • dustykdustyk Posts: 2,926
    Well, I'm pretty sure you have a 46RE transmission in the R/T and based on your description you are experiencing flair.

    Because of the age and miles and the time of year, here's my thoughts on possible causes in the order of probability:

    *Low fluid level. Make sure you check fluid level with the engine at full operating temperature, the vehicle on a flat, level surface, and the transmission in neutral.

    *Fluid level too high. Check for signs of bubbles (foaming) on the dipstick.

    *Transmission Throttle Position Lever sticking or binding, the throttle position lever return spring missing or broken, throttle linkage sticking/binding or out of adjustment. This is a very common problem on Mopars.

    *Low hydraulic pressure. This can be caused by a number of things, such as low fluid level, a partially clogged transmission filter or cooler lines, worn pump, a dirty or otherwise defective governor pressure valve, dirty/warped valve body, leaky internal seals or servos, etc.

    *Worn or slipping rear clutch, sticking rear clutch servo.

    I would recommend a Dodge technician check this out with a DRB3 scan tool first. There could be a defective Governor Pressure Sensor causing a false signal to the PCM. I'm not trying to make arbitrary conclusions here, but because you stated that even under light acceleration there is some flair, and the fact that this is an R/T, I am thinking this could be a rear clutch problem, especially if you've driven this vehicle hard and have not performed periodic transmission maintenance. However, 46REs are often thought to be in serious trouble when in fact the Throttle Position Lever is not working correctly, as noted above. For that matter, a lot of RE series problems are solved just be cleaning or replacing the valve body. A qualified and forthright Dodge technician is your best bet at this point, I think.

    Best regards,
  • dustykdustyk Posts: 2,926
    I keep forgetting to include the anti-drainback valve as a possibility:

    *Low hydraulic pressure. This can be caused by a number of things, such as low fluid level, a partially clogged transmission filter, cooler lines or anti-drainback valve, a worn pump, a dirty or otherwise defective governor pressure valve, dirty/warped valve body, leaky internal seals or servos, etc.

  • jt8manjt8man Posts: 5
    Thanks Dusty...Where would I find the Anti-drian back valve and the Throttle position sensor?

  • dustykdustyk Posts: 2,926

    The Throttle Position Sensor is mounted to the left side of the throttlebody at a position in-plane to the end of the throttle shaft. There are three wires going to the sensor and two Torx screws are used to secure the sensor to the throttlebody that are easily removed.

    On 42 & 46RE transmissions, the Anti-drainback Valve is located in the transmission cooler outlet line near the radiator. On 545RFEs the anti-drainback valve is internal, however, Chrysler uses a small filter ahead of it to prevent the valve from becoming clogged.

    Best regards,
  • bpeeblesbpeebles Posts: 4,085
    After reading all of the appends about automatic xmissions... I am very glad that I saved $872 and just orderd the manual xmission. Plus, the automatic xmission needs to have frequent fluid/filter changes just to keep it going.

    I never had one lick of trouble with manual xmission and it shifts just fine every time I push the lever to another position. The way I figure it... I got about a year of free fuel AND no xmission problems. :D
  • Grew up working on VWs Porches and lately GM. What I know of Son's Dodge got mostly from Internet so be gentle please.

    1996 Dakota 3.9L 4WD LT235R15 tires on stock wheels. 75K miles. About 20% of the time on takeoff with more than the gentlest push on gas pedal, we get a very pronounced chatter, feels like a manual tranni clutch chatter or wheel hop. This will make your eyeballs dance. Backing off gas and the chatter stops. Have NOT tried to either floor it or leave gas down after chatter starts for fear of breaking something worse. Engine mounts seem OK in that revving in driveway, the engine moves maybe 1/4 inch. Shocks/springs seem OK as there in no lean and bouncing on the bumper gives one little bounce. I ran alongside the truck while Son drove looking for wheel hop, axle twist etc. Saw none, however, rear of transmission shook vertically about 1 inch, so replaced rear transmission mount. No effective change in the chatter. Seems to be a slight moan for about 2 seconds after chatter ends. Other than this, there are no issues with transmission operation at higher speeds or other gears. Previous owner is a friend, just drove to work and back, nothing exciting. All maintenance except tire changes was done at dealer. ATF looks/smells ok and is at the right level. Rubbing some between fingers feels more ‘grabbing’ than dexron/mercon, so that and dealer maintenance, I assume it is ATF+4. Planning on a drain and flush soon based on owners manual recommendations. Been reading past comments for last few weeks, saw nothing that seemed to fit, however any redirects to other posts will be gratefully accepted. Any/all comments and advice will be appreciated.

    Vr Karl
  • dustyndustyn Posts: 2
    I think I need to add transmission fluid to a manual transmission 1997 3.9L Dodge Dakota. The only problem is, I don't know where the mythical fill plug that the manual talks about actually is, other than the highly descriptive phrase "the side of the transmission." Does anyone have a diagram, or a better description for the location of this fill plug? Maybe the size of the wrench necessary to remove it? Thanks for your help.
  • Sorry, I cannot truly help as I have only seen one automatic. Start with figuring out what tranni you have; should be in your paperwork if you still have it or might could figure it out from the VIN. Quick Google shows you likely have either a standard duty 5 speed called a NV4500 or a medium duty 5 speed called NV3500.

    Google also says:

    The NV3500 fill and drain plugs are both located in the front housing. The fill plug is at the passenger side of the housing. The drain plug is at the bottom of the housing. "

    Also found a pic at

    The home page is This site has a lot of info on both trannies.

    Note you want to put in transmission OIL not FLUID these are TOTALLY different animals.

    Note that you will likely have to pump the oil up to the fill hole.

    Good luck and happy hunting.
    vr Karl
  • bpeeblesbpeebles Posts: 4,085
    I HIGHLY recommend that you put in RedLine MTL for fluid. It is perhaps the very best xmission fluid available on the planet. You will NEVER EVER have to change it again!

    I replaced the factory-fill with MTL after the 1st year of purchasing my Dakota new. The shifting was immeaditly better even when ambient temparture was well below 0F.

    As for your question about the fill plug.... as mentioned above, it should be pretty obvious on the side of the xmission case. There is nothing else there but metal.

    According to my factory shop manual, There were 2 manual xmissions used in Dakota (NV1500 and NV3500) The drain plug on BOTH of these is NOT a WRENCH. Instead it is an inverted drive. (sticks IN....not out!) The NV1500 used SQUARE drive and the NV3500 uses HEX drive.

    Just fill it up till fluid starts to ooze out of the fill hole. Approxamate capacities can be found on the internet. Just search for NV3500 and you will get 100s of hits.

    BTW: The NV3500 was also installed in 1000s of Chevrolet trucks too.
  • dustyndustyn Posts: 2
    Thanks for the help. I think I got it topped off.
  • dustykdustyk Posts: 2,926
    Actually, in 1996 Chrysler was using ATF+3. It is probable that if the transmission was maintenanced at a Chrysler-Dodge dealer they used ATF+3 up to about 2000. After that they likely used ATF+4. If the vehicle was maintenanced at somewhere other than a Chrysler-Dodge dealership, I would be very suspicious that Dexron-Mercon was used. With only about 4-5 quarts needed at a transmission filter change, many, if not most, independents used Dexron-Mercon. The ones I know did.

    Anyway, at first blush this sounds like a real bad case of torque converter chatter, but I would suspect you'd be getting some unusual noise along with it. Personally, I've never seen converter chatter that bad. I'm thinking this might be a problem in the clutch packs, or maybe a locked band or something. I'm afraid I can't offer you much advice on this one. A trip to a repair place is in order here, I think.

    If/when you get this fixed, stop back and let us know what resolved the problem.

    Best regards,
  • dustykdustyk Posts: 2,926
    I would add to make sure the vehicle is on a level surface before filling.

  • Dusty:
    Going to change fluid/filter next, so we will see what happens. Thinking out loud, wonder if the transfer case could be guilty? Will change fluid there also. Should check shift linkage as well

    My confusion with TC clutch is, why would it even be in the loop at 0-5 MPH? If it is not trying to engage, why would it chatter? Same goes for all clutches, none of them are doing anything. So, after going down this path, I think I have a clutch pack chatter while slipping due to wrong fluid, low pressure, varnish etc. etc. etc.

  • dustykdustyk Posts: 2,926
    Well, the Torque Converter Clutch can lock-up and stay in this position, although this usually is accompanied by very harsh gear engagements and sometimes produces engine stall. The torque converter (TC) could contain an internal mechanical problem, such as loose or bent impeller or turbine blade(s), bad stator, etc., that can cause an imbalance or irratic fluid coupling that would feel like chatter or shutter.

    My suspicion, based only on the description without any other data, is the problem may be more related to clutch and band application. Could this be the result of expended or incorrect ATF? Yes. The symptoms you describe, although at the unusual end of severity, is common for all automatic transmission, including those from Ford and GM. In the past when I've been involved in a case where Dexron-Mercon was used in a Chrysler-built tranny, a common symptom was often described as "torque converter chatter/shutter." But not always.

    Is it worth trying to replace the fluid? Well, like most things there's a risk that a full fluid and filter change may not resolve the issue. ATF+3 or 4 is more than double the cost of Dexron (which is why a lot of shops use Dexron with a generic "friction modifier" instead of the real stuff). Is it worth any attempt to gamble that this will fix the problem and avoid a tranny shop? That is something only you can decide.

    My personal recommendation is to have a certified Dodge transmission technician check this out for you. His knowledge and specific experience with this transmission will, in my opinion, be invaluable, and possibly lower the total cost to you.

    Keep us posted.

    Best regards,
  • I would like to find out how to prevent my transmission from not shifting to overdrive when the temperature is below -20 celsius. Can someone tell me were this temperature sensor is and can it be relocated to a warmer location in the motor compartment? It has been below -20 for the last 6 weeks and I would like to drive my truck.
  • bpeeblesbpeebles Posts: 4,085
    I know the temp sensor on my 2000 Dak is under the battery.

    Do not forget that the signal from this sensor is used for MANY things besides shift-points on the automatic xmission.

    Some of the things which are tweaked based on ambient temp
    *) Engine starting sequencing and settings
    *) Charging voltage
    *) Idle speed
    *) fuel injection timing and amount
    *) spark ignition timing
    *) Shifting of xmission (automatic only)
    *) Emmissions equipment settings (EGR, EVAP...etc)
    *) Fuel pressure
    *) AirConditionor clutch. (will not enguage below specific temp.)

    Given the above facts, you may wish to reconsider relocationg the ambient temp sensor. Perhaps you need to better understand the PROBLEM you are having and work twards resolving that instead of relocating the ambient temp sensor.
  • dustykdustyk Posts: 2,926
    If you have a Dodge Dakota built after 1996, you can defeature the overdrive anytime by switching the OD off with the OD switch. The OD switch is a push button that is located at the end of the gearshift.

    The temperature sensor for Chrysler automatic transmissions are located inside the transmission and measure the temperature of the transmission fluid. On RE series transmission the temperature sensor is integral with the Govenor Pressure Sensor that is attached to the valve body.

    On RFE transmissions the transmission temperature sensor is part of the Transmission Range Sensor (TRS) that is attached to the transmission solenoid assembly.

    In general, Chrysler truck transmission (REs, RFEs) are designed to have no overdrive under 40 degrees F, and no torque converter lock up under 80 degrees F fluid temperature.

  • cmyawncmyawn Posts: 48
    I have a 2001 Dakota Quad Cab 4x4 with the 4.7L V-8. Typically when I start the truck, even in warm weather, for the first couple of hundred yards the automatic transmission seems to slip a bit. The engine has a loud roaring sound as it revs without the tranny doing much. After a couple of hundred yards it seels like the tranny "catches up" with the engine and everything runs fine after that.

    The truck only has 52,000 miles.

    Any ideas?
  • jt8manjt8man Posts: 5
    Took the truck to the tranny shop, no codes came up, dropped the pan and found one of the bands worn out, rebuilt the tranny, put a shift kit and it is just fine now. also found worn clutch plates and broken spring of some kind. Oh well, I guess it was crying out for help.
  • dustykdustyk Posts: 2,926
    You have a 545RFE transmission. These are typically rugged and trouble free, so this is kind of unusual:

    *Low fluid level

    * Fluid level too high

    *Defective or clogged transmission cooler return filter; clogged cooler or transmission cooling lines;low hydraulic pressure.

    NOTE: Some Cooler Return Filters were defective for a period of time. Symptoms generally manifest themselves as slow initial gear engagement from park, or over engine revving (flair) on shifts.

    *Defective Throttle Position Sensor.

  • bpeeblesbpeebles Posts: 4,085
    If you had used the SEARCH function in the Dakota forums, you would not have even had to ask that question. (NOT the search at the bottom of this page!)

    Yours is a very common misconception... the xmission is NOT the issue at all. Instead, the sound you hear is the belt-driven fan. Under some ambient tempartures, the silicone-clutch on the fan will make the fan "roar" for 2-5 minutes when you first start a cold engine. After awhile, the silicone will 'loosen up' and allow the fan to freewheel as it is suppsed to. The "roar" goes away at that point.

    Even my MANUAL xmission 4.7L semi-hemi will make that "roaring" sound under the right conditions... I KNOW that my xmission is not the problem.

    This "roar" sound is a VERY common complaint especially after a summer of not hearing it and the mornings start to be about 40F. (40F is the temp where the "roar" seems to happen the most.)

    Try this, the next time you start the engine cold, gently rev the engine.... you will hear that "roaring" sound even when the xmssion is in Park. This proves the "roaring" is not the xmission at all.

    Another way you can tell it is not the xmission is to look at your Tachometer... it will not show you any unusually high RPMs when the "roaring" is happening.
  • dustykdustyk Posts: 2,926
    Bpeebles, good work.

    After re-reading the original post, I have to conclude that your diagnosis is probably correct. Unfortunately, I was reacting to the poster's conclusion, and not the symptom. I should've known. I haven't seen a bad 545RFE yet!

    How are the temps up there? Last week I had a 2 degree reading on my thermometer at about 5:00 AM one morning. Coldest day so far. How about you?

  • dursdurs Posts: 1
    Evening All,

    I have a 2001 Dakota Quad Cab w/202k miles on it. When traveling down the thruway the RPM's surg from the normal 2000 up to approx. 24-27000 and then settle back into the normal range. This seems to occur more often when the road is bumpy (I know how silly that sounds, I typed it), and less often when I am going up an incline. At it's worse, this occurs every 20-30 seconds, then it won't happen for 1/2 an hour.
    I bought the truck new, and have always let Dorshel work on it and do what they recommend, up until 2 years ago. Then I went to work 40 miles East and have had it serviced by a local garage when it acted up (brakes, inspections,ect). I have had NO tranny problems, the fluid is not burnt smelling and is in the normal range, and even still has that red color to it. I travel 30,000+ miles /year, mostly highway, and would really like to get another year or two out of this w/o a major expense.
    Any suggestions as to what might be wrong?? I have been told by several folks to bring it someplace now, before it breaks, or it will be much more expensive....but these same people say it could run as is for another 20-25,000 miles. Is there a reasonable service I could get done that would buy me some time??


  • bpeeblesbpeebles Posts: 4,085
    Hi Dusty, We had -20F at my house... -42Fwas seen north of me.

    My 2000 Dak with 4.7L semi-hemi still starts at those temps USING THE ORIGINAL BATTERY which was installed in September 1999. (That is when I bought by Dak. freshly orderd from the factory.)
  • morganvmorganv Posts: 49
    My daughters boyfriend has a 99 dakota with 170k miles on it. recently the transmission started to not shift sometimes and wanted to start out in 2nd gear sometimes. it seemed worst in cold weather. we took it to shop #1 and they test drove it. when they came back they said the trans needed a complete rebuild around $2500. they said dodge tranies were junk. my husband decided to get another opinion and shop 2 pulled the trans pan off, looked inside and said it needed to come apart. they said it could cost anywhere from 1800 to 3000 (ouch. my husband went to shop 3 where the guy pluged in the diagnostic tool and said it probably needed a new torque converter and some other stuff. he did say that hed do a flush, that dodges "get really dirty sometimes" and if that didn't cure the problem he'd credit us the flush. we were discussing this at home the next day and look at all of the posts in here. my husband is mechanically incline so he started checking things out himself. they found that the "lever on the side of the trans" seemed stuck in one position. and when they touched it it moved back on its own. my husband things its the thing dusty calls the "throttle position valve". after fiddling with it for a while they test drove it and the trans shifted perfectly for 5 days, then started doing it again. they looked at the "lever" again and found it was stuck again. now they think the cable going to the lever is the problem but anyway it sure doesnt need a rebuilt trans, thats for sure! anyway it pays to check things out on your own. thanks dusty for all the info!!!
  • dustykdustyk Posts: 2,926
    Which engine do you have?

    Have you ever serviced the transmission?

    Are you in the Rochester, New York area?

  • dustykdustyk Posts: 2,926

    It sounds like you've discovered the item Chrysler refers to as the Throttle Valve, or sometimes the Throttle Position Valve used on A, RE, RH, and T-series transmissions. RFE series do not have this valve. The internal Throttle Valve is moved by a lever on the outside of the transmission case. The Throttle Valve controls shift speed, shift quality, part-throttle shift sensitivity, and is highly critical to transmission operation. If the transmission throttle valve is not working correctly or is out of adjustment, early shifts, long (delayed) shifts, no shift (usually 2-3 or 3-4), flair (slippage between shifts), or over sensitive downshifts may occur.

    The transmission throttle valve basically controls hydraulic pressure to the Kickdown Valve, Regulator Valve, and the 1-2 and 2-3 Shift Control Valves in the transmission valve body. Transmission Throttle Valve operation is controlled by the position of the Throttle linkage at the engine Throttlebody via a cable. The adjustment is made at the engine end of the cable.

    Unfortunately for Mopar owners, irratic operation of this particular part in the transmission is probably responsible for 20-40% of unnecessary rebuilds on Mopar trannies. Sometimes the the lever shaft that goes through the transmission case to operate the internal throttle valve becomes sticky or gets bound. Older transmissions had a small return spring mounted to this lever and a bracket on the side of the transmission case. I've seen these springs missing completely because they broke from fatigue or rusted.

    The cable that operates the transmission throttle valve sometimes gets kinked or damaged, but more often gets moisture inside of it that causes it to rust, or stick in cold weather. If a Mopar tranny starts to develop trouble on cold occasions, this is a very likely suspect. Problems with the linkage at the throttlebody is often a problem, too. Throttle linkage should be solvent clean, completely dry and never lubricated.

    It sounds like you have found a common cause to a common symptom. However, I would still recommend that this transmission get some maintenance once you get this fixed. At that mileage, I'd check the band adjustment as well. Also, I'm sure you know, but you should only use ATF+3 or ATF+4. Never use Dexron-Mercon, even with an auxiliary friction modifier!!!!

    Good luck,
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