CarTalk.com Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

2003 Dodge Dakota - Temp spikes

My 2003 Dodge Dakota with 158,000 miles recently had an issue with a spiking temperature gauge followed by radiator hose blowout. I replaced the hose, refilled the coolant, drove for a couple of miles and the temperature gauge spiked again. I had the car towed to a trusted mechanic and he said there is a leak in the head gasket area with possible valve damage. He is quoting me about $3500 to repair the car. I am torn, this has been a reliable truck for 16 yrs. Is it worth sinking the money into the car or should I say goodbye and use the money for a newer car. Thanks for your input. Fishinfool24 (aka Kevin)

I’d junk it and get something newer

If the rest of the truck is in really good shape, I’d spend another $1,500 or so and put a rebuilt engine in it.

I can’t see spending that much just to do the heads.

Has the thermostat been replaced?

I can’t see spending that much on a 16-year-old Dodge. If you can afford a new vehicle, it’s time to move on.

1 Like

Hello, no the thermostat has not been replaced. The mechanic did a head gasket test which failed. The way he described the test was the connect a tube with some chemical and if they see “products of combustion” in the tube then they know there is an issue with the head gasket.

Someone else suggested I wipe the inside of the tailpipe to evaluate the color of any residue. If it was ashy gray that is normal. It if is an oily slop that’s not normal. I checked my tail pipe and it was a somewhat thick black, not oily but more like a thin black paste.

I appreciate any additional insights you might be able to share.

Most of us don’t perform diagnostics by rubbing the finger in the tailpipe these days. The chemical test your mechanic performed is quite accurate when done correctly.

1 Like

Think which will be better, putting $3500 into this vehicle, or putting that $3500 into a new or newer vehicle. You may want to get an analysis of your Dakota before making that decision.