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Dodge-y dakota!

hello strangers!
maybe someone here knows something i don’t…most likely, yes!?

about 2 years ago, my mother drove a 1992 dodge dakota with (128,000 miles on it) from ukiah, ca to my home in sacramento …where it died & she left it for me! the CHECK ENGINE light was coming on, then engine would cut out while going highway speeds -at night in the rain- forcing her to coast over to shoulder a few times.
she arrived in tears! when she went home a few days later it was in a different car & i had a “new” truck! …which i needed but would have preferred one ready to drive! luckily i was dating a mechanic at the time… but the problems were many!

i wound up stalling out on a freeway going 70mph, coasting over then waited an hour for my friends to come & get me a tow truck. that same boyfriend thought he could fix it again but it wound up in a shop for almost a month- the problem was not the distributor like boyfriend thought & fixed, but UNDERNEATH distributor were gears grinding each other down.

after that, truck ran great for months until engine started revving really high/hard & CHECK ENGINE started coming on again & i would stall out but only on freeway.
took it into (different) shop again & they found 3 major issues: radiator leaked, catalytic convertor rattles (broken!) & some computer issue. they fixed computer check engine light problem.
that was early 2012…
fast forward to now- check engine light comes on as i’m accelerating onto freeway. once i hit 55 it seems like it’s working too hard & check engine light will come on as rpm’s are high…BUT this doesn’t happen all the time!

i took it in AGAIN- different shop- and they found fuel pump leaking (along with all the other things i have not fixed). they fixed leak & check engine stopped coming on for a while- but the honeymoon’s over… it’s on again.

if i warm up the truck for 10 minutes before i start freeway driving i find it helps- no check engine light @55 mph.
is this coincidental or does this really matter?

would anyone in their right mind buy this truck from me? should i even try? are there any parts worth anything with all these problems?

now that i’m living in the bay area, i feel very unsafe in this vehicle! accelerating is not easy & i have stalled out in bumper to bumper traffic on the nation’s worst highway interchange 580 to 80 MAZE! the last mechanic said the engine mount is broken as well as the radiator & catalytic converter . is that dangerous?

what to do???


For a start help us help you. The engine codes will be a start. Do not take advise from strangers(lol). The number codes can be read at a major parts store for free. post them here.

If you are worried about safety you shouldn’t be driving a 20 year old pickup. A vehicle like this doesn’t make sense unless you need a truck and can do your own repairs.

Sell it or junk it.

I have the same truck–and am very satisfied. BUT, if you are stalling in high volume traffic and feel unsafe, stop driving your truck immediately!

You can try what euryale1 recommended, having the code read for free at an autoparts store, but my last visit to California, the clerk at the AutoZone in Ventura told me that it is against the law for them to read the codes for free anymore. Midas runs nationwide ads claiming they will read your codes for free so you might try them, just don’t let them work on your vehicle.

You need to get the alpha/numeric code and post it here, not their interpretation of what the code means. The code will be something like P0300. Give us the actual code and we can help.

Oops, I just noticed that your vehicle is a pre-obdII vehicle so no one will be able to read your codes with a standard code reader. This will have to go to a mechanic. FWIW, it does sound like a fuel delivery problem, like a bad fuel pump or clogged fuel filter. A real mechanic would check the fuel pump pressure for this problem.

That leaky fuel pump diagnosis sounds bogus to me as I believe the fuel pump is located inside the gas tank so the mechanic would not know if it was leaking, only that it did not deliver enough fuel at the proper pressure. Also that “gears under the distributor” has a fishy smell too, I have never seen this one.

You need to get a good, honest independent mechanic and have a professional relationship with him (or her), and then take the truck to that mechanic for everything, even oil changes.

I’ve been told the same thing at Autozone about reading codes in California.

I strongly agree with the advice from Keith about finding an independent local mechanic and becoming a regular customer. Finding the right one may not be a one step process, but there will be subtle benefits when you do. Check the “mechanics files” at the top of this page, then ask friends, co-workers etc, and make a list of the candidates before you make a choice. Then drop in on the better sounding prospects to explain your problem briefly and ask a some basic questions about how they operate, such as standard prices, their charge for diagnosis, whether they work on that kind of vehicle and that sort of problem, etc. This is more about getting a sense of their manner with with customers, than it is about actually gathering hard information - you want to know if this is a place that you’ll want to bring repeat business. You may decide that you feel distinctly UNcomfortable with one shop, and well respected in another. For example, do you appreciate a one person shop where you speak directly to the owner / mechanic, or do you feel better with an office person who schedules appointments and doesn’t work on cars? What matters is how you feel in the various businesses. Use that kind of information to help you choose who to bring your truck to. Price may be secondary because sometimes, the adage is true that you “get what you pay for”. A more expensive shop may possibly be more likely to get the diagnosis right, but not necessarily.

If your truck is in good physical condition (body, interior, glass, etc), and if it is not burning oil or leaking transmission fluid or shifting badly, then it may be worth spending the money to solve this undiagnosed problem. If on the other hand the body is badly dented, and the interior a mess, you may be better off selling it for parts, or to a home mechanic who can make the repairs. But check on Craigslist for guidance on fair prices.

Good luck, and if you do get those codes read somehow, do post them here as suggested.