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Going Down Hill

I have owned a 2001 Dodge Dakota Sport, automatic, 3.9v6, with 128,00 miles on it since '03. I have been a member of the “Grey Minority” for 22 years. My days of hard driving was over decades ago! Periodically, going up an incline, regardless of speed,the engine will cough for a brief second, never longer than 2 seconds. The gauges will go back to almost zero, then when the engine comes back to life, the gauges will return their original reading. I have checked and it does not matter if the fuel tanks is full or 1/4 of a tank. All other times the truck runs good, but the “check engine” light stays on. I took the truck to the local garage in the small town where I live. They plugged it in to diagnosis the problem. Nothing “concrete” from the diagnosis, but they feel replacing the computer will fix it. The check engine light came back on. They want almost $700.00! Of course this is not guaranteed to be the problem. Ideas? Sincerely, “Only Going Down Hill”

First of all, your tag does not match the information in your question. The tag says the problem occurs “going downhill” while the questions states that the truck "going up an incline, regardless of speed, the engine will cough for a brief second, never longer than 2 seconds. Etc.
The latter sounds like a fuel delivery problem, for which your truck is subject to an aftermarket replacement-part recall of the fuel pump. If you have ever replaced the fuel pump, and the replacement was made by Airtex, specifically this part was recalled. That means you should be able to get the part replaced at no cost to you.

Otherwise, I don’t like the diagnosis if it is not guaranteed. And the price is too high. I found your part (the ECM or engine control module) online as low $149 to $224.

Even assuming the parts upcharge of 100%, you might want to get the truck out of there and go to a dealer. You might pay more for the repair, but you can at least hold a dealer to their diagnosis and their work. This thing with the small garage is a fishing expedition at your expense.

Find out exactly what the code was - they look like “P1234” - post it. If they didn’t write it down or don’t recall many auto parts stores will read them for free. Once again, you just want the code - like “P1234”

Aside from that info, other info would help. How old are your spark plugs & wires? Air & fuel filters? What did this local garage actually do in terms of diagnosis? Check the fuel pressure? Check the exhaust system for blockage? Check…?

Do not let anyone replace your computer on a guess unless they guarantee your $$ back if they are wrong.

the “check engine” light stays on.

  That CEL (check engine light) is just a kid in class waving her hand trying to get you attention because she has the answer. You need to have the codes read. Some places will read them for FREE. Try Autozone or Advanced Auto Parts. Get the exact code (like P0123) not just their translation into English and post it back here.

First, don’t give that shop a dime. Find someone who will stand behind her/his diagnosis. Repairs like this should come with a money back guarantee. What I mean is, when you have a CEL (check engine light), the computer gives the mechanic a code, but that code requires interpretation. A certain code might mean readings of a particular sensor are off, which could be a faulty sensor, or something else causing the reading.

When you ask a mechanic or service rep. the question, “What happens if your diagnosis is wrong, and the CEL comes back on and gives the same code after your repair?” the answer should be, “We will refund your money for that repair.”

I had an ECM go on my 92 Dakota with the 3.9L. Similar symptoms to what you describe when it started to go. I kept driving it for a few months until it got bad enough that I new it had to be the ECM. Mine was more temperature sensitive; when the truck was cold it would work find, once it warmed up it would start stalling. One of the major things that convinced me that it was the ECM was that the on board diagnostics stopped working in addition to the stalling and complete loss of power to all gages.

It cost me $250 for a remanufactured ECM from Advance Auto Parts and it took all of 15min. to change it.