Blog Car Care Advice 5 Dodge Dakota 4WD Problems You Should Know (+Fixes)
Car Care Advice

5 Dodge Dakota 4WD Problems You Should Know (+Fixes)

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When it comes to a dependable 4WD truck, the Dodge Dakota has been a reliable choice for enthusiasts and workhorse owners alike. 

But like any vehicle, even the trusty Dakota can face its fair share of troubles, particularly with the 4-wheel drive system

We’ll delve into some Dodge Dakota 4WD problems that owners encounter and ways to tackle these challenges head-on. We’ll also be your pit crew, providing handy tips to keep your Dakota running smoothly.

This Article Contains

Let’s steer into Dodge Dakota 4X4 troubleshooting and maintenance.

5 Dodge Dakota 4WD Problems Drivers Face (+Fixes)

Here are some of the problems you could expect if you drive a 4X4 Dodge Dakota: 

1. Vehicle Stuck in 2WD

If you’re unable to shift from 2WD to 4WD, ensure that the 4-wheel drive switch (also called selector switch) that helps engage the 4-wheel drive system has power coming from it. If the switch is faulty, replacing it should resolve the issue.

However, in older cars, the vacuum actuator or the vacuum switch on the front differential could also cause your Dodge truck to stay stuck in 2WD mode. First, check for any vacuum leaks in the lines connected to these components. If there’s no leak, you may need to repair or replace these parts. 

Still no luck?
The fault is likely with the Electronic Control Unit (ECU) mounted on the steering wheel. You’ll need a professional mechanic to test and confirm this. 

2. 4WD Locks Up

Did you drive your Dodge on a dry pavement with the 4-wheel drive mode on?
This can put extra stress on the drivetrain components, including the transfer case gear set, differentials, and axles, causing the wheel drive to lock up in 4WD.

Here’s a simple solution: 
Try driving your car in reverse for a short distance or back and forth in a straight line. Now, stop the vehicle and try to shift the mode again. It may take several attempts before the problem is resolved. 

If reverse driving doesn’t fix it, a faulty A/C pressure switch could be to blame. 

In specific Dodge Dakota models (manufactured in 2005 and above), a series of components are attached to the Transfer Case Control Module (TCCM), including the A/C switch. If this switch is faulty, it could result in low voltage reaching the 4WD switch, causing the wheel drive mode to stay stuck in 4WD.

You should call a mechanic to inspect the problem soon, or you could end up with a burnt shift motor, which can be expensive to replace. 

3. Shifts into 4WD on its Own 

This can be highly dangerous while driving at highway speeds. 

If you’re already on the road, a temporary fix is to put your car in 2WD mode and pull out fuse #42 (fuse for T-Case). This will prevent your vehicle from going into the 4-wheel drive mode. However, this won’t resolve any underlying issue, so make sure to drive at low speed and get your vehicle looked at ASAP.

This wheel drive shift problem could also stem from electrical or mechanical faults within the Transfer Case Control Module. In other cases, the transfer case shift motor could be causing trouble. 

Here’s why: 
The shift motor has a position sensor that can fail and cause the motor to keep spinning. This will prevent it from engaging or disengaging the required mode or, in this case, cause it to go into the 4-wheel drive on its own. The electrical connector to the shift motor could also fry or warp. 

Getting your car inspected by an expert mechanic is your best bet before going for any sensor replacement. 

4. Front Drive Shaft Turns, but the 4X4 Gearbox won’t Engage

Excessive stress (from pulling out a car stuck in mud or pulling a horse trailer up steep roads) on the transmission and the transfer case gear set could have caused the issue. This problem usually occurs if you have a manual range lever to engage the 4X4 mechanism. 

Sometimes, it could be the coupler mechanism used to connect and disconnect the front and rear axle in a part-time 4-wheel drive setup. If the coupler isn’t functioning correctly, it may not engage the front axle when 4WD is selected.

Moreover, any issue within the vacuum system could also affect the 4WD functioning. Since the 4X4 system is a complex mechanism, it’s best to have a mechanic diagnose and fix this issue. 

5. Broken Transfer Case

The transfer case plays a crucial role in distributing power from the transmission to both the front and the rear axle. If your Dodge truck allows you to remove the front driveshaft and operate the vehicle in 2WD mode, you could do this temporarily and drive your car to the nearest mechanic. 

Note: This fix depends on the specific design of the 4-wheel drive system in your car. 

But, if the transfer case is damaged to the point where it won’t even operate in 2WD, unfortunately, you won’t be able to bypass it. You’ll need to get your car towed to an auto repair shop. 

Now you’re aware of the common 4WD challenges you could face with a Dodge Dakota.
Let’s delve into whether this vehicle proves to be a worthwhile investment.

Is it Worth Buying a Pre-Owned Dodge Dakota?

If you’re interested in buying a pre-owned mid-size pickup instead of a new car, the Dodge Dakota could be a decent option.

However, there are a few manufacturing years you should avoid. These include models manufactured in 2000, 2002, 2005, and 2006. The units produced in these years suffered:

But don’t be disheartened!
Dodge Dakota did redeem itself by producing some of the best units in 2004, 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011. So, if you wish to get a pre-owned 4X4, you now know which year models to bargain for. 

Pro Tip: When searching for a Dodge Dakota, prioritize models equipped with a manual transmission for the best performance.

That said, some proactive steps could help you prevent common problems from occurring on your old or new car. Let’s check them out next. 

8 Handy Tips to Prevent 4WD Problems on Your Dodge Dakota

Here are a few points to note for keeping your Dodge Dakota a reliable companion on the road or off the beaten path:

  1. Avoid using 4WD on dry pavement or high-traction surfaces. Use 4HI for slippery conditions like rain or snow and 4L for off-roading and extreme conditions. And if your vehicle has a part-time 4WD system, don’t engage it unnecessarily.
  1. Avoid turning the steering wheel swiftly when 4WD is engaged, especially on dry roads. This can cause excessive torque buildup that can lead to driveline binding and potentially damage the system.
  1. Pay attention to any warning lights on your dash. If the 4WD warning light or check engine light illuminates, get your vehicle inspected promptly.
  1. Follow the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedule at specific mileage to ensure that all components of the 4WD system, such as the transfer case and front axle, are in good condition. 
  1. Regularly change the transfer case and differential fluids to prevent excessive wear on the internal components due to low or dirty fluid. 
  1. Carry out routine inspections for damaged components, leaks, or worn-out seals. Also, keep a tab on any unusual noise from the drivetrain. Catching issues early can prevent extensive damage.
  1. Ensure your tires are properly inflated and rotated according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. Uneven tire wear can strain the 4WD system.
  1. Keep your vehicle’s alignment and suspension in check

Stay Ahead of Your Dodge Dakota 4WD Issues 

While the Dodge Dakota 4X4 is a robust and versatile truck, it’s not immune to its share of problems. But the good news is that these challenges come with practical solutions. By addressing the 4WD system hiccups promptly, you can keep your Dakota running smoothly.

And if you need an expert to diagnose and fix such issues, AutoNation Mobile Service is at your service! 
We’re a mobile auto repair service available seven days a week, and we offer a 12-month, 12,000-mile warranty on all repairs.

Contact us for a quote.