How to Replace the Neutral Safety Switch on a 1997 Dakota Pickup Truckby Jody L. Campbell
The neutral safety switch on the 1997 Dodge Dakota prevents the truck from being accidentally started in any other position than park or neutral. This prevents the vehicle from being started in gear and taking off which could cause an accident since the brake pedal does not need to be applied in order to turn the engine over. Like on many other domestic vehicles, the switch on the Dakota also accounts for the back-up light switch. The center terminal in the plug on the switch is for the neutral safety switch and the the two on either side of it is for each back-up light.
Drive the 1997 Dodge Dakota slowly up onto two car ramps and apply the parking brake. Turn the engine off and remove the keys.
Put on a pair of safety glasses and crawl underneath the Dakota and locate the transmission behind the engine (and the transfer case on four-wheel drive models).
Locate the neutral safety switch on the driver's side lower housing of the transmission. It will have a wire harness plugged into it and underneath the plug, the switch will offer a hex-head in order to remove it from the transmission with a socket and ratchet.
Prep the replacement neutral safety switch with thread seal compound or tape on the threads and set it aside in a handy location without getting the threads contaminated with dirt or grease from under the truck.
Place the drain pan beneath the neutral safety switch position in the transmission housing.
Disconnect the wire harness from the neutral safety switch plug.
Loosen the neutral safety switch with the socket and a ratchet until it can be spun/removed my hand. Place the ratchet and socket down, but do not remove the switch yet.
Get the replacement neutral safety switch ready in one hand while removing the old switch with the other hand. Transmission fluid is going to start to pour from the switch port when it is removed. Remove the old switch and hand thread the new one in as quickly as possible to prevent losing too much transmission fluid.
Tighten the neutral safety switch to 25 foot-pounds with the torque wrench and socket.
Crawl out from under the truck with all the tools. Release the parking brake and slowly back down off the car ramps.
Run the engine allowing it enough time to reach operating temperature (inspect the temperature gauge regularly--it could take up to 20-minutes or so). In the interim, hop in the driver's seat and place a foot on the brake pedal while shifting through all the gears periodically.
Open the hood with the engine running and remove the transmission oil dipstick (red or black handled--do not confuse it with the yellow handled engine oil dipstick tube. Wipe the dipstick clean and look at the bottom of the dipstick for the hash-mark indicating "Full." If necessary, add transmission fluid through the dipstick tube using a funnel, but only add a little at a time. Allow a few minutes in between rechecking the level of the fluid so the new fluid is allowed to drain down into the transmission pan from the dipstick tube.