Troubleshooting a Dodge Dakota Brake Problemby Eli Laurens
The Dodge Dakota pickup truck is designed with a hydraulic master cylinder braking system, which uses front disc and rear drum components that can wear out and fail. Troubleshooting a Dakota brake problem can take the average backyard mechanic about a half hour to complete.
Check the fluid for color and level by uncapping the master cylinder on the driver's side firewall, inside the engine compartment. All Dodge Dakotas use DOT-3 brake fluid for hydraulic operation, and this fluid is designed to discolor when subjected to heat stresses. The normal color is golden yellow, but a black or brown color can indicate a problem with caliper piston or rotor heat dissipation problems. The level can be checked on the translucent exterior of the master cylinder, and a low condition could be air in the lines, or a slow leak.
Rotor and Pads
The front disk brakes on the Dakota are prone to early anti-lock braking system sensor issues, and the usual wear on replaceable parts. The rotor can warp easily when sustained braking causes heat build-up, then the rotors are quickly cooled. Poorly maintained pads can deteriorate to the point that they gouge the rotor surface, causing grinding noises and possibly a complete loss of stopping power. The pads are a regular maintenance item, and are designed to squeal when they have a low amount of surface material left on them. The Dodge Dakota came with semi-metallic pads as standard equipment, but ceramic pads are recommended.
Rear Drums and Shoes
Early Dakota models came with rear drum brakes, which employ twin shoes that are hydraulically operated by a wheel cylinder. The wheel cylinder, located on the top of the brake assembly between the shoes, has two rubber gasket seals that can leak fluid and fail. The shoes are not designed to squeak when they are low on material, but low shoes or debris can cause a grinding or gnashing sound. If the rear brakes do not have taut springs, the effect would be "dragging," where the shoes do not retract fully once disengaged.
Eli Laurens is a ninth-grade physics teacher as well as a computer programmer and writer. He studied electrical engineering and architecture at Southern Polytechnic University in Marietta, Ga., and now lives in Colorado.