1997-2003 Dakota

I have been looking for a good project vehicle to convert for over month or so and have my eyes on a 97 dakota with a 5.2. Its very hard to find a truck that is a suitable 4x4 with the right motor not falling apart let alone a 92-96. Being in the north makes it even worse especially with dodges. The 97-03 are also much more common then the 92-96 dakotas.

How good or bad are the 97 dakotas? I have searched and heard different things on them. How hard is it to advance the timing and how much better is it?


Up to the mpfi models 1992 to 95 Dakota’s you could advance the timing with the rotor cap. I think after that in 1996 the computer has to do it. There are members that have done builds on the 96 and newer Dakotas. Search out their builds in the WK Gasifier premium members threads.


I agree with what bob mac said above, After 96 i think they still had ditributor on the v8 models up too 02 or 03, but they went too obd 11 computing, so changing the the ditributor timeing might not work the same as the older 93 too 96 dakotas. But i think the computor might retard the timeing automatic’ly if it sences a knock. I have a 1999 dakota that has ditributor,and mpfi. ITS GETTING WOOD GAS, if i have too, i will find a way too trick the computor too add a little addvance too the timeing, ALLSO the 97 too 04 automatic transmission had a lot more trouble than the older trannys. WAYNE KEITHS 1995 v10 2500 ram Dont even have a distributor, and it works out good on wood gas.


The engine timing is controlled by a crankshaft or camshaft timing wheel. These are located specifically on the shaft by a keyway. The computer can make adjustments relative to these positions. I have built a lot of motors in my day and my thought, on some of the earlier distributor-less motors, you may be able to artificially advance these wheels to where they need to be thereby fooling the computer into firing when you need it too. That was my thought to use in a 2002 Dakota truck I have. I may take the step of testing this theory on a stand before I actually apply it to a project. The 4.7 in this truck is multiport and if I can manage the spark advance, it might work very well.

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Good morning Taylor.

While I am typing and attempting to answer your question look at the first video on the below thread .

It is the truck you are asking about .

Keep in mind after 96 the dakotas are bigger and heavier .


The construction videos on timing advance show in detail how to manipulate the timing. It is not very hard to do this on the dakotas but a pita if it is the full size half ton dodges.

After 96 there is a shock absorber that is located where the gasifier is mounted and has to be relocated to the rear of the axle . Kevin says that is no problem.

I think as long as you have the 318 or the 360 motor you are good . The 4.7 L did not seem to work out.

The vehicle has to be warmed up a little before switching the timing up . Usually by the time I get to the end of my drive way it is ready to advance . While in the advance state you can hybrid a little gasoline but if going to full gasoline the time must be retarded or pinging happens .



Thanks Wayne ! Both great videos

Chris makes it look easy

on waynes v10 ram, i dont think he had too change anything on timeing, the computor seem too adapt for the wood gas. The smaller 4.7 motor you are referring too was tryed here by some body i think they said it was under powered while running on wood gas, It might have been the timing not adjusting for wood gas, Or not adding enough addvance timeing for full power of the wood gas. The 97 too 03 dakotas with 318 5.2 v8 is small of a truck motor i would go ,for just a little extra working power left.

So i found a cheaper 01 with a 5.9 and long bed. Has a few issues that i think are minor fixes but sometimes minot turns into major.

The wise part of me says take the 97 with 65k miles. The other part of me says to gamble on the 01 since it is cheaper with a bigger motor.

Why do i let the gambler talk at all?

So The 2001 has a Bigger engine so it is a Ram, not a Dakota 5.2 L engine? How big of a engine 5.9 L. Is it a1/2 or 3/4 ton?


Bob’s question is good. If the 2001 is a 3/4 ton and if it is 4WD then it may have Dana 60 axles and a very good transfer case. Maybe not much WG value but if you ever get to where you part out that truck the axles alone could recover a good chunk of what you paid. Regular people selling trucks never think about or know things like that so they put no value on them. To them an axle is an axle.


Personally I would go with the lighter truck of the two. You can increase compression in the engine instead of advancing the timing, but then you’d need to use high octane gasoline. The computer should advance on its own some.

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Both trucks are Dakotas.

1# 1997 with 65k miles and a 5.2l shortbed single cab

#2 2001 with 150k and 5.9l has long bed and crew cab which is a big bonus to me. Also has a exhaust leak a misfire and a bad u joint going to transfer case.

The 5.9 dakota is less common but some old posts on this forum say its good for wood if you can find it.

Also i beleive 5.2=318 and 5.9=360

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Yes get the 5.9 engine there is not a lot of Dakotas out there with that engine. I think the Dakota is called a sport RT Dakota. You will end up on wood gas about the same as the 5.2 on gasoline, because 5.9 has more low end house power for pulling. Yes it will burn more wood, but who cares it just crap free wood.
Fix the problems it has and DOW.


Jacob North drove something like 7000 miles with a 318 that had some issues to start with and it got him home. Pretty durable engine and I believe that a lot of stuff from the 360 can be outright swapped. I would imagine that the heads from the 360 should breath better so there’s an easy upgrade if you happened across some.


Points well taken. If I am going to build the motor, there are things I can do to offset the power loss of the woodgas, like increasing the compression ratio. Still a little math to do before I start.

Hello William .

Below is a thread of a 2000 dakota with 4.7 motor . Lot of time and money was put in it but the timing was never satisfactory

You may want to read through it.


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Hi TaylorK. your two dramatically different vehicles cabs/beds description pretty much makes your decision.

Just say you have a wife and 2-3 children . . . you want that crew cab.
Yourself and already committed to support 2-3 adult relatives or friends, you’ll want that crew cab.

But say you are planning on just you, and one other, with maybe a child. The short bed single cab will be much, much handier in tight parking lots and such. Get at least 20% better fuel useage, versus the LONGER, at least 800 pounds heavier long wheelbase crew cab.

You are talking 19 versus 25 year old vehicles you know you’ll have conditions worn out, repair neglected; or just flat time-in-form hardened and cracked in many of your plastics and rubber doors seals. They are equal, equal there. What would make one better than the other may be how it been stored from sun, winds and such.

Still in the end it is what you want the finished vehicle to be for you. Decide this; to decide which.
Steve Unruh


The 360 5.9 dakota is the RT dakota, it just reminded me when i was checking MPG v8 dakotas. Either one works better than 4.7 , so far for decent power too work with.I had a 350 small block chevy that got better MPG than my 305 v8 chevy engine, same truck.I like them low milege trucks WAYNE K has been posting.

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