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Dodge Dakota 1997-2004: more than you need to know about the Dakota’s interior

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40-20-40 Seats

1997 dodge dakotaA new 40-20-40 divided bench seat was standard on all club cabs and included with Sport and SLT Decor Packages on regular cabs. It had individually adjustable outboard sections flanking a center cushion with folding back that also served as a center armrest and included a multi­purpose storage console similar to that first used on Ram.

The storage console armrest used an interlock to prevent the lid from opening with the armrest in the upright position.  To assist in opening, the lid had a pop-up spring and a lip on its leading edge. Push-button latch for the lid was in the body of the armrest. The surface of the unit that faced rearward with the armrest folded down was carpeted like the back of the seat. Inside the console, dividers helped organize storage with some specific possible uses identified. Two compartments would hold five CDs each with finger notches in the sides of the dividers for easier access. There was also a pencil tray and a large open area.

Andy Bonneur wrote: The interior of my Dakota seemed to take on a new life. Quite a few things failed or worked wrong. I reset the computer by disconnecting the battery for a while; it worked fine for a day or so. I checked the schematic of each component that was not functioning properly. All of them were linked to the Central Timer Module (CTM). I picked one up from the local dealer and put it in. The CTM (central timer module) is behind the driver's side kick panel. The floor molding can be pulled right off by hand. The same is true for the kick panel once the floor molding is removed. Everything works now, but the keyless entry had to be reprogrammed by the Dodge dealer ($50).

Driver and passenger seat recliners allow continuous adjustment throughout their 530 range of adjustment - 50˚ forward of vertical to 480 aft. Reclining motion was controlled by a coil spring wrapped tightly about a hardened rod that held the back in place.  Lifting the recliner lever on the outboard side of the seat cushion loosens the spring slightly, allowing the rod to slide to a new position. Recliners on both sides of each back gave extra stability. They were interconnected by a cable to release simultaneously.

To facilitate rear seat access on club cabs, the 40-20-40 seat included an Easy-Entry system on the passenger side of the truck. Lifting either the recliner lever or the separate release lever on the back of the seat caused the back to fold forward, which in turn released the seat track causing the seat to slide to its full forward position. When the back was returned to the upright position, it stoped at the "normal" seating position - reclined 21˚. The seat track position had to be reset after the back was returned to the upright position.  However, the seat could be slid rearward before returning the back to the upright position to minimize the amount of readjustment required. The driver's seat back could also be folded using the recliner lever but this did not release the seat track.

For normal adjustment, seat tracks were unlatched to adjust the seat by a lifting a wide, readily accessible transverse bar ("towel bar") forward of the cushion. There were latches on both tracks of each seat to accept seat belt loads and to assure a stable seating position.

On 2WD models with automatic transmission, a removable, two-cavity cup holder attached to the seat frame beneath the front of the center cushion. It held mugs or medium-size soft drink cups and bottles up to 20 ounces (0.6 liters). The molded plastic cup holder had an arrowhead-shaped tab that snaped firmly into a receptacle in the seat frame. A push-button latch on the holder released it from the receptacle for removal, if desired.

The driver's seat had a four-position lumbar support operated by a lever on the side of the back. A paddle driven by a cam connected to the knob moved the back pad forward up to 0.5 inch (13 mm).

Other seats

New bucket seats were optional with Sport or SLT Decor Packages. Seat tracks and continuously variable recliners were the same as those used on 40-20-40 seats. The passenger's side club cab bucket seat also included the Easy-Entry feature.

New bench seats had hinged backs for access to the area aft of the seat. The back had an inertia latch to prevent it from folding during hard deceleration or a frontal impact. On 2WD models with automatic transmission, bench seats included the same removable, two-cavity cup holder as the 40-20-40 seat.

Firm seats

All seats were relatively firm for comfort on long drives. A proprietary manufacturing process that bonded the seating fabric to the pad was used for all seats. These seats retained their original appearance throughout the life of the truck better than seats that attached the covers by conventional. Sewn covers were adhered to molded foam pads using steam to melt a film of high temperature adhesive placed between the cover and pad. A vacuum formed the cover around the pad and held it in place until the adhesive cured. For recycling purposes, the process is reversible - steaming the cover releases it from the pad.

All 40-20-40 and bucket seats were trimmed with new Niagara cloth - a woven fabric with a random diamond pattern. SLT seats were available in three new colors: Agate, Mist Gray and Camel. With the Sport interior, both 40-20-40 and bucket seats were available in Agate or Mist Gray. Base seats had Miller grain vinyl seating surfaces; an upgrade to Ashford cloth was available. Base regular and club cab seats were available only in Mist Gray.

The backs of all front seats were carpeted to assure that the seats on standard cab models did not squeak if they touch the back of the cab.

The rear seat, which had split fold-up cushions, was standard on all club cab models. The foam ­padded cushions were divided 60-40 as in 1996 to allow seating for one or two persons along with in-cab storage for bulky items. The cushions pivoted on spring-loaded hinges that held them tight against the seat back when not in use. A new hinge design reduced the potential for BSRs. When folded down, the cushions rested on the storage compartment load floor.  A stationary, one­-piece foam-padded seat back was fastened to the cab back panel.  All rear seats were trimmed with Niagara cloth.

Trim information

Three levels of interior trim were available: premium SLT, Sport and base. All interiors were fully color keyed.  For contrast, the instrument panel top cover, instrument cluster bezel, door switch bezels, radio face plate, steering wheel, and the steering column cover were black. Hard trim, consoles and door trim panels were made of color-keyed mold-in-color high-crystalline polypropylene with a Miller grain finish that provided a high-quality appearance. This material was readily recycled.

A floor-mounted shifter bezel was included with manual transmission and/or 4WD. With bench or 40-20-40 seats the bezel included a removable, molded rubber cup holder with two cavities, each of which held a mug, medium soft drink cup or 20-ounce (0.6-liter) bottle. The bezel could encompass both transmission and transfer case shifters.  If the truck was equipped only one of the shifters, the unused location contained a shallow, molded-in storage bin. With 4WD, an amber graphic indicator which showed when four-wheel drive was engaged, was installed in the right rear corner of the bezel.

A center storage console that also served as an armrest was included with optional bucket seats. The latching lid had a tissue holder and map holder tabs molded into the underside of the cover. An angled bin at the front of the of the storage compartment formed a separate storage area for cassettes or CDs. A new molding process gave the console straight vertical sides, rather than the more customary tapered sides, increasing its capacity within the available space.  Total capacity of the console is 925 cu. In. (15 L) - 60% more than its predecessor.  The forward portion of the console, which overlaped the shifter bezel on models with 4WD an/or manual transmission, included three cup holders. The two forward cavities were in the same location and had the same capacity as the shifter bezel cup holders described above; the third cavity was larger.  All three cavities included removable, molded rubber inserts.

Door and Quarter Trim Panels

Door and quarter trim panels were color-keyed to match the seats but had black inside release handles and bezels. Sturdy cylindrical door trim panel pull handles that provided a full grip with ample hand clearance were extensions of the armrests. The handle circumference was comparable to that of a tennis racket, on which the design was based. Foam padded vinyl covering on the pull handles added comfort. The pull handles were also useful as assist handles during off-highway operation.

Rear seat belt turning loops on club cab models were concealed by the quarter trim panels for improved appearance The webbing exited through a curved slot that allowed unencumbered movement of the belt.

For a neat appearance, the front seat belt retractors were concealed by the quarter trim panels or door pillar trim. Also for neatness, the belts passed from the retractor to the turning loops through small molded slits.

With Sport and SLT trim styles, padded Niagara cloth bolsters were applied to the door trim panels.  With base trim, bolster formations were molded into the trim panels.

Large door map pockets were included with SLT and Sport interiors. Their capacity was larger than those of domestic competitors and nearly as large as on the Ram pickup. The pockets had a central divider to increase their versatility.

Speaker grilles were molded into the door and quarter trim panels on all models. With optional Infinity® speakers, tweeter grilles were added.

Club cab quarter trim panels were rounded to provide a friendly surface for rear passengers to rest against. The padded quarter trim bolsters, which extended around the corners at the same height as the seat back, provided comfort for occupants sitting at an angle. All club cab quarter trim panels had padded Niagara cloth bolsters.

Fine-mesh grilles in the club cab quarter panels provided the escape path for air flowing to the air exhausters.

Club Cab Storage Module

A two-compartment covered storage module under the club cab rear seat was divided laterally 60­-40 like the seats to allow access to each compartment by lifting only the portion of the seat above it. The passenger’s side compartment was divided: one section housed the jack and tire changing tools; the other was open. The driver’s side compartment was completely open. Latches on the storage compartment lids were operated by flush-mounted paddle levers. Depressions in the lids give access to the paddles.  Capacity of the driver’s side compartment was 650 cubic inches (007 L).  The passenger's side compartment provided 133 cubic inches (21 L) of open storage capacity.

The lids and frame of the storage module also formed a load floor that supported the seat cushions or cargo with the seats folded up. As a load floor it supported 400 pounds (180 kg) of cargo. Both storage bins and lids were made of polypropylene with glass-fiber reinforcement for strength.

A storage tray and cup holder was molded into each side of the storage module, outboard of the seat cushions. Each tray was 10 inches (254 mm) long and had a capacity of about 90 cubic inches (0.5 L).  Each cup holder had a compound shape to accept either a 20-ounce (0.6-L) bottle or a juice box.

Storage module surfaces were grained for easy cleaning to help retain original appearance throughout the life of the truck.

Hard Trim

Hard trim covered the roof pillars, cowl sides, door sills and part of the cab back panel on club cab models.

  • The top edges of the roof pillar trim panels were finished and overlaped the headliner for a neat appearance.
  • Rubber lips extended inboard from the door weather strips overlaped the trim panels in the door openings for neatness.
  • On club cabs, a cab back panel insert extended from the top of the seat back to the base of the rear window.
  • All hard trim was retained by concealed fasteners for a neat appearance
  • Door sill trim had wide transverse grooves that were easily cleaned for long-term neat appearance.

Other detail

All sun visors were cloth covered. With SLT trim, padding was added beneath the covers and the passenger side visor also had a mirror with a sliding cover. Sun visor inboard retainer clips provided a neat appearance and firm support without a visible fastener due to new two-piece snap-in construction. The clip snaped together through matching holes in the headliner and windshield header, capturing the headliner.

New snap-in coat hooks used a mounting system like that for the sun visor retainer clips to provide a neat appearance and firm support without a visible fastener.

All regular cabs include full-coverage cab back carpeting, which trimed, protected and helped reduce the interior noise level. The carpet included openings that allowed air to flow to the body exhausters.

The headliner had a color-keyed cover of GuiIdford cloth over a molded urethane substrate. The fabric was a carryover from 1996, but a new neutral color - medium light beige - was used with all interior colors. The headliner was molded to conform to the windshield, door and rear window openings, and the roof environment making added garnish moldings unnecessary. Rubber lips extending inboard from the door weather strips overlaped the headliner in the door openings for neatness.

Full floor carpeting, which was color-keyed to the seats, was standard with all club cabs and with Sport and SLT trim on regular cabs. It included a high density foam sound barrier molded to the lower surface. Black vinyl floor covering was standard on regular cabs with base trim. A thick layer of fiber under both carpeting and vinyl floor covering provided padding and noise absorption

A new four-spoke steering wheel had a die-cast aluminum armature and a soft, molded vinyl rim. The rim section was jury selected for hand comfort. The aluminum armature, the first one used on a Dodge truck, was 2 pounds (09 kg) lighter than the steel armature used on prior models. Light weight contributed to a feeling of steering wheel steadiness and responsiveness in the driver's hands.

A new energy-management steering column provided support and guidance for the steering wheel, driver air bag, column-mounted switches and steering shaft. A telescoping intermediate shaft connected the steering shaft in the column to the steering gear.  Both fixed and tilt steering columns were available features of the tilt column carry over from 1996.

The shifter used with both manual transmissions was slightly shorter but closer to the driver than in 1996 to provide quicker shifts for a sportier feel. A new shifter boot made of grained, molded rubber with a leather-like appearance and attached to the shifter bezel.

The column-mounted automatic transmission shifter operated the transmission through new cable linkage

The shifter angle was changed to improve visibility of the shift pattern. Shift effort remained low over time as the result of adding a low-friction bushing to the shifter pivot. A new shifter boot attached the shifter bezel had the same appearance and construction as the manual transmission shifter boot. An amber indicator in the shifter bezel was illuminated when the transfer case was in 4WD mode. The amber color is a recognized standard to show that 4WD may be used only for part-time operation.

Dodge Dakota instrument panel

An ergonomic instrument panel featured convenient placement of controls and displays. The cluster bezel also covered the HVAC controls and radio and included three ventilation registers. The black molded plastic bezel included an eyebrow to block reflection from the windshield onto the cluster face in daytime and to prevent cluster reflections in the windshield at night.

Beneath the skin of the panel was Chrysler's first full-width structural plastic retainer. The retainer provided support for the cluster and all panel-mounted equipment including the passenger air bag, acted as a crash energy absorber in conjunction with the air bags and seat belts, which must always be worn, and ducted air to the vent, defroster and demister outlets.  Structural plastic construction gave the panel outstanding stiffness that was perceived as stability and freedom from BSRs, even on the bumpiest roads. Over 50 components normally associated with conventional panel construction were eliminated by combining structure and function. This reduced the potential for BSRs and made the panel easier to assemble, thereby improving quality.

The retainer consisted of three pieces that were vibration welded together: front and rear halves of the duct work, and the support structure for panel-mounted components. The outer skin was molded in one piece and screwed to the retainer. A blend of polycarbonate and ABS, which had excellent impact resistance,was used for both retainer and outer skin

The panel included an exceptionally large glove compartment having a capacity of 275 cubic inches (4.5 L). The glove compartment benefited from the addition of the passenger air bag and knee bolster, which required that the glove compartment door be more rearward in the truck than before, and from the integrated air ducts that freed up space.  A paddle-operated latch opened the hinged bin.  A bin-type ash receiver folds flush with the panel when not in use. Its cover included a raised finger grip.

A microprocessor-operated instrument cluster provided accurate control of gauges. The cluster obtained most of its data via the multiplex data network, simplifying vehicle wiring and reducing the number of sensors compared to the previous Dakota. Data was generally the same as that used by the PCM (powertrain control module), assuring highly accurate readings. Microprocessor control provided gauge readings that were within ±l/2° of the input data from the sensors. To protect the on-board odometer reading and other stored data, the cluster records the truck's VIN number in non-volatile memory.

Two clusters were available, standard and Rallye. Both clusters included the following gauges:

  • speedometer with maximum speed reading of 120 mph and a secondary metric scale or, if metric units were used, a maximum speed reading of 200 km/h with a secondary scale showing customary units.
  • oil pressure
  • fuel level
  • engine coolant temperature
  • battery voltage

The Rallye cluster added a 6000 rpm tachometer that was "red lined" (graduations are red) above 4750 rpm.

A one-line digital LCD odometer display set into the lower left corner of the cluster face showed cumulative or trip mileage. Dakota was the only Chrysler vehicle to use this technology for an odometer display. A push button on the cluster face toggled the display between trip and cumulative readings. Holding the button reset the trip reading. Odometer readings were stored in the cluster microprocessor's non-volatile memory.

With automatic transmission, the transmission range indicator was set into an opening in the cluster face opposite the odometer display. A moving red dot appeared in a window below the letter for the selected transmission range, providing a more accurate indication than can a pointer.

Dakota was the first Dodge truck to have all cluster information appear on a single plane within a single window, eliminating the "Swiss cheese" appearance of older-style clusters with multiple recessed dials. Overall effect was a neat, uncluttered appearance. Only the gauge pointers break the plane of the display Gauge graphics were in full view at all times, but warning indicator nomenclature and graphics were visible through the matte-finish black surface of the display only when illuminated. Allowing the gauge graphics to appear while masking the indicators was achieved through a multi-layer screen printing process.

White gauge graphics appeared blue-green when illuminated. Red graphics appeared the same in either condition. Light guided across the back of the cluster shines through the graphics uniformly. No light "leaks" out around the gauges. Blue-green background lighting of the odometer display silhouetted the characters. The moving red dot of the transmission range indicator and the indicator graphics were also illuminated from behind.

Orange gauge pointers presented a unique straight line appearance when illuminated. Customarily, an illuminated gauge pointer was tapered to make it visible. Light passing through it shined out of the tapered sides. To give the straight line appearance, Dakota's pointers had curved top surfaces used here for the first time on a Chrysler Corporation vehicle.

The overhead console had a more car-like design than its predecessor and included a microprocessor-controlled mini-trip computer in addition to compass and temperature functions. The console exterior had softened lines and a trim bezel that helped integrate it with the headliner. A sunglasses holder and garage door opener compartment were included, as in 1996, but were larger than before. The garage door opener compartment also included a strip of Velcro® tape to secures the opener in place to prevent rattles. Both compartments had recessed latches with finger depressions to facilitate opening.

Trip computer buttons and graphics were large for easy operation and legibility. The variable intensity blue-green vacuum fluorescent digital display was retained. Daytime display intensity was bright for easy visibility. When exterior lights were on, the intensity was lower and could be adjusted by rotating the headlight switch knob.

Overhead console functions included compass, thermometer, trip odometer, time, gas mileage, and distance-to-empty.

The console included two courtesy/reading lamps with crystalline lenses that focused light for driver and passenger use. They were illuminated together as part of the courtesy light function operated by opening a door, rotating the headlight switch to the courtesy lamp position or depressing the UNLOCK button on the optional Remote Keyless Entry system transmitter. They were operated individually by pressing the hinged lens of each.

Controls

The hood release lever was attached to the lower edge of the instrument panel below the steering column. The handle was horizontal for foot clearance. A new mechanism and smoother cable routing reduced effort significantly from prior levels

A joystick extending through the top front corner of the driver's door trim panel was used to position the optional power mirrors. Twisting the joystick left or right selects the mirror to be adjusted.

Power window and power lock switches on the door trim panels were easily seen because they faced the driver; they were also easy to reach.

HVAC

Four large, adjustable registers in the instrument panel provided a high volume of air flow to the occupants in Panel and Bi-Level modes. Outlet vanes were adjustable horizontally and vertically to suit occupant requirements. Flow from the registers could also be minimized using the vanes.

Four defroster outlets clear the windshield 30% faster than the 1996 system. Air flow direction and distribution was provided by the aerodynamically designed ducts.  Outlet grilles molded into the instrument panel top cover prevented small objects from falling into the ducts.

A new floor duct with separate outlets for driver and front passenger provided double the air flow rate of the 1996 system with a lower noise level.

Instrument panel-mounted side window demisters operated in Floor, Floor-Defrost and Defrost modes.  A register on each outlet directed air to the area of the window adjacent to the outside mirror to initiated defogging in this area.

Air ducts that fed the vent, defroster and side window demister registers were substantially larger than those on the previous Dakota, because the ducts were also the support structure for the molded plastic instrument panel.  Air flow rate was the same as in 1996, but operation was far quieter because of the larger ducts.

A new air exhauster system provided balanced flow throughout the cab.  Air flowed through the cab from front to back, exiting from the center of the back panel through body cavities leading to exhauster grilles in the door lock pillars (B-pillars).  The previous door-mounted exhausters shortchanged center and rear passengers.

Rotary HVAC system control knobs were aligned vertically to the right of the instrument cluster for easy access. All control functions had ISO graphic symbols that were illuminated when the exterior lamps were on. The fan control had four speeds. The mode control had eight settings and also actuates the air conditioning compressor. Modes identified with air conditioning had blue graphics; graphics for the remainder were white.

An Off position prevented outside air from entering the cab for passenger comfort at low ambient temperatures. Each mode had a discrete function identified by a detent in the control knob. It was not possible to interpolate between functions to alter the preset air distribution because mode doors in the passenger compartment HVAC unit were operated by engine vacuum. A vacuum reservoir, which was integral with the molded cowl screen, stored vacuum for operation during low engine-vacuum conditions.

As in the past, the air conditioning compressor ran in the Defrost mode and in 1997 also in the Mix mode to assure effective defogging of the windshield and side windows. This occured only when the ambient temperature was above freezing.

The temperature knob had a 2600 range of travel with multiple detents to facilitate fine adjustment of air temperature. The air could be heated in any mode.

Underhood components

A rubber damper added to the air conditioning compressor clutch reduced clutch cycling noise. The compressor relay was located in the power distribution center to minimize relay cycling noise in the cab. Under hood air conditioning plumbing included a new all-aluminum refrigerant return line, minimizing the amount of hose in the system to improve durability.

Stereo

A new AM-FM stereo radio with cassette player, CD player and new Infinity® power amplifier and speakers topped the Dakota audio system lineup. Cassette and CD players combined with AM and FM stereo radios in a single unit. This unit, which was first introduced on 1996 Chrysler minivans and Jeep® Grand Cherokee, had many of the same features as the cassette player radio with CD changer controls introduced on the 1996 Dakota. It had a three-band equalizer (with mechanical sliders and center detents).

The following interior lamps were new for 1997:

  • The dome lamp used on both regular and club cabs had a crystalline lens that provided greater light intensity than the previous translucent lens. The club cab lamp was centrally mounted to illuminate both front and rear seat areas. On the regular cab, the lamp was located above the rear window, as in the past, but was tilted forward 450 to project light onto the seat. The lens and lamp housing snapped together through an opening in the headliner, facilitating installation.
  • Two new courtesy lamps below the instrument panel, one on each side of the cab, provided better floor illumination than the single lamp used previously. The new lamps had exposed bulbs that gave a flood lighting effect where the prior lamp was hooded, focusing its light in a narrow area. Larger, wedge-based bulbs were easier to replace than their predecessors.
  • The glove compartment lamp snapped into its mounting bracket for easier assembly. Its wired ground circuit improved reliability.

Unchanged were the ash receiver and engine compartment lamps. Courtesy lamps were operated by new door switches that were sealed against dirt and moisture and included a separate ground circuit (rather than grounding to the body through the case) for reliability.

Electronic central timing modules (CTMs) made effective use of the multiplex wiring network to add customer features while reducing the number of wiring connections and simplifying the wiring system for improved reliability. Two CTMs, base and highline, were used depending on the level of equipment on the vehicle.

Electrical

An on-board multiplex data network that delivered operating signals and data to a variety of electrical and electronic systems was new to Dakota for 1997.  A large number of systems use the network, including airbag control, gauges, the trip computer, and ABS; it received information from the engine computer. To assure that multiple signals did not interfere with one another, only one unit at a time could transmit data on the network. Access to the network was gained through patented access circuitry incorporated in every unit connected to the network. Access was prioritized - high priority signals had immediate access, low priority signals must wait until the line was clear of higher priority transmissions. All electronic equipment on the network was also connected to the common data link connector for access to diagnostic information using a scan tool.

To simplify cap or camper installation, which renders the new cab-mounted CHMSL invisible to following vehicles, a CHMSL could be mounted on the back of the cap or camper and plugged into a connector that was provided in the engine compartment of every Dakota.

A factory-installed seven-circuit trailer wiring connector system that provided direct connection to most trailer wiring without splicing carried over from 1996 in the Trailer Tow Package. A four­ circuit adapter for the seven-circuit connector, also included with the Trailer Tow Package, assured easy adaptation to the most common trailer wiring system. The chassis wiring harness included a frame ground to facilitate installation of trailer tow wiring connectors that specified this type of ground.

Wiring system reliability was improved over 1996 though major advances in circuit design and improved connector systems. There were more wiring circuits, permitting the use of smaller gauge, lighter wires. Added circuits meant that fewer systems were affected in the event of a malfunction and repair was easier because fewer components had to be tested to isolate the cause of the problem.

Connectors generally had lower insertion forces and better sealing than in 1996. Positive locking devices for terminals within the connectors and between mating halves assured that connections were complete and secure.

Wiring from the engine compartment entered the passenger compartment through a sealed grommet in the dash panel to the left of the steering column. Engine compartment wiring connected to body wiring inside the passenger compartment for protection from the weather. Underhood wiring spliced in wet areas were sealed for reliability.

Instrument panel wiring was housed in a molded plastic trough that wass attached to the back of the panel structure during assembly This mounting protected the wiring and reduced the possibility of BSRs (buzzes, squeaks and rattles).  Wire routing from the trough to individual components was clearly delineated to minimize handling of the harness during assembly, which could cause failures.

To reduce the potential for wiring damage in customer use, all cab wiring to sites beyond the instrument panel area - overhead console, rear speakers, dome lamp, CHMSL and cargo lamp ­was routed above the doors on the inboard surface of the body panels. Wire troughs, harness retainer clips and grommets were used as needed to protect wiring from damage and minimize BSRs.

Wiring harnesses were mounted on the inboard surfaces of doors and other body panels rather than inside cavities to reduce the potential for damage from sharp edges and to make installation easier and more reliable. Door wiring was installed with the doors off the vehicle to enhance reliability.

For reliability, the wiring system provided separate ground circuits for each functional system wherever possible to prevent a single ground failure or circuit failure from affecting additional systems. All ground terminals were connected to threaded studs welded to the body structure in strategic locations that minimized ground-wire length.

New sealed courtesy lamp switches on the door jambs included a ground wire to increase system reliability.

An electronic flasher operated both turn signals and hazard warning lamps. It simplified the truck and enhanced reliability by replacing two electro-mechanical flashers with a single, inherently more reliable, electronic device.
An auxiliary power outlet available in the Light Group was next to the cigar lighter. The power outlet had a rating of 20 amperes and had power at all times; the lighter circuit was usable only when the ignition was on.

A power distribution center (PDC), which slid onto the rear of the battery tray, included high­current cartridge fuses to protect major power distribution circuits and relays for all under hood power equipment. Its proximity to the battery assured highly effective protection for all under hood circuits against overload. Having relays in a single location simplified vehicle assembly. A single wiring connector carried all under hood circuits to and from the PDC for simplicity and high reliability.

The junction block combined the fuse block with electrical system terminal and distribution features. Wiring harnesses within the body - powertrain, headlamp and dash, instrument panel, body interior and the multiplex data network - plugged into the junction block rather than to each other. Bus bars within the block distributed the electrical signals among the various circuits, reducing the need for splices and terminals, simplifying the wiring and enhancing electrical system reliability.

1997-2004 Dakota noise reduction

Noise reduction

Dakota was expected to be the quietest truck in its class subject to test verification at introduction. Quietness was complemented by sounds that indicate firm and solid construction, implying quality, comfort and driving enjoyment.

Quietness was achieved in five basic ways:

  1. Reducing the noise at its source
  2. Creating a barrier to noise
  3. Isolating noise, vibration and harshness
  4. Damping noise and vibration
  5. Absorbing the noise

Dakota quietness was developed by viewing the truck as a total unit in which the frame, body structure, body mounts, powertrain mounts, suspension bushing and tires are tuned together to maximize quietness, ride and handling. To maximize these qualities simultaneously, rubber mounts have non-linear response characteristics. For low amplitude inputs such as road noise and powertrain vibrations, the dynamic rate of the mounts had a "sweet spot" that was lower than historic norms. For high forces caused by substantial bumps, etc. the rates were higher to minimize harshness and eliminate persistent oscillation (a "rubbery" feeling) that were characteristic of low-rate linear rubber components. Design of rubber components to provide non-linear response combined computer analysis to predict response characteristics with extensive laboratory and vehicle testing to assure appropriate response under all driving conditions. Overall structural stiffness of the truck was fine tuned along with the rubber components for best overall quietness.

powertrain noise reduction

To minimize subtle launch shudder and running vibration, alignment of driveline components was improved for 1997. Rear axles had their differential housings offset 1.62 inches (41 mm) to the right to directly align the differential pinion with the output shaft from the transmission or transfer case. On 2WD models, the vertical installed angle of the engine and transmission assembly was reduced from 5.5 to 4.0 degrees for better alignment with the rear axle. The 5.5-degree angle remained appropriate for 4WD vehicles and continued there for 1997.

Drive shaft yoke splines were machined to fit the major diameter of the transmission output shaft for greater concentricity to minimize vibration; one-piece drive shafts included an internal vibration absorber to eliminate a characteristic ringing sound. Rear axle gears run quieter as a result of new gear cutting equipment that produced more accurate gear teeth.

New boots for manual transmission and transfer case shifters reduced noise transmission through the floor pan; the boots were encapsulated between steel plates and attached to the transmission tunnel. Carpeting extends across the transmission tunnel beneath the shifter bezel for added noise reduction.

Large diameter - 3.5 inch (90 mm) - spool-type elastomeric front mounts were refined from Ram pickups. Each mount supported the engine at the top of an inverted rubber "V". The mounts were tuned to produce a desired natural frequency by adjusting the size and shape of the legs of the "V". Tuning was selected to provide a natural frequency that will damp out engine movement caused by front suspension inputs and control V-6 idle shake. Damping suspension induced powertrain motion reduced harshness. To isolate the cab from high frequency powertrain noise and vibration, the mounts used a large volume of very soft rubber. Mounts were fine tuned for each powertrain and driveline through subtle variation in rubber hardness - a total of five calibrations.

Three unique transmission mounting systems accounted for variations in engine dynamic characteristics, powertrain weight and transmission mounting pad differences. 2WD models with either 2.5-liter four-cylinder or 3.9-liter V-6 engines used a compression-style transmission mount to optimize the lateral-to-vertical rate ratio for a smooth idle. 2WD with the V-8 engine used a shear-style mount to maximize isolation properties. All 4WD models also used a shear-style mount but it was larger than the 2WD version to account for the increased weight of the transfer case.

All powertrain mounts were tuned as a system for each engine-transmission-drive combination. Local stiffening of the powertrain mount brackets on both engine and frame significantly reduced noise transmitted from powertrain to interior. Local stiffening made the rubber a more effective isolator.

The anti-lock brake system was double-isolated to prevent solenoid and check valve noise, which occurred during anti-lock action from being transmitted to the cab. There were rubber isolators at the attachments of the hydraulic unit to its mounting bracket and from the bracket to the body structure.

Wind Noise

The 1997 Dakota pickup featured a low wind-noise windshield, windshield pillar and door glass configuration similar to the full-size Ram pickup that was enhanced by stiffer upper door frames.

A body-mounted tubular weatherstrip ran up the windshield pillar and across the top of the door. In addition to the tubular section, this weatherstrip had a lip that covered the gap between the body and the door outer panel to prevent air turbulence. A molded foam plug connecting the primary and secondary weatherstrips at the base of the windshield pillar blocked a wind noise path between the weatherstrips. Another wind noise weatherstrip attached to the back of the door between the top and the belt line. A lip seal attached to the bottom of the door blocked both wind and road noise.

Semi-flush door glass and a unique glass-run design provided best-in-class appearance and minimized wind noise. Foam stuffers were inserted inside the door glass run channel void at the bases of the windshield pillars. Foam seals between outside mirror bases and the doors, foam seals between door handles and doors, and a foam blocker in the door glass channel also contributed to lower wind noise.

EPDM rubber "stuffers" were inserted between front fenders and cowl sides aft of the front wheel openings. They prevented wind noise due to air rushing over the door faces. A spiral-groove formed in the radio antenna mast disrupted the air pressure vortices generated by straight masts, reducing antenna whistle at highway speeds. An exclusive transverse rubber lip seal between cab and box on regular cab models blocked air flow up the back of the cab that was perceived inside as wind noise and also carried road and exhaust noise.

Local stiffening of the cab mounting points and their mating brackets on the frame significantly reduced noise transmission to the interior. Local stiffening made the rubber a more effective isolator particularly against road rumble.

To reduce road noise, the dash panel, floor pan and cab back panel had extensive structural ribbing. Structurally effective welds that join the cab back to sturdy perimeter beams controlled "boom" and low frequency noise response in the cab.

A bonded rear window contributed to structural stiffness and eliminated a potential source of BSRs.

Analysis of corporate and competitive production body structures revealed that high frequency noise enters the body through a myriad of small openings. These were located primarily in welded seams. The typical truck cab had many of these areas. Historically, seam sealers used to block these openings were less than 100% effective. Redesigning these seams and the manufacturing process for sealing them reduced interior noise levels more effectively than any applied noise reduction treatment. This had the added benefit of reduced weight and complexity.

In some cases, leakage sites receive two or three separate treatments to assure that airborne noise would not reach the occupants. These conditions included:

  • Instrument panel retainer screw clips at the base of the windshield opening had foam seals inserted under them and a fence-line seal added to the leading edge of the instrument panel
  • Openings where wiring from the engine compartment entered the cab reduced from two to one
  • Openings for passage of the mutually exclusive clutch master cylinder hydraulic line and automatic transmission shift cable commonized


    Door hinge pillar, windshield pillar and door lock pillar cavity heat expandable foam baffle expansion rates increased to ensure sealing, insulating pad added behind windshield pillar trim panels, and cowl side cavity covered by a molded, acoustic plug
  • Openings in cowl side cavity to cab seams plugged by two new sealing operations and the cavity covered by a molded, acoustic plug
  • Openings at the base of the windshield pillars plugged by a new sealing operation and additional buffering provided by both windshield pillar trim panel pads and the windshield fence line seal
  • Seams between the rear quarter outer panel and floor had an extra bead of weld-through sealer
  • Openings at the rear of the sills were filled with expandable foam.

Rubber mounts in three locations on each side of the cab and front structure were selectively tuned to control shake. Mounts under the windshield pillars had a non-linear rate - low for low amplitude inputs and high for larger inputs - that was highly effective for damping and harshness control. These mounts were shallower than linear-rate mounts and rested in cups that restrained rubber compression to provide the increasing rate. Internal interference between rubber elements within these mounts provided damping to prevent shake. Front structure and rear-of­ cab mounts had a linear rate for best isolation. All cab mounts were located outboard of the frame to reduce cab roll relative to the frame while allowing a low rate for isolation.

The windshield wiper motor, linkage, and wiper pivots were attached to a tubular frame that was mounted in the cowl plenum chamber through four 1.38-inch (35 mm) rubber isolators to minimize noise transmission to the cab.

A rigid cowl plenum structure, dash panel reinforcements and a bolt-on die cast magnesium bracket provided a strong, stable support for the steering column and wheel. Combined with a die-cast aluminum steering wheel that is 2 pounds (0 9 kg) lighter than the prior wheel.

The instrument panel provided intrinsic BSR prevention through its added stiffness and absence of duct-to-panel interfaces. Securing all instrument panel wiring in a trough attached to the panel structure eliminated another potential source of BSRs. Use of self­docking connectors for the instrument cluster avoided the need for loose wiring to provide for assembly and service access that can cause BSRs.

A rubber damper added to the air conditioning compressor clutch reduced clutch cycling noise. The compressor relay was located in the power distribution center to minimize relay cycling noise in the cab.

To prevent squeaks in the seats, Duon® fabric is bonded to the foam padding and the seat frames are painted. Also for squeak prevention, bucket seat cushions had cloth facings on the inboard sides adjacent to the console.

Insulation Package

Following are some of the treatments used to reduce noise, vibration and harshness:

  • Thicker door glass than in 1996 - 0.157 in. (4 mm) vs. 0.125 in. (32 mm) - helped reduce road and ambient noise transmission.
  • Full-coverage molded plastic front wheelhouse liners helped block the sound of road noise and road splash from reaching the cab
  • The inside of the dash was covered with vinyl-faced insulating foam pad
  • A resinated cotton insulating pad was attached to the hood. It was covered with a water and oil-resistant fabric facing.
  • A heavy layer of asphalt mastic was baked onto the floor pan, dash panel and cowl bar.
  • Carpeting was backed by a thick barrier of fiber pad
  • Both vinyl mat floor covering and carpeting wer backed by insulating material.
  • Full-coverage cab back carpeting was included on all regular cabs
  • CCL (conformable constrained layer) dampers - a layer of visco-elastic material with a hardenable skin that adhered to the body panel nd molded to it with the addition of heat in the paint oven - were applied to selected areas of the body
  • Silencer padding was inserted between the quarter inner and outer panels on club cab models
  • Silencer padding was inserted in the door lock pillars of regular cabs.
  • Silencer padding sealed in plastic bags to protect against moisture was inserted in the sills.
  • Needled-cotton pads were adhered to the back of the quarter trim panels.
  • Mastic patches were applied over openings in the structural inner panels.
  • A closed-cell foam insert between front fender and cowl side reduced wind and road noise in the cab.

Environmental protection

All new plastic parts included a part identification code to facilitate their recycling. Many of the new parts were molded in color and not painted, making them more readily recyclable. Most interior hard trim was made of recyclable mold-in-color polypropylene plastic.

1997 Dakota gasoline-engine emission control systems comply with Federal and California diagnostic requirements known as OBD II (On-Board Diagnostics, second phase). The OBD II on-board diagnostic system incorporates additional software to detect malfunctions during more engine operating conditions than the 1996 system. As with the original software, the customer will not be aware of the system unless a malfunction occurs. However, the system is sensitive enough to detect some malfunctions and turn on the warning lamp before the driver senses the conditions. A malfunction turns on the CHECK ENGINE warning lamp in the instrument cluster and records a diagnostic test code in the PCM memory that can be accessed via a scan tool. OBD II diagnostic output codes are read through the central data link connector.

The fuel vapor canister was attached to the left frame side rail under the cab. This new location allowed the use of short vapor lines to reduce weight and was less vulnerable to damage in a collision than the former location at the front of the engine compartment. A vent hose leading from the engine compartment to the ambient air inlet port on the canister prevented road splash from entering the canister. The canister had an internal filter to keep out dust.

Ease of service and repair

  • The data link (diagnostic) connector for all on-board electronic systems was bracketed to the lower edge of the instrument panel for easy access. This connector provided access to the diagnostic codes produced by all on-board electronic systems.
  • A bolt-on radiator closure upper cross member facilitates engine removal by allowing the engine to be pulled forward with minimal lift. It also makes removal of the hood unnecessary.
  • Automatic transmission shift linkage adjustment was simplified by using a cable between the column and the transmission. The cable adjustment set screw was readily accessible at the top of the column, just below the instrument cluster. The cluster range indicator was adjusted to correspond with the transmission by a simple thumbscrew.
  • A quick-connect coupling in the hydraulic line allowed separate replacement of the clutch master cylinder and its slave cylinder.
  • The ABS electronic and hydraulic control units were integrated to improve reliability, but could be separated and replaced independently. Expanded diagnostic software aided in the diagnosis of system malfunctions. The diagnostic module for the Rear-Wheel Anti-Lock brake system was mounted on the dash panel to the right of the steering column.
  • Hub Unit II front spindle bearings on 2WD models made service replacement easier because they were pre-lubricated and pre-adjusted. Hub installation after service used a single high-torque nut. New Hub Unit II front hub bearings on 4WD models were retained by three, instead of the previous four, bolts.
  • Separately replaceable front disc brake rotors on 2WD models reduced the cost of service replacement. 4WD models retained this feature for 1997.
  • Toe adjustment on 4WD models was more precise and easier than with the former clamped sleeve arrangement. Tie rods threaded directly into the tie-rod ends and were held in adjustment by jam nuts as on 2WD models. Loosening the jam nuts allowed the tie rods, which swivel at the center link, to be threaded in or out of the rod ends. Adjustment was more precise than with threaded sleeves because there was minimal change in clearance between mating parts from unlocked to locked conditions.
  • Counterbalanced hinges reduced opening effort by 50% and held the hood open without a prop rod. There was a minimum of 6 feet (0.8 m) vertical clearance to the grille with the hood open. Hood mounting of the grille provided easy access to the air conditioning condenser and transmission auxiliary cooler, and facilitated engine removal. The grille was supported by a tubular bracket to permit its use as a handle to open the hood. The secondary hood latch was operated by a lever extending through the grille texture. A bolt-on radiator yoke upper cross member facilitated engine removal and replacement.
  • Headlight bulbs were replaced from the engine compartment through an access hole in the radiator closure panel.  Headlight aiming screws were accessible from the front of the truck with the hood open; the vertical adjustment was above the lamp and the horizontal adjustment in the grille opening.
  • The combination lamp assembly was detached from the truck to replace bulbs by removing one screw, releasing a clip, and withdrawing three sliding tabs. The unit contained two, dual-filament bulbs for park and turn signal operation and a single side marker bulb. All had wedge base construction.
  • The fog lamp beam was vertically adjustable with a screw that was accessible from behind the bumper. Fog lamp bulbs were replaced by twisting and removing the bulb carrier from the back of the lamp housing; an easier operation than that required in 1996.
  • Two screws in the tailgate opening and two bayonet fasteners retained the tail-light housing, where the 1996 units were attached by four screws. To replace cargo and CHMSL lamp bulbs, the housing was detached from the back by removing two screws.
  • The windshield wiper system was readily accessible beneath a molded plastic cowl screen retained by readily accessible screws. The modular system could be removed from the vehicle as a unit for service. Alignment of wiper arms was simplified by including visual alignment marks on the windshield interliner at the base of the glass.
  • A power distribution center (PDC) label inside the cover identified each relay's function and the circuit served by each fuse.
    A 140-ampere in-line high current fuse in the alternator output circuit was easier to replace in the event of an overload than was the fusible link used on prior models.
  • The junction block, which included the fuse block, was mounted just inboard of the left end of the instrument panel. It was accessible through a snap-in cover. A finger depression in the panel surface aids in removing the cover. Three spare fuses and a fuse puller were stored in the cover. A label molded into the back of the cover identifies the circuit supplied by each fuse. The fuse block included a snap-in retainer for the IOD (ignition off draw) fuse, allowing the fuse to be stored by sliding it up into the retainer.
  • The instrument panel wiring harness was placed in a trough attached to the forward side of the panel structure by 5 screws. A two-piece radio antenna cable joined below the glove compartment door simplified antenna replacement. The inboard section of the antenna plugs into the back of the radio in the normal manner.
  • Wiring to all cab sites beyond the instrument panel area - overhead console, rear speakers, dome lamp, CHMSL, and cargo lamp - was routed above the doors on the inboard surface of the body panels for easy inspection and replacement. Door wiring harnesses were also surface mounted to simplify diagnosis and repair.
  • The instrument cluster was removed as a unit. The cluster bezel was retained only by clips. By removing four screws, the cluster assembly could be detached from the truck. Self-docking electrical connectors facilitated easy plug and unplug operations from the front. Seven screws held the lens in place on the cluster. Indicator bulb sockets twisted into the back of the cluster and were accessible with the cluster removed from the panel. The need for bulb replacement was reduced by lighting five of the indicators with LEDs.
  • On-board diagnostics within the cluster computer verified all internal functions, memories, timing functions, operation of all warning indicators, and calibration of all gauges. Technicians could initiate these tests by pressing the odometer reset button when turning the ignition on. Fault codes could then be read from the odometer display.
  • Cluster on-board diagnostics included an external mode that checked communications between the cluster and all other on-board electronic modules connected to the multiplex data network.
  • Instrument panel removal and replacement was simplified by integrating the vent, defroster, and demister ducts into the panel's structure. All panel-mounted components except the wiring harness were accessible from the front. The instrument cluster, switches, radio and HVAC controls were reached by removing the snap-on one-piece cluster bezel.
  • Door trim panels were held in place by sturdy integral molded hooks that slip into slots on the doors. Four screws completed the retention system.
  • Modules for power lock and window switches snapped in and out of the door trim panels.
  • The dome lamp lens and housing unsnapped for bulb replacement.
  • A single air bag collision sensor in the AECM (Air Bag Electronic Control Module) simplified system diagnosis.
  • Upper and lower front suspension ball joints on 2WD models were permanently lubricated and maintenance free upper ball joints in 4WD models were also permanently lubricated and maintenance free.
  • The clutch hydraulic system was sealed for life and required no maintenance.
  • The coolant level was easily checked with a dipstick attached to the cap of the recovery bottle. The cap was yellow with black lettering like other engine compartment service points.

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