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2003 Dakota is a different animal with a nicer design dual piston caliper and larger front rotors (requiring at least a 16" tire). Of the 1999 and 2000 Dakotas the only issue I ever had was with the caliper pin bolts pulling the threads out of the spindle. Other than that the brakes worked fine but I think they can use the extra surface area the 2003-2004 Dakotas got so I grabbed the better front brake setup and an axle with rear discs back during Cash for Clunkers but haven't installed them yet.

I'm not sure that metal clip you are talking about does any thing more than function as an anti-rattle clip. I think there's another issue like a collapsed flex hose or a caliper binding on the slide that's behind your troubles.
 
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