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I recently purchased a used 99 Dodge Dakota. I know nothing about trucks. I took it to the dealership for them to check out. They recommended a fuel cleaning and replaced the power steering pump. The transmission light kept staying on but they said they could find nothing else wrong with it...I paid them $750 for just those two repairs...well two weeks later my truck is still leaking so I took it back to the dealer. They said now the power steering rack is out and now they found a whole slew of other things that they apparently didn't "see" the first time they looked at it. Now they are telling me that in addition to the power steering rack being replaced, I need new brakes and rotors, new tie rods, front and rear pinion bearings and the suspension linkage replaced. And they said it will cost around $1500 in addition to the $750 I already paid. And for all that they charged me $42 just to look at it and tell me the things wrong with it that they probably saw the first time, but did not tell me. I took it to another mechanic who does not charge just to give estimates and they said the ball bearings also need to be replaced and for everything they found it would be $2,000 to repair. I only paid $2600 for the truck to begin with and it has 223,000 miles on it. I'm so upset with the entire situation. Should I just try to sell it and recoup my losses? If someone knows how to make repairs on a truck like this would they even want to pay what the KBB says it's worth?

My other question is, how important and urgent are these repairs for the truck to just operate? The brakes do work, but they just making a rubbing noise when I turn. If these repairs are not emergency repairs to keep it running right now then I may keep it and save up for the repairs. Any thoughts?
 

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Brakes are always emergency repairs. See if you can find a knowledgeable friend to help; if not, budget and address the brakes first, the rest later. How bad is the PS leak? How much fluid is added over what time period? Exactly where is it leaking?
 
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It's leaking right in the center front between the two front wheels. It's making about a 5 inch circle every day it's parked. I'm not sure exactly how much fluid that is.
 

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So, are you topping off the power steering fluid daily? That location could be other things. Do you have 4-wheel drive? If so, it could be the transfer case leaking. It holds transmission fluid. I had a leak there in my Dakota, and it was the front driveshaft seal in the transfer case.
 
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I haven't put any fluid in it at all. Yes, it is a 4 wheel drive. The liquid seems to be some kind of transmission fluid because it is a tinge of red to it.
 

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Sounds like you really need a front end rebuild, which you could do yourself and simply take her down and get a front end alignment afterwards. The rack and pinion replacement is very easy and can be done with a rebuilt unit for a little more than $150, it only has six connections, the two fluid line connections, two center bolts and the two tierod ends and only takes about an hour to do, don't even have to jack the truck up to do. Brakes and rotors will be about $200 and is easy to do, Pinion bearings are a hassle, so wipe them clean, check the front and rear end oil level, they may not be leaking badly, the oil is pretty thick, see how much they are leaking. A whole front end rebuild kit for the balljoints, tierod ends, bushings, all for one price is a lot cheaper than individually, someone to give you a hand would be an easy and fun job for the day, Brakes are important, the leaking rack should be first, brakes real close second (or vice versa), because leaking fluids like to wreak havoc with rubber parts, excess dirt collecting in it gets to be a mess. The truck is probably worth the rebuild, to which it would be good for at least as many miles she has on her now.
 

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Have someone double-check the origin of that leak. Transmission fluid, which is in your transfer case, is red. Power steering fluid is typically clear, with a slight bluish tint sometimes, when new. You might not have a steering leak, but a transfer case leak. Crawl under and pull the rubber plug out of the case. On level ground, the fluid should be up to the bottom of the hole. If not, add ATF+4 transmission fluid to it.

If your PS fluid is low, keep it filled or you will ruin anything not already damaged.

Until recent years (and I don't know the cutover date), Chrysler power steering systems could NOT use transmission fluid in them. It was common for mechanics to ignore this and use it anyway. This ruins the system within a matter of weeks or months. A special power steering fluid had to be used. I'm told that on new cars, transmission fluid is OK to use. Your truck may be old enough that transmission fluid is still wrong for it. Consult the owner's manual if you have it.
 

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The brake setup on these trucks was a weaker from the factory. Many of them have stripped out holes where the caliper mounts to the adapter bracket, especially in rusty climates. I had that problem on my 1999 Dakota a couple years back. They also tend to be a little harder on ball joints and front suspension bushings. The estimate for my front end repairs was almost $1600.00. I did the brakes, bushings, shocks, outer tie rods, sway bar links, etc for less than $400 but it was several weekends of work for me.
 

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Have someone double-check the origin of that leak. Transmission fluid, which is in your transfer case, is red. Power steering fluid is typically clear, with a slight bluish tint sometimes, when new. You might not have a steering leak, but a transfer case leak. Crawl under and pull the rubber plug out of the case. On level ground, the fluid should be up to the bottom of the hole. If not, add ATF+4 transmission fluid to it.

If your PS fluid is low, keep it filled or you will ruin anything not already damaged.

Until recent years (and I don't know the cutover date), Chrysler power steering systems could NOT use transmission fluid in them. It was common for mechanics to ignore this and use it anyway. This ruins the system within a matter of weeks or months. A special power steering fluid had to be used. I'm told that on new cars, transmission fluid is OK to use. Your truck may be old enough that transmission fluid is still wrong for it. Consult the owner's manual if you have it.
Mopar PS+4 fluid is red
 

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Thanks, Bob, true, my 92 Dakota 4x4 is the same. Could be either fluid, but my money's on the transfer case seal. If that much PS fluid leaked every day without being topped off, that new pump would be toast already.
 
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Thanks everyone. I talked to a friend who's brother does work on trucks as a hobby and he has agreed to work on it for me at a much cheaper cost than the shop. He thinks it is the rack and pinion that is causing the leak and making the rubbing noise when I turn the wheels. I checked the fluid that has been leaking again and it is not reddish so now I think it might be the rack and pinion. He's going to just replace the rack and pinion, tie rods, and upper and lower ball bearings since they are bad too.
 

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Read Bob Sheaves' post again.

IF YOU HAVE A 4-WHEEL DRIVE TRUCK, THERE IS NO RACK AND PINION STEERING. It's a recirculating ball steering - parallelogram setup.
 

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How was it determined that the ball joints are bad? I hate to see people replace things that might not need replacing.
 
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