We have been hard at work on our new to us 2003 Dodge Dakota R/T project truck. We picked this 2003 Dakota R/T up last week, and while driveable, the truck needs a lot of work to return to its former glory. Luckily there is nothing majorly wrong, and after a quick underbody inspection, we are confident with our choice to pick this particular truck up for our project.
A common issue with most vehicles of this vintage are headlights turning yellow from UV damage; luckily, our project R/T came with two new sets of headlights in the bed. Our original plan was to use a one-piece headlight set that was included with the truck. Unfortunately, the fitment was very poor on them, and even the bulbs would barely hold in the sockets.
Plan B was a new set of two-piece headlights also included with the truck but with clear corners. Now that the truck is done, I actually feel better about this choice as the look is what I remember seeing Dakota R/T’s running around with years ago, so it brings back a lot of nostalgia. While I was in there, I replaced the headlights with a set of Sylvania Silverstars and the parking light and corner light bulbs.
After I did that, it was time to tackle the valve cover gaskets. They have been leaking onto the headers since I got the truck, and we needed to address that immediately. I picked up a Fel-Pro valve cover set and intake gasket set to take care of common leak points on these Magnum engines.
The valve cover job was fairly easy and uneventful. I was able to find a torque spec of 80 inch-pounds for the valve cover gaskets, which seemed quite low. Even after changing the gaskets and torquing the bolts, I noticed that it still seemed to be leaking from the same area on the valve cover. I tightened all the bolts down further, and the leak seems to have stopped. That said, there is a definite possibility that the stamped steel valve covers are bent.
Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to get to the intake manifold gaskets, so that we will be tackling that in a future video. We just ordered a ton of new parts for the truck to continue to bring it back to life. Currently ordered are new front upper and lower control arms with bushings and ball joints, drag shocks, a new 02 sensor to deal with the check engine light, inner and outer tie rod ends, rack and pinion bootkit, energy suspension bushing kit, and a few other small odds and ends.
After getting the truck back to good driveable condition, we will be doing a baseline dyno run and 1/4 mile times. After that, we will get ready to add some power to this truck and get it in for a fresh new paint job. Stay tuned, as this project should be a lot of fun!