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Discussion Starter #1
Bought a used 2003 Durango SLT 5.9 RWD Feb 2017. Never shop for a vehicle when you are A) Desperate B) It's Raining C) A and B.

Bought it for around $1200. ABS light was dinging but I didn't care. Should have but see above. 3 tires + the spare were all different sizes and the check engine light was off so my gullible self went in.

Did a test drive. It had potential, nothing majorly wrong that I could "see" and everything appeared to be Okayish. I was wrong. Mpg from the time I bought it till I started fixing it was 7.6 on the highway. Now in the city it's 9-10 mpg and 15mpg highway. Lots of room for improvement there but was not the deciding factor when buying it. I didn't expect this beast to get great fuel economy just wanted to throw it out there.

First thing I did was take it to get Smogged and then to the tire shop. Put Cooper Discover 255/70/R16's on it and stopped by and purchased AAA roadside assistance as I had a used truck.

Back view when I got it home

Side View

Front View


Also called a mobile locksmith to make me another key and two remotes. The key fob I was given didn't work and I only had one working key. That wasn't going to cut it for me.
Mobile locksmith got it done for $125.

Went to change the brakes and found out that when the tire shop put on the tires they had stripped 15 lugs. Seriously was pissed. There is no excuse. They paid for it all but it pissed me off.

When I finally got everything taken care of with that I started inspecting brakes and suspension.

I was greeted with this


Upper control arm had seen better days. I made the mistake of trying to go to Autozone for the part. It did not even remotely match. Went to Kragen (O'reilly... I prefer Kragen) and got a control arm and changed it.

After this I had a slight overheating problem and the sound of gurgling fluid. Overflow tank did not have a cap so I replaced this first and it did not change the problem.

Ended up taking the truck to a shop for an inspection and to fix the overheating as I didn't have the time and wasn't really familiar with the truck. I did buy a repair manual jack and jackstands (my 1 ton jack and jackstands wasn't going to really cut it) at this point but that's as far as I had gotten.

Long story short on the shop. I got hosed. $300 for them to diagnose the overheating.... went from Possible head gasket being blown, we argued and magically that wasn't it, then the radiator was the problem ($800 quote for this) and I again argued. Went down there they finally stated the problem was the thermostat and one of the heater hoses (the really long one) needed to be replaced for $500. We again argued. They ended up replacing the t-stat, t-stat housing, and with the diagnostics it came out to just around $300. I just wanted my truck back and figured $300 at the time wasn't that much. I really should have never let anyone else touch my truck. I hate shops and I don't trust anyone.

Kept meaning to get things done on the truck but you know how life is. I had a small leak somewhere in the truck. It didn't leak that much and everything seemed alright. Lot of stuff going on until eventually I drove the truck and it overheated.

Guess I'm going to have to fix it now


Separated here near the filler and sprayed the entire contents of the system everywhere.


Extremely happy I had AAA



Went to the local dealership for price quotes and a few questions to be asked and answered. Gave them a 5 star review and they gave me a hat. Really should be called MoParts but I'll get to that later.


At this point my wife and I sat down and had a discussion about the truck (I use truck and suv interchangeably ) and we decided that if the compression test came back good we'd chase the rabbit down the hole. That regardless of what needed to be done we'd fix the truck as it had good bones (no-rust) because we liked the room that it affords us (3 children) and it's nice to have. If the motor needed to be yanked we'd let it sit on jacks and go from there.

Compression test came back aces. With less than 8 percent variance on all cylinders.

Majority of parts came from Rock Auto, Followed by Kragen (O'reilly), and Mopar.


Figured if I'm going down the rabbit hole. We're going to be replacing everything I can think of that would need to be changed. Rad hose blew so we're going radiator hoses, heater hoses (since shop told me it needed to be done), spark plugs, spark plug wires, distributor cap and rotor, water pump, timing chain (since it's right there) and all in between.




Here is the culprit to 90% of my problems. Power steering Pulley had come into contact at some point with the overflow tank. This was the patch job. (not me)



How the shop missed the above is beyond me. Perhaps they never pulled it. The claim they did a pressure test and the overflow tank was never mentioned. I missed it as well but I wasn't exactly looking either as I took it to the shop for that. I've learned my lesson. What I didn't know at the time. and I had to rip it apart later (I glanced over it) was the thermostat housing was slightly pressed upward because the shop had heli-coiled (or previous owner) the intake manifold and jacked it all up. I ended up having to use a tap to get the intake manifold the exact way I wanted it. Was a lot of searching on this forum for all of this. This truck would be the biggest mechanical undertaking I've ever done.

Had to remove the water pump in order to get the fan clutch off. It was frozen into place. Also took off the alternator bracket (not pictured)


Trick I learned getting the harmonic balancer off with a three prong puller. Seriously we tried all night long to get the damn thing off using a three jaw puller and it just wasn't happening. Wish I would have found it sooner. Seriously. Thank you Youtube.


View of Harmonic Balancer


Timing chain cover. Wow.


Old timing Chain set up. Replaced all of this


New Water Gates water pump and water inlet tube $32 from Rockauto.(i replaced this damn tube like 10 times from mistakes and leaks). Dayco Harmonic Balancer $62 from Rock


Semi reassembled looking at fitment issues. I also replaced the bypass hose.


Chasing and Replacing Heater hoses


Assuming these bad boys weren't changed anytime recently.


Riding Dirty. New plugs/wires, distributor cap/rotor, valve cover gaskets, ignition coil were all done
 

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Discussion Starter #2 (Edited)
New Spectra radiator $91, Hayden Heavy Duty Fan Cluth $33, Spectra Radiator fan $63 (all from rock)


Had to buy an adapter at Kragen for the top part of the radiator trans cooler (could be wrong on the name)


Wanted to replace all the heater hoses and connections. Went to the dealership as I couldn't find the part at any part store. They wanted too much (over $100 for two). The fix was murray 84757 Y-pipe connectors. Thank you internet.



Seriously battled this thermostat / housing / manifold for days. I was tired and frustrated. Overlooked so many small details. If I would have taken my time I would not have missed that the t-stat housing was over tightened / heli-coiled and not flush. Ended up tapping the bolt holes, replacing the housing and using gasket maker. No leaks from here (4-5 times later)



Tensioner arm, Tension pulley and Aux pulley all replaced



Hate the damn slides on the alternator bracket


The hardest part of the entire heater hose process was the passenger side firewall. There's virtually no room. I cut myself pretty bad trying to replace these. Got it done though.


Replacing Power Steering lines/Power Steering Pump and Pulley. Also cleaned the bracket.



New overflow in. Really thought I was done at this point.


Fluids were replaced. Leaks popped up. Disassembled and reassembled different pieces when leaks popped up. Filled again, do it again and you get the idea. Finally got to the point of burping the system (as best I could from what I read on here). I have a bluetooth enabled scantool that I bought online that is capable of a lot of things. One of the reasons I bought it was to read the ABS codes. Which looks like it's the ABS unit. This tool has a lot of options and so I ran some test as the truck was slightly shaking and of course my heart sank at this point.


Took awhile to google everything and read the forums here a lot. It ended up being two fold. One of the wires I got wrong to the distributor. Seriously no matter how many times you've checked the firing order... check it again. The second problem is my dad was helping me and tightened the harmonic balancer to 150ft lbs. Neither issue threw a code. Had to chance this for awhile. Went down and rented a torque wrench capable of tightening the bolt to spec. Wish I had a picture of how I held the harmonic balancer in place but I do not.

I removed the fan shroud and overflow tank. Removed the fan clutch. Slipped a Ratchet strap through the harmonic balancer and the frame. Tightened the strap down and held onto the strap with my left hand as tight as I could with it wrapped around my hand which using my shoulder and right arm to push the torque wrench. Was a PITA. I don't own power tools. I watched some youtube videos that suggested putting some rope in the spark plug hole and yea I'm not comfortable with all of that. I am not a mechanic but it seemed like a recipe for disaster. Everything I did was based off TDC according to both the manual and tons of threads I read on here.


And where she currently sits.



I still need to fix the ABS issue, need to change the tranny fluid/filter(s), plan on doing rear differential fluid. Needs a new battery and other stuff. I eventually want to put the middle console in this truck as it's has the stupid Fold down seat in the front. It will all come eventually. I really wish this truck was a 4x4 but at the same time... probably best right now if it isn't. Truck has been a nightmare but honestly it's a truck I love and hate.

I do not have tons of money and this wasn't all done in a single weekend. The truck was down from November 2017 until Feb 2nd 2018. 80 days. Took that long to get the money and get everything else situated.

There were a lot of moments I wanted to give up. Lot of throwing tools, cursing, and redoing the same damn thing. But I made it.

When I do more work I'll be putting it here in this thread.
 

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Great Write-up!! Good Luck with everything you have done. I had to take my harmonic balancer off also to replace everything you did. I forgot what I did to get the balancer to lock so I could torque it down. But overall looks like you should be good to go.
 

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Discussion Starter #4 (Edited)
Great Write-up!! Good Luck with everything you have done. I had to take my harmonic balancer off also to replace everything you did. I forgot what I did to get the balancer to lock so I could torque it down. But overall looks like you should be good to go.
Thanks. It was a nightmare trying to chase everything. Thankfully I have a little experience with the same motor because of working on Dodge Rams but they are a little different with the Durango. Was a blast. Still have a lot more to do.

Truck is running much better and so far no overheating at all which is a plus. The interior engine noise has been cut way down as well.
 

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When I was a young man I used to jump right into the "rabbit hole" of auto repair, but now I keep it very basic and use an auto repair shop that I have known the owner for over 30 years and fully trust. I give you big credit for doing everything you have done and I'm tired and sore just thinking about all you have done.

The first 2003 SXT I bought was for my eldest daughter that was in college in 2008 and needed a vehicle. She drove it through college and a few years after until she got a newer car. I held on to it and about two years ago gave it to my other daughter who had just got her license and a short number of months later totaled it. It held up so well I searched and searched until I bought the 2003 SLT Plus that she is driving today.

The long winded point I'm trying to make is the older Durango makes a great vehicle and with all the care you have taken to get yours to the current state will be a great investment!
 

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Your write-up is inspiring! My 2004 5.7 Limited has no major problems (except body rust), but your efforts make me feel encouraged to go ahead with replacing my rusted doors, rocker panels, and rear quarter panel rust. I got my D about a 18 months ago, and it has 180,000 on it. Next project until warm weather: new tires and after-market tire pressure monitors (since the 2004 didn't come equipped with the TPM system).

Good luk with the rest of your project!
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Thanks guys. Figured I'd post the write up mainly because I felt that I needed to get something out of all the work. If I can help or prevent someone from going through similar problems in the future... that's all that matters.

Indigo, it's funny you mention adding the TPMS system because that is actually one of the items that is on the list of must have improvements for the truck that I have. I'm surprised that there are still cars sold here that do not have a digital readout of the pressure. I'll be starting on some more work here shortly in the next couple of weeks.
 

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Discussion Starter #9 (Edited)
Installed new Hatch liftgate supports. Started before it decided to hail on me. Was in a mad dash to get them installed so I do not have before and after pictures.




The new gas powered struts are from Lift Supports Depot, Strongarm which is owned by AVM (the brand being replaced). They have them for $37.90 with Limited Lifetime Warranty on Amazon.

Funny how the liftgate hitting you in the head once is enough to make you change the supports.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Wife and I were involved in a hit and run accident at the end of January. The driver that hit us had his license suspended, no car insurance, no plates and decided to run. We caught up with him and the police impounded his car. There was minor (hardly any) damage to my wife's car. We didn't know that based on how the impact felt and we never had a chance to inspect the damage until after the police got the guy. After that we decided.... we needed the dash cams we had been talking about. Money was tight so we ended up getting two of these.
Mini 0906 Dual Channel Dash cams

I'll spare you the install photos but I am running the front one at the moment (rear is not hooked up)
This video is the first day using the cam.
 

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Was that the rear brakes locking up???

Good thing you got on the horn and they then got out of the way...otherwise...yikes!
 

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Yea the back brakes locked uo. The ABS is out. I’ve had it rebuilt and bled but need a new unit. Money is tight and have been trying to get it fixed. Typically I have no problem stopping. I should have anticipated her pulling into my lane better but she was looking right at me and then went.

Normally I would have been cursing up a storm but honestly didn’t think I was going to avoid her, other side, left side is a school and all I could think of is if I lose control I’m either killing my kid or someone else’s.

Dodge built a damn good suv though. Never been happier to have worked on the truck and had it do what I wanted. It wasn’t perfect but she stopped and we’re good.

Was that the rear brakes locking up???

Good thing you got on the horn and they then got out of the way...otherwise...yikes!
 

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Discussion Starter #15 (Edited)
So give some feedback on the camera setup, quality looked good.
Pros/Cons.
Is the price fair at $130?
At $130 I'd say it's the best price dual channel set up you are going to find. I bought 2. One for the durango and one for my wife's car. The rear camera does not work as well as I would like but I do have tinted windows. It does not come with a memory card but those are cheap enough. I have the camera mounted right behind the rear-view mirror. Have the wire tucked in the headliner, and down the pillar and under the dash. It's powered by a cigarette lighter adapter.

Here's specifically what I bought and what I paid.

Veckle Mini 0906 Dual Channel 1080p Cameras with CPL filter (glare reduction). $139
Only 2 complaints is rear camera with tint is not as great as I'd like. Complaint 2 the adhesive for the mount sucks. Soon as it heats up it will disconnect from the windshield. I will be gluing the mount to the windshield (like the rear view mirror). Quality of front camera is great for the price. There are better cameras out there but you're going to pay a lot for that quality. I wanted something affordable and now. There is a little remote with the camera as well that will take pictures while driving which is nice.

Veckle Parking guard hardwire kit for parking mode $12
Have not installed this and I may never add this option. Got it just in case.

Samsung 64GB 100MB/S MicroSDXC EVO memory card with adapter. Class 10. $20
I believe the cameras support up to 128gb but I wanted a good reliable card at a good price.

I like that the camera is detachable from the mount. It gets hot as hell here in Southern Cali and during the summer I am going to want to disconnect it while not in use. The camera slides into the mount (the mount is held by adhesive).

All in all I paid $171 for each set up. By far still cheaper than some of the options I was looking at. One of the best rated cameras I could find was the Thinkware F800 Pro Dash Cam. For a similar set up to what I am running it would have been $480 for each. I may eventually upgrade but honestly. This camera is good enough for now. For the price I think it's very affordable and would recommend it. (I'm not being paid in anyway to recommend the camera).

When I get a chance I'll upload some pictures.
 

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Here is how the Camera is mounted. ( I have not mounted the rear-camera in the durango yet)


Cigarette lighter adapter. Like that there is a usb port in the back so that you can still charge your phone


Wires tucked into headliner and down the pillar


Picture of the mount that powers the camera. I have the camera out of the mount to show how it's mounted. The rear camera plugs into the front camera and not the mount.


Left side of camera is what slides into the mount. Middle connector to the right of USB is where the rear camera plugs into.


Front of Camera. Showing the CPL filter installed to reduce glare


The camera records gps as well as speed. The included software (free version, you have to download separately) lads a lot to be desired. It crashes a lot.


I really don't care about the speed function other than just having it in case I need it. The above picture shows the driver entering into my lane while I'm going 33 MPH in a 35 MPH zone.

I have Sony Vegas and that's what I used to cut the video posted above. The camera is still new and I'm still learning all the features and how to use them. Hope this answered your questions.
 

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Yes, excellent. Thank You.
I'm looking for low cost camera...not paying $500 that's for sure, that's why I was looking at the one you posted.
Seems a fair price and the quality was quite good IMO.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
Changed The Transmission Fluid and the Filter this weekend. Took tons of fluid.

While cleaning (transferring fluid to empty containers) I got this shot. I like it.

Clouds reflected in the Transmission Fluid.


Made a bit of a mess but nothing that can't be taken care of.


Tried to clean the transmission pan as best as I could. Lost a lot of fluid because the Wix Filter kit has this idiotically packed gasket that would not seal properly so I ended up using a Dodge reusable gasket instead.


Another shot of the fluid change. Picture is just a test fitment of the filter.

While I was down there I figured out where I was loosing oil from. It was at the drain pan bolt. Will be handling that tonight.

Still have so many more things to do just to get it back to "stock".
 

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Dang, and you're in SoCal? I could have saved you a lot of trouble! http://www.dodgedurango.net/forums/durango-discussions-1998-03/66402-sell-part-out.html

I'm shocked that a durango in that condition can still get $1200. That's all I was figuring getting I'd get on my 01 RT, (according to kbb).
Yea I saw your durango up but had already gone glove deep in mine. Least I’m learning something in the process. A whole lot of learning to be honest.

When I got the Durango I was between a rock and a hard place. Had very little money and had to have a vehicle in a short period of time.

If nothing else. Others can learn from my misfortune.
 
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