I don't know that Dakota's have any specific problem areas. Does the
'97 have a "push button" transfer case? Make sure it'll go into 4
high/4 low and that it'll actually spin the front tires in gravel.
Otherwise, just do the standard inspection. Make sure everything
works. Check all the fluids. Check for bondo/paint/body work. Etc.
Water pump, AC condenser, heater core, pinion seal (which wiped out the
bearings in the rear end), exhaust, and brakes (a couple of times, at
least). The guy who owned it before me replaced the timing chain and gear
set as preventive maintenance at about 100,000 miles. I'm in the process of
replacing the rear axle speed sensor.
Other than oil, filter, tires, and spark plugs, that's about it.
For the miles I've put on it I'm happy.
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