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Harvel 01-21-2015 11:17 AM

1997 Dodge Dakota 5.2 V8/23 ft land yacht Safari
I'm the proud owner of a 1971 23 ft Land Yacht Safari! I'm starting to shop for a used tow vehicle, however I own a 1997 Dodge Dakota pickup with the magnum 5.2 V8 engine. Sticker says it has 6800 trailer towing capicity with gross gcwr of 10509, curb wt of 3662 and payload of 2600.
The trailer wt is 3680, 445 hitch wt. The truck only has 85,000 miles is and automatic and runs great. Any reason not to use this truck for awhile since I already own it?
Thanks for any responses..

Glenritas 01-21-2015 11:41 AM

It's a bit light duty for that AS.

Besides the trailer is 8' wide and the Dakota is rather narrow, Tow mirrors would have to be at least 8' apart to the inner edges of the mirrors.

This would make a custom mirror set a necessity.

The other concern would be the trailer wagging the dog.

The 318 v-8 with the A500 O.D. Transmission and 3.55 rear gears may seem like a rocket without the trailer but it will be a dog with the trailer especially in the hills and mountains.

If you go with the Dakota be sure to add an auxiliary transmission cooler and load the bed with camp gear to give the tail some weight but don't exceed the rear axle weight rating with the trailer attached.

Load up everything and head to a scale an get the weights of the front axle, the rear axle, and the trailer axles, with the trailer only on the scale unhitch and raise the tongue off the ball then do the math.

This will give you the truck weight, the trailer weight and the tongue weight and you'll also know the axle weights.

AldeanFan 01-21-2015 02:13 PM

Sounds like your truck has the factory towing package,
As long as you've got a transmission cooler you're probably good, won't break any speed records but it should work fine.

The Safari is a nice light trailer and is narrower and lighter than later trailers.

I tow my '77 Safari with a 2005 Tundra, 4.7l V8 and it does a great job. The 2005 Tundra has the same rearend as a Tacoma, which would be the competitor to your Dakota.

Make sure you've got a weight distributing hitch set up properly, some sort of sway control and a good brake controller and go camping!

Post some pics!

Aerowood 01-22-2015 08:19 AM

I tow my 71 Gt with my 99 5.2 extended cab 4X4 Dakota with 3.73 gears in the diffs. Added a Trans cooler, hitch, and brakes controller and wiring. Tows the GT just fine all over the Colorado Rockies. Just can't be in a big hurry going over the passes, but I'm not the only one only going 40mph. Its got 164k miles on it now and still reliable and going strong.

Sodbust 01-22-2015 04:20 PM

For the size they were well built.. In all truth,, the frames were over built for the size of pu.. At the time the industry trend line was going towards smaller pu's,, to reach the EPA goals..

If it were mine I think at your 85k milage I would sure change all the oils over to a synthetic... I did our Ram pu at 12,000 miles and the difference in the temps on the rear axle cover after a day long pull dropped the temps from too hot to touch to place your hand on the rear cover.. Boosted my mpg a full 1.2MPG..

NavyCorpsman 01-22-2015 04:33 PM

My father in law has the exact same truck. The transmission is the weak link. It will fail at the slightest provocation. The engine and chassis are great. So, for short distances, not too demanding, it would work fine. The cost of a rebuild of that tranny starts at 1,700 and goes up from there. If you plan on ranging far away, I would look for the biggest and most comfortable truck I could afford. Some of the older F250 Super Duty diesels that have been gently used can be found affordably. Your truck will work for now, but I have personally seen two of them in the last two years with fried clutch packs and worse. And they were maintained! Nice find on the Safari and welcome to the forum!:)

Dave.K 01-22-2015 07:15 PM

I pull my 1971 over lander with a 1999 durango 5.9 Auto 373 gears & load leveler . 265000 miles on it with no problem. Make sure to have a large trans cooler, Remove the check valve from the return line after the radiator & make sure that the lower gasket in the intake is not leaking it will blow out under load . All these fixes can be found in dodge forum web sight. Remember NEVER TOW IN OVERDRIVE that's what kills these transmission. I take my time & get there when we get there.
Give it a try & have fun.


Sodbust 01-23-2015 03:43 AM

I agree with Dave.K.. Stay out of overdrive.. Even with my Ram hemi,, with 6 speeds I run 80% of the time in 4th gear since it has a 1 to 1 ratio.. All the power of the engine is just locked up with no gear sets working.. I have to be on level,, no head wind conditions before I let it run in 5th gear.

I don't remember if your transmission has a direct gear under overdrive or not.. A lot of the newer trans don't even have a direct gear any more. Its under or overdrive. Our Toyota FJ is like that..

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