Just bought a '98 durango slt with the 5.2. I have a few questions that I'm hoping I can find some answers to. I've also done quite a bit of work on it and maybe my experiences can help some one else.
I chose the Durango for my wife and I because it was the most inexpensive 4 wheel drive SUV with a V8. We purchased the vehicle from a gentleman on craigslist for $1900. Previous owner said that everything was fine, except the A/C leaked freon. No big deal I thought... Come to find out that would be the least of my worries.
I took it to wal-mart to get the oil changed because they were having a $25 oil change special; they told me they would not change the oil because the vehicle had a serious oil leak. So I brought it home and started poking around at it. Turns out it doesn't leak oil at all...there was a hole in the transmission where it bolts to the transfer case. I did some research and opted to splurge on some JB weld than invest in a new transmission, figured I didn't have much to lose at this point. The JB weld has held up nicely so far. it didn't completely fix the problem as the fluid is still leaking, but it's minimal enough that I can just add some ATF to it every so often.
During my research of patching transmission holes, I found several other common issues with the durango; most notably the upper ball joints. At first I was told I'd have to replace the entire upper control arm ($83/arm) because the old ball joints were pressed in, not bolted on. however, I found that oriely's had some house brand ball joints for 30 bucks each, so I figured I'd try them first. The quality of the ball joints were OK, but the nuts and bolts were a joke. The nuts were so warped they wouldn't go onto the bolts whatsoever. The manager at Oriely's made it right though and gave me a free set of nuts and bolts.
At this point, the inspection sticker is 10 months out of date and I still haven't even registered it into my name. I just want to get it running right and know that I have made a sound investment. After the ball joints it was one thing after another.
When I drained the transmission to dry the hole, I went ahead and replaced the filter and the pan gasket, and wiped the magnet free of the sludge that had built up on it. After a total of 11 days on jackstands, I took it down for a test drive. at first it seemed fine, good as new. Then I noticed it would not shift into over drive, a little while after that, it would shift sporadically. I did some research (and some praying, cursing, and maybe even a tear or two) and found this was yet another common thing in these older transmissions. I replaced the TPS sensor which was known to cause such issues, and that made it better for about 30 minutes, then it started acting up, worse than before. It was not drivable at all. wouldn't get over 20 MPh without shifting through gears about 800 times. Then the check engine light came on and it started running perfectly. Shifts were smooth and on time, and it went from first through overdrive with no issues. I could have lived with that but inspection is still out. I went to Advanced Auto parts and had the code read: p0720. replaced the speed output sensor on the transmission, disconnected the battery for a few hours with the key on to reset the computer, and it seems to run better than ever, and with no check engine light on. I'm hoping that it stays that way until tomorrow so I can get it inspected.
Sorry for the book of a post...