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2003 RT (5.9)
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That's an ugly looking wound to the valve cover.
I think that the first thing to do would be to pull it off to see what parts and pieces of your valve train came loose in there.
When the 'check gauges' light came on, out of curiosity, which gauge was it?

As far as preventing the overheat condition:
I'd say regular preventive maintenance on the cooling system. A flush and fill every five years with a new 'stat & cap & s-belt, and periodically going through & replacing all the hoses.

But I also think that if a cooling system has been neglected for a long enough time, damage may have already happened (head gaskets, cracked heads, etc.) that may be beyond preventive maintenance.

I am not saying that nasty looking valve cover is related, but that is the first thing you would need to address.

Also, on edit: which is the "Dorman hose" you are referring to?
 

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That must be one of the OEM heater hoses for a 4.7.
But on the valve cover, that is interesting: so the thinking is that it was something external that whacked it & broke the hole in it? It must be leaking oil badly from that hole, I would think.

Back to your overheat & how to prevent that from happening, if that heater hose is OEM and it's been there since '01, it had outlived it's expectancy. And probably all the other hoses have also. You said you changed the lower rad hose already, but I would go ahead and change ALL the coolant hoses.

You asked if an overheat was common with Dakotas, and I would say no, unless preventive maintenance has been neglected.
 

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. . . oh, and it just struck me that yours is a 4.7 with overhead cams, meaning that your valve train (under those valve covers) is a bit of a different animal than what I was originally thinking of.
 

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Yeah, the 3.7 and 4.7s have an overhead cam under each valve cover, as opposed to the 3.9, 5.2 and 5.9s which have the more conventional one cam through the center of the engine (underneath) which pushes the push rods up through the heads to open & close the valves via the rocker arms. As I typed earlier, the 4.7/overhead cam set up is a bit of a different animal that I am not familiar with, but I do know that due to the way it operates, it is set up differently underneath the valve covers.

I did a cursory search to try find you a tutorial to explain what all is going on with the valve train on those, and I didn't come up with much, but I am sure if you do some googles, you should find some good pictures. I did find this for you:

 

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That link I sent you is just general info on the 4.7; it wasn't really what I was looking for, but if you are new to that engine you may find it interesting.

Here is a better diagram and there is a thing that you can click on in the diagram to blow it up so you can actually see what it's showing.


It might be a little confusing because the pic is showing both cams in the same picture (meaning the one over the left head AND the one over the right head) so it might make you think it's showing a dual overhead cam setup, but that is not what it is meaning to illustrate. But what you can see is that the cam actually sits on top of the rocker (no push rod) and opens and closes the valves by pushing down on the rockers (as opposed to pushing the push rods up to the rocker arms). From what I read, they were talking about the lobes of the 4.7 cams sitting right on top of "cam followers" which I assume would interface with the rockers, but I am not really seeing the "followers" in the diagram. The diagram also isn't showing the timing chains for each individual cam, and from what I have read previously on that subject, changing them is a complicated job.

That picture of your valve cover damage got me interested, so in the process of looking for a better picture of the 4.7 OHC valve train, I came on a few threads in forums related to the subject of rockers "jumping off" on that engine. So I guess that must be not uncommon. I am not saying that I think a rocker "jumped off" & punched a hole in your valve cover, but the concept does have my interest aroused. I guess that I am thinking that that is NOT what happened, as I would think you would hear some clattering if that was the case.

But anyway, I'll wish you well on this job and I am interested to read your follow up.
 

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Good update with good pictures! Thanks!

Yes, the OHC 4.7 is a bit different than most other V-8s. As I typed previously, when I was looking for that last diagram I sent you, I came upon at least a couple of threads on Dodge forums related to a rocker coming off. I would have thought, however, that this would make it run crappy and make some valve train noise, but that presumption does not come from any personal or practical experience. If you do a google using "Dodge 4.7 rocker jumping off" you will find some posts on Dodge forums talking about that subject.

From what I have read, it is changing the timing chains that is real tricky on those engines.
 

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A bent valve = yuk.

That's too bad. All I really know about the 4.7 is what I have read here & on some of the Dodge sites. Like I said, it's a bit of a different creature. From what I have read, they may be prone to valve train issues, they may be fussy about being overheated, and their electronics are more complex than the other Dakotas.

To only change that valve or to change the head I think (but I don't know for sure) that it might be theoretically possible (but tricky) to get the cam out & the head off without removing the chain on that side (however, if you did go that route, it might be just as well to change the chains & gears also). But as I've said, everything I've read about that engine makes me think that working on those valve trains is tricky (especially if you don't have the experience on that engine) & I am thinking that getting the cam timing correct might be no exception.

And, with that typed, if this engine has been sadly neglected for years and years and years, once you got that done, you just might continually keep running into more issues after issues.

One thing I would suggest at this point is to start a new thread on the subject of an engine change & try first posting in the 4.7 forum of this site, & if you don't get any information try posting in some of the other maintenance forums here. You might find information that will be helpful by scrolling through old threads in the 4.7 forum.

Here is another Dakota site
Dakota Forumz
that is set up similarly to this one, but the action can be pretty hit & miss.

If I happen to come across anything that might be applicable to you & your situation, I'll post it for you.
 
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