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Hello all,
New to the forums here and excited to hear some advice on an ongoing project.
I recently acquired a 2000 Durango SLT with the 5.9L for a very low price as it had some pretty significant body damage, bumpers misaligned, transmission cooling system leaked everywhere, and the 4WD would not engage. Since buying it, I hunted down a junkyard donor to replace a front and rear bumper, as well as rear passenger door that had previously not opened and had a massive rusted gash in it from someone hitting a pole. I just installed a 3" rear shackle "lift" with the matching torsion keys, realigned the bumpers, fixed the transmission cooling issues, and replaced the missing 4WD linkage causing the failure.
My plans for this truck are simple: I want a 4WD somewhat offroad/snow capable vehicle that is ready for anything. On my list of parts to acquire next are a bull bar, roof basket, off road jack, and an assortment of survival equipment. I also want to do some LED light bars and these amber led lights for the sides and front.
A few questions for anyone who has done something similar:
-tires??? This thing needs tires bad, but I can't decide what to get. This is a budget oriented build, so I want to be under $900 out the door.... and 31's are probably the only option at that price. Any recommendations?
-Lighting... does anyone have advice on wiring/mounting the lights I described including potentially a long roof mounted light bar?
-suspension- the shackle lift had a minor effect, while the torsion keys actually lowered the front... recommended affordable lift options?
-exhaust- this thing is wayyyy quiet. Any budget exhaust to get some sound?
-tool set ups- I need to retain the 3rd row seating for the kiddos, but want an area to stow away all the tools I will be keeping in here. I know the little cubby for the jack in the trunk area is one spot, but won't hold everything I need. Any designs to build a cool box here?
-is there any way to mount a front winch that doesn't require a new bumper??

thanks for any and all advice! sorry for the long post
 

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Ok heres some advice. 3" of lift on the front end is too much. There are rubber bump stops that will be touching the upper control arms with three inches of lift. That means no down travel and a terrible pogo stick ride. The torsion keys are probably not indexed correctly if the truck is now lower. If you still have the original keys, put them back in, then crank the bars no more than 2 inches max. This is the best you're going to get with that front end. If you want more lift, add a 3" body lift.

Tires, the front drivetrain isn't very heavy duty, so a larger tire is going to add stress to parts like the wheel bearings and diff housing. Max you should go is 33". Wider would be better for snow. but avoid deep dish rims. (those put more stress on the wheel bearings)

To me a bug out vehicle is better off with the quietest exhaust possible. In a SHTF situation, you don't want others to hear you coming. If the bug out thing is a theme, a cheap way to get a good exhaust note is to just pull the muffler off and straight pipe it. By law, the cat has to stay and it actually does a good job as a muffler.

I'm not a fan of roof mounted LED light bars. Don't get me wrong, I think LEDs are wonderful devices but not on the roof of a truck. The best type of lights to mount on a roof are pencil beams. They are designed to throw light a long distance and the roof mounted location helps. But those LED light bars are more like flood lights. They throw light everywhere, lighting up everything within a few feet of the truck. Much of that light will be lighting up the hood and making it really hard to see much beyond it because of the high contrast between the lit up hood and the darkness beyond. If you're gonna put a light bar on the truck, put it somewhere on the front end where it won't create a contrast.

Suggesting where to stick the tools will depend on what you plan to carry. A simple tool set can easily be carried. You can put them in an ammo can and bolt it to your roof rack.

Mounting a winch. You will need a very sturdy mount to bolt a winch to. The factory bumper is not sturdy enough. If you plan to install a bull bar, you might be able to find one with a winch mount built into it. Other than that, you're going to need a winch bumper of some type. You can find one on ebay for a modest price, or if you can weld, or know someone who can weld, you can build one.

Ed
 

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Discussion Starter #3
That’s some great advice, I appreciate the reply!
understood regarding the tire and lift situation, I’ll be taking your advice there.
the bug out is more of a theme that I want to be in the realm of functional, but exhaust is something I’ve always done to all my cars so I might make an exception with that being a tad louder.
for Led lights I agree with you about the roof one, might just attach a shorter one to the bull bar, swap the fog lights for cubes and call it good there. The roof mounted ammo can is an awesome idea!
I don’t think I’ll be uninstalling the keys just due to the massive pain it was to get these in, and since they’re currently set to a very medium number of turns on the bolt, I might just try to tweak that instead of putting the stocks back on. (It took a weekend worth due to several annoyances during the install)
For tires and wheels all I needed to hear was keep it simple, I was trying to justify a “33 with deeper wheels... my wallet and I are glad that’s a bad idea! Just gonna paint the stocks black and get some new 31”s most likely then.
as for a winch, I’ll look around for a bull bar that has a spot for one, most of what I’ve seen for the Durango only allows for a full bumper swap with a mounted one there, but there may still be hope. It’s not a necessity to have one, but I’ll see what I can whip up.
I really appreciate your help! Thanks!
 

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Not really for Bug Out, but Im an Old Grunt so it has to survive no matter what. Keep everything as close to stock as possible and less things will go wrong. I just passed 224k and she si still running like a new truck.

RXT has a lot of good info. I was going with lights on the top and decided to keep it clean except for the rack. I plan on putting some flush lights in the metal plates on the side to light up around the truck when needed. I put fog/driving lights on the bottom of the bumper, an a 24" light on the bush bar and that gives more than enough light.

As for lifting it... Why go over a rock when you can always go around it. My truck as gone through water over the tires and hasnt had a problem, mud up to the top of the rims and it didnt phase it a bit. It also takes curves as good as a car at speed without rolling or sliding.

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C'mon Dodge - NEW DAKOTA
2003 Dakota Club Cab Sport 4.7L
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Just one objection, RXT. Wider is NOT better for snow. Narrower is better in snow in every circumstance. Narrower == smaller contact patch == more PSI == better snow traction.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Not really for Bug Out, but Im an Old Grunt so it has to survive no matter what. Keep everything as close to stock as possible and less things will go wrong. I just passed 224k and she si still running like a new truck.

RXT has a lot of good info. I was going with lights on the top and decided to keep it clean except for the rack. I plan on putting some flush lights in the metal plates on the side to light up around the truck when needed. I put fog/driving lights on the bottom of the bumper, an a 24" light on the bush bar and that gives more than enough light.

As for lifting it... Why go over a rock when you can always go around it. My truck as gone through water over the tires and hasnt had a problem, mud up to the top of the rims and it didnt phase it a bit. It also takes curves as good as a car at speed without rolling or sliding.

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What an awesome build! Thanks for the inspiration!
keeping it stock now does seem like the better choice, mechanically at least (for lighting I Wish to swap the headlights and taillights for LED options) and just putting the rack on top looks awesome! Finally getting to see a roof rack on my vehicle confirms that for me. Thanks for the advice!
 

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What an awesome build! Thanks for the inspiration!
keeping it stock now does seem like the better choice, mechanically at least (for lighting I Wish to swap the headlights and taillights for LED options) and just putting the rack on top looks awesome! Finally getting to see a roof rack on my vehicle confirms that for me. Thanks for the advice!
Go to a junk yard and get a couple of extra rack rails. It makes a big difference when you put heavier stuff in it. I use 4 of them and it doesnt change the max weight, but it doesnt sag in the middle anymore.

If you are going for the paint job I did, I put a basic military pattern on it, then went over it with Rustoleum Camo using plastic plants from Hobby Lobby. The first pic is her when I pulled her out of the back yard after 4 years of sitting. A new used fender, new front wheel bearings, new tires, and a lot of under the hood plastics replaced due to squirrels enjoying her more than I did and she is running better than ever. Anything is possible with a Gen 1 Durango.
This is the video I used for learning the patterns.
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Wow Britt, I love your Durango. I went a bit (actually a lot) overboard with my own build. But I used a Dakota platform instead'

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I started with a stock Dakota and found out all the weaknesses the hard way. Eventually I upgraded everything that was weak...Except the engine. The 318 was good, but I stuck a Cummins under the hood, because Cummins, right?

Ed
 

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2003 Dakota Sport 4.7L V8
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Wow! Now that’s a truck! Way to make mine look like a go kart! Good job sir!
 

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For exhaust, you may want to check out the Magnaflow Dodge Durango street series cat-back exhaust. It will give your Durango a rich, throaty sound.
 
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