LS Swap Information
Dropping a LS engine into anything has become the norm these days, and why the hell not! They were produced by hundreds of thousands, if not millions, they are cheap, and they have a massive aftermarket. But, the best reason to swap a LS engine into your Dakota is they simply make excellent horsepower for not a lot of dough.
The Dodge Dakota was practically made for these swaps. There is plenty of room and the placement of major vehicle components, such as the battery, starter, exhaust and front mount accessories works perfectly with these trucks. Below is a short list I have compiled of what parts to choose, and what areas you can expect to need attention.
If you feel some of this information is incorrect or incomplete, please feel free to comment below.
- Oil Pans – Most stock oil pans will clear the center crossmember. Assuming you position the engine in the stock location, otherwise modifications may be required.
- Motor Mounts – Mounting a LS engine into a Dakota is a piece of cake, and can be done using simple plates drilled to mate to the stock dodge mounts. Another option is to remove the stock cradle mounts all together and build your own. This kit here looks like it would work well. Finally, if you intend to race your Dakota and want/need the most clearance for exhaust, and want to position the engine in a non-stock location, you can use a front mount motor plate. This eliminates the side cradle style mounts, and mounts the engine directly to the frame by utilizing a plate, usually aluminum, that bolts to the front of the engine, and also bolts directly to the frame rails. This however eliminates any vibration dampening and requires the use of a poly transmission mount, and engine forward and aft limiters.
- Frame Crossmember Clearance - If the engine is mounted in the stock location, you should not have to modify the pan, or the crossmember. This of course is reliant on what pan you are using, but the only instance of having to modify the crossmember I have seen, have been because the engine was mounted in a different location. Below are photos of a stock LS pan clearing with no modifications, the second is a modified crossmember and pan, last is a convential SBC pan clearance in a non-stock location for reference.
- Steering Shaft – The steering shaft will clear most all manifolds and most headers. Once again, this is dependent on the engine remaining in the stock location.
- Exhaust Manifolds/Headers – The drivers side will easily clear the steering shaft (stock location) using truck manifolds or shorty headers, the passengers side will clear (stock location) with truck manifolds or shorty headers, though it is close to the upper control arm rear mount. You will also have to have a custom connection made to clear the frame as the exhaust will exit with a portion of it over the frame rail.
- Cooling – The stock 3.9, 318 and 360 radiators are the same, and more than adequate to cool a LS.
- Electrical – With the location of the battery, it’s dead simple to connect to the starter, and alternator, and you can install a Delco alternator to work without the PCM like the OE unit.
- Computer/Sensors – The stock sending units for the coolant temp, oil pressure will work with the LS. You can even leave the O2’s installed, and use a hand held tuner to tune via the original PCM.
- Speedometer – The PCM Gets the vehicles speed from the VSS located in the rear differential. The signal is first directed to the ABS computer (CAB), then goes to the PCM. So both the PCM and the ABS computer must remain for the speedometer to work.
- Coil pack clearance – The #7 coil will clear the brake booster with the engine in the stock location.
- Transmission Cross-member/Clearance – The trans mount will sit right in the middle of the stock cross-member if the engine is installed in the stock location. There is plenty of clearance in the transmission tunnel for a 4L60E and shifter linkage. You can modify the stock crossmember, build one custom or from a universal kit
- Front Mount Accessories – The truck accessories and brackets will work, the Corvette brackets will not as I believe they place the accessories too far out to the side. With the accessories in place, there is still plenty of room for an electric fan.
- Oil Filter Clearance – The oil filter clears the cross-member with no issues.
- Throttle Cable – The throttle cable will need to be changed.
Small Block Chevrolet Swap Information
Swapping in a Small Block Chevy engine into your Dakota is just as easy as the LS. In fact, with the lack of the required EFI mods, it is actually easier. Many of the points discussed above, also apply to the Small Block Chevy. There are just a few small variations that should be noted.
- Exhaust Manifolds/Headers – Use shorty style late model (98′) 4wd Chevy truck headers (pictured here). Though I suspect, the truck manifolds may work, but this is not for certain. They will be tight around the passengers side upper control arm mount.
- Distributor Clearance – You have a few choices. The easiest for most will be to run a small body HEI distributor and use an externally mounted coil. The second option is to run a front mounted crank trigger setup. This will allow you to move the engine back further to better aid in handling and weight balance. Lastly, you can modify the wiper cowl area for added clearance. Care must be taken as to leave room for the wiper arm to clear the patch piece, and be sure to fully weld in the patch so as to not lose any rigidity, Also make certain to fully seal the repair so water does not leak down directly onto the distributor. You can find a photo of such a modification right here.
- Oil drain plug – Due to the requirement for rear distributor clearance, you may encounter an issue with the oil drain plug being located above the cross-member. Though, this depends on the mounting position.
- Radiator Hoses – The lower hose can easily be matched up at your local parts store as it is close to your typical GM lower hose. The upper is even simpler, as you can use the stock upper hose, and therefore keep your cooling system fill point. only minor trimming is required and the use of a old style (the straight vertical) thermostat housing is required.
|1997||Vents||5.3||T56 swap, intake, Cam, long tubes and a Hydro-boost. More images here, and here.
|1998||Scott Nelson||SLT||LS1||2002 ls1 swap with t56 six speed, speartech standalone wiring and computer, 102 FAST INTAKE,92 TB, granatelli MAF, comp LSR cam, Roller rockers, slp underdrive pulley, meizure electric water pump and fans, 4.10 gears, monster stage 2 clutch, and more to come.
|1999||Tnewton||LQ4||TKO equipped, stock manifolds and custom mount plates
|1999||LS1DakotaRT||R/T||LS1||Swap thread here , Excellent thread here, Test drive video here, 12 second drag video here|
|2000||Brian Esser||Regular Cab||355||More info here
|Geezer’s Garage||5.3||Swap thread here
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