The Engine Inside Your Dodge Durango

Whether you’re driving friends around UC Berkeley or heading down to the marina, the last thing you want is to experience engine problems. However, regardless of the age or mileage on your Dodge Durango, you’ll probably have issues with your engine at some point during the life of your ownership. Although proper maintenance can help to reduce the need for repairs, it’s not a guarantee that your Durango will never break down. As your truck accumulates miles, the chance of engine problems increases. However, not all engine issues are catastrophic. In some cases, the cause is something simple as a loose gas cap or dirty air filter.

What are the Main Parts of an Engine?

Your engine produces power. It is comprised of various components that are bolted together, and each part works within the entire system to achieve power by burning fuel. These parts include: The cylinder block is the part of the engine in which fuel combustion takes place. Other components such as the crankshaft, connecting rod and piston are bolted onto this block. The cylinder head, located on top of the cylinder block, seals the working end of the cylinder. It also prevents gases from entering or exiting the engine’s cover head valves. The piston is located in the cylinder and transmits force to the connecting rod. It compresses the air-fuel mixture before converting this fuel energy into mechanical energy. It is also responsible for powering the crankshaft. As its name suggests, the connecting rod part connects the crankshaft to the piston. It transmits the motion of the piston to the crankshaft. The larger end connects to the crankshaft, while the lower end connects to the piston. The crankshaft is found on the bottom of the cylinder block. It transforms the piston’s reciprocating motion into rotary motion, which is then used to rotate your Durango’s wheels. The oil sump is bolted at the lower end of the block and contains all of the oil your vehicle needs to lubricate its moving parts. Another part located at the bottom of the cylinder block is the camshaft. This engine part has the job of opening and closing the valves within a multi-cylinder engine at exactly the right time. The valves themselves are fitted onto the cylinder head and are responsible for regulating the flow of the exhaust gas around the cylinder block as well as the air-fuel mixture within the cylinder itself. In other words, when the valves are closed, no pressure can enter or leave the block. Gaskets are also used to seal the cylinder and cylinder head so that no pressure escapes. Gaskets are typically placed between the two components. Piston rings provide sealing and reduce friction resistance between the cylinder and the piston. Piston rings are split at one point so that they may be easily installed into the piston’s grooves. Your Durango is equipped with two manifolds: one for exhaust and one for intake. The function of the exhaust manifold is to collect the exhaust gases from all of the cylinders, while the intake manifold evenly distributes the air-fuel mixture. Spark plugs are fitted onto the cylinder head and are critical for igniting the air-fuel mixture inside the cylinder at exactly the right time. Without a spark, the combustion process can’t begin, and your car simply won’t move. Let's take a look at some common engine problems.


In most cases, overheating is caused by a low coolant level. Quickly checking the coolant overflow reservoir will tell you if you’re leaking coolant somewhere. Most vehicles are equipped with warning lights or temperature gauges that let you know whether your engine is overheating. If left undiagnosed, frequent overheating can cause expensive, serious engine damage. Therefore, proper maintenance of your cooling system is critical to not only maintaining the quality of the coolant but to also make sure that the cooling system itself is in good working condition. Also, a blown head gasket or cracked cylinder head may also cause white exhaust smoke, coolant loss and overheating, which may indicate that your engine is in need of repair. Common causes of overheating include:

- Dirty air filter

- Defective radiator cap

- Broken or kinked radiator hose

- Dirty coolant

- Faulty thermostat

- External or internal coolant leak

- Low coolant level

- Malfunctioning cooling fan

“Service Engine Soon” Light

The “service engine soon” light is designed to come on whenever your Durango’s computer detects a fault in the sensors attached to the powertrain controls, engine or emission. The purpose of this light is to let you know that there’s a potentially serious problem that will require your attention. If you notice blue exhaust smoke along with an illuminated light, it could indicate that an engine oil leak is causing a fuel system problem. A certified mechanic can gather the trouble codes from your Durango’s electronic control module in order to determine the specific cause. Common reasons why your “service engine soon” light may come on include:

- Fuel quality issue

- Missing or loose gas cap

- Emissions control problem such as the oxygen sensor

- Wires or spark plugs that are damaged or worn out

- Defective coil packs or distributor

- Electronic control module failure

Engine Won’t Start

An engine that won’t start at all is one of the most common engine problems. If you hear a clicking noise but the engine isn’t cranking, it likely means there’s a problem with the battery. However, if the engine cranks but doesn’t start, it is indicative of an ignition or fuel problem. Common reasons why your Durango isn’t starting include:

- Clogged fuel filter

- Discharged or low battery

- Defective fuel pump

- Loose or corroded battery cables

- Ignition switch failure

- Starter motor relay failure


Following Dodge’s maintenance schedule is extremely important. Services such as tune-ups, fuel and oil filter replacements and oil changes are necessary in order to keep your Durango performing at peak condition. Although maintenance items such as the air filter are often overlooked, they can also significantly affect your SUV’s performance and drivability. Regardless of your Durango’s age, proper maintenance will help prevent possible engine issues and breakdowns.