We made an interesting discovery with the brakes on our '97 Dakota. When the pad material on the front pads gets thin, it has a tendency to come flying off, leaving a now-bare steel backing plate to grind into the rotors. In our case, it happened two separate times, both on the expressway, and by the time we got home, the lathe-action had rendered our rotors junk.
Always looking to make the best of an unfortunate situation, we took this as an opportunity to upgrade the front discs on our Dakota. Stillen Brake Pros offers cross-drilled front Sport Rotors and high-performance Metal Matrix pads that fit our needs nicely. Cross drilled rotors offer superior stopping power due to the increased air surface created by the cross drilling, which increases the rotors' ability to dissipate heat and cool more effectively. Of course, the rotors also give a racy appearance to the truck that looks great through open wheels, so that swayed us, too.
Stillen's front Sport Rotor kits are available for Rams, Dakotas, and Durangos, and are a direct replacement for the existing components. For those who want more, Stillen also offers a Big Brake Kit employing 4- or 6-piston calipers and massive 13.7-inch cross-drilled rotors. We firmly believe that every dollar spent to go fast should be matched with a dollar spent to make the vehicle stop.
While the front disc swap on a Dakota will only take an hour or two, we spent some extra time and detailed the rotors and brake pads with POR-15, because we hate rust. You also need to know that on Dakotas, the calipers are held in place with a No. 45 Torx head bolt, so you'll need to purchase a Torx socket to fit-don't try using an Allen wrench, because you'll strip out the head. The Stillen components go right in place of the factory pieces, so there are no surprises-simply remove and replace.