Hi there, Lily!
Your concern about your Dodge Dakota feeling sluggish during acceleration could stem from various factors, including transmission issues, but there could also be other problems at hand. As such, it's not always the sole cause. Here's a breakdown of potential causes, from what I can tell based on your descriptions:
- Transmission Trouble: If your vehicle's transmission is stuck in a gear other than first, or if the torque converter isn't functioning properly, it could lead to sluggishness. Also, pay attention to how the RPMs behave before the gears change.
- Exhaust System: An exhaust leak, like the one you mentioned from the manifold, can impact the air/fuel mixture, potentially causing performance issues.
- Driveline Components: Worn or damaged driveline bearings, including wheel bearings or transmission bearings, create resistance, affecting vehicle movement.
- Engine Health: Clogged air filters, fuel filters, or issues with engine sensors can significantly impact performance.
- Brake System: Brakes that are hanging up can drag and slow down the vehicle.
- Alignment and Tire Pressure: While you've confirmed these are okay, it's good to regularly check them as they can subtly affect performance.
Given these factors, it's challenging to pinpoint the exact cause without a physical inspection. The exhaust leak is a significant concern, especially due to the risk of carbon monoxide. Address this as a priority for both performance and safety reasons.
If there's a check engine light, getting the codes read could provide more insight. It's also worth considering a full diagnostic check to rule out any hidden issues.
Lastly, as a preventive measure, consider cleaning the fuel system and possibly adding a transmission additive, like Lubegard Red, especially given the mileage on your Dakota.
Hope this helps, and wishing you the best in resolving that problem!
Zack - Motor Verso Mechanics Team