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Old 06-18-2004, 10:00 PM   #1
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diesel truck-----what to watch out for?

I am looking for a diesel truck. There are a few requirements.
1. Automatic trans (tired of shifting)
2. Used (can't afford new)
3. 4 x 4 (lots of snowy winters)
4. Extended cab (family of 5)
The big three all have trucks to meet my requirements, but I have limited experience with diesel engines (none really). Since I have to buy used, what I want to know is there anything I should watch out for or avoid in any of the big 3's trucks? I don't want truck bashing, just any known problems. For instance someone told me Chevy had a problem with injector pumps (or something like that?) with there 6.5 turbo and it cost around $800 to fix! All 3 have decent trucks, so I don't really care what brand it is I would just like a reliable truck.
Horse power and towing heavy stuff is not a concern. So differences in horse power or towing capability not a big factor.
Thanks for your help.


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Old 06-18-2004, 10:15 PM   #2
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What ever truck you buy LOOK at the service log. Diesels and towig = MAINTENANCE.
A well maintained diesel will last a long time. Not changing the fuel filter every 15,000 miles will wear the injectors and shorten the pump life. Go to and look there for advice, like which is a wealth of information thedieselstop is loaded with lots of information. Good luck.

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Old 06-19-2004, 02:54 AM   #3
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I bought a used one and...

I had it ('00 F250) for two full days before I brought it back to the dealer and bought a new gasser instead. Why? Well... it was noisy, and I could smell fumes with the windows open, it clattered and roared up and down the narrow, twisty streets where I live, had almost no engine braking, felt sluggish in town, did I mention the noise? literally gave me a headache. I could go on. It only had 50k on it and I couldn't imagine driving it until it wore out. It just wasn't a good fit for me personally, although in many situations and applications they are excellent, as several of my friends will attest, and may be fine for you.

The mileage was pretty good. Ran a full tank through it and got 15 mpg compared to the 12 I get with the gasser, around town in very steep and congested conditions. Probably be even a bit more advantage to the diesel when towing but for me it just wasn't worth it, especially since I have a car to drive also.

Just my personal experience. Try before you buy.
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Old 06-19-2004, 05:15 AM   #4
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Hi -

I have a 2000 F250 PSD 4x4 with 65000 miles and so far have not experienced a single significant problem!

The only thing about mine that is sometimes a nuisance is that it sometimes drips a couple small drops of oil, so I keep a rubber mat on my garage floor. They tell me it uses a crushable brass drain plug, that needs to be replaced periodically. However, that's all I can tell you after almost 5 years of ownership and several cross country towing trips!

You can probably learn about every problem ever experienced, and then some, with Ford trucks at

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Old 06-19-2004, 07:25 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by Ghost Rider
The big three all have trucks to meet my requirements..... is there anything I should watch out for or avoid in any of the big 3's trucks? G/R
FWIW, I have a Ford 7.3 liter E-350 with 175,000 miles on it, and have also driven a Dodge/Cummins 3/4 ton on longish trips. The Dodge was certainly quieter.

My Ford has absolutely no drips or leaks (surprising for the amount of miles in it), but I did have to replace the radiator last year (almost $400 just for the bare radiator). No problems with the E4OD transmission, but I also have an E150 van (only highway useage, never abused) that had to have the E4OD gone through at 100,000 miles.

When test driving a vehicle, have someone (preferably in a chase car) observe the exhaust as you put the pedal to the metal. Color of exhaust and other tailpipe emissions might give an indication to impending engine problems.

Swab the tailpipe (or put a piece of cardboard or cloth where the exhaust gasses will impact and be collected) for particulate inspection.

Did I mention that the Ford E-350 7.3 liter interior was loud? -- Yeah, like CAN'T HEAR MYSELF THINK!!!

The best resource for info is the 'net Ford site previously mentioned (, Dodge and GM have similar noncorporate-sponsored sites where you will find honest, real world observations, opinions, and discussions by (somewhat impartial? ) enthusiasts.

"Suck it up, spend the bucks, do it right the first time."

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Old 06-19-2004, 08:03 AM   #6
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You mention a family of five and an extended cab. I know that you are referencing diesel issues here, you know your requirements, but thought I'd share our experience. We tested both the extended cab and crew cab for rider comfort in the rear seating, and decided that children or friends could not comfortably ride in the extended cab-straight back, limited space, for a very long distance. others may say differently. We selected the crew cab for that reason. Will your family be doing much riding in the rear seats? Just another thing to think about!
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Old 06-19-2004, 08:06 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by Ghost Rider
I am looking for a diesel truck. There are a few requirements.
1. Automatic trans (tired of shifting)
You hear a lot about the shortcomings of the older generation of automatics in the big three. I incline to the arguement that the most reliable, and the most economical for rebuild, was the GM unit. But really, with proper maintanence and keeping an eye on the transmission temp. gauge (a necessity for towing) overhauling any of them just needs to be factored in as part of the cost of ownership.

Originally Posted by Ghost Rider
2. Used (can't afford new)
That's what I thought. Then I spent some time with a spreadsheet, and discovered for the fairly high miles I put on one (30,000 -40,000 per year), and factoring the manufacturer's incentives at the time vs. the VERY high prices used diesel trucks bring in my area, the cost over four years was likely to be somewhat less with a new one.
Originally Posted by Ghost Rider
4. Extended cab (family of 5)

The big three all have trucks to meet my requirements
Well, maybe not. I think you really want a crew cab, not an extended cab. I know I would for five people, even if three are kids. The Dodge is not a true crew cab, but it is larger than an extended cab. You need to look at it and compare.

Originally Posted by Ghost Rider
someone told me Chevy had a problem with injector pumps (or something like that?) with there 6.5 turbo and it cost around $800 to fix!
Yeah, or maybe more. This is, in my opinion, something of a bum rap. All diesel trucks have very expensive parts on them which, if they fail, will cost big time to repair. You can expect a 6.5 electric injector pump to go about 100,000 mi. Some think the newer, improved versions might go much, much farther. My bigger kick with the 6.5 is that it has only 185 hp. But the 6.5 GM can be a real bargain. It is not unusual to find them $6,000 or even $8,000 less than a comparable Dodge or Ford.

I'd check a 7.3 for cavitation and later models for the infamous "cackle", a Dodge for just about everything BUT the engine, and a the 6.5 GM needs to be seen by someone who really knows those engines.

The GM Duramax ('00 to present), the Ford 6.0 ('02 - I think - to present) and the Dodge Cummins from '02 on are all much, MUCH quieter. Scarcely louder than a big block gasser.

Good hunting!

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Old 06-19-2004, 10:04 AM   #8
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I go a 2002 GMC Duramax K2500HD Crew Cab. Bought used with 41,700 miles and paid $29,500. Already had the hard shell fiberglass tonneau cover by A.R.E.
I get 20 mpg solo and 11 with the 31' Excella loaded at 70 mph.
The Duramax Allison combination is absolutely fantastic....that transmission thinks for itself when it is in tow/haul mode.
A properly maintained vehicle is a must with me, be it gasser or diesel.
I had a K-5 Blazer that I drove for 280,000 miles with proper maintenence and no significant problems exception that awful 700R4 tranny....It got stolen at that point so I don't know how many miles it had left in it.
My uncle always said to me when I worked for him on the farm in East Tennessee in the Summer growing up..."Boy, grease is cheaper than will do proper maintenence and inspection of equipment, no exceptions."
He was right.
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Old 06-19-2004, 12:13 PM   #9
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I used to own a 2000 GMC crew cab dually with the 6.5 TD and auto. trans. with flawless service and I did my own maintenance.I had it for 3 yrs. and a little over 40,000 miles and as I said flawless service and never had any trouble towing the 31ft trailer I had and no trouble with the 34 ft trailer I have now.I know there are a lot of people who talk down about the 6.5`s but I have owned 4 different GM trucks with that engine and am planning on getting another when I get over the mistake I made of trading the one I had.

I traded for a 2004 Ford Excursion with the 6.0 diesel which was not a good move at all. It did have a lot more power but for a $ 50,000 dollar vehicle it had numerous problems and the seats were very uncomfortable and this was the Limited model with premium leather seating.The 6.0 dsl is also 2-3 times more expensive to maintain.

As some one else posted the Fords also have a problem with block cavitation when the owners don`t keep the coolant additive up to par. Which leads to pinholes in the block and then engine replacement or sleeving.Cavitation has been found in the early 6.9 dsl`s through the 7.3 powerstrokes.So if a Ford is what you want check to see if the FW-16 coolant additive was used.

I have a friend with an older Dodge and he absolutely loves it.It has over 200,000 miles on it and runs excellent.

Good luck shopping. Davis
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Old 06-19-2004, 04:20 PM   #10
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I have a 7.3 dsl. with 203,000 miles. All i've done to it is; 1 tranny at 135,000. An injector pump rebuild and proper maintence at 3 to 5 thousand miles. I bought this truck new in 91, and pushed it hard ever since. After this truck I'll never buy anything but a FORD
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Old 06-19-2004, 06:34 PM   #11
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go drive the nice used diesels you may find at the ford, chevy and dodge dealers. I found the chevy (gmc) to be the quietest. the new allison transmission is what sold me on the chevy
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Old 06-19-2004, 08:19 PM   #12
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Been very satisfied with my Duramax/Allison combo. I have put 18K on it since I got it in Sept. of 03. Diesel fuel has been 20-30 cents a gallon cheaper, and with 18 mpg, that is great fuel economy.

GM has upped the injector warranty on 01 and 02 models to 7 year/200K on replacement injectors.
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Old 06-20-2004, 07:50 PM   #13
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You can't go wrong with the '01-04 Chevys with the Duramax/Allison transmission combination. They are sweet. For '05 they are taking a tip from the 6.0 Ford diesel and installing a variable van turbocharger which should help this engine in the diesel wars. The 6.0 Ford diesel had a few problems when it first came out, so did the 7.3 Powerstroke, but they have been ironed out.

I'm a GM fan but if I had my choice between the 7.3 or the 6.0 Fords, I would go with the 6.0 because it is a better performer in the horsepower and torque department. I'd say test drive the Duramax, the 7.3 and then the 6.0. Buy the one you feel most comfortable in and seems to give you the performance you want. Of course money will always be an issue but you don't want to throw your money at something you don't really want to buy.

The newer Dodge high output diesel is quieter than the older Cummins diesel by a long shot. Nothing turns me off faster than listening to that Cummins start up. Also, as you have already been told, stay away from the older 6.5 Chevy diesel engine.

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Old 06-20-2004, 08:18 PM   #14
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I don't believe one should "stay away" from the 6.5 GM diesel, but I do believe one should know what they are buying. The '99 and '00 models are excellent choices, if you don't need the horsepower offered by some of the newer engines.

The variable vane turbo was introduced by GM with the new LLY engine at the start of this calendar year.

You most certainly can go wrong with a Duramax, as you can with any truck, gas or diesel. Get one with injector trouble (admittedly rare), for example and have GM deny the warranty for "bad fuel". Injectors are $500 to replace. That's each. There are eight of them. Or get a 24 valve Cummins with any one of the various quirks that plagued their introduction. Or a 6.0 Navistar (Ford) with fuel injectors that flood the crankcase.

Fortunately, the problems are actually quite rare. But the expense to correct them requires due dilligence on the part of the buyer in inspecting any prospective purchase.


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