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Old 04-12-2011, 05:44 PM   #1
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Diesels and Hard Love

Last month was a very expensive month for us. We had to replace the injectors, injector lines, and the injector pump on our 2003 GMC Duramax - at a cost of just over $7,000. I've always babied the truck and, right now, it would pass for new without question. Naturally the thought of trading it in loomed - but the numbers just wouldn't work. I had a terrific mechanic working on it at Springfield GMC in Springfield, VT and the best guess he could make is that the injectors and injector pump had simply failed (obvious rust residue) due to parking the truck for weeks at a time in a relatively warm garage after long winter trips in sub-freezing weather. I did get a bad load of fuel several years ago (water & gunk) that caused the first injector failure under waranty. During the summer trips with the truck, while towing the Airstream, I've always driven like an old f--- when I wasn't blocking anyone. I changed the fuel filter, with every oil change, at about 7,500 miles - long before the DIC said that the synthetic oil needed changing.

Well, so much for that. Hereinafter, I plan to use the truck on a more regular basis, kick it in the butt when accelerating to enter an Interstate, and otherwise drive it a lot harder! I'm hoping that this approach will give me a hundred thousand or so miles before the injectors need replacing again! I've read story after story about guys who have driven the h--- out of this specific Duramax with few or no problems.

While "recovering," I hooked up the Airstream for a quick shake-down run this afternoon and the diesel "grunt," invigorating diesel smell, and absolute perfection in towing comfort served to erase any lingering bad memories. It was our first beautiful Spring day and I hated to return home - envisioning instead that I could just keep going with no destination in mind! I believe that this constitutes "Airstream Spring Fever" for us frozen-in types!


2003 GMC 3500 D/A, CC, LB, 4x4 and 2000 Airstream Excella 30. WBCCI 7074
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Old 04-12-2011, 05:50 PM   #2
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That's a large chunk of bad luck. The one thing that I have heard others having a bad experience with is water in the fuel. On another forum it hit a Dodge just as bad as yours and it didn't turn on the Water In Fuel light so the owner didn't get the hoped for warning light.

Good luck.


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Old 04-12-2011, 06:24 PM   #3
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I feel your pain!

I had the #2 cylinder go out (blew a hole in it) on my '04 Sprinter van with just 160K on it. Injector failure. Thought for sure it would go to 250K minimum.

The real pain was when Mercedes told me that a new engine ( which is what it needed) was going to cost me $14,000. I decided to just get a new van. New motor, trans and larger, smoother, quieter than the old beast. And it was NOT babied and had service done at shorter intervals than required.

Lew Farber...RVIA Certified Master Tech...ABYC Certified Master Marine Electrician
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Old 04-12-2011, 06:47 PM   #4
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You guys make me feel really lucky.. 560K on my 99 Dodge, all injectors are original. The injection pump wore out at 458K. Rebuilt replacement was $ 1400 installed.
Rick Davis 1602 K8DOC
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Old 04-12-2011, 07:38 PM   #5
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Red face Diesels Cost Effective?

This is a good thread. No question that I get better mileage with my 7.3 F250 vs 454 gas (14 vs 9 on gas).

But I have not had to do injectors etc. yet. Yes oil changes are now done by myself to keep costs down. But the other expenses noted above make me think of advantages of gas.

Especially when one considers that it takes more than running to the store to warm up the big diesel... therefore the smaller gas cars get used for that and the diesel sits more.

Now I do know to at least drive it every week or two just to keep it moving well. But it does sit and ... btw does have some parasitic battery drain that I can take care of.

If I get a newer truck, it could it be a 6L or so gas for more of both worlds??

Thanks for your opinions....
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Old 04-12-2011, 09:29 PM   #6
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The one comment I'd like to add is I think pulling a 30 ft. Classic is a decent load, and just by the nature of the load you're working the engine quite a bit no matter how much you baby it. I don't think your engine problems had anything to do with light loading.

More likely fuel contamination.
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Old 04-12-2011, 09:51 PM   #7
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We've got 170K miles on our '96 F250 7.3... some diesels are more sensitive than others to fuel contaminants. Marine installations often include a large Racor water separator; these engines are not used for weeks or months at a time without difficulty. I would not hesitate to add additional filtration to various systems (fuel, transmission, coolant) if needed to match your usage patterns. Ask in the truck forums; there are a lot of folks working on their rigs and if you can filter the change for change's sake, some of these have good suggestions.

So far we're very happy w/ our diesel - I've replaced a burst power steering hose and one fuel pressure sensor which was leaking slightly; otherwise it's been brakes, tires, etc. We've added air lifts, aftermarket air filter (stock unit on these was suspect) and heavy duty tranmission cooler and temperature gage. This past weekend we pulled our Tin Pickle over Towne Pass into Death Valley - 9.3% grade at a steady 45 mph in second gear w/ WOT, and 170F transmission temperature. The combined weight of truck and trailer is 12000 lbs.... coming down the other side did make me wish for an exhaust brake, though .

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Old 04-12-2011, 09:56 PM   #8
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This is where use of additives such as Opti-Lube XPD, or Stanadyne, which provide lubricity the ULSD doesn't have, a cetane boost, and dispersion of water, and anti-gel capability in winter weather, could certainly pay big dividends to the user in a much more cost efficient way than $7000 repairs.....
As my uncle on the farm used to say to me....grease is cheaper than iron, son."
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Old 04-12-2011, 09:57 PM   #9
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I feel your pain. I had my 08 Ford 6.4 Injectors, fuel lines, fuel rail, pump, and all injectors replaced at 36.1K miles. I was towing Cosmo about 200 miles away from home when he left me on the side of the road at night...

Ford had my fuel tested 3 times on 3 different occasions, wanting to blame it on fuel and void the warranty. I passed all 3 times. They even sent a Ford engineer to "inspect" my truck for anything I may have done or modified.

One month later, I Ford finally fixed everything, but it was a huge headache and to be honest, I've lost faith in my King Ranch a bit.

Truck now has 58K miles on her. Always had Ford full synthetic oil change every 5K, fuel filters ever 10K. Even put the Ford Cetane booster every fill up too.

I miss my 6.0 diesel Excursion. Never left me on the side of the road. Even when the alternator went out on the side of the mountain up in Gila NM, it still got me back to town.

At least you truck injectors are a bit more forgiving then the new injectors of today inf the post 2008 era and the federal emissions ....

As much as I complain about my 08 Ford, it's still the best ride and the most luxurious truck I've ever had. I hear other owners complaining about Ford voiding their warranty for bad fuel, etc, but they never did it to me.

I'm also a Ford stockholder, so I do give them props for watching their warranty costs and bottom line. It was a balancing act for Ford to make it thru the recession without borrowing any money from the government. I give them credit for that...

Now that you have a whole new fuel system, you should be good for another 100K!
Kevin & Prim Li
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Old 04-13-2011, 05:03 AM   #10
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What David said

I agree on older diesels the ULS is not good. I use a little less than a quart of low ash 2 cycle oil every fill up. The 7.3 seems to like it. Sal.
Sal & Nora
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Old 04-13-2011, 06:10 AM   #11
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Bad Luck?

I sure would like to see a few folks who aren't having trouble chime in here.

I can't help but wonder if the problems mentioned on this thread aren't just some of the bad luck that can hit any vehicle regardless of brand.

I have had no diesel related problems other than mentioned in post 4 in 560,000 miles. For a number of years I was actively delivering new trailers all over the country which gave me the opportunity to talk to a lot of folks piling up a lot of miles in a short period of time. 400 to 500k pick ups regardless of brand are common and million mile trucks are not unheard of .

In my case have done nothing unusual and in fact have broken some of the rules.. I have far more hours of idling time than most trucks will ever see.
I run full synthetic Mobil Delvac 1 oil but run oil changes out to 30k or so, changing the filter every 6 k . Change the fuel filter when changing oil. (have had the oil tested a few times and it was ok)

I have never used any fuel additives and i have done nothing in the way of power enhancing mods.
I notice little or no difference in performance from when it was new.
There is no doubt the extra cost of the diesel has paid for itself several times over

I am hesitant to buy a newer truck just because the injection and pollution controls have become more complex since 99 and I worry this will result in decreased reliability.
I do most of my own maintenance and the truck has never back to the dealer except for a computer reflash.

I know at some point my luck may run out but hopefully not too soon.
Lets hear from a few more high mileage drivers who have not had problems just so I will be less paranoid
Rick Davis 1602 K8DOC
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Old 04-13-2011, 06:22 AM   #12
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The OPs write-up has one very telling point. "and the best guess he could make is that the injectors and injector pump had simply failed (obvious rust residue)".

No diesel will tolerate water or foreign material very well. The tolerances and polished interfaces of the injection system are so very tight and precise in order to accomplish in excess of 30,000 psi, that any deformation of these surfaces will cause issues in short order.

Whether this issues was strictly a storage and condensation issue or not (I kinda doubt it) water was introduced to the system somewhere, sometime.
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Old 04-13-2011, 06:23 AM   #13
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I have a 2002 F250 7.3 with 114k miles. I drive it at least every other week, more often weekly, except for this winter due to being laid up for heart surgery. Haven't used any additives. A couple of times I got some bad fuel, water or some other contaminants, but the fuel filter took care of it. Every so often I've had to drain water from the fuel filter. I've had the filter replaced twice so far. Thought about trading in for a newer truck but maybe I should hang onto the old gal! From what I've read, the 7.3 is a durable engine and the new ones haven't yet come up to its standards. I'm waiting to see how the 2011 does over the next couple of years.
Steve & Beth
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Old 04-13-2011, 07:38 AM   #14
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I've had a series of diesel cars and trucks (and a fram tractor), and have NEVER had a single engine issue of any sort, and have put well over 200k on all of the road vehicles (well, not quite - current '05 Passat diesel sedan and '08 Duramax have only 190k miles and 50k miles repectively). And I know a fellow who owns a small company that hauls mail commercially - he buys used Duramax and Cummins - powered pickups in Florida, buying only those with over 100k on them (he gets pretty good pricing from owners who think they're worn out!), and tells me he routinely gets over 400k before engine or trans rebuild. That is one of the diesel strong points - they tend to last a long while.

BUT - injectors are subject to destruction from water ... seems to me that somewhere along the line, you got some water in the fuel, water sat in the injectors, and they rusted. I try to only buy from places that have a high fuel turnover rate, add Stanadyne, and just drive 'em. Sorry about your situation, but I bet it's behind you.

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