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Old 07-20-2009, 03:14 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Could I get some advice on Class 8 engines?

Id like advice from someone who knows heavy trucks.

I am considering a Class 8 truck to haul a heavy RV trailer and have a multitude of questions about service/repair.

All service/repair to all my vehicles is done by myself. I have virtually no experience on class 8 rigs. Ill be learning as I go.

Currently I own a 1995 F-250 with the 7.3 Powerstroke. Prior to this I had a 1985 with the 6.9 IDI. While I love the power of the 7.3, the electronics and complicated fuel system have been a pain in the rear. Even with a $350 diagnostic tool, troubleshooting is time consuming and parts are costly. My Powerstroke has been a much greater headache and far less reliable than the old non-electronic 6.9 ever was.

My experience with the Powerstroke has left me wondering, are the electronically controlled engines used in Class 8 trucks more reliable than the Powerstroke? Are they easier to troubleshoot? When electronics fail, will they leave you dead alongside the road like a Powerstroke, or is there enough mechanical operation for the engines to keep going?

If the current electronically controlled engines are as unreliable and difficult to troubleshoot as a Powerstroke, what engines are NOT electronically controlled? What years of class 8 trucks are pre-electronically controlled?


What electronically controlled engines would you consider the most reliable and easiest to troubleshoot? Which ones have the most reasonably priced parts?

Thanks in advance for any responses!
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Old 07-20-2009, 05:31 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Seems most all diesel's regardless of size/class are electronic controlled.
We have several large size/class diesel engines on gensets at work, and they are all, except the "stroke" powered(actually it was "I" powered) they are all high pressure common rail. Same electronics, cost and problems as any other electronically controlled engine. Our gensets don't seem to suffer the same problems as some of our trucks, but I think that is due to the lower amount of running time. Although I have a few diesel tech friends/acquaintances who swear the bigger class don't have the problems, strokes(I) included due to tuning and EPA stuff. But even the new big stuff is suffering with EPA now, so who knows.

As for reliability,,,get a diesel with an IP! We have two old gensets, navy gray came over on the ark, predate me type things. They light off, belch a bit of smoke, and keep on going.
What years have IP's? I dunno.
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Old 07-20-2009, 08:13 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Class 7 and class 8 semis for the quite a few years have been electronically controlled. I have 14 years experience supervising and managing in semi truck repair shops so I may be able to offer some advice.

The electronics are every bit as integral to the engine running as on the power strokes you are familiar with. A single sensor failure can shut you down just like ours. With that said, however, failures are not that common just like on our pickups.

A few questions, though.

Are you looking to get a full semi with a sleeper like THIS or a day cab something like THIS ONE? The sleepers can be converted to an RV and licensed as such. What you have to put in the sleeper to qualify will depend on what state you live in, I think.

There are three common engines. Cummins, Detroit Diesel and Caterpillar. Mercedes also makes truck engines and Mack and Volvo are making their own as well. There are several players in the class 7 trucks but these are the more common brands. In general you can get most of the engines in most any truck, with some restrictions (you won't find a Mack engine in a Peterbuilt from the factory, for example).

If the sleeper I would look for a Cummins N-14 engine. In my experience it is common for them to run well over a million miles without an inframe so if you can find one with 750 or so chances are it will last you a long time.

If the class 7 day cab (second picture) again a Cummins N-14 or Cummins M-11. Same longevity information applies.

The Series 60 Detroit Diesels seemed to need inframed a lot more often than the Cummins, usually around 650-700,000 miles.

I would stay away from the V-6 and V-8 Detroit Diesel engines in older trucks. They are relatively cheap to rebuild but needed it much more often than the newer engines. I would also avoid Caterpillar engines. They are reliable and such but parts are less available and more expensive.
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Old 07-20-2009, 05:22 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Thanks for the replies, I knew I'd find some advice here!

If I go the class 8 route, it will be like your first pic with a sleeper. I'll do what is necessary to register it as a RV.

The info you have provided already is very helpful.

I'm seeing some of these trucks in what appears to be decent condition, with under 1 million miles, priced between $5-10,000. Seems like a pretty good deal IF they are not a huge pain and/or expense to maintain.

My Powerstroke experience has left me somewhat disillusioned with the electronically controlled engines. If I stay with a 3/4-1 ton class truck my next one will have an older mechanical Cummins in it. Of course that means the truck itself will be old and I'll have the resulting maintenance issues of an older truck (unless it's a transplant of old engine into newer chassis).

A huge part of my initial attraction to the diesel pickups was the simplicity and reliability of them (got my first one in the '80's). As far as I am concerned, the electronic controls have pretty much ended the era of simple, reliable diesel engines. I'm considering full time RVing in a few years. It's bad enough dealing with sensors, check engine lights and/or no starts when your home and garage is nearby. I have no desire to encounter such problems while living on the road.

Other than what you have already said, can you offer any more advice on the pre-electronic engines in the big rigs?

How old of a truck will I be looking at to get back to the pre-electronic engines?

What are the names/model numbers of some pre-electronic engines that were in use just before the electronic ones?

Is it legal to replace an electronically controlled engine with an older mechanical one? For example if I found a decent tractor with a blown/tired engine (say a Detroit 60s) could I replace it with a 6-71? Is that practical? (ie will it "drop in" with minimal adapting of fuel lines etc?)

If an engine swap is practical, which new to old swaps would be the best?
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Old 07-20-2009, 05:41 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by adhahn View Post
My Powerstroke experience has left me somewhat disillusioned with the electronically controlled engines. If I stay with a 3/4-1 ton class truck my next one will have an older mechanical Cummins in it. Of course that means the truck itself will be old and I'll have the resulting maintenance issues of an older truck (unless it's a transplant of old engine into newer chassis).
Ed zachary! Buy a 2006, 7, or 8(maybe too new) SD dually outfitted as you like (or whatever is to your liking) and put a 16v cummins in it with kits that are readily available. You end up with what i think is the best of all worlds!
Good capable truck, dependable mechanical engine.
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Old 07-20-2009, 06:22 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Ed zachary! Buy a 2006, 7, or 8(maybe too new) SD dually outfitted as you like (or whatever is to your liking) and put a 16v cummins in it with kits that are readily available. You end up with what i think is the best of all worlds!
Good capable truck, dependable mechanical engine.

Good suggestion and if I decide to stay with a 3/4-1ton instead of going Class 8, this is likely what I'll do.

At this point I'm researching just going class 8. There appear to be advantages;

Even the largest 5th wheel will not overwhelm a class 8 tractor.

In like condition, purchase price is lower for a class 8 than a 3/4-1 ton.

Fuel economy similar, if not better, when towing a large heavy RV.

Based on what I'm learning so far, it appears reasonable that I will never wear out a set of brakes, tires, engine, drive-line components, etc on a class 8, even if those components have only 50% of their expected life left when I purchase it.

Right now, I'm soliciting info on class 8 semi tractors, listening to advice, doing lots of reading and trying to learn from others before jumping into something I may regret later.

My primary concern at this point is the electronics. I don't want the headaches that the Powerstroke have caused me.

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Old 07-26-2009, 09:16 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Ed zachary! Buy a 2006, 7, or 8(maybe too new) SD dually outfitted as you like (or whatever is to your liking) and put a 16v cummins in it with kits that are readily available. You end up with what i think is the best of all worlds!
Good capable truck, dependable mechanical engine.
just to keep it so we dont get confused if where talking about pickup trucks in this post their is the 12v mechanicly controled engine or the 24v electronicly controled engine its impossible to get 16v out of a I6 engine
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Old 08-06-2009, 04:21 AM   #8 (permalink)
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just to keep it so we dont get confused if where talking about pickup trucks in this post their is the 12v mechanicly controled engine or the 24v electronicly controled engine its impossible to get 16v out of a I6 engine
I knew which engine he was referencing, but thanks for the clarification in case anyone else might be reading the thread and get confused.

My questions are not about pickup trucks or their engines. My questions are about class 8 trucks (commonly referred to as semi's or tractor trailer trucks).

I'd still like more information if anyone else has something to contribute.

Thanks!
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Old 08-07-2009, 02:47 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Is it legal to replace an electronically controlled engine with an older mechanical one? For example if I found a decent tractor with a blown/tired engine (say a Detroit 60s) could I replace it with a 6-71? Is that practical? (ie will it "drop in" with minimal adapting of fuel lines etc?)

I dont think it is legal from an emissions standpoint to put an older engine into a newer truck.

From what I understand, the vehicle has to meet the emissions standards of the newer part of the vehicle. For example, if I dropped a 460ci motor from a 1986 Ford into my 2002, the engine would have to meet 2002 emissions standards.

I owned a 2002 International 9200 dump truck with a 60 Series Detroit for four years. Based on my experience, the big trucks dont have as many breakdowns but when something happens, it will cost more to repair. In those years, I only replaced the u-joints and both front brake drums. Other than that, it was just normal maintenance. I think costs would be about even when comparing a pickup to a class 7 or 8 pulling a big fifth wheel.

If I had the money, I would pull a fifth wheel with a class 8.
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Old 08-10-2009, 07:42 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by adhahn View Post
I knew which engine he was referencing, but thanks for the clarification in case anyone else might be reading the thread and get confused.

My questions are not about pickup trucks or their engines. My questions are about class 8 trucks (commonly referred to as semi's or tractor trailer trucks).

I'd still like more information if anyone else has something to contribute.

Thanks!
no i know that but he was reffering to a class 7 or 8 superduty which comes with eather the 6.4 powerstroke, 5.9 (well now 6.7) cummins, or the c7 cat

i dont mean to step on any feet i just want to make sure that if someone else is reading this they get the right infromation
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Old 08-11-2009, 08:53 AM   #11 (permalink)
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Having had multiple class 8s and driving on my days off here's my experiences: the most troublesome engine i had was a 427 E7 Mack in a 2000 CH613. Only electrical problems it ever had was jake controllers that took a dump about once a week. First truck was a 94 FLD120 with a 60 series detroit (parted with it with 864,000 on it) with never a single electrical problem (imagine that one!). My take on the N14 Cummins, i've only ever driven ONE that pulled decent and i want to say it was rated at 525 horsepower. I used a loaner that was allegedly 475 horsepower (also a N14) and it moved great down the road it just had NO torque. But during the time i dealt with it, no problems. I also had a 06 Freightliner Columbia (with a 515 horse 60 series detroit) for a short time that i picked up with 3 miles on it. It was an electrical nightmare, throwing codes and shutting down randomly for the first 200 miles or so. After that, they worked out all the bugs and it was a GREAT pulling engine! Only thing i have against it is it did not seem to pull until it hit 1200 RPMs or so, and then it was like somebody cut on a light switch, then at about 1750 somebody cut that switch back off.
My favorite truck of all would have to be the 99 FLD 120, with a 425 C12 cat. Parted with the truck at 485,000 miles without a single issue. Pulled from idle to top of power band like a freight train.

You can still buy "glider" chassis which are rolling chassis minus engine and trans. I have not read much about them, but i don't think you can be stopped from putting the engine of your choice in there, without having to worry about the emissions laws from any year other than the year of the engine. If i were to do that, it would probably be a 05 or older engine base IMO. If you don't want to go with a 5.9 Cummins in a newer SD you could always go with a DT466. (I've only ever seen one F350 with a DT466)

Good luck with your search and drive before you buy. Get out and drive some of what everybody has (if they will let you).
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Old 08-11-2009, 09:06 PM   #12 (permalink)
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For example if I found a decent tractor with a blown/tired engine (say a Detroit 60s) could I replace it with a 6-71? Is that practical? (ie will it "drop in" with minimal adapting of fuel lines etc?)

class 8, semi trucks, higway tractors, whaterver you call them, all use a standard bell housing. sae #2 IIRC. so engine swaping is no problem. fuel lines? maybe. as for a 6-71, i wouldn't recomend it. 2 stroke detroits (53, 71, 91 series) are loud ,gutless and leak oil by design.

to get a mechanical injection system, you are limited to early 90's model trucks.

most manufactures modified their existing mechanical engines with electronics. for example:
cummins L 10 became the m 11 the ntc855 became the n14 (the 855 was produced for many years and usually refered to by its horsepower rating. ie cummins 220, 350 etc. and later, big cam 350 400......)
cat mechanical motors used numbers like 3406. (last digit designates # of cylinders) electronic engines got a letter suffix. ie 3406 B.

ive never had a cat motor, but i have had both electronic and mechanical cummins. and ive had to replace the injector pump on both. an n14 had a mechanical failure, electronics were fine. and the L10 began leaking fuel.
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Old 08-13-2009, 06:06 PM   #13 (permalink)
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If you go to the Escapees RV club site, there are a bunch of people that are using class 8 trucks to pull big fifth wheels. That might be a place to get some more info on what to look for in a used truck.
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Old 08-13-2009, 09:22 PM   #14 (permalink)
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we have an old cab-over freightliner that got tipped the other week. frames all bent up and everything so we're looking to part it out if you're interested. a cummins nht-350 with less than a 1000 hours on an in-frame overhaul, tandem axles/differentials, 9-speed trans, brakes and everything else still good.
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Old 08-27-2009, 04:43 PM   #15 (permalink)
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adhahn,

I have a Kenworth T2000 to tow my loaded 21,000# Teton 39' fiver. Come on over to Excapees HDT and learn about the real facts. One for example that I read on this post was about Detroits and true the old 2 cycles needed inframes at 4-500k, but the Series 60 in mine had it done at 925k and the truck now has 1,409k on it. Some of the Cats and Cummins don't run as far as the Detroits and the Detroits are the lowest cost to get parts for, so come on over to our side and learn the straight scoop. The old engines were mechanical and the electronic ones (just like gas engines in PU's run farther with EFI and Electronic ignitions). And yes we have and use semi-automatics to get about 10 mpg with real brakes to stop that kind of load. Easy to retitle as a motor home depending on what state you live in, more and more doing it everyday. Especially with prices like they are.
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