What To Look For When Buying A Used Diesel Truck
December 26, 2023

What To Look For When Buying A Used Diesel Truck

Written By: ProSource Diesel

Drivers want diesel trucks for their dependability, durability, and solid fuel economy –huge monthly payments are less desirable. Diesel trucks can be expensive, with the ¾-ton and one-ton models being some of the priciest on the market. That’s why many owners buy used.

The key to finding a great deal on a used diesel truck is knowing what to look for, whether it’s in specific diesel truck parts, or specific diesel trucks from RAM, Ford, or General Motors. What you look at also depends on how you plan to use the truck. Let’s take a closer look.

Planning To Tow Heavy Loads?

If you want to use a diesel truck for heavy towing, then GM, Ford, and RAM trucks all have towing capabilities. For Ford, their Super Duty will have the greatest towing capabilities. Generally, newer trucks will have better towing capabilities. They have studier frames, better suspensions, and greater torque to assist with towing.

What To Look For When Buying A Used Diesel Truck

Don’t Judge Entirely On Miles

With diesel trucks, mileage isn’t everything; engine hours are important. Engine hours include idling time. One hour of idle time roughly translates to 25 miles of driving. For example, a used truck might only have around 100,000 miles, but with enough idle time, the truck’s true mileage could be over 300,000 miles.

It’s important to be aware of idle time when buying used service trucks. The truck’s oil change intervals should go by engine hours too. If you’re buying an older truck model, it may not include an engine hours meter.

A truck’s mileage can clue you into how well-maintained it is. Well-maintained diesel trucks are capable of reaching over 300,000 miles, so if the truck is still operating at a high mileage, it means it’s well cared for. Don’t discount a truck just because of its odometer.

What To Look For When Buying A Used Diesel Truck

Emissions Systems Issues

Trucks made after 2007 have more complex emission systems. During this time, EGR became a standard fixture on Ford 6.0L Powerstroke and GM LLY Duramax trucks. Because emission standards became stricter, most trucks 2007-onwards also included a DPF (Diesel Particulate Filter).

Then in 2011, many trucks also included a SCR (Selective Catalytic Reduction) system. These systems are sometimes responsible for reduced performance and breakdowns. Before committing to a used truck, be sure to check out its emissions system.

What To Look For When Buying A Used Diesel Truck

Frame Rust

Before buying, check a high-mileage truck for rust issues. Too much rust on the frame and body may give the truck structural problems. The truck’s location may clue you into potential rust issues.

Trucks from the Eastern US or Midwest are more likely to be exposed to road salt, which can deteriorate their body and frame. Trucks from the west and south may fare better. Some surface rust is to be expected on any truck but check the frame inside and out for any serious problems.

What To Look For When Buying A Used Diesel Truck

Maintenance Records

A used truck that’s been well-maintained will have a paper trail of service receipts. These receipts let you know the truck was given proper care. They’ll also let you know more about the truck’s services and if any diesel parts were replaced. Good records remove the guesswork out of truck shopping.

Tuned Trucks

With the breadth of aftermarket support for diesel truck parts and programming, owners can net more horsepower than ever before. Unfortunately, performance tuning has its share of drawbacks.

That extra pressure on your cylinder, boost, and drive, when sustained over thousands of miles, can blow your head gasket. This can be a problem with any tuned engine, but especially Duramax and Powerstroke engines.

What To Look For When Buying A Used Diesel Truck

Problems With The 6.0 Liter Powerstroke

While shopping, you may find plenty of 2003-2007 Ford Super Duty trucks with low prices. This low price may seem tempting, but these trucks frequently suffer EGR issues, plus issues with sticky turbos and plugged oil coolers. This truck’s high-pressure oil injection system isn’t as reliable as the 7.3L Powerstroke’s version either.

The 6.0 Powerstroke engine is salvageable if you’re a decent mechanic and you’re willing to put in the work. These trucks are sold cheap and can last a long time.

Beware Of LB7 Injectors

In the pre-emissions era, 2001-2004 trucks with the LB7 Duramax engine had unreliable fuel injectors. These injectors were prone to cracking and leaking, and they aren’t easy or cheap to replace either.

If you buy a LB7 Duramax within these model years, you’ll need replacement LB7 injectors eventually. If you’re looking at buying a LB7 Duramax truck, check if the injectors have already been replaced.

What To Look For When Buying A Used Diesel Truck

Chrysler Automatic Transmissions Concerns

If you want to buy a RAM truck with a Cummins diesel engine, avoid automatic transmissions from 1994 onward. This truck’s manual transmission is solid, but its automatic transmission is like a ticking time bomb. If the truck has already been used for heavy towing, the transmission may break even sooner than you think.

Top 5 Tips For Looking At A Used Diesel Truck

  1. Research truck models by their specific model year and their engines. This clues you into vehicle-specific problems to watch out for.
  2. Check the emissions system health on any truck made in 2007 or later.
  3. Check the truck’s frame for rust, especially if it’s from the Eastern or Midwestern U.S.
  4. Maintenance records are a valuable tool that makes it easier to buy a used diesel truck.
  5. Before buying any truck, it’s a good idea to have it fully inspected by a qualified diesel mechanic.

Choose ProSource Diesel for all your new and used diesel truck needs. Keep your truck running great with a wide selection of replacement Cummins parts, Duramax parts, and Powerstroke parts. ProSource is where the repair shops shop for diesel truck parts.

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