What to Look for When Buying a Used Diesel Truck
September 25, 2020

What to Look for When Buying a Used Diesel Truck

Written By: ProSource Diesel

If you’re in the market for a diesel truck, you’re probably looking for a rig that can tow, haul, serve as a daily driver and get decent fuel economy, all at the same time. However, you probably don’t want a huge monthly truck payment. Although diesel ¾-ton and one-ton trucks are some of the more expensive vehicles on the market with price tags upward of $60,000, a well-maintained diesel truck can last a long time which can make looking at the used market for a good deal not a bad idea.

The key to finding a good 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 need a diesel truck for heavy towing, then took at GM and Ford diesel trucks from 2011 to the present and Ram trucks from 2013 to the present. The reason for this timeframe is that these trucks are constructed specifically for GCWR (Gross Combined Weight Rating) supremacy. They boast sturdier frames and suspension parts, engines with more torque, stronger exhaust brakes, and an overall better towing experience.

Don’t Judge Entirely on Miles

When it comes to diesel trucks, miles aren’t everything. Engine hours are more important than miles. For example, one hour of idle time is roughly equal to 25 miles of driving. You could have a truck with only 100,000 miles on the odometer but enough idle time to make the real mileage around 300,000. This mainly applies to service trucks, but it’s a good thing to be aware of. Oil change intervals also need to be done according to engine hours. The only problem is that older models may not have engine hour meters.

On the other side of this coin are high-mileage trucks that have been well-maintained. Remember that well-maintained diesel trucks are known to easily go over 300,000 miles. So, if everything else checks out on a high-mileage truck, don’t discount it just because of the number on the odometer.

Emissions Systems Issues

An important thing to be aware of when buying any diesel truck made after 2007 is the more complex emissions systems than earlier models. EGR became standard equipment on Ford 6.0L Powerstroke diesel trucks in 2003 and then later on 2004 GM trucks with the LLY Duramax. However, stricter emissions standards went into effect in 2007 which resulted in most trucks being fitted with a DPF (Diesel Particulate Filter) as well as an EGR (Exhaust Gas Recirculation) system. Yet another emissions component called the SCR (Selective Catalytic Reduction) system was added to many models made in 2011 and after. These systems remain the most common reasons for breakdowns and reduced performance in modern diesel trucks. Make sure to get emissions systems fully checked out before buying a used diesel truck.

Frame Rust

Sometimes the hardest part of keeping a high-mileage diesel truck on the road is keeping the body together around the internals. Always investigate the frame and body of a truck for rust issues. Where the truck spent most of its life is often a clue. Trucks from the Eastern or Midwest United States have likely been exposed to salted roads during the winter which can be a killer for bodies and frames. Trucks from Western and Southern regions typically fare better. Some surface rust on the underside is to be expected, but it’s important to look for serious rust on structural components on both the outside and inside of the frame.

Maintenance Records

A paper trail of service receipts is indispensable when it comes to looking at a used truck. Not only is it a good sign that the owner took proper care of the truck, but it also gives you a firm idea of what’s been serviced and replaced. This takes a lot of the guesswork out of buying a used truck. It also gives you an idea of what diesel parts you might have to replace upon buying the truck.

Tuned Trucks

Thanks to the availability of aftermarket diesel truck parts and programming, many diesel truck owners can coax up to 200 horsepower and more out of their rigs. However, tuning has its drawbacks as the miles rack up. Extra cylinder, boost and drive pressure for thousands of miles often result in a blown head gasket. Tuned Duramax and Powerstroke engines are especially susceptible to this, but Cummins engines can be affected as well.

Problems With The 6.0-liter Powerstroke

2003 through 2007 Ford Super Duty trucks are tempting on the used market mainly due to low prices and the idea that the engines are bulletproof. However, these trucks often suffer from EGR issues as well as sticky turbos and plugged oil coolers. The high-pressure oil injection system is also not as reliable as the one on the 7.3L Powerstroke.

On the other hand, if you’re an above-average mechanic and willing to put in work on the 6.0 Powerstroke, you can usually get them cheap and keep them on the road for a long time.

Beware of LB7 Injectors

If you’re looking at the pre-emissions era LB7 Duramax trucks between model years 2001 and 2004, it’s important to know that the factory injectors weren’t exactly reliable. The fuel injectors were known to crack and leak. They are also not easy or cheap to replace. In other words, any LB7 Duramax in this time period will likely need new LB7 injectors at some point. If you’re looking at a used LB7 Duramax truck, find out if this has been done.

Chrysler Automatic Transmissions Concerns

If you’re in the market for a used Ram truck with a Cummins diesel, you’d be wise to avoid the automatic transmissions from 1994 to the present day. The manual transmissions on these trucks have been solid for that time period, but automatics tend to have an expiration date built-in. If the truck has been tuned and used for heavy towing, the time you have before the transmission breaks is even shorter.

Top 5 Tips for Looking At a Used Diesel Truck

  1. Research specific truck model years and engines for specific problems and things to watch out for.
  2. Check on emissions systems health for any truck made in 2007 and after.
  3. Closely investigate the frame for rust and be wary of trucks from the Eastern or Midwest United States.
  4. Maintenance records take some of the guesswork out of buying a used diesel truck.
  5. It’s a good idea to have the truck fully inspected by a qualified diesel mechanic before buying.

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.

1 Comment

  1. Garrett Rager on September 26, 2020 at 5:31 PM

    This is by far the greatest information a person looking to buy a used diesel truck could ask for.
    Hats off to you for a job well done.

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