As diesel continues to grow in popularity, the availability of used diesel engines grows as well. While you can pick up a decades-old 6BT Cummins for a few thousand bucks, getting your hands on a cheap 6.7L Power Stroke that’s only been out for a few years is a different story. Not enough of them have been wadded up or worn out yet (unfortunately, most engines become available via wreckage of some sort) so the used engine market is fairly small. Even if you could find a pulled 6.7L Power Stroke for cheap, you’re not going to find someone that makes a standalone harness and ECU for it. This makes them next to impossible to use in anything but the vehicles they were originally intended for because newer engines are designed to work side by side with other systems in the vehicle. Oddly enough, that’s the beauty of the aftermarket. As engines become readily and cheaply available, the aftermarket takes notice and begins to build parts to help automotive enthusiasts swap these now surplus engines into whatever project we can think of.
Painless Performance was probably one of the first larger companies to offer a standalone wiring harness for the 5.9L Cummins. Many don’t know this but their 5.9L harness can also be used on a 6.7L Cummins with a few small modifications. Standalone harnesses are also available for the Duramax from a few companies with one being Pacific Performance Engineering. The Duramax however needs more than just a harness to run outside of its original GM home; it needs special programming, which can be done in multiple ways (for more on these harnesses and the computers needed to control the engines see our Diesel Conversion Builders Guide on page 90). These harnesses came out years after the engines were offered from GM or Cummins, and it’s because of these harnesses that we can slap a Cummins in a Ford, or a Duramax in a boat, for example. Without these harnesses, getting the electronics figured out in a diesel swap would be extremely time consuming and in some cases, not possible at all.
I’ve personally been looking to swap a smaller diesel into my off-road project since I picked it up six or seven years ago. It’s a smaller, late-model Ford Ranger, so using a 5.9L Cummins or Duramax is out of the question. They’re too large to fit properly, and they’re simply too heavy to keep weight bias close front and rear (without doing extensive bodywork). I’ve looked into using a 4BT since they’re extremely easy to wire up, but I’ve decided that getting on and off the throttle constantly, as I would need to in the dirt, would beat up on the heavy rotating mass (crankshaft, pistons and rods) more than I feel comfortable with. Kubota’s and VW TDI engines are also options, and they do have an aftermarket wire harness backing, but they lack in the horsepower department (and would also take a beating under the aforementioned conditions). What I’ve been waiting for came out in the US market a few years ago in the form of the 3.0L EcoDiesel. It’s the engine offered recently as an option in 1500 Rams but is also found in Grand Cherokees. Swapping it in will only require a bit of fabrication as, amazingly so, there is already aftermarket wiring harness support for this powerplant from Banks Power. This engine (made in Italy by manufacturer VM Motori) is a step away from conventional thinking when it comes to building a diesel engine. The rotating mass is extremely light, making it respond more like a gas engine, while still offering the torque and economy of a diesel engine; therefore, making it perfect, in my mind, for a project such as mine. After a few light tuning tweaks, it should make around 300 hp and 500-plus ft.-pounds of torque. In a 4,200 pound truck—that’s not a bad combo. It’s not huge power, but it’ll be reliable, economical and still have more than enough oomph to easily get the truck out of its own way.
Unfortunately, they’re still too new and are rather expensive on the used market, though they are starting to show up in wrecking yards around me more and more. Maybe in the next couple years there will be more of a surplus around, and I will finally have my EcoDiesel-powered Ford Ranger. Rest assured, we’ll share all the details of that swap here in Diesel World. DW