Buying Used and Getting Back to Basics

While this magazine may be considered a performance journal by many, Diesel World Magazine does more than just hot rod diesel trucks and why three turbos could be better than two. Yes, we all agree that the $100k+ SEMA show trucks you see featured are incredible builds and no one really complains about our “How to add extra power” articles you see every month. We also know many of you just want to learn the basics, maybe a tech tip that could save you some coin on repairs, you want to see or read about something you can relate to and the introduction to this next project will be exactly that.

No she isn’t much to look at right now, but it’s the perfect platform to get back to the basics and help us show readers simple ways to bring an old worn out truck back to life. This factory stock 2000 F350 Power Stroke has been well used and shows all the signs you’d expect for its age.
With 165,000 miles on the odometer and just one owner previously that used it for just about everything from daily driving task, to hauling ATVs to the hunting site or the fishing boat to the lake. It’s worn in about every place you look but is just what we needed for a new project to help show readers what to look for when buying used. Or even how to revive the high mileage truck you’re still driving.
They don’t come much more original than that, over twenty years old and still sporting the factory exhaust it left the assembly plant with. You can also see the signs of the surface rust growing on just about everything under the truck from being parked outside and probably not washed as often as it should’ve, but with time and some attention this truck isn’t so far gone we can’t bring back.

Through my twelve years on staff writing for Diesel World Magazine I’ve put together articles on just about everything diesel you could think of. Event coverage, readers ride truck features, how twin turbos work, and even right down to the in-depth, super techy stuff on injector nozzle science or how fire ring head gaskets work at 150+ psi boost. But as I think back over all those articles, I can’t remember a single time where we really focused on the basic stuff about driving or owning a high mileage, worn out, what some would refer to as a pile kind of diesel truck. I’ve been lucky enough to work for and around some brilliant minds in the diesel industry and through their experience and knowledge have been able to gather a bit of knowledge myself, and after owning my fair share of diesel trucks (on number 8 now) over the course of the last 18 years I thought maybe it was time to get down to those basics. What to look for when buying a high mileage truck, how-to perform simple in-expensive modifications, maybe offer some insight on why your current truck doesn’t run like it did 120,000 miles ago. What can your abnormal tire wear teach you about your worn out suspension and steering parts? How much affect does a weak fuel pump, boost leak, or exhaust leak have on fuel mileage and power? To help pull this off, I went right back to my roots and sought out this one owner, 2000 7.3L Power Stroke, with a relatively low 165k on the clock, we’re going to call Project My2K.

To go along with that rusty frame and suspension, unfortunately the unwanted corrosion has also found its way into the underside of three of the four doors and may be bad enough some replacements will be in order.
While the truck is a one owner truck, the older gentlemen never had a garage to keep it in, so the clear coat and paint has taken quite the beating through two decades worth of the sweltering summer sun bearing down on it. Appears that some masking tape and house paint was used to try and touch up a spot on the hood at some point. Which we’ll most likely resolve by finding a good clean used hood to replace this one with.
Again, when hunting the used market, regardless of what area you live in, at 15+ years old, it’ll be tough to find something completely rust free. In this case, we were willing to look past some of the cosmetic damage knowing it can be repaired because the relatively low mileage truck (165k) was mechanically sound and running pretty decent.

I bought my first diesel truck back in 2005 and it was nearly identical to this particular truck, with the exception of my original being a short bed with a two tone white/silver paint scheme. This, new to me truck, really takes me back, to like a nostalgic state of mind, bringing up old memories of working on the truck, installing my first set of gauges, or that first wide open throttle run after my first Superchips tune download. Looking back there is so much I wish I would’ve known before I dove in head-first on that build and traveled down the long expensive road to 600hp. In the spirit of that truck, this one is going to be done up a little tamer and more practical, priorities have changed and just a good solid daily driver with enough to tow a trailer from time to time is all I really need. So, while we will add a little power throughout the course of this build, we’ll try and stay a little more focused on the basics and hopefully help educate you on some simple Power Stroke maintenance and up-keep.

Seat seam separated? Nothing a little fishing line and one of your wife’s needles couldn’t fix right? While this may not have been the best way to perform a repair on a torn seat, it’s done a fairly decent job of keeping things together and we’ll most likely just end up replacing all the seat leather with new color matched replacement pieces.
One of the most obvious way to determine the health of a suspension and steering system is to read the tires. No, that doesn’t mean reading the fine print molded onto the side. Checkout the tread wear, in a future article on this build we’ll go into to detail about what tread wear and worn tires can tell you about your truck.
This is a life hack that could save you loads of time. After years and years of dirty grimy hands, spilled soda pop and sunshine through the windows, dirty seatbelts not only look and feel nasty, but they also won’t retract like they should. So, with a couple bungee cords, you can just hold them outside the doors and pressure wash them with some hot soapy water to bring that right back to new condition in most cases.

For the specifics on this truck, when I started looking, it was obviously the wrong time to be in the used diesel buyers’ market as we all know how unreasonable prices have gotten in recent years. I knew I wanted a 1999-2003 7.3L, because it’s what I’m most comfortable working on and knowledgeable with, but as for options, colors, etc.… I was pretty open minded. I obviously wanted something that wasn’t a true beater and the lower the mileage the better, but as I kept finding clean trucks, the prices kept getting more ridiculous. I found multiple trucks under 100,000 miles, but there was no chance I’d be willing to pay 25-30 gees for one. This truck popped up an hour from where I live and was being sold by the original owner, he was an older gentleman that used it as his daily for twenty years, towing his fishing boat to the lake, hunting elk in the fall. What piqued my interest was just how stock it was, like right down to the factory exhaust, factory in dash 6-disc CD player and of course how closely it resembled my first F350. His pictures online looked good enough that we did some haggling, and I made the drive down with a cashier’s check for what we both agreed was fair in today’s market.

The previous owner of the truck had warned us the air conditioner wasn’t quite working like it should and was afraid it needed a new compressor, but with a little investigation we found someone at done a terrible job repairing the compressor wiring circuit at some point and we didn’t have to spend a dime to just re-solder the connection and weather seal it to have ice cold air in the cab whenever we wanted it.
On our first test drive we heard a prominent exhaust leak and assumed it was up-pipe related since the crush donuts fail so often on this 7.3L Power Stroke. Upon further inspection, it was discovered that four of the manifold bolts on the backside of the driver cylinder head had come loose and exhaust was leaking all around that surface. A torque wrench and about five minutes time had that repair done, again, for no money out of pocket.
One of the first things we always check after buying a used truck is the condition of the cooling stack. Can air move freely through the grille, A/C condenser, intercooler, and radiator so that all those systems work as efficiently as they can? As shown here, it appears we may have an intercooler leak that’s been causing some of our crankcase ventilation oily residue to buildup and attract a lot of dirt. But we’ll dive into that repair in a later issue.

In person, the truck was rougher than what I had hoped, but only as far as cosmetics. The truck had never been garaged so that white paint and clear coat had taken a beating in the summer sun and winter snowstorms. The clear coat has peeled in few places and unfortunately, it’s had some rust take over inside the lower portion of the doors and rear fender wells. The twenty year old spray in bedliner has seen better days and the bowed tailgate tells me he had an ATV roll backwards in the bed when it shouldn’t have. But looking past all those things, I was able to dig deeper into the mechanical side to find it sound overall. The initial test drive reminded me how underwhelming a non-tuned 7.3L can be and the apparent exhaust leak teak you could hear in the cab wasn’t helping.

To further diagnose some of the ‘down on power’ and laggy turbo we assumed we were dealing with a simple boost leak test was performed using low pressure shop air to chase down any leaks withing the charge system. Our suspicions were right, and we will need to replace the intercooler soon due to an end tank leak, but we also had some boost tube boots leaking as well.
While this build won’t focus entirely on big horsepower bolt on parts, we will be doing some of the basics, but for testing and chasing down other issues within the engine and drivetrain, we’re going to start off by installing an EGT probe so we can monitor exhaust gas temperatures among other things from inside the cab.
By drilling the driver side exhaust manifold for the new pyrometer, we can easily monitor exhaust temperatures for any tell tale signs of an issue within the engine. Running higher than normal temperatures could tell us multiple things about the health of the engine, besides just being a safe thing to monitor when towing.

AS this build continues, we’ll start pinpointing some of the pitfalls, how to fix them, whether it’s a simple in-expensive how-to or full on replacement with aftermarket parts, we’ll walk through some of the proper ways to bring an old worn out truck to life without so much focus on building big horsepower. We’ll fight that urge to go to the extreme and keep this one practical, and with the help of some great people in the industry hopefully teach you some things you didn’t already know that might help you with your truck projects. We’ve got some great ideas for this one, but don’t entirely know where the build journey will take us, but hopefully you’ll enjoy the ride as much as we will. Stay tuned.

The Edge Insight CTS3 has been one of the most popular monitoring devices on the market for quite some time now and for good reason. You can see so many things with this gadget, and while many will install it for the peace of mind of knowing what’s going on in their drivetrain, for this build, it’s getting installed as a diagnostic tool. We can monitor injection control pressure and injection pressure regulator data to determine the health of our high pressure oil pump. The engine coolant and transmission fluid temperature can tell us if we have an issue with the radiator, or an issue within the transmission. And of course, that EGT probe we installed, and the boost readings can help us determine if the engine itself is adequate
Here’s another not so great repair we found once we had it home and had more time to dig in. At some point, the airbox tabs had broken off and these self-tapper screws were installed to help hold the lid down. While it was kind of working, unfortunately they hadn’t fixed the backside of the lid where those tabs had broken and who knows how long this truck has been driving with an airbox that wasn’t sealed post filter. You can beat that turbo compressor wheel looks like it’s been sandblasted by the debris it’s been ingesting.


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