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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.