Truck Basics: Your Pickup Truck SUV and Trailer Library

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Diesels,  transmissions, axle ratio’s, duals, beds

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My 300,000 mile “77” Chevy truck with wool bags loaded on my 16 foot triple axle flatbed before I stretched it to 33′. “It’s been lengthened a few too many times,” flatbed with triple axle trailer house axles. Only 2 engines, 2 transmissions, 2 differentials, 50 alternators and starters. Farm trucks haul everything and and have to to pay for themselves.

Diesels are Different

Diesels have generally twice the compression of a gas engine and require compression and heat to explode diesel fuel. This requires diesel engines to be built heavier than gas engines that use spark to ignite gasoline. The exploding diesel is one of the reasons diesel engines are louder. High compression in a diesel creates the heat needed for combustion but for fast starting truck manufactures heat the fuel and air going into the engine. Ford Power Stroke uses glow plugs in each cylinder; GM Duramax diesel has glow plugs and an intake manifold heater. Dodge Cummins diesel has an intake manifold heater to help start the engine. Glow plugs warm up the cylinders before the fuel gets there and a manifold heater warms the air going into the engine
The rest of the story, Click…

Diesels need the water drained from fuel filters monthly in the winter.

GM Duramax diesel fuel filter. Primer pump on top water drain on bottom which you twist like a wing nut for LB7 engine. LLY and LBZ are auto prime.

Dodge Cummins fuel filter. Yellow valve at the bottom of the fuel filter is the water  drain.

Ford 7.3L Power Stroke fuel filter has the yellow water drain on the right.

Truck Basics: Ford 6.0L Power Stroke oil and fuel filter on top the engine. Second fuel filter in frame rail by tranny on drivers side. Both filters need changed at the same time. The water drain is on the lower filter inside the frame rail. On 7.3L Power Stoke, the fuel filter on top of the engine has a drain lever on the side or back depending on year to drain.

How would you like a safer, better handling truck on rutted dirt roads and pothole pavement? And have no risk to try it out? I tried it and loved the improvement, see my report. More…

How would you like 25 to 50% longer tire life automatically? And have a better steering truck. More…

Which transmission?

Transmissions have come a long way since the 80’s. With the invention of the lock up torque converter, the better made transmissions today can stand up to the torque put out by diesel engines. Practically all of the buses and more big trucks are going to automatic transmissions. Folks who drive mostly in the mountains like the engine braking they get with manual transmissions. Manufactures generally will give you around 3000 pounds more towing warranty on the automatic tranny in 1/2 tons. This is because of the lock up torque converter, which locks up mechanically like a clutch and pressure plate, the absence of asbestos from clutch plates, the torque converter doubling the torque coming from the engine, and the manufacture having more faith in the computer knowing when to shift verses us.

You Work Hard for Your Money! Don’t give up 1/2 of it for a Smile and a Handshake

I’ve worked in dealerships for 10 years after leaving the farm. I saw people work so hard to get the right price on their truck, just to give it all back by buying an over inflated bogus warranty. The Right Warranty on your pickup can save you a lot of money. But don’t fall for the high pressure tactics to buy a warranty at the same time you buy your truck. You did your research on which truck you need., why would you buy a warranty from a stranger without a comparison and money back guarantee. Here is the Best Warranty for you to Test Drive! Click Here

1/2 ton, 3/4 ton or 1 ton? Rear Axles Explained

The size of the truck you need depends of course on your needs. ½ tons and light duty ¾ tons are for light duty work, loaded part-time. Heavy-duty ¾ tons, 1 tons and above are designed to be loaded all of the time. They have twice as many tapered bearings in the rear axle. It’s called a full floating axle, similar to semi-truck eighteen-wheelers. While ½ ton pickups have a semi-floating axle similar to a car, with just 2 bearings. ½ tons and light duty ¾ tons will have a flush axle housing matching the wheel. With the heavy duty ¾ ton, 1 ton trucks and larger, the rear axle housing will actually stick out past the wheel and have an additional 8 bolts on the end of the hub holding the axle into the wheel hub with the axle “floating” between between the wheel hub and differential. Rolls Royce invented the “full floating” axle before WWII.

The “Semi-floating axle” has the wheel studs attached to it, carrying the trucks weight directly on the axle shaft and bearings. Differently on a “full floating axle” where the axle shafts only provide power to the wheel hub from the differential. The wheel hub is attached to the axle housing with two tapered bearings on each side. On a full floating axle you can pull the axle out and the wheels are steel attached to differential axle tubes. This puts the load carrying capacity on the axle housing not on the axle shaft as with a semi-floating axle.

This Full floating axle provides a more even weight distribution over the axle than a semi-floating axle. By removing a rear axle hubcap, you can determine if the truck is a ½ ton, light duty, ¾ ton or a heavy-duty ¾ ton, 1 ton or bigger.

Long box or short box?

If you are pulling a fifth wheel trailer I recommend a long bed. Sometime in RV parks or corrals you will need to “jack knife” your trailer. (Your truck and trailer at 90 degrees.) Your trailer is generally attached to your truck 5 inches in front of your rear axle. This gives you steering weight and a level trailer. If you have a short box and you “jack knife” your trailer may kiss your cab!. Full pieces of plywood or sheet rock fit into a long box with the tailgate closed. Short boxes are popular today with the mini- garages and those famous drive-up windows. You can buy a sliding fifth-wheel hitch for a short bed to allow you to move the hitch back for those tight maneuvers.

Duals or Single Rear Wheels for Your Pickup Truck?

I eventually went to duals, mostly because I pulled my trailers on dirt roads. Dirt roads are hard on the magnets on the trailer brakes. I soon discovered not to count on the trailer brakes. And duals on the truck will surprise you on their ability to stop you. On a factory dually the inside tire matches the front tire. When the snow got deep I would take off the outside duals and they would track fine. On a factory cab and chassis the rear duals splits the front track. With duals you also need to carry your hammer or bat just like the big boys to check the air pressure more often. You won’t be able to look a duals to see if they are low unless you’re loaded. So get in a habit of tapping the tires before you roll. If you have a flat on one of the duals they can loosen up the lug nuts.

Limited slip differentials.

Generally in a limited slip rear end a clutch engages when the right wheel, which is the driver, spin’s, allowing both wheels to give you traction. It’s usually beneficial to have it unless you are pulling heavy loads most of the time and on dirt or mud wearing the clutch in the differential.

Cushion Glide Coupler

Want to stop the chain reaction from the rough ride transferring from the truck to your trailer or from your trailer to your truck? Cushion Glide Coupler has a solution for eliminating the metal to metal impact from your gooseneck trailer. Reduce the stress and strain that have your truck and trailer working against each other by 59%. It’s easy to install, adjust and 70% less cost than the air bag hitches. And who wants that big air hitch in your bed along with an air compressor. The three Timbren Rubber Cushions have a lifetime warranty on this tested performance gooseneck coupler. More…

Stop tire cupping, vibration and premature wear on those expensive truck, RV & trailer tires. Centramatic automatic wheel balancers have been saving money on tires for semi-trucks for over twenty years. Now you can automatically balance your tires, wheels, hub and rotors or drums while you drive. A balanced tire doesn’t cub, vibrates less & lowers the tire sidewall temperature from less flexing, giving you longer tire life. 5 year warranty, made in the USA. More…

Always read your owners manual about your particular trucks weight limits, pulling limits, and gross vehicle weight rating!

Will it fit my garage?

I get asked that a lot. It seems the new homes are copying the large mall’s with sizing their parking spaces to the smallest car made. So I considered it my duty to tell you how big a hole you need. After all it’s probably your largest payment after your house! And I include the bumpers. These measurements are on new trucks. Click to see truck dimensions, total length, box length and wheelbase.

The Truth about Auto Loans

Good credit or not so Good credit, learn the inside secrets that make auto dealers their biggest profit! Don’t go unarmed and at their mercy. Bring your own loan with you! Know your rate and payment first. Now you can deal like you are buying with Cash! Being a Farmer/Rancher for Decades gave me a Natural Distrust of Banks. I Love Giving them Competition, Click Here!

After you spent the $40,000 on the Truck, Do You know if it will pull your Trailer in the Mountains?

Should I buy New or Used?

We have all heard that when you buy new, you loose money as soon as you drive it off the lot. I don’t agree. Especially when it comes to trucks. I’ve wore out trucks for over 2 decades and sold them for 1 decade. Used vehicles drop in value just as fast as new. You are going in both cases from retail to wholesale as soon as you take it home.

Pickup Truck Health Insurance, The Truth about Warranties!

We keep our trucks longer than cars. So the miles had up over the years. To keep your overall costs or cost per mile low, your Truck needs it’s own health insurance. 4×4’s have twice the drive train, the expensive stuff, to repair. Have the peace of mind that a Warranty gives you! But don’t buy it from the dealer unless they give you time to read all the fine print and Compare our Prices. Click here to find out how auto dealers make their highest profit margins from warranties. Then take ours for a test drive and save money! Lots of money!

Bragging rights, I say Competition created American Free Enterprise.

For 3 of the 10 years I’ve sold trucks, I was an auto broker. Most of the time working for AAA Auto Club, buying vehicles for the membership, I’ve sold all the major makes and models. Most people become loyal to one brand. But it’s good to compare. Competition is what improves things. The Japanese taught us valuable lessons in the 80’s on how to build cars. We as humans are such emotional buyers. We seldom do what’s best for us. And of course marketing rules the earth. That’s why the best diet in the world is shutting off the TV! I know how much I’ve gained watching pizza commercials. Back to trucks, competition helps us in so many ways. The top brands usually alternate leadership with each new model. But there is a difference in areas like diesels and transmissions.

I remember my dad having a Massey Ferguson model 92 combine. He thought that was the greatest thing since sliced bread, and of course so did I. Then one summer I ran my uncle’s model 95 John Deere. I couldn’t believe it. The engine wasn’t buried in the middle of the combine, it was on top where you could actually check the oil and change spark plugs. And another thing, the main belts weren’t buried in the middle either; they were on the outside of the combine, so you could actually change them without learning the latest cuss words! I saw combines evolve for the better and I’ve seen trucks evolve. Driving an empty 4×4 three-quarter ton in the 70’s meant seeing the local chiropractor and dentist after being bounced like a basketball! And now they drive like cars.

My first driving experience was in dad’s “53” Ford F-250. I became very good at jackrabbit starts. That lesson came in handy later when I drove our “47” two ton Chevy hauling hay. The jackrabbit starts gave my brother Steve, a few tumbles off the hay truck. I finally mastered “easing the clutch.” I’m certainly glad that I learned to drive in the country. I would hate to learn on I-25 in Denver!

My dad’s only new pickup was a 1972 ¾ ton GMC. “72” was the last year Ford or GM made a bed that was thick enough for me. Back then you didn’t need a bed liner. As my mind wanders back in time I will update this article from fond memories of the trucks in my life.

The Best Quick-Attach Mudflaps!

‘ve used and abused a lot of mud flaps over the years, Drilled a lot of holes in bumpers and fenders and welded my share of angle iron on trucks, just to get my mud flaps were they would do me some good. It’s a shame to have a nice trailer and then let your truck tires sandblast it and the wiring harness. These folks can solve that problem. And save fuel. for more info These are cool mud flaps! [rock tamers] Protect your Trailer!

Diesel Ramblings: What upsets me is when engineers and developers have a great product and then the corporation accountants get a hold of it and slash part of the component of the engine system to save money.
What has happened to the Ford/Navistar 6.0L is a crime. I’ve driven and pulled with ones that are great and ones with problems, but when Sturman Industries designed the G2 injector for the 6.0L Power Stroke and the International VT365, it was great. It had a pre-shot (pilot injection) 2 compression shots and post shot like the Dodge “600” has now. And then the accountants started deleting components to lower the cost.

The Ford 6.0L has EVRT turbo (variable vane) acting like a small spool turbo and large turbo, worked great. I interviewed the chief engineer for Ford about this EVRT hydraulic activated turbo, 2 years ago and guess what? Now he’s the chief engineer at GM and the Duramax has the EVRT hydraulic activated turbo in January on 2004.5 for more power. And this year (04) the accountants took the pilot injection clear out of the 6.0L Power Stroke. And it’s still a good truck, but it could have really been phenomenal.

I like competition in diesel trucks and it’s closer than it has ever been, with GM and Ford improving their diesels and Dodge improving it’s body and transmission. So they are all three very close. Dodge is ahead in the power race, if they would get a 5-speed auto and a real crew cab instead of the Quadcab, they would sell as many as Ford. (They listened in 2006 Mega-Cab) Dodge just passed GM in numbers on diesels after GM passed Dodge a couple of years ago with the Duramax. But Ford, which has out sold Dodge and GM diesels combined for over a decade is still #1 in sells by a wide margin.

Now hang on to your hats, Nissan and Toyota are working on 3/4-ton trucks with diesels. The 2005 VW Touareg SUV will have a V-10 diesel. So if you think you need the best truck every year, then get a 1 or 2-year lease and keep switching brands. Freightliner’s M2 has a class 5 truck like a Ford F550 or GM C5500 and Peterbilt may have a class 5 version of the 330. GM’s C4500/5500 will offer 4×4 this summer and probably 2006 will see Dodge with a cab and chassis again. (Scheduled for 2007) And that’s all I have to say about that.

From what I’m seeing, the new policy for Ford, “the loudest wheel gets the grease.” When the 6.0L PS first started having problems, Ford was being good, buying back some trucks, fixing some and handing out thousands of free oil changes. They had Blue Diamond pull a trailer around the country from dealer to dealer with engine cutouts and video display’s and tech folks onboard trying to explain the problems and the fixes. I’ve got a lot of contacts at Ford and have been handing out those ph #’s to my Insider Club members with problems. Some have gotten help and some are now suing Ford. Lately, the only thing working is suing Ford.

The good news is warranty problems have slowed down dramatically for the 2004 model PS, though Ford has taken out the pilot injection and they are louder. 2003 has turned out to be a dramatic example of “first year blues.” The Ford 6.0L PS trucks I drove 2 years were great and thought 03 would be a great year for Ford, but that’s the underlying risk of the first year of dramatic change. On the other hand, Dodge in 03 changed the diesel, transmission, frame, axles, transfer case, suspension, steering etc. and that many changes meant real danger in the first year blues, but they came out a champion with few problems. 03 was a surprising year. But as Kay says, just when you think you know something, someone will show you how stupid you are. Sometime I’m going to get real stupid and list my top picks for each truck class for 2004 and see how they did next year. (04 Ford Power Stroke recall to be issued in July 06)

Low sulfur diesel fuel will be coming soon for the tighter emission standards. 2007 is when it gets strict. The Ford Power Stroke and GM Duramax have Exhaust Gas Recirculated (EGR) and catalytic converters to meet the 2004 new emission standard and Dodge added catalytic converters and no EGR to meet the 2004 emissions. By the end of this decade we’ll probably see the same emission standards for gas and diesel engines.

I’ve updated the time it takes to pay for a diesel engine option with fuel savings from 80,000 miles to 100,000 miles. It’s easy to get addicted to the power of a diesel. And the competition with diesel trucks has dramatically improved since 2001. VW’s SUV the Touareg will have a V-10 diesel again. The new Dodge/Freightliner Sprinter vans with Mercedes have 5-cylinder diesels and 5-speed automatics that are getting over 20 mpg in a full size van. I’m going to review one of them this spring.

So diesel development is getting faster and faster. Also this spring I’ll be driving a “camless diesel” in an International semi truck DT466 from Sturman Industries. Bosch is also working on a camless diesel. So maybe this decade, Navistar and Cummins will have diesel engines with no, cams, push rods, timing chains, lifters and have engine brakes in pickup truck diesels. Start saving money, you’ll want to buy a new truck every year just to have the latest technology. George Jetson would be proud

A used diesel not maintained properly and over pulled beyond it’s factory weight ratings can be an expensive time bomb. Diesel mechanics charge more that gas engine mechanics per hour, engines, radiators, alternators, starters, batteries etc. all cost more in relation to diesel engines. If a diesel truck wasn’t serviced properly with the more expensive than gas, filters, and cooling fluid additives etc. and if the truck pulled trailers way beyond the GCWR limits, which is common, then buying a 100,000 mile diesel truck may cost you a fortune or could last another 100,000 miles. But a used diesel truck with a pedigree from a one owner pulling moderate trailer weights and service receipts is worth a premium. Some people use the high setting on chips and micro turners which works them hard to have most of the goody used up. That’s how most of my trucks were when I was done, I stripped them down to the frame and sold them by the pound.

So when I relate to it taking around 100,000 miles for a diesel engine to pay for itself with fuel savings, I’m calculating how long it takes to pay for the extra $4000 for the diesel option and the extra cost of servicing, since I can’t predict accurately future resale value, I can’t add that back in. Five years from now Arnold could have the EPA ban all new diesels in California, or hydrogen cell technology could make the hybrids, take over the market. Or maybe I could go back to decaf. I love diesels too buy I also look at “the bigger picture.” That’s the name of my column in the Turbo Diesel Register magazine out in February were you can learn about camless diesels that idle on 3 cylinders and can go from a 2-stroke to a 8-stroke with almost 0 emissions.

My point is diesels don’t save you dramatically over a gas engine as they once did. The underlying reason folks buy diesels is power. The diesel side of the debate gets championed more than the gas side. I like to show more than one viewpoint. If you tow heavy trailers the majority of the time, the diesel makes sense as with over-the-road semi-trucks. But the majority of truck owners now use their trucks as a car and pull trailers less then 25% of it’s life. Sometimes I get email from folks telling me how shocked they were at their first oil change cost of $75 to $100 for their diesel. Back when our choices in the late eighties where the new Dodge Cummins diesel in 89 or a just fuel injected Ford 460 or GM 454, then diesels could get twice the fuel mileage of a gas engine. Now we have gas engines that without a load can get 14-16 mpg verses a diesel 17-19 mpg highway miles and loaded pulling a trailer at 10-11 verses a diesel at 14-16 mpg. Bottom line, not everyone who pulls a trailer would save money with the diesel option. My mission is showing the strengths of the minority view.

Yes indeed, diesels use very little fuel at idle allowing truckers to keep the truck running while they nap. And the carbon buildup in a idling gas engine is not conducive to long life. But the soot in a diesel engine will also build up harmfully if you shut of a diesel that has idled long only. In Europe diesel passenger cars make up over 40% of the vehicles verses our less than 1%. In Spain you can buy a Ford Focus diesel. In this country with VW offering an economical diesel car for a couple of years now but not in all states, as well as in 2005 they will have a 5.0L V-10 diesel avail bile in the SUV Touareg. Mercedes will start offering diesel 05′ C class this fall again. Europe is on the path that diesels are the future to economy and lowered air pollution, while politics in this country are toward, alternative fuel, and hydrogen cells. Actually the engineers I interview think it’s impossible to make the hydrogen cell save enough. VW has a major project underway with biodiesel, biomass called SunFuel, which will complete the circle with only C02 emissions going back to the plants that to produce more boimass. I not against diesels, I just don’t think they fit every scenario nor do I think everyone needs a dually to pull a horse trailer.

Truck basic terminology for loads and pulling

Base Curb Weight: the empty weight of a vehicle including all standard equipment and a full tank of fuel. Does not include cargo, options or passengers.

Base Curb Weight plus Cargo Weight plus Passenger Weight equals Gross Vehicle Weight.

Cargo Weight: includes all weight added to the Base Curb Weight. When towing , trailer tongue weight is included in Cargo Weight.

Payload: the combined maximum allowable weight of cargo and passengers that the truck is designed to carry.

Gross Vehicle Weight Rating minus the Curb Weight equals Payload.

GVW: Gross Vehicle Weight – the actual loaded weight of your vehicle, the Base Curb Weight plus actual Cargo Weight plus passengers.

Gross Vehicle Weight plus Loaded Trailer Weight equals Gross Combination Weight, GCW must not exceed GCWR.

GVWR: Gross Vehicle Weight Rating – the maximum allowable weight of the fully-loaded vehicle with axles (including passengers and cargo).

The GVW must never exceed the GVWR.

GAW: Gross Axle Weight- the total weight placed on each axle, (front and rear.) The easiest way to get this number is to drive just the front axle of the loaded truck with the loaded trailer on a scales and then drive the all the loaded truck’s tires on the scale with the loaded trailer still connected but not on the scale. Subtract the front axle weight from the total loaded truck weight and you have the rear axle weight.

GAWR: Gross Axle Weight Rating- the maximum weight to be carried by a single axle, (front or rear.)

The total load of each axle must never exceed its GAWR.

GCW: Gross Combination Weight- the weight of the loaded vehicle, (GVW) plus the weight of the fully loaded trailer.

GCWR: Gross Combination Weight Rating- the maximum allowable weight of the towing vehicle and the loaded trailer, including all cargo and passengers.

The Gross Combination Weight must never exceed the GCWR.

GTW: Gross Trailer Weight – the actual total weight of the loaded trailer. Trailer- Gross Vehicle Weight not to exceed the GVWR of the trailer.

TW: Tongue Weight – refers to the amount of the trailer’s weight that presses down on the trailer hitch, whether a bed mount hitch, (mini- fifthwheel or ball) or a receiver hitch attached at the rear of the truck.

Trailer and Receiver Hitches Classes and Types. Mounted to the trucks frame.

  • Class I-Light Duty: 2000#’s maximum trailer weight. 200# tongue weight, 300 #’s with weight distributing hitch.
  • Class II- Medium Duty: 3500#’s maximum trailer weight. 300# tongue weight, 500#’s with weight distributing hitch.
  • Class III- Heavy Duty: 5000#’s maximum trailer weight. 7500#’s trailer weight with a weight distributing hitch. 300 – 500# tongue weight. Up to 750# tongue weight with weight distributing hitch.
  • Class IV-Extra-Heavy-Duty: 10,000 to 12,000#’s and above maximum trailer weight depending on the manufacture. 1,000# tongue weight with a weight distributing hitch. Class V receiver hitch can be over 12,000#’s.

Caution: Always read the label on the hitch including factory equipped receivers. Some hitches are rated their maximum capacity only if you use a Weight Distribution Hitch.

Receiver Hitch

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Weight Carrying Hitch or Drawbar: All the Tongue Weight of the trailer is carried by the hitch.

Weight Carrying Hitch or Draw Bar or Stinger or Ball Mount

Weight Distributing Hitch: Most of the trailer’s Tongue Weight is transferred to the tow vehicle’s frame (through the hitch receiver). Total load is distributed to all the axles of the truck and trailer.

Click for more info on WDH

With gooseneck trailers, tall modern trucks don’t always allow you much clearance between the bedrail and gooseneck floor. Eight inches is usually good clearance considering dips and potholes.

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