View Full Version : Thinking of buying a diesel.

08-05-2013, 03:54 PM
Hi all. Its been a long time since I posted anything. Got a question. I'm looking at a 2005 dodge ram 3500 diesel with 137k miles to purchase. what are some of the things I should look for and test for?
I plan on testing the 4x4 and the transmission. what should I look for? what's the best method for testing an automatic transmission? Is the turbo an easy thing to test?
What are the other things I should test for specific to diesels (or specific to dodges)?

08-05-2013, 04:44 PM
here's a good start http://www.risingsun4x4club.org/forum2/showthread.php?t=17790

08-05-2013, 07:35 PM
Just my .02, The Ford powerstroke is the way to go, I've got two of the old 7.3 engines. One 99 with the manual trans and an 03 with an auto. Enjoy them both.

08-05-2013, 09:38 PM
Scott, the thread Nakman linked is a good one. You're about to understand why real trucks don't have spark plugs.:D


08-06-2013, 10:21 AM
sweet, i just did the 'shopped for n bought an older diesel' thing.

most work I ever put into buying a used vehicle...

pound the pavement, look at a BUNCH of them, and then buy the one that you really really like. I think it was 27 trucks that i took the time to physically look at, i only bothered to drive like 3 as the vast majority of them i lost interest in pretty quick.

As far as trucks go, i'm definitely a ford guy, but in my shopping i didn't limit myself. i checked out every dodge ford and gm i could in my price range.

not many gm's... most were way way older and in horrible shape, or very new and $$$$. I only checked out one and it would have been a contender if the seller dropped a couple of bucks, but he didn't.

plenty of dodges, i have a lot of confidence in the motor and all of them i checked out ran well. but the rest of it... i had trouble finding ones that were overall in good condition. some of them were pretty riced out, and some were ragged. i think all of the dodge stuff just falls apart around the cummins stuff.

tons 6.0 fords. i stopped looking at 6.0's though. even though there were some nice trucks out there, at some good prices, i just couldn't handle it. i'm not a gambler and taking that on was just too stressful. snapping up a cheap larriot 6.0 for a fummins swap would be spiffy though.

plenty of 7.3's. they spanned the spectrum though. some were in pristine condition, others not so much, but overall the trucks in general hold up well. I can't think of much that i would consider a 'gotcha' to watch out for, but i could expand on general advice if it helps.

through the course of my shopping, i decided to begin ignoring millage and focusing on how well cared for the vehicle was. a 7.3 or a 6bt can go a bazzilion miles assuming its owner loves it and takes care of it, so i focused on this aspect. if one of these is well loved, a 200,000 mile truck looks like it has 40,000 and a not loved truck with 120,000 looks like it has 500,000.

i would also keep some transmission money in your pocket. dodge or ford, they all appear to be about ready for some trans work, or you pay a premium for one just done. if you can find a stick shift, this is a recipe for reliability, but even still you should consider a clutch swap sooner than later. these clutchs don't really wear out, but can fail in catastrophic fashion and take out the trans at the same time. i just ordered a south bend for mine.

in general, be prepared to take it home and spend some time and money. after getting mine home i spent several weeks going through and doing ALL of the general maintenance items, fixing a bunch of little things and have set money aside and made a plan to do some of the bigger things that make sense. (clutch and up-pipes are top of my list)

on the topic of "chips" and other performance mods...

why not buy one that already has a chip and other performance mods? if you like the truck and might like that sort of thing, why not save yourself the money and buy one that already has that stuff? again... its all about how well cared for it was. i looked at some that were modded and chipped, and obviously BEAT ON. so i passed on those...

the one that i ended up buying has a ton of performance upgrades, lots of cool stuff that i wouldn't be able to afford right now. so it was a bonus for me.

best of luck in the shopping! it can be a pain but its worth it to be picky. i loooooove mine. i've always been a big fan of turbochargers and have owned some powerful turbo cars, but i've never had something so insanely powerful while also so efficient and reliable.


one thing to definitely watch out for is emissions. assuming you live in the metro area, it will have to pass "diesel emissions". essential its a visual inspection that it has all manufacturer installed emissions equipment and a loaded dyno test that checks exhaust opacity. this is not something to overall stress about, even a truck that makes a fair bit of smoke will pass, but it needs to be in sounds running condition and you need to be able to remove the chip if it has one or set the tuner back to 'stock' mode.

a seller is legally required to provide you with a passed emissions test, even if they live outside of the emissions required area's. but, NOBODY is going to do that!!! its just not gunna happen. they'll sell the truck to somebody else if you push the issue. i purchased mine form a guy in Avon (no emissions), then i had to install a catalytic myself (purchased with a 4" exhaust, no muffler, no cat) and take it up for the test myself.

08-06-2013, 11:07 AM
If you find a worthy diesel truck, you might want to spend $100 at a shop and have them hook it up to a laptop (not a code dumper) and have them drive it. I had Douglas County Diesel do this to my 7.3 Ford and I did learn a few things. I wasn't entirely happy with the inspection (for instance - they should have looked at the turbo fins for dusting), but I learned that the truck was basically sound.

A buddy of mine just got an '05 Cummins Dodge and a number of pricey body and electronics stuff promptly failed. He's a Toyota guy and isn't real hot on Chrysler quality at this point. The engine has been fine, however.

08-06-2013, 01:52 PM
the cummins engine and drive train is fantastic, but the rest of the truck just isn't built well.

Expect to have issues with the HVAC system and front ball joints.

the design of the HVAC system leads to failed air direction doors inside the unit and loss of control over where the heated/cooled air comes out. To fix involves evacuating the freon, and disassembling the entire dash to remove the air box. the doors can then be replaced.

the balls joints are just lame. I bought the expensive ball joint tool when I owned my '03 dodge and used it twice to replace worn ball joints. They would last about 20k miles. It's not a fun job.

08-06-2013, 06:42 PM
FWIW, I could not be happier with my 2002 Ford F250 7.3L diesel with a MANUAL TRANSMISSION. The tranny makes quite a bit of lash noise when lugging... fughedaboudit. No worries.

The clutch master and slave needed replacing recently. Initially I was worried because it looked to be an internal slave... not so. This was perhaps the EASIEST master/slave I have EVER replaced. The assembly comes from NAPA as complete, and pre-bled, and essentially you disconnect the pedal linkage, and twist, turn, and remove both the master and slave.

Took me 15 casual minutes. Sheesh!

I also had to replace a glow plug relay last fall, and it looks like I will get to do a set of glow plugs and/or harness before winter.

All in all, not bad for a 133K mile vehicle that is SOLID, reliable, and gets about the same mileage as my 1997 3.4L 4Runner used to.

08-06-2013, 11:46 PM
cool, nice to know about the master/slave setup. mine has been fine, but i wouldn't be shocked if i need to do that in the future.

ouch on doing the glow plugs... that doesn't look like a whole lot of fun. doable, but a real pain in the arse.

08-09-2013, 02:02 PM
I didn't get an update in my email about the thread.

Thanks guys for the input. I'll admit, I've spent more time looking at diesels than any other vehicle purchase. Either way, the ones I choose will get a good look by a mechanic. Funny thing is I feel like I'm right back where I started. 10 trucks looked at already. EuroFord went through 27 trucks before your purchase. I will probably have a better comfort level when I get up there because I feel its going to take viewing 27 trucks before I purchase.

As far as mods go, I'm a fan of doing the mods myself. I don't know what others have done to it or how they treated their modded truck. But a modded truck isn't out of the question either.

08-12-2013, 11:20 AM
I looked long and hard for an un-modded truck. But, I wouldn't be against a 7.3 Ford with the following mods: 4" exhaust, pyro/boost/trans temp gauges, and a quality chip, not a plug-in-the-OBD port tuner thing. A rebuilt auto trans (with shift kit or programming) or a 6 speed. But, you'd only want to buy this truck from a sane-headed individual who did things for the right reason, rather than to roll coal and race his Chevy-owning neighbor.

The real reason for a nicely modded truck is that the last guy will have spent $2-3K getting it there, but it would only add $500 to the sale price of the truck, if that.

08-14-2013, 01:10 PM
The real reason for a nicely modded truck is that the last guy will have spent $2-3K getting it there, but it would only add $500 to the sale price of the truck, if that.

Agreed. I bought mine basically on the fact that it came from a level headed driver who took fantastic care of it. purchased on their own, the performance parts would have doubled the cost of the vehicle, but it added nothing to the resale. its just free stuff!

Mine came with a plug-in-da-obd port thingy (Juice CTS), and i actually like it a lot. sure, a custom tuner would probably be better, but i have no downsides with the gadget and the display and maintenance tracker is awesome. I hear they eat auto tranny's, but i'm not in that crowd.

08-14-2013, 01:38 PM
Scott, One point made already sort of is the emissions stuff. Depending on where you live you will need to get it checked. It can have an aftermarket exhaust on it but has to have the "diesel cat" on it. Check to see if the EGR plumbing is there and ask if they removed the heater grate, a big mode on the 5.9 and 6.7 motors. As far as the transmissions go they are strong but any brand can break after 40K because of driver neglect/abuse.

I owned a 07.5 Dodge for 4 years till I rolled it coming back from CM one mile from my house. I was planning on keeping that truck till it was not needed anymore and then maybe even longer. Dodges do fall apart easier and aren't as tight put together than the Fords and Chevy's. I searched 4 years ago for a Chevy because I liked them then Randy and I took his Dodge to Moab and I was sold. I now have a Chevy Dually and am not as happy with it as I was with my Dodge.

The perfect truck in the diesel community for a lot of people is a Ford body, Dodge 5.9 motor and an Allison transmission. Sounded like you already know that and have thought about it.

BOT Look at the steering box, known for leaking. Check for the Death wobble also known issue and has a $200 fix. Radiators, the fins are easily "dented" for a lack of a better word and can cause cooling issues over time. If an aftermarket filter is being used check the MAF and the tubes etc. Programmers are OK BUT!!! If there is one on there ask him or her to see it (if it is a plug in style i.e. H&S or Smarty most likely) have him plug it in and then check to see what setting it is on. On the Smarty anything above 4-5 and they were only after the power. Gauges are very important! The most important one is the EGT or Pyro. Exhaust gas temperature is a Diesels biggest enemy, each brand is different and so are the temps that people will tell you. I have had my Dodge up to 1850 * for about 5 seconds to pass a car that cut me off and then slowed down up the tunnel pass. If there is an electronic gauge system used like an Edge unit or Banks you can look in the memory bank if they have not erased it. Go through the menu and check the memory, it will tell what his top speed was, highest EGT, Trans temp etc. you get the idea. Some plug in programmers will also do that when you scroll through the menu of them.

Besides those things I think you have most stuff covered. Here is a great website that helped me a ton http://www.cumminsforum.com/forum/

Good luck and if you have questions you can contact me at 3o3....829///o7o3 and am more than willing to help you. :thumb: