Originally Posted by fam5rving
My husband has been looking at early 90's late 80's Diesel Trucks for a pull vehicle was wondering if there is anything we should be looking for or staying away from.
I know not much about Dodge and Chevy, except for the years you're looking for (before 2005), I know:
Dodge is a great diesel engine with a lousy tranny wrapped up in a POS truck. GM 6.5L diesels before about 2002 were unreliable and trouble prone. My local dealer stopped selling them long before GM stopped making them. Later GM trucks with the Isusu diesel engine were okay.
Ford diesel is my game. I've been a moderator on TheDieselStop for about 12 years. Here's what I know about the Fords:
As others mentioned, the Ford 7.3L diesels before 1995 model year were not turbocharged - they were not PowerStrokes. Dead reliable and would run forever if you maintained fresh motor oil in them, but not enough power/torque to drag a medium-size 5er at a reasonable speed up a steep grade. The '95 thru '97 (old body style or OBS) had PowerStroke turbocharged engines, but no charge air cooler (so-called intercooler).
So from Ford, I would not want a tow vehicle older than the '95 PowerStroke. If he is partial to the OBS body, then look for a '95 thru '97 PowerStroke.
There is no such thing as a '98 Ford diesel pickup. Ford built the '97 models right up until about Thanksgiving 1998, then switched the Kentucky Truck Plant over to the new '99 SuperDuty trucks which began coming off the assembly line in January, 1998.
The '99 had not only an intercooler, but a 4R100 automatic tranny instead of the A40D of the '97 and earlier. The ZF manual tranny went from a 5-speed in the '97 to a 6-speed in the '99. With the intercooler, the engine produced 230 HP and 500 lb/ft.
The "early" '99 SuperDuty had a few teething pains, but Ford took care of them as they occured. Ford came out with a much-improved '99 SuperDuty diesel in December, 1998 (almost a year after the first '99s apeared). Enthusiasts call those the '99.5 model, but Ford still called them a '99.
If I were looking for an older diesel tow vehicle, I'd look for a '99.5 thru 2003 Ford 7.3L. Ford replaced the 7.3L with the 6.0L early in the 2003 model year, so there were not many 2003 7.3Ls produced.
I ordered my '99.5 CrewCab diesel in April 1999, and was driving it by June 1999. I put almost 200,000 mostly-towing miles on it in a little over 11 years. I sold it about a year and a half ago for $10,000.
We are looking for a quad cab to pull a 27'-32' fifth wheel or trailer (prefer the fiver). We were looking for 2wd or 4wd 250 7.3 diesel.
Don't even consider the F-250 if your trailer is a 5er. My F-250 CrewCab diesel with two-wheel-drive was overloaded by several hundred pounds over the GVWR with our 25' 5er with only Darling Wife and a puppydog in the CrewCab. I had a toolbox full of tools and a floor jack in the bed, but you should too. The F-250 had plenty of "tow rating" for a 12,000 pound 5er, but not nearly enough payload capacity (GVWR) for the hitch weight of any 5er that weighed more than about 7,500 pounds.
Ford also made a 'tweener in the F-350 SRW (single rear wheels). It had 1100 pounds more GVWR, so it could handle more hitch weight. But GVWR was still the limiter. It had GVWR of 9,900 pounds, and our wet and loaded 4x2 weighed about 8,000, leaving a max of 1,900 pounds for hitch weight. 1,900 pounds hitch weight translates to a max 5er weight of about 11,200 pounds. If you buy a 4x4 CrewCab diesel, expect the truck to weigh about 400 pounds more than a 4x2. So that reduces the max trailer weight you can tow with an F-350 SRW diesel without being overloaded over the GVWR of the truck to about 8,800 pounds. You probably won't find many 27' plus 5ers with a GVWR of only 8,800 pounds.
So if your trailer is a 5er and your truck is a '99.5 thru 2003 F-350 SRW 4x4 with 7.3L diesel engine, then shop carefully for a 5er with a GVWR of less than 8,800 pounds. With a 4x2, you can go on up to about 11,000 pounds
The F-350 dually is a horse of a different color. GVWR is not the limiter, so you can tow a heavier 5er without being overloaded. But ignore the tow rating, because it's way overstated. A '99.5 thru 2003 F-350 DRW CrewCab with 7.3L PowerStroke engine has a GVWR of 11,500 pounds and a GCWR of 20,000 pounds. A 4x4 will weigh almost 9,000 pounds when wet and ready for the road with passengers and "stuff" inside. The remaining 2,500 pounds available for hitch weight translates to a max 5er weight of way more than the GCWR will allow. The GCWR of 20,000 pounds minus the truck weight of 9,000 pounds is a 5er with a max weight of 11,000 pounds. There are lots of 27' to 30' 5ers available with GVWR less than 11,000 pounds.
So notice that about 11,000 pounds is the limit for a 5er behind either the F-350 SRW or DRW, but for different reasons. The F-350 SRW is limited by its GVWR. The heavier DRW is limited by it's GCWR. The DRW is a much more stable towing platform, so most DRW owners would't be caught dead in an SRW. But lots of folks can't stand the thought of driving a "real truck" with the bussel in the rear bodywork, so they compromise by towing a lighter trailer with an SRW.
But you said you'd consider a TT instead of a 5er. An F-250 can tow a small ultra-light TT because the hitch weight is less than a 5er of the same size. Figure 12 to 15 percent hitch weight for a TT, but 15 to 25 percent for a 5er. I use 12 percent estimated hitch weight when matching TTs to tow vehicles, but 17 percent hitch weight when matching medium-size 5ers to tow vehicles.
So for a '99-'03 F-250 CrewCab 4x2 with 800 pounds max hitch weight, that translates to a TT of about 6,600 pounds. You probably won't find a TT with a 27' or longer box (not counting hitch length) with that little GVWR. But for the same drivetrain in an F-350 SRW, that translates to a TT grossing up to way over the tow rating of the F-350 SRW. Even with an F-350 SRW 4x4, you could still tow a TT grossing up to around 11,500 pounds before you bumped into the GCWR limiter of 20,000 pounds.
Most concerned about tranny issues.
Automatic tranny is the weak point in all diesel pickups, including the '99.5 to 2003 7.3L SuperDuty. Heat is the tranny killer. So you must have a good tranny temp gauge and never allow more than 225° tranny temp. To help with that goal, you may need to replace the oil-to-air tranny cooler with a much-bigger one. And if you ever see over about 210°, you should be running synthetic ATF.
If you can do that, then your 4R100 tranny may last as long as you own the truck, and you won't have to worry about replacing it with a bulletproofed tranny, such as a Ford HD or BTS tranny. You will probably need to replace the torque converter, but that's a few hundred dollars instead of a few thousand for a good rebuilt tranny.
If you waited too late to control the heat of your tranny, then there are fixes available to bulletproof your 4R100 tranny. If you buy one that doesn't already have the tranny bulletproofed, then plan to spend the big bucks to have it done later.
For the 99-up 7.3L with 4R100 tranny, there are two choices. Ford now offers a rebuild 4R100 HD tranny that will fix the problem. That's a decent choice with a two-year warranty for about $3,000. The ultimate bulletproofing job is done by an outfit called Brian's Truck Shop (BTS). That one will cost you a lot more up front, but Brian will tell you that it's the last transmission you'll ever have to buy. Today a BTS 4R100 rebuilt tranny will cost you over $4,000.
My 4R100 lasted 112,000 miles before I noticed some slipping from the torque converter. I drove to BTS and had him do "the works". It was less than $3,800 out the door back then, but I was really proud of my BTS tranny, and never had more tranny problems.
If you get a Ford, then surf to www.TheDieselStop.com
and spend some time in the FAQs and Forum FAQs, and read the articles under "contents" off the home page. We've allowed the website to go downhill lately, but all the great stuff for the 7.3L PowerStrokes is there. Note especially Mark Kovalsky's how-to on changing the ATF in a 4R100 tranny.
Changing ATF: 7.3L PowerStroke Engine and 4R100 Automatic Transmission. - Diesel Forum - TheDieselStop.com