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Truck Buying Advice

rumination

Migratory Hippie Arbolist
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I need a little help from you more mechanically minded folks. I'll be spending about ten days in San Diego visiting family when I return to the States and during that time I want to purchase a good used truck that I will drive out to New Mexico and use as a work truck there.

My main criteria be that it have four wheel drive, or an LSD/locking differential, because I will likely be doing some driving on forest service roads and in the snow. Right now I am leaning toward an F250 or a Dodge 2500, and I'm also thinking that diesel is the way to go.

First of all, any comments on those two trucks, and are there any other comparable trucks I should be looking at?

Secondly, I don't know the first thing about diesels. I know the engines last longer then gasoline, but how long? Is a diesel engine with 150,000 miles on it over the hill, or does it still have a good bit of life left in it?

Also, I expect that many trucks like this will have been used for towing in the past. Are there any good signs and symptoms that I can look for while doing a test drive that will tell me if the tranny is still in decent condition?

Any other general tips that I should know?

Thanks.:)
 

lumberjack

Young man on the go
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Mississippi
I'd get a manual transmission.

The engine should go to 250k-450k depending on its life.

When you're looking for a truck, I'd shy away from a truck with larger/more aggressive tires as it's likely been used more so than a 4wd cowboy Cadillac running all terrains or street tires. Look underneath the truck for leaks before you go for a spin. While driving, less rattles is a good thing (interior) and feel if the truck is pulling to one side or the other. When it stops (easy and hard) it shouldn't pull to one side either. If you want to get fancy and technical, buy the cheapest sheet you can find that's as wide as the truck and as long as is reasonable. Weight the corners and middle (if it's windy) and when you get back from your test drive (long enough to get everything warm/operating temp) come back and park on the truck. Let it sit for 15-30 minutes and then inspect your white sheet for fluids. Dark oil is either engine, transmission (if it's a manual), or transfer case oil. If it's an auto and it's red, it's tranny, power steering, or untaxed diesel. If the fluid is clearer but leaves a brown tinge, it's likely brake fluid.

Look at the rear bumper. Hopefully you won't see a(ny) ball(s) on it. Look in the reciever hitch, if it's still got the factory powder coating on most of the bottom of the interior surface (towards the exiting end of the tube) the less it's been used or the less weight. If there's a ball installed in the reciever hitch, note how much chrome is left on it, more chrome=less use. If it looks new but the tube that goes in the reciever doesn't, pull the tube and look at it's holes to see if they're oblong.

My 1 ton's hitch is custom made heavy duty, it's rusty inside, the ball's tube has oblong holes, and the ball is black from the chrome rubbing off and grease being applied. (Not a good sign).

Power windows are nice.

Guess you can't get the ole 'yoter back from Hawaii?
 

rumination

Migratory Hippie Arbolist
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  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
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Thanks Carl, that's some really helpful advice there.

The old beater from Hawaii has a new home now, and I'm looking to move up in the world anyways.
 

rumination

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Nope, amazingly enough it's still ticking away from what I hear. I sold it to a friend in need for $250 with no guarantees expressed or implied, and she seems pretty happy that it's still going.
 

sotc

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like carl said, if you get a dodge diesel, avoid the automatics. i think the 2000-03 models have an onboard diagnostic reader in the odometer. turn the key on and off 3 times as fast as you can and stop in the on position, then watch the odom. and if there are codes they will show up. write them down cause if theres a code for the injection pump your looking at a 1500 dollar repair. also under the hood on the drivers side is a blaack plastic box, if theres velcro on it the truck has been chipped in the past meaning its been run hard. get a 12 valve if you can, they are easy to work on and cheap to modify
 
F

Frans

Guest
All real good advice. The Dodge Cummins 12 valve is a very strong reliable engine.
BUT the automatic on this truck is weak.

The Ford diesel is an international engine (on the older models) and has a bit more problems.

Really if you take Carl's & Willies advice you wont go wrong.

I would add that you really really should slap the computer on any of these and see if they throw a code.
Also having a good mechanic do a 'pre-purchase' inspection is important.
Not an inspection where they check the air pressure but one that they yank off the wheels to check the brakes, check for codes if any, check all fluids, etc.

A diesel is alot easier to check for problems. Smoke from the pipe tells you alot according to the amount, the color, and when it does smoke.

Like Carl said, I have always avoided trucks used by young guys who have messed with it, taken it off road, made 'improvements', or trucks used by contractors.

Best to buy an 'old mans truck'.

Gas engines are a different animal and the checking of them is more complicated but also easy if you know what you are doing.
Either way, get a mechanic involved.

I am always suspicious of an engine which has been steam cleaned. Better to see it dirty so I can see better what has been wrenched on and where the leaks are.

Take a look at the clutch pedal. Really worn out rubber on the pedal tells you... something, maybe.

I like to buy vehicles locally because then I have my resources available. Buying a vehicle out of town means you are on your own.

You are not necessarily safer buying from a car lot but in CA. you have certain rights as a consumer if you bought a car and it fails after the 'tail light' guarantee.
 

squisher

THE CALM ONE!!!!
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Depends how old or new you're going as for Ford's I'd only buy the 7.3psd(power stroke diesel) before and after avoid like the plague.

Diesel's are ridiculous to repair and I'm not sure about how your guys pricing works down there but up here it's not worth owning one unless you are actually going to be hauling loads with it. Otherwise you could replace/rebuild a gas motor for the cost of any serious diesel repair.

I'm guessing you don't have easy access to propane down there? Both my 1 tons are propane and it's considerably cheaper to buy and the emissions are way better, also the engines last forever on propane.
 

Al Smith

Mac Daddy
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You can tell a lot just looking inside the cab.The door lock on the drivers side loose,the clutch pedal worn down,the seat showing lots of in and out usage is a high milage truck.No matter what the odometer says . The thing might show 90 thou and in reality be 250,000 thou .

Little hints can be left also.Such as a sales recept or something from another state or location 200 miles away from where the thing is for sale is a dead giveaway .These little clues could be any where but often stuffed down in the seat where nobody would think to look for them .

I trust a dealer about as far as I could throw them and some are a little portly . Polititions and used vehicle dealers are both pathalogical liars .They would lie if the truth would suffice better.Buyer beware but even a slick private seller can be a little shaky as well .
 

sotc

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and they are gutless unless the propane is fogged in while running on diesel.
cummins is a simple design, easy to work on. PSD is complex and intimidating

ill never buy used at any kind of dealership. private party for me
 

Old Monkey

Treehouser
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Mar 9, 2005
Messages
8,771
Leon, people here in Boise seem to be shedding their gas guzzling big trucks in a big hurry. As I drive around town I am seeing more and more parked with for sale signs. I need one but am not looking forward to purchasing one. I think prices will be going down on them and their will be some motivated sellers. San Diego is one of the hardest hit areas by the housing bust, there should be some deals there too.

edit: By the way what kind of work are you going to be doing in NM?
 

squisher

THE CALM ONE!!!!
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and they are gutless unless the propane is fogged in while running on diesel.
Bah I'd like to take you for a spin in my 460 on propane, gutless would not be what comes to mind.;)

The diesels are ridiculous for day to day driving, I certainly don't need that kind of power.

Ok, ok my tired 351 in the plow truck is a little gutless at over 200,000miles. My buddy's 460 on propane is a little slow at over 300,000 miles original engine! And propane here is .789/litre and diesel is 1.299/litre. I'll take a couple extra minutes getting around

:P
 

squisher

THE CALM ONE!!!!
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Aww c'mon don't surrender that easily. There's lots of negative things you could try and bring up about propane still.:lol:
 

sotc

Dormant hero!!
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Aww c'mon don't surrender that easily. There's lots of negative things you could try and bring up about propane still.:lol:
im not surrendering, if you try and follow me ill blow smoke all over you:D
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F

Frans

Guest
Bilsteins are over rated and over priced.

The 7.3 is a good engine, but the overdrive manual tranny causes them to lug to much.
Cokes out the injectors
 
K

Koa Man

Guest
Cummins are good engines, the 12 valve has less problems than the newer 24 valve engines. On the 12 valves you need to check to see if the timing case dowel pin has been tabbed. Do a search for KDP Cummins or Killer Dowel Pin to see what I am talking about. On the 24 valve the VP44 is a weak spot and a truck with over 100K miles on that pump will likely need it replaced soon. On all of them make sure it doesn't have the 53 block. That engine block has a thin casting prone to cracking and was most prevalent on 1999 and 2000 models, but can be found on all years 1998-2002. Also do a search on Cummins 53 block to see how to determine whether or not the engine has a 53 block.
 

No_Bivy

Treehouser
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Sep 2, 2006
Messages
6,002
I would get a 4 cly toyota, Leon....better mileage. You ain't hauling nuthin' are you? besides you and you gear?:D
 

sotc

Dormant hero!!
Joined
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Messages
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So. Oregon
Cummins are good engines, the 12 valve has less problems than the newer 24 valve engines. On the 12 valves you need to check to see if the timing case dowel pin has been tabbed. Do a search for KDP Cummins or Killer Dowel Pin to see what I am talking about. On the 24 valve the VP44 is a weak spot and a truck with over 100K miles on that pump will likely need it replaced soon. On all of them make sure it doesn't have the 53 block. That engine block has a thin casting prone to cracking and was most prevalent on 1999 and 2000 models, but can be found on all years 1998-2002. Also do a search on Cummins 53 block to see how to determine whether or not the engine has a 53 block.
my buddy has a 53 block, i may be able to get you some pics
 

brendonv

Tree Hugger
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7,156
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Oxford, Connecticut
Have you seen diesel prices, I'm sure you have.

A nice Nissan or Toyota 4x4 will get you anywhere you want. One of my fav. year Toyota's are 2004ish with the 3.4 liter engine. Enough power, economical, reliable, and go anywhere.

Just a thought.
 
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