Thursday, April 28, 2011

My love affair with Diesel trucks ends

I've owned a diesel truck for more than a decade now.  I preferred diesel trucks because the engines lasted longer, got better mileage, and generally had more power for the stuff that I do with them; pulling things and carrying heavy loads. 

My next-to-last truck was a 2000 ford F250 diesel, and with regular car and a little maintenance here and there I put something over 220,000 miles before I sold it, and I was happy with its mileage -- after 220k miles, I was still getting 17mph.  Excellent mileage for a heavy truck. 

Without thinking about it too much I purchased a 2006 Ford F250 diesel with 55k miles on it.  A few years old, still in good shape, with (I thought) another 170k or more miles of life left in it. 

That truck has been in the shop 4 times in the last 10 days, and cost me $4200  (and cost Ford Motor company $6700 in warranty) repairs.  Turns out that the  6.0 liter engine has had terrible problems; so terrible in fact that Ford ended up suing their engine supplier, and the engine supplier sued it back. 

"To recap: Ford started having problems with its (flame-throwing) Power Stroke engines from Navistar. Ford stopped paying Navistar for the engines, because it decided Navistar owed it for warranty work incurred from the last-gen Powerstroke diesel. Ford sued Navistar. Navistar stopped shipping engines. A Judge intervened, told Navistar to start shipping engines again and Ford to start paying. Ford started work on its own diesel engine. Navistar sued Ford for $2 billion. Navistar sues Ford again, this time for "hundreds of millions of dollars" – which is today's sad story. I think that about covers it"

Engine history quoted from here

So I'm pretty unhappy with my 2006 version of the ford diesel.  And so I look for later versions, and find that the replacement engine for the later trucks (the 6.4 and 6.7 liter engine models) have various problems mostly related to emissions control stuff. 

All of that's fine; I'm an engineer, and I recognize that version 1 kinda sucks, but these problems aren't getting better very fast.

And all of these engines get WORSE MILEAGE than the old 7.3 liter engine.  In other words, in todays market you'll pay more for diesel than gas, and you'll get about the same mileage for the money. 

So now it's hurting four different ways for ford trucks, and at least three different ways for any modern diesel truck: 

  1) Engines are works in progress, and have teething pains.  (ford only)
  2) Diesel vehicles are usually 10 to 25% more expensive than equivalent gas versions
  3) In modern trucks the mileage is about the same, as with gas versions. 
  4) You cannot run any of these newer engines on farm diesel, which eliminates the main retirement option of old trucks -- the on-farm-only truck. 

So what to do. 

I think I'm going to sell this new, pretty Ford truck and buy two vehicles to replace it.  A small car that gets good mileage, for transporting people, and an older ford diesel (like a 2000-2003) that has that old, thrifty, bulletprooof engine I like so much. 

In this case I'll accept the higher maintenance costs of an older truck to get the 18-20mpg that I used to. 

Doesn't help that the newest ford diesel trucks are (to my mind) unbelievably priced.  $50k for a light truck?  Are you Kidding me?  75K?  I'm gonna die!)


Joanne Rigutto said...

That's insane. As someone who's never bought a new vehicle, I'm constantly amazed at the cost of them.

What's the reason that newer diesels can't use on farm diesel?

Funder said...

I'm really hoping that the new gen ford diesels are as rugged as those 7.0's were. I've heard nothing but horror stories about those 6.0 and 6.4L powerstroke engines, and it's getting really hard to find 7.0s. Good luck dumping that '06. :(

Bruce King said...

Joanne: the emissions control stuff is messed up by the sulfur content in farm diesel. If farm diesel was low sulfur (which will probably happen in a few years) you could run the trucks on them. Around here right now, diesel is $4.25/gallon, farm diesel is $3.50/gallon. Both are very expensive, but I don't feel quite like I'm opening a an artery when I fill up the tractors, like I do when I buy road diesel. Mileage is pretty important at these prices.

Bruce King said...

Funder: I'd really have loved to have the new trucks be as reliable as the old, but the final straw for me was the mileage. They're advertising that the 2011 fords get "significantly better mileage than previous offerings" -- what, we go from 12 to 13?

In order for me to justify the $7500 price bump for a diesel I've got to see significantly better mileage than gas engines, and I just don't see it.

Gas around here right now is $3.99/gallon. Diesel is $4.25. Near as I can figure it if I used the $7500 to buy gas instead of the diesel engine I'd be better off.

Which is opposite what I would have said with my old truck, that did get 30% better mileage as a diesel.

Tsurugi_Oni said...

Hi, I'm a huge fan of your blog!

I wrote a little mini-article on a forum using pictures and quotes from your blogs.

I really hope you don't mind. I just wrote about real world food wasting, and how many of the popular paradigms are far from comprehensive, and are more often used to push an agenda (vegan) rather than be accurate.

If you have any problem with it I will take it down immediately. This blog is such a blessing for those seeking an insider perspective on the realities of food production, its politics, economics, and social implications. Keep on writing!

Bruce King said...

Generally you're welcome to use material from my blog as long as credit is given for the photographs and a link is provided to the original. I'd like to see whatever it is that you've written, but I don't know how to find it.

Glad you enjoy the blog