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Diesel Truck Problems - Diesel Trucks Gone Rogue

Diesel Power Gone Bad

Photography by The Diesel Power And Scott Zaffram

Diesel power and broken parts go hand in hand. The factories build our engines to live for hundreds of thousands of miles-at stock power levels. That output is fine for the still-under-warranty crowd, but drivers on the quest for the ultimate turbodiesel truck are destined to break parts, and why not? Every time you break something, it's a chance to learn about your truck and how to make it better. Here are some of the most interesting disasters/learning experiences we've witnessed during this past year.

Turbine Suicide
Months after DENNIS FIXED HIS ENGINE, testing of a custom turbo setup caused this power-adder to perform a textbook example of a hub failure. During the first test run down the dragstrip, the pressure from the exhaust forced this turbine to spin too fast. That caused the turbine hub to rip off and mangle the rest off the turbine wheel. One turbo company representative said this is a good example of the best-case scenario for this kind of failure because the broken parts didn't destroy the turbine housing or cause a chain reaction and damage the intake side of the turbo.

Power Non Steering
We got these wild pictures of Mike Avila's '02 Chevy 2500HD breaking a steering tie rod while sled pulling during the Extreme Diesel Showdown in central California. Not long after leaving the starting line, the passenger-side front tire turned inward dramatically. It was obvious the driver side was still steering, but the passenger-side wheel began to flutter left and right, sometimes fighting against the rest of the truck. The rogue tire eventually turned in and battled the others until the truck was forced to a stop after an impressive injured pull out to the 150-foot mark.

Head Cases
Scott Zaffram was the only competitor in our Diesel Power Challenge West who had to be towed off the sled-pull course. Luckily for him, it was just a broken driveshaft piece that whipped up and snagged a transmission-fluid line. The big silver Ram was up and running again in no time, but Scott's luck ran out a few months later. That's when the cylinder head on his Cummins gave up the ghost. We're not sure how he did this, but Scott managed to burn completely through the head gasket and cook a gash into the cylinder head. Did that get Scott down? Nope. He was laughing when he called to update us a few days after his disaster. Scott didn't take long to get his truck running again and avoided diesel withdrawals during the downtime by borrowing his wife's modified VW Jetta TDI.

Jeremy Radojcsics was the first contestant to break HIS TRUCK during our Diesel Power Challenge East competition, but he fought all day and night to fix it and stay in the competition. The 10,000-pound acceleration tow test finished off the stock head gasket (in the background of the righthand photo, you can see Editor David Kennedy and DPC contestants examining the failed part). As you can probably tell by the oil and coolant on Jeremy's shirt, changing a head gasket is not easy, especially when you have a deadline. To make matters worse, the spare gasket looked right but leaked after the head was reinstalled. It turned out to be the wrong part, so Jeremy and his crew (along with a member of another team) performed the whole operation again. They didn't show up for the fuel-economy test the next morning but were done in time for Jeremy to pull the sled 289 feet-he then drove home from Kentucky to Florida. That was six months ago, and we're not sure if Jeremy has gone to sleep yet.

Compressed Stress
Jake Henry also had some bad luck during our Diesel Power Challenge East when his turbo setup decided to self-destruct. We didn't think much had happened when we saw a piece of flex tube ejected from the exhaust system during a run down the dragstrip. That was just a symptom of a turbo failure where the compressor housing failed and dropped into the path of the compressor wheel. The exhaust was the least of Jake's worries because no one in Kentucky had a new turbo, and the clutch was slipping badly. An all-night family effort to fix the truck was completed at 5 a.m. and allowed Jake to win enough points for Fifth Place overall.

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