Like it or not, when you buy a diesel pick-up or car, you put yourself on a different level than people who drive a gasoline vehicle. It takes more knowledge of the basic vehicle and a different approach to maintenance. You can’t depend on these little oil change stores to properly maintain your vehicle. The vast majority of them use the cheapest filters and oil possible to make a profit in a highly competitive market where one dollar difference will drive away a customer.
Find you a local shop that does a lot of diesel work and develop a relationship or do it yourself. That being said, here are some things to consider.
- Oil change intervals — You can follow the manufacture recommendations and you will be fine. But, in our experience we like to do it between 4000-5000 miles. The vehicles we see come in that have 500,000miles on them and are in good shape, that’s what they do.
- Oil — In domestic diesel pick-ups we like the Rotella or Delo 15W40. In diesel cars we recommend the OE branded oils from the dealerships. Castrol EDGE 5W30 for VW, Dexos 2 5W-30 in GM diesel Cruze, etc. Any brand of oil is fine as long as it is made for diesel. It must be API (American Petroleum Institue) CJ-4 category oil. This means that is it low ash and low sulfur so it won’t harm your diesel engine or your exhaust treatment system. Look for the API Do-nut symbol on the oil can. (API PIC) Check out these links; motoroilmatters.org or oilspecifications.org. The cars are much more critical than the trucks. Don’t use cheap oil or the wrong weight or damage will occur. Do not waste your money on synthetic oils in pick-ups. In a diesel there is no need for overkill on lubrication. Synthetics also do not allow you to extend oil change intervals. The oil holds up but the soot and combustion waste need to be ejected with the waste oil. Keep it simple.
- Filters — Big subject. Much has been said about filters and ways to improve on the filter’s efficiency and capacity. My advise? Don’t over think it! Use the OE filters designed for your vehicle. Why? Because the venders who build those filters are working directly for the OE and have to meet their criteria before they will sign off on them. Especially fuel filters. Not every filter manufacturer has the technology to filter fuel down to the levels required by the fuel system manufacturers. All others are trying to reverse engineer their filters. Good Luck! So, if you have a GM vehicle; use AC-Delco. If a Ford; use Motorcraft. If a Dodge; use Mopar. I’m talking oil, air and fuel. Try to change your fuel filter and air filter every other oil change, depending on conditions. Watch this video, Parker Racor is the vender for AC Delco and is a great example of today’s OE filter technology.
- Coolant — Often neglected, but very important. Most people don’t realize that there are many kinds of anti-freeze. It is important to use the anti-freeze designed for your vehicle and never mix different kinds or brands. It could clabber up, stop up your cooling system and allow your engine to melt down. Scary. The best way to prevent problems is to never add anti-freeze to your system on the road. If you have a small leak, add only water. Then drive to the shop and fix the leak right away. At that point replace all your coolant so that the mixture is correct. If there is a big leak, call the wrecker. A $100.00 for a wrecker is way less expensive than a new engine. Also, replace all your coolant every 2-3 years to keep your inhibitors fresh and heat exchanges clear. Never use coolant flushes because it creates new problems.
- Hard Parts — Another neglected subject. You have a vehicle with the potential to last 500,000 miles and beyond, but not all components in your engine will go that far. In fact some need regular replacement or you could damage your engine prematurely.
- Injectors — This is the most important. The life expectancy of any injector is 200,000 miles. If you go beyond that, you risk cylinder damage and low efficiency. Spray pattern degrades, seats wear out, valves stop shutting off at the end of each injection event, pistons are damaged. Replace your injectors at 200,000 miles even if it runs okay. Your mileage will come back and you are ready for another 200,000 miles.
- Water Pump — Every 200,000 miles. It is normal for them to wear out.
- Timing Belts (Diesel Cars) — Replace every 100,000 miles along with all the idler pulleys. A broken belt will cause pistons to hit valves. Engine will need complete rebuild.
- Rubber — We are talking about belts, hoses, duct boots, seals, etc. It’s good idea to replace them all at 200,000 miles. You will keep ahead of your coolant leaks.
- Air Box — Air filter boxes have a habit of coming apart and ducts cracking or getting lost. Keep these boxes intact and tight. Allowing neglect in this area will cause dirt and/or heat entry from under the hood. Dirt will damage pistons and heat will damage pistons. No 500,000 mile engine.
- Turbocharger — Clean oil and clean air can cause the turbo itself to last forever. But, the variable geometry components will wear out. It’s normal. There is no need to worry about when. It will tell you. Figure about 200,000-300,000 miles.
- EGR Poop — We recommend opening up your EGR system every 100,000 miles and look for build up or carbon and clean if necessary. This will keep things open and efficient and prevent turbo and DPF problems.
- Radiator — Take a good look at it at 200,000 miles and replace before 300,000 miles. Don’t have it flushed; the plastic tanks don’t repair very well!
- Overall Vehicle Advice — Another unintended problem with driving a diesel vehicle is the fact that the engine lasts so long that the vehicle around it will deteriorate as the miles accumulate.
- Note from the Owner — I have driven several diesel vehicles; cars, pick-ups, and vans to that 4-500,000 miles marker and I can tell you, it is a labor of love! You can’t allow small problems on your vehicle to accumulate because one day you look up and realize the body of the vehicle is now too expensive to fix even though the engine is good. Avoid this by fixing these small problems right away and don’t let them get ahead of you. Suspension and brake systems need some level of repair every time you install a new set of tires. Do it right then instead of waiting for the repair to be too expensive to handle. Keep your dents repaired and interior in good shape; don’t be afraid to reupholster the seats and carpet and make sure to keep the AC in good working condition. In time, you will notice yourself bragging to your friends and showing it off with pride to anybody who will listen to you. Think of the advantage of having a car/pickup in good enough shape to put an engine in at 500,000 miles and keep driving it or pass it down to your children instead of buying a new vehicle…think about it! — Steve