Blowin' Smoke

More Isn't Always Better

Published in the December 2008 Issue December 2008 Column

As my knowledge and experience of the diesel market grows, there are certain things I've come to learn, most often the hard way. The amount of information out there in our industry is endless with literally hundreds of different ways to make horsepower in any given truck. Some parts will work great on one truck while being less than stellar on another. That makes dialing in your truck with the most efficient power-producing combination of parts a long, expensive journey.

I started on that same road just like most of you and in looking back, wish there was a book I could've read to help hone my skills before throwing money and parts at my truck. The one thing I wish I would've known then that I've since figured out is that in some cases, more isn't always better.

Last fall, when I had the chance to swap my stage 3 injectors for the newly released stage 5s, I learned that more fuel isn't always better. It took a blown head gasket and a $2,000 repair invoice to teach me that lesson. More isn't always better.

Along with those higher flowing injectors came increasingly dangerous EGTs, which meant more air was needed. That's an easy fix, let's just bolt on a bigger charger. More air made more power, but not at the sacrifice of everyday driveability. While it fixed the EGT problems, keeping that large lung spooled on the street is a new challenge I wasn't ready to meet. Again, more isn't always better.

At a recent dyno event I witnessed two buddies who were able to run their trucks one after the other. The first, a Power Stroke, sounded crisp and there wasn't even a hint of smoke. I don't remember the numbers, but they were very respectable. The second was a Gen 2 12V Dodge. The thing smoked out every ray of sunshine we had that day during its run. When the smoke finally cleared out enough so we could see the computer screen, the numbers came in about 40 HP under his buddy's Power Stroke. A little disheartened, the Cummins owner looked to his friend and replied, "Yeah, but mine smoked more." Remember, more isn't always better.

Just last month I was on a 750-mile round trip to Montana, towing a trailer behind my $30,000 crew cab Ford, with another $15,000 invested in the drive train. I was on my way to pick up my latest find on Craigs List, a '99 Ford 7.3L Power Stroke, a beater work truck that has definitely seen better days. The stripped down, bare bones, regular cab, two-wheel drive doesn't have an option in the world. Well, if you don't count the AM stereo of course.

About 90 miles from home, I noticed my pyrometer starting to climb and my boost numbers had plummeted. With a loud ticking noise coming from under the hood, I pulled over to check things out, only to find a massive exhaust leak coming from the turbo flange. Knowing I couldn't make it the final 90 miles like that I had only one option.

Yep. You guessed it: I swapped the trucks' places and strapped my fully-built, 550 HP, $40,000 truck down on the trailer and tugged it home behind the new $3,500 clunker.

Once again, it's sad but it's true-More isn't always better.

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