The Wastegate

Trying To Learn

Published in the August 2010 Issue August 2010 Column Ryan Harris

I haven't broken anything lately, but that's only because I haven't tried to fix anything in a while. I moved away from a truck that required 38 parts to hit 500 horsepower to one that does it with three. It's cut down on my under-hood time almost to the point where I have become a moron.

Take last week. We were doing a simple EGR blocker plate install on a 6.4L Power Stroke. It was my first on the 6.4, and the plates didn't come with any instructions. No fear: that's what Google is for, right? I found a forum with some close-up photos showing where the two plates go. One plate went between the exhaust manifold and the EGR inlet down on the side of the engine. The photos I found showed that the best way to get to the manifold was to remove the fender liner.

I pulled all the bolts and pins and took the fender liner completely out, along with the fender flare. Then I immediately put the fender liner back in and reinstalled the fender flare, gathered my tools, walked around to the other side of the truck where the EGR is and took that fender liner out. From there it was a cinch, but my mad skills didn't go unnoticed by the other three guys in the shop.

That's what happens when your truck runs good. Or at least that's what I blame it on.

Tooling around on your own truck is important. That's the focus of Diesel Tech. Get your hands dirty and learn how stuff works. Work on your truck (or maybe experiment on your buddy's truck first.) and enjoy diesel technology. No matter how many times I've made myself look like I have a helmet with a number on it, I learned something. And the knowledge is priceless.

Last summer, we took the Duramax (the one with 38 parts and counting) on a 2,000-mile road trip to Washougal, WA. Just after we crossed the Columbia River from Oregon into Washington, I boosted the truck on an uphill section and blew a boot off the charge air system. Without a little experience with the truck, I may not have known how to get everything back together on the side of the road. And if I hadn't been involved with every aspect of building the truck, I wouldn't have known that you don't leave the driveway without a full set of tools.

When we first picked up our 12-valve Cummins, every outing was an adventure. Before we practically rebuilt the thing from bumper to bumper, it was a rolling auto-repair class. If you wanted to learn how to pull an alternator with a monkey wrench, pocket knife and a house key, you just needed to drive the truck to the grocery store. If you wanted to learn the ins and outs of a Dodge transmission, all you needed to do was load it up for a road trip and make it 50 miles from town and just outside of cell service. Works every time.

The moral of my never-ending dilemmas is that you don't learn how to ride a horse by reading a book. You don't learn how to fly a kite by asking someone. And you don't learn how to change a CP3 pump without installing one, breaking the regulator housing, removing it, installing it again, creating a fuel leak somewhere under the damn thing, removing it again, fixing the leak, reinstalling it, finding another leak, and taking it to a shop to have a mechanic repair it for you.

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