Buying a new diesel truck is not an easy process. First off you have to deal with selecting the right truck and getting it from the right place. Then you have to evaluate and consider the cost, which can be the most stressful part.
Scott McCartney found himself in this situation earlier this year when he was looking to replace his 2005 Dodge Ram 3500 Cummins. McCartney has loved diesel trucks for quite a while. His first diesel truck was a 1996 Ford that he regretted selling, but knew he would end up buying a new truck someday. Then in 2005, he bought a brand new 2005 Dodge Ram 3500, which he still owns today.
The one thing he likes the most about Dodge trucks is the engine. He was drawn by the fact the 5.9L Cummins had been changed the least over the years compared to other engines available. McCartney did recognize, though, the truck did have its weaknesses.
"I knew that the weak point with the truck was the transmission and last year I started to have some issues with that," says McCartney.
The transmission ended up failing this spring and he decided to go look at possibly buying another new truck. But when he started looking at comparable new diesel trucks, he soon discovered the cost was going to be over $60,000.
"I quickly realized I could put some money back into it instead of buying new and have an awesome truck for less, so we decided to go that route instead," says McCartney.
The first matter of business for McCartney with the truck was to have the transmission rebuilt, which proved to be a bit of a challenge. He ended up taking his Ram into Custom Auto in Idaho Falls to get started with the work.
When the transmission first started to have problems, McCartney noticed that it would slip when accelerating from a stop. It then quit working altogether one day and was not moving at all.
"The transmission was just messed up, like really bad, says James Brendle, owner of Custom Auto. "Things were welded to the shaft because of all the heat, so taking it a part was hard."
With his truck not going anywhere, McCartney then did a lot of research online and consulted with Brendle on what his options were to get it fixed right. Through talking with him, McCartney was happy to learn that Custom Auto could rebuild his transmission using a lot of the same parts. As an added benefit, it would mean he would be able have it worked on near where he lives.
"The biggest challenge was just deciding how far to rebuild the transmission," recalls McCartney. "I mean, you could go with as much money as you want to put into it, but to find a happy medium on what I wanted to spend was challenging."
The rebuild on the transmission included an intermediate shaft, billet input shaft, ATS Flex Plate and a SunCoast Triple Disk Torque Convertor. In the end he was able to get the transmission he wanted and needed by going through Custom Auto.
Previous to taking his truck into the shop, McCartney had been pondering adding a second turbo to the engine. So when he decided to rebuild the transmission, he also decided it was time to pump the power level up a notch.
The original turbo was left on for the purpose of helping with low-end torque. A second turbo and injectors, both from Industrial Injection, was then installed to boost the amount of high-end torque. The Industrial Injection Twin Turbo Kit for 03-07 Dodge 5.9L Cummins uses the stock turbo over the S474. An ATS Diesel Dodge Twin CP3 pump kit was also installed to keep the fuel flowing. The result was a truck with what McCartney refers to as "freight train-like power."
"My favorite part was adding the turbo," says McCartney. "Before you would peak and then the power would come down a little bit. Now it's almost like the power never quits."
He noticed a particular benefit from the additional turbo when he's pulling his fifth wheel trailer up a pass, now it doesn't seem as taxing on the motor. He often pulls trailers and uses his truck for fishing and hunting as well so he couldn't be happier with the results.
With the powerful addition of the turbo, though, McCartney wanted to make sure it wasn't overkill and that these upgrades wouldn't affect the every day drivability of his truck. He said a friend of his with a 2008 Dodge Ram went "crazy" with the modifications to his diesel and wasn't able to drive it on a regular basis any more and ended up having to sell it.
"I want to have a very drivable truck in town that is super reliable, but I also wanted to play around with the horsepower and torque a bit,"
He planned the modifications so that the operating temperatures would stay at a safe level. A larger intercooler from Sperco was installed as well as a new exhaust manifold from Performance Diesel, Inc.
McCartney, a father of three children, is also an assistant manager at a local grocery store chain. Although the truck has only been finished for a short while, he says that several of his co-workers are excited to experience the truck for themselves.
There is one at his work place that is big into Ford Mustangs and has been remarking that diesel trucks are slow.
"He talks about horsepower and torque and everything," says McCartney. "I am trying to get him excited about my truck and tell him that it will be different than what thinks it would be like. He thinks it won't impress him, but I know it will."
Going forward with the build, McCartney recently added fender flares but says he would like to add bigger tires among other things. He is, though, very happy with how it is now and plans to keep it looking mostly stock for a little longer.
Had McCartney sold his truck, he probably wouldn't have been as happy as he is about it now. The decision to stick with it and make the truck more hardcore is one that he surely will not regret any time soon.