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History of the Duramax Diesel Engine

1.5 Million Strong

Mar 1, 2013
Photographers: General Motors
Back in 1998, General Motors and Isuzu teamed up to create a brand-new diesel engine that would be the first high-pressure common-rail, direct-injection powerplant to hit the U.S. vehicle market. The initial engine was produced in Moraine, Ohio, on July 17, 2000. Now, 14 years after DMAX Ltd. was created, more than 1.5 million Duramax engines have been built.
Photo 2/16   |   This cutaway photo shows the inner workings of the LML—the current version of the 6.6L Duramax turbodiesel engine available in Chevy and GMC trucks. LaShannon Oldham (above left) and Thu Dang (above right) install head components and valve covers on Duramax diesel engines at the DMAX, Ltd. plant in Moraine, Ohio. More than 1.5 million Duramax engines have been built right here in the USA.
The original Duramax was a vast improvement over GM’s previous indirect-injection diesel, and it beat both Dodge and Ford to the punch when it debuted for the ’01 model year. Two more years would pass before Cummins-equipped trucks were upgraded to common-rail injection, and it was another few months after that before Ford joined the higher-pressure party with its HEUI 6.0L Power Stroke engine. It wasn’t until the ’08 model year that Ford came to market with a true high-pressure common-rail—in the form of the 6.4L Power Stroke.
Until the introduction of the Duramax, GM relied on the all-iron, IDI 6.5L GM V-8, which produced a decent 215 hp and 440 lb-ft of torque in its most powerful configuration. The new, aluminum-headed 6.6L Duramax V-8 hit the market with a very impressive 300 hp and 520 lb-ft of torque in its first configuration, and it has only gotten stronger with age—while still meeting increasingly strict emissions requirements.
In the Beginning…
1998 – General Motors and Isuzu team up to establish engine manufacturer DMAX Ltd.
The First Generation
2000 – GM debuts the LB7 Duramax diesel engine with 300 hp and 520 lb-ft torque in ’01 ¾- and 1-ton trucks. The 6.6L V-8 turbodiesel engine featured aluminum heads with 32 valves on a cast-iron block, high-pressure, common-rail, direct fuel injection, a fixed-geometry turbo, injectors mounted under the valve covers, and a passive catalytic converter. For ’03, the medium-duty Chevrolet Kodiak and GMC TopKick became available with the LB7.
Photo 3/16   |   1 5 Million Strong Duramax History first Generation Lb7
The Next Chapter
2004½ – The LLY Duramax is introduced mid-model year with 310 hp and 605 lb-ft of torque, featuring an improved valve design to make the injectors more accessible for repair. A variable-geometry turbo was added, which used movable vanes in the turbine housing. The vanes dynamically change the volume of air on the exhaust side of the turbo, improving low-end response while retaining a large turbine volume during high engine speeds. Emissions were addressed with the addition of an exhaust gas recirculation system, which routed a portion of the exhaust into a cooler before sending it back through the engine for a secondary burn. In addition to the trucks, a variant of this engine became available on the HUMMER H1 Alpha. A detuned version, making 250 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque, was introduced to the ’06 Chevy Express and GMC Savana fullsize vans, which used a lighter-duty Hydra-Matic 4L80E four-speed automatic transmission.
Photo 4/16   |   1 5 Million Strong Duramax History lly Duramax Engine
The Game Changer
2006 – The coveted LBZ Duramax was introduced for the ’06 model year and featured a number of improvements that enabled the engine to produce up to 360 hp and 650 lb-ft of torque. The LBZ became a quick favorite of tuners, thanks to a stronger block design, larger connecting rods, new piston design, and heads that could handle more pressure. Higher fuel pressure levels, larger fuel rails, six-hole injectors, an improved variable-geometry turbo, and a larger EGR cooler setup were also added. An advanced, 32-bit engine computer helped improve power, efficiency, and emissions. Although the engine was saddled with EGR, the LBZ was the last Duramax offered without a fuel-economy-robbing diesel particulate filter (DPF). This meant the exhaust system could be altered while keeping the truck street-legal. 2006 was also the year GM introduced the six-speed Allison transmission to the Duramax powertrain.
Photo 5/16   |   1 5 Million Strong Duramax History 2006 Lbz
The Particulator
2007 – Along with the new GMT-900 pickup platform for ’08, the LMM Duramax engine was introduced with 365 hp and 660 lb-ft of torque. Along with the large EGR and passive catalytic converter, the LMM was the first Duramax to be fitted with a DPF. The DPF was an active catalytic converter and filter that heralded the new age of active regeneration. This reduced fuel mileage due to the need for extra fuel to be burned when the filter was full of soot. It also dramatically reduced the amount of particulate pollution produced by the engines so they could meet the stringent new emissions standards being introduced by the Federal Government. Despite this fact, engineers figured out a way to be cleaner while making the LMM the most powerful Duramax to date. Chevy Express and GMC Savana vans didn’t see the LMM until the ’10 model year, and this detuned version of the LMM—featuring 250 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque—was backed by the Hydra-Matic 6L90 six-speed automatic.
Photo 6/16   |   1 5 Million Strong Duramax History 2007 Lmm Duramax Engine
The Clean Machine
2010 to Present – The current version of the Duramax, known as the LML, brings to market a massive 397 hp and 765 lb-ft of torque and meets the most stringent emissions laws to date. Once again, engineers were able to squeeze out another 105 lb-ft of torque while making the engine run dramatically cleaner than the previous generation. This was accomplished with the use of multiple new features, including super-fast-reacting piezo-controlled injectors (which are capable of multiple injections per cycle for optimal combustion), a ninth injector mounted downstream from the turbo to help DPF regeneration, a new EGR system with a cooler bypass, and a new selective catalytic reduction (SCR) system with urea injection. The new engine design also came with a B20 rating, allowing owners to use fuel blends with up to 20 percent biodiesel content without voiding their warranty or risking damage to the engine or fuel system. The LML also added a “smart” exhaust brake built into the turbo, which is activated by the driver using a button on the center console. This exhaust brake has different modes of operation when the truck is in Tow/Haul mode or when the cruise control is activated. For the ’11 model year, a detuned version of this engine with 260 hp and 525 lb-ft of torque, called the LGH and mated to the 6L90 automatic, was added to the powertrain options for the Chevy Express and GMC Savana vans.
Photo 7/16   |   1 5 Million Strong Duramax History 2012 Lml Duramax
The Milestone
2012 – On November 12, General Motors announced that 1.5 million Duramax engines had been produced since the founding of the DMAX Ltd. joint venture with Isuzu. The Duramax continues to be built in Moraine, Ohio, at a 584,000-square-foot facility by more than 500 hardworking employees.


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