$3,000 2002 Chevy Duramax Dissection

How Well Does a 10-Year-Old Chevy Truck Really Hold Up?

Jason Sands
May 1, 2012
Photographers: Jason Sands
In our Feb ’12 issue, we brought up the prospect of buying a $3,000 Duramax diesel-powered Chevy to turn into a killer tow rig. We asked for our readers’ advice, and boy, did they ever respond! In fact, we’ve already gotten offers to buy the truck for more than we paid for it, sight unseen. Since we know it has led a very tough life (as an off-road race car tow rig), we thought it would be cool to perform a much-needed checkup on the drivetrain, suspension, and body to see what kind of shape our budget wonder was in.
Photo 2/12
Getting a Clear History
One important part of buying a vehicle is getting an idea of what has been done to and what needs to be done to the vehicle. When we first heard the truck was for sale, we were told it was pretty beat up, the transmission was toast, and the interior was shot. The owner had just replaced all eight injectors, however, which made us curious, since one of the main problems with early Duramaxes (their injectors fail) had already been taken care of.
Photo 3/12   |   No matter how mechanically disinclined you are, there are a few obvious things you can check. One is transmission fluid, and our truck’s was burnt. In our experience, burnt fluid plus high mileage (the truck had more than 200,000 on it) means a smoked transmission. The fact that we could still drive it around didn’t mean the Allison wouldn’t fail the very next time we turned the key.
When we went and looked at the truck, we were pleasantly surprised. The body wasn’t too bad (aside from the driver seat being shot) and the truck would move under its own power. We also found out that when the transmission was overheated, the driver had pulled over before the truck could even throw a code. The registration was also up to date, so we took a risk, plunked down the cash, and started the 100-mile drive home. The ’02 made the trip without so much as a hiccup, which was encouraging. Once we had it back in the shop, we went over it more carefully, noting everything we would look to repair in the near future. Here’s what we found.
The Readers Have Spoken
Our query about whether or not we should buy a $3,000 Duramax “Trading Sides” (Feb. ’12) has gotten so many positive responses that our readers would probably hate us if we didn’t buy it. Here’s what they had to say:
“I owned an ’02 Chevy 2500HD with the LB7. I had it for seven years and loved every minute of it.” –Tim Travis
“Buy it, build it, and beat the hell out of it!” –Luke Kasper
“Don’t be a sissy. The LB7 has shortcomings (injectors and head gaskets), but all trucks and engines do.” –Craig Cratsenberg
“I’d buy it for $5,000! I’m on the East Coast, and solid trucks sell for a lot. Go for a tow build, but take it to the track, too— and let us know how it does!” –Joseph Tolliver

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