Is Diesel a Great Deal?
Q:A common reason guys use to justify buying a big truck with a diesel engine is that they get better fuel economy and the truck is therefore cheaper to operate. I've been told that maintenance on a diesel is actually much more expensive than for a gas-engine vehicle. When you take all that into account, is the diesel really cheaper?
A:Diesels are more fuel efficient than gasoline engines, due to higher energy density (power-per-gallon) of the fuel, along with the advantages of direct fuel injection, which shoots the fuel directly into the combustion chamber. Diesel fuel has typically been less expensive because of fewer necessary refinements, but that doesn't always hold true in areas with limited diesel demand. Diesel engines are somewhat overbuilt by companies with heavy-duty commercial backgrounds to handle the high compression and abuse. This tends to give a diesel engine a much longer lifespan than a gas-burner; however, they also cost that much more to build and buy. Maintenance and repair of fuel systems can get involved, and fewer technicians available to do the job add to the cost. The bottom line: Diesels make sense if you regularly pull heavy loads and take advantage of the high torque at low engine speeds. It can also benefit long-term vehicle ownership. Otherwise, the added expense to purchase and maintain the truck may not be worth the cost and extra inconvenience. Light-duty diesels aren't always purchased for heavy workload or economic reasons, but occasionally for the rough-road persona that comes with the traditional clatter of diesel combustion.
Intermittent Converter Lockup
Q:I have a 1995 2500 Dodge Ram with the Cummins turbodiesel and an automatic transmission. I recently (10,000-20,000 miles ago) had to get a new transmission and decided to upgrade the torque converter to a Billet torque converter. Now when I'm driving it'll shift in and out of lockup, and it does this a lot. However, when the cruise control is on, it never happens. We took it to the dealership, and they couldn't get it to happen for them during a test drive and therefore couldn't figure out what it was.
A:The installation of an aftermarket drivetrain part as critical as an automatic transmission's torque converter always presents a risk. It may not mesh quite right with the original equipment, which can cause hard-to-diagnose and annoying conditions. A lockup converter actually locks the engine to the transmission at higher speeds and lighter loads for increased fuel economy. I spoke with a technician at Gale Banks engineering, and he mentioned that there was a mandatory installation of shift kit part #72603 with the use of any Banks Billet torque converter. If you haven't installed one, you need to. If you already have, you may want to call Banks tech support for further advice on the lockup converter's operation. Often, driveability symptoms will be camouflaged with the use of cruise control due to a steadier application of the throttle as compared to a driver's foot. There are hydraulic and electronic components that aren't part of the torque converter itself but still may be a source of the problem. Once the converter is ruled out, get it back to the shop that installed/overhauled the transmission.