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Diesel Tech Questions

Top Tech

Bruce W. Smith
Sep 25, 2017
Photographers: Bruce W. Smith

Fuel in the Oil

Has anyone taken oil samples of their EcoDiesel? I have a ’15 Ram 1500 with the EcoDiesel engine. I had an oil sample analyzed at 10,000 miles that showed 4.8 percent fuel dilution. Up until the 10,000-mile oil change, my fuel economy was running 28 to 29 mpg consistently on the same weekly run (with no load) and me as the only driver. It’s currently in the low 20s. The dealer says the dilution level is normal. The oil manufacturer says it’s not. A second sample at 5,000 miles on new oil showed 5.1 percent fuel dilution. I also sampled the same oil a third time at 7,500 miles. The lab results came back with 5.0 percent fuel dilution. The dealer changed the oil and took its own oil sample. Everything looks fine, but there’s no explanation why there’s a drop in fuel economy or increase in dilution. With 27,000 miles on the truck at this time, I’m headed to the dealer for another oil change and yet another oil analysis.
Doug Carter
Ogden, Utah
Photo 2/6   |   Ram Truck changed the recommended oil for EcoDiesels from 5W-30 to 5W-40 API CJ4 in 2016 to reduce the rate of fuel contamination in the engine oil.
Excessive fuel dilution in a diesel’s engine oil is always a concern, because fuel breaks down the oil’s lubricating properties. If rod, main, and cam bearings don’t get the proper lubrication, they fail. The operative word here is “excessive.” The common consensus among the oil-testing labs we’ve talked with say 1.5 to 2 percent dilution is the threshold for concern. Numbers above 5 percent pose serious lubrication issues.
We asked engineers at Fiat-Chrysler (FCA) Powertrain about EcoDiesel oil-dilution concerns. Here’s their reply: “Fuel dilution is a function of the diesel-particulate filter regenerations, and the amount of fuel dilution at any point in time is a function of the amount of time that has passed since the last regeneration and how hot the engine is, because the fuel evaporates out of the oil with time and temperature. At any point in time, it could be somewhere between zero fuel and 12 percent fuel.
“We have an oil-change algorithm that calculates the viscosity of the oil based on the DPF regenerations and the time and temperature between the regenerations. If the fuel dilution (per the algorithm) becomes too severe, the ‘change oil’ message will be triggered.”
Curious about fuel-in-oil contamination, we also contacted several oil-analysis laboratories and asked specifically about Ram 1500 EcoDiesel fuel-dilution results.“This is not an engine where we typically see much fuel in the oil,” says Blackstone Labs’ senior analyst Alex Miller. “Our records indicate only 10 samples out of 250 we did in 2014 were flagged for being over our self-imposed 2 percent threshold, and only one of those was in the 4 percent range. Some manufacturers have a higher threshold than ours, but flagging engine oil that shows more than a 2 percent dilution is a standard we’ve used for years. When our tests indicate such dilution, we let the customer know there could be a problem with the fuel system.”
Stede Granger, OEM Technical Manager for Shell Lubricants, concurs. “Fuel can cause oil dilution with 2 percent being acceptable, but 5 percent or more can cause problems, such as reduced oil viscosity and weakening of the additive package. Shell Lubricants recommends an oil-analysis program to monitor oil for a number of things, including [fuel] dilution. If oil analysis indicates fuel dilution is a concern, a higher-viscosity engine oil, such as Shell Rotella T4 15W-40, is recommended. If a diesel-powered-pickup owner prefers a synthetic engine oil, Shell Rotella T6 5W-40 meets those needs.”
That advice falls right in line with the FCA technical service bulletin sent out on July 20, 2016, which pertains to a mandatory engine oil upgrade from synthetic 5W-30 to 5W-40 for the ’16 Ram 1500 and Jeep Grand Cherokee models with the EcoDiesel engine. This bulletin directs Chrysler-Jeep dealers to drain the factory-filled 5W-30 motor oil, replace it with 5W-40, and insert an addendum card into the owner’s manual. These cards recommend the use of synthetic 5W-40 engine oil that meets the FCA Material Standard MS-10902 and API CJ-4 specifications.
“The (EcoDiesel) fuel dilution is one of the reasons we changed to 5W-40 oil,” says our FCA Powertrain contact. “It’s important to note that the 5W-40 change includes not only a viscosity change, but also a specifications change from a European automotive light-duty oil (ACEA C3) to a U.S. truck heavy-duty oil (API CJ4).”
An FCA warranty official reportedly told a service manager at a Salt Lake City Dodge dealership that the switch to the higher-viscosity oil in the 3.0L EcoDiesel was ordered because the engines have been experiencing an “unsettling number of main-bearing failures.”
Our advice is that you continue with the oil samples, change to 5W-40 API CJ4 lubricant, and, after each DPF regeneration, put some highway miles on the engine to help let heat evaporate excess fuel that might be in your rig’s engine oil.

Shiftless Automatic

When I rebuilt the 47RE four-speed automatic transmission in my ’99 Dodge Ram 2500, I replaced the torque converter with an ATS Diesel Performance Five Star unit. Now, the transmission doesn’t have low gear—not even when I manually shift it into low. Its Second-to-Third-gear upshift is also slow. Will a 47-48RE GM governor-pressure-solenoid conversion kit help this problem? Also, what else would this conversion do to improve the transmission?
Bill Ivey
via email
The no-shifting issue could be a few different problems. But we suspect the reason the transmission is not shifting into low, even in manual mode, is: 1) the unit isn’t powered up or 2) the 1-2 shift valve is stuck. We suggest going back into the transmission and rechecking the work done on the valve body.
“Assuming everything is hooked up correctly and plugged in, this sounds like a valvebody issue,” says Aden McDonnell at Automatic Transmission Specialists in Livingston, Montana. “As far as the GM transducer upgrade, we highly recommend it, because the Dodge governor-pressure solenoid and transducer are notoriously problematic. We install them in every 47RE we build. Higher pressures mean less slippage between frictions.”

Hemi for a Cummins

I have a Hemi-powered ’04 Dodge Ram 1500 with 250,000 miles on the odometer. I would like to pull the gas engine and install either a 3.9L 4BT or 5.9L 6BT Cummins diesel engine. I've swapped a Cummins 6BT into an ’88 crew-cab Ford truck, but the electrical appears to be considerably more complex on the ’04 Dodge, and I would like to stay with the mechanical injection pump. I was wondering if there are any kits for doing this conversion. Can I use the same automatic transmission? The truck is well maintained and has all the luxury items. I enjoy your magazine.
Stephen Graham
via email
Photo 3/6   |   Ditching the gas-powered Hemi engine for a Cummins diesel sounds like a great idea for high-mileage Ram pickups. However, there are a lot of mechanical, electrical, and legal hurdles that stand in the way of it being an easy swap.
Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Unfortunately, we don’t know many details of what the “way” actually is when it comes to transplanting this combination. Doing diesel engine conversions on modern-era, computer-controlled trucks is extremely time intensive from the electrical side, even when going from an older diesel pickup to a newer rig. Converting from gas to diesel further complicates matters.
Such a swap also creates a legal dilemma, as you are now stepping into the areas of U.S. federal smog laws and the Clean Air Act. So you’d run the risk of having to pay a fine if the diesel swap doesn’t comply with the rules. There’s also a good probability you won’t be able to register/license your “hybrid” in many states because the truck’s VIN and model year wouldn’t match with the emissions controls on your engine.
On the technical side, we are not aware of any diesel-conversion “kits” for the Ram 1500 to make such a swap any easier. As for using the same transmission as the unit in your Hemi-powered truck, you would have to find a way to make the computers that control the transmission work with the Cummins. Again, it’s not an easy task. You also have to consider whether or not the gas truck’s transmission can handle the Cummins’ torque.
We suggest you find an ’03-to-’04 5.9L Cummins/48RE package, including the computer and wiring harnesses, to put into your Ram. Making the mounts to bolt everything into the frame shouldn’t be that difficult. It’s blending the diesel wiring and plumbing into the 1500s that’ll be your Mt. Everest. Engine cooling and front-suspension modifications to handle the heavier components will also need to be addressed, as well as beefing up the driveshafts and differentials to handle the greater torque loads applied by the Cummins.
Jon Barricklow at JB Custom Fabrication, who has done numerous 4BT swaps, says: “A critical look at the front suspension must be taken to see if it will accommodate such a tall engine and support the weight of a 6BT. A person should be able to get the basic sensors hooked up, with the exception of a tachometer. A different torque converter is needed at the very least. The best source for information on the subject is 4BTswaps.com.”

One-Time Use

I’m a new owner of a diesel pickup, but I’ve been around farm tractors and construction equipment, so I’m not afraid to open the hood and do general maintenance. I recently bought an ’09 Ford Super Duty with a 6.4L Power Stroke engine and ended up replacing a couple of bad injectors. Since that repair was made, fuel has been getting into the oil. How do I figure out where the fuel is coming from?
Halston Roach
Birmingham, Alabama
Photo 4/6   |   Reusing the aluminum injector-feed lines on 6.4L Ford Power Stroke engines is a common cause of fuel leaking into the crankcase. Savvy diesel technicians always use new lines when injectors are replaced or removed.
Photo 5/6   |   Top Tech Ford 6 4 Inj Lines
Fuel in the oil pan of a Ford 6.4L Power Stroke engine typically comes from one of two places: the high-pressure fuel pump or the injectors. The easiest way to determine which is the culprit is to do a simple test: Drain the oil pan, leave the plug out, and then turn on the ignition key without starting the engine.
“If fuel runs out of the pan during key-on, engine-off, the problem lies with a bad HPFP,” says Mat Johnson, a lead technician with Mobile Diesel Service in Oakland, Oregon. “If no fuel shows up, there’s a problem with either the injectors or the aluminum lines that run from the fuel rail to the injectors.”
Mat points out a common mistake first-time diesel owners make when replacing injectors is reusing the injector-feed lines, which leads to poor sealing and fuel leaking into the oil. “Those aluminum feed lines are one-time-use parts,” Mat says. “If you take one off, a new one has to be put back in its place and torqued to specifications. If you try to reuse them, they usually don’t seal correctly under those high fuel-rail pressures.”

Dead Tuner

I have an ’11 Ram 3500, and I was using an off-brand tuner that malfunctioned and killed the ECM. After doing some research, I sadly discovered the tuner company isn’t around anymore. I thought the tuner was a great deal at the time. Now I regret my decision. Replacing the ECM is putting a hurt on my wallet, so this time around I need a suggestion for a good tuner that will work well on my big dualie.
Tony Gladstone
via email
There are basically three pitfalls of electronic hot-rodding: 1) all hardware fails at some point in time, 2) computer software is prone to corruption, and 3) programmers come and go. When it comes to custom tunes and tuners, you’ll find sweet-sounding deals if you search in the right places. But, as you have discovered, there’s no guarantee the company that sells those products will be around to provide technical or product support years later. If it isn’t, then you have to reinvest and start all over again when there’s a problem, plus endure the added cost and consternation of possibly replacing the ECM, as happened in your case.
Our advice when it comes to buying tunes/programmers is to stick with the big names that have been around for years, such as Edge Products, Bully Dog, SCT, and EFILive. These companies have a long-standing reputation for making quality products and providing good technical support.

Automatic Rebuild

My uncle passed away, and I inherited his ’97 Ford F-250. It’s well maintained and has a little more than 253,000 miles on the odometer. My concern is, what is the life expectancy of the 7.3L diesel engine and automatic transmission, and how much will it cost when these items need to be replaced or rebuilt? I guess I’m asking is it worth keeping the truck around, or should I sell it while everything seems to be working just fine?
Lenny Wilkinson
Kissimmee, Florida
Photo 6/6   |   Ford’s E4OD automatic transmission behind the 7.3L Power Stroke engine has a life expectancy of between 150,000 and 225,000 miles, according to some experts. Basic rebuild costs are typically around $1,800—plus the labor to remove and replace.
Making that decision totally depends on the amount you are willing to invest for keeping the truck on the road and in the family. It sounds like the truck itself is in great shape. From what you say, we’d tend to think the 7.3L engine is in good condition as well, and if that’s the case, it’s probably in mid-life (the life expectancy of a well-maintained 7.3L is approximately 500,000 miles).
Remanufactured 7.3L long-blocks sell on eBay for around $4,000, with 3-year, 75,000-mile warranties. A local rebuilder will probably charge close to the same price. If you have to pay for someone to remove the old engine and drop in the new one, expect to add another $2,000 to $3,000 to the bill. (Such procedures require removing the cab from the chassis.)
As for your truck’s four-speed automatic transmission, the E4OD is neither as robust nor long-lived as the engine it’s sitting behind. If the unit hasn’t been rebuilt or replaced at 250,000 miles, it’s long overdue for an overhaul. Gary Haslip, an AAMCO owner in Montana with more than 40 years experience rebuilding automatics, says E4OD rebuilds typically occur in the 150,000- to 225,000-mile range.
So the E4OD will, in all probability, be your first investment concern. An E4OD typically costs about $1,800 for a rebuild (or to buy remanufactured). But we’ve seen them being offered for as little as $1,500 with a torque converter, if you catch them on sale from a specialty transmission shop such as Monster Transmission (monstertransmission.com). Expect to pay an additional $400 to $600 labor charge for the replacement if you don’t do it yourself. When all is said and done, you will have to invest between $6,000 and $10,000 in order to make the drivetrain like new.

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