Spotting a hot-rodded 1T PU

   #1  

flusher

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I'm interested in 2nd generation (1994-02) Dodge Ram 3500s diesels for towing my parade tractors on a GN deckover flatbed trailer. The past few months I've kicked the tires on a few nice ones.

I've also read a lot about the Cummins 5.9L diesel. It's really a mid-duty engine detuned for light duty use in 3/4 and 1T PUs. So, naturally, there's a big aftermarket in hot-rodding gear to boot hp and torque by leaps and bounds.

It's easy to spot some of the hot rodding modification (larger exhaust pipes, larger turbos, lotsa add-on gauges in the driver's cockpit).

My question is: how do you check that the engine controller is stock and hasn't been re-chipped or otherwise reprogrammed to boost performance?

The reason I ask is that I'm not particularly interested in buying a 3500 that has been hot-rodded and possibly overstressed. With my luck, I'll pay my cash for one of these modified monsters and within a month be facing a head gasket replacement or worse (tranny, rear end replacement, etc).
 
   #2  

George2615

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Ask the seller if he will go with you or let you take it to a dealer to run a diagnostic on the computer before buying. The dealer computer will let you know of any problems or changes that may be done.
 
   #3  

Diamondpilot

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There really is no way. The companies that make them make sure its undetectable by the oem's in case warranty work ever comes into play.

There are basically 2 ways they make "chips"

First is a programmer that downloads the stock program then installs a new higher performance program. It can be revised at any time by simply unloading the new high performance program.

The second way and what I run on all my diesel trucks is a stand alone box that plugs inline with 3-4 wiring harness under the hood. It takes signals from the oem computer and modifies them to add hp.

That being said older 5.9 12 valves had no computer to control the engine. Its purely mechanical. Guys take the pump apart and hop them up. We call it "P Pumping" in these parts.

A good clue to to being modified is anything like exhaust, gauges, ect still on the truck.

Have a buddy who has owned them look it over before you buy. I would say 75% of the diesels have had something done. Its cheap, safe, and fun if done right. I have done it to all but the GM Dmax I owned with no ill effects.

Quick story. Good friend knows I have 2 6.0 Fords and what I have done to them and how much I like them so he calls me up last fall. He has a buddy looking at a 2006 F-350 dually. Super clean, low miles (25K), all the bells and whistles. Ask if they can bring it over on the test drive to get my opinion. They show up and as he is pulling down the drive I can tell it does not sound healthy. I have them pop the hood. Many clues I see tell me it had a aftermarket intake, and other items at one time. I then climb under it and there is slop in the drive shaft. Its super clean and he had negotiated a good price but I tell him to pass. Few days later my buddy who lives next door tells me one of his employees bought a super clean 6.0 dually. Guess what? Same truck. Withing 2K he had to replace the turbo, head gaskets, and rear diff. Come to find out a guy we know who owns a body shop repaired the bed. He said the previous owner was a hot shotter pulling 25K and more day in and out and was running a chip. Drove it like a mad man every day then traded them off after a year.

Chris
 
  
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flusher

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Chris:

Thanks for the info. Very interesting.

If the seller won't or can't tell you how much hp/torque boost he's dialed up, I guess the only way to tell for sure is to get the truck dynoed and then try to figure out how much overstress could have happened.

I guess it would help if I could get some info on whether the head bolts have been upgraded and/or if head bolt inserts have been installed to handle the higher compression.
 
   #5  

crashz

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Headbolts/studs would be pretty tough to spot on certain engines. I can't remember if the 5.9 has some exposed head bolts or if the valve covers cover them. Might be tough to get permission to pull a valve cover from the current owner.

But with careful inspection you'll be able to spot bolts that have been turned and components that have been removed and/or modified. Ask why when you see them. Check for looseness in the frontend & u-joints, broken leaf springs, four evenly worn stock size tires on stock rims, clean oils in the diffs, trans and transfer case (oftern forgotten about), spliced wires at the fuse panel & under hood, oddly painted & decorated parts, etc.

I know there are a lot of hot rod trucks out there, but there are plenty of stock trucks as well. Unfortunately the owners that love their trucks in stock form, will not part with them!

BTW - IF I could find a clean 99-03 body style Dodge with the 5.9, six speed, 4x4 with extended cab and short bed, I'd never let it go.

Best of luck and keep plugging away!
 
  
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flusher

flusher

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Headbolts/studs would be pretty tough to spot on certain engines. I can't remember if the 5.9 has some exposed head bolts or if the valve covers cover them. Might be tough to get permission to pull a valve cover from the current owner.

But with careful inspection you'll be able to spot bolts that have been turned and components that have been removed and/or modified. Ask why when you see them. Check for looseness in the frontend & u-joints, broken leaf springs, four evenly worn stock size tires on stock rims, clean oils in the diffs, trans and transfer case (oftern forgotten about), spliced wires at the fuse panel & under hood, oddly painted & decorated parts, etc.

I know there are a lot of hot rod trucks out there, but there are plenty of stock trucks as well. Unfortunately the owners that love their trucks in stock form, will not part with them!

BTW - IF I could find a clean 99-03 body style Dodge with the 5.9, six speed, 4x4 with extended cab and short bed, I'd never let it go.

Best of luck and keep plugging away!

Good stuff. Thanks. The quest continues.
 
   #7  

om21braz

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I'm thinking at least the 1994 models were all mechanical controlled for fuel & boost and therefore would not have been chipped for performance. They could have had the torque plate modification or mods to the waste gate. The best source of info on the net for Dodge/Cummins trucks is turbodieselregister.com - imho.
P.S. Look for rubber under the rear wheel wells, lol
 
  
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flusher

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I'm thinking at least the 1994 models were all mechanical controlled for fuel & boost and therefore would not have been chipped for performance. They could have had the torque plate modification or mods to the waste gate. The best source of info on the net for Dodge/Cummins trucks is turbodieselregister.com - imho.
P.S. Look for rubber under the rear wheel wells, lol

Thanks. I'm a TDR member--one great website for info on the Cummins diesels.
 
   #9  

JB4310

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I had a 95 2500 and it was still mechanical pump, awesome engine.

Anyone who modded such a truck would normally have all kinds of other add ons and mods, and if they went through all that then most likely wouldn't restore to original to sell.

Get one from a trustable private owner and you should be fine.
 

Lurch

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Mechaniical pump until 98.5 when they switched to the 24valve engine. Turning them up won't automaticly cause problems. Many high mileage/high power trucks out there. Use the same clues you would on any truck. If it looks like the trucks been beat on you can bet the engine/drive train has too.
 
 
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