Whether or not to rebuild and repair or replace a diesel engine is a very common discussion in the diesel community. Many Powerstroke, Duramax, Cummins, and other diesel truck owners want to keep their trucks even after catastrophic engine failures which leads to the decision of whether to repair the engine or rebuild the engine. We’ve been around diesel engines for decades, and we might know a thing or two about them, so we’ll help you decide.
Here is what you’ll need to consider.
You cannot rebuild an engine without adequate tools, knowledge, and skills. And even though there are wizard diesel DIY mechanics out there, there’s still a lot more to rebuilding a blown diesel engine.
The first thing you’d want to consider is if you have the right tools for the job. There are many different unique tools manufacturers use to build engines and tools that those who specialize in rebuilding engines use. Unless you’re one or the other you most likely don’t have these tools. These are very specific measuring tools used to measure clearance, true level, and similar. You could use plastic gauges or spirit levels as alternatives, but that can easily lead to improper measurements.
For example, even the slightest mistake in measuring clearance can lead to poor clearance which can lead to loss of oil pressure, and once you lose oil pressure it’s back to square one with the rebuild. – Even if you successfully rebuild an engine this way, it’s probably not going to last longer than a few months, and at TrackTech, we just don’t believe in that; we believe in quality, perfection, and durability.
Let’s say that you either have all the necessary tools or you’re ready to buy them. Now it’s a matter of what condition is your engine in, is it even worth rebuilding the diesel? Of course, there are engine rebuild kits that will help you replace all the parts that commonly wear out, but what about machine-ing?
For example, over time the piston rings wear out the bore of the cylinder, making it wider. To properly rebuild an engine, you’d have to take the engine to a machine shop so they can return the cylinders to their true bore, find larger pistons, or find another solution, and the rabbit hole continues.
Lastly, you wouldn’t want an inexperienced heart surgeon performing heart surgery on you. Diesel engines are more than complex, so if you don’t have the experience and the knowledge, you could easily torque a few bolts improperly, miss a few measurements, etc. and once again, if that happens, it’s back to square one. And even if you are the most detail-oriented mechanic on earth, you still don’t have any insurance that the engine will last.
Replacing a blown diesel engine is usually the more cost-effective option. However, there are still scenarios when it might be a better idea, and a more cost-effective one, to rebuild a blown diesel engine.
There are a few engines out there that are highly desirable and therefore more expensive. Many of these engines aren’t even in production any longer, which further drives their value up. If you do have one of these engines under the hood of your diesel truck, rebuilding it wouldn’t be that bad of an idea. Of course, as long as you’re knowledgeable, skillful, and possess the necessary tools to rebuild or repair a diesel engine.
Another case scenario when you might want to rebuild a diesel engine is if you have a lot invested into it. High-performance diesel engines are hard to come by, and simply scrapping your modified engine for its stock counterpart doesn’t sound very appealing. Rebuilding and repairing it properly is definitely the better option.
Those are unique scenarios that not everyone can relate to, so what should you do if you’ve decided that rebuilding an engine isn’t worth the time, effort, and money?
There are a few valid options for a diesel engine replacement; a salvaged engine; a manufactured short block or a manufactured long block.
Salvage yard engine is essentially a Schrodinger’s cat, you might find a perfectly healthy engine, or you might find one that’s going to die within a year. After all, many people have had access to salvage yard engines, and they could’ve taken a few key parts, thrown something into the engine, or similar. This is the most cost-effective option, and if you’re feeling lucky it could turn out pretty well, but you have to be willing to gamble.
A manufactured long block is the engine block and cylinder head with the bottom and the top block already pretty much assembled. The only thing that you’ll have to do is move over a few parts from your old engine to the new one and it’s ready to go. This is the most expensive, and the middle-of-the-road option because not every part is going to be of the highest quality, so it might not last as long as you’d like it to.
Read about: Considerations when modifying your diesel truck
The best possible replacement option, as long as you know how to properly torque down a few studs, is a short block. A short block is the engine block itself with the bottom end assembly. You would just need the cylinder head and everything that goes with it. This is, in our opinion, the best option because it allows you to customize your engine either for performance, toughness, reliability, and/or longevity.
Instead of head bolts that usually come with an engine or a long block, you have the chance to make your new engine bulletproof by installing head studs. Aftermarket head studs are one of the best possible engine modifications you could do for performance, reliability, and durability.
Whether you opt for a long block or a short block, take a good look at the manufacturer’s warranty. How long are they willing to cover their engines, what happens if the long or the short block you bought blows up during that time, and if you’re the one who’s going to be paying for the repairs/replacement.
Head studs are an excellent performance-supporting, reliability, and durability modification for every engine. They’re beloved by owners of diesel trucks in particular because diesel motors sustain much more pressure every day than gasoline engines.
Aftermarket head studs are responsible for keeping the engine together, in one piece without any static parts moving, and properly sealing the engine block, the head gasket, and the cylinder head.
For example, the 6.0 Powerstroke or the 6.4 Powerstroke are known to be unreliable, but as soon as they’re “studded” they essentially become bulletproof. So, installing head studs in your brand new engine, or during the rebuild of your old engine, will ensure that you never blow that motor. Here are 6 benefits of aftermarket head studs if you’d like to learn more about them.
TrackTech’s goal is to create head studs and other fasteners, of the highest quality. We’ve roamed the earth in search of the strongest alloys, and once we found them, we created head studs that can withstand up to 240,000 psi worth of pressure. In comparison, regular head bolts can sustain up to 160,000 psi, while regular head studs can sustain about 200,000 worth of psi. If your goal is to make an engine that can never fall apart, take a look at our Powerstroke, Duramax, and Cummins parts
There are quite a few things that could prevent a blown diesel motor, and make it last even up to 1 million miles. If you’ve just bought, or hand-built, a new engine, this is what’ll make it indestructible.
Since diesel engines are more complex and delicate than their gasoline counterparts, they need more care. A regular maintenance schedule will help a diesel engine operate optimally, as well as make it much more reliable. Monitors and controllers are perfect for noticing issues before they even occur and nipping the problem in the bud. Those are just some of the examples of how to care for your diesel engine. Here’s a thorough explanation of what’ll make your diesel engine run smoothly, and reliable, for a long time.
Even for the most experienced mechanics, taking a motor out of the engine bay can take hours. Taking an engine apart, finding all of the issues, and properly putting everything back together can take months, especially if you have other responsibilities. In some cases, this is a valid option, but a short block manufactured by the experts who make a living from creating them and then modifying the rest of the engine the way you want to is, hands down, the best way to make a powerful and an indestructible engine.
Head studs, being the best modification for making an engine bulletproof, are basically essential for either a brand new or a rebuilt engine.
We invite you to sign up for our newsletter and learn more about head studs, as well as diesel motors in general.
The Chevy Silverado is one of the most popular full-size pickup trucks made in America. The model comes in various trim levels with a variety of options. One option you may want to consider is a Chevrolet Silverado Duramax to take advantage of the benefits of a diesel engine.
If you’re thinking of buying a Chevy Duramax as your next diesel truck, here are five things you should know.
When you look at the 2021 Chevrolet Silverado options, you’ll note that the configurations with the 3.0L Duramax Turbo-Diesel I6 engine all come with 10-speed automatic transmissions. This is important to be aware of, as some drivers may have a specific preference for a manual transmission. This, unfortunately, won’t be an option.
However, if you’re happy with an automatic transmission in your diesel truck, you’ll be satisfied with this option.
The 2021 Chevrolet Silverado has three configurations with a Duramax diesel engine:
You’ll want to consider how much passenger space you need and how much bed space you want. It must be noted here that if you’re looking for a regular cab and long bed, your only options are gas-powered engines.
Diesel engines tend to get higher fuel economy due to the way the fuel combusts. While gasoline is a light fuel that must be mixed with air and ignited with a spark, diesel is heavier and can be ignited through compression alone.
The Chevy Duramax Silverado is no exception. While the fuel mileage will vary depending on which specific configuration you choose, the 2WD with Duramax gets an estimated 23 MPG highway and 33 MPG in the city.
The Duramax diesel engine gets a lot of miles between refills. On a full tank, you can expect to get up to 682 miles of fuel range for highway travel. For perspective, this means you could drive from Los Angeles to San Francisco (633 miles) on a single tank of diesel.
Aside from the size of the tank and the general fuel efficiency of diesel, the Duramax has precision fuel metering and improved exhaust tuning, which help the engine operate more efficiently.
The Chevy Duramax engine is a result of precision engineering and a focus on performance. The well-balanced inline-six-cylinder design and the hypereutectic aluminum pistons allow for smooth operation. In short, this thing performs well because a lot of thought was put into developing the best 3.0L diesel engine possible.
While the Duramax is well-engineered, there are always tweaks you could do to make it even better. For example, high-quality aftermarket head studs are a great upgrade over the factory head bolts. TrackTech offers a variety of racing fasteners and head studs, including a good selection for the Chevy Duramax.
The Silverado is Chevy’s most popular pickup truck for good reason. It offers a great everyday driving experience, while still having plenty of hauling, towing, and passenger capacity. Paring the Silverado with the Chevy Duramax diesel engine will allow you to take advantage of superior performance, efficiency, and fuel economy.
The Cummins diesel engine has been around since the late 80s, offering a powerful and efficient diesel engine to Dodge Ram pickup trucks. Whether you’re looking at an older model Dodge Ram or a newer Ram, buying a model with a Cummins diesel is well worth considering.
Here are a few things you’ll want to be aware of before making a purchasing decision.
One of the primary draws of diesel engines is the torque produced for towing applications. If this is a crucial consideration for you, you’ll want to focus on models no older than 2013.
Read about: Considerations when modifying your diesel truck
Why is this important? In 2013, the Cummins Ram was able to achieve 850lb-ft torque for the first time. This was a giant leap in torque and hence a major step up in the line’s ability for heavy-duty towing. If you want even more towing power, you’ll want a 2019 or new model for 1000lb-ft of torque.
Buying a newer vehicle will of course help with fuel economy with all vehicles. Diesel engines are also known to generally be more fuel-efficient than their gas-powered counterparts. This is one of the big selling points for diesel engines. Because diesel can be ignited through only compression rather than relying on sparking a fuel-air mixture, the diesel engine is more efficient.
With that said, if you want the best fuel economy possible, the newer Ram 2500 you buy the better. The 2022 Ram 2500 offers a gas-powered option as well, but diesel engines generally get about 20-35% better mileage than gas.
Only the Ram 2500 includes the Cummins diesel engine option. If you’re in the market for a heavy-duty workhorse of a truck, then this is a great choice. However, maybe you’re wondering if you need that much truck?
Read about: Why Choose TrackTech Fasteners?
Frankly, if you do a lot of heavy towing, plow snow, or perform other activities that really make your truck work, then the Ram 2500 with the Cummins is the best option. For lighter duty usage, the Ram 1500 would be the better choice. The Ram 1500 does not offer an option for a Cummins diesel engine, but it does have a smaller 3.0L diesel option in the newest models.
In general, gas-powered engines tend to provide more horsepower than diesel engines. This is because gas burns much quicker than diesel allowing the engine to rev faster.
With that said, the 6.7L Cummins Turbo Diesel can definitely hold its own. The latest model reaches 400 HP to go along with its 1000lb-ft torque, which means it has plenty of power and acceleration.
Aftermarket upgrades to your diesel truck can provide a nice performance and reliability boost. This is true whether you’re looking at a brand new 2022 Ram 2500 or a used 2013 Dodge Ram 2500.
There are a wide variety of aftermarket parts available for Cummins-powered Ram trucks of all years. From exhaust upgrades to intake manifolds, there are some great options. One of the simplest and possibly the most critical is the option to replace the OEM head bolts with aftermarket head studs.
TrackTech makes great aftermarket racing fasteners and general diesel head fasteners for a variety of engines. Fortunately, this includes a wide range of head studs for the Cummins diesel engines. These high-quality head studs will ensure your diesel engine isn’t held back due to weak fasteners.
The Dodge Ram–and now simply the Ram–is a great overall lineup of trucks. The Ram 2500 line is one of the most respected heavy-duty vehicles on the market today. If you’re considering buying one of these vehicles, you’ll be getting a vehicle that is powerful and will also edge out similar gas engines due to the Cummins Turbo Diesel.
Overall, if a heavy-duty workhorse is what you need, you won’t be disappointed in a Cummins-powered Ram 2500.
The big three pickup truck manufacturers have offered trucks with diesel engines for more than 30 years. But the history of the diesel engine goes back to the 1890s, brought to life by Rudolf Diesel, a French inventor. He was looking for an alternative to the steam engine. It seems like he found it.
Over the decades, diesels have been valued for their high torque high-efficiency output. Diesels are known as workhorses, pulling heavy loads without complaint. People have put them in everything from railroad locomotives to zeppelins to submarines.
Pulling power is still the main reason that people buy diesels. Still, savvy engine builders have pushed into the performance arena, turning up the horsepower to rival gas-engine race cars.
Today, most heavy-duty pickup trucks have a diesel engine option for drivers who need more horsepower and torque than a gas power plant can provide. The technology has evolved over the years, delivering unmatched performance and fuel economy. Diesels are the motive power of choice on farms, construction sites, and oil patches, as well as drag strips, boat ramps and campgrounds.
While diesel engine builders have come and gone over the years, the top three currently available in pickups are Cummins, Ford’s Powerstroke, and GM’s Duramax. Of course, these engines come with a truck wrapped around them. The engine type usually aligns with the make of truck it came in, at least as an OEM configuration.
Long the domain of the heavy-duty or light commercial level of pickups, diesels are starting to show up in smaller trucks. The Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon offer a 2.8L four-cylinder that returns up to 30 mpg. Ford recognized the demand for a diesel in the F-150 and bolted in a Power Stroke that should get up to 30 mpg on the highway.
We’ll look at the three big-time engine builders in the market today, but keep in mind some comparisons have as much to do with the truck it’s attached as the engine.
C.L. Cummins began making diesel engines in Columbus, Indiana, in 1919. Within six years, the company offered the first 100,000-mile warranty. Since then, Cummins has cemented its reputation as a builder of reliable diesels. You’ll find Cummins diesels in a wide range of heavy-duty and vocational vehicles, including buses and garbage trucks.
A Cummins diesel first appeared in a Ram pickup in 1989. It was a 5.9L six-cylinder 12-valve turbodiesel engine that generated 160 horsepower and 400 lb.-ft. Other trucks were available with diesels, but turbocharging took diesel performance to the next level.
The venerable first-generation Dodge Ram D-250 and D-350 models from 1989-1993 featured the 160-hp, 400 lb-ft 5.9-liter 12-valve Cummins. You’ll still them toiling away, racking up six-figure mileage. Cummins is still the diesel offering for Ram Trucks, which before 2010 were known as Dodge Ram trucks. You’ll also find a Cummins under the hood of the Nissan Titan XD.
The current 6.7L Cummins in Ram trucks is known for its steady flow of power and lower noise output. The light weight of the robust graphite iron engine block cuts down fuel consumption without affecting power. It’s also B20 biodiesel compatible.
On the performance front, it runs with a 16.21:1 compression ratio, fed by a Bosch high-pressure common-rail fuel system, comes paired with a Holset HE351VE variable geometry turbocharger.
Cummins was the first to crack the 1,000 lb.-ft. torque barrier for general-use trucks with the 2020 Ram 3500 Heavy Duty. That’s one of the reasons Cummins-equipped Ram trucks are a favorite choice for those looking for a capable tow vehicle.
Chevrolet started its diesel odyssey with a 5.7L Oldsmobile engine, putting out 120 hp and 220 lb.-ft. Then GM partnered with Detroit Diesel in 1982 to build a 6.2L V8 that put out 130 hp and 240-lb.ft. After about 20 years, GM formed a new venture with Isuzu to create the Duramax class.
Over the years, the GM updated the Duramax to improve performance and meet emissions standards. With each model, The Duramax improved in durability, power, fuel efficiency and lower noise. However, Duramax has never quite matched the best that Cummins and Power Stroke have had to offer. The 6.2L and 6.5L GM engines built from 1982-2000 were valued for their fuel economy in light towing usage and didn’t match up to the Cummins or Power Stroke. Adding a turbo and tweaking the injection pump on the early naturally aspirated version could bring it up to snuff, and later turbo models were more competitive. A host of issues typically limited lifetime to about 400,000 miles, according to Driving Line.
The current Duramax Diesel engine was designed with unique features to provide more power without compromising fuel economy or longevity. These elements include an electronically controlled variable-geometry turbocharger, a Venturi Jet drain oil separator, and cold-start technology.
Ford launched its first diesel offering in 1982 in a partnership with International Harvester, which later became Navistar International. In 1994, Ford and Navistar International debuted the first Power Stroke diesel engine. The 7.3L Power Stroke engine featured direct injection that put out 215 hp and 425 lb.-ft. of torque. Ford and Navistar parted ways in 2009, and in 2011 Ford debuted the 6.7L Power Stroke Scorpion.
The 6.7L has become a favorite of drag racers, with the high-pressure common rail system and an appetite for handling copious amounts of boost.
Here’s a comparison of the best options for given duty applications. There isn’t a wrong choice in most cases, but one may perform better for you. To some extent, it’s like Red Sox vs. the Yankees, The Beatles vs. the Rolling Stones, or Camaro vs. Mustang. You like what you like, and not always for rational reasons.
Cummins was the first to crack the 1000-lb. ft. limit with the Ram 3500 Heavy Duty, with the 400 hp High Output I-6, with a six-speed transmission. The combination could hand up to 35,100 pounds of towing capacity.
Currently, Ford’s 6.7 Power Stroke V8 makes the F-350 Super Duty the big daddy of the heavy-duty pickups. The 450 hp, 1050 lb.-ft. of torque are channeled through a 10-speed automatic transmission. The combination can tow up to 37,000 pounds in trucks apportioned for commercial operation.
Although diesels are designed to run thousands of miles, just about every engine type has suffered from a bout of poor reliability. Common failure points have been common: leaky heads, fuel injectors, turbochargers, and exhaust gas recirculation systems.
Motor Trend magazine calls the last generation of the Power Stroke 7.3L V8 in 1999-2003 F250s and F350s as one of the most reliable engines in recent years. It’s not uncommon to see engines with 500,000 miles when properly cared for, thanks to the hardened internal components and the hydraulically actuated, electronically controlled unit injector (HEUI) fuel system that stops the engine from running if the oil is low. The 7.3L can run 200,000 miles before it’s time to overhaul the injectors. The six-bolts-per-cylinder head design and the low stock cylinder pressure contributed to its long life.
The Duramax 6.6L is a key ingredient in one of the best heavy-duty offerings in the Chevrolet/GMC 2500HD and 3500HD. The Duramax, coupled to the 10-speed automatic transmission, puts out 445 hp and 910 lb.-ft., hefty enough to tow up to 35,500 pounds in the regular cab dually configuration.
If you’re looking for an engine that will withstand your plans for insane amounts of power, consider the 6.4L Power Stroke from 2008-2010 F-250s and F350s. Motor Trend says the compound turbocharged 350 hp can be massaged to fulfill any pulling dreams you have. If there are any doubts, know that it scored very well in a series of Diesel Power Challenge events.
If you’d like to go old school, check out the 2006-2007 Chevrolet/GMC 2500HD and 3500HD. They’re the last of the pre-emission engines from GM. The 6.6L Duramax V-8 is easy to modify due to the lower level of complexity. It has real hot-rod potential and is still a great everyday workhorse.
We’ve compared Duramax, Power Stroke and Cummins engines, but all the data doesn’t answer the real question. Which one is best? Like many things in life, it all depends. Will a few pound-feet of torque matter in your everyday life or make a hundredth of a second difference in the Ultimate Callout Challenge?
What do the numbers tell you? The current Power Stroke has more horsepower but less torque than the Cummins. But the Power Stroke may be able to pull faster in real-life driving. For high-performance applications, the Duramax options lag behind. But in daily use, you may not notice.
Cummins has the edge in long-term diesel design and building experience. But the newcomers from Ford and GM have pushed Cummins away from complacency.
If you’re embarking on a high-performance build, a weak head stud or fastener can be catastrophic for the performance and the life of your vehicle. All three engines will benefit from upgrading the cylinder head fasteners. Stock engines come with Yield to Torque (YTT) or standard head bolts. The OEM fasteners may not handle the load if you’re boosting horsepower and compression ratio. Step up to head studs from TrackTech Fasteners®, which are engineered and constructed for strip and circuit performance for Ford Power Stroke, Chevy Duramax and Ram Cummins applications. The stud design makes removing and replacing the cylinder head and re-using the same fasteners easier. TrackTech head studs are proven in testing labs and at the track, standing up to greater extremes than any other brand in their class.
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Diesel trucks are awesome, we can all agree on that. But we can also agree that they’re a little more complicated than gasoline vehicles, and that would mean that caring for a diesel motor is crucial. It’s so crucial in fact, that a neglected diesel won’t last more than 300,000 miles, while a diesel truck that’s been properly cared for can run well even after 1 million miles.
Let’s get right into how to care for your diesel motor, so that your truck can reach the 1 million miles mark.
Having a regular maintenance schedule for your truck is the best way to make it last longer. Not only that, but your diesel is going to be much more reliable as well as powerful.
The oil and oil filter change is the most important piece of basic maintenance you can perform.
Over time, the thin oil particles that give the oil its viscosity get burned off easier than the thick particles. The oil then becomes thicker and because it cannot properly lubricate a diesel engine, which creates friction, the components start to rub against each other, and slowly break down. — Not changing your oil on time is a surefire way for premature engine failure.
The oil filter itself doesn’t have to be replaced every time you change the oil in your diesel engine but it is good practice. Many diesel truck owners replace the filter every other time they replace the oil. An oil filter costs next to nothing, and replacing it every time will help your engine operate more efficiently.
There are those who inspect the air filter for dirt and debris, and then decide whether a replacement is necessary, and there are those who follow a schedule. Either is fine, just make sure that you get the correct air filter for your conditions. Driving on dirty and dusty roads will require a filter with more folds in it and that has a lower rating for the size of particles it will filter out, but if you mostly drive on the pavement you can choose a less restrictive version.
Regularly replacing the fuel filter might even be more important than regular oil changes. Due to the nature of diesel fuel, it gets dirty more easily (particularly from condensated water), so a failure to replace the filter can cause engine stalling and jerking, poor performance, and in worst-case scenarios fuel injector explosions.
Additionally, most diesel engines require coolant replacements after 40,000 to 60,000 miles, but taking the cap off and checking to see whether the coolant’s topped off and clean during every oil replacement doesn’t hurt. Doing this can prevent many different issues, and more importantly, you won’t get stranded due to engine overheating.
Controllers, monitors, and gauges are incredible for caring for diesel motors. Essentially they will tell you everything you need to know about how your diesel motor is operating. Monitors and gauges can track and display almost every engine parameter in real-time and that can help you prevent any issues before they even occur. Even better, a monitor can help you optimize your truck for perfect performance. — Monitors and gauges are especially important for modified diesel trucks.
Throttle and boost controllers are also great additions for diesel trucks. Boost controller, in particular, is not only nice to have as it allows you to change your boost and have multiple boost settings prepared and ready, but it also lets you track two of the most important diesel engine parameters, boost psi and EGT. EGT, or exhaust gas temperature can easily cause various problems if it gets too hot, and by tracking the boost pressure you’re making sure that the engine isn’t over-boosting.
It doesn’t matter which car you’re modifying, if you’re not detailed and careful, your vehicle could get destroyed in a matter of minutes. Diesel engines, or diesel trucks in general, are a bit more delicate, so you’ll have to be even more careful about what you’re doing with them.
A second fuel filter is an excellent modification for caring for your vehicle. If your truck doesn’t already come with a 2nd filter, installing one can prolong the life of many different engine parts. Since you can install a 2nd fuel filter before or after the original one, it’s best to do some research and find out which option is better for your diesel truck in particular.
A proper tuner (preferably with a monitor) that’s appropriate for your diesel, whether that’s Powerstroke, Cummins, Duramax, or others, is a great way to increase power as well as make your truck run optimally, in turn, making it more reliable and durable.
You have to be extremely careful which additives you actually put into your diesel truck’s tank. Just as much as the good ones can help, the poor ones can destroy your engine in a matter of months, if not sooner. Carefully research additives and their brands before using them.
Anti-gel additives are the ones you’ll need in extreme colds because diesel fuel tends to turn into a gel, glue-like substance which can damage the entire fuel system.
Diesel fuel stabilizer additives are used to help the diesel fuel itself become more stable in varying weather cycles. These stabilizers help the fuel become more stable so that it doesn’t degrade as easily.
There are quite a few additives that promise various performance, fuel economy, reliability, and other benefits. Once again, be very careful with what you’re putting into your diesel truck. As long as you use fuel additives correctly and responsibly, they’ll be a great help with caring for your diesel motor.
What’s the best way to care for your Powerstroke, Duramax, Cummins, and other diesel engines? Head studs. Head studs alone can turn an unreliable diesel engine bulletproof.
Because of their consistent clamping force, head studs properly seal your engine block, head gasket, and cylinder head together, making them inseparable from engine stress. Almost every 1 million mile diesel engine out there is running aftermarket head studs instead of the stock bolts.
They’re also excellent for performance application, because of the amount of pressure the head bolts can sustain, as well as the other benefits that they offer. You can learn more about the benefits of aftermarket head studs here.
TrackTech head studs are of the highest quality possible. We’ve searched the entire planet for the strongest alloys, created head studs, and tested them under the harshest conditions. We weren’t satisfied until we made the best head studs on the market. After installing TrackTech head studs, you can be confident in your diesel engine and its reliability.
We’ve talked about what you should be doing with your diesel truck to make it a reliable workhorse that’s going to run for a long time, but what about the things that you shouldn’t be doing, or maybe you’re just doing them wrong?
If you’ve just purchased a brand new diesel truck, properly running it in can make an unfathomable difference on its reliability and longevity. For the first 1,000 miles, the RPMs should be kept below 3,000, with no sudden acceleration, and under 80 or so miles per hour. After that, you can slowly start to increase the RPMs, the speed, and the acceleration, just don’t make any major leaps such as from 3,000 to 4,000 RPMs, for example. The engine isn’t completely broken into until roughly 30,000 miles, and it wouldn’t be such a bad idea to cater to your diesel motor until then.
Diesel trucks need to reach their operating temperatures to run properly and if you’ve ever tried to run a diesel engine on a cold start, you’d know exactly what we mean; it feels like the engine is dying. So, it’s best to turn your car on and let it idle for a few minutes before you start driving.
Letting your engine idle for a few minutes, while you’re picking up something from the store, for example, is a great idea. Diesel engines dislike sudden temperature changes, so letting the engine idle and keep its operating temperature can make it last much longer.
Just like the engine components need to warm up, they also need to cool down. Before shutting off your truck, let it idle for a few minutes to allow the turbocharger, the valves, the pistons, and other components to cool down.
Caring for your diesel truck, keeping up with a regular engine maintenance schedule, and avoiding common mistakes is hard. However, it’s rewarding more so than it is hard, and diesel engines will usually treat you exactly how you treat them. So as long as you follow the advice given above, your engine will run reliably for a very long time. If you’d like to make sure that it does indeed run reliably for a long time, take a look at our head studs, or sign up for our newsletter to learn more about diesel engines and trucks in general.
Whether you’re buying a brand-new diesel truck off the lot or have a used truck, one of the first things people ask is what diesel mods I can make.
Maybe you want to power up for one of the diesel truck power events and see how fast it can fly down the dragstrip. Or perhaps you’re the pulling type, ready to max out torque to pull the sled. Some trucks work for a living, towing an excavator and a bed full of rock. Those same trucks may get to play, pulling a 30-ft. camper on a family vacation or a 28-ft. wake boat to the lake for splashy fun.
Whatever you may want to do with your truck, there are mods to make it perform better.
Keep in mind a diesel truck is a complex system made up of other systems. Turning up the boost without preparing the rest of the truck is like skipping leg day. When your 80-psi boost blows out the head gasket in a puff of smoke when the Christmas Tree goes green, everyone will see you skipped leg day. You took shortcuts and didn’t consider the head fasteners and gasket you need to contain that kind of power.
Before starting your diesel mods, you should understand the basics and develop a plan.
The truck is a system made up of smaller systems. If you mess with one without considering how it affects the other systems, you could wind up with a truck that doesn’t perform like you wanted. You could also end up doing damage to the engine and yourself. When you boost engine power, consider the suspension and brakes. Consider changes to the torque curve – you might have more top-end speed but can’t pull as much as fast as you’d like. If one system overpowers the others, you could be disappointed in the results.
Three factors contribute to engine power with a diesel engine: air, fuel, and compression. These three elements must work together in the right proportions to produce efficient horsepower. If these elements get out of whack, your engine could be down on power, overheat, or use a lot more fuel.
Airflow is one of the areas where the system approach is essential. Pumping more air into the engine by adding a turbo or bumping up the boost will increase the capacity for horsepower. A cold air intake is an affordable early mod. Cold air compresses more easily so more air can flow into the intake. A high-flow air filter and larger intake ducting can smooth airflow to the engine. Look for intake systems that work with the factory tuning so your truck can hopefully remain street legal. An intercooler upgrade can help maintain the boost pressure after the air leaves the turbo and flows into the combustion chamber, making the turbo more effective.
As you increase air flow, don’t forget about the exhaust. If you’re drawing more air into the engine, you’ll have to pump it out. A high-flow exhaust should be one of the first mods you make so the engine can breathe better, according to Diesel Tech magazine. Stock exhausts restrict airflow for a number of reasons, including noise reduction and reliability. Exhaust mods are more complex in late model trucks with a catalytic converter, Diesel Particulate Filter (DPFs) or a urea injection system. For street-legal trucks, it’s best to follow federal and state regulations regarding these devices.
For more fuel flow, upgrade the fuel pump and injectors to match the increased airflow from your mods. Factory injectors are designed for fuel economy, not power. If you’re upgrading the fuel injectors, match them with a comparable fuel pump to meet the demand. Fuel system upgrades are one of the first things to consider to increase horsepower significantly, according to Rush Diesel Repair.
Diesel engines compress air at a ratio of around 14:1 up to 25:1. A higher compression ratio leads to better efficiency and more power.
You can increase the compression ratio in many ways, including tweaking the engine control module (ECM), resurfacing the engine deck, using a thinner head gasket, changing valves and pistons and other wizardry.
A performance camshaft can help increase the compression ratio by allowing more air into the inlet valves. The camshaft lets the engine gulp more air by leaving the valves open longer, with a different lift and profile than the OEM spec version.
With an ECM flash, you can tune the parameters for the engine and transmission. You can adjust timing and pressure for more horsepower and change transmission shift points. As you improve the air intake and exhaust, your engine can handle more fuel. Plug in an aftermarket tuner to dial in a more aggressive fuel map so the turbo can spool quicker, adding up to even more power.
Read Also About: How to Care For Your Diesel Motor
This is another system of systems area. If you get this wrong, your truck may not pass an emissions test or could blow up. Installing a tuner will allow you to tweak for best performance as you continue to modify your vehicle. This is a mod often best left up to an expert.
Most stock diesel engines are over-engineered and overbuilt, which is why it’s not unusual to get several hundred thousand miles out of one. But if you’re seeking asphalt-shredding levels of power for some form of motorsport, some of the engine components should be upgraded accordingly. Consider strong connecting rods, pistons, crankshafts and other vital components that will have to absorb the power from your creation.
Depending on your build, you may have to upgrade your torque converter and/or the entire transmission. Your transmission should have a label indicating the maximum allowable torque. If you’re going beyond that, it’s a good idea to make sure the transmission can handle the load.
Your truck should look as good as it runs. Plus, the rest of the truck should be prepared to handle the power your engine mods are putting out.
Lifting and leveling kits will change the stance to reflect the rockin’ engine under the hood. Plus, if you’re prepping for the strip or pulling a sled, you need to be able to put the power down where it belongs.
You may need new wheels and tires as well. They say clothes make the man. Well, rims make the truck. You wouldn’t put on your finest weekend outfit and wear your workboots. Let your rims reflect your personality.
A wise man once said, don’t skimp on things that come between you and the ground, like shoes, mattresses, and tires. While rims may not matter much in terms of performance, it’s worth ponying up for quality tires that match what you want to do with the truck.
Head gaskets are often blamed for an engine failure, but it’s usually not the gasket’s fault. It may have been installed incorrectly when putting the engine back together after mods. A head gasket is relatively inexpensive in the grand scheme of things, so it’s a good idea to use a new one, especially if you’ve made engine modifications, Engine Builder magazine reported. If you’ve had the engine block decked, you may need a thicker gasket to maintain piston clearance. If you’re boosting the cylinder pressure, the stock gasket may not be able to handle the load. After you’ve made engine mods, check the piston clearance to avoid any interference.
After making your mods, replace the factory head fasteners with head studs when you’re putting the engine back together. OEM head fasteners are prone to stretching under increased combustion pressure and temperatures. That could lead to head gasket leakage which can cause a host of problems.
The head gasket contains the combustion pressure to generate compression in the engine and allows the oil and coolant to flow through the block. It requires even clamping force across the cylinder head to work properly. Head fasteners stretching even a few thousandths mean the gasket could leak. If you’re running drags or pulling the sled, you’ve seen the plume of smoke when a head gasket goes.
Like we noted above, the head gasket isn’t really the problem. The fasteners have failed because they were not strong enough or not installed properly. It’s critical to follow the instructions for torquing the head fasteners.
OEM bolts don’t fare well under boosted power, and if you’re adding a sequential turbo or running nitrous oxide, you’re entering the danger zone.
High-performance head studs are engineered to withstand the pressure of a modded diesel. Plus, the stud design with nuts makes it easy to remove and replace the head without replacing the fasters every time. Cylinder head studs can eliminate the problem of head lift when the engine is under load.
If you’re working on a diesel engine mod, take a look at Tracktech Fasteners®. These high-performance head studs are engineered and manufactured for applications where horsepower exceeds the OEM specs. They’re tested in the lab and on the track to give engine builders peace of mind.
For the latest information on the high-performance cylinder head fasteners, sign up for our newsletter here.
Head gaskets often get blamed for engine problems. But that’s often an unfair accusation. The real issues maybe with the installation, including the torque and pattern of cylinder head fasteners and selecting the right gasket thickness for the application.
These factors work together to ensure a long-lasting, high-performance diesel cylinder head gasket. Gasket thickness is particularly important for a number of reasons.
First, the basics. Gasket thickness is the distance between the cylinder head and engine block when the head is installed according to instructions.
It’s not the installation thickness that counts. The compressed thickness when the gasket is installed makes all the difference. You can’t really measure the compressed thickness of a gasket when it’s installed. You have to look at the specifications for your application and find a gasket that meets those specs. You may have to use a depth micrometer to measure the OEM gasket or the piston clearance of a modified engine or resurfaced block.
Every head gasket product listing and packaging should display the compressed thickness when properly installed.
If you’re doing extensive mods or giving an engine with lots of miles a little TLC, you may wind up needing a head gasket of a different thickness than the OEM option. The stock head gaskets in most light truck diesel engines will handle 1.800 to 2.200 PSI of combustion pressure. But a tune can push those pressures up to 2,700 PSI or even higher. That’s where a performance gasket is necessary to contain those pressures.
Head gaskets contain the pressure in the cylinders, sealing the gap between the cylinder head and the engine block. One common sign of a minor head gasket leak is coolant blowing out of the reservoir under heavy loads, like towing.
Beyond the basics of keeping the rapidly expanding gases and flowing oil and coolant in their proper place, head gasket thickness plays a role in the compression ratio.
Changing head gasket thickness is another lever to pull in dialing in the compression ratio for best performance. The compression ratio describes the relationship between the maximum and minimum cylinder volume. Air and fuel mix and detonate ignite in the cylinder, and the resulting pressure pushes down on the piston. The thickness of the gasket, which separates the block from the cylinder head, plays a role in the compression ratio by altering the volume of the cylinder.
Creating more pressure means the piston pushes harder and faster, making more horsepower and torque. Increasing the compression ratio means the engine produces more power. Turning up the turbo boost, increasing fuel rail pressure, and other tuning tricks increase the compression ratio. Other factors like valve and ignition timing also play a role in engine performance.
In forced-air induction or turbocharged diesels, the cylinder is under pressure at all times and can reach up to 200% or more of the cylinder pressure at sea level.
Increasing compression ratio is a good-news/bad-news situation. The good news is, you’ll get more power out of your engine. The bad news is a higher compression ratio can break stock parts, including your head gasket.
Also, resurfacing the engine block deck to address wear and tear or corrosion may require a thicker gasket to maintain stock clearances. When the block is resurfaced, a few thousandths of an inch of metal are machined away to ensure a consistent, smooth surface. The pistons will produce more power because they are closer to the top surface of the block. The volume of each cylinder is reduced, lowering the volumetric efficiency and increasing the compression ratio.
Some manufacturers recommend using the thinnest gasket possible to increase the compression ratio by lowering the cylinder volume.
Depending on how much of the surface is removed, you may need a thicker head gasket to preserve the piston-to-deck clearance to ensure the pistons don’t hit the head under a heavy pull. The cylinder heads can also be machined to provide a smooth, level surface. If you’re machining the head on a high-performance build, consider a fire-ring gasket kit to ensure the gasket can withstand the pressure.
Keep in mind the thickness will also affect the gasket’s ability to seal the combustion chamber and oil and coolant passages.
Diesel trucks have been around for decades, so there is a confusing variety of engine variations and head gasket designs. Many aftermarket sources are available with a gasket thickness chart for most applications.
Check your engine’s specifications and the gasket’s applications. Engine specs can change over the years, so it’s not safe to say a V8 Cummins Gasket will fit any model or year of Cummins. Don’t guess. Do your homework to find the right gasket. But also, it helps to know the rules before you can break them.
For example, the GM 6.6L Duramax has two base designs based on model year and three thickness grades. There are also options for engines that have been overbored, deck milled, or both.
Mid-2000s Ford Powerstroke 6.0L engines are notorious for head gasket problems, even in stock configuration. Aftermarket gaskets with extra layers seal better and have a much longer service life than the OEM options.
Some engine builders recommend using the thinnest gasket possible. But that may not be the right course of action in every case.
In some specific applications, thicker gaskets make sense. Any time you modify a diesel engine for more power, you should step up to a performance gasket. You’ll have less chance of coolant and oil leaks, loss of combustion pressure, and ultimately gasket failure.
As these modifications will likely include machining head and block deck surfaces for flatness and a smooth finish, a thicker gasket should be part of the plan.
If you’re replacing the gasket without machining or upgrading, a thicker gasket could help fill the gaps in the rougher head and deck surfaces.
Thick gaskets can fill in the gaps with less-than-perfect heads. Less clamping force is needed because of the give or less compression, which might seal better. A thinner gasket that requires more clamping force could be more likely to leak in this situation.
However, a thicker gasket may require more frequent retorquing to maintain an adequate clamping force on the head. You’ll want to check the manufacturer’s cylinder head fastener specs and check the piston-to-head clearance.
The thicker gasket has more surface area exposed to the pressure, which pushes it out of its rightful spot between the cylinder head and the block or between the cylinders. The extra surface area increases permeation or leakage through the gasket material.
Also, using a much thicker gasket can alter valve train geometry, and not in a good way.
As we discussed above, a thinner gasket can add a compression ratio and horsepower. Use a thinner gasket where it makes sense, given the other aspects of your engine work. A thinner gasket could result in a few additional horsepower and a smoother, quieter engine.
The gasket specs will vary based on your goals. If you’re building a 2,000-hp dragstrip monster, you’ll likely have different needs than someone looking for better mpg while towing their boat.
The answer may be different if you’re trying to eke out another 100,000 miles from a truck that works for a living.
This is not a place for guessing or estimating. If you’re not sure how to figure out the right gasket thickness, consult with an expert. Using the wrong head gasket thickness could result in piston-to-valve contact, leading to catastrophic engine failure. Look at gasket manufacturers’ and OEM’s gasket thickness chart to see what’s available for your application.
Have your mechanic check the piston protrusion and piston-to-valve clearance to determine the minimum safe fit. Or you can use a depth micrometer to check where the pistons are in relation to the engine deck surface.
Specialty gaskets like copper and MLS gaskets help improve the seal for high-boost applications. Rubber-coated copper gaskets tend to seal better than bare copper options.
Head gaskets often get blamed for failures when the fault lies in other aspects of the build. Head gasket torque is a critical element, and getting it wrong will sap your truck’s performance and durability. Some OEM bolts are known to stretch, resulting in loss of clamping force and head gasket leakage.
The condition of the mating surfaces on the head and engine deck is critical. Don’t overlook the importance of flatness in the surfaces for the best performing seal. Surface finish is critical as well; the smoother, the better. Some engines are notorious for corrosion incursions and other poor design choices that doom a truck to serious engine problems.
All of these elements have to work together to wind up with a head gasket that delivers the longevity and reliability that you need for your diesel truck.
If you’re working on a high-performance build and understand the importance of gasket thickness, consider upgrading to high-performance head studs from TrackTech Fasteners®. As you complete the build, the TrackTech head studs provide the right amount of clamping force to keep the head and head gasket in place on the engine block. These studs are engineered for high-performance applications that exceed the OEM requirements.
For the latest information on the high-performance cylinder head fasteners, sign up for our newsletter here.
The Powerstroke series of engines came out in ‘94 and was reintroduced by Ford in 2011. With the right model, you’re set for the haul and can go for years with a truck straight out of a showroom. However, with a few tweaks and considerations, such as replacement head fasteners for your Powerstroke, you can take that reliability to the next level. New trucks benefit from upgrades too, but when it comes to buying a used truck, the right upgrades become a compelling investment into your rig’s long-term performance and reliability.
Although Ford has achieved benchmark standards and reliability, trucking still carries its own challenges. Prevention is better than the cure, and you could take a few small measures to ensure that you get the best experience out of your new Ford Powerstroke engine.
When switching from an original gas engine to a Powerstroke diesel one, you can expect more power for the same rpm, which means a lower biting point, i.e., the clutch lets the engine and the wheels engage when you engage the clutch. The Powerstroke 6.7 diesel, for example, gives better torque than a 7.3 gas engine. When you switch from gas to diesel you can expect more torque, and lower RPMs. The experience is very different to the rev-happy ways of a conventional gas engine.
Buyers should keep in mind that higher power does not necessarily mean a better experience. More powerful diesel engines are sometimes overkill. Pick a variant that best suits your needs. A 6.7 Powerstroke should give you enough grunt for towing operations.
The Powerstroke is vulnerable to soot getting accumulated in the vanes. The turbocharger means moving vanes, which means soot could be troublesome. You might think of taking it apart and cleaning it, but a better solution is just to drive the car wide open. Full-throttle runs help clear out the soot and deposits and keep your Powerstroke running cleanly.
Maintenance means more than getting an oil change. Know the proper maintenance schedule for your particular engine and the kind of service it needs. You should adhere to the “severe service” intervals dictated in your manual if you drive in Northern winter weather, frequently tow or haul larger loads, drive in stop-go traffic often, or spent a lot of time idling.
If you’re looking for a performance upgrade, you might want to consider replacing some company-fitted parts–especially the head bolts with head studs. The diesel engine has high cylinder pressure, and it is a common tip to replace the bolts with aftermarket head studs so that you don’t blow your gasket.
Diesel engines are preferable for many of us, who need more power and performance. The Powerstroke family of diesel engines has a stellar reputation and loyal fan base. While there are many pieces of age-old wisdom, this list should get you started. Small steps in improving longevity and performance can go a long way.
At TrackTech, we understand that fasteners are one of the most critical components of any engine. That’s why we’ve developed a wide range of heavy-duty racing fasteners, including the strongest head studs in class for a wide range of diesel trucks, including the Ford Powerstroke. TrackTech fasteners are manufactured with the highest tensile strength in the industry at 240,000 PSI and go through UTM testing and validation on a track.
A leaky head gasket can be a, “Oh no! What now?” moment for a diesel truck owner. A cloud of smoke or a surge in the temperature gauge is never a good sign. And it’s not an easy fix.
The head gasket is the seal between the cylinder head and the engine block. It contains the explosive gases from the combustion chamber while allowing coolant and oil to circulate through the engine. It keeps the liquids where they belong, outside of the cylinders.
If the head gasket fails, the oil and coolant can be contaminated with each other, and the combustion gases can escape.
Gaskets are highly engineered precision-manufactured components that are critical to your engine’s operation. They are made of multiple layers of steel and other materials or copper in high-performance applications.
Given that a turbo-diesel can generate up to 75 PSI or more, head gaskets have a tough job. When a gasket starts to show signs of failure, you should pay attention. It’s not a good idea to keep driving if at all possible. The damage from a head gasket leak ranges from pulling the head and reinstalling a new one to a top-end rebuild or even a complete replacement.
Keep in mind it’s not always the actual gasket that fails. Often, the fasteners, the engine deck, or the installation process leads to failure.
We’ll look at the top five signs of head gasket failure and one of the best ways to address the problem.
An overheating engine is one of the most common signs of a blown head gasket. When the gasket fails, gases leak into the coolant, or the coolant can leak into the cylinders. That means there’s not enough coolant to cool the engine, and the temperature gauge spike in a few minutes. If it gets hot enough, the engine could seize.
When the head gasket leaks, coolant and oil flow into places where they’re not supposed to be. White, sweet-smelling smoke pouring out of the exhaust is a sign that coolant is leaking into the cylinders. If the exhaust is gray or blue, oil is leaking into the cylinders. A coolant leak can also produce a strange odor wafting out of the air vents in the cabin.
You may experience trouble starting your truck, or it may suffer a noticeable loss of power. Both signs are due to the same root cause. When the gasket isn’t sealing, the engine loses compression because air and fuel are escaping. The engine may turn over but not ignite. Or, it may start but run rough. At this stage, it may be a minor leak and could be safe to drive to a safe or convenient place to park rather than the side of the road.
The coolant may leak from under the radiator cap or leak out around the gasket. New signs of droplets or puddles of coolant are clear indications of a problem. Even if you don’t spot any leaks, you have a leak somewhere if your radiator runs low frequently. If oil leaks into the coolant, the coolant reservoir under the hood could turn black. The LB7 Duramax has been known to blow coolant out of the reservoir while towing if there’s a minor head gasket leak according to Diesel World magazine.
A chocolate milkshake sounds like a good thing, but not in this case. The oil may get contaminated with coolant, so it looks like a milky sludge. You won’t want to drink this one with a straw. You may notice it when you check the oil or change the oil.
Head gasket issues have been an issue for diesel trucks since the early days. As we said above, it’s not always technically the gasket’s fault. For any number of reasons, the seal between the engine block and the head is not performing as it should.
If you’re upgrading the power in your truck, upgrade to a performance head gasket rated for the cylinder pressure you have in mind. Otherwise, the cylinder head can lift and stretch the bolts. That leads to a loss of clamping force on the gasket. This can lead to the problems we discussed above, like loss of power, coolant leaks and weird smells and exhaust.
In these situations, the gasket itself didn’t fail. The gasket interface was the problem. So, the unsophisticated engine builder will blame the head gasket for failing. But it’s a poor workman that blames his tools.
Head gasket thickness is an often-overlooked factor to avoid leaks and failures. If you have the engine block decked or resurfaced to achieve a flat, smooth surface, you may need a thicker gasket to maintain the proper piston clearance. Using the wrong head gasket thickness could cause piston-to-valve contact, resulting in serious engine failure. You can have the engine decked multiple times and use slightly thicker gaskets for each round.
One of the most critical factors in head gasket performance is proper clamping force. This is governed by the type of head fasteners, the engine deck fastener holes and structure, and the installation. It’s critical to torque the diesel engine cylinder head fasteners to the correct torque and in the correct pattern as specified in the shop manual or other manufacturers’ instructions.
For example, the Ford 6.0L Power Stroke was notorious for head gasket failures. Many stock engines failed between 70,000 and 150,000 miles. Performance tuners got only 20,000 to 80,000 miles, according to Fleet Service Northwest.
The failure is commonly called a blown head gasket, but that’s not fair. The real problem was that the cylinder head bolts stretched, reducing the clamping force on the gasket. Yes, the gasket leaked, but it wouldn’t have with proper clamping force. The best fix is to install cylinder head studs while replacing the gasket and repairing any other damage to the engine.
According to Engine Builder magazine, the head fasteners in the 2005-2006 6.0L Power Stroke were the common torque-to-yield (TTY) bolts. The goal in using these bolts is to ensure the maximum clamping force. TTY bolts are torqued to a specified setting and then turned an additional quarter or half turn to reach the specified angle of the bolt head. The bolt threads were designed to clamp down a given amount in the final turn to ensure consistent pressure across the head. But things didn’t work out that way. Unfortunately, the bolts were not strong enough to go over 150,000 miles without stretching.
The blighted 6.0L also suffered from EGR Cooler failures. If the internal brazing cracked, pieces could get sucked into the intake manifold and blow the head gasket.
Each engine manufacturer has particular issues leading to diesel head gasket failure. Ram Cummins and GMC Duramax diesels typically have six head bolts around each cylinder, which helps reduce gasket problems. The Duramax V8 engines were designed with 18 head bolts per cylinder bank. The Cummins inline sixes use 24 head bolts. Having more cylinder bolts helps spread the clamping force across the head and around each cylinder. In Ford’s case, the 6.0L and 6.4L Power Stroke engines had four head bolts per cylinder, which contributed to their problems. Hopefully, Ford learned its lesson with six bolts per cylinder on the 6.7L and 7.3L Power Stroke engines.
Whether your truck is packing a Cummins, Duramax, or Power Stroke under the hood, there’s one common remedy to reduce cylinder head gasket problems. Each OEM engine has its quirks and strengths, and some fixes are well documented. But those hard-won tricks of the trade may not apply to the other engines.
Here’s the one universal upgrade you can make: install high-performance head studs. Precision manufactured to very high tolerances, head studs can handle the increased pressure of turbo diesel pulling at the upper end of its weight limit, climbing the Rockies on a hot summer day.
Read About: Why Gasket Thickness Matters
Plus, head studs make it easy to remove and replace the head using the same fasteners. If you’re constantly tweaking your engine, that could save a lot of time and money. Plus, it’s easier to maintain a consistent clamping force across the block to keep the head gasket where it needs to be.
TrackTech Fasteners understands that fasteners are perhaps the most critical component of any engine. No matter how well other parts perform, a weak fastener can be catastrophic for the performance – and even the life – of your vehicle. That’s why we’ve developed a wide range of heavy-duty fasteners, including the strongest head studs in class for a wide range of diesel trucks, including the Ford Power Stroke, Chevy Duramax Silverado, Dodge Cummins Laramie, and many others.
TrackTech Fasteners are tested under the harshest conditions both in a lab and on the track, so buyers know they are getting the best possible quality. If you’re worried about head gasket failure on your diesel pickup truck, turn to TrackTech Fasteners® for peace of mind.
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Head bolts are a crucial part of the engine responsible for sealing the head gasket correctly as well as clamping the cylinder head to the engine block. Many different shops and individuals resume head bolts without thinking twice about it, and some engines end up running for thousands of miles, while others fall apart during the test drive. So, why does that happen, when to use head bolts again, when to replace them with new bolts, or even head studs? Let’s break it down.
Again, head bolts are the bolts responsible for sealing the head gasket and keeping the engine together. Head bolts are made out of different steels and they’re heat-treated to be able to withstand tremendous amounts of pressure. However, not all head bolts are the same, and this is where the confusion comes in regarding the question of can you use head bolts again after taking them out of the engine.
There are two types of head bolts, torque-to-angle (TTA) and torque-to-yield (TTY) bolts. Both types are installed in a similar fashion, by being torqued down to a certain specification and then they’re rotated to a specific degree. This ensures that the clamping force is spread out evenly, preventing head gasket leaks and even engine warpage. The difference isn’t easily noticeable, and many repair shops, as well as individuals, confuse the two, causing major engine issues soon after. Let’s check out the difference between single-use and multi-use head bolts so we can avoid blowing up our engines.
Here You can also Read: TrackTech Products 101: Fasteners, Gaskets, and More
Every fastener, or a bolt, can be stretched to a certain point, which is known as the yield point. Once the fastener has been stretched to yield, it permanently loses its elasticity.
Torque-to-yield bolts are tightened, and stretched out to their yield point, which means that they don’t return to their original size once you unscrew them; they’ll keep their elongated shape.
Torque-to-angle bolts are not stretched to their yield point, which means that they’re reusable since they usually return to their original shape; the keyword being “usually”. If you plan to reuse TTA bolts, make sure to do a thorough inspection of their overall conditions, their length, and the threads. — If even the slightest detail looks off, we highly recommend replacing the bolt.
Manufacturers can opt to use either TTA or TTY bolts since they’re very similar, if not the same, in terms of performance and reliability. However, if you’re looking for much more reliability, and fasteners that can support serious power boosts, head studs are what you need.
Head studs are preferred in performance applications because of their simplicity, reusability, and clamping force. Other than being an excellent support modification, head studs will make any engine much more reliable than it was before. But, are they really that much better than head bolts?
By torquing a head bolt down, you’re causing clamping force as the bolt pulls tighter against the cylinder head. However, by torquing down the bolt, you’re twisting it, causing another force onto it, which can easily result in false torque readings. Manufacturers use equipment rarely available to repair shops and individuals to avoid this issue.
Read about:5 Signs of Head Gasket Failure
Head studs clamping force is spread throughout the axis of the stud because it’s the nut that’s twisted onto the shaft instead of the entire bolt being twisted into the engine block. That exact reason is also why you can reuse head studs three-four times without having to purchase brand new ones. Engine disassembly and inspections become much easier and simpler with head studs, but once you install them, you probably won’t have to disassemble the engine ever again.
All in all, TTY head bolts cannot be reused, TTA bolts can be reused but you have to be really detailed with the inspection of the bolts, and head studs can be used multiple times without a problem.
We’ve established that the best head bolts to reuse are torque-to-angle bolts, and the manufacturer should let you know which type of bolts your vehicle has, most likely through the owner’s manual.
Before beginning the inspection, you should prepare the bolts by cleaning them from any debris. Remember that if they’re even slightly rusty (potentially caused by a blown head gasket) you will have to replace them with brand new bolts.
Now, once they’re clean, the first step of checking whether or not you can reuse the head bolts is measuring their length. It would be excellent if you already had a bolt that was never used for comparison, but if you don’t, you’ll have to search online for the exact head bolts’ specifications. Once you’ve found the specifications, use a reliable measuring tool and measure out each bolt. Keep in mind that if the bolt is even 1/32” inch longer than it should be, it’s still way off, so remember the old saying “measure thrice, check twice, cut once”.
The second step of checking if you can use head bolts again is to inspect the threads, as well as the shaft. If the threads are off or damaged, even by the slightest bit, or if the shaft seems damaged in any sort of way, that’s when you have to use brand new head bolts. While you’re at the threads, measure the width of the bolt, and make sure that it’s as close to the manufacturer’s specifications as possible.
Only after you’re completely certain that each head bolt is in perfect condition should you proceed with the installation. Even still, risking damaging the engine isn’t worth the money saved and we always recommend buying brand new ones. So, if you’re looking for strength, quality, and simply put the best head bolts on the market browse through our website to find what you need!
If you’re confident that your head bolts are in good shape and that you will end up reusing them even besides the many horror stories, here’s what you’ll need to do.
Grab a container, fill it up with engine oil and soak the bolts for roughly 24 hours. The oil is used to coat every part of the bolt. Next, you should clean up the bolt holes in the cylinder head as well as the engine block, and you should clean up the threads of the bolt holes. To do this, you can use a tap and die set, however, make sure that the tap doesn’t affect the threads in any way by using the correct size.
Once everything’s prepared and aligned for head bolt installation, check the owner’s manual for the correct way to torque the bolts. The bolts will have to be installed in a certain manner, usually from the middle bolts towards the outside bolts. You will also most likely have to torque the bolts in rounds, for example, each bolt to 35 lb-ft, then to 65 lb-ft, and then completely tightening the bolts to 75 lb-ft.
The best head bolts you’ll find are usually at around 160,000 psi, the best head studs are at around 200,000 psi, but TrackTech’s head studs are the strongest in class, able to withstand up to 240,000 psi.
We strive to improve our bolts and studs every day and stay a step ahead of the competition. The best is what we want to be known for, and that’s why we create our studs and bolts from the strongest alloy on planet earth.
Our fasteners are able to withstand incredible pressures under our UTM tensile testing machines. We also test our fasteners on the track by having professionals and amateur racers put their Powerstroke, Cummins, and Duramax engines with our fasteners to the ultimate performance test.
There are two types of head bolts, TTY and TTA. Torque to yield bolts shouldn’t be reused, while torque to angle bolts can be reused, but it’s not the best idea. However, many have reused both types successfully, but many have also ruined their engines. Saving a few hundred dollars and risking blowing up the engine really isn’t the best idea, on top of that, a brand new set of head bolts, or even better, head studs, will elongate your engine’s life by thousands and thousands of miles.
If you’re looking for the best head bolts and head studs look no further than TrackTech®. Our fasteners are track-tested and proven to provide ultimate performance and durability.
Here You can also Read: TrackTech Products 101: Fasteners, Gaskets, and More
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