There has never been a better time to keep and rebuild your old iron. Since the EGR engine came out in 2003, we have been telling you to buy 2002 and older trucks and refurbish them. Most people don’t because they say that they are not mechanically-inclined. Well, guess what, nobody was born mechanically-inclined – we all had to learn how to turn a wrench. But, you are never too old to learn. You can save yourself thousands of dollars by not buying a new truck and rebuilding an older one yourself. Here is a great example.
A Wisconsin farm boy, DuWayne Ehrke was born in 1962. His parents, who were both school teachers with master’s degrees, bought a tobacco, hog and dairy farm and DuWayne has been working on that farm and driving since he was four years old. He had to be in the barn to milk cows at 5 a.m. and at school at 7 a.m. Needless to say, he had to learn how to turn a wrench, because farm equipment does break.
To get away from farming, DuWayne later became a carpenter and built custom homes for a while. When the housing market came crashing down, he decided to become an owner operator. He called me in the fall of 2011 and we discussed which truck he should buy. My advice was a T-600 Kenworth with a DD4 Detroit 60 Series engine. His haul was from Wisconsin to Texas, mostly on level terrain, so the 12.7 Detroit would be perfect for this dedicated run.
DuWayne found a 1998 T-600 with a 12.7 Detroit with only 240,000 miles on an out-of-chassis rebuild. The transmission is a remanufactured 10-speed (soon to be replaced with a Micro-Blue 18-speed unit) with 40,000 miles on it and the clutch. When I first saw this faded blue truck, I was shocked at how badly it needed to be painted. But DuWayne is a sharp guy – he knew that he had to make the truck get good fuel mileage and then let the fuel savings pay for a new paint job. The cost of this million-mile-plus truck was $13,500. He purchased it on March 18, 2012, but before this truck ever pulled a load, DuWayne started the rebuilding process.
The first thing that DuWayne replaced on his old T-600 was the rear suspension – he updated some of the parts, re-bushed it, had the wheel bearings coated with Micro Blue, and then changed the gear ratio to 2:64. In addition to rebuilding the ECM, we at Pittsburgh Power supplied the turbocharger, ported and ceramic-coated exhaust manifold, crankshaft damper, mercury-filled engine balancer, a FASS fuel system, OPS by-pass oil filtration system, Fleet Air filters, a new charge air cooler and a new high-flow radiator. The next and last upgrade DuWayne made during this segment of the make-over was adding super single tires. Now, it was finally time to put that faded old T-600 Kenworth to work.
On his first trip to Texas, grossing 79,000 pounds, DuWayne’s truck averaged 8.3 miles-per-gallon with unlimited speed and power! DuWayne was a happy trucker. And with that kind of mileage, he knew it would not be long before that faded blue KW would earn enough money to continue the rebuild and get that much-needed paint job.
On December 1, 2013, phase two of the rebuild began when DuWayne replaced all of the fuel lines, removed and cleaned each fuel tank, and then installed new rubber liners on the tank straps. He then fabricated a 6-inch exhaust system from the turbo to the performance mufflers. New fairings, brackets and side skirts were added, along with a new stainless steel front bumper. A new windshield, as well as new door seals and felt in the window tracks, were also installed. Next, quarter-inch thick insulation was added to the door panels and the floor to aid in heating, cooling and noise suppression. Last, but not least, new rubber cab mounts and new air bags on the bunk were installed which make this Kenworth with 1,700,000 miles on the odometer dead quiet in the cab – it sounds and feels like a brand new truck.
Well, after installing a remanufactured steering box and a new air compressor on his truck, that faded blue Kenworth finally got its new paint job – it is now painted Harley Davidson Gun Metal Gray. This winter, for the past 12,400 miles, the fuel mileage has dropped to 7.83 because of the cold, windy, snow-covered roads he has been running on (he also admitted that he has been abusing the cruise control a bit), but DuWayne says that when he drives with his right foot the mileage will improve by 6 to 7 tenths mpg, which puts him back up to the 8.3 mpg range. And here is the kicker – the total investment DuWayne has in this beautiful Kenworth, including the $13,500 he paid for the truck, is only $54,862. DuWayne has done most of the work himself, so this does not include any costs for his labor. The next phase of this rebuild will be the interior, and I do not know when that will start.
Do you think DuWayne Ehrke is proud of his truck? You bet he is! Farm boys can do anything – growing up on a farm gives you a good work ethic and a “can-do” attitude. Please, do not ever use the “can’t” word – think of how you want to improve your truck, ask questions, and then just get started with a positive mental attitude. Feel free to stop by our shop in Pennsylvania with your truck and we will give you a wish list of where to start for your truck’s rebuild.
So, hang on to your old iron or buy an older truck and rebuild it yourself. You can have the best of everything – fuel mileage, power and dependability – and all without gaining a new truck payment! If you have any questions, contact me at Pittsburgh Power in Saxonburg, PA at (724) 360-4080 or via e-mail at email@example.com.