The ECM on your truck’s engine resides in one of the harshest environments for electronics to survive. Salt water from the winter roads, high pressure washers, engine fluids and vibration can all wreak havoc on the ECM. Taking care of the ECM is vital to keeping your truck on the road and problem-free.
Recently, a client sent their ECM to us to be programmed and have the RTC battery checked. This ECM was recently programmed and the battery was changed by someone who calls themselves “The King of ECM’s” but something was wrong. The owner didn’t like the way the truck ran, and said that it was having some intermittent issues. He felt that the ECM was to blame – and he was right!
Upon opening the ECM, we found oil and water flooding the inside of it. The previous shop did not re-seal the cover properly, which allowed the containments to enter and caused damage to the circuitry. We were able to repair the damaged circuitry, reprogram the ECM with our “580 hp to the wheels” code, properly reseal the cover, and then return it to the owner operator the very next day.
Contaminants attacking the computer board is a very common problem. When this happens, it will lead to odd and intermittent issues caused by the ECM which can be very hard for the average shop to diagnose. When oil, salt water, diesel fuel and water break through the seal, they leak on to the board and remove the PCB (printed circuit board) conformal coating. The conformal coating is simply a coating that “conforms” to the PCB creating a breathable protective layer to protect the board from foreign elements. When this conformal coating is removed, a thin layer of conductive moisture between the circuits will cause shorts or open circuits, and, eventually, will lead to a complete deterioration of the PCB. Once this happens, the ECM is junk.
Today’s semi-truck is a very complicated piece of equipment with several computers and HVAC (heating and air conditioning) systems, along with a mechanical engine, transmission and drive axles. Yes, even the electronic engines still have many mechanical parts, so when there is a problem, both systems need to be checked – the electronic and mechanical side of the truck. Many of these problems do not surface when the truck is in the shop, so you may have to go back to find the additional problems. This irritates many owner operators, especially those of you who are not mechanically inclined. So, what often happens, the irritated owner operator makes nasty phone calls and/or e-mails, or they get on social media and complain.
Here are two statements I will share with you that pertain to life: “Dear Lord, please make my words sweet, for I may have to eat them tomorrow,” and, “Beware of the toes you step on today, for they may be connected to the ass you need to kiss tomorrow.” Most of the time when we receive the negative phone calls or e-mails, it’s usually a problem created by the person driving or maintaining the truck. Good mechanics take great pride in what they do, however you know your truck the best, and many times you don’t convey the problem (or all of the problems) to the shop preparing to fix your issues. This makes it hard for the shop, any shop, to properly fix your truck.
Truth is, you will get a lot more help from the shop you choose if you speak to them in a gentleman’s way. Kind words never go unnoticed. You know as well as I do, this pertains to everyone you meet during your day’s work, especially to shippers and receivers – they want to be treated with respect, as well, and should, in-turn, treat you the same. That is how life is supposed to work!
Let’s talk a little about turbocharger failures. Keep this in mind: there are only three manufactures of turbochargers in the United States – Holset, Borg Warner and Air Research – and they only warranty a new turbocharger for one year. They are very intelligent people and know what causes a turbo to wear out (dirty oil and shutting off a hot engine are two good examples). They also know when the compressor wheel explodes, it’s usually from over spinning (mashing on the throttle too hard). They also know that when the exhaust wheel or turbine wheel separate from the turbine shaft, the driver has probably been mashing on the throttle too hard with a turned-up engine or getting off the throttle too fast, too many times.
A turbocharger is like an engine – if there was a mistake made during assembly or with the parts installed, it will not survive the first trip. During my 50 years of building engines, gasoline and diesel, if I ever made a mistake during assembly, it usually did not get out of the parking lot. Now, with our engine dyno and chassis dyno, all of our rebuilds are thoroughly tested and broken-in before the truck ever leaves the parking lot. Now it’s your turn. It’s up to you to properly drive and maintain this engine and/or truck.
If we build you a 12.7 Detroit and you lug it (operating below 1,400 RPM), you will build excessive heat in the combustion chamber and burn it up. The heat does not show on the coolant temperature gauge and does not show up as excessive on the pyrometer, so please keep in mind that when working an engine, the higher RPM is actually much easier on the engine, so don’t lug it.
So, what is your best defense against premature engine failure? The CL8 Engine Cleaning System, Filtermags, OPS-1 Oil Filtration System, Fleet Air filters and a FASS fuel system are your best defenses against early engine failure. You must also drive properly, too, and lugging your engine is not acceptable. I don’t care what your salesman tells you about low RPMs – he is not a mechanic and does not have to deal with you when you have a premature failure.
If your truck is a 2003 or newer, you should make it a point to have the engine cleaned internally using the CL8 Engine Cleaning System. You will be surprised as to how much dirt comes out of the engine during the cleaning process and how long the new oil stays clean. Clean is a beautiful thing. Like they say, cleanliness is next to Godliness! If you have any comments or questions, I can reached at Pittsburgh Power in Saxonburg, PA by calling (724) 360-4080 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.