Let’s turn the hands of time back to 2003 when the EGR engines first came out. I was probably the first person to write about building glider kits with 2002 or older engines – buying an older truck from 1995 through 2002 and refurbishing it, or keeping your older truck and rebuilding it – because we knew that EGR was going to create a lot of problems with the ingested soot. Here we are, 13 years later, and I must say the new trucks are (finally) getting better. We are seeing less problems out of the EGR, DEF and DPF engines, and the breakdowns are not as frequent.
The biggest problems with the new engines made by Cummins, Detroit and PACCAR are low performance, low torque, and not a lot of throttle response. Now for the good news. The engineers at Pittsburgh Power have been working diligently to improve these engines. We sat down with many owner operators who had purchased the newer equipment and we made a list of all the problems associated with their 2008 and newer engines.
Many of the problems were with “Check Engine” lights and other annoying fault codes. We found that many – in fact almost all – of the “Check Engine” lights were not of a serious nature. When you think about it, if the oil pressure is good, the temperature is cool, the intake air temperature is correct, the turbo boost is right and the alternator is charging, why do you need a “Check Engine” light for all of those hundreds of other little annoying items that can happen as a truck is going down the highway? Well, you don’t!
What we have come up with is a way to make all the other sensors less sensitive, so as to stop constantly tripping a “Check Engine” light. The critical sensors like turbo boost, temperature, and oil pressure we have left stock, because if there is a problem with one of these critical items, we feel that you should know about it as soon as possible. Many of the other problems were variable-geometry turbo related, clogged doser valves, and/or interruptions of the signals telling the DPF when to be regenerated. In fact, many of the problems with the 2008 and newer trucks is the interruption of the signals getting from the sensors to the ECM, and from the ECM back to the related items such as the V-pod, the actuator for the variable-geometry turbo, the doser valve, and the signal of when to regen the DPF.
Another problem we see is the DEF fluid crystallizing around the injector and the atomization plate it sprays on. So, we created an emissions maintenance program that cleans all of the systems involved, to allow the engine to perform as it was engineered. We estimate that this service will need to be done every 200,000 to 250,000 miles, or about four times during the life of the engine between rebuilds.
For our complete service, which includes the engine tune-up, emissions systems cleaning, checking of all the sensors and the signals (to make sure all of the related items are correct), and setting the ECM for performance, fuel mileage and throttle response, takes about 1 to 1-1/2 days. The end result is a fuel-efficient, powerful, responsive truck that is a pleasure to drive. No more “Check Engine” lights for minor things – just the major issues. The only sensors kept at stock (sensitive) are the most important things that keep the engine running. After performing these services, we have seen gains of up to 150 hp and 400 pound-feet of torque on the 2012 to current engines, while remaining emissions compliant and legal in all 50 states.
Now, you can have a new (or almost new) Class-8 truck that you are proud to drive, because it will run as good as (or better) and be much cleaner than your older truck. The very first semi-truck to receive this new program and emissions cleaning process is a local western Pennsylvania W900L Kenworth powered by an ISX Cummins. This truck runs western Pennsylvania, West Virginia and western Maryland every day and, since January 2016, it has been operating trouble-free with zero “Check Engine” lights. All of the emissions systems are working properly, and the horsepower is in the 650 range, along with 2,000 pound-feet of torque. We are having the same success with the DD15 Detroit (we have not had the PACCAR engine in to perform the emissions cleaning and tuning process yet). In the very near future, we may be able to help you with your Mack engine and, hopefully, your Volvo engine, as well. However, the Volvo engines require a lot of specialty tuning, so they will probably be the last engine to get our help.
Many of you know that we are setting up “remote tuning” sites throughout North America – we currently have eight sites operating. If you cannot make it out to western Pennsylvania, we will now be able to help you at one of these eight remote locations spread out across the nation. For the name and phone number of the location nearest you, call our shop at (724) 360-4080. If you have a small or medium-sized fleet of trucks and would like to become a remote tuning location for us, please feel free to give us a call. Any truck shop that does engine work that is interested in being a remote tuning and repair facility for Pittsburgh Power, can now give us a call and get set up today!
For years I advocated staying away from the newer engines, for good reasons, but now, after all these years, things are getting better. Thanks in part to the manufacturers themselves, with a little help from us at Pittsburgh Power, we are finally seeing some light at the end of the tunnel. If you have any comments or questions, I can always be reached at Pittsburgh Power in Saxonburg, PA at (724) 360-4080 – or, you can visit www.pittsburghpower.com for more details about all our parts and services.
EDITOR’S NOTE: We’d like to thank Brad Russell of Tulare, CA for providing the cool overpass/tunnel picture for this article.