Our second truck camping truck was a 1998 Ram 3500 12-valve Cummins diesel. We purchased the Ram diesel truck in 2007 for the express purpose of converting it to run on vegetable oil.
That experiment worked well in the short run, but proved to be a mistake in the long run. The vegetable oil was very difficult to source and had a bad habit of stressing various components of the engine. About a year after the conversion, we abandoned the dream of driving on grease, tied off the system, and went back to diesel.
In the five years that followed, we took that truck to some of the most experienced diesel mechanics in the United States for advice on how to properly care for it. After scolding us on the grease conversion, they helped us bring the 12-valve Cummins back to full strength.
One of the suggested diesel care tips we heard time and time again from experienced mechanics was the use of various diesel additives. Specifically, there were diesel fuel additives to boost cetane levels and clean injectors, and diesel tank additives to prevent algae growth when the truck was sitting.
Per the advice we received, we always filled our diesel tank and added an algae defeating additive before storing our truck for the winter. We also made sure to drive the truck at least once every 7-10 days when temperatures dropped below freezing. This routine worked well helping to keep the truck going through the winter, and preventing algae growth.
We also used various fuel tank additives for cleaning the engine when we were traveling. We did not have a preferred additive brand or type and likely put a half-dozen varieties in the tank over the years. We also didn’t track fuel mileage or performance as our goal was to just keep the engine running properly.
In the end, the diesel engine required more routine maintenance and repairs than we cared to endure. Had we been skilled in diesel service, or interested in learning diesel service, the truck would have been perfect. As a couple living in a HOA community that would not allow such activities, and having a growing magazine to run, it was time to sell the truck. In 2012, the truck went to a very excited young mechanic who knew exactly what he was getting into, and couldn’t believe his luck. Neither could we.
Obviously, a newer diesel truck that wasn’t once tortured with a grease conversion would not have such a sorry story to tell. In general, newer diesel trucks run more efficiently, more reliably, and quieter than older diesel trucks. Then again, they can cost $60,000 or more. As they say, not everything new is better.
This week’s Question of the Week harks back to the issue of fuel additives. Charlie Coushaine, a diesel truck owner himself, sent in the following:
“We have an older 2001 Ford F350 diesel designed for diesel fuel that had sulfur embedded for lubrication. However, based on new environmental regulations for fuel, the sulfur has been removed and corn oil, up to 20%, has been added. Neither of these makes my engine run better, or quieter. What do others with older diesel engines use as an additive to keep their engines running clean and quiet?”
We are going to open this question up a little further to include as many truck owners as possible. This week’s Question of the Week is, “Do you use a fuel additive for your truck camping truck?”
Owners of older trucks, newer trucks, diesel trucks, and gas trucks can answer. Just make sure to include an exact description of your truck and engine with your answer.
As a side note, we have written extensively about our personal preference for gas trucks. For those of us who do not tow heavy toys or trailers, or insist on blasting up mountains at top speed, there are many well researched reasons (aka your wallet) to consider a gas truck. We love ours.