This week we had an owner-operator in the shop with his Kenworth W900. It was a long wheelbase, big sleeper version with a vintage paint scheme that would have been popular in the 1970’s. Glossy black with orange and maroon stripes stretch the length of the cab. We rarely see these paint schemes anymore. The owner-operator told me that him and his wife hand picked the colors themselves because they wanted a new truck with a vintage look. Most of us in the shop agreed, it’s a timeless and classy look and we would like to see more of it!
Kenworth, in fact, still does offer three color paint from the factory through their Custom Truck Sales Department. There are dozens of different stripe combinations and hundreds of color choices. Popular schemes you may remember are Jetstream, Scottsdale, Fury, Comanche, and Seminole. In a day and age when many of the custom trucks choose a monochromatic paint scheme, these paint schemes really stand out. If you’re ordering a new truck, or repainting an old one, take some inspiration from the vintage trucks of the 1970’s.
Pittsburgh Power Inc.
The Big Cam IV engines are great to work with, especially the later 88 NT’s. The only problem these engines have is the low flow cooling system. They can easily overheat in demanding situations, particularly in the summer heat.
Peter Sharp, Vice President of Pittsburgh Power, has been working with the Big Cam Cummins for over 30 years. He highly recommends that you revert the low flow system back to the high flow system used on all Small Cam and Big Cam I, II, and III engines. We at Pittsburgh Power can convert the low flow cooling system back to full flow. If you have an early Big Cam IC this can be done with used parts off a Big Cam II or III and a new radiator or water pump.
If you have the new Big Cam IV or 88 NT, you will have to also buy a new front water manifold section and thermostat housing. If your radiator core is good and you know a competent radiator shop, they should be able to reuse your core and install new tanks and save you some money. We will ensure you have all the parts needed to convert your low flow engine to full flow.
Regardless of the horsepower output of the engine, the high-flow system that Cummins used through 1985 worked superbly. We never experienced high water temperature so long as the radiator, water pump, and radiator cap were functioning properly. Pittsburgh Power has the complete kit available.
Pittsburgh Power Inc.
It’s now time to buy a new truck if you so desire. It’s been 15 years since the EGR engines came out and the OEM engineers have the Diesel Particulate Filter and the Diesel Exhaust Fluid working well. The first item to install on the new Cummims or Detroit engines is the “Dorothy”, then at 250,000 miles come in for the Diesel Force foam cleaner to maintain the emissions system. By emptying the soot out of the bottom canister of the “Dorothy” your new diesel engine will run up to your expectations, just as good or better than the 1995 through 2002 electronic engines. I never thought I would make that statement, after-all I was the first person to recommend building glider kits with 2002 and older engines in 2003. EGR soot was disastrous to diesel engines, causing many failures of engines by 220,000 miles. Then the fiasco in 2008 with the Diesel Particulate Filter, if EGR wasn’t bad enough, now there is an ultra-tight filter muffler stopping exhaust flow. More problems, and 3 years later there is DEF, Diesel Exhaust Fluid. Wow, what a nightmare trying to keep these engines running. My hat is off to the OEM engineers, they didn’t give up, they keep perfecting the after-treatment and now it works quite well. We at Pittsburgh Power knew the soot was bad and came up with a way to clean the entire intake, EGR system, and sensors. This was a 2-day process, however, it keeps the emissions systems working like new. Then we invented the “Dorothy”, and now most of the soot is removed from the EGR gasses and the DEF consumption is decreased by 30%. Fuel mileage improves, along with performance. When the engine doesn’t have to burn soot, the horsepower increases. There is something special about purchasing a brand new truck, being the first person to drive and maintain it, now with the advances that have been made with the after treatment, you can be comfortable driving a new truck knowing you will make it to your destination.
Pittsburgh Power Inc.
Truck Fires, we try not to think about them or the devastating damage they can cause an owner-operator. We recently had a very nice Peterbilt with a CAT C-15 in the shop that could have been burnt to the ground from an electrical short if the battery had not been disconnected in time. Thankfully none of the damage reached the engine, or any other part of the truck. Unfortunately, the owner will have to replace wiring and damaged batteries.
The cause if this incident were two battery cables had been rubbing together inside the battery box. Vibrations overtime caused enough friction to wear through thin insulation. Eventually the insulation wore off and caused a short, burning the wiring harness that ran through the truck.
The takeaway here is it’s a good idea to check your battery box periodically and make sure the cables and wires are properly insulated. If you’re installing accessories running off of battery power, make sure you have it done correctly using a fuse and the proper gauge wire. Check that your wires are not getting too close to moving objects, sharp objects, or objects that heat up like the exhaust or turbo. Electrical shorts are the most common cause of truck fires so keep an eye on those wires!
Wednesday, July 18th two-hundred Ford Model T’s rumbled into the parking lot and overflowed onto our lawn. The Model T Ford Club International (MTFCI) stopped by on their 2018 tour, a week long tour of historic western PA. We were delighted to give them a tour of the shop and our facilities. We even met a few retired diesel mechanics who were impressed with the technology in these new trucks and how our shop is keeping up with the advancements made in tuning and performance.
Walking out of the building there was almost every year and variation of Model T imaginable. From early models with brilliant brass radiators and carbide headlamps, to fully restored show cars, to original and unrestored cars with patina and cracking paint. There was even a Ford Model TT 1-ton truck with a flatbed car carrier in the back. This was not the first heavy duty truck, but was one of the most popular and affordable trucks available to the mass market. There was even a semi-trailer version. These trucks have the same 20 horsepower engine as the cars, but with a heavier chassis and suspension. In order to carry one ton of weight with only 20 horsepower, extremely low gears had to be used. It had either a 7.25:1 or a 5.17:1 rear end and a top speed of about 25 MPH with the later. We’ve certainly coming a long way now that stock trucks are making between 500 and 600 HP.
It was also nice to see these people actually using their cars as they were intended to be used. Carla, a long time Model T owner once drove her 1924 car from New York to Seattle, only taking back roads due to the 45 MPH top speed of the T. They managed to make the trip in the 100 year old car with zero breakdowns and only one flat tire. The reliability of these cars is amazing.
It was also interesting to see how Model T owners are modifying their cars to make them run better and be more reliable. Not all that different to what we do here at Pittsburgh Power. Some common upgrades are rear disk brakes, 12 volt ignition systems, aluminum pistons, and performance cams. All while keeping the same look and feel of the original car.
Pittsburgh Power Inc.
OLD SCHOOL TRUCKING, on June 25, 2018 a new Western Star pulled into our shop and I had to go and see this beautiful purple truck. A 78-year-old owner-operator climbed out of the cab and his name was Charles Cowdrey. What I thought was a brand-new truck turned out to be a 1999 Western Star that he paid $13,000 for. The story is much deeper, you see Charles had another ‘99 Western Star powered with a 60 Series Detroit using the Pittsburgh Power exhaust manifold, 15% larger turbocharger, torsional damper and mercury filled engine balancer, and the Pittsburgh Power computer. This 12.7-liter engine produces 763 horsepower on level 2 of the power box so needless to say, horsepower was not an issue. Charles’s grandson was driving the Western Star on I-85 in Durham, N.C. when a tree that was 2 feet in diameter fell on the truck at 70 miles per hour. I’ll bet his grandson never saw that one coming! The tree hit the hood and then the passenger side of the cab demolishing the truck. Branches of the tree ripped the oil drain plug out of the oil pan and the grandson shut off the engine as soon as he got to the side of the highway. No damage to the Detroit Diesel. Now Charles and his grandson are truck-less and being he has only been driving a truck for 60 years, he is not finished. (Charles’s first truck was a 1958 Ford F-1000 powered by a 534 cubic inch gasoline engine.) The insurance company gave him $26,000 for his demolished Western Star, he then bought it back from the insurance company for $6,000. His search for another Western Star took him to the state of Indiana where he purchased the purple 1999 Western Star for $13,000. He sold the seats, engine, transmission, differentials, tires, and wheels for $10,000. Then he took the parts form his wrecked Star and installed them into the purple Star and off to the paint shop it goes. As you can see the result is phenomenal! He fooled me, I thought it was a brand new Western Star!
A piece of history left me today, something that I have owned and cherished for 47 years, a vehicle that changed my life when I was 22 years old. A silver 1966 Corvette Coupe that had 19,000 miles on the odometer when I purchased it in 1971. The mechanical knowledge I gained from building this car made me a champion at Autocross and SCCA Solo 1 road racing. Nelson Ledges Road Course, a 2.3-mile circuit, was my home track and in 1973 I set the track record which held until 1979. I was told NOT to build this Corvette for the Race Prepared Class. They said I was too young, too poor, and certainly did not have the driving experience. I will admit that I was young and didn’t have much money, however, I was working a day job in Traffic and Transportation, and in the evenings I was rebuilding wrecked Corvettes. As for driving, what my critics didn’t know was that I loved speed; the faster I could get a Corvette to go, the happier I was. Those of you who know the terrain in Western Pennsylvania realize that most of our roads are two-lane country, hilly, with plenty of curves. Back then I was mastering the art of 4-wheel drifting. My first time racing the 66 Corvette at Nelson’s Ledges I finished 2nd out of 144 Corvettes. I only had 1 person to beat, and that happened in 1973 when I set the track record.
Life is amazing, many of us go through life being told “You can’t do that,” “You can’t build high performance diesel engines for truckers,” “You can’t take a Big Cam 400 Cummins and produce 800 horsepower and expect it to live.” The list goes on and on. The most recent one, “You can’t pilot a boat to the Bahamas, you have never been out of sight of land on a boat. You have never had a class on reading a chart and navigating a larger boat, and it’s only you and Debbie. You can’t do that!” Well, Debbie and I did it last summer. Maybe someday people will quit telling me “I can’t do that.” In the meantime, I’ll continue to do what others say can’t be done.
In-Chassis rebuilds on older engines; we always try to do an in-chassis rebuild vs. an out of chassis because of the time element and the added expense. However, this past week two Caterpillar engines came into our shop for in-chassis rebuilds, and during the disassembly of the engines the main bearing caps fell out of the engine block. The main bearing caps are an interference fit and should be snug in the block. When they are loose the engine must be removed from the truck, completely disassembled, and the block and crankshaft must be sent to the machine shop. Sometimes a new main bearing cap is machined and fitted to the block, other times a small bead of weld is applied to the main bearing cap, then machined to once again be snug in the engine block. Once all of the bearing caps are tight, the crankshaft bore is then machined and the deck surface of the block is also machined. Next, the crankshaft is magnafluxed, straightened, and polished. Once the crankshaft is placed in the new main bearings, main bearing caps tightened to the proper torque, a man can turn the 400 pound crankshaft with one hand. At that point you know the machine work was properly performed.
There is another way to tell if the line bore in the block is OK without removing the engine from the chassis, and that is by a visual inspection of the bottom half of the main bearings. The wear across the bearing should be equal on both sides. If copper and the majority of the wear is on one side of the bearing than the line bore is out and the block must be removed from the truck and sent off to a good machine shop. The positive outcome is the Owner-Operator ends up with a great engine, maybe even better than when it was new. Unfortunately, the cost increases by about $12,000. A Signature rebuild on a Caterpillar 3406-E or C-15 with all of the performance parts we have to offer is about $38,000 plus the labor to remove and replace the engine back into the truck. Once the engine is out, now is the time to replace cab mounts, fuel lines, air lines, and brake lines. Total cost for all of the parts and labor can reach $45,000. The fuel mileage improvement over a stock engine will be 1.5 miles per gallon, which in turn will pay for the rebuild in about 2.5 years. It pays to have great credit, set aside 10 cents per mile into a maintenance account, have high limits on a few credit cards, or be good friends with your banker. The cost of parts and labor increases each year, I sure hope your freight rates do also.
Written by: Bruce Mallinson
Tires slinging mud and smoke, engines spinning at their limits, stacks spewing great black clouds of dust and flames, and massive crowds cheering, the first ever Onaway Speedway Great Lakes Big Rig Challenge was a success. The event included a Quebec style drag race and a show n’ shine for the trailer queens. The freshly built track was an 1/8th mile uphill run. Driver’s would be pulling over 60,000 pounds of lumber up the incline to the finish. It’s safe to say most of the spectators and participants had a marvelous time despite some difficult conditions.
The weather was quite a challenge. A cold front Saturday brought with it a heavy downpour for most of the day turning the grounds into a muddy mess. This not only made it difficult for the fans having to trudge through the soupy mess, but the drivers had to navigate a thick muddy pit in order to access the drag strip. Thankfully, Sunday brought the sun and warmth, but mud was still causing traction issues for the drivers. The only solution was massive 8 wheel burnouts to clean off the tires (to the delight of the spectators)
It was fascinating to see a range of different setups competing together on the track. The engine of choice for most participants would be the CAT 6NZ or similar while there were a healthy number of Detroit power plants, both 12.7 and 14 liter. Most of the drivers were running our performance parts on their trucks. Class C trucks were bone stock while the majority of participants were running in class B which allowed minor modifications including a non-stock turbo and Powerbox. Class A contenders were highly modified with turbos peeking through grills and hoods.
Running these trucks at their physical limits means quite a few trucks suffered from mechanical complications. A number of trucks broke driveshafts and U-Joints including Diesel Freak’s white and blue Kenworth. Fortunately, they were able to get the truck fixed for the next day white others were not as lucky. Khaggs Trucking #100 Freightliner suffered from power loss to the ECM on Sunday, ending their day early. The majority of trucks were able to return home under their own power.
In addition to the racing, there was a healthy showing of show trucks on the track oval. Everything from a ‘bagged’ Peterbilt, vintage Kenworths, and even a Smokey and the Bandit tribute truck complete with the stagecoach mural on the trailer. The youngsters enjoyed the carnival rides while the racing fans learned about the cutting edge of truck performance technology from the vendors in the pitts. Many came to look at the display engines and learn about our innovations such as the Dorothy EGR cleaner and see our selection of performance oriented exhaust manifolds, mufflers, and turbos. We look forward to the return of the Great Lakes Big Rig Challenge in 2019 and hope to see similar events around the US in the coming years.
Pittsburgh Power would like to welcome Brian Moan as our new Shop Foreman.
Brian has been with the company since May, 1989. Prior to becoming shop foreman, he had been the head mechanic for approximately 18 years.
Brian started out in the pump room and worked his way up from there to mechanic to shop foreman all within the same company. Brian is dedicated to the company's success and will go out of his way to provide excellent service to every customer.
John Walko, who was our Shop Foreman, has moved to head up our New Product Development and Engineering Team to bring you new technology like the Dorothy Tornadic ERG Cleaner
Many of the articles compiled here where written by Bruce Mallinson. Attribution to other contributors is given in the specific articles.