Oil Burning - Diesel Swap guidePosted in How To: Transmission Drivetrain on April 1, 2013
Just think about it…a built Jeep with off-idle, stump-pulling torque on 35s or 37s, pulling down 30 mpg and rolling down the highway at 1,200 rpm. Sounds pretty good doesn’t it? Yeah, we thought so, too. So we rounded up as many of the companies we could find that build diesel-swap kits or do cool diesel engine swaps that you could use for your Jeep.
We managed to find everything from a Kubota engine in a flatfender to Cummins in a FSJs to the almost-required TJ and JK diesel swaps. Now, you are going to ask if they are legal. Well, the bottom line is you will have to do that research yourself. Every state treats swapping a gas engine for a diesel engine differently, so before you go getting out the credit card, check into it.
We’ve also included mileage numbers where we could, so you can get a good idea of real world mileage after the swap. In general, though, whatever you are getting for mileage in your Jeep now, you’ll typically get 1.5 to 2 times better mileage with a diesel swap. Mileage numbers vary greatly from driver to driver and Jeep to Jeep. Will a diesel swap ever pay for itself? Well, if you were on the road every day, then yes, it might eventually pay for itself. But that is not really a great reason to do it.
Unless you get all the parts for free, and do all the work yourself, a diesel conversion isn’t going to be cheap. When you consider many of the engines in this story are $5,000 or more to get a new one, $1,000 for adapters, plus all the associated cooling and plumbing, as well as potential axle or gearing changes necessitated by the diesel engine’s weight and powerband, it’s not a cheap undertaking.
But considering the longevity of most diesel engines, the better mileage, and their operating characteristics, then a swap starts to sound a lot better. For us, it is the combination of the three reasons that we always play with the ideas. For you, here’s a bunch of companies with a lot of different ideas on how to get ’er done.
When we first spoke with the company several years ago, it was just starting to evaluate the feasibility of putting the 3.9L four-cylinder 4BT Cummins in Jeeps and offering kits to let you pull it off. The first one we saw was a TJ Wrangler, but today Jeff Daniels Jeep Customizing offers brackets and kits to put a 4BT in everything from a ’76 CJ to an ’06 Wrangler. The company knows what kind of 4BT you will need to keep your accessories and for best front driveshaft clearance and it has designed its own vibration-isolating engine mounts. While the kits don’t necessarily include a 4BT and/or a transmission, typically the company can source these parts. However, they are located in Pennsylvania, so shipping a 725-pound engine isn’t going to be cheap. Expect around 25-35 mpg, depending on how heavy your Jeep is and how you drive it.
Information: Jeff Daniels Jeep Customizing
Got JK? Want diesel? Bruiser Conversions offers both builders kits and full-on installation of 4BT engines. The kit includes a transmission adapter, throttle pedal assembly, intermediate housing and flywheel, battery tray, correct componentry for your engine, power steering pump and eight-groove drive pulley. The kits also include eight-groove pulleys for your alternator and A/C compressor so that you can reuse the existing parts. The kit is currently intended for ’07-’11 Wranglers and the company even thought to include spacers or springs to level your Jeep back out. The kit doesn’t include wiring, but does include consultation and parts of the kit also work for the ‘97-’06 Wrangler. Also there is always the option to take your Jeep and have the conversion done for you as well. Get high 20 mpg in mixed driving on 37-inch tires.
Information: Bruiser Conversions
If you aren’t sure where to get your Cummins engine, or don’t want to play around in potato chip trucks, ACD Engines might be for you. The company has a staggering array of new Cummins engines in stock. Just about any Cummins you’ve thought of putting between the framerails of your Jeep can be had here (and probably quite a few you haven’t thought of). If that wasn’t enough, the company also has tons of auxiliary parts. In fact, it has everything from transmissions and T-cases to turbos, ECMs, injectors, flywheels, and more.
Information: ACD Engines
We first learned of Mike’s Performance Automotive from our sister magazine, Diesel Power and while the shop doesn’t offer kits, if you are near its Lancaster, California, location, they can certainly provide a conversion like this for you. This clean conversion in a ’93 Wrangler uses a 3.9L 4BT coupled to a TH400 automatic transmission that the owner sourced from a Frito Lay truck. Mike’s Performance got it running and driving reliably. At the time of the photoshoot, the Jeep had the factory 3.08 gears and 33-inch tires and pulled down around 28 mpg in mixed driving.
Information: Mike’s Performance Automotive
Want a diesel-powered Wagoneer? Live near Camarillo, California? Mercenary Offroad can shoehorn a 5.9L 6BT six-cylinder between the frame rails of your FSJ and have it running like it was always there. The installation shown is in an ’84 Wagoneer and used a ’98 engine and 47RE transmission from a Dodge pickup to get the job done. Until the Jeep fires up, you’d never know it had a diesel in it. If you’ve got a ’63-’69 Rhino grille, you will need to choose between your classic schnoz and an intercooler. As it is, the intercooler is pretty tight to the late-model grille on this Wagoneer. And it should get around 25 mpg if you can stay out of the fun pedal.
Information: Mercenary Offroad
Want to build your own diesel Wagoneer with a 4BT under the hood? Not a problem. Call Aaron Reeves Garage and ask about its kit. It includes liquid-filled motor mounts to kill vibration and both engine and frame-side bolt-on mounts with all hardware. Also included is a video installation guide, a transmission crossmember to work with an NV4500, TF727, or 47RH, and a liquid-filled transmission mount. If that wasn’t enough the company will include troubleshooting help for you as you install its parts if you simply shoot a video and submit it. Don’t want to do it yourself? Don’t have a Wagoneer? Not a problem, take your Jeep to the company and it’ll get you burning diesel to the tune of around 30 mpg in no time.
Information: Aaron Reeves Garage
Mercedes Diesel 4x4
It doesn’t matter what transmission your Jeep left the factory with if you go to Koch enterprises. The company produces adapter kits to get from the OM617 five-cylinder to a huge array of factory Jeep transmissions. The list includes AW4, TF909, TF999, and RH32 on the automatic side of things. On the manual side of things, everything from a T-150 and SR4 through a Peugot BA10/5 to an NSG370 transmission is covered and too many others to list here. The kits include a bellhousing adapter, crank adapter, and hardware needed. If you prefer, you can take your Jeep to the company and have the engine installed. They are familiar with CJs, Wranglers, Cherokees, and Comanches. Doing it yourself? Then you will happy to learn that universal engine mounts, exhaust kits, and oil pans are available.
Information: Koch Enterprises
The Mercedes 3.0L OM617 inline five-cylinder diesel engines is considered by many to be the most reliable engine in the world. There are many of the still on the road today with over 500,000 miles on them. Sure, they are somewhat lackluster in the power department with normally aspirated ones only putting down 79hp/125 lb-ft but later turbo models were upped to 125hp/180 lb-ft from the factory and it is said with some minor tuning that 160hp/200 lb-ft is possible. These engines can be found in ’78-’85 Mercedes Benz cars and 4x4 Labs is producing adapters to mate them with GM-sourced transmissions. The kits include the adapter plate, a custom flywheel, a pilot bearing, and required hardware. The company is currently working on other parts.
Information: 4x4 Labs
Northwest Diesel Offroad
Are five cylinders not enough for you? You want six? Well, OK, then. It would help you out if you had a Cherokee, but we suspect any Jeep that originally came with a 232, 258, or 4.0L could easily accommodate the 3.0L or 3.2L inline-six Mercedes diesel. Stock OM606 engines put down anywhere from 134hp/155 lb-ft in normally aspirated form to 174hp/243 lb-ft with a turbo and an intercooler like the one Northwest Diesel Offroad is putting in Cherokees. The company adapts the engine to a GM bellhousing so that it can bolt it to an AX15 manual transmission and customers report around 30 mpg with mixed driving.
Information: North West Diesel Offroad
Got a flatfender and you too want to burn veggie oil? Not a problem. Overland Diesel has it figured out. The company took a Kubota V2003 turbo diesel crate engine and adapted it to the factory T90 and Spicer 18 combination. As of press time, the company is only offering in-house conversions, but it hopes to have kits available by the time you are reading this. The Kubota engines can be found used in Bobcats and generators but can also be found new. The V2003 is a 2.0L inline-four cylinder engine that weighs around 400 pounds and puts down around 60hp/120 lb-ft. Of course, as with all turbo diesels, it is possible to play around with fuel and turbo pressures to make more power.
Information: Overland Diesel
Whether you’ve got a TJ or a JK, Diesel Toys has the turn-key factory-like conversion for you. For JK owners, the company offers 2.8L inline four-cylinder conversions based on the VM Motori “Panther” engine. It is very similar to the engine originally offered ’05 and ’06 Liberty. For you TJ owners, the company uses a 3.0L Toyota 1KTZ-E four-cylinder engine. In stock trim this engine was rated to put out 130hp and 211 lb-ft. For both Jeeps, Diesel Toys offers the conversion with either a manual or an automatic transmission. Both engines were chosen for their performance and drivability (read doesn’t shake you like a paint can) in the platform they are installed in.
Information: Diesel Toys
Burnsville Off Road
If you want a factory-like installation of a regular 2.8L VM Motori engine, just drop your Jeep off at Burnsville Off Road. The company will use all new Jeep parts to convert your JK over so it would be as though it left the factory with that diesel engine you always wanted. It uses factory mounts, intercooler, wiring, modules, clusters and more. It runs and drives great, but don’t expect it to be inexpensive. With price estimates of $40,000, even with 24 mpg highway and 35-inch tires it would be a while before you made your money back. But then, if you just wanted the low-end torque and a hassle-free conversion, Burnsville is the way to go.
Information: Burnsville Off Road
Don’t feel bad, we’d never heard of a Truss Member either. But it is the backbone of HPA Motorsports’ 1.9L PD inline four-cylinder TDI Volkswagen engine conversion. It does two things; first, your factory Jeep A/C, power steering, and alternator attach correctly on the front of the engine. Second, it provides a solid way to mount the engine correctly in the frame through vibration-dampening engine mounts to weld-on frame-side adapters. The kit is available for ’87-’06 Wranglers. Next, the company offers transmission adapters to mate the German mill to your AX5, AX15, NV3550, or NSG370 manual transmission. The tranny adapter kits also include a downpipe, hardware, coolant block-off and relocation adapters and more. If that wasn’t enough, the company has intercooler kits, wiring kits, and offers computer tuning. Mileage will vary greatly depending on how big and heavy your Jeep is but you can expect to be somewhere in the 20-30 mpg range.
Information: HPA Motorsports