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Diesel Tow Rig Maintenance & Upgrades

1999 Ford F 350 Towing Mud Buggy
Chris Hamilton
| Brand Manager, Mud Life
Posted January 20, 2014

Get Every Last Mile Out of Your Diesel Motor

You could call it a downside, but the fact is the bigger our toys get, the larger the tow rigs have to be, and tow rigs can get very expensive. Owning a big ol’ mud buggy or mega truck is unbelievably fun—especially when you are cruising around a 500-acre mud park and surrounded by 10,000 crazy partiers. However, getting your toy to and from the event can be a struggle. Since we are on a really tight budget we jumped on Craigslist and asked some buddies. Then we came across a smokin’ deal on this ’99 Ford F-350 dualie, which will fit our towing needs perfectly.

For $3,000 we basically stole this Power Stroke hauler and added it to the Mud Life fleet. The 7.3L diesel engine is a proven workhorse of a motor. Now we have a capable tow vehicle that needs a lot of TLC, so we cleaned her up and jumped on the web to order maintenance parts and new fluids. This rig has run nearly 300,000 miles already, and with a little love we think we can squeeze at least another 100,000 our of her. We have no idea how long this truck has been sitting around, so we changed all the fluids including the engine oil, transmission fluid, coolant, and gear oil just to be safe.


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When it came time to order our lubricants, we decided on Amsoil again because of the brand’s proven technology and because we’ve noticed good performance and protection in our rigs. Since this is a factory turbocharged diesel motor, synthetic is a good choice to prevent soot contamination in the block. The Amsoil synthetic diesel oil also creates lower burn-off vapor than petroleum-based oils, which keeps the temperature lower and creates fewer emissions.

As we went through the truck we found a number of small problems, but overall the truck was mechanically sound. The cab, however, looks as if a couple of feral hogs lived in it. We will fix that in a later issue. For now, we drop the rig off at Pela Motorsports for some regular maintenance and a few bolt-on upgrades.

Most of these big diesel trucks are hard on the power steering pump, and this one was no different. So the first thing Stephen Harden at Pela Motorsports did is replace the old one with a new pump from the local parts store. It’s amazing how little things like a new steering pump can make old truck seem new again.

Next we started working on the Ford’s intake and aspiration. The old air filter was dirty as hell, and factory intakes are almost always restrictive and power robbing. To solve this problem, we bolted in a Pela Motorsports branded intake, which uses an S&B filter. This kit is designed to bolt directly into the factory location and comes with a new battery rack. S&B says its filter provides 43.6 percent better airflow than the stock filter, which hopefully equals more power and torque.

Opening up the truck’s exhaust system is also important for better performance, so we asked Kelly Robertson at Pela Motorspots to show us some options. She quickly recommended Kenny at KT Performance who is quickly becoming popular for his line of DIY bolt-in stack kits for diesel trucks. These MBRP turbo-back exhaust systems eliminate the factory catalytic converter and lower the exhaust gas temperatures for increased horsepower and torque. (It is advised that state emissions regulations be checked before this modification is made.) Finally, a quick Pela Motorsports computer tune using Sniper software adjusted all the fuel ratios and we were ready to move to the next step of our diesel tow rig build.

Step By Step

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  • A quick spray of Simple Green will break up most of the grease and oil after a few minutes. We do not recomend using pressue cleaner in your engine bay so we rinsed it with a standard garden hose.

  • Now that Kelly has the keys, we can sit back and watch the crew at Pela Motorsports transform this old worn-out puller into a badass diesel tow rig built to go anywhere at anytime.

  • With the truck on the lift, Tony Crease started changing the fluids on this 300,000 mile motor. We checked for any corrosion or milky white fluids in the old oil. This is a sure sign of water in the block.

  • We ordered a pair of Yellowtop high-performance Optima batteries so we never have to worry about being stranded anywhere in the middle of the country. These will give us plenty of power to run winche or other aftermarket parts.

  • Amsoil sent us 15w-40 diesel oil, synthetic automatic transmission fluid, synthetic power steering fluid, and their antifreeze engine coolant.

  • These high-milage engines can perform as well as a late model truck if the motor is maintained well.

  • Inexpensive fluids may seem like a good idea at the time but you will pay the price later on in the life of your rig.

  • The Pela crew quickly removed the factory intake and battery rack.

  • The new intake is installed with a new battery rack and our Optima batteries are set in place. This upgrade will give our motor less restriction when trying to suck air into the motor.

  • Using a 15mm socket, Stephen Harden and Tony Crease from Pela Motorsports removed the factory exhaust v-band clamp located behind the catalytic converter.

  • Next he can lift the truck in the air and cut the downpipe with a sawzaw for easy removal. (Mechanic note: Be sure to cut the pipe before removing the rubber hangers)

  • The new downpipe is installed from under the truck on the passenger side with the flared end towards the turbo.

  • The kit is designed to use all the factory hanger mounts.

  • Now Tony can trace a hole on the bed floor around the T-pipe before using a 5-inch hole saw to cut the opening. (Note: Before cutting anything, always check under the body of your rig for anything the blade might hit.)

  • Next step is to set the T-pipe assembly in the hole and commit to a desired height for the stacks. Once the stacks are loosely mounted to the brackets we can lift the truck back into the air and finish the connections.


Superior, WI 54880
MBRP Exhaust
Optima Batteries
Milwaukee, WI 53209
Pela Motorsports
KT Performance