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4x4 Diesel Truck Tech - Ali's Smoke House

Diesel Dilemma

David KennedyPhotographerAli MansourWriter

From The Time The Glow Plugs heat up to the last clanking compression cycle of the engine, everything about a diesel just feels right. It reminds me of a family trip I took many years ago along a rural stretch of I-40. We were heading back from a weekend trip at the beach when we began to lose electrical power in our '89 6.2L diesel Blazer. I will never forget the calmness in my father's voice as he simply asked me if I wanted my window up or down for the next two hours. This completely blew me away as everything I thought I knew about cars came to a screeching halt. How could you drive a vehicle with no battery power, no alternator, and nothing electrical, period? It may have been that moment in time when I realized that owning a diesel meant more than just filling up from a different pump. It meant dependability.

Although the days of V-belts and self-sustaining diesels are long gone, my love for them is not. And even though I dearly miss the simplistic nature of the diesel engines that I grew up wrenching on, I do feel that all the electronic nannies that come with the modern diesel may be the very equipment that will save us from ourselves. Historically diesels have been known for two things, massive torque and superior engine life when compared to most gas engines (many operating daily with more than 500,000 miles on the clock). So it's no surprise that once the American engineers figured out how to quiet the rattle and refine the power of the diesel, every truck lover in this country became an overnight diesel enthusiast.

Unfortunately many have gone on to create a world of smoke-filled hot-rod diesels that have caught the eyes of activists on both sides of the environmental fence. Even with modern engine controls and complex turbo systems, we're still smoking worse than the old trucks that once chugged up and down our Interstates.

Now, I'm not slamming all you diesel thumpers for your smoky love, because truth be told, even with my larger-than-stock ATS turbo, my Dodge still smokes more than I would like when I turn up the juice.

Currently I see a future where the diesel segment splits into two distinct groups; one that buys the diesel for its performance potential and the other who owns it for the famed endurance and longevity. As many of you may know, there is more energy in diesel fuel than any other fuel on the planet and what you plan to do with all that stored energy is entirely up to you. My suggestion is this: If you want to crank up the power, do it wisely. With performance upgrades such as compound turbos, handheld programmers, and comprehensive data loggers, the technology is there, but it isn't always cheap. For most of us the diesel power game is fun, but having a truck that can live longer with fewer problems is what owning a diesel was once all about.