Diesel Tow Rig Maintenance & Upgrades

Get Every Last Mile Out of Your Diesel Motor

Chris HamiltonPhotographer, Writer

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.

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.

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