Shop Talk

Tips to keep your pickups in tip-top shape


By Steve Temple



“They saw me comin’!” is a typical reaction to getting taken advantage of in a business transaction.

Well, when it comes to filling up at the pump, not only did they see us comin’, they called for us. But that doesn’t mean you don’t have some alternatives to squeeze more miles out of every gallon of gas.

We’ve seen a number of wild claims about various mileage extenders, so we’re naturally a bit suspicious, and won’t put anything in print until we’ve actually tested it ourselves, or obtained documentation from independent sources.

Here are a couple items I have first-hand experience with that do improve mpg:

Injection Protection

We’ve heard a number claims from Prolong about its lubricants for both engine and transmissions, along with its fuel additives. So we asked a tile and cleaning contractor we know to test Prolong’s fuel injector cleaner in his 2008 Ford F-250.

He’d been ­seeing a drop in fuel economy, but after trying just a couple bottles of the fuel injector cleaner, he noticed a 1/2- mpg gain towing on his regular route from Reno to Lake Tahoe (a climb of about 4,000 feet).

The right combination of engine and drivetrain modifications can bring unexpected gains in fuel economy.

Prolong claims its Fuel Injector Cleaner (available for both gas and diesel) removes carbon deposits on injector tips and intake valves, restoring the factory spray pattern and efficient operation.

So if your rig feels like it’s draggin’ its wagon, a bottle or two might give it some new life and boost your mileage too. We can’t vouch for ProLong’s other products at this time, but we’ll let you know if we find any other obvious firsthand benefits.


Cummins MPG Boosters

Speaking of mileage extenders, we checked with another owner of a working pickup, Rene (pronounced Renny) Semple of Sangudo, Alberta, northwest of Edmonton. Semple builds roadbeds on the frozen tundra for oil companies for a living and tows a 35-foot travel trailer with his ‘06 one-ton Ram when the family goes on vacation.

When new, Rene’s 3500 Ram was reasonably efficient for a stock rig, running about 17mpg when empty. Now his Ram’s digital display shows mpg in the upper 20s.

His truck runs an NADP 450 Heavy Hauler 450 series automatic ( with a billet input shaft, crisper-shifting valve body and 1,700rpm stall-speed torque converter.

That upgrade, alone, was good for an immediate gain of three to four mpg, he says.

The next bump up in mileage of two to three mpg came from a Smarty computer module, with adjustments to the fuel pressure, torque management and timing.

Semple sets the fuel pressure at Level I, torque at Level II (for better grunt off the line and towing the trailer), and timing at Level III. He’s convinced the latter is one of the most important aspects.

On the hard parts side, the ATS exhaust manifold and Silver 62 turbo from Industrial Injection gave him another couple miles per gallon.

The turbo runs lower boost than the factory unit (37 versus 42 pounds), but pushes more air.

The remaining mpg gains come from the fluids flowing in the Mag Hytec pans for the diff, tranny and transfer case: Amsoil 75W-90 in the diffs and 5W-30 in the engine.

He also adds NADP fuel conditioner, for more cetane and lubricity, and Power Up’s NNL 690 oil treatment.

We figured Semple’ $10,000 in upgrades will pay for themselves in fuel savings in about 90,000 miles, assuming diesel is running $4/gallon.

Many of those upgrades will likely increase the longevity of the engine and transmission as well.

We’ll be revisiting this subject of mile-extenders on a regular basis in future columns.



Transfer Case Fix


GM transfer cases on ’98 through 2007, 1500 through 3500 – model 136, 146, 246, 261, 261HD, 263HD, 263XHD, and 261XHD – use a plate for a fluid pump that tends to eat away at the ­housing, according to Tim Anderson at T&A Performance ( Anderson recommends using a beefier plate from Merchant Automotive ( to correct this problem.




Coolant Conditioner


Cavitation erosion, caused when very small air bubbles form and then implode damaging the surfaces of the water jacket, is a problem common in diesel engines.

The cause is subject to some debate, but the result is not: small holes that can eventually lead to cracking the heads.

Several additives are available that provide a protective coating. Some products consist of nitrite or borate salt, while others use a carboxcylic/fatty acid type of inhibitor.

The latter lasts longer and does a better job of corrosion/erosion control. It also acts as a lubricant to the life of the water pump seal.

Here’s another tip: Use a coolant that contains the correct additives for diesels. NAPA Kool is one choice. Mobil Delvac Extended Life Coolant/Antifreeze is another. But you can also use a Wix filter 24071; this filter not only disperses the conditioner more evenly, but also captures debris in the coolant to extend water pump longevity. – SCT






Getting Clipped


If your Ford HUI diesel is hard to start when hot, or doesn’t turn over at all, look for an injector leak, either on the 7.3L or more typically seen on the 6.0L. A bad O-ring is a likely source of the problem. But the real culprit to troubleshoot here is a broken C-clip inside the injector body.





Reader Tip:


Bed Stiffeners


Years ago, as the bed metal thinned and the bed’s rim weakened, we started using what ironworkers and fitters call a “bent.” We use 10ga., miter the corners and galvanize it. We run the material all the way around the bed. The rack and/or toolboxes are then mounted to or in conjunction with this fabrication assembly.

If the pickup has a headache rack, we add interior support vertical legs to a horizontal piece that rests on the bottom front of the bed. Forces on the bed’s rim L metal are then transmitted to the bottom of the bed thus keeping the front outer corners in the “less likely to bend and crack” condition. – Robert Dorazio, General Contractor, Avila Beach, CA