Project Powerstroke

As I have stated before I drive a big ugly (for now) diesel pickup. My truck is a crew cab 1996 Ford F-350 with almost 400,000 miles on it. When I got the truck it was not intended to be my daily driver, but a change of occupation has left we without the company service vehicle that I drove home for the previous 11 years. So with that many miles on the truck and the new need to drive it daily I was faced with the decision to either improve the current vehicle or replace it with something else. Living on one income, being just down right stubborn, and possessing the compulsion to tinker, the decision was made to keep the current vehicle for now and make the most out of it.

The truck was starting to smoke a lot and the worn out stock fuel injectors were to blame. I guess 400k miles is about all those cheap injectors are good for (kidding). So with this in mind it appeared as though it needed fuel injectors, which on these trucks is an expensive proposition. I ended up stumbling onto a Craig’s List ad for a complete and running truck for about the same price as the injectors that I needed, and as I was fairly confident that I would be able to sell the rest of the parts off the truck for the purchase price of the whole vehicle, and the deal showed the promise of giving me a bunch of free parts for my big bad (ugly) ride. A little lobbying to my loving wife, a trip to look at the truck, a trip to the bank, and I drove the truck home. The decision was made then and there to swap the (relatively) lower mileage engine (260,000) into my truck. I say low l=mileage because these engines have been known to survive 500,000 miles plus without an overhaul when they are well maintained.

Heart transplant donor in the foreground, recipient in the background.

The very same day as it arrived at my shop, I pulled it into the shop and started the process of tearing it down.

Then about a week later, out came the engine.

This was the goal of the entire project:

Behold the mighty International Navistar T444E Diesel V-8 (aka Powerstroke 7.3)

This engine weighs about half a ton (literally around 1,000 pounds by itself). Once the engine was out of the truck, I scrapped out a few more items from the rolling chassis and then the truck was pushed out of the shop and parked outside. At this point, some time elapsed while I sold a variety of parts off the truck to fund the next stage of the swap. A new fuel pump was installed onto the engine, all the o-ring seals in the fuel system were replaced, the oil pan was removed, refinished and then re-sealed and installed. A modification to the turbo system was performed and some other repairs and modifications were performed while the engine was out of the truck and everything was easy to reach.

This is where the story get’s a little ridiculous by most people’s opinon. I had some vacation time to use up so I took time off work to perform the swap. Yes, that’s right I took a “stay-cation” so I could do an engine swap on my 16 year old truck. My truck is my daily driver so without it, our family was down to one vehicle making it difficult to coordinate schedules. I enjoy this type of work and it is my only practical hobby, so I felt good about taking the time off. I ended up having 5 days off in a row to get everything done. Plenty of time right? We shall see…

So into the shop goes my truck which we have affectionately named “Bullwinkle” and off comes the hood and front end.

This rusty front section is called the core support because it supports the radiator core. Pretty much the whole front end of the truck is built off this piece. I knew that the core support on my truck was rusted badly and was in need of repair or replacement, so in advance of the swap I had repaired the one from the donor truck and prepped it for installation. Eventually out came the engine and the engine bay, repaired core support and frame were coated with a rustproofing agent called POR15.

More work was needed as at this point it was Saturday night and I was to return to work on Monday. Finally, late Sunday night it cam to life!

Pay no attention to the tribal blessing of the truck that is happening inside the bed and in the back of the truck during that video. It is a complex ritual of celebration that involves the use of an ice scraper, interpretive dance, and three young arbiters of automotive goodwill.

The deadline was pretty narrow, but before bedtime on Sunday night I had the truck back together and had road tested the “new” engine.

As of the writing of this post, it has been almost exactly 4 months since this swap. Since then I have sold enough parts off the donor truck to pay for its purchase price, buy all the parts and supplies for the swap, and buy some parts for the continuing “restoration” of my truck. I will likely sell a few more parts off the truck and then scrap what ever is left.

I just thought you all might like to see a small success story of what can be done when you lay out a plan, have the tools and resources to do the job and aren’t afraid to get your hands dirty. I wouldn’t say that I knew what exactly I was going to get myself into on this project, even though I have done similar projects before, but as a result of having done this, I know now EXACTLY what to expect if I ever attempt this type of thing again. As was said by Thomas Edison, “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”. Don’t miss the opportunity to do something yourself and gain the experience and knowledge that comes by experience. At the very least, being able to DIY makes you a more rounded individual.

Next up on the agenda is body work which is something else I have dabbled at but never mastered.

“I am always doing what I cannot do yet, in order to learn how to do it.”
Vincent Willem van Gogh