TOP TECH QUESTIONS
WELCOME TO TOP TECH QUESTIONS. One of our favorite forms of reader communication is tech questions. Our Top Tech section is a place where you ask what’s on your mind, and we answer.
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QUESTION: I ordered an ’18 Ford F-350 with a 6.7L Power Stroke diesel engine. It’s a huge step up from the road-weary ’03 Super Duty (with the 7.3L powerplant) it’s replacing. The new truck will be used to tow one of two 20-foot Big Tex equipment trailers, or a 40-foot XLR Nitro gooseneck toy hauler. All three trailers weigh between 15,000 and 17,000 pounds when loaded. I plan to put a 6-inch lift and 37-inch tires under my new truck. What is the best suspension setup for this type of use? Jeremy Stiles
via email ANSWER: The difference 15 years makes in diesel pickup technology related to towing capacity, handling, comfort, and safety is mind-boggling. The ’18 Super Duty is proof of this for sure. If your new truck is ordered with 3.55 gears, Ford’s maximum tow rating for both conventional towing using the factory bumper hitch and towing with a weight-distributing hitch is 15,000 pounds according to the 2018 RV& Trailer Towing Guide found at fleet. ford.com. The maximum gooseneck capacity for the same pickup is 20,000 pounds. So the new rig is perfectly capable of safely towing your fifth-wheel setup as it comes equipped from the dealer, along with the equipment trailers—as long as the latter are kept under 15,000 pounds loaded trailer weight. Tow heavier and you risk serious liability concerns for both yourself and your company in the event an accident occurs while towing more than the maximum stated in the vehicle manufacturer’s towing guide. Which brings us to this: Lifting a vehicle reduces (or negates) the tow ratings. When you modify the stock suspension and/or tires and wheels, despite how awesome it looks, there are hidden drawbacks related to towing. The higher stance and taller tires raise the center of gravity while reducing braking and engine performance because of the change in effective overall gearing and addition of unsprung weight. Of more concern from a safety perspective are the ill effects a lift imposes on the truck because of the trailer. An aftermarket suspension reacts differently than the stock setup. So ask the suspension manufacturer some very direct questions related to how its lift kit affects
QUESTION: I have a ’16 Chevrolet Silverado with a 6.6L Duramax LML engine and do a lot of local, city, non-highway driving for work, which also includes more than average idling time. Is there a way to manually get the diesel particulate filter to regenerate without taking the truck to a dealership service department or wasting the time finding a place to drive 55 mph for 30 minutes? I would like to do the regen while the truck is parked. Andy Leach
via email ANSWER: Some programmers include a manual-regeneration setting. For example, if you use an Edge Products Insight or Evolution CTS 2, select your truck’s tow ratings and overall handling. Also, consider installing helper air springs with a lift to help stabilize the rear suspension, along with upgrading to heavier front and rear sway bars (if any are available) to offset the higher center of gravity. Then, you’ll need to find a “Class V” adjustable drop-shank hitch capable of handling the weight of the two equipment trailers. (Note: Using a reducer to take the Ford 3-inch receiver down to 2.5 inches also reduces the pickup’s maximum tow rating). Keep in mind the tongue weight (TW) on trailers towed on the ball or pintle hitch needs to be between 10 and 15 percent of the loaded trailer weight for optimum handling. We recommend checking out Curt, Reese, B&W, and Gen-Y Hitch offerings for your proposed application. You also need to make sure your fifth-wheel’s neck can be shortened enough to clear the bed when a lift is installed. In some situations, it can’t, so a lifted truck may also require doing an “over-under” spring conversion on the trailer to get the tandem to match up properly. the “diagnostics” mode, then scroll to the REGEN screen. Read and answer all the “Yes” or “No” questions that appear on the monitor and read the safety instructions and warnings closely: First, park the truck in a location away from anything flammable. Regens create a ton of heat at the exhaust pipe, so being outdoors on gravel, asphalt, or concrete is a must. With the transmission in Park, open the hood and begin manual regeneration. When the regen cycle starts, the engine could be turning 2,500 rpm until the DPF is cleaned out and the regen cycle is completed. Regen cycle times (20 to 40 minutes) depend on the amount of clogging inside the DPF. If you are using an older CTS 2, download the most current update, which should allow manual regens for both GM and Ford. If you have a different brand programmer, dig out that owner’s manual and see if it has a similar function.
QUESTION: How do I know if I should replace the second set of batteries on my ’06 Ford F-250? They’re almost five years old, and it seems most diesel-truck batteries die when they are between four and five years old. I just don’t want these to die on me in the winter when I’m forging my way across the snowy plains here in the upper Midwest. Steve Zimmerman
ANSWER: Battery life is dependent on many factors, ranging from the type of battery to the way it’s maintained, climate it’s used in, and how it’s being used. A well-maintained set of high-quality, deep-cycle, high–cold-cranking-amp (CCA) absorbed-glass-mat (AGM), and gelcell batteries, like those offered by Optima and others, typically last five years or more in normal use situations. If the batteries are poorly maintained or drained down a lot during winching, powering a lot of accessories, or used in very hot or cold climates, their life can be greatly shortened. That’s why it’s always good to start checking their condition around their rated “half-life,” because an underperforming set of batteries can cause many issues with today’s diesel fuel injection systems, sometimes taking out fuel injection modules and triggering diagnostictrouble codes. As we all know, cold weather is where batteries get their biggest test, so any weakness will rear up when the temperature drops below freezing and the key is turned to crank over a cold diesel. Our suggestion: Drop by one of the chain auto parts stores and have the batteries load-tested (major retailers usually do this for free), and then get a second opinion. Better still, buy an inexpensive, 500-amp carbon-pile load tester and check your truck’s batteries at home. Read and follow the instructions regardless of the brand load tester you use! If you are trying to get every last cent’s worth from the batteries in question, just run them until one dies, then replace both. Always replace dual batteries in matched pairs, or the weaker battery will shorten the life of its mate. It’s also prudent the replacement batteries have at least the CCA of the original batteries—and new batteries with a higher CCA are even better.
QUESTION: I had a South Bend Clutch SDD3250 twin-disc clutch put in my warmed-up ’12 Ram 2500. Three months later, it started making a lot more noise than it did when first installed. I’m worried. Is the clutch going bad already?
ANSWER: All twin-disc clutches make noise. It’s typically caused by a floating pressure plate residing between two clutch discs, which vibrates when the clutch is pushed in. What might be happening is the two fingernail-sized polyurethane snubbers on each of the plate’s four alignment ears may be deteriorating, causing the plate to rattle. If that’s the case, at some point, depending on how loud the rattling noise gets and your tolerance level, the clutch will need to be removed and those snubbers replaced. Manseil Washburn, head of South Bend’s diesel-clutch department, says “Those [snubbers] would have to come directly from us, and we normally don’t charge for them.” He adds that hard jolts on the clutch assembly (that occur when spinning tires contact firmer ground, under fast shifting, or heat generated from slipping the clutch too much) contribute to snubbers failing (or coming out), which is common when backing trailers. When the snubbers are replaced (they easily tap in with a small ball-peen hammer), also change the throw-out bearing. Driven properly, a twin-disc clutch should last more than twice as long as a single-disc. While replacing them, take a few extra minutes to clean the battery cable ends, look for any signs of corrosion where the battery cables attach to the terminal ends, and make sure the grounds are clean and tight. After the new batteries are hooked up, coat the battery connections with a protective coating, such as CRC’s or Permatex’s battery terminal protector/sealer, to slow down corrosion.
Big lift kits look awesome and definitely set some trucks apart from others. However, the downside for towing with a lifted rig is the modification also changes its handling dynamics, requiring multiple changes in trailer and hitch setups. It pays to research those issues prior to investing in big suspension/tire/wheel upgrades.
Battery longevity is dependent on many factors, including the type of batteries in your diesel truck and how they are used and maintained. High-end, high-CCA deep-cycle batteries typically last more than five years if treated well. Have the cells load-tested once a year starting at their warranted “half-life,” as a way of keeping tabs on their health.
Twin-disc clutches have a “floater” plate that fits into the clutch assembly. South Bend Clutch’s “center plate” uses special polyurethane snubbers on each of its four alignment ears to reduce noise and vibration. When the snubbers wear out or come apart, the clutch makes a lot of racket when the pedal is depressed.