Resuscitated Ram: Tear Down And Discovery Of A Workhorse Engine

When you own a truck for a while, your brain starts to wander. It is making a noise and it’s leaking this from here, what do I do? Do I just trade it in on something else? Do I spend the money and repair it? I’m here to tell you, there is no right or wrong answer.

For instance, just last year, I was looking at a brand new Midnight Edition Ram. It had all of the bells and whistles, and they were offering three years of financing at a 0-percent interest. At that rate, I was looking at almost $2,000 a month truck payment for three years on a nearly a $70,000 truck. I don’t know about you, but $2,000 is more than my bills combined a month. There is no way I’m spending that for a truck payment. They’re nice, but not that nice.

Someone started out their morning just as normal as ever. Then, things changed horribly. As you can see, this engine was trying to eat itself which led to the flotsam and jetsam of valves and piston in the combustion chamber.

That leaves me with option two. Rebuild. My personal truck doesn’t need to be rebuilt, I was just using it as an example. For Mike Francis at RSO Performance, that very scenario presented itself. Does he rebuild or does he buy new? Living out west and being heavily involved in the off-road scene, Francis requires a truck that can get his team to and from the trails.

What Do We Have Here?

His 2006 Dodge Ram is a four-wheel-drive dually and features the electronically-injected 5.9-liter Cummins engine. Everyone says these engines are indestructible and while they do seemingly last forever, they aren’t, in fact, indestructible. For Francis, making a big horsepower or torque number was not even on the radar but rebuilding it was.

He was looking for a tow rig that can be used every day like when he first purchased the truck but things have happened. This engine has suffered some serious internal damage and needs to be brought back to life. With the help of some great companies in our industry, I think we’ve got just the recipe he needs to get his truck back on the road performing better than when it was new.

After stripping parts off this 5.9-liter Cummins to make it easier to remove, it was taken out of the engine bay and the discovery began.

Knowing there were issues, the engine was inevitably coming out. Once Francis and his crew at RSO got to work, the engine was out and it was time to really tear into this thing and find out what the heck has been going on. Once the fuel injection was taken off and the cylinder head was removed, the first major issue was found. The pistons looked like they have been eating nails for the last few hundred thousand miles.

Pro tip: When you're rebuilding an engine, budget for more than you thought because you never know what you're getting into until you're in there.

What could have caused that damage? There were pieces of piston rings in the pan and even lodged into a few piston surfaces, too. No wonder this thing was making a racket and struggling to do anything at all. With all of that shrapnel flying around, you know it damaged the cylinder walls of the block and maybe even the crankshaft. Until Francis and the guys got to looking in there, they just didn’t know.

The bottom line, this engine needs help. “When we started to tear down this engine, we knew something was seriously wrong,” Francis said. “Once the rotating assembly was uncovered, we found three different cylinders with broken piston rings with the number one cylinder being the worst.”

Naturally, while in conversation with Francis, I’m wondering what else was damaged? Something like that happens, other things get damage as well. With the rings riding the cylinder walls, how did pieces of broken rings get through and into the oil pan? “Once we really got in there, we saw that one of the pistons took the brunt of it and had chewed up some ring debris. When we turned the engine over a few revolutions we could see scoring on the cylinder walls,” Francis said.

As if it didn't have enough going for it already, the old engine had developed a pretty serious oil leak too. The teardown began. The engine's crankshaft and cylinder head was removed and set in the truck bed for the machine shop delivery. Don't worry, truck. You'll be better soon.

Plan Of Attack

After the block was taken to a machine shop, it was decided that each cylinder needed bored larger than stock by 0.020″-inch. One was bad enough that it required a sleeve to be put in. Francis and his team now know the engine will have a clean bill of health in the block and bore department. To top it off, he went ahead and put an order in for new pistons and rings too.

Since he’s already investing in this engine with quality machine work, and because he can’t obviously reuse most of these parts, Francis ordered a complete engine rebuilt kit from Interstate McBee. In this kit were new pistons, piston rings, engine bearings, and all-new gaskets and seals. Getting this engine resealed is vital for a long, healthy life moving forward.

With a bit of performance in mind, the engine earned a set of new pushrods and a 188/220 camshaft from Hamilton Cams. As for the cylinder head, it was completely redone and resurfaced with a clean-up valve job. Once the engine returned back home and all of the parts were in hand, the fun part began. To prevent breaking of the rings, again, they have been file-fit for the new bore size and put into to the new pistons with an extra 0.010″-inch of end gap. With the pistons now ready, they were hung on the connecting rods and set into the engine with their new bearings.

As we speak, the engine is on its way to a better life. Behind the engine is something else that needs to be addressed, the transmission. “While the engine was out, I had the transmission rebuilt again. This is the second time I’ve had it out and rebuilt. The first time I rebuilt it, I used a generic brand torque converter that was used, and it was a total POS,” Francis said. “I lost power, fuel economy, and it always ran hot. This time, I spent the money on a good ATS converter.”

Francis is making the correct moves to get this truck going in the right direction, but not all of the parts he will utilize are going to be OE replacements. We have lined him up with some of the industry’s best, hoping to showcase some of the parts that will bring a workhorse back to life. Who does that include?

Pusher Intakes

By using the larger intake manifold and charge tube, Francis’ Ram can be fed more air which will inevitably result in better performance.

Because this truck features nothing but stock parts, anything extra will be hugely noticed. That being said, this engine design does feature some flaws. Luckily for Francis, there are companies out there that have created kits that will help. When it comes to airflow and keeping the engine cooler, Pusher Intakes is a great choice.

Pusher’s 3.5-inch Mega Intake System with Cross Air does just that. The kit replaces your 3-inch post-intercooler plumbing and intake manifold with 3.5-inch tubing. This provides the most airflow possible to a factory Cummins cylinder head. This results in a significant drop in EGT’s because it creates equal airflow to all of the cylinders. On top of that, it yields better fuel mileage, throttle response, and turbo spool.

PRW Industries

No more fearing the factory flexplate. With this SFI-rated unit, Francis’ Ram will keep on trucking.

Although many factory Cummins flexplates have been pushed to the limit and some have lived, Francis isn’t taking that chance. Instead, he’s going to utilize PRW USA’s performance diesel flexplate. They are robustly engineered to handle the power and torque that a modified Cummins engine can make. Normally, the factory ones will crack or shatter, and that leaves you dead in the water and making some seriously scary noises.

Fabricated from billet steel forgings, these are designed to handle 1,500 lb-ft of torque. These days that isn’t tough to reach, so we are making sure we don’t have that issue. These black oxide-coated, precision-balanced, laser-engraved, and SFI-approved flexplates are meant for both 5.9 and 6.7-liter engines. Weighing in at 11.5-pounds, Francis’ Ram is going to be just fine.

AMSOIL

Because Francis is utilizing AMSOIL’s oils and additives front to back, his Ram should live a much longer and healthier life than the last go around.

With the cost of rebuilding rising, keeping it alive is everything. That being said, Francis is trusting AMSOIL for his fluid needs. The engine and transmission need oil and fluid that will lubricate all of the rotating assembly and internal transmission parts. This will keep things happy for thousands of miles. AMSOIL’s Max-Duty Full Synthetic 15w-40 engine oil, heavy-duty coolant, transmission fluid, and gear lube for the differentials and transfer case will be used.

Stay tuned for part two of this repair and find out how the guys at RSO Performance got this Ram back to perfection. For more information on repairs, part reviews, truck features, and event coverage stay tuned to Diesel Army! What are your thoughts on this damage? Would you have fixed it or bought new? Let us know in the comments below.

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About the author

Artie Maupin

Artie Maupin is from Southeast Missouri and has an extreme passion for anything diesel. He loves drag racing of all kinds, as well as sled pulling competitions.
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