When you compare a gas truck versus a diesel truck, the main thing that diesels tout over their distant cousins is torque. When it comes to towing and heavy hauling, there are no substitutes (electric notwithstanding); and nothing can replace the rhythmic, impressive rumble of a diesel engine. There also comes with diesel a sense of durability, with many engines surpassing 300,000 miles before the blocks become unusable paperweights.
That durability is perhaps overblown, however. Over the past 30 years, as the Big Three ratcheted up their diesel programs and gave us Cummins, Duramax, and Power Stroke rigs to choose from, defects became known and brands developed reputations. Even the most rugged and proven of diesel trucks has its shortcomings – and Strictly Diesel, with its co-owners Dennis Schroeder and Nate Brekken (both diesel experts in their own right), has been finding solutions for over 12 years, and been truly successful at it, too.
We spoke with Dennis to learn more about some of the best and most innovative products to address common problems across the Big Three diesels. His top five picks narrowed down to the Cummins Fan Hub Adapter, Duramax Power Steering Hose Kit, and three Power Stroke products – a 6.7-liter Engine Oil Pan, 7.3-liter Dipstick Adapter Kit, and 7.3-liter/6.0-liter Regulated Return Fuel System Kits.
Cummins – Fan Hub Adapter
These days, it seems like whenever something can be made mechanical or electric, an OEM engineer will side on electric. From parking brakes to mirrors to steering systems, it’s endemic to trucks, and oftentimes a hassle to deal with. One such area affecting Cummins pickups is its electronic fan clutch.
“An electronic fan clutch is operated by the engine control module, while a mechanical fan clutch responds to the temperature of the air passing through the radiator,” said Schroeder. “The mechanism inside the electronic fan clutches seems to get ‘loose’ and become unreliable over time, meaning the fan will not turn at the correct speed, even when commanded to do so by the ECM. Thus, a lot of guys like mechanical; they’re simpler, and they seem to be more durable and consistent.”
The Cummins fan hub adapter was the brainchild of GOS Racing, a product of their experience swapping Cummins engines into Ford trucks. In fact, this was how Strictly Diesel came upon it. “We used it in a swap years ago and really liked how it performed,” said Schroeder. “We approached GOS and offered to produce the part on a larger scale, with a better finish and better pricing. We’ve been producing them ever since.”
The adapter, interestingly enough, takes a Ford part to make it work. “It was designed to use an ‘Old Body Style’ Ford fan clutch,” said Schroeder. “Ultimately, it was chosen thanks to its compact size and the way it connects to the adapter, and the bolt pattern allows for different fan blade sizes.”
Strictly Diesel makes the fan hub adapter for 2003-07 5.9-liter Cummins engines, as well as 2007-16 6.7-liter Cummins engines. It can fit the Ford 6.0-liter 23.25-inch fan, or step up to the Ram 26-inch fan, but Strictly Diesel leaves it to the customer to determine the right size to fit their vehicle. But no matter which fan they opt for, they can count on the fan hub adapter providing more reliable cooling to the engine for years to come.
Schroeder also had an interesting tidbit about a core exchange program coming for the adapter. “We will do a new bearing and remanufactured mount,” he said. “This will help customers that don’t have access to a hydraulic press, so all they have to do is a simple unbolt-bolt operation. After that, they send us their factory adapter and mount assembly to attain the core charge refund.”
Duramax – Power Steering Hose Kit
OEM parts – love them or hate them, they can stretch the gamut from excellent to downright crappy. For whatever reason, GM made the 2001-10 Duramax’s power steering system of the latter description, and it’s affected a vast majority of the diesel trucks made during this decade-long stretch.
“It’s an extremely common problem,” commented Schroeder. “It’s like a 99-out-of-100 problem. I don’t know who made the hoses, but they’re awful and they’re mass-produced, which is a terrible combo. We would install OEM replacements for customers at our shop, and sometimes within weeks, they would be back to get the same problem fixed. We literally had brand new OEM lines leaking in amazingly short periods of time.”
The leaks tend to occur at the hose ends, where they’re crimped onto the hose. “They can also leak at any one of the pressure lines,” added Schroeder. “Two different hose assemblies – power steering pump to hydroboost and steering gearbox to hydroboost – make up the whole kit, and are usually the ones leaking.”
Strictly Diesel’s power steering hose kit comes with all new stainless steel, CNC-bent tubing sections that feature a serviceable male AN fitting. “Our process gets rid of trading in cores for a new assembly,” said Schroeder. “The hoses are are a non-braided type for better NVH properties, and are made with the corresponding female AN fitting, allowing the hose section to be serviced or repaired without having to buy an entirely new assembly or kit.”
Power Stroke – 6.7-liter Oil Pan
When it was released in 2011, the 6.7-liter Power Stroke was a “clean sheet of paper” design that included some impressive features; however, the plastic oil pan wasn’t one of them. The plastic drain plug was quickly found to be unreliable, and even the stamped steel replacement oil pan in later years was dysfunctional. It still had the same wonky, rear-facing drain hole that seemed destined to make a mess during oil changes.
“We do service here at Strictly Diesel, and it came back that the drain plugs were positioned awkwardly and not easy to work with,” said Schroeder. “So between the plastic pans and crummy plugs, we decided to make something that was better geared for maintenance.”
What emerged from this was Strictly Diesel’s cast aluminum oil pan. “It was a first for us, since we’d never done casting before,” Schroeder pointed out. “We had to determine tooling and do sample parts, but it was good, because it kept the cost affordable for the customer.”
The finished oil pan retained the same capacity as its plastic counterpart, and added heat sink finning to help the heat dissipate more effectively. “We wanted to come up a product that fixed the shortcomings in both the plastic and stamped steel versions, and make life simpler for DIY guys,” said Schroeder. “So we put the drain plug as close to the oil filter as possibly could, and pointed it straight down. We utilized a 6.0-liter drain plug so that customers could easily get replacement copper seals, or use any of the variety of aftermarket drain valve assemblies on the market.”
The oil pan has made a great impression in racing thanks to H&S Motorsports, who use it on their triple-turbocharged builds. “They use the raised boss to install a drain port for the primary turbos,” said Schroeder.
Power Stroke – 7.3-liter Dipstick Adapter Repair Kit
An oil dipstick is something you would think an OEM would get right, but alas, for the 7.3-liter Power Strokes, it was not to be. The adapter on the oil pans of these engine is made of “pot metal,” according to Schroeder. “It’s not high-grade material.”
The adapter installs from the inside of the pan out, and there is a keyed hole on the pan. “The adapter uses an o-ring, which does okay for a long time, but after so many heat cycles, it starts leaking,” said Schroeder. “So owners tighten it, the metal deforms even more, and the leaking resumes. It will get so deformed that new o-rings and tightening do nothing, and the OEM repair method requires engine removal to change out the adapter.”
On the flipside, using Strictly Diesel’s dipstick adapter repair kit is a cinch and can be done in a driveway. “Our kit works with the engine still installed in the chassis, and it eliminates the factory adapter completely,” said Schroeder. “It’s a billet piece that is much more durable, too.”
“The kit installs by first removing the nut on stock adapter,” explained Schroeder. “Next, a pair of pliers holds the interior part and a pick is used to retrieve the o-ring. The big metal piece can simply drop into the sump; there’s no danger of it getting sucked in and wrecking anything, since it’s too big to go anywhere. Our replacement mounts from the outside and uses two o-rings instead of one, and it’s completely serviceable.”
Power Stroke – 7.3-liter/6.0-liter Regulated Return Fuel System Kits
Last but not least, we have the regulated return fuel system kits for 7.3-liter and 6.0-liter Power Strokes. The need for the product arises from the performance side of things, but it makes sense for street-driven trucks as well.
When it comes to pure performance, fueling on these trucks is not as great as it could be. “In a 1994-97 7.3-liter Power Stroke, the fuel is pumped by the two-stage mechanical fuel pump, and reaches low pressure at around 50-55 psi,” said Schroeder. “The fuel goes in through one end of the cylinder heads. Out of the opposite ends, the fuel routes back to the fuel pressure regulator. So the pressure is regulated after the fuel rails. In 1999, the opposite happens; the pressure is regulated before the heads, which I believe was an emissions-related decision.”
Whatever the reason was, it led to an engine noise in the 7.3-liter that was commonly called “cackle” (which Ford tried to fix with a different #8 injector). In both 7.3-liter and 6.0-liter Power Strokes, inconsistent fuel flow and pressure to the injectors occurred. To fix it, Strictly Diesel worked out the Regulated Return kits, which would in essence make the fuel system run the way it used to. “We removed the original plumbing from the filter bowl to the heads and put in our own high-flow components,” said Schroeder. “We installed additional lines at the opposite ends of the heads and tied that into an aftermarket fuel pressure regulator, and got rid of the factory regulator on the filter bowl.”
The upshot to this, instead of just simply working with the system Ford designed, was that constant pressure could be maintained to the injectors. “With our system, now it didn’t matter if the filter was clogging up or brand new, because it would keep the fuel pressure up at all times,” said Schroeder. “This was great for both regular diesel owners and later on, once bigger injectors became huge, performance enthusiasts. It meant that their 7.3-liter or 6.0-liter could get back to making big numbers and getting across the finish line faster.”
All of these parts and more are solutions to common problems that Strictly Diesel has been crafting since it opened its doors. The common threads have been twofold – making servicing easier, and making something better than what it was replacing.
We think these parts constitute a special place in the diesel world, and encourage you to check out more from Strictly Diesel today. Head on over to the company’s website and Facebook page to see new parts, events, videos, and more.