More and more, we’ve come to see how diesel trucks are being used by visiting local shops here in Southern California. The owners vary in their vocations – contractor, cattle rancher, weekend warrior, mobile workshop technician, drag racer – but they all come to these shops sooner or later. Time, tools, and knowledge may be factors in why diesel owners head to shops, but one thing is clear: Trust and good honest work go a long way toward future business.
For the team over at Diesel Tech in San Jacinto, California, the work comes in the form of Power Strokes, the proprietary line belonging to Ford Motor Company. From the buff 7.3-liter to the high-tech 6.7-liter of today, the quirks and traits of Blue Oval diesels make for some interesting occurrences.
We had the opportunity to head out to Diesel Tech recently and sit down with the Taylor family (namely Michael and Jeremy, the sons of owner Loren) that owns and operates Diesel Tech. In doing so, we learned about what comes from specializing in one brand, the many forms a Super Duty takes, and why a healthy stockpile of tools and parts is an absolute must for these motors.
Diesel Army: How long has Diesel Tech been around?
Michael Taylor: We’ve been around since 2004, and at this shop since 2006. When we started out, we had the shop built adjacent to our house. I was born in Arkansas and lived in Missouri until I was six, but we’ve lived out here for the most part.
What is your father’s background? Is he former military?
He’s always worked at Ford dealerships, that was what he did before he opened the shop. He got on-the-job training at Ford dealerships because they provided all the schooling and anything he needed to know.
It was passed down from generation to generation. His grandfather and father drove nothing but Fords, so it was natural that he worked on nothing but Fords.
Where did he take up diesels?
His biggest thing was the 7.3-liter. He’s good at everything, but anything to do with that motor, he knows like the back of his hand.
What is it about the 7.3-liter that, in your opinion, makes it one of the best diesel motors ever made?
Basically, it’s bulletproof right out of the box. They are nothing like the 6.0-liters where you have to change the head studs or install oil and EGR coolers to make them run right. The 7.3-liter could just run from the get-go. I don’t know if it has to do with emissions and things like that, but they’re just great engines.
What was the shop like when it first began?
My dad was done with working for someone else and had the know-how to run his own operation. He found one other guy who used to work on Fords with him. The shop was probably 3,000 square feet at the most. It grew quickly, to the point that he needed a lot more room to do work with, so he found the shop here on South State Street. He hired another tech and then another tech and so on. Nowadays, my dad can focus on other stuff and not do so much wrenching, thanks to the number of employees we have.
Typically, it’s problems with the 6.0-liter. They’ll come up and say, “I’ve had it with this truck. I’m not going to buy another one, so I’d like it bulletproofed and not having these problems out on the way to the desert.” We go through it, do the studs and all the other popular upgrades, and make them ready for what lies ahead.
What is a job that you guys can handle that a guy at home would have trouble with?
I’d say getting the cabs off of the trucks, like the 6.4-liter. How many guys have a two-post lift at the house? And again with the 6.0-liters, having the shop and all the tooling and know-how here can make these projects turn around pretty quickly. Head gaskets and high-pressure fuel pumps have been a big trend lately. We had a gentleman come in Friday, we diagnosed the problem, he came back Monday, and it was reassembled and ready to roll out.
What is the hardest job that comes with working on these Ford trucks? Is there anything that makes you want to rip your hair out?
Anything relating to an Econoline van or a bus. No one likes working on vans or buses. You ask any tech, “What’s the worst thing to work on?” and they’re gonna say, “A van.” The way the front ends are, they’re shorter than trucks. The hoods are a foot and a half long, so there’s no room to get in anywhere on those things.
Has there ever been a vehicle here that had you all scratching your heads?
No, nothing too much like that. Like I said, luckily, my dad has assembled one of the greatest group of guys to work on these vehicles. These are former mechanics from Ford dealerships who know their stuff, and they’re some of the smartest of the bunch.
Yeah, when we do four-wheel-drive conversions on vans, those have to stay here for a while. We use kits from a company called U-Joint Offroad in Fletcher, North Carolina that come with everything needed to do the conversion, and if we could let a technician stay on the project for a week, he could probably get it done, but I can’t have one of my guys stop everything just to do a van. We’ve done four of these conversions over the past two years, and we usually need about 30 to 45 days to complete them.
We haven’t gotten much, no. Reason being is because California laws make it very, very difficult. We used to be involved, but with the new restrictions and smog stuff, it makes for a gray area that becomes too risky. You could lose everything doing that, so it’s just not worth it. The biggest thing we’re going to be doing is my brother’s truck, an F-250, and that is going to be making about 650 horsepower. It’s a lot of power, but nothing like what you find in drag racing.
What is the greatest part of being a part of Diesel Tech?
I enjoy the family atmosphere. Working with family and our excellent techs is wonderful. We’ll go do activities on the weekend, like dinner and going to a firing range and stuff like that. For me, that’s the best part about it.
Touring the Shop
At the time of our visit, there were several Power Stroke vehicles on hand to check out. The majority were the expected pickups, F-250s and F-350s, but some interesting specimens were also going under the wrench.
One vehicle that caught our attention was a 1999 Econoline E-450. This was powered by a 7.3-liter Power Stroke, which had been brought in to address oil leaks and some rough running sensations. “The injectors had reached the end of their life here,” said Michael Taylor. “We’re going to do a complete re-seal and install new injectors and cups. After 282,000 miles, it was time to take care of these issues.”
Further down the line, a 2000 F-250 was having issues with overheating. “The transmission was cooking at 275 degrees Fahrenheit,” said Taylor. “We checked it out, pulled down the transmission pan, found a lot of material in the pan and burnt fluid, so we’re doing a transmission rebuild and installing a big transmission cooler from the 6.0-liter and a deep transmission pan.” Taylor acknowledged this was one of the few flaws of the 7.3-liter, but once they’re properly cooled, they’re good to go.
Across from the F-250 was an F-350 ambulance made in 2006. “It came in running rough when cold, and hard to start when hot,” said Taylor. “We checked it out and found the injectors on cylinders four and six weren’t working at cold temperatures. We could hear a noise under bank two so we removed the valve cover and pinpointed it toward the rear of the engine, where the old-style oil rail plugs were. We’re going to install the new-style ones and also do the snap-to-connect connector so the injectors can work properly.”
These were just a few of the heavy-duty rigs on hand at Diesel Tech, but they would soon be out of the shop. That’s because on average, Diesel Tech repairs about 120 vehicles in a given month.
We had a rough idea of what to expect when we pictured Diesel Tech – lots of trucks, lots of work being done, the smell of oil in the air – but the sheer amount of activity tells us that business is booming, even for a shop specializing in only one brand.
Commenting on this fact was owner Loren Taylor: “We know how to work on them. They are our forte, and I’m all about sticking with what I know. To that end, we stock a lot of the special tools needed to do these repairs. Plus, my connections with past and current Ford engineers make it easy for me to figure out a problem or come up with a solution.”
So it seems that at least for Diesel Tech, the notion is to remain specialized in Power Strokes for the foreseeable future. You won’t find a jack of all trades, master of none at this shop; instead, you’ll find a team of qualified professionals ready to get your rig back on the road.