Monthly Archives: July 2015

Ram first oil change

Changed the Ram’s oil and filter at 193,707 miles (approximately 5100 miles since the last change at 188,600).

Draining the oil is a piece of cake; it’s just a square 3/8″ female plug (and even has the torque printed on it — nice touch, Cummins).

The oil filter is another story. I looked at it and then took the air intake and intake box off to try to gain better access. No luck. Then I took the passenger side inner fender off. Well, that gave me access to the filter, but not enough — there’s not enough room to get any kind of wrench on the filter.

The only way, really, is to use an end cap socket from the bottom, combined with a long extension. I had to go buy one, since I didn’t have a big enough one for this filter.

Whoever changed the oil last time really torqued the oil filter on. I think a lot of mechanics think you’re supposed to use a filter wrench or socket to install the filter, as well as uninstall. It’s a good way to get the filter seal to stick to the housing. Fortunately, that didn’t happen this time; the filter came off (which a good bit of force and a 1″ socket on the filter socket).

I discovered it was a Parts Plus brand filter — probably one of the cheapest you can get. At least it wasn’t a cheapo Fram filter.

Filled my Fleetguard LF3894 — which I bought at the Cummins dealer near where I work for $19 — filled with oil and installed by hand, about one turn past contact with the housing. We’ll see how easily it comes off next oil change.

I had intended, after reading the most recent version of TDR’s diesel oil comparison, to use Wal-Mart SuperTech 15w-40 for this oil change. It’s not the best oil you can get, but that only seems to matter if you push oil drain intervals a long way. However, Wal-Mart only had one gallon of SuperTech available. So I was going to use Shell Rotella Triple, but it’s only rated CJ-4. Then I noticed Wal-Mart had Delvac 1300 in a 2.5 gallon container for $30.97 — not a bad price, and cheaper than the Rotella — and, notably, the Delvac is rated at CI-4 Plus, not only CJ-4. So that sold me. Who knows how much longer CI-4 Plus oil will be available. I’ll use it while I can.

Note that Wal-Mart does have one filter for my truck, a Mopar MO-285. I couldn’t find much information on how good it is, relative to the Fleetguard filter, but it costs a bit less.

The service manual says that the oil capacity for this engine is 11.0 quarts, including the filter. I think that must be a misprint, because my truck’s oil capacity is just a little less than 12.0 quarts (12.0 quarts puts the line just above the hashed area on the dipstick). The Fleetguard filter holds just a little less than one quart, so perhaps the manual meant to say “excluding filter.”

Reading the 2007 version of TDR’s oil comparison, and comparing it to the 2012 version, makes several things alarmingly apparent. The price of oil has gone up considerably over the past ten years, and the quality has gone way down — mostly because of EPA emissions requirements and the removal of sulfur from fuels.

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Ram fan clutch

The Ram gauge issues seemed to have gone away for a while. I wasn’t at all sure I had fixed them, but they nearly disappeared — until this week, when things started going nuts again. AC cutting out, and this time, since I was driving in the rain, I discovered that the wipers stopped working as well.

The whole time, the ECM has had a P0483 code stored, which indicates a problem with the fan speed (either below 50 RPM or above 6000 RPM, but it can also mean that the fan clutch just isn’t behaving in a way the ECM expects it to).

I finally bit the bullet and started going through the fan clutch testing procedure. I got to the point where I needed to start unplugging ECM connectors and stopped, because to do that I’ll need to remove the driver’s side splash guard again, and that takes a little time.

But I thought I had assured myself that the fan clutch was not bad, because it passed tests 1 through 4, meaning the clutch itself has no internal shorts.

However, I did some research into how this “electro-viscous” fan clutch works. It is basically very similar to a purely mechanical viscous clutch, in the sense that it has a coil that tightens with temperature, engaging a valve that allows viscous silicone to pour into parts of the clutch, engaging the shaft that connects it to the water pump and making the fan turn faster and with more force the hotter the engine gets. But an electro-viscous clutch has a few extra features: an RPM sensor that feeds back to the ECM to tell it how fast the fan is actually turning (which it can then compare to the engine RPM), a command wire, and a +5v supply to a heating element inside the clutch. This allows the ECM to turn on a heating element, which will very quickly cause the silicone to pool in the clutch and fully engage the fan. Obviously, one reason for the ECM to command this is if the engine is getting too hot, but another reason it will do so is if the air conditioning is turned on at idle speed. This will ensure adequate airflow over the condenser coils, with the added benefit of ensuring the engine stays cool too.

The important takeaway for me was that the clutch will function just fine to keep the engine cool even if the electric part is disconnected. You simply lose the ability for the ECM to tell the clutch what to do, as well as sensing what it is doing. Now, with that P0483 code stored, I don’t believe the fan clutch is working properly anyway.

So I decided to disconnect the clutch and drive the Ram to work this morning and see what, if anything, happened as a result. I’ve seen in several places online that when you get the P0483 and P2509 codes together, that’s a strong indication of a bad or going-bad fan clutch. Apparently, when one of these clutches goes bad, the failure (usually a short) brings down the bus. However, since I cleaned a bunch of grounds, the battery terminals, the ECM connectors, and the two connectors across the bellhousing, the P2509 code has gone away — but the P0483 code has remained the whole time.

Well, after driving to work this morning, nothing unusual happened. The truck didn’t overheat (not that I expected it to), but also there was no gauge weirdness at all, either. Now, that’s inconclusive; the gauge weirdness is so random that you never know when it will happen. But it’s a somewhat positive sign.

At lunch, I decided to do a test of whether turning the AC on at idle actually engages the fan clutch. I ran the truck with the clutch disconnected to spin any silicone out of the clutch, then shut it off and hooked the clutch up. Started it back up and turned on the AC and waited about a minute (the spec says the fan should fully engage within 45 seconds). But upon increasing idle to nearly 2000 RPM, it became apparent that the fan was not engaged. I couldn’t hear it over the engine at all.

So it seems likely that, somehow, the fan clutch is not working properly, but I don’t know what the malfunction is.

I am going to leave it disconnected and drive the truck for a while. The gauges misbehave most severely in the afternoons when it’s hot and I’m running the AC. If I don’t see any gauge malfunctions, I think it’s really likely the fan clutch is the cause of these electrical issues and should be replaced.

K2500 and Mercedes oil changes, etc.

Changed the oil and filter on the K2500. Boy, I really shouldn’t have turned the filter more than 3/4 turn past contact last oil change — it was a real bear to get off there. I crushed the old filter getting it off. Used an ACDelco PF52E filter and five quarts of SuperTech 5w-30 conventional.

The old oil, with under 800 miles on it, was black and smelled like gas. This was due to the timing wire being disconnected. I’m hopeful that will be a thing of the past.

Changed the Mercedes’ oil and filter, too. I had done one previous oil change, back in March, but I wasn’t able to change the filter because I couldn’t get the new one to fit. Today, with a flashlight, I discovered that there were actually *two* filters in there! I removed them both and got the new one to fit just fine.

I used a Wix filter and eight quarts of SuperTech 15w-40 conventional.

I inspected the Mercedes’ turbo blades and shaft play while I was at it. The blades look great and there was no noticeable play either side-to-side or end-to-end. I’d say it’s in fine shape.

Brake and power steering maintenance

I used the “turkey baster method” to drain and replace the brake and power steering fluid on both the Ram and the Mercedes. I used DOT3 brake fluid I had on-hand and Dexron/Mercon III ATF for the power steering.

Interestingly, the Mercedes had dark green brake fluid. It looked a lot like olive oil. This thread  suggests that might have been the result of mixed blue and amber brake fluid without a flush being done. The Benz’ brake fluid looked otherwise clean, though.

The Ram, on the other hand, had the typical old dark brown brake fluid, but it also had black chunks in it. Looked long overdue for a replacement.

K2500 timing wire, finally fixed?

I discovered that the K2500’s timing wire has been disconnected the entire time we’ve had it. Hooking it back up fixed the idle issue and has made it drive like a new truck. It’s got lots more power, and the fuel economy is much improved (the last fillup was 12.9 MPG, up from a low of 6.6 MPG and from a previous fillup of 10.0 MPG).

And for the first time, the “service engine soon” light has turned off.

I still haven’t installed the new fuel injectors or O2 sensor.