No Spill Systems Oil Drain Plug

Screwing the tube on opens the O-ring-sealed plunger allowing the oil to drain.

No-Spill Systems

Nearly two decades ago I learned about the No-Spill™ Systems oil-drain plugs from Geno’s Garage and have been a fan since. I love their quality and how they function. No-Spill’s housing and working parts are made with high-quality brass instead of steel. Some competitors use brass dust caps on steel plugs, and when the metals expand and contract at different rates the caps can fall off. No-Spill uses all brass construction, so the dust cap is more likely to get tighter as the parts heat-up, not looser. The brass construction is also intentionally sacrificial. Brass is softer than the steel of most oil pans, and if over tightened the plug will break or the threads may strip before those inside the pan. This is extremely important on large equipment and aircraft, where oil pans can cost thousands of dollars, plus the labor to remove and replace them.

In applications where a new washer/gasket is supplied, they are made from solid copper, not hollow core (fiber-filled) copper, and the spring inside the plug is stainless steel. The No-Spill was formerly manufactured in the Netherlands, but they now source all their metals from the United States with the final machining and assembly done in Canada.

Quality is the name of the game here, and often you get what you pay for. As a fan of top quality parts, I would rather buy the best, most-functional accessories whenever possible. All No-Spill Systems come with a lifetime warranty on all parts and workmanship.

The compact system on my 1996 7.3L Power Stroke F-350 sold to a buddy in 2014, was in-use for 18 years. Our Toyotas also sport No-Spills; one is a nine-year-old compact and the other a right-angle design. Using these has been a pleasure, and I can’t abide returning to a standard, messy oil changing process.

No-Spill Systems engine oil changing kit.

Magnetic 

For our 2014 Ram/Cummins 2500 I chose a 10-18150-06, a standard design (not compact) with a magnet in the center. There are those that might argue that a magnetic plug is unnecessary with modern filtration, and if needed, Ram or Cummins would include one. Maybe so, and countless Cummins Turbo Diesels survive without one, but pulling the copy of Robert Sikorsky’s Drive It Forever from our bookcase, and reading his recommendations encouraging using one, the wisdom of my decision was supported by a higher authority.

A magnet and a real copper gasket were noticeably missing on the factory stopper I removed. Maybe the thin rubber film on the OE plug base would seal for many changes, but it appears cheap. Kudos to Ram/Cummins for only requiring a simple 3/8-inch ratchet for removal and for the low profile, high-clearance design.

I was being careful and trying to avoid a mess, but pulling the OE plug from the pan was not a splash free affair. Never again with the No-Spill.

This No-Spill extends 1.2-inches below the bottom of the pan, not much, but being accustomed to the shorter compact design, it looks substantially lower. As a frequent backcountry traveler, I may change to a Compact, particularly if I don’t fashion a skid plate to protect the oil pan. It would take a large rock tumbling under the front axle to hit and damage this plug, but plenty of rocks have rolled under the soft white underbelly of my rigs during technical sections of trail. The consequences could be severe.

Installing the magnetic No-Spill was easy; with the one exception being it’s so large. Only because I’d recently purchased a 3/4-inch-drive socket set did I have the 1 3/16” socket I needed. Without a 3/4- to 1/2-inch reducer in my toolbox I couldn’t torque the plug to specification, instead I had to use old-fashion feel. After buying an adapter I confirmed it had at least 30 lb-ft of force applied. Subsequent changes will be a pleasure, devoid of splashing when three gallons of hot oil all fight to exit the pan at the same instant.

A large, 1 3/16″ socket was needed for the installation and torquing of the No-Spill plug.

Torque to spec, don’t over tighten, you may break the plug. I’ve done it before.

Oil Change Number One

This was the first new vehicle in decades that I avoided doing an extremely early, precautionary oil change, usually around 1,000 miles. When essentially new lubricant is drained from the latest generation Cummins ISB engines designed to travel up to 15,000 miles on fresh lube, it’s almost unused.

Modern engines are made to tighter tolerances, and there is less physical wear-in than in the distant past, but there is still some. The Ram owner’s manual speaks to this, saying “engine run-in is enhanced by loaded operating conditions which allow the engine parts to achieve final finish and fit during the first 6,000 miles.” Note the word loaded. Don’t be afraid to work a new engine. Use the whole rpm range and all the gears, plus transfer case (off-pavement) if you have one… stuff needs a “final finish”. Does this mean the oil should be changed before the EVIC says to do so, probably not? But learning that our maintenance regime might be overkill is a good, first-world-problem to have.

Doing early oil changes has not always been about dumping the factory fill for more of the same, but often to insert a preferred synthetic at what was traditionally considered very low mileage. Confident my engines have received a good and varied initial break-in during the first 1,000 miles, my anecdotal evidence has been zero consumption, leakage, nor any oil-related problems from modern cars and trucks after adding synthetic after few miles. At 1,000 miles the wear-in process has just begun on heavy-duty diesels, and towing and hauling use ensues. However, early use of synthetic oil in new Ram/Cummins ISB engines is not a concern, they are delivered with 5W-40 synthetic in the pans.

Three-Pronged Oil-Change Goal

Changing the engine lube in the new 2014 truck at 2,800-miles was about a few things, none of which were related to serious concerns about it being worn-out. The goals were: installing the No-Spill, using my chosen product, doing a baseline used-oil-analysis, and practicing the procedure once while the truck was new, clean, and before it needed a service. The first three are simple, but there are tips and a story surrounding the last.

Much oil life remains after a mere 2,800 miles in a late model Cummins 6.7L ISB that uses DEF.

Changing engine oil is a simple task, but every vehicle is slightly different, and familiarity makes it easier and faster each time. Inline-six engines were historically straightforward to work on, our beloved Cummins ISB included, though like all modern vehicles there is increasingly little space under the hood and access is limited. Reading fourth-generation changing tips in both the TDR magazine and the Turbo Diesel Register online forums, I knew to remove the intake duct or use the passenger-side fender liner/wheel-well opening for filter access.

This 6-speed manual truck lacks the obstructive automatic transmission cooling lines near the wheel-well port. Access and leverage to remove the notoriously tight factory filter was much better through the wheel well, and there is no chance of debris falling into an open and exposed intake system. The fender-liner opening appeared faster and better.

Current G56 manual transmission Ram/Cummins trucks offer good oil filter access through the provided opening in the fender liner. Removing the right front wheel provides room to work.

To make the job easier I removed the right front tire, a quick task because I frequently test different sets of tires and wheels and have-it-down. Lifting the front axle with a floor jack, lowering it onto a six-ton stand, removing the wheel nuts with a cordless impact gun, and pulling the tire took less than five minutes.

With the tire removed reaching the filter was easy, but a minor modification improved access. The block-heater cord was on the forward side of the battery ground cable to the block. It might have limited lowering a full filter, or caught my fingers, encouraging a fumble. Unclipping the cord from the ground cable and unscrewing it from the heater element allowed repositioning it to the rear of the battery cable. The reusable OE clip was attached, and I was ready to proceed.

Block heater cord was moved aft for more clearance.

Simply unscrewing the the block heater cord from the heating element allowed easy rerouting for better access.

Ready to remove the factory Mopar filter.

The metal band wrench purchased in 1993 for our first-generation Dodge Cummins Turbo Diesel still works perfectly. The filter was tight, I almost needed two hands, but I was able to loosen it without resorting to a cheater bar. After loosening, as a precaution, I used the gallon plastic bag trick. I’d read that the level would drop over time, and I’d eaten lunch between pulling the plug and returning to change the filter. Unsealing the filter resulted in zero spillage. Lowering the it into the space between the frame and engine, and then angling it toward me, I could see the oil level was about 1.5-inches below the top, and sealing the zip-lock bag was unnecessary. Pulling the filter through the liner opening allowed a few ounces to spill into the bag as I reached the maximum angle. The plastic bag technique provided a welcome safety net.

As many DIY guys note, the original filter was tight, but nothing more than a good tool and arm strength were needed.

Using the old gallon freezer bag trick to prevent spillage.

Filling new filters before installation has proponents and detractors. I’ve mostly been a filler, but the two Toyota V8s and VW TDI in our garage don’t allow pre-filling, so only the old ’96 Ford 7.3L (with superior access under the truck) has received this treatment in recent years. The Cummins Filtration Fleetguard LF16035 (purchased from Geno’s Garage) has pictures on the side suggesting filling before installation; I didn’t. Removing the risk of spillage or possible contamination, I was ready to add oil to the crankcase. It may sound like a small detail, but I appreciate the 12-quart capacity. Our ’96 F-350 7.3L needed 14 quarts, and it’s nice to just pour-in three gallons.

Aside from minor splashing after removing the factory drain plug, this was an extremely uneventful oil change with zero mess or spills—until I started pouring the last gallon into a funnel while looking through my camera viewfinder.

Fleetguard’s LF16035 StrataPore filter.

Oil Religion Conversion and Chevron Delo 400 5W-40

In recent years my preferences for some brands and products has evolved. I’ve read the Turbo Diesel Register articles about oils that “meet the specification”, and the difference or lack thereof between brands. I was a never an only this brand guy, but still I won’t buy the cheapest stuff I can find. Reputations matter, and I enjoy consistency. The Cummins ISB is tough, and I’m more concerned about the lubrication of other drivetrain components than the engine. There are many satisfactory lubricants; using one oil for a few applications simplifies things.

Several gallons of Delo 400 5W-40 already sat on shelves in my shop intended for other rigs when the new Ram joined the fleet. This Delo meets the specification, is readily available for a low price in my part of Nevada, and will suffice for all temperatures the truck will experience. This lube should work as well as any that meets the spec, and for fun and edification I send samples to be analyzed so we can see how the performance compares to the EVIC oil-change indicator. Using the 15W-40 suggested for temps over zero Fahrenheit is an option, but the truck will see its coldest temperatures in the backcountry, with no power for the block heater. So for now I like 5W-40.

Delo 400 5W-40 has been my chosen diesel lube for the past several years.

With the dust cap on and ready for travel.

Future Change Intervals

The massive increase in oil-change intervals (OCI) on the 2013-up consumer pickups is due to the introduction of SCR/urea injection and the lack of oil dilution. I prefer a longer OCI when possible, and would not be wild about the shorter OCI on the earlier fourth-generation pickups. TDR editor Patton has confidence in Ram’s algorithm to determine OCI, and my EVIC numbers and percentages seem to support driving almost 15,000 miles before a change would be required.

After logging 2,816 miles on the engine the EVIC indicated the oil life was 82-percent of new. Simple math tells me that service life was reduced 1-percent every 156 miles. If that duty-cycle continued, I could have traveled 15,600 miles before needing a change. Impressive! This rig had yet to haul heavy loads or pull trailers, and doing so can reduce the oil’s longevity. Interestingly, the fuel-filter life was almost the same, with 81-percent remaining. The EVIC logs the engine miles and hours, and used oil analysis will likely backup the EVIC data. But what about a time-based OCI?

Resetting the EVIC oil monitor completes the process.

The 2014 Ram owner’s manual diesel supplement says, in bold, “replace the engine oil and oil filter every 15,000 miles (24 000 km) or six months, or sooner if prompted by the oil change indicator system. Under no circumstances should oil change intervals exceed 15,000 miles (24 000 km) or six months, whichever comes first.”

The six-month interval is ridiculously short. I’m calling bull on Ram and Cummins here. My truck was more than six month old when purchased. The lubricant was not changed before it was sent to me, the factory filter was still in-place, and the drain plug had not been touched. Was Dave Smith Motors in violation and my warranty in jeopardy because the engine lube was not changed? Did they sell me a truck that had not been maintained properly? Do the rules apply to me but not them? Balderdash. I’m confident the information obtained from oil analysis will show that about once a year will be often enough for a time-based interval. Avoiding draining three gallons of serviceable oil every six months will more than cover the cost of the oil analysis. We shall see.

Resources:

Geno’s Garage: genosgarage.com, 800-755-1715 

No-Spill Systems: nospillsystems.com, 866-466-7745  

© James Langan/RoadTraveler.net  All rights reserved.

A version of this article was previously published in Issue 87 of the Turbo Diesel Register (TDR) magazine.

Still Plays With Trucks, TDR Issue 86

Readers,

I rearranged my pages and needed to move this article into a new post to fix links. Largely a biographical piece, it documents my enthusiastic return to the Cummins/Ram world and was my initial Still Plays With Trucks column, originally published here on July 18, 2016.

This was the first of several articles culled from recent work for the Turbo Diesel Register (TDR) magazine, a publication I’ve been associated since its inception in 1993.

James

Still Plays With Trucks #1 TDR 86 COPYRIGHT 2014

 

© 2016 James Langan/RoadTraveler.net

Cooper Discoverer S/T MAXX 295/70R18 and 285/75R17

Cooper Discoverer S/T MAXX. Left 295/70R18 Right 285/75R17. Both 34-inches tall.

Cooper Discoverer S/T MAXX—Left 295/70R18— Right 285/75R17—Both 34-inches tall

My idea of a good time on Black Friday? Playing with black tires in my shop of course.

After a 2,500 mile break-in, the 285/75R17 Cooper Discoverer S/T MAXX on 2016 Ram Power Wagon WFV wheels were removed. They were replaced with 295/70R18 S/T MAXX on forged WBJ OE 18-inch wheels.

Aside from the wheel diameters, these tires and wheels are very similar. However, there is a noticeable and measurable height and width difference, the 295s being both a bit wider and taller.

Multi-tread and width tests are underway for future editorials.

© James Langan/RoadTraveler.net

Overland Expo West 2016

Overland Expo West 2016 

Camping and Adventure Travel Exposition At Mormon Lake, Arizona

Overland Expo West is the premiere annual gathering for overland and backcountry travel, an event more important than the SEMA Show for those seeking vehicle-supported adventures. The educational, hands-on, gear shopping, and social opportunities are almost endless, plus it is open to the public, and includes motorcycles. For more about Overland Expo (OE) events visit their website at overlandexpo.com.

During the 2015 event, Flagstaff received a deluge of rain, snow, and resulting mud, combined with unseasonably cold temperatures, but this crowd can handle a little challenge. This year there was some wind, but it was generally very pleasant with seasonal weather.

Ram Truck’s casual press conference was open to the public too.

Ram Truck’s casual press conference was open to the public too.

Ram Truck’s New 2500 Off-Road Package

There is no doubt the Ram Power Wagon is king of full-size trucks in technical terrain, but the Power Wagon package is not available with the Cummins 6.7L for those that prefer the mighty ISB. However, there is a new off-road package for the 2017 Ram 2500 series trucks, including those with the supreme diesel engine from Columbus, Indiana.

Kevin Metz, Head of Ram Heavy Duty Marketing, sharing the lowdown.

Kevin Metz, Head of Ram Heavy Duty Marketing, giving us the lowdown.

Ram conducted a small press conference during OE to talk about their off-highway prowess and offerings. When they shared details on the Ram 2500 Off-road 4×4 Package, I listen intently. The new value-priced option package includes:

-Large front tow hooks

-Fender flares, black or body color (to stop flung debris)

-Bilstein monotube shocks, tuned for the 5-link rear coil suspension and weight

-Firestone LT on/off-road tires, 18” or 20” (less wheel and more sidewall is better off-pavement)

-Transfer-case skid plate (it’s small, but something; a fuel tank skid would be nice)

-Hill-decent control

-Anti-spin rear differential

-“4X4 OFF-ROAD” decals on the tailgate and both sides

This package will be available on almost every trim, cab, wheelbase, gas or diesel-powered 2500 by the third quarter of 2016. Regular cabs were noticeably absent from the list, likely because most are purchased for commercial applications.

Ram Power Wagon is cool, I wish more of its features were offered on Turbo Diesel Rams.

Ram Power Wagon is cool, I wish more of its features were offered on Turbo Diesel Rams.

Some EcoDiesel love at the Ram booth.

An EcoDiesel 1500 at the Ram booth.

Attending this annual event is part of my work, but engaging the folks and scene is a pleasure. The following pictures and captions highlight some of the Cummins-powered standouts.

Owner/Engineer of AEV Dave Harriton’s latest personal canvas on which a custom camper will be built. Dave is a G56 fan, but likes good A/T too, and this 3500 has an Aisin tranny. Using a chassis cab allows 74 gallons of fuel capacity (F 22 R 52), and the DEF tank will be relocated to a less vulnerable and obtrusive location. In these photos the truck already has: AEV DualSport suspension, front bumper, intake snorkel, diff covers, steering upgrades, the new AEV ventilated hood. Huge 41” Super Swamper singles replaced the OE DRW setup, 4.30 gears and ARB lockers are in the differentials, and the bright white fleet paint was covered with a mellow gray color.

Owner/Engineer of AEV Dave Harriton’s latest personal canvas on which a custom camper will be built. Dave is a G56 fan, but likes good A/T too, and this 3500 has an Aisin tranny. In these photos the truck already has: AEV DualSport suspension, front bumper, intake snorkel, diff covers, steering upgrades, and the new AEV ventilated hood. The bright white fleet-look paint was covered with a mellow gray color.

Using a chassis cab allows 74 gallons of fuel capacity (F 22 R 52), and the DEF tank will be relocated to a less vulnerable and obtrusive location.

Using a chassis cab allows 74 gallons of fuel capacity (F 22 R 52), and the DEF tank will be relocated to a less vulnerable and obtrusive location.

Huge 41” Super Swamper singles replaced the OE DRW setup, 4.30 gears and ARB lockers are in the differentials.

Huge 41” Super Swamper singles replaced the factory DRW setup, and 4.30 gears and ARB lockers are in the differentials.

Mario Donovan, co-owner of AT Overland Equipment, built this Third Gen. recently. An ARB bumper protects the nose, and a Four Wheel Camper mounts to a custom flatbed.

Mario Donovan, co-owner of AT Overland Equipment, built this Third Generation Cummins recently. An ARB bumper protects the nose, and a Four Wheel Camper mounts to a custom flatbed.

Dave Bennett is the founder of the American Adventurist website and forum, a place focused on exploring what we have available here instead of abroad, and he recently left Toyota for Ram. His new 2500 project already had lots of cool stuff, including a Buckstop front bumper, but since this photo it received a custom flatbed and Four Wheel Camper.

Dave Bennett is the founder of the American Adventurist website and forum, a place focused on exploring what we have available here instead of abroad, and he recently left Toyota for Ram. His new 2500 project already had lots of cool stuff, including a Buckstop front bumper, but since this photo it received a custom flatbed and Four Wheel Camper.

Dually trucks remain a great choice for heavy slide-in campers, even a popup, particularly if challenging and/or narrow dirt roads are not part of the plan. BundutecUSA is a relatively new camper company based in Iowa, though the founder has decades in the business.

Dually trucks remain a great choice for heavy slide-in campers, even a popup, particularly if challenging and/or narrow dirt roads are not part of the plan. BundutecUSA is a relatively new camper company based in Iowa.

A simple, travlin’ light rooftop tent setup.

A simple, travlin’ light rooftop tent setup.

Copyright 2016 James Langan All rights reserved.

Sources:

AEV: aev-conversions.com, 248-926-0256

American Adventurist: americanadventurist.com

AT Overland: adventuretrailers.com, 877-661-8097

BundutecUSA: bundutecusa.com, 319-234-0071

Overland Expo: overlandexpo.com

A version of this article was also published in Issue 94 of the Turbo Diesel Register (TDR), November 2016.

 

 

Mickey and Danny Thompson at 400 MPH

Want to drive fast? Really fast?

My interest in Mickey Thompson Tires has always been related to off-road truck rubber. I’m not a racer or a car guy, I focus on four-wheel-drives and motos. However, I did speak briefly with Mr. Danny Thompson at the SEMA Show a couple years ago as he prepared for his attempt at the record, and just stumbled upon these two productions.

These excellent, short, professional videos tell an important story of triumph.

 

 

Gorilla Wheel Locks, The System

tdr93_spwt014

Gorilla Automotive Wheel Locks: The System 

October 17, 2016

I’ve never had a set of tires and wheels stolen, but plenty of folks have. External and easy to remove, thieves don’t need to enter your locked truck to take them. Acquaintances that frequent Baja Mexico, and points further south, can make strong arguments for locking tires and wheels. Though one friend who is an editor of a leading overland travel magazine and routinely ventures south-of-the-border had his tires and wheels stolen while staying in a hotel in Prescott, Arizona. Not Mexico. “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” —Benjamin Franklin.

The depth and amount of engagement between a Gorilla key and lug look and feel superior to the McGard wheel locks I’ve also used. Not having a key for a lock is a problem, so I always buy spares. Two ride in different locations inside the truck, and a third lives in my shop toolbox and sees regular use.

The amount of engagement between a Gorilla key and locking-lug is impressive.

The amount of engagement between a Gorilla key and locking-lug is impressive.

A decade ago I started using Gorilla Automotive Products’ locks on my 4Runner, and this was about the time I started testing several light-truck traction tread designs. So the locks have been on, off, and torqued many times more than a typical user who rotates tires every 5,000 miles. Gorilla doesn’t recommend using an impact gun, but after manual loosening I’ve used an impact to spin them off, and have repeatedly run them on (gently) with an impact; they continue to function normally after a decade.

Since buying my first set of Gorilla Locks 10 years ago, I’ve been a fan.

Since buying my first set of Gorilla Locks 10 years ago, I’ve been a fan.

Years ago I bought a 20-lock kit, “The System”, and used a few of the extras on my off-highway trailer and swing-away tire carrier so one key would work on everything, but I have never used more than one lock per wheel. For my current Ram/Cummins project I decided to embrace The System from Gorilla fully, using a complete set of replacement lug nuts. Incorporating the key instead of only a regular hex socket adds a little time to my frequent wheel and tire R&R, but not too much. Few folks outside of tire shops dismount and mount sets of wheels as frequently as I do, so the extra work required to use The System is likely of little concern for enthusiasts. Again, I break the nuts loose with a breaker bar, and run them off with an impact; on too, but just snug. A torque wrench is always used for the tightening, and rechecked frequently.

Don’t leave home without Gorilla Locks—you won’t need your American Express for new tires and wheels.

Gorilla’s System looks great, better than the OEM hex nuts, though function was the reason I installed them. Shown here on a Ram Laramie (WBL) wheel.

Gorilla’s System looks great, better than the OEM hex nuts, though function was the reason I installed them. Shown here on a Ram Laramie (WBL) wheel.

Source:

Gorilla Automotive: gorilla-auto.com, 323-585-2852

Copyright James Langan/RoadTraveler.net

Cooper Discoverer A/T3

crop-tdr93_spwt003

Testing & Talkin’ Tires

October 6, 2016

Even casual readers of this site will notice that I’m a light-truck tire aficionado; there are many posts about rubber for light-trucks. My personal obsession aside, there are powerful reasons tires are such a popular topic for both writers and enthusiasts nearly everywhere we gather. Mounting new meats is one of the easiest and most dramatic performance and/or appearance modifications owners can make to their trucks. Replacing worn rubber with new, even the same pattern, can greatly improve safety and traction. If you have any doubts, watch this Tire Rack video regarding tread depth and stopping distances on wet roads: tirerack.com/videos/index.jsp?video=5&tab=tires

Looking through a historical lens, modern tires are generally excellent, with unsurpassed designs and sizing options, and they are a good value. Yet value doesn’t mean inexpensive, and depending on the size and performance category, a new set of shoes for your truck can easily top $1000. This substantial outlay leads to questions and much research for many buyers.

Still Plays With TIRES means frequent trips to tire stores with a few shoes and insoles. This is a moderate load, sometimes I need a bigger trailer.

Still Plays With TIRES means frequent trips to tire stores with a few shoes and insoles. This is a moderate load, sometimes I need a bigger trailer.

Journalism’s Dirty Tire Secret

If you read truck tire reviews critically, you may realize that many involve very few miles of use before the evaluation is penned, often as little as a few hundred miles. Reasons for this include the long lead-time for print periodicals, editors’ desire to publish something as quickly as possible, and sometimes a little pressure from the manufacturer or advertising agency folks. Writers sometimes mount new tread and take them on a little excursion, writing much about the adventure and some about the tires, then use this one experience as the appetizer, main course, and dessert. Meh.

Another favorite is the manufacturer’s initial ride-and-drive test at a testing facility or track. When possible I happily attend and enjoy such events, but they are mostly a good introduction. If they’re not followed with a longer, personal-use test, they often don’t tell the complete story.

When one brand redesigned their super-popular all-terrain pattern two years ago, they hosted journalists in Baja where the test vehicles were race buggies and Ford Raptors. I have no doubt that the conditions and obstacles were gnarly, and I’m not saying the product isn’t good. But how does one test a tire’s performance on an unfamiliar chassis, particularly on a race buggy or (factory) desert-prerunner truck? Where is the baseline? Are the tires being tested, or is the complete chassis? Would these highly-capable vehicles perform impressively if another tire brand or design was mounted? Surely.

Hopefully readers can benefit from my continuous evaluations. Instead of buying a new set every few years like many consumers, some running the same or similar treads repeatedly, I typically test a few sets each year. My personal experience and database over the past two decades is quite large, and includes aggressive mud tires, tame all-terrains, and many in-between. Although I swap tread often, I dismount them from wheels infrequently. At any given time I have several sets of tires on OE wheels, currently six that fit my 2014 Ram 2500, and keep notes on the dates, miles, performance, and wear. Some I buy, and some are supplied by manufacturers for review. Just this week I sold two older sets, one Ram and one Toyota, and bought a new set for my 2500. Some get more miles than others, depending on my needs and preferences, the physical size or fit, and how well they mesh with current objectives, but all receive thousands not hundreds of miles. Several years ago a teasing friend dubbed me “the Imelda Marcos of tires.” What can I say, if the shoe fits….

Starting lineup. There are few truck parts (any?) I like more than a fresh set of rubber.

There are few truck parts (any?) I like more than a fresh set of rubber.

Cooper Discoverer A/T3

Over the past several years Cooper Tire and Rubber—which is still a U.S.-based company and manufacturer—revamped their light-truck line. The 5-rib all-terrain Cooper Discover A/T3 is a natural choice for someone wanting better traction in more varied conditions than a highway tire (HT) offers, but something quieter, smoother and softer than a commercial traction pattern like Cooper’s S/T MAXX (which I’ve run on my 4Runner for a few years). The performance improvement over an HT can be substantial in inclement weather, including something as common as a hard rain, but the differences can be even more dramatic with a little snow, slush, or ice covering the roadway.

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Because the A/T3 is their flagship all-terrain tire there are an impressive 56 sizes. The outer rib’s open lugs allow liquid and debris to escape better than highway designs, as do the circumferential voids in the center. The silica-based compound improves wet traction and on-highway handling, provides cut and chip resistance on rough terrain, and reduces rolling resistance. Lateral groove protectors reduce stone retention and drilling, and the broken center rib is designed to improve soft surface traction. It is M+S rated, and has a 55,000 mile tread wear warranty.

There will always be a place in my heart and space in my garage for high-void traction tires, though maturing has made me increasingly less fond of louder designs when they are not necessary. The A/T3 is pleasant, barely audible to my ears, and notably quieter than the similar but slightly higher-void 5-rib Toyo A/T II tested on my Ram for 8,000 miles. (The Toyos averaged 1/32 of wear for every 2,100 miles, with frequent rotations, and were removed to mount the A/T3s.)

Comparing Cooper’s high-void, 295/70R18E STT PRO mudder to the the 285/75R18E A/T3. Both sizes support 4,080# each at 80 psi.

Comparing Cooper’s high-void, 295/70R18E STT PRO mudder to the the 285/75R18E A/T3. Both sizes support 4,080# each at 80 psi.

Again I chose the fantastic, niche, LT285/75R18 size. Cooper is one of a handful of companies making this approximately 35×11.50 inch size, tall but not overly wide. These Coopers are 34.84-inches tall, with 17/32 of tread depth measuring 8.9-inches wide, and weighing 58.4-pounds solo and 90 when mated to Ram Big Horn WBJ forged aluminum wheels. They fit perfectly on the stock 8-inch wheels, and like any pattern in this size, will support a massive 4,080 pounds at 80 psi. Loaded to the Ram’s GVWR, with 60 psi in front and 80 psi in back, the rear differential ground clearance is 8 3/4 inches.

Balancing Act 

Using my favorite local Discount Tire store the Coopers were dynamically (dual-plane) balanced. As always Centramatics balancers work in the background, adjusting to any irregularities on-the-fly. The A/T3s took very little wheel weight to balance, and they have remained smooth at all speeds, legal and above.

Inside              Outside

#1 3.00            0.25

#2 1.75            1.75

#3 1.50            3.00

#4 1.25             3.00

The LT285/75R18E Discoverer A/T3 starts with 17/32” of tread.

The LT285/75R18E Discoverer A/T3 starts with 17/32 of tread.

Ride quality is smooth and compliant; the traditional construction 2-ply sidewall is not stiff, and helps absorb impacts, even at full pressure under a maximum load. The generous and squiggly shape of the siping helps grip, and is surely behind some of the excellent winter traction endorsements I’ve read on snow plowing sites (my A/T3s have not seen much wet yet). Straight-line tracking is good as one would expect from a 5-rib all-terrain/all-season design, as is steering response. When conditions are right my truck will drive straight for 10 seconds or more with no input. It’s too early to report on wear, but after the first 2,500 miles, it looks mileage will be similar to the Toyo A/T II tires mentioned above.

The A/T3 doesn’t feature or need sidewall tread for its target market.

The A/T3 doesn’t feature or need sidewall tread for its target market.

Supporting Documentation

Confidence in my prose is important, but I enjoy sharing others’ views when it helps make a point. Before accepting the Senior Editor post at OutdoorX4 magazine, I was a technical editor at Overland Journal (OJ) for a few years. For the Summer 2014 issue, OJ conducted a comprehensive, seven tread, all-terrain comparison which was later published online, and can be read at: expeditionportal.com/where-the-rubber-meets-the-road. The article is a good read for traction tire enthusiasts. The short version is that the Cooper Discoverer A/T3 won both the prizes given after these tests are completed: the “Value Award” and “Editor’s Choice”.

For a less analytical but impressive amateur review, this YouTube link gives a snapshot of the A/T3’s winter performance potential. A competitor’s design with plenty of tread remaining cannot start up a snowy incline in 2WD, but with Cooper A/T3s mounted, the truck moves forward.

youtube.com/watch?v=m2OHErN5ZOI&app=desktop

If you are in the market for a traditional 5-rib all-terrain, but with an updated design and reputation for superior traction, consider the Cooper Discoverer A/T3.

Sources:

Cooper Tires: coopertire.com, 800-854-6288

A version of this article was published in Issue 93 of the Turbo Diesel Register magazinein my Still Plays With Trucks column.

Copyright James Langan/RoadTraveler.net 

BOLT Locks

September 18, 2016

tdr93_spwt019

Many of the chores we use our trucks for involves working with toys, trailers, gear, and paraphernalia that we want to stay until we decide it’s time for removal. This means securing things, as unattended and unlocked stuff sometimes disappears, while secured items are removed with much less frequency. Locking is an obvious solution, but it’s doubtful many enjoy adding extra keys to their ring and pocket clutter.

2-inch chrome plated, 5/16-inch diameter hardened steel shackle padlocks

2-inch chrome plated, 5/16-inch diameter hardened steel shackle padlocks.

Occasionally products are introduced that help organize, improve, and simplify the gearhead experience. This was the case when I discovered and started using BOLT’s locks earlier this year (five years after their introduction). With the advent and popularity of automotive FOBs and keyless entry, traditional keys are increasingly less common for starting trucks. However, we still need them for many things, and the old-fashioned key is not leaving our world anytime soon. The primary test vehicle for BOLT’s products was a 2014 Ram Cummins 2500, but they make locks for several brands.

Any OE-style key will work, including the slide-out key from the end of a modern Ram FOB, or the larger spare door key I always carry.

Any OE-style key will work, including the slide-out key from the end of a modern Ram FOB, or the larger spare door key I always carry.

BOLT is a subsidiary of STRATTEC® Security Corporation, who has been making automotive locks, keys, and access-control products for OEMs for over 100 years. BOLT is an acronym for Breakthrough One-key Lock Technology. They have received numerous awards for their technology that mechanically reads, then sets the code to your OE ignition/door key the first time it’s inserted and turned. Brilliant. There is a detailed, short video on BOLT’s website that shows exactly how they do it: boltlock.com/how-it-works

Before discovering this alternative, a mishmash of systems were on my Ram. I was using four padlocks on my Hallmark camper, two on the front turnbuckles, and two for the AT Overland fuel can carriers on the back wall. The front and rear hitch receivers were both secured, and another padlock and cable held the heavy, portable, and expensive ARB suitcase compressor I carry behind the driver’s seat (to eliminate a potential projectile during a collision and to prevent theft). Discovering I could use one key for all these items sold me!

Towing is so popular these days, most could probably use receiver and coupler pin locks.

Towing is so popular these days, most could probably use receiver and coupler pin locks.

BOLT products in-use on my Ram include: two 5/8-inch receiver pins, one travel trailer coupler pin, a cable for my spare tire, and several 2-inch padlocks. What a time saver, convenience, and pleasure when working on my truck and needing to open something; I just reach into my pocket for the factory key I always have. I liked this system so much I ordered a few for my Toyota 4Runner, which also pulls trailers, has a gas can carrier, and other things that need securing.

Stainless steel key shutter prevents dirt and moisture entry.

Stainless steel key shutter prevents dirt and moisture entry.

The padlocks are weatherproof, have a plate tumbler sidebar to prevent picking and bumping, and a stainless steel key shutter to keep out dirt and moisture. The hitch and cable locks also have a tethered cap to protect the mechanisms further.

During a 2000-mile, two-week road trip in June, including 100 miles of off-pavement travel, we camped on dirt every night, and had windy and gritty southwest canyon conditions for several days. Then mountain puddles deposited a layer of mud, all of which took hours to remove once home. The locks continue to work perfectly.

One BOLT padlock took the place of two smaller locks on my AT can carriers. Fit is snug with no rattle.

One BOLT padlock took the place of two smaller locks on my AT Overland can carriers. Fit is snug with no rattle.

It is important to note that these don’t just use an automotive key. They exude quality, are smooth and precise, and have a limited lifetime warranty. The BOLT products are not inexpensive, the 2-inch padlock retails for $22. However, most truckers probably don’t want as many locks as me, and can spend less money. For about $100 you can lock your hitch receiver, trailer ball, and spare tire.

I like that BOLT’s cable lock will help keep the spare with the truck should the OE winch fail. I’ve read horror stories about heavy aftermarket tires/wheels falling.

BOLT’s cable lock will help keep the spare with the truck should the winch fail. I’ve read horror stories about heavy aftermarket tires/wheels falling.

© 2016 James Langan/RoadTraveler.net

Source:

BOLT: boltlock.com, 844-972-7547, info@boltlock.com

A version of this article was also published in the Turbo Diesel Register magazine.

Copyright James Langan/RoadTraveler.net

Land Rover Series IIA restoration

August 5, 2016

Land Rovers are not my thing and probably never will be, Series IIA or otherwise. Sure, I lusted after the Defender 90 and 110 when they were officially imported to The States years ago, but I’ve never had a strong desire to own a Land Rover. And while I spend plenty of time in my garage modifying, servicing, and repairing (newer) vehicles, an automotive restorer I am not.

While surfing the web I stumbled upon North American Overland and their video documenting a complete restoration of a Series IIA Rover. The video is very well done, and I would be surprised if any gearhead, regardless of specialty or bias, was not impressed by the impeccable attentional to details. Impressive!

SEMA Show 2014

2014 SEMA Show feature in the Turbo Diesel Register Issue 87.

Includes: BD Diesel Performance manifolds, turbos, and differential cover. Legacy Classic Trucks Dodge Carryall and Jeep Scrambler with a 3.0-liter VM Motori turbo diesel. McLeod Workhorse clutch. Cooper Discoverer A/TW winter tire. Dick Cepek Extreme Country mud tire. AEV Ram regular cab flatbed.

COPYRIGHT! ALL MATERIAL PROTECTED BY COPYRIGHT 

TDR-SEMA-Issue-87

 

COPYRIGHT! ALL MATERIAL PROTECTED BY COPYRIGHT 

Toyo M/T 255/85R16 Part 6

1996 F-350 7.3L Power Stroke/T444E with 255/85R16 Toyo M/T

1996 F-350 7.3L Power Stroke/T444E with 255/85R16 Toyo M/T

It’s time to finish this slow, drawn-out tire review. If you need some background read the previous related post here: Toyo M/T Part 5

After a mere 1,278 miles traveled over twelve days, the measured treadwear on this set of 255/85R16E Toyo M/T tires went from 19/32″ when new, to 18/32″ on the front axle and 17/32″ on the rears.

Front 255/85R16 Toyo M/T worn 1/32" on 1,278 miles

Front 255/85R16 Toyo M/T worn 1/32″ after 1,278 miles

Rear 255/85R16 Toyo M/T worn 2/32" after 1,278 miles

Rear 255/85R16 Toyo M/T worn 2/32″ after 1,278 miles

It’s well known that diesel torque, weight, towing, and high speeds all contribute to wear, and sometimes tires wear faster initially, then slow to a more palatable rate. However, after removing a set of Dick Cepek F-C II 285/75R16D tires that were hardly wearing, same as when they were mounted on a lighter rig, this Toyo M/T wear was unacceptable. While I’d run sets of Toyo M/Ts before, I’d put them on a lighter Toyota 4Runner and a 2005 Jeep TJ, and hadn’t experienced this kind of wear. The old F-350 T444E/7.3L Power Stroke was not a daily driver—logging few miles per year, though most were working—so the tires could have lasted years if I would have left them on the truck.

We can’t always have new tires, but I prefer deep rubber, tread that not only starts meaty but stays that way for a while. Depth and void are critical components of traction, so shallow tread not only means less longevity, but also potentially less grip, sooner, after fewer miles.

LT255/85R16E Toyo Open Country M/T

LT255/85R16E Toyo Open Country M/T

There was another niggle, the extremely common right-pull of the Toyo muds. I had resigned myself to living with this on the F-350, but combined with the fast wear it more than I cared to tolerate.

My solution was to return the tires for a “ride complaint”. Some manufacturers offer customers this resolution for certain issues, sometimes they even advertise this warranty for new patterns, or for lines that have proved exceptionally popular and/or reliable. However, even when this option is available it typically expires after more than 2/32″ of tread are consumed…which was going to occur in less than 2,000 miles! In this situation I’d more than earned this option with one of my local Les Schwab dealers, having purchased many sets of tires for several platforms in recent years. The truck had to wear shoes, but which ones? A few sets of 285/75R16 treads had been squeezed onto the factory 16 x 7-inch forged aluminum Alcoa wheels, though I much prefer the 255/85 size. Same height, look great, less filling. This quickly narrows the options and I needed to buy them from Les Schwab Tires.

Maxxis Bighorn LT255/85R16D

Maxxis Bighorn LT255/85R16D

Maxxis Bighorn MT-762

Les Schwab is not the least expensive tire dealer around; in fact they can be comparatively expensive these days since Discount Tire moved into the region.  Yet, through the years I’ve been mostly happy with the service from most dealers, and willing to pay a little extra depending on the products and services. The Toyo M/T has always been a relatively expensive tire, particularly from Les Schwab dealers, while Maxxis Bighorns have been a good value. When I purchased my first set of Bighorns from Les Schwab several years ago they were a deal, and the prices still seem relatively good in 2016. Then and now, similar dollars are needed to buy five LT255/85R16 Bighorns, or four Toyo Open Country muds, so I did.

Mounting Bighorn 255/85R16 on the stock 16 x 7 inch forged luminous OE F-350 wheel

Mounting Bighorn 255/85R16 on the stock 16 x 7 inch forged stock F-350 wheel

The Bighorns are not a zero compromise choice or design. They also wear fast, even on lighter platforms, and by modern standards they are loud. But if tolerating rapid wear was a necessity, I’d prefer a less expensive product. Plus, they have never caused any of my rigs to drift right (Toyota, Jeep, or Ford), have provided excellent traction in most terrain, and are more flexible at a given pressure while offering a more comfortable ride. All tires can be punctured, but I’ve yet to put a hole in a Maxxis tire; though I did have a sidewall split on my first set on the same F-350, which was replaced under (pro-rated) warranty.

Still A Toyo Fan

I’m compelled to share that while this set of Toyos were a disappointment at the time and I decided to dump them, I’m still a fan of the Toyo brand. Toyo makes high quality tires that typically require little weight to balance, and I’ve purchased another set of Toyo truck tires recently. Wear is not always the predominant factor when choosing new rubber, and all tire choices involve compromise.

As critical as I was of the wear at the time, over the past two years I’ve again been driving heavy diesel pickups regularly, have seen similar, rapid tire wear, and with more than one brand. Those details will have to wait….

© 2016 James Langan/RoadTraveler