I was in Columbus, Indiana, for the 100th anniversary of the Cummins Engine Company, and the Turbo Diesel Register Rallly.
It will take me a while to sort through all the content I created, but I’m sharing some iphone snaps here and on Instagram. (Heck, I still have material from Overland Expo West I have not finished sharing.)
Tell ‘em you saw it on RoadTraveler.net.
Copyright James Langan/RoadTraveler. All Rights Reserved
Toyo’s New Load Range ***F*** Open Country Tire Line
Torque, horsepower, and tow/haul ratings in our so-called light-trucks have been soaring toward the stratosphere for several years. The competition between the North American diesel pickup manufactures to one-up the other has never been stronger. They have passed the 900 lb-ft barrier and are marching toward the next big hurdle; 1,000 lb-ft of flywheel torque. (At least that is the number on-paper, torque management can make it feel like less, but the idea is to prevent unnecessary roughness and increase driveline longevity.)
In decades past the transmissions, brakes, frames, and other items didn’t match the grunt of the medium-duty truck engines stuffed into pickups, but those inadequacies are mostly behind us. The constant improvement of these components could not support the increased ratings if light-truck (LT) tire capacities didn’t keep pace. There is possibly nothing less safe than not having enough tire (capacity, speed ratings, etc.) for the job. Manufacturers continually strive to meet market demands. If we ask for and buy, companies are happy to build stuff for us.
More Air For Big Loads
There is science and some regulating body input that affects how much tires are rated to support. A simple way to think about tire capacities is to understand that it is the total amount of air inside a tire that supports the rated weight. That includes the physical volume/space inside the tire and the air-pressure. A tire of a given size that can accept higher pressures, is almost always going to be rated to carry more mass. More space and more psi equals more capacity in pounds.
As simple as we try to make this, there is at least one combination of ratings that many find illogical. Most, but not all, load range (LR) E LT rubber carry their maximum rated loads at 80 psi, but a few are rated for a maximum of 65 psi. In addition to not supporting as much cargo, because of the lower pressure, trucks with a simple TPMS (tire pressure monitoring system), like a late model 2500 Ram/Cummins, will always have a TPMS warning light illuminated when running with less than the maximum 80 psi in the rear tires and/or 60 psi up front.
The TRA Sets The Standards
The Tire and Rim Association (TRA) is the standardization body for this industry in the United States. It was established in 1903, and it is lead by top technical representatives from member companies. There are a few niche manufacturers who don’t belong to this association, and therefore may not abide by the industry standards, but they are few. The common tire sizes, load ratings, and capacities most of us use and are familiar with were created and sanctioned by the TRA. Traditionally, flotation sizes (33×12.50R17, 35×12.50R18, etc.) have received more conservative ratings, notably lower than those for LT-metric sizes. Why? Because the TRA says so. Maybe there is a technical and/or regulatory reason, but for the end user they are what they are, and we must pick a tire the meets our needs.
New Load Range F Toyo Tires
Toyo Tires is again leading the industry by introducing load range F tires in sizes that were formerly 65 psi, load range E. Toyo is making several in their Open Country A/T II and M/T designs, plus a couple for Open Country R/T. Toyo’s sister company Nitto was actually first to market with LR F light-truck rubber last year, but they are only offered in a few part numbers in one tread pattern, the Nitto Ridge Grappler.
Nearly all of the new LR F products added to the Open Country line are in flotation sizes, instead of LT-metric. Two 35” tall examples of these different size formats are the LT305/70R18 LT-metric, and the 35×12.50R18LT flotation size. Both are roughly 35” tall by 12.5” wide, and made for 18” wheels. All of the new Toyo LR F sizes listed here are for taller, 18”, 20”, and 22” wheels.
Open Country M/T
Open Country R/T
Open Country A/T II
Time To Think Differently About Tires. Use The Load Index
The load range letter designations will surely continue, but they are a somewhat confusing standard because the psi and LR are not married like most consumers think, they’re merely going steady but occasionally flirt around. The older ply rating (or P.R.) standard is still used, and this is stamped on the sidewalls of many tires (i.e. 6-ply rating = LR C,8-ply rating = LR D, and 10-ply rating = LR E) and is arguably irrelevant in the 21st century. The numbers do not mean a tire has that many body plies; they don’t. This is a holdover from the old bias-ply days, where the number of cotton carcass (body) plies helped increase the capacity. Tire technology has advanced a bit over the past several decades, and cotton plies are no longer used. If the ply rating designations are outdated and the load range letters can be misleading or confusing, what should we use? One tire engineer acquaintance suggests we use the load index, and I’m inclined to agree.
The load index is a number that indicates the maximum weight a tire can support when properly inflated to its maximum cold psi, and it is stamped on the sidewall like the other ratings and information. Using the load index, and/or the tire inflation charts that I’ve favored for over 20 years, removes much of the potential confusion, as it focuses on how much is supported at what psi. My push to start using the load index over (or in addition to) these older metrics starts here. It will be an adjustment.
35X12.50R18LT Toyo Open Country A/T II Xtreme
My 2014, 25th Anniversary Cummins Turbo Diesel routinely operates at its GVWR, so I welcomed the additional capacity of the new load range F rubber. As a fan of shorter and narrower wheels, I chose the Open Country A/T II Xtreme pattern in a 35×12.50R18LT. With the new load range F/12-ply rating, each tire is rated to carry 3,970 pounds at 80 psi. The load index is 128, the speed rating is Q, tread depth is 17/32”, and each tire weighs 68 pounds.
For comparison, the 35×12.50R18 load range E A/T II has a load index of 123, which is 3,415 pounds at 65 psi. Increasing the maximum load by 555 pounds per tire is a big deal, and it is necessary for fans of big wheels and flotation sizes that haul heavy stuff.
Toyo prides itself on making exceptionally high-quality tires that often require relatively little wheel weight to balance. This is not just a claim; it has been confirmed by Toyos I’ve tested. Mounted on 32-pound Ram Laramie WBL aluminum wheels, the tread width is 10.25”, and the combination weighed 100.6 pounds on my shop scale. Using the dynamic, dual-plane balancing method, they took the following ounces to balance:
Outside Inside Total
#1 0.5 0.75 1.25
#2 2.0 0 2.0
#3 1.75 0.5 2.25
#4 2.00 1.5 3.50
Dynamic balancing always requires more weight because the tires and wheels are balanced in two planes, vertical and horizontal, instead of just vertical (the so-called static method). For these tall, wide, and heavy tires and wheels to require so little lead is impressive. Four tries requiring so little weight is what one might hope for when using the static method for a smaller, lighter tire and wheel package. Even doubling the numbers here would not be unreasonable for static balancing. Awesome Toyo!
First Short Drives
Keeping the balancing data in-mind, it was no surprise that these Toyos were as smooth as glass at any speed on a good roadway. What about the difference between these new LR F Toyos compared to the same tire in a LR E? When I shared with friends I was running new LR F tires, a couple asked about the ride, assuming they would be stiff.
Ride feel is appropriate, no stiffer or sloppier than a typical LR E 80 psi tire. Running 60 psi in front and 80 psi in the rear—the same as most other tires and sizes on my Ram when fully loaded—the truck is as smooth and stable as it would be with any 80 psi tire.
The rugged and familiar 3-ply sidewalls and 7-ply tread of most Toyo Open Country LT designs felt just right. The obvious advantage of the new LR F is being able to carry more weight (load index 128) and not having a TPMS light illuminated when pumped-up to higher pressures.
Long Haul — A Quick 1,700 Miles
These new 35×12.50R18 Toyos were mounted just days before driving from Reno, Nevada, to Flagstaff, Arizona, for the Overland Expo West event. Driving conditions and surfaces included a little city, plenty of high-speed Interstate freeway, winding rural highways, some rain, dirt and gravel roads, and even a bit of snow.
The audible hum emanating from the Xtreme version of Toyo’s A/T II may surprise the uninitiated, but this 5-rib tread has a fairly open pattern for an all-terrain. The voids needed to help evacuate rain, snow, slush, moderate mud, and other debris, will make any tire louder than a less aggressive design. Of course the roadway surface makes a difference, tires typically sing more on concrete than asphalt, and the slightly wider (than I usually run) 12.5” meats put extra rubber on the road. The tires are notloud by traction tire standards, but you can hear them, and as I headed for the Southwest, the title track from Steve Earl’s 1986 debut album, Guitar Town, started playing on my radio, including:
“Hey pretty baby don’t you know it ain’t my fault
I love to hear the steel belts hummin’ on the asphalt…”
Being familiar with the tread, there were no surprises; the tires handled varied terrain well, as expected. I’ve run the Toyo A/T II Xtremes before, and was happy to evaluate them again.
This article was also published in the Turbo Diesel Register magazine.
Copyright James Langan/RoadTraveler/Turbo Diesel Register. All Rights Reserved.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
As a longtime diesel aficionado, I have some thoughts about the recent revelation regarding Volkswagen’s intentional cheating on emissions tests, allowing vehicles to apparently meet standards when they actually did not while traveling on public roads.
Looking Back Before Looking Forward
We have already passed the crossroads for light-duty diesel acceptance in the USA. The overly belabored weaknesses of 1970s and 1980s G.M. diesel designs have finally faded in the press (which occurred long ago in the minds of most consumers).
Installing the naturally-aspirated International 6.9L V8 in 1983 Ford F-series pickups was a good, modest start. A positive diesel future was sealed when Chrysler and heavy-duty engine manufacturer Cummins installed the venerable 5.9L ISB turbodiesel in a mature Dodge pickup body. Light-duty diesel emission requirements were limited in those days, but have been updated several times since, becoming much more stringent. Yet manufacturers have developed technologies to meet the standards while simultaneously and dramatically improving performance. The massive toque and horsepower offered in newer diesel pickups from Ford, GM, and Ram were reserved for medium-duty and larger commercial trucks just a few years ago. Sometimes manufacturers even met future emissions requirements early, as Cummins did at one point with their 6.7L ISB.
More Diesel Cars Please
Smaller automotive diesel options (cars) have been few, with VW and Mercedes being the main players in the U.S. for decades, and BMW joining the fray more recently. VW has been the volume seller of diesel automobiles, which has much to do with the lower price of their vehicles and the miles-per-gallon they have been able to squeeze from a gallon of fuel.
The unfolding scandal interests me not only because of my enthusiasm for turbodiesel cars and light-trucks, but I also have a long standing connection to the VW brand. In my youth, my first two vehicles were 60s vintage VW Beetles. Before that, I literally learned to drive a manual transmission in my Papa’s 1978 VW Rabbit diesel 4-speed. Two decades later my wife and I owned a 2000 Golf TDI, putting 166,000 miles on the odometer before taking advantage of the excellent diesel resale value, and buying a new, 2013 Jetta Sportwagen “clean diesel”. Siblings and parents own VWs, and with my encouragement two cousins purchased late model VW TDIs.
Is this ridiculousness by VW going to hurt diesel sales from other manufacturers in the long run? I don’t think so. The emissions are extremely low (when met) and the economy and performance advantages many.
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