Peterbilt 387/Cummins: an exhausting problem

by Richard Henley

On the 28th of February I was leaving Colorado with a load of pipe heading for Midland, Texas, and running down US 287 between Springfield and Campo, Colorado when I  noticed the truck was sounding a bit different. 

By the time I got to Boise City, okay, it’s sounding really cool, but my eyes are beginning to water so I pull into the Love’s truck stop to check it out. Early suspicions prove to be correct; the exhaust flex pipe behind the turbo has broken, Murphy’s Law means it’s blowing the fumes into the heater intake and pumping them right in the cab. It’s a cool night, but with the heater set to re-circulate and the windows open I can still run along without having to breathe too many fumes,  but  when I get down to Cactus, TX and it starts to rain, so I shut it down to wait out the rain.

After a few hours it stops, so the windows go back down and I get back on the road. I get the load of pipe kicked off in Midland and call my road assist people to find out where the closest Peterbilt dealer is so I can get a new piece of flex pipe to fix the truck. This nets me two pieces of good news, the first being that the closest Pete dealer is right down the road in Odessa, and the second is that the flex pipe is a warranty item. The second item came as a pleasant surprise, as the exhaust flex pipes were considered a “consumable item” on my previous Freightliner.

So the plan is, I go to the West Texas Peterbilt, and if they can get me in quickly I’ll let them fix it under warranty, and if they can’t I’ll buy the flex pipes and fix it myself. I’ve done enough of these on several previous trucks to know that it can be done with basic hand tools in a truck stop parking lot in a couple of hours, leaving plenty of time to get the required rest and be in Wichita Falls the next morning for my next pickup.

I get over to West Texas Peterbilt at 5:15 pm, and go into the shop and explain the problem and get pointed to Marc Phillips. I give him the VIN number and odometer reading (98,144) for the truck. It takes him about 30 seconds of taping on his computer keyboard to confirm that the flex pipes are a warranty item, and about a minute of consultation with Robert in the parts department to confirm they have at least half a dozen of the required part in stock.

I’m in a bit of shock right now, having gotten used to dealing with Freightliner service departments for the last couple of years. I’ve been to Freightliner shops where it took longer than this to find the service writer, let alone get it written up. However, we still have the trick question to answer, that is how long till you can get started? The answer was “About as long as it takes you to drop your trailer and pull into the fourth bay.”

Peterbilt 387 class 8 truck

Sure enough, when I pull up to the fourth bay, the door is open and a tech named Charlie is standing there to guide me in. Before I even get out of the truck he’s opening the hood to get started. I head outside and have a smoke, and then look for the drivers’ lounge to see if I can score some free coffee. Not finding any signs to direct me I head for Marc’s desk to ask, only instead of getting directions I get a piece of paper to sign because they are done with the repair.

I thought he was joking with me. First off, I’ve had enough time to smoke half a pack before I can find out if they can even get my truck in by the weekend at some of the Freightliner shops I’ve been to. Second, I’ve changed enough flex pipes to know that it’s not an easy job, and usually takes over an hour even in a shop with all the right tools.

When I get back to the truck, Charlie shows me the old flex pipe, and part of the reason the repair went so quickly is due to the design of the part. I’m not certain if Cummins or Peterbilt needs the credit here,  but the flex pipe has flanges at both ends instead of the traditional slip fitting that’s been used forever, meaning it’s easier to change, no air chisel required. The additional benefit is that you only have to change the one that’s broken instead of having to replace both flex pipes at the same time. Both factors contribute to the speed and ease of the repair.

By 6 pm I’m hooked to the trailer and heading out the driveway. I don’t know if all the warranty repairs I’ll need with this truck are going to go this smooth and easy, but it’s sure a good sign when the first one does. A truckload of kudos for Marc, Charlie and Robert at West Texas Peterbilt in Odessa, who provided a very short but extremely pleasant repair experience. The only problem is, I never did get to see if they had free coffee in the drivers’ lounge.

Richard Henley’s Peterbilt 387 truck review