Peterbilt 387/Cummins: an exhausting problem

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, my eyes were beginning to water, so I pulled into the Love’s truck stop to check it out. Early suspicions prove to be correct; the exhaust flex pipe behind the turbo had broken, and Murphy’s Law means it’s blowing the fumes into the heater intake and pumping them right in the cab. With the heater set to re-circulate and the windows open I can still run along without having to breathe too many fumes.

I got the load of pipe kicked off in Midland and called my road assist people to find out where the closest Peterbilt dealer is so I could get a new piece of flex pipe to fix the truck.… Read the rest

Maintaining the Peterbilt 387/Cummins ISX: the good and the bad

The Peterbilt’s odometer showed 100,000 miles, and time for the fourth oil change. I was near a shop that allowed me to use a bay, so I did this one myself — both to save the money normally spent on shop labor, but also to really inspect the equipment on a level one is normally not capable of in a parking lot.

Getting the oil changed at the average truck stop or dealership shop costs between $180 and $260, and you will probably find another $25 to $75 in shop charges, environmental fees, and taxes added to that. Doing the labor myself, the oil filter, two fuel filters, and the coolant filter came to $72.82. Forty-two quarts of oil, bought in bulk, cost $78.54, and a $3 tube of grease brought the total to $154.36. That saved me an extra Franklin to give to the wife, and that always makes her happy.… Read the rest

Class 8 truck tires for a Peterbilt 387: Baby needs a new pair of shoes

When the odometer on my Peterbilt 387 showed 108,000 miles, I had to replace the steer tires. That’s a little sooner than I normally have to replace steer tires, but the truck came with Bridgestone R287 tires on the steer axle and they did the exact same thing as every other set of Bridgestone steer tires I’ve ever had.

They seem to develop uneven wear on the outer edge between 90,000 and 110,000 miles, and its really upsetting because half the tread will still be left on the rest of the tire when they need to be replaced. I did a poor boy’s alignment check (level surface, framing square and tape measure for toe in) and it checked out okay, so once again I have to assume it’s a tire problem and not a truck problem.… Read the rest

Coming soon to your car: dangerous big-rig safety features

The last few new class 8 trucks I have driven have had a bevy of new safety features that are the cutting edge of “looks good on paper.”  I know some of you aren’t worried about what is mandated on a big rig, but what starts here will trickle down to become the next pain in your rear. If you don’t believe me, look at talk of tracking cars with GPS so they can charge you for the miles you drive. That kind of taxation has been used in the trucking industry for years. What about seat belts? Those were required on commercial vehicles back when they were still a seldom-ordered option on passenger cars.

I’m not ranting about every safety feature; some of them are pretty good. I like ABS, which has helped me avoid some accidents, but that system was thoroughly tested and had the bugs worked out before it was offered.… Read the rest

Peterbilt 387/Cummins ISX long term test

My new Cummins truck isn’t a Dodge Ram. My new Cummins is the Ram’s daddy, a Cummins ISX 445, displacing 15 liters, with dual overhead cams and a variable geometry turbo. The turbo is huge, and the valve cover is half the size of the redhead’s kitchen table.

Variable geometry started as “variable nozzle technology” with the Chrysler Turbo IV setup. It lets the turbocharger act small at lower rpm, and large at higher rpm, so it has fast spool-up with high efficiency and high capacity.

The engine tag says it has 445 hp at 2,100 rpm, but mine seems to flat line at around 1600 rpm. The tag also mentions torque, and based on how it does the hills, I’m guessing it’s pretty close to the 1,700 foot-pounds it advertises, at 1,200 rpm.

I couldn’t believe that number was for real at first, but my first load took me across US 60 and down US 63 from Springfield to Memphis, up and down the hills over the mountains and through the valleys, and this engine took climbs in high gear that used to require two or three downshifts in my last truck.… Read the rest