Chevy returning to medium-duty trucks

Chevrolet is returning to medium-duty trucks with new class 4 and 5 pickups, to debut at the Work Truck Show in early March. Generally, this type of truck is sold with extensive aftermarket customization, to commercial customers. While Ford dominates this segment, Ram has done well since launching new chassis cabs (engineered in cooperation with Sterling) some years ago.

The new medium duty trucks have no gasoline engines, put combine Duramax diesels with Allison transmissions with two or four wheel drive, standard and crew cabs, and a variety of wheelbases.

Key selling points in this class tend to be cost of operation, maintenance, and durability, rather than raw power. Ram, for example, emphasized larger, longer-lasting brakes, larger gas tanks, and better-than-usual electrical systems, along with various “upfitter-friendly” features. Chevrolet’s spokesman said their own new trucks were designed to be “among the best in the industry” on a variety of comparison points.… Read the rest


Why GM car keys went in with the teeth down

In the grand old days before we, and probably our fathers, were born, Chrysler locks were built by Yale and Ford locks were built by Hurd. These were the common design called “pin tumbler” locks; they were pretty much identical to the locks on houses.

These locks work best with gravity helping the tumbler springs to seat the pins, and the same gravity keeps dust and water out of the pin holes; so the design uses the key in the “tooth up” orientation.

Chrysler keys went in the normal way

GM locks were built by Briggs & Stratton (the same people that build lawnmower engines), using a design called “flat tumbler side locking bar.” This is a more secure locking system, virtually pick-proof, but does have some other limitations. Key and component wear is decreased with the key in the “tooth down” orientation.… Read the rest

1910 Brush roadster car test drive

The new standard for pickup automatics is having eight to ten speeds in their automatic transmissions; but one of the foremost engineering innovators for fledging General Motors beat Toyota by about one hundred years. While he was at it, he also introduced some suspension ideas that would become commonplace.

Alanson Brush was a respected technical innovator, despite having any formal mechanical training. He worked for Leland and Falconer Manufacturing in Detroit, following service in the Spanish-American War. That’s how he came to the attention of Henry Leland, who needed some key problems solved related to the drive trains of the first Oldsmobiles. That led to the founders of General Motors also seeking Brush’s advice on the Cadillac and Buick. He also did work for Oakland and Marmon.

Brush had become the chief engineer at Cadillac by 1905; but in October 1905, Brush left the Cadillac Company to start an experimental laboratory and private shop.… Read the rest

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

Turn signals — amber or red? Turns out, it really matters

What color should rear turn signals be? In North America they’re usually red, and can also be amber. Almost everywhere else in the world, they have to be amber.

Traffic moves and changes quickly. Fractions of a second make the difference between a crash and a miss. That means that clear, unambiguous brake and turn signals must convey their message without requiring any unnecessary decoding — as in, a red light = brakes and amber = turn.

Amber wins over red even without the less dramatic niceties: in traffic, drivers looking well ahead can make better decisions about lane changes; traffic congestion is reduced. But safety regulations aren’t based on common sense; they’re supposed to be based on evidence, facts, and science. So what are the facts?

In 2008, NHTSA (the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, responsible for writing U.S.… 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

closed dealer

Dealing with your car dealer on repairs and warranty work

There are good and bad dealers within any brand, from Acura to Volvo. Here are some tips if your dealer is less than ideal. Before we go on, though, let us set out two ground rules:

  1. Always be calm and courteous, even when you are not treated well.
  2. The service guy might just be right — we at least need to be open to that possibility.

Nearly every car dealer is independently owned.  Automakers usually try to get their dealers to be honest, helpful, and competent, but some push dealers to cut corners on warranty work; and some dealers react by converting warranty work into profitable customer-paid work, pretending that the automaker will not pay for the repair (when in fact they would, even out of warranty).

Some problems, even past the usual three (or five) years, can be covered by a Federal warranty which can go up to 100,000 miles.… 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