by Richard Rowe
Image from Flickr.com, courtesy of John Martinez Pavliga
Almost by definition, truckers have always been practically obsessed with engine reliability, fuel consumption. To meet the demand for a new type of engine that would help introduce turbo-diesels into this millennium, Detroit Diesel (a subsidiary of Chrysler AG) introduced the Series 60 as its industry win car. Although the 60 million produced since 1987 have generally lived up to Chrysler’s promise, many are beginning to show their age in rather unseemly ways.
Older Detroit engines are prone to coolant leaks in the EGR (Exhaust Gas Recirculation) system. Although the problem is not necessarily serious, it can lead to white smoke from the tailpipe, mild overheating, and loss of coolant over time. The loss of coolant will eventually become severe enough to cause serious overheating and shutdown, so repairing the EGR leak should be considered a priority.
The Series 60 was one of the first in the industry to be offered with a drive-by-wire system. This setup does not use any mechanical connection between the accelerator pedal and the engine, but relies on the truck’s computer to modulate the air supply on demand. These systems are generally reliable, but some owners with aftermarket engine brakes have found that the engine brake requires different computer programming. Failures in this system can cause complete loss of throttle control.
The factory jumper cables on some Detroit 60 engines are known to have held up poorly. While the 4-gauge wires that the motor came with were sufficient from the factory, time can reduce the cable’s ability to transfer current to the starter. This lack of power leads to a no-start condition that resembles a dead battery, and can be recognized by battery cables running much hotter when starting the truck than they should.
In an attempt to save fuel, Detroit engineers designed the 60 to idle at very low speeds. However, it took Detroit about 10 years to realize that the engine’s idle speed was not fast enough to run the oil pump. As such, many older engines (pre-1997) have had lower bearings replaced more than once due to a lack of oil.
Bad fuel economy
When it comes to power, the Series 60 tends to favor the higher end of the RPM band. While this works well on paper, the 60s high RPM horsepower and low RPM fuel economy setting have given some foot-forward drivers the impression that these engines are fuel efficient. . The truth is quite the opposite: Detroit 60s get excellent fuel economy, but not when driven at 4000 RPM.