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reliability of old trucks?

Discussion in 'Commercial Snow Removal' started by BushHogBoy, Dec 11, 2004.

  1. BushHogBoy

    BushHogBoy Senior Member
    Messages: 665

    I am looking at buying a late 70's Dodge 3/4 ton 4x4, 360, a/t, for plowing as some of you may know from my posts. i expect stuff will break from age and wear but in general, how reliable is a old truck that has not been rebuilt? i've only had fuel injected trucks (89, 90 Fords) that are great on reliability. I'll have to learn how to work with the carburetor. other than that what concerns do you have with older trucks? i want something i can count on being there for me. i know alot of people with old trucks that appear reliable but i don't know what it is behind the scenes :gunsfiring:
    Eric :waving:
  2. btrussell

    btrussell Member
    Messages: 65

    Carburetors are not hard to work on. I have only really worked on ones on small motors like out boards and air cooled motors. As on reliability the truck should be able to pay for itself and as long as its been taken care of and you take care of it, it should suit you fine.
  3. Tarkus

    Tarkus PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,113

    Two weaknesses with 73 thru 79 Dodges. One is the hubless front axle bearings that are not as sturdy and trouble free as standard hub bearings and the NP203 full time xfer case tend to leak a bit with age and fail prematurely if not keep full of oil and properly serviced. Also some were converted to part time put if it was a cheap kit, it could shorten tcase life Those things aside they as pretty reliable otherwise
  4. Hubjeep

    Hubjeep Senior Member
    Messages: 502

    I know nothing specific about Dodge pickups, but overall I look at it as a give and take. Fuel injection is generally much better than carbs, but harder to work on if something goes wrong. A mechanical fuel pump can be had at an auto parts store for $20 and installed in 10 minutes, a electric pump (for fuel injection) mounted in the tank may cost $200+ and take hours to replace.

    The 1992 Jeep I plow with has the 4.0L (fuel injected), which is far better than the earlier 4.2L carbs, though if the engine didn’t start due to fuel injection trouble, I would prob be stumped without no computer.

    Whatever you do, check the brake lines, they are the first to rust through.

  5. Tarkus

    Tarkus PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,113

    I do not know about that, I had a few 4.2 (258 6's) with carbs that were really stump pullers for there size and the 4.0 is no match for them in low speed smoothness and torque though the 4.0 has a good bit more top end than a stock 4.2 does. I planning the restoration of a fullsized Jeep truck next year with a mildly warmed 258 with a carb in it.
  6. osbo68

    osbo68 Member
    Messages: 49

    I would'nt hesitate one bit to buy a older vehicle. Ecspecialy one that has never been touched. You don't need to worry about what mistakes or mods. other people have made. If they have never been touched I would replace the upper and lower ball joints, tie rod ends, and all U-joints. There is alot of wght. on the front end with your plow on as you know. These are all inexpensive to replace and if done first you should have many yrs. without needing to woory about them. Just grease everything often. As far as hubs get rid of the full-time ones and replace them with a set of warn part-time hubs. Your front axles and driveshaft won't be turning all the time when they are unlocked. This will save on wear and tear and also increase your fuel mileage. Change your trans. filter first thing. You have no idea as to when it was changed last. Also make sure you have on the right size trans. cooler. Bigger is better. Change the diff. fluids while your at it. Don't forget to check the brakes. Motor oil also of coarse. Other than that just keep an eye on stuff and do regular service and all should be well. And hey you can fix everything yourself. Bonus!!!!!
    Good luck!! :waving:
  7. EskiePages

    EskiePages Junior Member
    Messages: 14

    Depends on the vehicles, its history, and your ability to work on them.

    The nice thing about older vehicles is there's less "junk" to deal with under the hood and elsewhere....more things are mechanical and easier to tend to! Also often less expensive!

    The bad thing about older vehicles is their age of parts and either abused or neglected parts. The comment about checking brake lines was good.....they are often a part to deal with...and then you end up doing wheel cylinders, shoes, pads, calipers....the list goes on sometimes! Still, parts are usually pretty cheap and a good Haynes or Chiltons will guide you through most processes without need for special computer devices and such just to see if something's bad or not. All the parts named already and some others aren't bad to go over, but take a *good* look at who has owned it and how it's been treated. I'd much rather buy an older truck from an older guy who only used it lightly than some rich kid who thinks he knows it all and doesn't, and beats everything under the sun. There's a big difference, and knowing it's been cared for is worth a LOT with an older vehicle, so look at that angle!

    I'm not an expert on those year of Dodges, but have heard about the axles/hubs as noted already, so the advice above is worth reading over. I also don't know exactly what carb would be on that truck, but that's a nice thing about carbed vehicles is you can usually either tinker with them to work better, rebuild them, buy a rebuilt, or even swap on another carb that'll fit.

    All in all an older truck can well be worth it. It's up to you, and what you get. Sure the newer trucks have some nice luxuries and comfort, but the simplicity of an older truck is also nice. Well maintained and taken care of, an old truck can go for years and years! My main trucks are in the 78-79 range right now, so it's definitely feasible!

    Oh, one more thing. Check the heater over. May not hurt to plop in a new heater core and blower motor! Might well improve heating conditions, and may also show you how big a difference it is changing those particular parts versus a newer vehicle! :) Good heat is nothing to be lacking in winter!!!

    Tarkus: What kind of FSJ you reviving? I've done pretty well with the 258s myself and one I never had trouble with was a '77 with that *junk* prestolite ignition and bbd carb. Funny, but have had some issues with others, namely the idle tubes and chokes, but setup right and taken care of, the 258s can be decent engines and you gotta love the better mileage of the I6s!

    Take care...
  8. 440trk

    440trk Senior Member
    Messages: 112

    The hubless front hubs didn't come into play until 75 for full size trucks (Ramchargers/Traildusters got 'em in 74)

    The fullt time (hubless) front end is not well suited to 34" or larger tires, but if properly maintained...they are quite reliable. Unfortunately, many folks had no idea how/where to lube the front hubs.

    The NP203 part time conversion kits were made by only 2 companies that I'm aware of...Mile Marker, and (I forgot the other). Mile Marker has 2 different kits. EITHER kit is fine, and will not shorten the tranfer case life if properly installed. The cheaper Mile Marker kit works best of 75-77 transfercases, as they had the bolt together sprag assembly. The more expensive Mile Marker kit is best suited to the 77-later cases, as this kit included a new internal shaft and addressed the sprag issue. EITHER kit can be used in ANY 75-79 NP203 with no ill effects....but there is a slight durability issue with the later 203s using the pressed together sprag and the cheaper Mile Marker kit if the truck is going to take a serious beating.

    Personally, I drive a 77 Club Cab 4x4 as a daily driver, and they are tanks. GREAT trucks. I have come to really like the full time 4x4, and actually prefer it over a part time system.
  9. dmjr77

    dmjr77 Senior Member
    Messages: 225

    Honestly, if you are going to plow alot, I would try to find something a little newer. I have never plowed with a carbuerator, I know I may be young, but I like the fact that I all have to do is turn the key and it starts at 2am in the morning when I have to start plowing and I dont have to worry about it. Sorry guys, but I am where I have so many accounts breakage is not in my vocabulary.
  10. 440trk

    440trk Senior Member
    Messages: 112

    Swapping to the Warn hubs does not get rid of the bearing issue. The Warn system utilizes the factory hub, but adds the lockout feature. Also, just putting on the hubs will do no good if the transfercase has not been converted for part-time use. All in all...it costs more to convert, than it's worth (in my opinion). The Full time system works incredibly well, AND, as an added bonus, allows you to plow paved parking lots (or anywhere else) in Lo-range, without the risk of damaging the transfercase (Use LO range...not LO-LOC for this)

    PM me or e-mail me if I can be of any further assistance. purplebou
  11. 440trk

    440trk Senior Member
    Messages: 112

    Good point.
    For the record...Dodge trucks of this general era, will keep the cab nice and toasty with NO effort. Dodge put a SERIOUS butt kicking heater in these things. Biggest problem is with the windows fogging up. I haven't totally figured out a way around that yet.
  12. Metro Lawn

    Metro Lawn PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,306

    Use that Fog-X stuff made by the people that make Rain-X. Also we have a fleet of old Dodge trucks and will put them up against anything out there for dependability. Repairs are much cheaper and parts are cheaper as well.
  13. ta3834bbl

    ta3834bbl Senior Member
    Messages: 215

    I have had several 77-79 Ramchargers and have a 87 Ramcharger for sale in the equiptment for sale area. It has 3/4 ton running gear and some other cool stuff. Check it out. Thge reliability is very good on the dodge's if maintained properly, just as all other trucks. I love the 203 transfercase because you can plow all day long in low range while the transfer case is still unlocked allowing driving on dry pavement without worrying about damage to drivetrain parts. Yeah, I'm biased toward Mopars!
  14. MickiRig1

    MickiRig1 PlowSite Veteran
    Messages: 3,617

    The problems I have found with older vehicles are finding obscure parts.
    Stuff rusts out, that no longer are available!
    Like fuel pump holders,exhaust cross overs, cats,Shifter parts,air injection,air pipes.
    It just takes a skilled person to overcome the challenges.
  15. Tarkus

    Tarkus PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,113

    Never had a problem finding parts myself. You must be looking in the wrong places. Older trucks (I am talking mid 80's on back) do stand up better in plow use than new ones as I would love to see what will still work on a 2005 when it is 10 or 15 years old.
  16. LINY Rob

    LINY Rob Senior Member
    Messages: 478

    precisely why emissions equipment on pre 1982 vehicles isnt required, but the truck must pass emissions testing

    my old Jeep has the edelbrock cam, lifters, manifold, and holley carb.
    No emissions whatsoever and it still passes NYS emissions testing that is done on a dyno.

    as far as a carburated truck starting at 2am in the cold- its not a problem, people had carburators for a long time. The good thing about a old truck is how simple and cheap it is to fix anything when it breaks.
  17. Tarkus

    Tarkus PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,113

    Many year ago I used to work with this older guy that told me stories about when he was a kid in Minesota growing up in the 40's his dad used to light a pan of fuel oil and put it under a old farm truck to get it started on those cold 30 and 40 below mornings. Nothing wrong with a carb in cold weather if it is setup correctly for it.
  18. NJ Plowman

    NJ Plowman Senior Member
    Messages: 794

    I run a dozen 1980's GMC 3/4 ton 4x4 pick-ups. Straight front axles, front leaf springs, all HEAVY DUTY stuff. You can't kill these trucks. I run them with the old conventional cable controlled Western Pro series plows in 7.5 and 8 foot. I much prefer them to todays coil springs, independent axles and computer controlled engines. My 350 engines have two feet of room to work around them, unlike the trucks of today where you need a roadmap to follow the wiring!!! Parts are extremely plentiful and you can work on them without a degree in physics!

    Plus, when you dent one, you aren't as pissed off as if you dented a $40,000 truck.
  19. Tarkus

    Tarkus PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,113

    GM built some great trucks back then. I had a 72 GMC 3/4 ton 4x4 with factory dual tanks too for 10 years that I got when it was almost 2 years old. Wish I had never parted with it and restored it like new.
  20. derekbroerse

    derekbroerse 2000 Club Member
    Messages: 2,377

    Tarkus, I am curious where the tanks were on the '72....? I know the single tank setup was behind the seat, where was the dual tank setup? One behind the seat and one on the frame? Seems like a strange thing to do...