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Old 03-28-2005, 02:58 PM   #1 (permalink)
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First time diesel buyer - need advice

I'm new to this forum, and I'm thinking of buying my first diesel truck, and it seems pretty active here, so I thought I would ask for some advice.

Ideally, over the next year or two, I want to purchase a new Jeep Liberty CRD, which should meet all my needs. However, there have been delays in shipping the CRD Liberty, and dealers are still charging top dollar for them since they are hard to find. Plus, financially, I can't afford one right now, but I will be able to next year. I'm buying a house at the end of the summer that needs some work, and since I do most home repairs and remodeling myself, I need a truck to haul stuff back from Home Depot, etc. I also need a truck to tow my 2,700lb. boat and trailer pretty much wherever I want to, and I need a 4x4 to handle the winter weather here in NY and for some mild offroading excursions from time to time. My current cars, a 2002 Corvette Z06 and a 2003 Infiniti G35 Coupe are both useless for all of these tasks.

I definitely want a diesel because of the better fuel economy, and because I'm a motor head and I want something 'different' than just another gas engine.

So, I was thinking of getting my feet wet with a used diesel truck first before taking the plunge with a new Liberty CRD. I want something that would be relatively inexpensive to buy used, yet would depreciate very little over the next year or two that I would own it. Durable, reliable and comfortable are all important to me.

This led me to the '96-'99 diesel Suburbans with the 6.5 TD, and the '94-'99 Dodge Ram with the Cummins TD. I'm not much of a pickup type of guy - I don't like open beds, don't like the way pickups ride when empty, don't like the cramped cabs with bench seats, etc.

Surburbans on the other hand I think are great - they're loaded with features, completely enclosed, tons of utility with 3 row seating, lots of luxury if you get the leather, very comfortable, and look nice. My cousin has a gas 2000 Suburban, loaded, and I was really impressed with how it drove and rode. I've also driven several Tahoes and Yukons, and have always been impressed with them too. They also seem to last a long time and hold their value well.

The '96-'99 diesel Suburban seems perfect for me, EXCEPT for the engine. I've read all the posts and articles about the 6.5 TD with cracked blocks, cracked heads, bad lift pumps, bad electronic fuel controllers (forgot the technical name for it), etc. and it all has me very concerned about the reliability and durability of this truck. I haven't heard of nearly as many problems with the Cummins in the Ram.

So, my question is, should I stay away from the '96-'99 diesel Suburbans and go with a Cummins Ram instead? Are these problems as widespread and common as they sound? The last thing I want to do is buy a used Suburban and have to put a new engine it shortly after I buy it, or unknowingly buy one that is already cracked and have to put a new engine in it. I priced out a rebuilt 6.5 TD with the better block (699? 399? I forgot) and it works out to about $4,500 plus labor. A lot of cash for a 8 year old truck with 160k-200k miles that I will probably pay $9k for.

I only plan on keeping the truck for a year or two, and it would be used lightly. I probably wouldn't put more than 8k miles per year on it, with maybe 2 or 3 long trips towing my boat per year. I'm very mechanically inclined, and do almost all of my own repairs and maintenance on my vehicles, although I know very little about diesels beyond the basics, and have never worked on one before. I wouldn't mind having to do some basic repairs and maintenance on the engine, and I would like to learn more about diesels by working on them. But replacing a $1,500 lift pump or replacing the entire engine because of a cracked block would really piss me off.

So do you think I should go for it, or should I stay away?

Last edited by Stingray454; 03-28-2005 at 03:45 PM.
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Old 03-28-2005, 03:49 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Reading the problems with a truck in this forum and then assuming that relates to a truck being unreliable is like reading a medical dictionary and deciding everyone is sick. This site is where we help each other fix our trucks and share info. I like my 6.5 TD as well as anything I have ever owned and I find it much more reliable and more comfortable than the vette I used to own.

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Old 03-28-2005, 03:49 PM   #3 (permalink)
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if its got 160-200k miles on it you probably wont pay $9k for it. nobody makes a perfect engine. 6.5's usually have cheaper parts and are cheaper to fix. you have to decide whether you want a suburban or a truck though. if you really want a suburban than you dont have a whole lot of choice. im sure both of your current cars get better mileage than most 6.5's.
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Old 03-28-2005, 05:10 PM   #4 (permalink)
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My 6.5 gets around 13 MPG when driven normally. That is about the same as a 454 out of a 99. If you are only towing 3,000 lbs, why do you need a 3/4 ton? A 1/2 ton with a vortec 350 should suit you fine. Be advised that there was a major redesign on the Suburban for 2000 which makes them much more desirable drivers. I have read of so many members that had no current problems with their truck, than I read about their block failures. Ronniejoe and Spendrift to name 2. They weren't people who were on the board because of problems; they were dedicated users who happened to suffer problems. I am beginning to think the 6.5 is problem prone. It is the block cracks that have me questioning my decision to go with the 6.5.
99 K2500 6.5TD Sub 4.10 8600 GVWR, Spearco intercooler, KD Isspro guages, Hayden SD fan clutch, Racor 645 30 mic, clean cat, KD FSD cooler w/#9 rstr, KD Boost Ctrl, KD HL relay, Optima red tops, rblt trany & transfer case, 200k miles, B&M Tranny cooler w/ 12 volt fan, Prodigy, 05 Jayco Eagle 308 FBS.
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Old 03-28-2005, 05:17 PM   #5 (permalink)
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These trucks require a lot of TLC and an informed operater/maintainer to keep them going. They have their quirks for sure.
I get better than 15 towing a trailer with my K3500 CC on the highway 4.10 gears/33 x 12.5 tires. As soon as My newly installed IC is plumbed I think that will go up.

Last edited by quantum mechanic; 03-28-2005 at 05:21 PM.
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Old 03-28-2005, 09:52 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Yes there are a lot of problems with the 6.5 diesels when reading any forum that deals with this engine. I haven't seen too many forums where people contribute to it about the lack of problems they encounter (pretty boring reading). I have not had any major problems with my 6.5 which is cranking on 200,000 miles. Yes oil pressure switch, lift pump, no starting, 4 PMD's - buying time on the injector pump (was replaced at 90,000 miles). 6.5 is very reliable engine and without modifications does not compare to it's stock competitors. I have a Suburban and I do side contract work, I haul a 18 feet trailer with bricks, lumber - you name it. Tools are kept dry and safe in the back. When I stomp on the petal it is fast enough for me. As stated above, you do the routine maintenance it will take care of you. For all its worth, I wouldn't trade my Burb in for anything out there.
95 Suburban, Dual Idler Gears, JK High Capacity Water Pump, Remote Mounted FSD Cooler, Autometer "Lunar" Boost, Pyro & Trans, K&N Filter, GM-8 Turbo, JK 3.5 Exhaust, Fluidamper, Turbomaster and Max-E Torx Chip, Upgraded Fan
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Old 03-28-2005, 10:57 PM   #7 (permalink)
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I'm no diesel expert by any stretch of the imagination...but if I may add my 2 cents, I owned the Cummins for 2 years and traded it for my 6.5. Though the motor seemed fine, everything around it kept falling apart. 3 transmissions, 12 sets of brakes, broken fuel linkages, massive oil and fuel leaks, front end alignment problems, overdive problems, massive electrical problems...all in 2 years. I could hardly get the dealer to take it back in trade for my GMC. Now thats not to say they are all bad, but like anything else, things will go wrong.Good luck in your decision.
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Old 03-28-2005, 11:21 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Love mine!!!
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Old 03-29-2005, 06:19 AM   #9 (permalink)
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The Suburban Club Member

Wouldn't give up my suburban to anyone, including the ex. I get about 16 mpg avg. driving. Only about 2% of the suburbans made in 96 had a 6.5l in it.
96 1500 4x4 suburban F-series engine
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Old 03-29-2005, 08:10 AM   #10 (permalink)
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Hi! I'm a recovering 6.5 owner. . . just kidding. The posts that you read come from many different people that are either totally ticked off at their engine, to those who understand their short comings. The 6.5 is the least expensive of the diesel community. Once you understand them, and their shortcomings, you are not as apt to be disgusted with them. There are those whom try to make their's into a 6000hp hot rod and wonder why parts are strune behind them. We are a talkative bunch here, and glad to help whenever you need anything about your GM. There are many posts on these engines, but that doesn't mean these engines are bad. Many run trouble free with good upkeep. You could spend days looking and learning about diesel theory and how to treat your wheels.

Bear in mine that all makers have their hiccups.

If you buy a dodge, ask for it's spare tranny to go with it. Local tranny shop guy I talked to said no matter what, 80k on the clock, new tranny for a dodge. I own a Ford for a service truck (company vehicle). They have done their share of dumb things under the hood.

Look here-> GM 6.5 Reference Material & FAQ's <-Look here

Diagnostic Links & Common Failures: Turbo System * Lift Pump/OPS * PMD * Stalling

°Please include your vehicle details in your signature line. Did you read the FAQ's and search before posting?
*Bus 1, rest in peace. Bone stock, now just bones. 4.10 rear 10/13 mpg, 182,000 miles with a set of MCI motor coach seats.
*Currently driving an "Canadian Camo" Snow White 2001 5.7L Chevy Express.
*Bus 2, 99 7.3L PSD.
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