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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
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?
 

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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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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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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.
 

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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.
 

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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.
 

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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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Love mine!!!:grd:
 

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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.
 

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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.
 

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316,000 on the '94 K3500 CC, fresh tranny, running strong 0-60 14.5 sec, 18 psi top boost, worked hard every day it runs instead of being fixed.

250,000 on the '96, running strong

175,000 on the '93, fresh head gaskets, cr down to 20.1 on engine, waiting for new NVG4500/rebuild


I'll be working on 400,000 on my '94 by the end of this year as my daily commute is 70 miles one way and then the daily driving starts. avg 200-300 miles a day.
 

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Luv the Burb. Does a 6.5 have problems yes, but so does any engine. Heat is the big killer for 6.5

If you plan to drive it hard plan on fixing things like any truck. I baby my trucks most times. Most off roading I do is in the campground or driving over the lawn. Since I got my truck I change the oil every 2500 miles and the fuel filter every 5000 miles. The trans fluid and filter got changed once since I had it. Every 10K to 15K depending on how much towing I did. When I do tow is when I work the truck. I have a 34' Travel Trailer fully loaded is 4 and ½ tons I would guess at. While the truck pulls it fine I need to watch it on hills. Long steep grades are killers. Just take my time and the truck will out last me. I do about 60 on straight away and drop it down on hills to what ever I feel is keeping the temps low enough.

As for mods I look at those that make the truck live a long time. So gauges are getting ready to be installed, Going to upgrade the exhaust and add a deep trans pan. I also hope to add a remote PMD.

But the most import thing is to do maintenance. Best piece of advice I ever got is this. OIL IS CHEAP! Change it often.

Depending on your needs and cash flow is how to pick a truck. I needed a family truck and was on the low end of cash. So the Burb fit the bill perfectly. Was under 20K for a nice low milage one and had plenty of power and could fit the family even as it grew.

Now if you look at the big three they all have issues. 6.5 has it's heat problems which are more than the others. The cummings is a good engine for a six banger but everything else around it sucks. The 7.3 has an issue or two but is most likely the best and most powerful of the three, but then you are looking at an Excursion which came out in 2000. They are expensive and I don't like buying the first year or two of a new vehicle as all the bugs are still being worked out.
 

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Push the 6.5 TD hard like it was never designed to do and you'll be under the hood more often like some of us power hungry guys.

Drive it for what you say you need it for, upgrade the exhaust, add gauges, maybe remote mount the PMD and i don't think you'd be dissapointed unless it left the factory on friday afternoon or monday before noon. ):h
 

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Discussion Starter #15
Thanks for all the info and advice. I think I'll take my chances with the 6.5TD and buy a diesel Suburban. :)

Would it be safe to say the cracked blocks are more from temperature issues and abuse (such as towing a heavy trailer up a steep hill at WOT for extended periods of time), or modified motors with extra boost? Or is the cracked block issue more of a freaky random occurrance that can occur on any of these engines whether abused or not?

Is there anything I should look to avoid when shopping for a diesel Suburban? Are there any warning signs of an impending block crack? Are some years better or worse with this than others? I would prefer to buy a '96 or newer as I want airbags and I prefer the OBD-II computer as I'm more familiar with it. Should I avoid buying a Suburban that was clearly set up for heavy towing?

Thanks again for all of your help. :)
 

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Check the brakes, trust me
 

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Great thread folks I will add it to the FAQs
 

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If I was in the market to purchase another 6.5 TD of any sort first thing i'd do is look for completely stock with no heavy towing history, lessens the chance of cracked heads/blocks, chances of it ever being overheated should be slim then. Then you can do your own mods before doing any heavy towing. But thats just my .02¢ worth.
 

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Stingray,

'97 and newer Suburbans came from the factory with better engine cooling than earlier models. In particular, this includes a 130 gpm water pump (86 gpm pump in earlier models) and dual thermostats to improve coolant flow through the engine.

On the topic of engine blocks, '97 and newer trucks have extra oil passages to cool the pistons. The popular opinion is these passages weakened the block. Most people doing a performance buildup will choose an older block without the extra passages.

The factory exhaust has to go if you want the truck to run nice and cool. The downpipe from the turbocharger is the worst part, but opening the entire system to 3.5" (or 4") will do wonders for the engine.

Air flow is another thing to look at. A good foam filter like what aFe offers will provide better flow while filtering better than other high-flow filters such as K&N's products.

After exhaust and air intake improvements, gauges are important so you know when to back off your right foot. The Ram with a Cummins and an Excursion with the Powerstroke also have a BIG advantage when it comes to their stock setup that our 6.5L vehicles lack - an Intercooler. Makes a world of a difference, but that may not be something you'll consider unless you decide after buying the truck that you like it too much to sell and then you want to squeeze extra performance and make it more reliable/durable. An intercooler is probably the most expensive "upgrade" for the 6.5L, but it's worth its weight in gold.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
Thanks for the great info 93 Burrito!

So would I be better off with a '96 without the extra oil passages, and upgrading the water pump and T-stats to the '97+ models (and maybe the radiator too?). I'm thinking this would give me the stronger block (or at least less crack-prone), with the same cooling advantages as the newer ones. What do you think?

I will definitely upgrade the intake and exhaust. I'm a firm believer in improving the flow in and out of an engine for performance and efficiency. It sounds like its even more important for a turbo diesel. I plan to remove the cat, and install an aftermarket highflow muffler and larger downpipe. Does anyone make a full exhaust kit for the Suburban 6.5TD from the downpipe all the way back? Or do I have to piece various vendor's parts together to make my own system?

The gauge set sounds like a good idea as well. Boost and EGT sound like the basic ones to get. Do I need any others? Oil temp? Tranny temp? Like I mentioned, I don't plan to do any heavy towing with this - just my 2,700 lbs. boat, and *maybe* my Z06 on a car trailer to race tracks if I get into that more, which would be about 5,000 lbs. with trailer. So I don't want to go gauge crazy - just want the essentials.

Thanks!
 
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