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Are Diesel Trucks More Expensive To Own And Maintain?

Are diesel trucks more expensive in the long run to own and maintain? Should you spring for a Gasoline engine truck instead?

Medium Truck

A diesel truck is more expensive to own and maintain than a gas-powered truck. Diesel trucks are valued for their cost-efficient operation. The lower cost of fuel, as compared to gasoline, definitely helps cut down the costs of operating a diesel-run truck.

Table of Contents

Comparing Diesel Trucks And Gas Trucks

On the surface, gas and diesel trucks have very little differences. This is especially true if you’re just comparing the vehicle variant you chose to its gas or diesel counterpart.

The differences are a little more than just skin-deep. These are things you’ll have to put into consideration when choosing one over the other.

Price

Diesel pickups are more expensive than gasoline variants. Diesel engine blocks are heavier and can handle higher combustion pressures. The result is a higher torque output. Add the emissions control equipment and you have more components per vehicle than the average gas engine counterpart. Bear in mind, we haven’t included the cost of the turbocharger yet.

Maintenance Cost

Diesel engine certified technicians are a specialized bunch. You might have to find one further from home to get good service.

Diesel trucks also have more engine parts than their gas counterparts. More parts, more costs. To keep a diesel engine running properly, regular preventive maintenance is also called for.

It’s a good thing you get to save some money from the lack of spark ignition in a diesel engine which gas engines have.

Fuel Efficiency

Diesel trucks win hands down in this competition. Diesel truck manufacturers have to step up their game though, because gas engine trucks are becoming more efficient these days. Sooner or later, they will be at par with each other.

Let’s just hope the fuel prices regain some form of stability.

Emissions

Gas engines produce more CO and HC, while diesel engines produce more NOx. In theory, gas engines contribute less to air pollution than diesel engines.

Certain contingencies have been put in place to minimize diesel engines from doing this though. Still, proper maintenance as the vehicle gets older is always the best bet. 

Towing Capacity

Gas engines have higher payload capacities. Diesel engines, on the other hand, have more torque. Diesel engines win this round. 

Longevity

This is highly dependent on the level of maintenance given to both diesel and gas engines. But, if both are equally properly maintained, the diesel engine will last longer. 

Resale Value

Diesel trucks have a higher resale value thanks to its longevity, value, and low depreciation. Document the proper maintenance of your truck and you can command an even higher price.

But Why Choose A Diesel Truck When The Only Notable Advantage Is Fuel Economy?

But why would you choose a diesel truck over a gasoline one if the only notable difference is fuel economy? You can’t control the fluctuation of fuel prices. Who knows? One day the cost of diesel might come close enough to gasoline that you might as well choose to get one over the other.

Or worse, both types of fuel-run vehicles could be deemed obsolete with the coming of electric vehicles.

Why should you still choose a diesel truck?

This choice is highly dependent on the type of operation you’re going to put your diesel truck through. If you’re going to use it for what it’s truly intended, which is to haul stuff around, a diesel engine truck is better.

If you live in the city, and your truck is basically a daily driven one over paved roads, then a gasoline engine truck is a better option.

This could all change once the Tesla Cybertruck is out. 

Justifying That Price Tag

There’s very little price difference between diesel trucks and gas-powered engines. The cost savings on fuel may take around 150,000 miles before you can say you’ve saved on the initial cost of buying a diesel truck.

The value it provides, in terms of towing and hauling, justifies the price tag.

Diesel Trucks Have Better Fuel Efficiency

When it comes to fuel efficiency, diesel trucks trump their gas counterparts. Diesel truck manufacturers better not rest on their laurels though because gas engine trucks are becoming better at saving fuel during operation.

The Government Is Strict On Emissions Especially On Diesel Trucks

Diesel trucks have an unfair perception that they have higher gas emissions. As such, the government imposes stricter testing over gas engines. Don’t worry, a well-maintained truck can easily pass emissions testing.

Diesel Trucks Have More Expensive Maintenance Costs

One of the realities diesel truck owners have to face is the cost of maintenance. Oil changes and fuel filter replacements can add up in the long run. Other repairs down the line are bound to make an appearance. Major repairs can lead to major expenses.

But that’s not to say gas engine vehicle repairs won’t cost you money too.

It’s just that diesel trucks cost more to own and maintain. 

Diesel Trucks Have Better Towing and Payload Capabilities

If there’s nothing else that separates what diesel trucks from gassers, it would be their towing and payload capability. It’s no secret that diesel trucks are better at towing because of their added torque. The fuel economy that goes along with that torque is enough justification to choose diesel over gas.

Common Issues And Simple Maintenance Solutions For Diesel Engines

Preventive maintenance extends the lifespan of diesel trucks. It also improves fuel economy. Your truck should be ok as long as you perform it regularly.

Documenting your preventive maintenance increases the resale value of your truck. Buyers always appreciate a well-maintained truck.

The Department of Transportation also appreciates commercial trucks with a well-documented history. It’s a great way to avoid fines and violations.

The bottom line: routine inspection ensures proper operation.

Routine inspection also helps you save money in the long run. Fuel economy and operating at a high efficiency leads to lower operational costs.

Here are some issues you might encounter with your diesel trucks and how to remedy the situation. 

The Oil In Diesel Engines Oxidize

Air enters into the oil and creates bubbles that interfere with proper lubrication. This is oil oxidation. This happens to oil when trucks sit in one place too long or remain in storage for a long time. This can result in damage to the engine. Perform a change oil as soon as possible after leaving your truck idle for a long time.

Water And Humidity = Engine Calamity

Water is one of the worst enemies of diesel engines. If you live in a fairly humid or precipitous area, you are prone to have some water present in your engine. This is especially true if your truck sits unused for too long.

Mudding
Mudding

This water dilutes your additives and speeds up the onset of oxidation. Once it interferes with your lubrication, knocking can ensue.

Performing a change oil can correct this issue.

Diesel Engines Are The Worst Pollutants, Just Look At That Black Smoke

One of the worst reputations diesel engines have garnered over time is that they are the worst pollutants on the road today. Ever driven behind one? Chances are, you’ll see black smoke spewing out of their tailpipes.

That’s a diesel truck that hasn’t had any proper maintenance done to it.

Don’t be that person.

Black smoke is hazardous to the environment and can find its way into even the most sealed up cabs. That includes your own cabin if you own an unmaintained truck.

Needless to say, you will get stopped, and you will get a ticket for violating the clean air act.

This is the result of an air to fuel ratio imbalance. You’re using up more fuel than air, which is causing all of that black smoke to appear. The root cause can be attributed to any of the following: faulty injector or injector pump, clogged up air filter or a turbocharger malfunction.

Correcting this requires checking those parts and either cleaning them out or replacing them with new ones.

Hard Starting

Diesel trucks are also notorious for being hard starters, especially in the morning. This is a sign of low compression, compromised fuel or fuel not getting delivered right.

Get this checked immediately so you can start the day right.

Lack Of Power

What’s a truck without power? A useless truck.

Dirty fuel filters, loose throttle linkages, fuel injector malfunction and lubrication can all contribute to this.

This is an easily preventable issue that will only get aggravated with a lack of maintenance. 

Bad Battery Failure

Bad batteries can cause an imbalance in the compression ratio. This can cause hard starting or complete system shut-down. Check your batteries regularly. Follow the BLOWBAGS system. 

Can’t Get Up And Go? Check Your Glow Plugs

Diesel trucks don’t have spark plugs. Instead, they rely on glow plugs. Glow plugs induce combustion by heating the mixture within your engine. This should still function even in cold weather.

If you encounter hard starting, you might have to check the glow plugs to ensure they still work properly. 

Contaminated Fuel

Diesel is a highly viscous mixture that can easily get contaminated. Contaminants include glycol, soot, and water. It can also get diluted by the presence of anything other than its primary components.

If any of these contaminants or if diluted diesel water reaches the fuel system, major engine disruption can surely be expected. 

Compression Ratio

Diesel trucks have a higher compression ratio than that of a gasser. At 20:1 compression ratio, this makes diesel engines more powerful than their gas components. 

Diesel Engines Are Noisy

Diesel trucks have the undeserved reputation of being noisy. Again, this is a result of poor maintenance.

Being bigger engines, it is understandable that these machines generate a larger noise. New technology has reduced it greatly and is not far from the noise gassers generate.

What you should be looking out for is inconsistency or engine knocking.

Check the compression ratio to see if you are still at the correct ratio. It should be at 20:1. Another cause for this type of problem is a faulty fuel injector system or clogged air filters. Cleaning or replacing these can help correct the condition.

Wrong Weight Viscosity

The wrong weight viscosity used for engine lubrication can increase the risk of damaging your engine. Use a single-weight viscosity engine for hot or dry weather and switch to multi-viscosity oil when it’s cold.

Or you could just go ahead and use multi-viscosity weight oil all year round to reduce the risk of forgetting to switch between one over the other.

Diesel Truck Maintenance Checklist

This diesel truck maintenance checklist is applicable to all types of trucks. Check only those that apply to your vehicle:

As a basic daily checklist, use the BLOWBAGS method found here: 

BLOWBAGS stand for:

Batteries

Diesel trucks are highly dependent on having good batteries to provide the energy to start everything up. Replace your batteries when their limited lifespan is up. If you conventional batteries, check the fluid levels and replace them if you’re halfway down the optimal level.

For maintenance-free batteries, check the connectors and ensure that they are flush to provide a good contact surface and spark delivery.

Lights

Check all of the lights from the headlights, turn signals, tail lights, and other indicator lights within and without your cab.

Lights aren’t just for illumination, they are also there to tell someone what you intend to do or if there’s anything wrong with your vehicle.

Replace enclosures that are cracked or broken. Check if the glass is fogged up and clean it. This could be caused by moisture in the air, so check your sealants too. 

Oil

Diesel engines need proper lubrication. Check your oil levels on a daily basis and ensure they are still clean enough and use the proper viscosity oil.

If your oil is black, change it immediately. Perform a change oil and drain your engine completely to remove all impurities and contaminants.

Water/Coolant

Diesel engines run hot. Coolant keeps it cool.

Keeping your engine running at the optimal temperature ensures that it operates at the proper efficiency.

Check your water levels too. That includes the water in your windshield jets.

Brakes

Diesel trucks are big moving machines on the road. That mass, matched with the velocity, is virtually unstoppable if it gets out of control.

Having a good set of brakes to stop it on a dime is very important. Without brakes, you’re looking at an impending disaster.

Check your brakes by stepping on them and ensuring proper pressure is present. Do a visual check on the brake fluid level and ensure it is topped up. Check the brake pads and lining every three months.

Air

Tires deflate over time. Big heavy trucks put on a lot of pressure on tires that causes them to deflate faster.

All Weather/All Season Tires

Tires that do not have the proper amount of air in them can lead to flat tires, hydroplaning, twisting, and steering issues. At the very least, check your tires to ensure they are properly inflated by using a tire gauge. Check the PSI level and ensure it is the correct amount for each tire.

Include the spare tire during this type of maintenance check. There’s nothing worse than having a flat tire than having one without a spare tire to replace it with.

Rotate your tires every 3 to 6 months to ensure even tread wear. Replace your tires once their tread level is beyond the safe level. Use the coin trick to measure the treads if you have to.

Bring a jack and cross wrench too.

Gas/Diesel/Fuel

You need fuel for your diesel truck. Diesel fuel.

Diesel

That’s the green hose in gas stations for those who are confused. Some nozzles are specially fitted to ensure correct insertion for all types of vehicle variants.

As much as possible, have a little bit above half your tank’s capacity of fuel every time you get on and drive. And at the first opportunity, stop at a gas station and refill your diesel fuel.

Bring a portable fuel can for instances where you run out of fuel, and the nearest station is only a few minutes away on foot.

Security/Safety Equipment

Make sure all of your locks are working. This ensures everything inside your truck is safe.

To keep yourself safe during emergencies, bring safety equipment. Early warning devices, reflective jackets, cones, flashing lights, and a nautical whistle should be part of your cache of safety equipment.

Diesel Truck Maintenance Checklist

This is a more detailed maintenance checklist that you can use for your own diesel truck. You can choose which of the items apply to your own truck.

In-Cab Inspection

The in-cab inspection covers everything ensconced within the truck’s cabin. This includes everything from the windshield to the foot pedals.

Things to check:

Seats

The seat is where you control everything. Operating a diesel truck can be a tedious task. Ensuring you have all the necessary comforts to make it easier to handle is important. For this, you need to check the condition of your seat and its suspension. Are the rails properly aligned? Does it go up and down when you need it to? Can it recline properly? Does it still look presentable?

Seatbelts

In the interest of safety, seatbelts come next. Check the condition of the belt and look out for any worn sections. Try yanking on it. Does it still catch? Is it rated to properly hold your weight in the event of a sudden stop?

Ignition key and start button

Check the physical condition of these two. Ensure that they are functioning properly and free from blockages.

Warning lights and alarms

Warning lights and alarms are extremely important to keeping diesel trucks safe to operate. Ensure these are working properly. Clean the lights so that it is clear at all times.

Interior lights

Trucks are dotted with interior lights to ease the ingress and egress of its passengers. Make sure all lights work during operation.

Dash Gauges, Dash Switches And Other Accessory Operation

Dash gauges are important for monitoring your speed, temperature and revolutions per minute. Make sure these are working and their lights also work at night.

Horns

Horns warn people of your presence. This can also signal to others that there are hazards on the road. Beep the horn once or twice and ensure they have enough volume to be heard from a considerable distance.

A/C, Heater, And Defroster

Check the air conditioning system and ensure all controls work. Heater and defroster controls should also be checked to anticipate changing weather conditions on the road.

Clutch, Brake and Accelerator Pedal Operation

Check to ensure the clutch travels freely without any obstruction and has enough pressure to engage gears when needed. Driver comfort is also important so check for play and fit.

Accelerator pedals must have the same conditions.

truck accelerates on its own after accidentally hitting gas pedal

The same goes for brake pedals.

Make sure pads are in good condition, and the mountings are secure.

Automatic Transmission Selector/Wiring

Automatic Selector and wiring, has to be intact with no nicks, cuts or fraying.

Parking Brake Operation

Parking brakes are important for keeping the truck stationary when parked.

Steering Operation

Ensure the steering turns freely and to the maximum turning radius. Check the steering fluids.

Inspect Sun Visors

Sun visors may be simple, but they too provide a function. They’re there to keep the glare out of your eyes. Ensure that they are properly hinged and can come down with minimum effort. Ensure that the hinges are strong enough to keep the sun visors out of the way when not in use.

Windshield And Door Glass

The windshield is one of the most important parts of your vehicle as it keeps the elements out and allows you to see outside your vehicle while it is moving. Check for any obstruction or damage.

Minor cracks can easily be remedied, but long ones that are 4 inches or more, are cause for concern. Check all the door windows for the same conditions.

Wiper/Washer Operation

To keep your windshield free from obstructions brought about by rain, mud or snow, wipers have to function correctly. Treat the rubber blades to ensure elasticity and malleability without compromising rigidity.

Washers also have to have enough fluid to assist in cleaning. Adjust the jets with a safety pin if necessary, so it shoots jets of water in the right place.

Safety Equipment Decals, Reflectors, Flares And Fire Extinguisher

Make sure you have all of the safety equipment needed to properly deal with roadside emergencies. These equipment also warn other drivers of impending hazards. Make sure you have a fire extinguisher to quickly put out flames during an emergency.

Floor Mats And Gearshift Boot

Floor mats can move around if not properly tethered. This can clump up and prevent pedals from fully depressing.

Body Inspection

Once you’re done checking the cabin area, check the body. This includes everything outside the cabin, from bumper to bumper and driver side mirror to passenger side mirror.

Bumpers

Check the front and rear bumpers for any bumps, dents or dings. If too much damage is present, replace the bumper.

License Plate Bracket

The license bracket is important for holding your plates and avoiding getting a ticket. Check for any signs of corrosion or worn holes.

Cab Body Floor

The cab body floor underneath can easily corrode due to constant exposure to water, mud, salt and other contaminants. Check for corrosion. Use a power washer to clean the underside of the cab body floor after it has gone through a long drive.

Cab Door Locks, Latches, Seals, And Hinges

Door locks, latches and hinges are constantly exposed to the elements. Apply a thin coat of protectant to ward off early onset of corrosion. Treat the sealants with protectant also to reduce the risk of brittleness and ripping.

Mudflaps/Splash Guards And Brackets

Mud gets in everywhere. Mudfflaps and splash guards help minimize the amount of mud getting inside. Keep those in tip top condition by cleaning them with a power washer. Inspect the brackets and ensure that they are secure.

Fuel Tank, Mountings, Crossover Lines, And Fuel Caps

Secure your fuel tank by checking the mountings. Check the lines for signs of wear, tear or fraying. Check the fuel cap for threading issues.

Exhaust System And Mounting

Your exhaust system needs to be secure to prevent rattling. Check for any blockages and flush out the system if needed.

Tires/Wheels Inspection

Tires need to be checked for proper inflation and optimal tread depth. Alignment, traction, and framework are also affected by the tires’ condition. Braking and steering is also affected by your tires so checking up on them regularly is a definite must.

Wheel Bearing And Lube Cap

Ensure proper lubrication. Check the condition of the wheel bearings as well, replace broken or missing wheel bearings. Apply a generous amount of lube for smooth operation. Check the axle flange for leaks as well.

Irregular Tire Wear Patterns

Irregular tire wear pattern is a clear indicator of alignment or wheel balancing issues. You might also want to check the tread depth of your tires while checking for wear.

Good Tires Provide Good Traction

Irregular tire wear patterns can also be brought about by improper tire inflation. Check the PSI rating on your tire and inflate accordingly.

Sidewall Integrity

Cuts and other types of sidewall damage can compromise the rigidity of the tire and cause easy deflation or worse tire explosion during operation.

Valve Stem Caps

Check the condition and replace missing or damaged valve stem caps.

Lug Nuts

Tighten loose lug nuts. Replace missing or damaged lug nuts.

Replace Cracked Or Damaged Wheels

Any signs of damage to the wheel should warrant an immediate replacement. Cracked wheels can easily split in two given the right conditions.

Diesel Engine Maintenance Checklist

The most important part of any diesel truck is its engine. This is a simple checklist for engines on diesel trucks.

Radiator

Your radiator is essential to your engine’s operation. A cracked or damaged radiator can lead to engine overheating. Check the mountings too for looseness or cracks.

Check the coolant hoses for wear and tear. Pressure test the coolant system and coolant recovery system. Pressure test the radiator cap too.

The engine fan also needs to work properly, do a visual check that it turns on when needed.

Clean the entire system out every six months by flushing it out.

Air Conditioning System

You’re A/C needs to be securely mounted without any play. Check the mountings for looseness or cracks. Check the compressor too and lines for any wear and tear.

Alternator

The alternator mounting and wiring is your main concern in this area. Make sure it is secure and without any play. Check the belts for any signs of wear and tear. Usually, an indicator that your belts need replacement is that they generate a high pitched metallic sound.

Power Steering

Check the power steering fluid levels. Check the hoses for wear and tear.

Air Intake

Clean the air filter or replace it with a new one. Check the piping and hoses for any holes. Tighten the clamps while you’re at it.

Engine Leaks

Check your engine for any leaks. This includes oil, fuel and coolant leaks. Any dripping liquid is a cause for concern as this is a sign of worn seals or gaskets.

Turbocharger

Check the turbocharger for leaks. You will need a professional to perform anything else to your turbocharger. The best you can do for this is a visual check.

Engine Wire Harnesses, Connectors And Seals

Check the engine wire harnesses, connectors and seals for any signs of wear and tear, fraying and other forms of physical. This is extremely important as electrical fires can start with exposed wiring.

Change Engine Oil And Oil Filters

Flush the entire system out by removing the oil cap underneath and letting the used oil drip out. For better results, leave it overnight. Drape the entire pickup with plastic sheets to reduce contaminants from finding their way up into your engine.

This is also the best time to change your oil filter.

Make sure you replace the engine oil with the right viscosity.

Vibration Damper

Check your vibration damper for any signs of cracks, bulges, shifting or damage. Vibration dampers reduce the amount of movement between the engine (and all its components) and the engine housing.

Brake Inspection

We’re going to reserve an entire section for brakes. This is how serious we are about stopping a massive vehicle in its tracks over how fast it is on the freeway.

Inspect:

Front brake lining/pad thickness and condition. Record the conditions in the maintenance logbook. Do the same for your rear brakes. In fact, check all hydraulic lines, valves, hoses and fitting for leaks, signs of deterioration or physical damage.

While there, check the master cylinder and fluid condition.

Power Brake Booster/Hydrovac

If equipped with a hydrovac system, include it in your checklist. This increases the amount of brake power you generate through the pedals.

Check:

Parking Brake Operation

This is mechanical in nature and you need to make sure of its integrity.

Hydraulic Brake Malfunction Indicator Lamp

This needs to be functional at all times to alert you before brake failure occurs.

Operation Of The Brake Pedal: Travel, Effort And Feel

Brakes should be easy to press and revert back to the original position without any hitches

Brake Booster System

If you have a brake booster system, ensure that it is in good condition at all times.

All of the things included in this checklist contribute to maintaining a properly operating diesel truck. It will cost money for professional help, replacement parts and other miscellaneous items. Prepare enough funds for that.

Preventive maintenance should be done on a regular basis. You can do a daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, bi-annual and annual check to ensure everything is working at optimal efficiency.

Related Questions:

How Much More Expensive Is It To Fuel Gas Trucks Over Diesel Trucks?

Fuel prices are fluctuating everywhere. This is a response to the world economy and the availability of fuel all over the globe. The price difference between gas and diesel isn’t as far off as it used to be. The difference per gallon based on dollar is minimal unless you consider long term savings.

Is It True That Once You Go Truck You Can Never Go Back?

Truck owners swear that they can’t ever go back to driving regular cars. Driving a truck makes you feel invincible. You can go anywhere with a truck and with enough power, no terrain is too hard to conquer. Transitioning back from all of that to a car is going to prove challenging to any car owner.

Which One Should I Get? A Diesel Or A Gas Engine Truck?

Get a diesel truck. It will cost more up front but the value it provides as a workhorse will help justify the costs. If you’re a city driver, get a gas engine truck. Easy driving and short distances won’t expend your fuel too much. For the best of both worlds, get a Tesla Cybertruck once it’s out.

In Conclusion:

There’s no denying that diesel trucks are more expensive to own and maintain than their gas counterparts but the value they provide is worth every penny spent. The cost of diesel fuel today is a bit less than that of gas but it’s not as far off as it used to be decades ago.

Gas engine trucks are also becoming more powerful and fuel-efficient that choosing it over diesel trucks has become harder and harder for buyers to decide which one to get. The additional option of getting an electric-powered truck has made it even harder which one to choose.

Still, the wiser option, if you’re going to be towin’ and haulin’ is to get a diesel truck movin’.

The Auto Sunday is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

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