Let's talk about an engine that has got the reputation of invincibility – Cummins 5.9L Turbo Diesel. It is a power plant that has gained reputation among the auto community as opposed to any other engine from its category. Frankly, it maintains a hell of a cult feeling. I've even taken a few sips of holy water.
But a small part can make everything go wrong.
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Back in the late 80s, American automakers stood up for the heavy pickup market. Ford and Chevrolet offered diesel engines that began to redefine what "heavy duty pickup" really meant. Chrysler decided in a rare genius to participate in the race by using an industrial engine from a manufacturer known for reliable and powerful oil burners: Cummins.
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Now mounted an iron block, 1,100 pounds inline six diesel behemoth engine for an otherwise standard 3/4 ton Dodge Ram that led for all kinds of problems that could effectively write off the truck surrounding it. Nevertheless, the engine's superstructure meant that it was more than capable of chugging along the road past the chassis expiration date.
It's up to a piece of metal, the size of a stone has its word in things.
This little piece of metal is so vicious that it has been given a name whispered in secret under moonlighted Ram pickup owning collections: Killer Dowel Pin. (It is KDP too short.)
What is the problem?
You've probably heard of dowel pins before, but if not, here's what they do. These small metal cylinders adapt precision-matched engine components to each other. In the example of the Cummins engine, a number of pins ensure that the timing box at the front of the engine fits perfectly with the cylinder block.
Dowel pins serve an important but innocent purpose. This is because in almost every engine ever created, the dowel pins are trapped within the components they adjust; they are closed without the opportunity to escape. But in the 5.9L Cummins engine there is a non-captive dowel pin; It can wiggle its way straight out of place. Normal engine vibration is all that is required for this to happen.
There is no warning and there are no symptoms. One second, the engine can be cleaned right together, the next sounds metalmashing and snapping fills the air. The error can go down in many ways, but usually the end result is the same. The small dowel pin makes its fair share of damage when it falls directly into the timing gears on the front of the engine.
Imagine if you want one of these penny presses. You know, those who become valuable, circular copper coins for an oval image from a holiday you want to forget? It's basically what dowel pin does when it comes to timing gear.
However, pennies are soft and malleable, and dowel pin is not. It's made of the same steel, the timing gears are, and none of them will give up the fight until both are destroyed. A cracked timing case, a crushed camshaft and mutilated valves and pistons represent some of the catastrophic results that might occur when the timing gears are forced in unintentional directions. In the end, the invincible engine can be taken off well.
Fortunately, there is a way to permanently solve the problem before it ever happens. This is done by closing the dowel pin's exit. There are many suppliers offering a cheap retrofit kit consisting of a small metal tab covering the dowel pin hole. The tab is secured in place via a nearby timing case bolt. It is a simple solution to a simple problem as long as it is caught before the bloodbath occurs.
The problem is that a decent amount of disassembly is needed to get to the dowel pin. You must first deliver the coolant system and radiate radiator and cooling fan. Then it's time to pull out the snake belt and remove the massive harmonic damper from the crankshaft. At this point you will be greeted by the 20 bolts that secure the hour cover for timing the case. When the cover is out of the way, the killer rod will be completely exposed. If you want to take this on yourself, be sure to study this much more thorough guide here.
At least proactively solving the problem is less headache than requiring a new engine.
19659015] It is important for me to state that the problem described above applies to the 6BT 12 valve 5.9L Cummins engines, which have been found especially in 1989-1998 Dodge Ram pickups. There are also few reports of dowel pin problems in the 1998.5-2002 24-valve ISB series of Cummins 5.9L engines, but these are rare.
If you've just bought a brand new $ 80,000 Ram diesel pickup, don't worry about that. This problem does not apply to you.
(Although there is an abundance of emission-related items that may be almost as bad on the newer trucks, potentially surface treatment within the common 72-month long funding. Oh, but a discussion for another day!)  The venerable Cummins 5.9L engine is certainly deserving of its rugged reputation, but nothing is wrong. With this proactive repair you can get the invincible diesel engine you've always dreamed of.