ROSENORT, Man. — Farmers lured into what seems like a good deal on a late model highway tractor should think twice before signing the cheque.
That’s the opinion of brothers Jake and Peter Friesen of JPF 2000 in southern Manitoba, a specialty shop that focuses on performance modifications to diesel engines.
“There are a lot of those Tier 4 interim (diesel particulate filter) trucks on the market now for $30,000 to $45,000,” said Peter, who added the mileage is often low, in the 700,000 to 900,00 kilometre range.
“It looks like a pretty good deal at first. Farmers see a fairly new truck that’s clean and in decent condition. At that mileage, it should have a lot of years left on it. But it’s not that simple.
“If the price is low, it’s probably an ’08, ’09 or ‘010. In most cases, the ’04 to ’07 truck will have a higher dollar value than the DPF truck from those three later years.”
Peter said he’s talked to people who have spent $20,000 or more trying to make one of these “good deal trucks” functional.
At the extreme end, one couple spent $45,000 and ended up dipping into their retirement savings in a futile effort to save their Volvo powered Mack.
But that’s not to say all Tier 4i trucks should be trashed. With the right expertise and technology, most of these trucks can be modified to burn less fuel and create more power.
It’s one of those rare cases of having your cake and eating it, too. More power from less fuel, plus two other big factors.
“More importantly, reliability is vastly improved. The modified engines won’t leave you stranded by the side of the road like the original DPF Tier 4 interim engines,” said Peter.
“On top of that, trucks we’ve modified burn cleaner. So, for guys concerned about the exhaust sniff test, the modified truck is cleaner than the original EPA Tier 4 interim truck.”
Jake said diesel fuel does not burn clean like gasoline. It demands a lot of heat and a lot of oxygen to incinerate the pollutants. It also requires a highly efficient combustion process.
“When you burn diesel fuel at a higher temperature, you produce more power. Heat becomes rotating power. More heat makes more power,” Jake said.
“More power produced from every litre of fuel means the volume of fuel can be reduced. And more heat and less fuel mean fewer pollutants up the stack. But this requires a better flow of oxygen into the combustion chamber.”
Jake said it’s much like a wood burning stove. An arm full of kindling burns quickly and hot so there’s little or no smoke. But throw on a big thick log and it sits there and smoulders and makes smoke for a long time, creating little heat or power. Blowing air on the log makes it burn faster and creates more heat with less smoke.
“The DPF engines produced in that three year period did not have a very efficient combustion process,” he said. “We make the combustion process more efficient.”
Peter said there are solutions on the aftermarket for Cat, Cummins and Detroit diesel engines. The research and development work was good and the programming works well on North American engines.
It’s a different story when it comes to the Volvo engines in Mack and Volvo tractors.
“They pose more of a problem for us,” Peter said.
There are no good solutions available. The performance parts suppliers don’t even bother delving into the Volvo motors because there are so few of them on the continent. So there’s very little progress. There are a few little things we can do, but not much. I’d say those are the biggest problem engines we deal with.”
He said they shouldn’t be a first choice in a used tractor.
The extent of improvement on domestic engines depends on the needs of the customer, he added. There are two routes to follow.
An owner can simply rid the motor of the EPA DPF technology that came from the factory, for a cost of about $6,500. This only includes better programming for the control module, often known as “chipping,” plus fine tuning of the systems.
The other option is to remove the entire emission control system and appropriate programming and tuning. The total cost is $13,000.
“We strip the motor of all the emission stuff and go back to an earlier style induction system. And then we install the correct programming to go along with those changes,” Peter said.
“When we’re done, the engine runs more efficiently. The main thing owners want is the total elimination of the emission system. It saves money in regular DPF maintenance and en-sures they won’t be left stranded at the side of the road.”
Peter said the truck owner must sign a waiver declaring he assumes all responsibility for where he runs the truck and he knows where the truck is legal and illegal.
He said most of the financial loss in the DPF trucks relates directly to the emissions system. Once that system is removed, the truck is more reliable, burns less fuel, makes more power and produces fewer pollutants.
The average fuel economy benefit is three-quarters of a mile per gallon for trucks with the full treatment, with some as low a one-quarter. Highs reach two miles per gallon in poorly setup machines. Horsepower increases are 15 to 20 percent.
“Our heavy haul guys running up north and the Rock out west get 625 horsepower plus to the ground. So they must be getting 700 h.p. plus at the flywheel,” said Peter.
Jake said eliminating the emission system results in cleaner oil.
“With the DPF emission system, we’ll run the engine for five minutes, then check the dipstick. The oil is black. That’s residual soot coming past the rings.
“With our by-pass engines, pull the dipstick at 20,000 km and the oil is still clear. The EPA system simply pushed the emissions down into the oil instead of out the stack.”
The long-term benefit should be better longevity from the bottom end.
Jake said smaller improvements can be made before spending the big bucks on a full by-pass treatment or the $6,500 control treatment.
Other ways to improve fuel efficiency include foam air filters, air tabs on the cabs for better aerodynamics and aftermarket air coolers to improve performance in hot weather. Properly sized exhaust systems can also increase savings and performance.
Peter said a farmer looking for a good tractor for a Super B hauler should consider the deals presently on the market.
However, a good highway tractor at $40,000 may require an additional $13,000 to make it a viable.
For more information, contact Jake or Peter Friesen at 204-746-8187 or visit www.jpf2000.com.