Buying a 95' F-450 flatbed dually with a 7.3/5-speed and want your advice - Ford Powerstroke Diesel Forum
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Old 10-03-2012, 12:15 AM
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Smile Buying a 95' F-450 flatbed dually with a 7.3/5-speed and want your advice

Hey all,
First post here as just joined but been on other forums so get the jist of them.

----A little bout me so you know where I'm at with knowledge with 7.3's or other automotive diagnosis---
-I went to school back in 94 for automotive tech (glorified word for mechanic) and went for the first 9 months of a 2 year program. Mainly, we studied the electronic part and/or diagnosis part of vehicles and engines/drivetrains. The mechanical learning portion of the engine/drivetrain part was the next year, (which I missed), but alas, I ended up working at a Ford dealership out of school and learned alot of that on the job. Not to mention I read a lot about engines so I got it that way too.

The dealership was in my small hometown and since I had schooling of diagnosis and electronics, that was eventually where more of my expertise/knowledge was put to use. Mainly because the other "veterans" didn't like working with the newer electronics in vehicles and liked doing more of the mechanical work like rearends, trannys, engines, and etc. Although I did a lot with diagnosis and electronics, I also did heavy work too and ended up being one of the first to overhaul a 4.6 (at the time our dealership was told it was taboo to try to rebuild them) out of a cop car when they came out and also a 7.3 turbo Diesel (heavy bastards) back in the day (I think it was around 97 or 98). Anyway, I worked on the 7.3's and remember the injector O-rings being one of the main issues with them especially when it came to farmers using farm fuel when they first came out. As such, I replaced a lot of O-rings so I know that's a must for these engines but outside of that, with the exception of fixing stock/factory things like clutches, replacing trannys, water pumps, and a few other things, I don't know much about them since I never owned one. I did work on a lot of different things on them over the years so I have a decent amount of knowledge about them but that was 12+ years ago. But that's my knowledge with them. Fast forward to now----

So, I don't want to be that jerkoff newb like so many are on forums and bypass reading and researching threads but have a few questions that maybe some of you could simply direct me to if you can remember a few threads vs. me sitting here for the next week or month trying to find what I'm looking for when a few of you could probably direct me to what I want with a few links or suggestions of where to look.

Your help would be much appreciated. If you don't want to help, I understand and I will still do more research as I have already started to but as you know, there is so much info on this site that it could take a while to weed through some of the posts to get what I want.

Anyway.....

There is a 1995 F-450 flatbed with a 7.3 & a 5-speed manual for sale that I'm looking at that I feel isn't too bad of a price. It's at about $2200 with about 290,000 miles on it. It's a dually and is 2 wheel drive.

Sure, the miles are maybe a little high but as we know, for a 7.3, not really if it was well maintained but of course we can forget knowing that for sure because anyone can say that they keep their vehicles "well maintained" without documentation so until I see proof, I just figure it probably wans't kept up very well.

So here's the scoop:

1. I went to start it for the first time and it was relatively warm out that day (about 70ish) and it took about 8-10 seconds for the "wait to start" light to shut off (no biggie as it seemed about normal). As such, I tried to start it after that but it needed about 6-8 seconds of cranking (might have been 10 seconds I can't remember) before it finally started. Now, it wasn't extremely long for cranking time but did take longer than a typical 1-4 second crank that I'm used to on these engines so I have a concern right there.

--So, any thoughts on this? Should I be concerned or just figure on replacing glow plugs anyway and be done with that or look at something else?--

2. The sellers told me that the "fuel in water" light stays on and I didn't notice that but figured that this can be as easy of a fix as changing the fuel filter.

--What would your thoughts be on this? I called Ford to get a price for a new sending unit/sensor for this light and they said they don't make them/can't get them anymore so I would have to find the sensor myself from a different source. How concerned should I be about the light being on? Although I have worked on the diesels, I'll be honest, I don't know much about a diesel engine other than it has higher compression, runs on diesel fuel and they typically "gel up" in the winter time so you need to be careful about when it gets really cold out.--

3. When I looked at the rearend tag, it said it had 5.13 gears in it. Yikes. So, I already know that I want to change the rearend gears since I want to do some highway hauling with this truck. With it having a 5-speed and knowing I'll be the only one driving it and already know how to drive a manual, I'm not worried about ruining the clutch and so on and think something a LOT lower would be better for highway traveling. 4.10's would probably be good but I'm thinking 3.73's to get even better mileage. My thought is if I'm traveling through hills with a load, you can always downshift right? But come highway traveling, I don't want to be revving above 3000 to go 65 or even 70ish.

4. When I drove it down the road, it vibrated fairly bad. The tires are shot (pretty much) so I know that will be the first thing to fix and of course I'll have to check out the front end to make sure everything is tight. I checked the driveline on it and it actually has some recent tags on it from a driveshaft company that says it's been balanced so they must have had some driveshaft work done to it recently. Also, the U-joints and so on seem to be tight and in good working order so the vibrations/shaking must be from the tires. It's a big F-450 so I don't expect it to ride great but it was pretty bad.

5. Power - I've driven enough of these old 7.3's on test drives and so on too know the power they are capable of and this did NOT have that snort at all. Now again, don't get me wrong because I know that a big F-450 dually is going to weight a hefty amount but the reality is, it probably weighs less than a 4-door F-350 with a long box on it and I've driven a few of those and remember them getting up and moving just fine. So, I've got a HUGE concern about power at this point. As for starting and running, once it started, it idled fine and the turbo sounds heathy when revved so I'm not thinking that it has any "obvious" issues but something else. It had a little cackle to it like perhaps it has an injector out but I remember that a few times all that this was was some bad O-rings on those injectors. A new O-ring kit sealed them up good and made that engine purr and run great. Again, it sounded pretty good and didn't have a bad idle that was lopey. So, I'm wondering what the power issue could be at this point. Obviously, it could be 100 different things.

--My hope is to get a scan tool on it and run it through the injector balance test if at all possible and run the other scans on it to see if there are any obvious codes to take care of first. If I can do that, I know that will help. But if not, are there any tests I could do without a scan tool to see about figuring out the power issue? At about 55 mph, it's pulling about 2700 rpm's but I'll attribute that to the darn high rearend gears (5.13's).--

6. The vacuum pump must be bad or there is a leak in the vacuum system into the cab because the defrost is the only setting that the ventilation system goes to. Of course that would be an easy fix for the ventilation duct system in the cab but I'll assume a bad vacuum pump could be causing some of the other power issues with the engine itself too. I can't remember what the vacuum pump runs on the diesel motors but will assume they are pretty important for the engine to run well.

7. --Modifications-- I don't want to spend an arm and a leg on this truck but would like to do some simple mods to gain some hp on this vehicle. I'm thinking more simple (least costing) mods that would maybe total around $400 to $500 max and would like to stay away from needing to replace the injectors if at all possible. I know I will have to put some money into tires for this vehicle so I'm thinking if I could build my own air intake, I would do that. I think there has been talk of that on this site hasn't there? Or am I mistaken?

Also, I have heard about getting chips for these engines to boost horsepower anywhere from 50, 75, 100, and even 140 hp over stock for around $225. Are these legit things to do or is this a boggus claim by these companies? Would I need to worry about anything with a stock motor with around 290,000 miles on it? Can I buy an used chip from someone or can I have the computer programmed at Ford? I remember when I was working on them that we had to "flash" the PCM's for a few things but I don't think that this actually raised the power levels on the engines at all. So, are there any simple mods I could do that wouldn't cost anything? Can the current PCM be reprogrammed for more power for free or would I have to send it in?

I read on one thread about taking off the flat exhaust pipe right from the turbo and taking the exhaust off completely to gain 40-50 hp and that although it would be a little louder, it wouldn't be too bad for the cops to be ok with and would really just increase the turbo whine/whistle. Would it be ok to just take the exhaust completely off from the turbo and run it wide open with no exhaust? Would there be anything I would need to worry about if I did so? Would it hurt anything?

--Thanks in advance for your help. Even though I have "some" knowledge of these engines, it's always better to get more help from some of you that have the "been there done that" t-shirt.--
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  #2  
Old 10-03-2012, 01:17 AM
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It's late so I won't answer all your questions, but i'll take a crack at a few and others can chime in with the rest.
1- Not sure what thread it was where they mentioned taking the exhaust system completely off, but don't. Aside from particulate coating everything in the engine bay and a god awful noise, you'd be recirculating exhaust gasses back into the intake (basically hot-boxing your engine bay with CO, NO and other gasses unfavorable to the combustion process). I'm sure they were actually talking about removing the flattened out downpipe, and replacing it with a 3" downpipe to a straight exhaust.
2) The tuners you mentioned will increase power. How much depends on if you go with canned tunes vs. custom tunes. Stock trucks will never see a 120hp gain, as the injectors simply cannot supply this much fuel, but 60-80hp is achievable.
3) If it was 70* out, i doubt the glowplugs had anything to do with a slow start. More likely causes would be batteries, weak starter, low fuel pressure, low HPOP pressure, bad ICP sensor, or about a dozen other things I can think of off the top of my head. If you can hook some sort of diagnostic equipment (autoenginuity, alldata, etc) to it, that will tell the story.
4) Do you know how to swap differential gears, or would you be paying someone to do it? Keep in mind setting gears properly isn't easy or cheap. Probably looking at $700 in parts and labor. Just something to keep in mind.
5) As far as power goes, an injector buzz test would be a good place to start. Aside from that, KOER cylinder contribution test would be good, as well as checking out fuel pressure, HPO pressure, IPR duty cycle, etc etc. One thing you can do without a scan tool however is put the truck in neutral and rev it from idle up through the power band. If it bogs down around 2000rpm, its a good sign there is something amiss with HPO system and not enough pressure is being built to fire the injectors.
Have you checked out the engine blow-by? Take off the oil fill cap and flip it upside down ontop of the fill hole. If it blows off immediately, or floats above the valve cover you have low compression in one or more cylinder.
There are a few other 'buyer guide' type threads floating around on the forum that should help you out. If you havent found them by tomorrow I'll dig them up and post the links.
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Old 10-03-2012, 02:00 AM
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Hey backwoods,
Thanks for the reply, I really appreciate the quick response. I don't expect to get all the answers in one reply but the sooner the better so if you do think of more, I'll try to follow along.

I can't remember where I read about the exhause but I have read about replacing the flat downpipe with a 3" pipe but for some reason I am thinking that it said something about just unhooking the exhaust altogether. I am not sure if they meant no exhaust whatsoever from the turbo or not but they didn't specify. It just said unhooking and if I can find the post, I'll post a link to it.

As for the rearend gears, yes, I know it takes some work to get them set right as I have done a few myself so I will be taking care of the labor part. I am no expert with rearends and haven't done 100's of them but the few I did worked out from what I understand. They didn't come back with issues or problems so I must have done something right. So, I'm not afraid to take a shot at another set. Sure, the results could be catastrophic but typically, if you pay attention to noises right after the rebuild and so on, you'll be alright. If you notice noises or humming and/or vibration that seems odd, obviously it wouldn't be wise to ignore it and just drive it until something happens. The main thing is getting the patterns right and getting it shimmed correctly to create the right pattern. And of course, filling the rear with the right amount of lube. I don't know how many stories I have heard of new rearends being ruined all because someone forgot to fill the rearend lube after the overhaul. Umm...can you say..."duh?"

So, my hope is maybe I can find someone who would be willing to trade for a set of gears or find a decent used set or new set.

If anyone knows, is the rearend a Dana 80 or 60? I'm not sure what gear size I should even be looking for outside of the ratio I want. I have done a little looking since I posted and some say that I may have to switch carriers and this would add cost to the project so I would like to keep it down to as little as possible when I do decide to change the gears. If there is a certain limit to how "low" I can go from 5.13's to maybe 4.30's or 4.11's or 4.10's then maybe that's where I'll have to stop. I don't want to be spending a ton of money in additional parts if I don't have to.

If stock injectors can only get between 60 and 80 hp increases, then that would be alright. Anything is better than nothing. The horsepower increase that I was looking at is here: 7.3 Powerstroke Performance - Increase your performance using products found at Advance Diesel

Maybe that is what others have used or maybe not but it was just one I noticed. If anyone has info on it good or bad, I would be interested. I was just thinking for $225 that getting 100 to 140 hp gain is a pretty good investment. Not to mention the overall fuel mileage savings as well.

As for the slow start, it didn't sound like weak batteries or a weak starter but of course they could have been a little weak but still sounded fine. But it did sound like it would turn over just fine. It just took a little bit to finally crank up. Almost like maybe it was sitting for a while and needed primed. Like you said, it could be one of the pumps whether it be oil or fuel or a few other things. Yes, if I can get a diagnostic tool on it, that will tell me a lot and I am looking to do so if I can.

If I can't, I will have to remember your idea about revving it and listening for the hesitation around 2000 rpm's. I remember what they sounded like sitting at idle back in the day and how they revved and although it wasn't bad, it just didn't seem to have quite the same rev snappiness as I recall. More like around 75% to 80%.

I'll also keep your "oil fill cap trick" procedure in mind as well.

***Just in the little bit I've been reading, I read that doing the IDM trick to increase the voltage from 100 to 140 helps a little bit so I will be doing that mod right away since it's basically the cost of a $4 part and a few hours of time.***

My thought is that even if I can only do some small things like the air filter housing that may gain me 20-40hp, the addition of a chip/programmer for the PCM to add another 60-80 or even 100 hp, and the IDM voltage increase, and maybe a 3" downpipe or other exhause mod, if all of these together can be done for about $400 but gain me between 100 and 125 hp/ 100 and 150tq. then I'll take it. Seems pretty cheap of an investment for a 25% to 35% gain in power.
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Old 10-03-2012, 06:37 PM
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So I know my original post was really long and unfortunately I have a tendancy to do that when I type because I like to be detailed but I could use some more input if possible. It would really mean alot folks.

Backwoods, I appreciate the response and hope you can give more.

I have still been researching things on here and have been trying to look at a few things others have done in their specs under their avatar/icon and been checking a few more things out such as the DIY air filter along with the 140 volt improvement to the IDM.

I noticed that there was a section on the forum that asked everyone to tell about their own mods and tricks and I started to read a few of them but it has over 500 pages of mods and a lot of them have to do with interior upgrades that are cosmetic or lift kits and so on.

Is there a section dedicated to ONLY performance such as what people have done to increase performance on a stock motor to up the hp and torque and fuel efficiency? If not, perhaps that may be a good thread to start for people just like me who are only interested in the performance aspect and not the cosmetic aspect.

Anyway, please give more input folks, I would appreciate it. I'm lookin' at this truck again tomorrow and have heard that they may take $1700 so I may just bite. I don't know.
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Old 10-03-2012, 07:16 PM
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(If it was me, I would bite for 1700 no matter what condition it is in.)

As far as your question #6 about the defrost setting being the only setting, there is a white vacuum line at the rear passenger corner of the engine compartment that runs through the firewall. It is exposed and deteriorates because of this. When this happens you are left with only defrost. That will most likely be your issue there.
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Old 10-03-2012, 08:36 PM
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Yep, the defrost issue doesn't concern me so much as to why the interior vents are on defrost and not the other areas. (I've fixed many broken vacuum lines after they become hard and brittle or worse I accidentally bumped one and of course they just crack and break).

My concern is more about the vacuum pump and/or other possible issues that there might be if the vacuum pump is out. Like I said, it's been a while since I worked on these things but I think that vacuum pump is fairly important for a few things related to the engine if memory serves me correctly

**UPDATE**.....Now I've got a lead on a 95' E350 extended cargo van with a 7.3 with an automatic for just under $1000. Dammit. Now I don't know what to do.

It's got about 200,000 but the owner tells me that it belonged to a college that also just happened to have an automotive class on site so they HAD to do regular maintenance on it to be D.O.T. approved for transport of kids with the vehicle.

He also says it got around 21 mpg at about 65-70 regularly.

The downside is the transmission is going out as reverse is pretty much out and he said he took it to a good transmission shop in the area and they warned about driving it any further (even though it still has all forward gears currently) since reverse being out will send metal all through the transmission and ruin it and possibly even lock it up and crack the case. So, I will already be figuring in a transmission at this point.

But, at only $1000, if it has been regularly maintained as he said, then this "should" be a good deal.

Darnit, now I don't know what to do. Shoot, maybe I'll have to snatch them both up if possible. I don't know.

I'm torn.

I just bought a 1985 F350 dually with a 460 and 4 speed with 3.54 rearend gears in it so maybe I'll have to skip the 95' F450. Uggg....

Anyway, either way, I would appreciate the advice on the diesels.
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Old 10-03-2012, 09:05 PM
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Wow u like to talk.... i will have to read this in the AM
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Old 10-04-2012, 03:11 AM
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If the vacuum pump was going bad you would have very hard brakes the engine itself doesn't make a vacuum for the brake booster. IIRC all f450 cab and chasis came with Dana 80 and 5.13 gears
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Old 10-04-2012, 05:27 AM
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The ****ty starting issue could be a bad gpr (upgraded stancor unit is $35), or as in MY case, having the same exact symptoms as you, the FPR screen is probably filthy. It takes 7minutes to pull the screen and clean it.

The water in fuel light.... just turn the fuel/water sep valve and let 80-90% of the fuel drain out... should drain out all the water.
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Old 10-05-2012, 07:18 AM
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Heck for that price jump on them both!!!
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