Ask TFL: Should I Save My Old Ram 3500 (And Swap A Cummins Into It), Or Buy A New Truck?

New trucks are expensive, here is what it takes to keep an old truck running.

Ask TFL: Should I Save My Old Ram 3500 (And Swap A Cummins Into It), Or Buy A New Truck?

This morning, a viewer named Grant reached out with an important question. Grant wants to know whether he should replace his current truck, or fix it up.

Grant writes,

“I currently have a 99′ Ram 2500 with the V10 which is in need of a new engine. Good condition in all other areas with no rust surprisingly and pristine inside. I have looked for several months and the cheapest alternative for a newer truck is a used 2017 Titan XD for $38,000. What do you guys recommend?

Towing is my main need as it’s not every day but occasionally I tow up to 11,000 pounds and use this vehicle during the winter when my Malibu hybrid is not up to the task. If you guys have any other recommendations on which engine to use or swap to diesel, please feel free to let me know. Either scenario will be expensive and time-consuming, but as long as it works and does the job I am willing to consider the investment. “

What To Do?

Of course there are countless advantages to buying a new truck. New vehicles tend to be more comfortable, more reliable, and more capable than their older counterparts. However, like Grant, we appreciate the era of simple, workhorse trucks like the second gen Ram.

Since I daily drive a 1994 Cummins Ram, I recommended a 5.9 diesel swap. Though the 8-liter V10 did make more horsepower and torque, the 5.9 Cummins is one of the toughest engines you can find on a budget. If horsepower is what you’re after, the old Cummins can be tuned well above its factory output as well.

5.9 Cummins Issues

There are a few things to look out for though. Some 1999-2001 Cummins trucks use what is known as a “53” block. The 53 block had thinner water jacket walls. 53 engine blocks are prone to cracking, and should be avoided if possible.

The Killer Dowel Pin is another notable issue with older Cummins engines. A dowel pin in the front end can back out over time and cause serious damage. A small metal tab placed behind the timing cover is all that’s necessary to avoid KDP.

Ask TFL: Should I Save My Old Ram 3500 (And Swap A Cummins Into It), Or Buy A New Truck?

Swapping The Engine

Besides those two issues, 5.9 Cummins engines have proved their worthiness through decades of abuse. Owners have documented every quirk there is to know and parts are plentiful. However, there are a number of ways to go about an engine swap.

The easiest way to be sure you have most the parts you will need is to buy a parts truck. The parts truck can even serve as a template for mounting the new components on another vehicle. Though the swap will still pose its fair share of headaches. Ideally, Grant will be able to find a solid running truck with a rusted body and a good drivetrain.

Ask TFL: Should I Save My Old Ram 3500 (And Swap A Cummins Into It), Or Buy A New Truck?

All said and done, swapping engines will be far more effort than buying something new but it will be less expensive. There are hundreds of ways to go about the swap, but a solid Cummins parts truck shouldn’t cost more than $5,000. That way Grant can stick with the truck he loves, and save it from the scrapyard.

To learn more about 5.9 Cummins trucks, check out the video linked below.