I’m quite aware that my Maxxforce 13 has EGR/DPF issues. Knew that when I purchased it from International and when I spent nearly $13,000 replacing the emissions system: DPF, DOC, EGR coolers, etc. Parts with strange acronyms that sounded foreign to anyone who wasn’t a trucker. That’s why we won the $135 million Class Action lawsuit. The problem is that my Distillate Particulate Filter (DPF) is getting clogged with heavy soot.
When inspecting under my truck, I found a leak in the gasket of my oil pan which required me to add a gallon every couple of weeks. To save money, I started using cheap Pilot generic motor oil which resulted in my DPF getting clogged more frequently. Ninety percent of the soot and contaminants that is collected in the DPF come from the engine oil, not the fuel as many would believe. I definitely got what I paid for – crap oil for crap prices.
I’m born and bred a racer and I like to push the pedal to the metal like an Indycar champion. Sometimes climbing hills, I have to maintain my speed, or else I start losing momentum. I don’t have the horses like a galloping Mack, Peterbilt, or Kenworth, so I learned to increase my speed downhills so I maintain momentum when climbing back to keep me from stalling – scary as it might seem. Often, my DPF would get clogged, and then without warning, my engine would derate and I would lose momentum. This is challenging, on a manual, cuz I have to shift down which can be menacing on a steep slope.
So there’s a fine line and I have to tread it carefully. Now I’m going to avoid going 70 MPH, especially on hills, and hope that will keep my DPF from getting clogged.
When the DPF gets soaked with soot, the engine starts to derate – which I notice on hills. Then I start getting a warning light on my dash. I typically have about 15 mins to pull over and do a Parked Regen (but sometimes, I’m only afforded mins before I get the red gong of death – a Stop Engine warning). When doing a Parked Regen, the DPF heats up to nearly 200 degrees turning the soot to ash and expelling it — you can see this as white smoke. It gets so hot and noisy that if you’re parked over grass, you can actually set it on fire.
I visited the TA in Paulsboro, NJ to replace my oil with Mobil Delvac I Synthetic. Before the work started, I mentioned to the mechanic that my gasket was leaking. She confirmed that there was some leak on the bottom of the oil pan, so she recommended changing out the gasket. Total damage: $1,150
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Replacing the oil pan gasket @ TA Paulsboro, NJ
I was looking forward to taking this rig on the road with a fresh oil change. But first stopped en route in DC to drop Bobtail off with my friend Kanita and run some errands.
Bobtail was not the first cat I’ve taken on the road. In 2017, when I was driving for DM Bowman, I took Brownie with me who unfortunately escaped my grips at the truck terminal in Frederick, MD. We put up signs all over the neighborhood and kept returning calling her and putting out food. After a month, the manager of ABC Construction next door found her, and Kanita rushed to pick her up.
After spending a half day parking in DC, I drove towards Dallas hoping to get as far south as I can making up for lost time. I didn’t want to push it too hard because I didn’t want to run into a Tropical Storm battering the Gulf coast.
I called Carmen in Charlotte and she was looking forward to meeting up with me the next day. I would park at the Pilot conveniently located minutes from downtown. We would grab some lunch, and maybe visit the Gin Mill.
I made it 190 miles to the Walmart in South Hill, VA (330 miles today from Paulsboro NJ) before I shut down for the night. I got some food and then noticed that their parking lot was jammed with rigs, and the management is amazingly friendly to truckers. So I decided to play it safe and spend the night here. Need to get up bright and early so I could spend time with Carmen.
I rose by 6 am and after a nice, warm shower, I was anxious to get on the road. I started the truck, and to my surprise, the engine won’t turn over. My voltmeter read 12, enough juice to start her, but the oil pressure was next to zero. I looked under the truck and noticed oil everywhere. I had lost a lot of oil during my drive from DC since everything under the truck was coated with thick grime, and during the night a noticeable puddle of oil had formed. My heart shrieked, but I resolved to stay calm.
I immediately called the TA in Paulsboro NJ who informed me that the work would be covered only if a technician from a TA or Petro can come to verify that oil had leaked from the oil pan. Unfortunately, the closest technician is 90 miles away in Mebane, NC, and it took a couple of hours for the mechanic to show up.
The mobile technician confirmed that there was a missing bolt in the back of the oil pan and the gasket wasn’t properly seated causing a massive amount of oil to leak out.
I relayed this information to Paulsboro, who claimed that the two bolts were never there in the first place, and I was made aware of this. Thus there’s no warranty. This couldn’t be further from the truth. I started to lose my cool.
The bolts were not missing when I brought the truck to the shop because I had done an inspection of the oil pan a month ago, and everything was in place. There was only a slight leak from a couple of bolts that were over-torqued causing the gasket to leak. (I was only losing about a gallon every two weeks – compared to 12 gallons in 2 days).
The technician claimed that only after dropping the oil pan did she realize that 2 (out of 20) bolts were missing. I stayed in the cab of the truck most of the time and also around the truck, so there were plenty of opportunities for the techs to inform me of this discovery. But instead of notifying me, they decided to reinstall the oil pan with the two missing bolts, and thus the gasket wasn’t properly seated. They spurned my first principle of communication – involve all parties in the decision-making.
Then they decided to pull a fast one on me by sneaking a note to the bottom of the invoice that the 2 bolts were missing and that their work is not under warranty. The manager never went over this issue with me – she was hoping I wouldn’t catch it. The invoice and inspection report were 3 pages so there was a lot of fine print and they assured me that everything was A-OK.
In reality, I would have never left the shop knowing I had 2 missing bolts especially after I just spent $1,150 for Mobile Delvac synthetic oil and gasket. In fact, the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act provides an implied warranty for consumers. Both goods and services are protected – when a reasonable customer purchases a service, he/she should expect a certain result. If not the company should remedy the situation.
Likewise, the TA should have never let me go on the road with the missing bolts. All they had to do was wait till the following morning and purchase the bolts from the International dealership for a couple of bucks a piece and install them. I would have easily approved this delay, especially since it was past 8 pm when the work was done, and I didn’t need to leave until the next day.
As an owner-operator, I would never authorize incomplete work and would never get on the road knowing that critical bolts were missing. Doing so not only guarantees spilling hazmat all over the roadway but also puts the lives of many other motorists at risk.
I was very disappointed at the TA to not taking responsibility for their mistake, not assisting with my tow, and then trying to shift the blame on me. Thankfully, after some skillful negotiation, the TA eventually relented, agreeing to reimburse me for the oil change and tow. But this unfortunate incident had set me back over a week and I had to make up for it by working hard during the Fourth of July weekend.
I also had to make a phone call to Carmen in Charlotte.
“When will you be coming down?”
“I dunno, Gotta get the truck fixed first. Then gotta see where the load board takes me.”
So I ordered a tow from Smiley’s in South Hill. I had them come at the same time that the recovery driver from Schneider’s arrived to deliver the trailer to Dallas.
But there was one small problem. I couldn’t unhook from the trailer. The fifth wheel latch was giving me trouble and the kingpin wouldn’t open. Normally, I would just reverse the truck to jiggle and unlock the latch. But since I was low on oil, I couldn’t start the truck.
So Mr. Smiley took a chain and connected to the front right corner of the trailer and pulled it forward, while I released my brakes and slowly rolled down an incline – that did the trick.
Before we unhooked from the trailer, Smiley connected his air to my secondary air tank so that I could have some air – at least 100 psi. This is an interesting setup since I can use this air to power my pneumatic tools such as my impact gun.
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Getting towed by Smiley’s in South Hill, VA
Mr. Smiley also had to disconnect my drive shaft to ensure that we don’t damage the transmission. He was able to remove the bolts with a 1/2 inch drive extendable ratchet – an impact wrench was not needed.
I was surprised since the unscrupulous Charlotte wrecker who towed me last year didn’t bother to do this. When Smiley’s dropped the oil pan, they could see that the gasket was severely damaged on both sides.
They then checked my oil for metal shavings, and thankfully, there was no evidence of any specks. I closed my eyes and said a prayer when Mr. Smiley turned the key to the ignition. Big Cherry didn’t start on the first turn or the second. But after stepping hard on the fuel pedal, she sputtered a bit then finally roared back to life like there was no tomorrow.