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So school me on a 2004 Dodge Diesel pickup

Posted: Nov 23, 2021 10:32 PM
by Mike W.
Many of you might read the title and think, that doesn't sound like Mike. And you're right. But as the know it all for the extended family, cars, computers, buildings etc, I've heard rumor the Grandson is eyeballing one and my input is likely to be sought. At 21 and just now away from home going to college his parents want to replace the 2003 Toyota Tacoma that was recently hit in the rocker panel, bottom of the doors, it's a 4 door with 260K on it and they're worried about reliability with him a couple of hundred miles away. Now he needs a diesel pickkup like a hole in the head, but we don't need BMWs that were the fastest 4 door sedan when current. My initial reaction is somewhere between no and hell no, but I'll try to present at least a somewhat balanced and fact based point of view.

So... what's good and what's bad about a 2004 Dodge diesel? Reliability, expense, running and repair, and anything else.

Re: So school me on a 2004 Dodge Diesel pickup

Posted: Nov 24, 2021 1:09 AM
by mitch5
Assuming it's a 24v 5.9 cummins then I have heard the drivetrain will long outlast the cab and frame. Personally a diesel truck sounds completely useless for someone going to college, where parking is tight and repairs are expensive. Maybe ask him what 10,000lb load he plans to tow that requires such torque. Maybe show what an injector service costs? 260k is nothing for a taco(probably the cheapest truck to own/maintain). Cars owned by college kids live a rough life, id wait till after school to get anything nice.

Re: So school me on a 2004 Dodge Diesel pickup

Posted: Nov 24, 2021 2:24 AM
by Mike W.
Trust me, you're preaching to the choir. He has absolutely no need for a big diesel truck, except to theoretically look cool. But I'll bite, what does an injector service run? Help me here, what are the potentially expensive repairs he (actually his parents) might be facing?

Re: So school me on a 2004 Dodge Diesel pickup

Posted: Nov 24, 2021 6:59 AM
by athayer187
The injector service will run him $2-4k at least if he's having someone else do it. It's $1500 or so in parts alone.

Re: So school me on a 2004 Dodge Diesel pickup

Posted: Nov 24, 2021 9:37 AM
by Jasco1
Mike, in addition to what athayer said the most common issues are lift and injection pump issues along with front steering problems. The term death wobble is very common when talking about older Dodge Rams. I’ve had three of these trucks over the years and all of them had steering issues dealing with the steering linkages and ball joints. Carli makes a very nice ball joint upgrade for about $900 (parts). The motors themselves will last 400k-500k miles. The last one I had was a 3500 dually that also had HVAC blend door issues where AC on drivers side and full heat on passenger at all times. The fix was a dashboard removal. Fun stuff. ... -problems/ ... 9.1487882/ ... mins-5-9l/

Re: So school me on a 2004 Dodge Diesel pickup

Posted: Nov 25, 2021 4:18 AM
by Kenny Blankenship
Tell him to get a 1st gen Tundra. You're welcome...

Re: So school me on a 2004 Dodge Diesel pickup

Posted: Nov 25, 2021 11:47 AM
by Nosis
I owned a 2004 Ram 2500 for 40k miles (bought at 215k sold at 255k). We towed our travel trailer for around 10k of those miles and it did a great job. The injectors went at 235k, indicated by a no-start on a cold morning. I did the R&R with reman units for around $1,000 and they worked great - what I thought was normal starting was likely hard starting because, after the injectors, it never took more than 1 or 2 revolutions to start no matter how cold.

The manual trans (NV5600) seized in 2nd gear at around 225k while towing an empty car hauler (on my way to retrieve an e28). This was a nightmare and resulted in a $4k rebuild w/new clutch. I sought out a 6 speed truck because I wanted the HO engine and I like shifting. This was a regret: I found the cummins useful daily rpm range is 1000 to 2000 (redline at 3000 if I recall), so, starting in 2nd as you do, you row 4 gears by the time you are going 45… I often just used 2nd, 4th, 6th. I would only consider autos…

The HVAC door issue is a total pain, which i had to deal with after discovering my defrost was inop the first time I needed it… The repair kit i used required cutting a piece of the dash structure and hacking into the side of the plastic HVAC box.

These are huge, heavy, ponderous beasts that can definitely be great for certain tasks. College is not one. In fact, it sounds like he already has the perfect vehicle, especially now that its damaged.

Re: So school me on a 2004 Dodge Diesel pickup

Posted: Nov 30, 2021 8:53 AM
by gadget73
is it "tuned" or stock? Knowing the prior history will answer a lot of questions here, if its a stock well maintained example I'd be a lot less concerned than if he's buying it from someone who had a "coal roller" tune on it and just beat the thing like a rented mule.

everything about diesel ownership is more expensive. They take easily double the oil of a standard engine, the filters cost more, the fuel costs more, most of the parts are more expensive.

Re: So school me on a 2004 Dodge Diesel pickup

Posted: Nov 30, 2021 6:51 PM
by tn535i
We have had different models for many years where I work used as test vehicles for filtration and probably 3 right now. I've driven them all and able to borrow on occasion. As said above they are beasts and not something the average person should consider owning. The good is you can tow a house but that's the only good thing I can think of. It's actually fun to drive one if you never have but they also quickly have me wishing for a normal car again. My wife hates riding in one or I would use it more. So maybe one selling point against it is if he has any inclination to date, most girls might think it awful to ride in unless they really like him. Then again young girls seem to be buying Jeeps like crazy so what do I know.

Service is expensive for sure but lack or neglect of service can become stupid expensive. The engine if WELL cared for can run 400-500k or even a million miles (it's been done) but the rest of the RAM needs attention and is equally expensive as parts are a couple levels above normal stuff in size and weight.

A college kid checks none of the boxes that would warrant this vehicle IMO.

fwiw my daughter's college car was a 300k+ mile 4 door e30. We had a bigger issue and a couple minor ones with it over the few years she used it. She was 600 miles from home and it worried me but we got her through school and then once she had an income we helped her purchase a Hyundai with 100k warranty and better sleep.

Re: So school me on a 2004 Dodge Diesel pickup

Posted: Dec 01, 2021 10:38 AM
by topher800
I have a 2011 6.7L 2500 with 110k on it. Not exactly the vintage you are looking at, but I can echo:

- parking in town gets old
- mpg is dismal. I have had exactly 3 tanks that reached 16 mpg. Town is typically 12-13, highway is typically 15. Hauling camper is 13.
- noisy - the 5.9 has a lot of engine clatter - mine seems quieter
- costs are basically double; two batteries; 12qts of oil; $100 fuel filter every 15k (though I've put in an after market setup); LT tires if we are talking 3/4 ton and up. Just paid $360/tire for 129 load rating (that's 4100# per tire).

Mine has been reliable except the transmission.
- The 68rfe turns out to be cheaply built and many are having to do rebuilds in the 100k mile range. Just did mine @108k.
- factory brakes went until 96k miles
- did ball joints @ same time - went with Dynatrac
- have not had to do injectors yet
- water pump went @ ~100k - very easy repair on this

Re: So school me on a 2004 Dodge Diesel pickup

Posted: Dec 01, 2021 2:11 PM
by tn535i
To add to my comment above when I was in college (79-83) I would have said the absolute best college car was my dad's VW Dasher (aka Audi Fox). Not many cars like it in the day but it got great mileage, room for 4 when necessary and could hold nearly a dorm room full of junk with the seats folded down. What is the modern equivalent...

When we did our due diligence for our daughter back in 2013 another really big factor was parking. She is in DC and street parking is very problematic as it can be in many university towns. We settled on the Hyundai Elantra GT and it has been a great choice and it's just the kind of car that works for a college kid and even later now that she is a teacher but still living in the city. The GT is several inches shorter than the sedan and she gets into parallel parking spots others (even a mid size sedan) have to pass up. The now diminutive e30 was also great for parking and narrower for tight spots.

Even in our little down town there is a section with a line your vehicle should not stick out past when parked, but of course those jack@$$'s in big pick ups do it anyway and you can hardly get through the street with oncoming traffic.

There are so many downsides to a big Dodge Ram Diesel. My son would say the owner must also be trying to compensate for something ?? So there's that stigma also. :laugh: