By H. Kent Sundling
What to consider from the inside out
It’s easy to be brand loyal with trucks, tractors and cattle. The truck race is close, though, and each time new models hit dealer lots, what’s best for you and your operation might be different than what you’ve been driving.
Take time to shop around. Don’t be afraid to ask if you can take the truck home for the weekend. Put it through the rigors of your farm. Tow your trailer with it. Research pricing online at www.Edmunds.com and at www.CarsDirect.com. Remember, we’re in a recession, it’s winter and dealers need you to stimulate their economy.
Diesel versus gas. The right diesel can dramatically outpull a gas engine. Diesels generally last longer and get better fuel economy. At present, they also have a higher resale value. But when diesel fuel costs 85¢ a gallon more than gas and the diesel engine option costs more than $7,000, it’s worth considering a gas engine.
Oil changes on a diesel engine cost twice as much or more than on gas, and if you are required to have an emission test on your truck, a diesel costs more.
If you crunch the numbers, it takes more than 150,000 miles in fuel savings to pay for the extra cost of a diesel engine. If you keep trucks around for a long time or regularly pull trailers, the cost of the diesel option will be minimized. If you don’t tow often or haul heavy loads, a gas engine with a low axle ratio (3.73 or 4.10) might be a better option.
Half-, three-quarter or one-ton. Half-tons are for checking fields, keeping tools handy and hauling a few bags of seed—light-duty work, loaded part-time. If you need a flatbed for your welder, toolboxes, crane and tractor fuel, get a heavy-duty three-quarter-ton or bigger truck designed to be loaded full-time. It will have four bearings in the rear axle applying weight to the axle housing. This is called a full-floating axle, similar to those in semis. Half-ton pickups have a semi-floating axle as in a car, with just two bearings applying weight to the axle shaft.
Duals or single rear wheels. Duals on a truck can surprise you with their ability to handle curves and stop on a dime. On a factory dually, the inside tire matches the front tire. On a factory cab and chassis, the rear duals split the front track. You won’t notice dual tires are low unless you’re loaded, so get in the habit of tapping the tires before you roll. If one of the duals is flat, it can loosen the lug nuts. For some reason, the new factory tire pressure sensors don’t come on duals.
Limited slip differentials. Generally, in a limited slip differential, the clutch engages when the right wheel (which is the driver) spins, allowing both wheels to give you traction. It’s usually beneficial unless you frequently pull heavy loads on dirt or mud. Traction control, using anti-lock brakes to stop the spinning wheel, is becoming more popular.
Short or long bed. Gooseneck trailers are easier to turn with a long bed. Keep in mind that truck manufacturers now call the short bed the "standard" bed.
New versus used. We’ve all heard that when you buy new, you lose money as soon as you drive the vehicle off the lot. New or used, you are going from retail to wholesale. With rebates and invoice deals, new trucks can be cheaper than a one- or two-year-old used truck. Plus the new truck hasn’t been abused.