A lot of the guys here at the shop also ride motorcycles. Here are a couple of our favorite bike images. Happy Friday Everyone!
Here at Capital Reman we are dealers for all of the best aftermarket parts manufactures out there including: Instersate McBee, PAI, Costex, IPD, Maxiforce, Reliance and KMP Brands. If you are looking for new parts we are your source for aftermarket inframe and overhaul kits. We also supply a wide range of other smaller parts including water pumps, oil pumps, thermostats and aftercoolers.
When you think of Caterpillar what comes to mind most? Dozers, Excavators, Skid Loaders? Maybe the iconic “CAT Yellow”? If those aren’t on the top of your list the fine network of Caterpillar Dealers has to be a close third. For years Caterpillar has maintained a long standing tradition of publicly loving and standing behind all 178 of its dealers.
Recently, this corporate/dealer love fest has cooled a bit with the corporate office asking “What are doing for us lately?”
Caterpillar Inc. is the largest manufacturer of construction and mining equipment in the world and until recently held the title of most over the road truck engines on the road. In 2010 Caterpillar left the over the road truck engine market due to four factors: They were having large warranty claims on ACERT Engines, they were losing market share to Cummins, a combination of the two previous accounts made the truck engine division unprofitable and lastly they couldn’t meet the EPA emissions standards of 2010 with the ACERT technology. Many old school CAT customers are simply opting for older pre-emissions remanufactured Caterpillar engines and equipment.
Cat believes its dealers are missing out between $9 billion – $18 billion of ‘low hanging fruit’ revenue. The corporate office has identified three key components the dealers are not utilizing in day to day operations:
1. Dealers are not using the wealth of real-time customer data now available at their fingertips
2. The dealers are not communicating or collaborating with other dealerships
3. Dealers are not providing a consistence customer experience when it comes to e-commerce orders, parts and servicing pricing
The disconnect between corporate and the dealer really steams from a way of thinking. The corporate mentality is one of technology integration, analytics and finding revenue opportunities. Whereas, the dealer mentality is “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it”. Some dealers have been around 80+ years and essentially stuck in their ways. Selling parts and equipment is done on a territorial basis with the majority of sales coming from walk-in traffic.
Caterpillar is demanding change and giving its dealers until the end of the year to develop a three-year plan to capture those lost sales. Dealers who fail to meet targets could have their dealership agreements terminated although top executives have left that as the last option. Chief Executive Officer, Doug Oberhelman, stated “That would be the last resort, the last outcome and certainly not desirable.”
Caterpillar, like its rivals, has assimilated all sorts of diagnostic technology into its machines that deliver real-time information about the health of its products. The data helps customers manage fuel and maintenance costs, track the equipment in real time and optimize the utilization of said equipment in the field.
The technology can be better exploited by dealers. The diagnostic information could immediately increase part and service sales to existing customers. Dealers could anticipate problems before they arise. Cat corporate is insisting dealers are not doing enough to schedule preventative and predictive maintenance. Overall the company feels it dealer network needs to do a better job of helping customers manage their equipment fleets more effectively.
Stu Levenick, the group president in charge of dealer relations stated that a few dealers do a pretty decent job at understanding the parts demand by their customers with about 90% knowledge of the parts sold however the average dealer only has about a 40% retention of the parts opportunity presented in the market place. Caterpillar has discovered that applying the practices of the best performing dealers with the lower performing dealers automatically improved 6% to 8% in aftermarket share improvement. These changes are fairly obvious but the dealers have not done them as nobody directed them to do it or helped them learn the processes.
This is the age of information. Technology and data analysis are changing the way businesses are looking at their operations. In the case of Caterpillar, a company that has been around for 91 years, charging ahead into the 21st century is more of a challenge than first thought. There are more than 3.5 million pieces of Caterpillar equipment in the field. Many pieces of the equipment are equipped with sensors that send out continual status updates about mechanical systems and operator performance.
The disconnect between corporate and dealers is the old school mentality. A dealer that might have been in business for 50 years doesn’t want to do change anything. If it worked in the past it will work in the future. The dealers don’t want to updat technology or adapt to the tidal wave of technology in heavy equipment. Caterpillar believes they could be selling billions and billions of more parts and service each year if they could get their dealers to look at their machines as digital devices, constantly pinging them with sales and service opportunities – not just big pieces of steel and iron.
Caterpillar’s big plan to get dealers up to speed was unveiled recently in Las Vegas; code name Across the Table. The plan was unleashed to distributors via a private meeting and made public soon after.
Caterpillar states that one of the biggest issues with their dealer network is that each one (which is independently owned and operated) is not necessarily in contact with other dealers. CAT insists that dealers are not offering consistent e-commerce solutions to customers who, in many, cases work with more than one Caterpillar dealer across the globe. Customer accounts and similar service/pricing are inconsistent from dealer to dealer.
Levenick goes on to state that, “Customer expectations have changed over the years. If they work with multiple dealers, they want to have a common customer experience wherever they go across the globe. One CAT, One Experience.” Currently each dealer shares a disjointed experience when it comes to locating parts and serving accounts. Caterpillar cited the example of the Australian market where four dealers have carved up the whole country. Caterpillar Corporate themselves also have a few small depots that also sell a few specialty parts directly to the public. The issue is there are dozens of supply warehouses whose inventory and order systems aren’t linked together.
Chief Executive Officer, Doug Oberhelman, cited an example of what is going on in Australia. “I don’t even know how many individual parts warehouses there must be between the four dealers in Australia but it is probably over 100. And those dealers don’t talk to each other. A customer may need a part in Perth. The warehouse in Melbourne may have it, but won’t communicate with all other places in Australia before we go overseas to get it.” That is lost revenue in shipping and a poor user experience for the customer.
The corporate mentality is also challenging dealers to do a better job at foreseeing the changes taking place in the heavy duty construction market where sales of equipment to rental companies now pace new sales to contractors. Customers are seeing rental equipment a cheaper alternative to purchasing capital heavy machinery.
The dealer network, which was set up in the 1920s, was never intended to handle the financial capabilities or operational loads of running a rental organization. It is a whole different ball game in the way a rental business is structured than one off parts sales. Caterpillar is not set up the same way United Rentals is. The rental business requires a huge amount of working capital. It is a matter of cash flow which would be diverted from other parts of a dealer’s business that might require funding for future growth. Caterpillar acknowledges the strain the rental demand is putting on its dealer network but doesn’t see an immediate solution. It moves the financial cash flow from the customer, to the dealer and up to the corporate level.
The risk from Caterpillar is not to rock the boat too hard. Caterpillar is the Number 1 provider of construction and mining equipment in the world. Messing with the dealership foundation of what made the company successful may not be the best route for CAT. Caterpillar is built on its dealer network which employs 162,000 workers most of which are scattered outside of the United States. In recent years lower-priced Asian rivals with a less robust dealer support network have risen to power to challenge the old brood. The quality of aftermarket parts has risen dramatically in the past 10 years and are right on par with CAT OEM Parts. The major aftermarket parts are all made in ISO 9001 factories and offer better warranty and pricing that Caterpillar. A little known secret in the industry is that CAT no longer makes their own parts. Caterpillar is simply a brand. The same parts manufacturers make parts for both CAT and the aftermarket companies. It is the same exact part but one is stamped “OEM” and other is branded “Aftermarket”. The consumer is paying a premium for that CAT label but may not be getting better quality for the price. The world is a global marketplace and the internet now supplies parts and equipment at a click of a mouse oftentimes making the old brick and mortar obsolete. CAT’s internet presence is weak and online ordering system is clunky and confusing.
Times are tough right now for the company. Revenue peaked at $65.9 billion in 2012 but have plunged nearly 16% in 2013 as the global mining industry tanked. The great recession in the oil and gas market beginning in 2014 and still continuing into 2016 has not helped sales either. The one bring spot for the company is that in 2016 the construction industry has boomed again, new commercial and residential starts are back to pre-recession levels. The goal for the company is to reach $100 billion in annual revenue by 2020 but that might simply be a pipe dream now. In 2015 revenues were a dismal $47 billion; that is a 28.32% decrease in only 3 years. Ouch! Layoffs have begun at some of the under performing segments of the company including a Jacksonville, FL location that made work tools for CAT mining operations.
The turnaround is focused on hardline change. The company is focused on nine to ten dealer metrics in the Across the Table program, most of which it refuses to discuss with analysts. Consequently that has made it hard for investors to determine the valve of Caterpillar stock. Right now it is hard to assess CAT’s bottom line.
Top executives at Caterpillar have made it clear that the writing is on the wall for dealerships: Either Conform or Close. Dealers need to significantly increase the sales of their parts and service departments. One key metric that Caterpillar has shared with analysts is something it calls “the absorption rate” which measures how long a dealership could keep its doors open if it never sold another piece of equipment and only had to survive on profits only from parts and service sales in its territory.
The absorption rate formula is quite simple. If the CAT dealer’s gross profit from parts and service can cover its total overhead and interest expenses per year the dealer is said to have a 100 percent absorption rate. For many years Caterpillar Corporate was fine with a 100% absorption rate metric, now that number is not enough.
Dealer absorption rate goals will be different moving forward. More than 100% will be expected from each dealer moving forward and those goals must be met by 2018. Even the best dealers in the dealership network will have new goals that they need to comply with.
Integrating technology is the primary way Caterpillar is banking on revenue production moving forward but not the only way. Caterpillar has been installing sensors, engine control units, cameras, satellite-based positing control and guidance systems on its machines to help increase productivity and efficiency as well as reduce on-site work related incidents.
Long time CAT customers have said the company has other motives. All of those electronic gadgets and monitoring systems carry a double edge sword. Consumers, for the most part, hate them. All of the “bells and whistles” on the machines are ancillary and are not necessary to get the job done in the field. Customers hate dealing with the new technology because the simplicity of the old machinery is gone. With technology comes maintenance and damage issues. Perfect for Caterpillar that needs to service these units but terrible for the paving contractor who is down and needs to get back to work. All of the diagnostics equipment (CAT SIS) needed to service CAT equipment is all proprietary meaning you have to go to the dealer. CAT sees the Equipment Management Systems (EMS) as a much more lucrative future than simply selling machinery. Simply put CAT wants to be in the fleet management business.
On the flip side of the coin Caterpillar is at a crossroads in terms of what made them popular in the first place. It used to be Caterpillar meant quality and American craftsmanship. In recent years we have seen many complaints about the quality and performance of their engines. Common issues are that they are underpowered and have a whole host of issues regarding the emission control engineering. Quality, Service and Warranty issues are at an all time low point for the company. It is easy to see why customers are going elsewhere like rival Cummins or simply renting equipment they know isn’t going to last. Selling a $650,000 machine that doesn’t include a radio or air condition isn’t going to cut it in the longhaul. People will go elsewhere and have.
Only time will tell what the future may hold for Caterpillar but so far the results have been positive for the most part… even if there is some grumbling the dealers. Those who do not grow will die. Hopefully we see a bright sunshiny “CAT Yellow” day for Caterpillar once again.
The Environmental Protection Agency was created in the footsteps of the Clean Air Act of 1970. For 46 years the EPA has been constantly evolving and enacting laws to address the environmental needs of this country. For many years owners of three-quarter and one-ton light duty pickup trucks enjoyed no additional smog equipment on their vehicles. All of that changed in 2008 with the EPA required the use of diesel particulate filters on all three-quarter-ton and larger trucks as well as required biannual smog tests which included a visual inspection of the vehicle to make sure the DPF parts were still on the truck. In 2010 the regulations got even tighter.
Many thought that the era of big power and torque were over and vowed to never purchase a new truck ever again. However, something spectacular happened and the complete opposite thing occurred. It turns out that Americans truly do adapt and overcome. Every one of the manufacturers figured out a way to cut down on the NOx levels all the while making more horsepower and torque than ever before. Innovation is bread out of strife.
The engineering breakthrough came through the use of the selective catalytic reduction. The vast majority of these systems use diesel exhaust fluid (mixture of urea and deionized water) sprayed into the exhaust system to break down the generated NOx into harmless nitrogen and water molecules. Since the DEF (Diesel Exhaust Fluid) is introduced in the exhaust, also called after-treatment technology, the manufacturer is free to build as much power as they want. The DEF is stored in a separate tank which is insulated and heated and is marked by a blue filler cap.
Still there are two factions of diesel guys out there; those who have accepted to the EPA changes and those who are still vehemently against any regulations whatsoever despite the work around technological advancements. For those not willing to accept the changes there has been a shift to older used diesel engines or remanufactured diesel engines that have been grandfathered in. This article aims to go over the cold hard facts about DEF and educate the populace into making smarter diesel operator decisions.
From a strictly chemical disposition DEF is a mixture of 67.5% deionized water and 32.5% urea. Urea is a compound in Nitrogen that turns to ammonia when heated and is used in a variety of industries. Urea is technically derived from a byproduct of urine but for mass production purposes it is synthetically made. Most DEF products are regulated by the American Petroleum Institute. Lets take a look at the science behind DEF when mixed with exhaust. Chemically, DEF is firstly comprised of (NH2)2CO; and when injected into the hot exhaust gas the water evaporates leaving ammonia and isocyanic acid.
STEP 1: DEF Becomes Ammonia and Isocyanic Acid: (NH2)2CO → NH3 + HNCO
STEP 2: The Isocyanic Acid chemically breaks down with water into Carbon Dioxide and Ammonia:
HNCO + H2O → CO2 + NH3 overall which is this: (NH2)2CO + H2O → 2NH3 + CO2
STEP 3: At this point during the chemical reaction Ammonia will, in the presence of oxygen and a catalyst, will reduce nitrogen oxides:
2NO + 2NH3 + ½O2 -> 2N2 + 3H2O and 3NO2 + 4NH3 -> 7/2N2 + 6H2O
STEP 4: The overall reduction of NOx by urea is:
2(NH2)2CO + 4NO + O2 → 4N2 + 4H2O + 2CO2 and 2(NH2) 2CO + 3NO2 -> 7/2N2 + 4H2O + 2CO2
That question specifically depends on miles per gallon and usage of the diesel truck in question. No matter how heavy the load, according to the OE manufacturer, the typical average light duty truck will consume 2-3 gallons of DEF per 800 miles. However, most new trucks with an average miles per gallon rating of 20+mpg will go roughly 8,000-10,000 miles on a tank full (10 gallons) of DPF. Each truck is different, for example on a Dodge Ram there is a gauge readout of exactly how much DEF is left in the tank, GM has a digital readout and Ford has a simple low DEF light.
Medium Duty and Heavy Duty Fuel models will vary but according to Cummins Filtration DEF consumption will be approximately 2% of the fuel consumed. For every 50 gallons of diesel fuel burned you will use 1 gallon of DEF. Here are some Medium and Heavy Duty Consumption projections by our friends over at Cummins Filtration:
Don’t be fooled into thinking you can buy DEF just anywhere. DEF is mostly sold at truck stops in big jugs containing multiple gallons of the stuff. Some gas stations will carry DEF but don’t count on it if you are in a pickle. It is important to understand if you don’t refill an empty DEF tank the engine will automatically shut down. You don’t want to be stranded somewhere with an empty DEF tank because it is not sold everywhere. Common places to buy DEF include TravelCenters of America, Walmart, Target, Love’s Travel Shop, SAPP Brothers, Flying J Truck Stops, Petro Stopping Centers and Pilot Travel Centers, O’Reilly’s, NAPA and Advanced Auto. We have also compiled a list of the most popular manufactures of DEF here.
There are very few cons with DEF as it is a fairly simple procedure to deal with. However when it comes to Diesel Particulate Filter (DPF) and Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) there can be many maintenance and repair issues since they prone to clogging. These systems are complicated in design and a simple clogged filter can cause pressure and temperature differentials that can affect the whole performance of the engine.
The only cons to DEF include the additional upfront cost to the truck, added nominal weight and some additional room to store an extra gallon of the fluid. The pros are better fuel economy, increased horsepower, more optimized combustion, fewer regenerations issues, less wear on the engine and in addition it only releases nitrogen and water vapor into the air.
Whether it is a big deal or not is not really not up for debate considering all 2008 light-medium diesel and up have to comply with the EPA Regulations. NOx has been blamed for smog, a rise in greenhouse gasses and acid rain. The DEF as part of the Selective Catalytic Reduction system (SCR) turns NOx into pure nitrogen and water vapor. Climate change is a heated debate but we can all agree that spewing more gasses of any kind into the environment isn’t something we need more of.
It is only natural to think that any EPA induced changes to the diesel engine is necessarily a bad one however it is quite the contrary. The major diesel manufacturers discovered it can fine tune the engine anyway it deems fit then allow the SRC and DEF to remove the particulate. The engines are built with performance in mind first and then the SRC, DPF and DEF remove what is needed as an afterthought. Manufacturers have found that engines containing SCR technology oftentimes get better fuel mileage compared with other smog reduction internal systems. Fuel mixed in with the SCR finds an added source of elements to burn. Fuel mileage can be improved by as much as 5%-7%
DEF technology has been used for decades in the country in agriculture, industrial and large scale power generation applications. The concept is the same across the board: the urea mixed with heat creates ammonia that causes a chemical reaction that reduces NOx by 70%-95%. In fact 90% of urea production is used as nitrogen-released fertilizer. It is important to note that automotive-grade urea is of a much higher grade purity than fertilizer urea. If a lower grade fertilizer urea is used in automotive engines you risk disintegration of the SCR and possible ruin the engine. It may even trigger ECM sensors to incorrectly prompt a DEF Tank Empty warning.
The answer is yes and no. The temperature at which DEF combines with NOx exhaust right out of the cylinder head with the valves wide open is between 1400-1600 F. The chemical reaction takes place at much hotter temperatures than on a hot sunny day. For example it would take over two years a constant rate of 125 degrees F for the DPF to turn into ammonia and evaporate. However any temperature over 86 F you risk some evaporation due to DEF being almost 2/3 water. You don’t have to worry about a gallon or two of the stuff turning bad or evaporating from disuse unless exposed to consistent hot climates.
The active ingredient in DEF, urea, has been chemically synthesized since 1828 first by German scientist Friedrich Wöhler after treating silver cyanate with ammonium chloride. Urea was first discovered in urine by Dutch chemist Herman Boerhaave in 1727. Urea is mostly used in fertilizer for agricultural but also found the chemical industry, explosives, lotions, skin creams, hair removers, plastics, dish soaps and power fuel cells. Urea and consequently DEF is not overly toxic to humans. Urea can be irritating to eyes, skin and the respiratory tract but not life threatening. High concentrations in the blood can be damaging to humans however ingestion of low concentrations of urea ,given an adequate water ingestion of water, are not harmful. In nature urea can cause algal booms which when decomposes above its heating or melting point can cause toxic gases. Mixed with certain oxidants, chlorides, nitrites can cause fire or even explosions.
All diesel engine manufacturers are now required by the EPA to integrate some tiered warning system (internal gauges on the dash) to let the driver know exactly how close to empty the DEF tank is. If you ignore the DEF warning the truck will cease to work. Some diesel engine manufacturers allow the engine to go into reduced power mode so the truck can “limp home” or limit the number of times you can turn the engine over. At some point though the diesel engine will not start. Treat the DEF tank just like you would the fuel tank; you don’t want to end up stranded somewhere because you didn’t refill the DEF tank.
The standard 32.5% solution of DEF will begin go crystallize and freeze at 12 F. The Urea and water in DEF, when mixed, will freeze at the same rate. This is beneficial to the user because when the fluid thaws the DEF solution does not become diluted or overly concentrated. Freezing and thawing cycles has no impact on the grade of the product. DEF expands when frozen as much as 6.5% – 7% by volume. The packaging allows for leeway for freezing periods.
It is perfectly safe to keep a gallon or two of DEF in your vehicle however it is not advisable. DEF will start to decompose at 86 F. It is very easy to forget about the DEF sitting in the back of your truck and given an extended period of hot days the fluid can become unstable and decompose but at a very minimal rate. A diluted DEF without the mixture of 32.5% urea can be damaging to DEF and SCR but cases of that happening are rare. Consequently DEF will freeze in the DEF tank on extremely cold days below 12 F. That is perfectly normal and will not hurt the engine. The SCR systems are designed to provide heat to the DEF tank which will quickly thaw the tank and supporting supply lines.
DEF is a very specific formula of 32.5% Urea and water however the solution contains other compounds in minute quantities to stabilize the product. An additive to the mixture would upset the very precise chemical makeup and thus reduce the NOx reducing properties. Further blending of the DEF mixture will compromise its ability to work properly as will cause harm to the SCR system.
DEF weighs about 9 lbs per gallon. A typical light duty/medium duty truck will have a tank roughly 3-5 gallons.
It is not recommended that the direct consumer produce their own DEF. DEF is closely regulated and has precise requirements for maintaining chemical purity and contains ingredients that are crucial to working in conjunction with the SCR system. Caterpillar, Cummins, Detroit Diesel among others require that the DEF to be used with the SCR systems and meet all ISO guidelines and API requirements. API certification is a completely voluntary program established by the American Petroleum Institute (API) which certifies the chemical pureness of DEF and that manufacturers meet ISO specifications. All major brands of DEF available to the consumer market meet API Certification.
If the DEF is stored at ambient temperatures of 75 F with no major periods of exposure to heat over 86 F then the batch of DEF will last roughly two years. If a package of DEF is exposed to periods of heating the fluid will last approximately one year.
There are many manufacturers of DEF Fluid. The website, “Oilmen Truck Tanks” has compiled a list of 13 major manufactures. DEF is found at most major truck stops, auto parts stores and convenience stores for roughly $2-$3 per gallon.
Every single DEF package has a manufacturers date located somewhere on the product. Most likely it is on the front of the package near the bottom. This date code will tell the exact date the batch was produced and subsequently the age of the bottle of DEF. One gallon containers have a laser code imprinted on the bottle. Larger 2-5 gallon tanks usually have a small date code imprinted on the label of the product. Larger drums of DEF fluid (55 gallons +) and totes (275-355 gallons) will have a larger label applied to the side or top of the drum. Reading a manufactures code can be a bit tricky and each one is a little bit different. Usually the first digit of the date code represents the batch number and the next 6 digits reflect the date the batch was filled at the factory.
There have been multiple measures implemented to prevent diesel engine fuel from being pumped into the DEF tank and vice versa. “Green” is the international color of diesel filling stations and pumps. “Blue” has been adopted as the color of choice to represent DEF fluid. A standard nozzle diameter of 19 mm has been designed to dispense DEF; a standard diesel fuel nozzle is 22 mm. The tank cap on pretty much all trucks should also be a “brightly colored blue” as a last preventative visual measure to stop diesel from going into the DEF tank.
First off, do not panic. Secondly, do not under any circumstances start the engine. Simply dumping diesel fuel in the DEF and vice versa (DEF in the fuel tank) will not harm your engine if you do not start the engine. The SCR should recognize that there is a solution other than DEF in the tank and notify the driver via the ECM readout on the dashboard. It is also important not to move the vehicle. Moving the vehicle can causing the spread of the fuel into the lines and into the SCR. The best thing to do is drain the tank with the vehicle in its original position. If the engine is started for even a short time diesel fuel will ruin the SCR catalyst which is very costly to replace and will be out of warranty. If DEF enters the fuel system and spread throughout the engine it will ruin the diesel engine eventually. The fuel system lines are not compatible with DEF and slowly corrode and over time.
Another great week of production in the books. The best part about working at Capital Reman Exchange is the people. Everyone works with such enthusiasm and passion. ~Happiness is contagious~ Awesome work everyone!
When you think of diesel vehicles the first thing that comes to mind are semi-trucks and heavy haul equipment. However, we forget a big segment of the light/medium duty diesel market consists of commercial vans. Believe it or not the commercial van market has gone through some big changes in the past few years. This article from Car and Driver Magazine reviews the new diesel vans on the market today and showcases the best option for your needs.
The American van has never been sought after as sexy or powerful but none the less is a workhorse in its own right. Millions of pounds of good are shipped or transported every day in this country and the light duty commercial diesel van is a big part of that local transport. The standard American work van (Ford Econoline) has essentially been the same since the 1970s until recently. In fact the current Ford Econoline model hasn’t changed since 1992. However, we are in the midst of a “van revolution” so to speak. Recently there has been an influx of European designs to replace the outdated American designs. The trend is now a much more boxy sleek concept.
The van has such a following that enthusiasts even have their own convention. The guys over at Car and Driver Magazine decided to honor the van by roadtripping 430 miles to the 43rd Annual Van Nationals in three concept vans. The three new concepts Car and Driver reviewed are the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, Ford Transit and the Dodge Ram ProMaster. All vans reviewed are turbo powered diesel which essentially knocked out a few other big players in the van market including Nissan NV2500 (only gas powered V-6 and V-8) as well as the Chevrolet which has recently dropped heavy duty production all together because it’s full line Express Van was dragging down the company’s fuel-economy average.
The criteria for the test was simple: windowless cargo versions, low profile roofs to diminish the commercial look as much as possible, no dulies, four wheel drives or super extended models. The idea behind the test was to review the diesel vans a much as possible for the modern day commercial van buyer.
Ah the RamPro Master… the name itself just conjures up power and strength right off the bat doesn’t it!? Too bad there is nothing to like about this vehicle. In fact this isn’t even really a “Dodge Ram” per se rather just using the logo. Quite the travesty. The RamPro Master is really a Fiat Ducato but adapted for the American market. The guys at Car and Driver really hated this stinker. It was the only van to receive a zero rating in all subjective tests by the readers of Car and Driver. The biggest hang up concerning the van is its single clutch automated-manual transmission. For example if you were to quickly accelerate while merging into oncoming traffic you would find that the vehicle comes to a near stop as the transmission pauses to find the next gear. It’s not simply annoying but rather a scary event and one that should be addressed immediately. The steering system is loose and unresponsive to minute corrections. Overall it is better than steering a military style Hummer H1 or Mercedes-Benz G-Class but worse than anything else on the road.
The diesel engine isn’t the smallest of the three vans reviewed but definitely the least efficient and most puny. The 3.0L inline-four turbo produces more power than the Mercedes Sprinter smaller displacement four, but the ProMaster came in 3rd in acceleration taking a whole 2 seconds longer to reach 60 mph. This slow acceleration is in spite of being the shortest and lightest of the vans tested. Subsequently, the ProMaster takes the longest distance to stop from 70 mph, was the loudest van, judged to be the least comfortable ride and handling properties were abysmal. This is not a comfortable commercial vehicle for plumbers, electricians or delivery drivers as the seat is in a contorted position. To be fair there is a longer-wheelbase ProMaster van which would bring it to the same length as the competitors however more of this terrible van is not necessarily a good thing whatsoever.
The time tested Sprinter has been around in some capacity since 2001 when it was first introduced to American shores, first in a Freightliner package then as Dodge in 2003, and finally as Mercedes beginning in 2009. It was something of a new revelation when it first hit the American market however in recent years the unique box like design has become the standard of diesel van industry. Car and Driver reviewed two models of the Mercedes Sprinter Van. The smaller of the two diesels available comes with an optional bulkhead for $252 between the cargo area and the cockpit. Of the three diesel vans reviewed it was the only vehicle fitted with one thus reducing interior sounds level readings significantly over its counter parts. Even without the bulkhead the comfort level of the ride was far superior than the ProMaster.
The Sprinter is the only van reviewed that doesn’t essentially force its driver to basically stand up while operating the vehicle. The seating position is high yet comfortable and the steering wheel is within easy reach. Heck even the stereo actually sounds halfway decent. The place where the Sprinter really shines is its steering capability. The guys at Car and Driver stated that the steering is more like a Mercedes Luxury Sedan than any van on the market. It is smooth and articulately responsive. For someone driving day in and out this makes a world of difference.
Just like many things in life, if it is too good to be true it probably is. The same thing goes with the Mercedes Sprinter. What the van has in comfort and steering it lacks in speed and overall torque. The engine is only a 2.1 liter which is the smallest of the three vans reviewed. The Sprinter did a respectable 11.4 seconds 0 to 60 mph which can be attributed to its smooth shifting automatic transmission. The top speed is only 83 miles an hour but what it lacks in speed it makes up for in overall performance. On the open highway the Sprinter does just fine however the one disappointment is the stiff ride while driving short stop and go distances. The Mercedes Sprinter is a great van but only good enough to take the number two spot in the review.
The numero uno spot in the Car and Driver review is the Ford Transit F150 Powerstroke Van. Ford offers both a gas powered and diesel powered version twin V-6 Turbo model. The gas powered version would have clobbered competition but alas the diesel engine version did just fine on its own. The 3.2 liter inline-five still produces more power and torque than the other two vehicles reviewed. The Transit offers the quickest acceleration times while returning near identical fuel economy for both city and highway driving (22 mpg).
Now we must take into consideration that the Transit is a whopping 408 pounds heavier than the next heaviest van, the Mercedes Sprinter, yet still cruises like none other. The Car and Driver guys deemed the installer-cargo-shuttle styling to be the favorite, as were its ride quality and handling. Other strong features of the Transit include easy step-in height, relative immunity to side winds, strong brakes for quick stops and generally a big car demeanor. Overall the Ford Transit feels like an extra large Ford Flex and less like a utility van. Now the Ford Transit won’t win any awards for becoming the next Hippie VW Van but it sure as hell drives a lot better and for an American workhorse it’s great to see an American Van back on top of the market.
Capital Reman Exchange is proud to call Colorado our home. Based in the Mile High City, we call the Capitol City of Colorado our home, but ensure it is our client’s capital equipment and trust we strive to earn each and every day. We achieve trust through hands on ownership and an employee base that is second to none in skill and training.
Our modern facilities and equipment include our full machine shop and separate engine building departments. These facilities help keep Capital Reman Exchange a cut above the competition and allows us the flexibility to work with customers who are individual owners, fleet managers or anywhere on the spectrum.
We a certified AERA (Automotive Engine Rebuilders Association) machine shop. Our team of in-house diesel experts are qualified to assist you with:
- Remanufactured Diesel Engines
- Used Diesel Engines
- Camshafts and Followers
- Cylinder Heads
- Connecting Rods
- Rocker Assemblies
- Inframe and Overhaul Kits
We believe our consultative approach to solving diesel engine problems helps to craft the perfect solution to fit your specific application. Call us today, we would love to help you with all of your heavy duty engine needs!
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