September 8

2015 Ram 1500 Ecodiesel Glow Plugs

Dodge Trucks

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Mark: Hi, it's Mark Bossert. I'm here with Bernie Pawlik, Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver. Vancouver's best auto service experience and we're talking trucks today. How you doing, Bernie? 

Bernie: Doing very well. 

Mark: So today's victim is a 2015 Dodge EcoDiesel, I gotta grit my teeth to say that, that had a glow plug issue. What was going on with this truck?

Bernie: Yeah, so the vehicle had been to another shop. I think the dealership, they attempted to replace the glow plugs and one of them broke and I'm not sure what happened from there. But the vehicle arrived at our shop to have the glow plugs replaced. 

Mark: Now that is something that happens on a fairly regular basis. You get handed off vehicles that other people weren't able to, or didn't want to fix. Is that right? 

Bernie: Yeah, we get a lot of those actually. We'll have a nice podcast about a Mazda engine computer coming up in the future about something that was handed off. But yeah, we tend to get a lot of stuff like that and a lot of it is from dealerships. Dealerships tend to be great with like maintenance and simple repairs and stuff that goes well. But when things require a real, I say a real mechanic in a shop that's willing to get their teeth into something. They're not very good with stuff like that. Either that or their price quote was just insane and the customer didn't want to do it. I'm not really sure. I have a feeling there was more like they just lost faith in the process and came to us. 

Mark: So what kind of testing and diagnosis was required? 

Bernie: There wasn't really any testing or diagnosis needed. I mean, we did scan the vehicle and found some glow plug codes. But other than that, we knew one of the glow plugs was broken. I can't remember which one it was. But we basically determined from there that the repair was going to involve removing the cab of the truck to get to it. The engine would have to be disassembled to get in there with our tools to actually extract the broken glow plug. And then we didn't know what was going to happen with the other five. It's a V6 engine. We knew one was broken, assuming all other five could break. So we figured it's a cab off job. 

Mark: Wow. I was going to ask what's involved in replacing a broken glow plug. Obviously it's a huge job. 

Bernie: Yeah, on this one, it's a huge job. I mean, it wouldn't necessarily be that way, but because of the design of these engines, it's a cab forward design, which has been used for many years. You know, some of the cab, the cowl of the engine hangs over top of the engine. So there's no access to get at a lot of these things. And there's no way our glow plug extractors can get this thing out in the vehicle. 

You know, even if you could, it's a horrible job for a technician to be hanging over top of the vehicle and for the extra time it takes to pull a cab off, which is not a lot sometimes. It's a lot less work than it seems. It all of a sudden becomes an actual pleasurable job because you've got your engine on a stand in the frame of the vehicle. We can get into some pictures right now.

 There's our Dodge Ram 1500 Ecodiesel. So this is the smaller, you know, smaller capacity truck, a smaller weight capacity. 

2015 Ram 1500 Ecodiesel Glow Plugs
2015 Ram 1500 Ecodiesel Glow Plugs

 So this is a view sort of from the mezzanine of my shop looking down as Ed's working on the vehicle. So there's the cab removed. And as I said, it makes for a nice engine stand. You can just kind of climb right on in and get to work, remove what you need to remove. There's a lot that needs to come off to access the glow plugs when they're broken like this to extract them. So the whole intake system has to come off. 

2015 Ram 1500 Ecodiesel Glow Plugs

This is a view of actually everything disassembled so you can see the ports into the cylinder head and the glow plugs are located right here. So these are the plugs we had to remove. Four of them came out. One was already broken and another one broke in the process. So we had to use our extractor on two of them. And it was pretty touch and go with these ones coming out. The threads were tight difficult to remove. But fortunately, they came out and didn't damage any of the threads. 

2015 Ram 1500 Ecodiesel Glow Plugs

This is a view of the actual engine put back together.

2015 Ram 1500 Ecodiesel Glow Plugs

This is a sort of view of a top down look at the engine. So this is what the engine looks like after everything's put back on. The fuel lines and the intake manifold, intake runners, there's coolant pipes that aren't attached here, but that's kind of a view from the top. So you can kind of get a sense. 

2015 Ram 1500 Ecodiesel Glow Plugs

This is with that off.

2015 Ram 1500 Ecodiesel Glow Plugs

And everything back on. So there's a lot there that's removed to get access to the glow plugs. 

2015 Ram 1500 Ecodiesel Glow Plugs

Now here's a couple of pictures of glow plugs. So this one here is removed. You can see the threads are a bit damaged. This is one that came out that didn't have any damaged threads. But yeah, it slightly damaged the threads. We were able to clean them up, though, and there was lots of thread material. 

2015 Ram 1500 Ecodiesel Glow Plugs

And there's a picture of a broken glow plug, so this is what happens. You, you go to twist this. You can see there's not much thread left here because the way our extractor works is it actually drills into the glow plug and actually drills the threaded part off.

2015 Ram 1500 Ecodiesel Glow Plugs

It's a very precision drill. And then from there, we tap an extractor inside and then pull it out with a little mini slide hammer. So it's kind of a nifty tool. We don't like using it because it's a lot of extra work, but nonetheless, it's kind of what's involved. But you can see this is very thin and all this material, I think it's an 8 millimetre head bolt or maybe a 10. Very small, thin items. So things can get stuck in the bottom or the threads get stuck. And that's what causes them to break. 

Mark: So, I have a question. What the heck is a glow plug? 

Bernie: Oh, yeah. So a glow plug basically preheats the combustion chamber for a diesel engine to start cold. Diesel fuel doesn't like cold. So it needs the heat to get it started cold. The interesting thing is the only diesel that I know of that doesn't require a glow plug is a Cummins diesel. For some reason, the way they design their engines, their combustion chamber, it doesn't need a glow plug, but they do have an intake air heater, which heats the air as it comes into the engine.

So the diesel just requires a bit of heat. It's a combustion... by compression... compression combustion engine. So it needs some heat. And so once there's some heat developed, it works perfectly, but the glow plug is just what gets it going when it's cold. 

And the glow plugs, they're not just on for a little warm up. As the engine's cold, they'll actually cycle them on and off a little bit till the engine gets the right temperature. And then they're off. But if you have 1 glow plug, that's not working on a diesel. You know, it's not a big deal. The engine will start, but just when you start getting a few of 'em, then the engine won't start. And it depends on how cold it is where you are. 

Mark: So if the glow plugs didn't break, would this have been an easier repair? 

Bernie: Much easier. You don't have to remove the cab. You can just lean over the engine compartment. We saw the pictures of how tight that is, but you can access the glow plugs. I mean, there are a few things you need to remove, but they're accessible. So if they didn't break, it's not really a very difficult repair to do. 

Mark: So, it's a V6. We're getting used to vehicles or parts being sourced all over the world. Where does this V6 diesel come from? 

Bernie: You know, I don't know. I'm going to guess, it might be an Italian diesel because, you know, Chrysler's, I don't even know. It's Stellantis. It's just getting to be a strange world of cars. Chrysler has been footballed around from America to Mercedes, Stellantis, or no, it was Fiat, Chrysler then Stellantis. I'm going to guess it might be an Italian made diesel. But I don't know for certain. 

Mark: Is there anything that the owner could have done that could have prevented the glow plugs from wearing out so fast? Because this isn't that old really, for a diesel or for them stripping or breaking?

Bernie: Well, there's not really much you can do as an owner of a diesel. I mean, the glow plugs will last as long as they last. And in all fairness, they do last a long time these days compared to diesels of, say, two decades ago, like the earlier generations of diesels. Glow plugs would wear out fairly frequently. And in all fairness, they were a lot easier to replace than these ones. 

So it's kind of like spark plugs are very hard to change nowadays, but they last a very long time. And so that's actually a bit of a disadvantage because you're not removing them very frequently. So they tend to get stuck in place. But there's really, unfortunately, nothing you can do.

One thing we have found on other diesels is if the engine is warm when you remove the glow plugs, there's a pretty good chance they'll come out. But what Ed noticed when he was working on this engine is that there's a lot of debris. The way they're threaded into the cylinder head, instead of the threads ending at the top of the cylinder head, the threads are recessed.

And so there's a certain distance kind of moving my hand here, maybe a quarter inch of space so that they're threaded down and then there's a gap. And he said, there's a lot of debris and crap that got sort of over time accumulated down in there. And so that, of course, as you start to remove the glow plug, it seizes the threads up.

So we actually put some goop in there to prevent stuff from getting in there for the future. So hopefully, you know, if this engine lasts as it should, the glow plugs may wear out again and hopefully there'll be an easier thing to change next time around. But unfortunately, as an owner to answer the question, yeah, there's nothing you can really do. When the warning light comes on, because you know, everything's electronically monitored, when the warning light comes on, that would be the time to change them. And you'd have to kind of face that. 

Now you could think, well, maybe after 5 years, I'll preventatively change them. You could do that, but you could also be faced with, oh oh, they broke off. So, and then you're going to be going, I shouldn't have done that. But that is a thought. I mean, you could preventatively change them after a certain period, you know, 5 years. And this truck's what, 2015? So it's only 8, 9 years old. It's not super old. 

Mark: How'd it all work after the repairs? 

Bernie: Yeah, it worked really well. Actually, the glow plug light did stay on and we actually replaced the control unit for the glow plugs as well, which tends to fail from time to time. That's an easy fix and repair, a bit of added cost, but pretty straightforward. But yeah, other than that, it worked well. The DPF had a warning that, you know, the filter was almost full. So we basically just ran out in the highway for the customer and cleared that out. So that took care of it. But yeah, other than that, it worked fine. Good job at the end. 

Mark: Yeah. How reliable are these 3 litre Ecodiesel Ram trucks? 

Bernie: Well, you know, I don't think they're actually super reliable, I mean, they're reliable, but they do have problems. We have another client who had one, bought a brand new, really meticulous maintenance. And it was around same mileage as this one, maybe a hundred thousand K's that the engine started knocking and basically the engine was worn out. The bottom end was worn out on the engine. And it was tricky to find an engine for it. 

So I think, you know, that's only one vehicle, but, you know, that kind of shocked me because for diesel, usually, you know, things like the bottom ends are bulletproof, but that was not a good sign. So other than that, you know, that's the only bad thing I've seen on them. Other than that, they seem pretty good. But if that's a common problem, I'd be, you know, very disenchanted with this engine.

Mark: And again, all diesels are best under loads, driving long distances, not your around town, back and forth to work vehicle. 

Bernie: No, definitely. This client who had this other one where the engine wore it, I mean, he would tow a trailer from time to time with it and it was highway driven. So there wasn't like the car was, you know, just a short little commute back and forth. And even then, if that's what you're doing, the bottom end should definitely not wear, because the bottom end gets the most strain when you're hauling heavy loads. You know, that's when the most weight on the crankshaft is when you're pulling something heavy. And diesels are meant to handle that kind of thing. 

Mark: If you're looking for service for your Dodge Ram, no matter which version it is, Pawlik has done probably hundreds of Cummins diesels repairs of all types. The guys to see in Vancouver are Pawlik Automotive. You can book online at pawlikautomotive.com, or you can call them at (604) 327-7112 to book your appointment. You have to book ahead. They're always busy. Pawlik Automotive, Vancouver's best auto Service experience. Thanks so much for watching and listening. We appreciate it. Thanks, Bernie. 

Bernie: Thank you, Mark. Thanks for watching.

About the author 

Bernie Pawlik

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