Dodge Trucks – How Are They?
Dodge Trucks with the owner of 12 time winner of “Best in Vancouver for auto repair” Bernie Pawlik.
Mark: Good Morning, it’s Mark Bossert from Top Local Lead Generation. We’re here with Mr. Bernie Pawlik, 12 times winning Best Auto Repair in Vancouver – voted by their clients – Pawlik Automotive. How’re you doing this morning, Bernie?
Mark: So, we’re going to talk about Dodge trucks and I know your shop is becoming a bit famous for the work you do on Dodge diesels. They have a big range of trucks and vans etc – how are Dodge’s?
Bernie: They’re good. But like every make and model of car and light truck, they’ve got their strengths and weaknesses. For this hangout, any comparisons I make are going to be between the American trucks – the Ford’s, the Chevy’s, GM’s and Dodge’s and we’re going to start the discussion around the full size pickup trucks.
Mark: What are the strengths of the full size Dodge pickups?
Bernie: Well, in the strength department, I have to say, their engines have always been good and for as long as I can remember, and as long as I’ve been working on trucks they’ve had great engines. The gas engines have been good, the 225 Slant 6 was kind of a gutless engine but was very hard to kill, a very legendary engine. The 318 V8 was used for a long time, was almost as reliable – the larger V8’s were equally as good. The newer trucks are good, however some of the engines are good, but some are a bit problematic – like the 3.7 later and 4.7 litre V engines – they have an overhead cam engine – they do have a few problems than some of the others – valve seats fall out and if you don’t maintain them properly, there’s timing chain problems to be had – so there are issues with those and they’re very expensive to fix.
Diesels. This is where I think Dodge really has the edge. The Cummins diesel is a legendary engine, superbly reliable. There are a few factors that I think make Cummins a great engine. The Cummins diesel engine is found in industrial engines and trucks and it’s interesting when you look at a Cummins engine in a Kenworth or a huge mining truck or a Dodge pickup truck – the engines all look exactly the same except for their size – they just scale them up or down. To me, it’s a winning combination. It’s a well thought out design. It’s meant to be fixed and repaired, when it needs to be done which is not very often. They’re a lot simpler than the V8 offerings of the GM and the Ford, by the virtue that they have 2 less cylinders and yet they are the same size engine, so there’s a couple less things to go wrong. When fuel injectors cost $400 each – having to replace 2 less injectors can save an awful lot of money. If you’re looking for a reliable diesel, I would absolutely recommend Dodge, I think they’re definitely the way to go. Much less problems that the others.
Mark: OK, that’s a pretty winning endorsement, but you also mentioned some weaknesses.
Bernie: Yeah, there are definitely a few. One thing we noticed with a lot of modern Dodge trucks, steering linkages and ball joints wear out, tie rod ends. We’ve had many Dodge Ram 2500/3500 pickup trucks where all the front end parts are loose and worn out and a lot of time before 400,000 km. I think that’s too soon and it really should last longer than that – and the 1500 series also suffers some issues – the half ton trucks. One thing I have to say about the drive trains and suspensions in Dodge trucks built in the last 15 years seem a lot tougher. But in the past, I always got the impression that Dodge trucks weren’t built quite as heavy as Ford’s or GM’s – they just seemed a little wimpier – if I can use that word.
Mark: So is that some of the other areas of weakness?
Bernie: The other area, a lot of people say, is the automatic transmissions in Dodge trucks are weak, and I say it like apparently people say this, because we’ve actually not run into any, which doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen, maybe no one has brought one by our shop. But we do see a lot of Cummins Dodge diesel trucks with standard transmissions a lot more than Chevy or Ford and I’m not sure why. They have a bad reputation for automatics so people go with standards. But if you’re looking for standard equipped Dodge truck, they seem to be much more available.
Mark: So speaking of transmissions, then we’ll switch into Caravans, that’s another sort of Dodge truck. The Dodge Caravan is legendary for bad transmissions.
Bernie: They certainly are and we’ve seen an awful lot of them and by the same token, I’ve seen people with Dodge Caravans that have had 200,000/3000,000 km and never had a transmission problem. It does happen much more frequently in most of those vans, but they’re not all guaranteed to have a transmission problem. But today I’m talking more about work truck, pickup trucks, you know the trucks that people use to haul their RV trailers. t’s interesting, a lot of manufacturers, they call their vehicles trucks and I don’t know if I’d call a Caravan a truck – it’s like a Honda Odyssey mini van is part of Honda’s truck lineup. But really to me, it’s more like a big car than a truck. But definitely Caravans have their transmission problems for sure.
Mark: So what about Jeeps?
Bernie: I haven’t really touched on Jeeps. Jeeps are owned by Chrysler and they do share a lot of the similar drivetrain components to Dodge trucks. But there are a lot of issues and we can do a separate hangout on Jeeps because there’s lots of material to discuss with Jeeps. We do a lot of them and have a lot of good and bad things to say about them.
Mark: And Dodge Vans?
Bernie: Dodge vans are awesome. They’ve had for years, between the ’70’s to the ’90’s, they had their Tradesman line of vans that were very popular and especially the Dodge Maxi van. It was the only big van offered, it was like 2-3 feet longer than a Ford or Chevy van, so they were quite popular. Good vans but I rarely ever see one on the road any more, they all seem to have moved on to the scrap yard. When Mercedes bought Chrysler, these vans were discontinued and they offered the Sprinter and I think they are, in my eyes, a brilliant van. They’re offered in various configurations from smaller to large, quite large and extended height; they’ve got some with dual wheels, some with half tons some are 3/4, one ton – so they come in a large variety for whatever uses you want to make of them. Most of them are equipped with a Mercedes diesel engine and it’s a good reliable drivetrain. On the downside, because it’s a Mercedes drivetrain engine the diagnostic and repair work is much more exclusive so not every shop can do them. We can, by the way, we’ve got all the equipment to do them but there’s a lot of shops that can’t, we’ve got a lot of extra equipment to be able to do so.
Since the divorce, if we can say, between Mercedes and Chrysler, the Sprinters are no longer sold through Chrysler so if you’re really set on a Sprinter you have to buy a Mercedes Sprinter. But Dodge now has a line of vans; the Pro Master and again, they come in a variety of sizes, there’s gas and diesel options, and I can’t really say much about them because I’ve never seen one in our shop because they’re fairly new but I know one day we will.
Mark: So any last thoughts about Dodge trucks?
Bernie: I think overall they’re great trucks. The Cummins diesel, in my opinion, is the best offering from the big three American manufacturers for diesel trucks which are an incredibly popular market. The gas engine trucks are good. I haven’t really talked much about Dakota’s – Durango’s as a medium sized trucks – these are reasonable trucks. We’ve seen some and once they get older they do tend to have a lot of problems. Things wear out – like they do in other cars but this seems like worse than others perhaps. The other thought about Dodge is they are typically cheaper than their Japanese counterparts especially if you think about the Caravan, for instance, you can often buy a Caravan for $20,000. They have a some what bad reputation for things wearing out but if you take the equivalent Toyota Sienna or Honda Odyssey, they can often be $10,000-$15,000 more. So if you sit down and do the math and figure out hey, if I buy this Caravan for $20,000 am I going to spend an extra $10,000 on repairs over the next 10 years and you might find that it’s more worthwhile to just buy the Caravan instead of spending the extra money on the Toyota unless you really set on it. Those are the kind of things that it’s important to put down on paper and look at. I know I’m steering away from the Dodge truck but for any vehicle if you have any questions about them or whether is this the right vehicle to buy, please call us because I love talking to people about these sorts of things and helping make a proper decision. And thats my thoughts on Dodge’s
Mark: Awesome. So thank you Bernie – and again folks, these are the guys to call if you’re looking for maintenance for your vehicle – they specialize in getting your vehicle right and keeping it right for the long haul saving you a ton of money. Give them a call at 604-327-7112 or go to their amazing website pawlikautomotive.com. Thanks Bernie
Bernie: Thanks Mark – talk again soon