Piston Slap: A Power Ram Split Decision?

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta
Douglas writes:


Here’s some fodder for Piston Slap. Situation: I have a 1993 Dodge Power Ram 250, 103k miles, base model, so about the only thing it has in the way of amenities is AC.

It’s got a 5.2l Magnum (318), mated to a NV4500 with a NP241 transfer case. It came from Arizona where it saw light duty on a ranch of some sort. Overall, it is a excellent shape. All mechanicals work, body is in great shape, no rust, a small ding or two on the tailgate and by the bumper. I’ve replaced the shocks, new radiator, new AC condenser, installed new AC compressor, converted to R134, new tie rod ends in one year ownership. Still need to tear out the old headliner backing, and fix the 4WD light (bad switch on the transfer case top). Maybe a coat of paint, too.

It took me a long time to find this truck – manual, stripper, 4×4 in great shape. I use to make dump runs, tinker around, and help out friends.

Here’s the dilemma. It will need new tires soon, and since I want to replace the spare, I’m looking at around $700 for new tires. At some point, I’ll need new brakes, and I’ve been thinking about getting a donor engine to rebuild and replace the one I’ve got in there now. (Small rear main seal leak, plus twenty years of use on the existing motor.) I like to tinker and wrench, and this truck provides me that opportunity. But I wonder if I’m a fool for thinking about new rubber and a rebuilt engine in a twenty year old truck. On the other hand, I think I’m a fool for wanting to move onto to something newer when I’ve got such a great setup in my driveway now.



From a Fellow Texan,


Sajeev answers:

Now you could be considered foolish on either side of the split decision presented here. But combine the relevant and necessary parts you’ve already replaced (nice job on the shocks, that gets neglected far too often) with the need for new rubber on any vehicle, and keeping the truck is far from foolish. It’s the right move.

Do you need a spare motor to rebuild? Probably not. But that shouldn’t stop you from tinkering and having fun in your spare time, while preparing for a future mechanical failure. If you want to rebuild a spare motor in your “spare” time (sorry), go right ahead and do it.

Old trucks never die, they just get better. Even Dodge trucks, which are rarely loved like their GM and Ford counterparts. Keep it and get new tires, for sure.

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry.

Sajeev Mehta
Sajeev Mehta

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  • Guevera Guevera on Mar 05, 2013

    You have no idea how hard it is to find those trucks -- base model 4x4 with a stick. My 'yota is old enough to drink, I'm about to sink $1200 into it, and I wouldn't dream of getting rid of it. You'd be foolish to get rid of it, because what will you replace it with? Even if I had the money to go buy a brand new full size pickup (which I don't), I wouldn't spend it on one. It'd be dumb for me to spend 30-35 grand on a pickup, when I could buy a decent car for half that. I'd cheerfully pay 20 grand for a nice small pickup, but no one wants to build one for me.

  • Instant_Karma Instant_Karma on Mar 22, 2013

    I've got a 92 Ram 150, 2wd, Magnum 318 with a 5 speed. Rear main seal on that engine is a piece of cake to do, 2 piece seal and the bottom half of it unbolts, so easy-peasy it's almost funny. Just push the old seal out with a small flathead, be careful and don't scratch anything while doing it which I'm sure you are aware of, dab the new one in some oil and push it in the slot. Hardest part is taking the oil pan off. That engine is still going fine, it's only on it's 2nd fuel pump and alternator and its 3rd water pump, odometer quit working before 200k and it must be closing in on 300 by now. Many a 302, 305, 350, 351 and newer motors in half ton pickups have been beaten by that 318 on backroads East Texas drag races. And like mechmike said, while the drivetrain is unkillable, the rest of the truck isn't so great. I always found the interior clashed a bit between the old early 70's designed elements and the newer Chrysler parts bin stuff in my 92. Hey, lets put a new design steering column in a 20 year old dashboard! The electronics are iffy and mine, despite being a Texas truck all its life, already has a rust through on the cab above the windshield frame. Seems like body and chassis wise, the Fords and GM's of that era hold up a little better, but a 4WD with a stick and that Magnum 5.2 is still an awesome truck. And trust me, do the paint and keep up on any rust spots, I didn't. Keep it, but then again if you do decide to sell it, a manual transmission equipped 4wd with working AC and 100k or so on the clock, you'll find someone who will pay at least 5 grand for it in Texas, probably more.

  • Grg I am not sure that this would hold up in snow country. It used to be that people in snow country would not be caught dead in a white car. Now that white cars have become popular in the north, I can't tell you how many times I have seen white cars driving in the snow without lights. Almost all cars are less visible in a snow storm, or for that matter, rain storm, without lights. White ones become nearly invisible.
  • Douglas I have a 2018 BMW 740e PHEV, and love it. It has a modest electric only range compared to newer PHEV's (about 18 miles), but that gets me to the office and back each day. It has a small gas tank to make room for the battery, so only holds about 11 gallons. I easily go 600 or more miles per tank. I love it, and being able to take long road trips without having to plug in (it just operates like a regular Hybrid if you never plug it in). It charges in 75 minutes in my garage from a Level 2 charger I bought on Amazon for $350. Had an electrician add a dryer outlet beside the breaker box. It's the best of both worlds and I would definitely want a PHEV for my next car. 104,000 miles and ZERO problems with the powertrain components (so far).
  • Panther Platform I had a 98 Lincoln Mark VIII so I have a soft spot for this. The Mark VIII styling was not appreciated by all.
  • Grant P Farrell Oh no the dealership kept the car for hours on two occasions before giving me a loaner for two months while they supposedly replaced the ECU. I hate cords so I've only connected it wirelessly. Next I'm gonna try using the usb-c in the center console and leaving the phone plugged in in there, not as convenient but it might lower my blood pressure.
  • Jeff Tiny electrical parts are ruining today's cars! What can they ...