Twelve-Valve Cummins Resurrection: An Introduction

This Automotive Habit Of MineThis Automotive Habit Of MineMy favorite car is my next car. What will today bring to my automotive habit? There could be financial ruin, excellent deals, skinned knuckles, and epic mechanical resurrections. We can't save them all, but the cars that land in our driveway deserve a good ol' college try.

Soon after being driven for the first time in years.

We have an elderly family member who cannot drive anymore. He had three vehicles: 2001 Cadillac Seville STS, 2001 GMC Yukon Denali, and 1996 Dodge Ram 2500 Cummins 4x4. Guess which one was abused and left to die? You guessed it, the only one worth taking care of, the Dodge. I just couldn’t watch it continue to rot. And, yes, it had potential.


The Dodge had been left to rot. It had not been driven for about three years. With 86 thousand miles and being completely stock it was worthy in my mind to sink some money into. It was half parked in a shady spot and half way in a seasonal puddle caused by a leaky water faucet. Both windows were left cracked about 1/2 an inch. Both batteries were allowed to go flat. The battery cables were comically bad. Wildlife started to move in. It reminded me of when a ship is sunk for an artificial reef. It became my job to raise this ship and evict any barnacles.

Could have swam in this months earlier.

I put in some fresh diesel, hoping that even if the tank was mostly going bad, I could avoid having to drain it. A fresh fuel filter, batteries, cables, and a little bit of patience. With my fingers crossed, it came back to life!


Numerous spider webs throughout and a rats mouse nest was found on top of the engine. Luckily the mouse (or mice) only ate a coupe obvious vacuum lines. It looked like the mouse long ago vacated his residence and left the pieces of the hood insulation bedding on top of the engine with some turds.

Cleaning the old 5.9l Cummins.

Slowly I picked my way through the bed. It was nasty. Many years of recycling, old crusty and rusty tools, and rotting matter. The auxiliary tank needed to go too. It was nearly filled with red diesel #1. Not only did I not want to burn the off road diesel on the road, but it took up valuable space in the bed. Plus... I have no need for an AUX tank. No toys to fill up with red diesel.

Gave this away and I don’t regret it.

Once cleaned out and cleaned up. There were several major issues. First, the tires were dangerously old, cracked, and bald. I found a set of 2010 Ram wheels online with great tires for $200. The tires weren’t the best on the new wheels but they were safe. A couple weeks later I found some Cooper Discoverer S/T that were in much, much better condition.

Old on bottom. New wheels on top.
Better AT tires with the newer wheels. As it sits today.

Once the used tires were sourced there was a problem I did not feel comfortable fixing myself. Not only was the passenger front axle seal slinging oil everywhere, but all the tie rods were bad. The total for a front axle rebuild, PLUS all tie rods replaced... about $2000.


But hey, I did the rear! Minus seals... they’re fine for now.

$100 Craigslist score!

Now it still needs numerous services. The coolant is gross. The thermostat is sticking open a bit. Brake fluid is black. I believe it has a small air leak in the fuel lines (low power even after a round of injector cleaner and a new OFV). The transmission is rebuilt with about 3000 miles on it and all other fluids are new.

Being disobedient again...

This truck won’t become a complete restoration. I envision it as a utility, maybe recovery style (winch, bumpers, etc), diesel truck perfect for hunting, dump runs, and trips to Home Depot or Lowe’s or event the occasional project car pickup.

What do you think? Worth it? Or should I have left this one on the ocean floor?

Oh and I made a video this time...

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