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Old 10-12-2002, 06:58 AM   #1
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Default Towing: GM 6.5L Diesel vs. 454 Big Block

I'm doing some research on buying a used Tow Vehicle this fall/winter. This vehicle will not be an everyday SUV as I plan to do limited towing on weekends and vacations but understand the advantages of having the extra towing capacity on hand. So as I analyze all the features the economics of the (everyday) diesel fuel economy are not that big of a factor in my decision. Both engines offer similar towing capacities, but you pay a premium for having the diesel engine.

Example: Late 90's Chevy/GMC Suburban 3/4 ton with either 6.5L Diesel or 454 Big Block

Question 1: I'm curious of the boards experience with reliablity and durablility in either of the engines/drivetrains?

Question 2: Is the extra expense of the diesel worth it when you're only using the vehicle on a limited basis (the extra cost can buy a lot of gas)

Thanks, Fishing-Rod

(I'm also researching the Ford Expedition with 5.4L, but it's towing capacity doesn't match that of the GM SUVs, and the Excursion won't fit in the garage.)
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Old 10-12-2002, 07:34 AM   #2
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Default Towing: GM 6.5L Diesel vs. 454 Big Block

If your use of the vehicle will be limited to towing only, why not just get a pickup truck instead of a Suburban?
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Old 10-12-2002, 07:36 AM   #3
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Default Towing: GM 6.5L Diesel vs. 454 Big Block

The new Duramax GM diesel is a very good engine. However the older GM diesels were dogs, performance wise and durability. I (in the truck SUV business for many years)would past on the older GM diesel. On th other hand the big block GM engines are gas hogs, but they do go on forever and they plenty of power. I tow a 6680# boat/trailer with a 02 GMC 2500 with the 6.0 gas engine, 3.73 gears. Tows very good, mileage [img]/infopop/emoticons/icon_frown.gif[/img] 10-11 mpg.
Good luck.
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Old 10-12-2002, 08:14 AM   #4
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Default Towing: GM 6.5L Diesel vs. 454 Big Block

Reply to Stretch:
Want the SUV, because pickup truck whle able to tow wouldn't suit my family needs as well.

Reply to Rossco:
A new Truck with a Duramax Diesel would be great, but at this time I can't justify the cost over an older SUV with approx 40-50,000 miles. Thanks for the info on the older GM diesels.

Thanks, Rod
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Old 10-12-2002, 11:36 AM   #5
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Default Towing: GM 6.5L Diesel vs. 454 Big Block

You could also look into a 4 door pickup, all the benefits of a pickup as well as the added seating for the little ones, and still have the choice of either motor. personally I would go with the gas in an older GM product or the diesel in a new GM product. With the ever increasing popularity of crew cab pickups a good used one should be somewhat easy to find.
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Old 10-12-2002, 01:05 PM   #6
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Default Towing: GM 6.5L Diesel vs. 454 Big Block

I've always been a GM guy, given the choice.

I bought my first diesel about a month and a half ago. The new-to-me truck is a Ford F-250 extra cab, 4x4, SuperDuty, 7.3 liter (445 cubic inch) diesel. I wish I had begun driving these things ten years ago. I always though that the mantra of the diesel owners, "I'll never go back to gas" was just macho chest thumping. Its not. It takes you about 3 days to come to the realization that the really is no comparison. I'm now a believer. Oh, its well known that GM diesels prior to the Duramax are undesirable and that Duramax and after are simply far to expensive. Of course the Fords are just the same price wise so the real difference comes to the used market, where anyone with a lick of sense is shopping anyway. With the GM's there's nothing in the used market worth owning, 'cause the Duramax's haven't found their way there yet. Of course the are the Dodges. The Dodges have those great Cummins engines, with just one problem, they are wrapped up in a Dodge truck. Want to speculate on why they sell for so much less than their Ford sisters on the used car lots? This isn't rocket science. So, what's that leave? Easy, the Power Strokes. There are lots of them around, they are reasonably priced - relatively speaking - and if you spend just a little time looking you can find one in great shape.

But then you said you gotta have an SUV. Everyone to their own, but would an Expedition work? How about a E-series? And now that I look back on this, as a lifetime Chevy-lover. its a little bit embarassing, but that's just the way it is.


"I command thee, O fish of the ocean, rise to my bait"
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Old 10-12-2002, 04:08 PM   #7
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Default Towing: GM 6.5L Diesel vs. 454 Big Block

Avoid Old GM Diesels at all Cost!!!

I blew the one up in my 1989 suburban in the smokey mountains (hills) - not good!

...have 2001 GMC Z-71 now with 5.3 Liter - never been happier with a vehicle...stick 4wd, not push-button, cloth not leather...55,000 miles on it - no problems
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Old 10-12-2002, 08:54 PM   #8
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Default Towing: GM 6.5L Diesel vs. 454 Big Block

I tow a 25 foot SeaCat. Went from a 454 crew cab to a 6.5 diesel crew cab. The 454 did a fantastic job, got 4-5 mpg towing, 8-10 empty. Took 2 tanks of fuel to tow boat to Islamorada, 300 miles.
6.5 diesel won't tow as fast, 65mph is about as fast as I will tow it, remember 10,000 pounds loaded with dive gear and fishing equipment, 12'6" height, a lot of wind resistance. 454 would go as fast as you could afford. 6.5 gets 10 towing, can make Islamorada and have fuel left. 18-20 mpg empty. Love my diesel. BigTom
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Old 10-13-2002, 06:32 AM   #9
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Default Towing: GM 6.5L Diesel vs. 454 Big Block

Thanks, Great information!

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Old 10-13-2002, 07:38 AM   #10
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Default Towing: GM 6.5L Diesel vs. 454 Big Block

We've towed our 27 Whaler ( 10,200# light ) with both except they were a 94 model for the 6.5 and a 97 for the 454. The old 6.5's were horrible about losing fuel pumps and injector motors and were a roll of the dice as to what kind of power you'd get when you bought it. Seemede that some were great and others were definite dogs with about a 50/50 ratio of dogs; not good! Here's the problem, there were not a bunch of them in SUV's or pickups and most were in 1 1/2 ton flat beds like them on we had. THe 1 1/2 tons all had 5.??:1 rearends and the pickups, suvs, duallies had 4.10:1. Well it seemed ass though they were the 50% good ones. THe 5.?? had the power on the bottom but couldn't comfortably pull a load over 60-62 on the top end and we were getting around 6-7 mpg.

The 454 we had had the 4.10 rear end and would pull a little better on the top end, occasionally 63-65 but also got 5-6 mpg. The diesel did get better while not towing, like 12 versus about 10 for the 454.

Thom is right about the Powerstroke being a stronger diesel, but we didn't tow the Whaler with it so a can't compare and don't remeber the fuel numbers. Ours was a 90 model 3/4 ton 4x4 with a 5 speed and what I do remember was that their was a huge split between 1 & 2 and 2 & 3 and also in reverse. Anytime you had a load the rpm/ower fall off between gears was HUGE.

Good Luck
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Old 10-13-2002, 08:02 AM   #11
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Default Towing: GM 6.5L Diesel vs. 454 Big Block

Had an '83 1/2 ton PU with the 6.2 diesel. 5 tranny's and 3 injection pumps later I got a gas F250 and could not be happier.

My dad pulled a 4500 lb boat, trailer, etc with a '94 Suburban with the 6.5 diesel. Same bad news on the injection pumps. Three pumps in about 70k miles. These will run you about $ 2000 installed by a GM dealer! GM has extended the warranty on this through some sort of program but I am not sure of the details.

I love how the diesel towed and ran but was sick of the problems, high fuel cost, and expensive maintenance.

The F250 with the 5.4 Triton pulls hard enough for the 4000 lbs I tow. I can buy a lot of gas for the cost of an injection pump!!

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Old 10-13-2002, 10:30 AM   #12
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Default Towing: GM 6.5L Diesel vs. 454 Big Block

I've owned diesels for over 15 years. Present truck is a 01 Chevy 2500HD 4 WD 6.0 Gas. Last truck was a 98 GMC 6.5 turbo diesel 2500 4 WD that I put a BD Engine Brake computer into. The only diesel I've owned that would smoke the rear wheels at times. I too said I would never go gas. That said, I doubt very much that I will go back to diesels again. Pump diesel around here is more money than regular gas. I was burning red fuel (non taxed) but don't get caught. Can't do that anymore for emissions testing. This 6.0 will out pull that 6.5 all day, all night. The fuel mileage differance buys an awful lot of gasoline instead of the diesel option. If your heart is set for the noise and stink (fun to aim the tail pipe into little cars windows in stopped traffic) Look at a Ford Power Stroke. FYI When towing together, a good friend has a 98 Suburban w/ the 454 option. He would dog (brake check) me at the base of hills knowing I was building a head of steam to get that diesel up and over. Then he would slightly press the gas pedel marching right up with out even downshifting.
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