Pickup Trucks 101: Dipping Into the Archives


We've done hundreds of stories during the last 20-plus years, some good and some quite worthy of your caustic comments. But we thought our Pickup Trucks 101 series was worth bringing to your attention. It covers topics for any truck enthusiast to think about, and we hope the information can be useful. And now we need your help.

Let us know what other topics we should tackle with our Pickup Trucks 101 series and we'll see what we can do. Are you interested in how your truck works or how it's built, or would you rather get the skinny on the best ways to keep your truck running for another 200,000 miles? Let us know what topics interest you in the comments section below and we'll bring it to you.

For now, here are some of our classics.



Cars.com photo by Evan Sears



It might be a good idea to have a refresher on payload numbers. Many people go to purchase a truck with 1600lb payload capacity, then load it up with options, and think they still have 1600lbs payload capacity. That topic will be sure to rile a few feathers.

Also, a good primer on the different 4wd systems out there, and their advantages/disadvantages compared to AWD systems.

Please spend more time on weight ratings, and how the stickers cant be changed just because you added a spring and when you do the testing of the trucks, go into more detail of the weight you are towing/hauling, and how you measured the weight of the truck and came up with the results compared to the weight ratings of the actual truck, since all of them are going to be different even in the same brand.

Mark - - -

"Let us know what topics interest you in the comments section below and we'll bring it to you."

Here are some suggestions:
1) Lifting your truck: what you need to know
2) Off-road tire guide and evaluation
3) Tricks for hauling heavy loads properly
4) Undercoating paints and treatments for salt-belt states*
5) Tips for driving safely in dense traffic with big trucks
6) How to improve highway fuel mileage

* I have some reports on my Dodge and Jeep that may be


I would like to see long term maintenance and repair issues with various brands. I've had over 30 pickups in my life and some of the 70's and 80's model GM's were very poor but are much improved now. I think we have the Japanese to thank for the improvement in quality.

Towing 101 - how to drive after hitching up your trailer.

Hauling 101 - how to secure your load.

A good suggestion would be...How to use some 'Gog' given common sense while driving.

That should have been,,,'God' given common sense while driving.


Manufacturers are continually raising the height of their headlights, which goes against everything any of us learned in high school physics about light properties (light diffuses the further it is from the surface to be illuminated). So now we have Ford with *4* low beams on the new Super Duty - all of them high up and thus needing to be that much brighter to actually light the road... which of course annoys everyone in front of them in a lower car (not to mention all the reports from owners who are getting flashed by other drivers who think 4 headlights automatically mean high beams and pulled over by police for the same reason.

What's the best brand/type of bulb to see properly at night without annoying everyone around? And if the same headlight unit was lower on the truck, how much better is the illumination? (Easy to do this by connecting a standalone headlamp assembly on a fixed mount on or immediately in front of the truck, at various heights.)

How about info on assembling an emergency repair kit specific to and addressing common failures associated with the F-series. This may empower F-series owners to complete a road side repair and enable them to get to the nearest service facility, safely. I believe F-series owners would appreciate this and there is a potential savings on towing costs.

Planned Obsolescence in automotive manufacturing.
I'm a licensed Professional Engineer - Planned Obsolescence is real. Vehicle systems are so software-integrated and with Six-Sigma lean manufacturing principles and other highly managed "service life" standards today's cars and trucks can be programmed to "self-destruct" after a certain number of miles.
Chevy's Duramax Diesel is designed for 250,000 miles, the turbos in Ford's Ecoboost engines are designed for 150,000 miles, Ram's Cummings Engine is designed for 350,000 miles. Part manufactures can now better than ever before accurately estimate the service life of a part based on exacting testing procedures where the results are back-fed to design engineers for service life "adjustment."

the turbos in Ford's Ecoboost engines are designed for 150,000 miles,


This is Fake News.

lean manufacturing principles???


How in the world do you introduce "Lean" into your comment about so-called planned obsolesence? Instead of discussing shop floor scheduling or the finer points of tool-shop management, let's consider the possibility that there is a practical limit to the effort that Ford marketers so famously called Quality is Job One.

Assuming for a moment that cars and trucks were all made from scratch in a shop, the builder could take full control of decisions about quality and life cycle management. In reality, the modern automakers rely on various tiers of subcontractors and suppliers to assemble their vehicles.

As a result, a particular supplier that produces a part like brake pads or radiators might operate in a highly competitive environment where failure is not an option. Other vendors might be much less committed to quality, and simply jawbone the idea.

Either way the buck stops in Detroit, so to speak, and our friends at the GMs and Fords of the world are constantly vigilant to assure that the components they integrate into their highly durable (and complex!!!) products are the best and most practical items available.

Review of these decisions is ongoing. The perfect car is constantly being designed, however, we know that next year another guy will displace it with something superior.

If you wanted me to believe that planned obsolesence was a key part of computers, smartphones and television sets I would totally agree. The fact that Mexicans and folks living in the island countries of the Carribean are still American cars built in the 1950s, suggests you could be wrong.


"The 2017 profit dip comes as the automaker invests heavily in what it calls “emerging opportunities” as it develops autonomous vehicles and expands into mobility services such as ride sharing and bicycle sharing."

Ford knows their junk so they selling bicycles now HAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!!!!!!!


I would love to know the common repair problems each make of truck has such as the F-150 eco-boost has throttle body and brake issues and the Silverado it's electrical problems , the Ram has some serious driveline problems

Ref "Planned Obsolesence"

There is some truth to what nlp is saying, but it's not quite as doomsday as he/she is making it out to be.

Manufacturers would like to get longevity out of their vehicles. However, if several critical parts constantly fail at 200k miles, and re-engineering them is out of the question, then it doesnt make as much sense to ensure other parts will last 300k miles, if they can be made to last 200k for less cost.

To put it another way, manufacturers could put sheet metal on their vehicles similar to 1950s cars and that sheet metal would last a century. But at what cost? Five times more metal for 5x more cost of that component, at 5x more weight equals reduced MPG and payload capacity. Engineers have figured out how to create stressed metal body parts for great weight and cost savings, and they will last a good 20 years or more, which is far beyond what the typical buyer is interested in.

This is called "finite engineering". Build to a spec, and build all corresponding components to a spec, and keep the price down. Heavy-duty components cost money, that is why 3/4-ton trucks cost more and last longer than half-tons.

Want a vehicle that will go a million miles and last a century? Sure, but it'll cost you. Check out some top-level Mercedes, for example. They are not super-expensive because they are a status symbol....they have quality components that will last longer. However, even they are built to a price point. You just have to pick your poison and be happy.

Re: 150k miles

At the first drive 2011 F-150 dealer event it was shown that all the F-150 engines are designed for a 150k mile useful life, not just the turbo engines. All F-150's are for 150 k miles or 10 years and that included the 6.2L.

Also, the older trucks that everyone loved and claims are the best....they were designed for a useful life of 100k miles.

Does everyone on here realize that every truck (minus diesels) were only designed for 100k miles? Seriously the Eccoboost turbos are designed to last 50% longer then any prior old engines designed.....that includes the 5.4L.

Everything is designed for a useful life. Ford, GM, Chrysler, Toyota, Nissan, Honda....all OEs design every single component to a useful life. They will test and design to this. Thus if trucks 15 years ago were designed to have a usefull life of 100k miles and many get 200k out of an engine, then you can only imagine that an engine that was designed to have a useful life of 150k will most likely last considerably longer then trucks and vehicles in the past.

The guys claiming turbos wont last long need to check out what needs rebuilding first when it comes to semi trucks and turbo piston airplanes. (One hint, it is not the turbo.)

This is less of an idea for a specific topic and more of a suggestion for improving the methodology for testing, especially performance metrics such as FE or acceleration.

1. Standardize on specific wheel (and tire) size for tests. Better yet, assure that the rubber compound is the same. Having three trucks running Firestones and one on Michelins hits a sour note. If the guys at RAM, or Ford or Chevy thought their entry might be dinged over it, they might be more cooperative.

Tests that include handling, fuel economy, braking and acceleration will surely be skewed if these conditions aren’t met. Just a hunch. I could be wrong. You might have to find an enthusiastic tire retailer willing to pitch in a bit but it would be worth it.

2. Please provide more of the subjective inputs and analysis that your testers shared. There was a lot of variation amongst the testers in the recent HD truck comparison (see link) and I know many of the readers would have enjoyed seeing the specific praise or dings that the individual testers contributed—in their own words. Lacking that, at least normalize the stats by subtracting the highest and lowest scores to balance the result.

Williams and Bruzek could not have been driving the same truck (Bruzek 100, Williams 154)


3. Relying on the accuracy of pumps at a convenience store is only suitable if repeated tests are performed, under the same conditions. Using the retail “pump till it clicks off” depends on too many variables when you’re comparing similar trucks in a limited number of miles. For a coast-to-coast test? Sure, but when all four trucks in a shorter FE test are within a few tenths of a gallon apart, you need more precision than the retail gas pump offers.

A less convenient (but more accurate) solution might be to run the truck till it’s out of gas. Add a precisely measured amount of fuel (five or ten gallons?) to the tank and drive it till it’s out of gas. The exact number of miles is recorded and a very accurate—and repeatable--idea of fuel mileage is easily obtained. It’s very reliable because I’ve done it myself any number of times. Back when I was young I found time for stuff like that, who knows why!

If you’ve already tried this and found it too much trouble (or too unsafe) that’s fine. Keep a halon exstinguisher handy. With as much testing as you guys do, it’s a great thing to keep onboard.

Your team at PUTC devotes a lot of attention to creating great web content for your readers. Some of my suggestions might improve the results with hopefully less or equal cost and not a lot of extra work.

If you do enough reading the 5.0 and the 6.2 are also "certified" for 150,000 miles.

The 4.6 and 5.4 were "certified" for 100,000 miles.

you can only imagine that an engine that was designed to have a useful life of 150k will most likely last considerably longer then trucks and vehicles in the past.


You might not be surprised to learn that abuse, collision damage and lack of maintenance probably send more trucks to the dump than any design considerations. Reasonably clean oil, careful attention to the cooling system and clean fuel will add a lot of life to most of the cars/trucks that die young.

I think we've now seen the best of the F Series. This is it.

The new XD Titan alone will remove some of the gloss off of the F Series numbers. Then the 1/2 ton Titan will come out and remove a little more of the gloss, dulling the numbers slightly, but enough for the Big Three, especially Frod to take note.

Even with Ford's big gains it still is way behind GM.

As I've also have been stating, FCA really need to do more with the Ram than changing to an even fuglier grille and some shiny badges. The Ram needs a complete refresh, even using the same underpinnings as the current Ram.

Ram's EcoDiesel represents 20% of the total Rams built. If GM can achieve the same result with the Colorado/Canyon this will mean GM has great chance of selling 150 000 plus midsizers a year.

It's good to see the total number of vehicles sold in the US. Remember the figure it eclipsed was when the US had a population of 280 million not the 322 million it now has. So, even though the figures are good to equal numbers of vehicles sold per capita more than 19 million vehicles were needed to be sold.

GM has shown the consumer really doesn't care if a pickup is made from steel or aluminium. They buy on percieved value.

This is why Ford is number two and not the "top dog" of the US pickup market.

I've been saying your protectionist CAFE/EPA/Design Regs/Taxes protecting you full sizers will be the end of your trucks as you know it. Or you will end up with F-250/350 sized half ton pickups, like Lou had alluded too, costing lots more to purchase and operate.

In the shorter term, diesels will get you guys out of trouble. Maybe you will end up with unitary constructed utes, styled like road whales with turbo 4s and V6s.

It is odd. To the mid size detractors. The world outside of the US will still have traditional styled pickups, maybe 9/10ths the size but with a full chassis.

I can't see a full chassis not being used here. Why? Because we need traybacks and the UNECE regulations allow for this.

You might not like the UNECE regulations. Why? Because some think its un American. But they will allow for your full size trucks and yes they will have to compete against our mid sizers.

But having half the number of full sizers is better than none.

Detroit, UAW, Energy, Government have to sit and look at where they want the US to head. I do think the Canadian will hopefully see the light first.

What a pitiful mess, sorry.

So, to protect from that, I can only suggest that you do a "Copy" of what you have written BEFORE you "Post" (as I do). That way you can try again with just a "PASTE" if the first attempt at "Post" failed. It's especially important if you spent 15-20 minutes composing a long comment...

Posted by: NMGOM | Mar 23, 2017 1:47:07 PM

I agree & in fact I've being doing exactly that & sometimes still rejected after 5-6 attempts so throw in the towel & go to truck trend site & others....yeah it sucks :-(


Do more searches for yourself, I read an article, perhaps on pickup trucks.com that the turbo bearings on the new Raptor were designed and tested for 150,000 Miles.

BTW, I'm no brand loyalist. My current truck is a 2011 F150 4x4 Screw w/5.0. Before that was a 2002 Duramax 4x4 crewcab.

Also would like a new article on Ford's ethanol injected bobcat engines. When will we see them in production?

Ram wins again. Looks like Ford and Chevy are full of crap again. First it was their tow haul numbers now their best in class torque numbers. lol


Bad news for Ford shareholders.

Ford’s announcement that its first-quarter profit would be as low as 30 cents a share, below the 47 cents a share consensus estimate from Wall Street.

Ford's profit warning Thursday is presenting investors with a major buying opportunity in that sector, news outlets are reporting...One major commenter is suggesting that GM’s move into China during the last 10 years has left Ford flat footed. GM stock is up 9 percent over the last 12 mos.

How about a guide on how to adjust tire pressure when switching from P to LT rated tires, and furthermore, how to adjust those LT pressures based on the load you are hauling/towing? I put on a set of BFG KO2s, and the majority of comments I found online recommended 35-40 PSI, which according to the manufacturers info is far too low and dangerous, even for an empty truck.


there have been some excellent recent suggestions about this from commenters here at PUTC. A few Tuesdays ago there was a specific column about tire pressure.

One of the better (and simpler) involved running over a freshly laid line of chalk on the pavement and viewing the tread pattern to assure that there's good contact from side to side.

A better-quality tire pressure gauge is key!

Well, I guess Chrysler must have screwed up, cuz my 1992 5.2 Magnum in my Dakota is near 223 thousand miles, doesn't smoke a bit.

I do think I'm due to change a plenum gasket, but that's rather small.

No spark plugs have fell out of the engine yet either.

It does not have piston slap issues, doesn't get the best gas mileage, but, I can save a lot of money when I don't have to do some of the above maintenance, and it makes up for the gas mileage.

@ TRX-4 Tom
I had a 92 Dakota with the 318. Never burned any oil. I sold it at 176,000 miles, ran Amsoil 0w30 in it for its last 100k, changed oil every 5k.

I typically got 18-21mpg, and got 24mpg once driving from TX to CO....think engine was running lean as it went up in elevation.

As for the plenum gasket, back in the day, Larry Sheppard (tech guru at Mopar Performance) recommended replacing the gasket with nothing but plain old RTV, as a gasket would likely fail again.

I had very little maintenance on that Dakota. I liked that I could change all eight spark plugs in just under 11 minutes, not bad for a V8 in a smallish truck. Biggest problem I had was having to feather the throttle at every stoplight; otherwise would spin the tires.

@TRX4Tom & Longboat

Coincidence I guess. I almost bought an old high mileage Dakota V8 like the ones you've described.

It was about ten years old and it was obvious that some shade-tree work had been done in the engine compartment and the owner was convinced that he had a collector's item and wanted big bucks for a truck w/over 100k on the clock. Most of the emissions stuff had been trashed or removed altogether and it idled too fast but it was pure smooth hell out on the road. The chassis was straight and everything on it worked (not bad for a truck that was probably 10 yrs old back then).

I got the owner down to $700 cash and then he produced a title that looked like a fake and I begged off. A shame because I would have loved it and had enough skill and patience to put it right.

Reading your comments today reminded me of it. Those old V8s were special and I'm surprised that they did not sell better because gas was cheap back in the early 1990s.

I'd like a deep dive on the differences, pros/cons of the various differentials (open, limited slip, locking, e-locking) so I would know if a feature is a must have or whether something sounds good but would hurt what I might use my truck for 90% of the time.

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