Dashboard Confidential – October 2020

Good service worthy of a thank you

October 2020

Dave Sweetman


Although I think highly of some of my past trucks and engines, those days are gone. The new, modern technology is what we must live with.

I loved my ’68 GMC Astro with a shiny 290 Cummins, my 1980 Kenworth with a Big Cam III 400 Cummins. My next three Kenworth T600s had C15 Cats. When Cat phased themselves out, my next three Kenworth units had Cummins ISX, including my present T680, a 525 hp ISX that has become my favorite. Excellent pulling power, clean burning, outstanding fuel mileage, and it is reliable. Although I miss my “Kitty Cats,” I have tried to advance from being a dinosaur.

Like anything mechanical, sometimes stuff just breaks. Although I have been extremely fortunate, stuff never breaks and leaves me stranded. Knock on wood. With the advent of diesel exhaust fluid for cleaner emissions, I get it. Better air for the children. And looking at the exhaust pipe tips, there is no carbon or soot build up. Also, the diesel particulate filter does its job by trapping ugly stuff, again making better air for the children.

Of course, more technology means more maintenance, and those costs come out of my pocket. DEF fluid, a DEF filter, DPF system cleaning as well as a regen, often at the most inopportune times. But it is for the children. I keep hearing that, and it almost makes me want to have children so they can take advantage of the sacrifices we have made in their interest.

Just last week, as I was motoring across the California desert west of Barstow, I was climbing Tehachapi in 104-degree temps. Pulling a 500 KW mobile generator bound for a COVID-19 hospital in the bay, I was right on schedule.

Approaching the summit, dash lights came on with two engine faults. All gauges read normal, no loss of power, but when I topped the grade I stopped and checked it out.

Several months prior, Land Line Magazine had a product review of a PACLink code reader that plugs into the ECM plug that reads engine, cab, transmission and ABS faults in real time, as well as component functions through a phone app. I bought one but never thought it would pay off.

The reader showed that I had an intake manifold pressure failure and dash warning lights said, “Engine will de-rate in two hours.”

I now have serious troubles. I eased off the summit, exiting at Weedpatch Highway, as I knew there were several truck stops, and I could figure out what to do next. Being it was Sunday, services were closed but I found the Cummins dealer was a short 3 miles away. Blind dumb luck, I suppose. I waited until 8 a.m. Monday and hit the phone.

At 8:02 a.m., Ashley told me to come on over and they would diagnose the problem. Sure enough, the shop foreman came out with a computer, plugged it in and told me what my Paccar reader told me. Considering this is Monday in Bakersfield and they got me in right away, I am impressed (and grateful). The next step was my assigned Cummins tech, David Ochoa, who came over, introduced himself and went to work.

When I think of manifold pressure failure, I think cracked manifold or head or worse. I am on pins and needles.

Within minutes, Mr. Ochoa diagnosed it as a bad sensor and replaced it, but the same fault reoccurred. Thinking it could be a faulty sensor, he tried another. Same problem. A cracked manifold or head was ruled out, and I was slightly relieved, but I was not out of the woods yet.

Mr. Ochoa then made some phone calls to Cummins HQ in Indiana and had a conference call with the engineers. OK, now I am really impressed. It turns out that my engine has a newer type sensor and needed to be reprogrammed at the source with special codes. He proceeded to do just that. We went on a check ride and all fault codes were cleared. A quick visit on the Dyno and a review of the fault code system proved it to be 100%. David Ochoa had worked his magic, and I was up and running.

Keep in mind that all of this is during the COVID-19 adventure. Masks and social distancing are in full force. Not only did the nice folks at Bakersfield Cummins get me in and take care of the problem in first class form, but everyone was very considerate, making sure that I was treated more like a friend than a customer. From 6 feet away, of course.

Thank you, David Ochoa, for being the best. And thank you Bakersfield Cummins for making room for me. LL

Can’t get enough Dashboard Confidential? Check out Sweetman’s previous column from the August-September 2020 issue.

J.J. Keller