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Thread: Durango Diesel Conversion

  1. #1
    Senior Member FireEater's Avatar
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    Durango Diesel Conversion

    I know this has been a topic for a few years and I've been relentlessly researching it for a week now to try and read up with as much info as possible. I really fought the urge this year to buy a Dodge diesel 4x4 four door, especially after I was promoted and got a raise! Being pretty much debt free now with a house note, a credit card and utilities has been good, so the only thing really keeping me from pulling the trigger was not wanting a payment again.

    Well. we just got a 3% raise this October, even without a last year on our contract! The Union President and myself met with the Mayor last week and he offered us a contract extension for 2 years with a 3% raise each year which will go through October 2015. So now the urge to pull the trigger will most likely really happen next year sometime. It'll be used and paid off in two years, which would be in the time frame of our Daughter starting to drive and she'll get the wife's Xterra and the wife will get a Jeep.

    So, I've once again been kicking around the idea of installing a diesel in the D. Like I said, I've researched it pretty intensely the last week, but only found info from 2010 and earlier and nothing in any great detail. I do know what motor I want, the Cummins 4bt (four banger) as it seems to be the easiest to do conversions with, but am still researching a an automatic transmission which will bolt up to my transfer case? The main reason I choose the 4bt is due to the weight. A 6bt would weigh too much and be a tighter fit with more mods to make it work. With the 4bt it's less of a hassle to keep my A/C, which is a must have item down here with our 100 plus temps!

    As y'all know, I had my axles redone with new gears and a suspension lift so I'm not ready to do an axle swap yet. From my research, I see quite a few D's with the 4bt keeping their IFS front ends and this is where the 4bt weight issue comes in. I don't take the D off road, so I don't see why the front suspension can't hold up to the weight of the 4bt??

    I'd like to hear from y'all on a diesel conversion for the D and I'm also going to register on a couple of diesel website to see what they say and to pick their brains. Research is the key to weighing my options on this conversion. The main thing is, would it even be worth it to put a diesel in the D as opposed to buying the truck I want next year?? I'll still keep the D so a truck would be another semi-toy and I know I'd put money into it for mods taking away from the D. If I do a diesel in the D, then that's one less toy to spend money on. Plus, with a truck, I'll have to spend maintenance money on 3 vehicles, a boat and a popup!

    The next thing I'm researching is the easiest way to do this. I'm wondering which Dodge 4x4 pickups had Cummins 4bt in them? Seems to me if I could hopefully find a wrecked one or one being parted out, I could scavenge the motor, tranny, transfer case and whatever else I need to make a clean swap. So far my research has turned up nothing on Dodge trucks with that motor. I'll also talk to my mechanic buddy who buys and sells vehicles at auctions to see what he says about it. My buddy who owns the 4x4 shop that did my lift and axles said it'd be killer with a diesel in it! Also, when I go to my part time job Tuesday, I'll go down the street to talk to the guys at a diesel shop where they do everything diesel related for pickups.

    I thought I'd seen somewhere before that there's a conversion kit for the D, but can't find anything on it now?? Which leads to the PCM. I assume I'll have to swap it out also for the one that comes with the diesel motor, plus my existing gauges and some of the diesel gauges? Also the motor mounts, which would be the easy part as we've fabricated and pieced together different motor mounts for a few swaps we did in the past.

    I'm in no hurry to do this as I want minimal downtime for the D so, if I do go this route, I'll be acquiring everything I need to do it first, then getting everything ready to install (which would include any rebuilding, cleaning and painting.) I'd probably go through the motor for a quick rebuild, but nothing fancy as I don't want to kill the fuel mileage I'm after. The main thing I want from a diesel is the torque for towing and the better fuel mileage. Even with the new gears in the D, I just can't get the torque I need for towing with the 35"s under it. Plus my 5.9 is using about a quart of oil a month now. When I romp on it, it smokes pretty good (I think the major overheating issues I had last year took their toll on that motor!)

    I see the pluses from both sides of the coin here on either doing a conversion or buying a truck. The truck would be the simplest way to go, but the conversion would be the most fun. I have a shop to use with all the tools to do this as well as my big Chevy beater to drive, but I still want minimal down time as that thing is a beast to drive daily! Another main issue with doing a conversion is it has to be practical. I want it to be reliable and look factory so to speak. I'm not about to cram a diesel in the D just to have a diesel in there!

    Since this has progressed into a long read, here are my main questions.
    1. Is there a Dodge 4x4 truck model out there where I could get everything I need for basically a clean install?
    2. Do I install a new computer or can the current one be reprogrammed? (I assume it depends on what year model diesel as to whether I even need a computer at all?)
    3. I've been reading those who did the 4bt swap get 25+ MPG?
    4. Thoughts keeping on my IFS suspension with the 4bt diesel what with my D being a concrete queen?
    As I said, I'm not rushing into this, just doing some really hard researching into it to see which way to go?

  2. #2
    Senior Member Old_School's Avatar
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    It's my understanding it's something that can and has been done, but is very expensive and time consuming. On the ones I've seen they had to pretty much fab up a custom front end to hold up to the weight. It'll be interesting to see what you come up with and, if you do decided to pull the trigger, be sure to document the whole process.
    Jeremy M

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  3. #3
    Senior Member FireEater's Avatar
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    From what I've researched, the 5.9 weighs about 550 lbs while the Cummins 4bt weighs about 700 lbs so I'd think the front end should be able to hold it. Plus some guys are putting them in 2 wheel drive D's with the IFS front end.

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    Administrator FSTDANGO3's Avatar
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    There's someone over at Dak-Dur who's done it on a Lifted Dakota.
    He's been at Carlisle several times and the install came out good and it performed well.
    For the additional 200 or so lbs, you just need to adjust your torsion bars and get an alignment done again.
    Steve
    "THIS DURANGO R/T SNACKS ON LESSER SPECIMENS"

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  5. #5
    Senior Member FireEater's Avatar
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    Thanks, I'll go look him up for more research. Been keeping track of this thread over at the Dodge Forum.

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    Administrator FSTDANGO3's Avatar
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    This is the guy: diesel Dakota
    "THIS DURANGO R/T SNACKS ON LESSER SPECIMENS"

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    Administrator IndyDurango's Avatar
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    There's also a guy who was here at the DOC and posted his diesel stuff.As for me, I'd just say "don't do it." If you want a diesel, go buy one. If the engine in your D was toast, that would be a different thing? MAYBE.

    IndyDurango

  8. #8
    Senior Member FireEater's Avatar
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    Yea, I always try to make friends with the search button, but it doesn't want to be friendly to me. I typed in diesel Durango and got a lot of things from a kitchen remodel to snow chains! lol

    My 5.9 needs a rebuild for sure as it's now burning oil. Plus, at 11mpg and with gas prices rising, that's pushing me towards this. I'm still researching it and won't pull the trigger until next year anyway no matter which way I go. It's just the allure of it and the fact that, along with some good buddies, we could do this ourselves.

  9. #9
    Senior Member Siggi Gunda's Avatar
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    If my D needed a rebuild, I'd think about it? and the engine that comes to mind is the Mercedes 320 CDI. It's about 300 HP, has very good MPG, is very quiet (can't hear it's a diesel) and Mercedes is a leading diesel manufacturer in the world. But then again, I'd miss the sound of my 5.9 with the Borla pipes, so I'd probably rebuild it or get a new one? or buy a Mercedes E or ML class 320 CDI to use with it if I had the cash to just go for it.
    Siggi

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    Senior Member GreenD's Avatar
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    I'm with Rob on this one. If you want a cool project truck and don't mind spending the money, then it sounds like a fun project. When you say you want it to all work well, look factory and be a reliable daily driver, I'd worry about the result. I think the install is the fun and straightforward part, new mounts, make things fit, find a way to keep the 4wd drive line intact, etc. Then, when it's all looking good, you've got to put a new harness together, make the dash work, make the engine operate (glow cycle if there is one, gas pedal, cooling system, etc.) I don't know, maybe to a someone with your capability this all sounds ok?? To me, and having read a lot of threads about diesel conversions of various vehicles, I'd view it as a long term project with a lot of hiccups along the way.

    Sorry to sound negative, just saying what I think about it.

    BTW, I'm still holding out hope for a diesel Durango. I really had hoped for one this year, and would have bought it, but now I figure they have to see how the diesel Jeep sells before they make the decision. So likely it'll be mid 2014 at best if they do it at all??
    2001 4.7 Green - traded for 2003 R/T 5.9 Atlantic Blue - traded for non-Dodge vehicle

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