Reader Question: Best $5k 1500?

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Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply! 

Dave asks: The fake virus. designed to lock us down forever like Soviet Russia or maybe Fascist Germany. I don’t know which is worse. I was not there, but have read lots. I have expected this since I read George Orwell way back in 1960 .

Anyway, asking for advice again. My 23 year old son needs a pickup truck He has a 2002 Explorer with the 4.6 V8. Which now has developed the typical timing chain-phaser-tensioner problems.

I have always preferred Chev-GMC trucks, and stayed away from Ford. Had good luck with Ford cars, though.He has about maximum $5,000 to spend. Including 12 percent usual tax grab. Looked at a  2008 150 with a Triton 5.4. Same timing chain setup as Explorer. also breaking spark plug problems. Avoid?  It took 6 bloody years for Ford to fix that breaking spark plug problem What the Hell?

Do you have any recommend on the general truck to buy if available in his price range? Or what to avoid? I have looked on line and will do more.I am not so fussy about foreign made.

My suggestion would be Chevy. I know this is a tough go for you. Writing you because of so much respect.

My reply: Does he have to have a half-ton truck? If not, I hugely recommend the ‘2004- and old Nissan Frontier (I have owned two of these).  Especially models (like mine) with the four cylinder engine, which is bulletproof and practically maintenance free, other than fluid and filter changes. These are 250k engines; I have 134k on my original clutch (in the ’02, which I still have).

The Toyota Tacoma is a good smaller truck, too.

If he needs a half-ton, my picks would be the Chevy and the Ram, not necessarily in that order – depending on the year. The older you go with Chevy, the better the truck. I think Chevy built some of the best half-tons, ever, from the mid-late ’80s through the mid-’90s into the early 2000s.

With Ram, the newer the better. The recent “Classic” Ram 1500 is a fantastic truck, though it’s out of your $5k range.

I’d strongly consider going back to the late ’80s/early ’90s and finding a solid Chevy 1500. The mechanicals are stout and reasonably DIY fixable. The ideal candidate would be one with a TBI 350 and a five-speed manual. I’d like to have one myself!

. . .

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  1. I kept some truck notes for myself. Ended up buying a ’20 F-150 with the 2.7L turbo. That was good b/c it has both types of fuel injection, and the ASS switch is right on the dashboard. Anyway (long post) but here goes:

    2003-2008 has the really good regular cab
    2009-2016 workable regular cab
    2008 has the 300+hp 4.7L engine. Otherwise get the 5.7L

    Based on this, rankings of Dodges are:
    1) 2003-2008 regular cab with 5.7L engine
    2) 2003-2008 regular cab with 4.7L engine
    3) 2009-2016 regular cab with 5.7L engine
    4) 2009-2016 regular cab with 4.7L engine
    5) Dodge 3.6L and 3.7L V-6’s are robust engines not unworthy of consideration

    Dodges have a bad rap for transmissions, but Aisin ones (6-spd and 8-spd) are okay (same as in Toyota Tundra).

    Ford F150
    All engines are OHC design. From 2004 up have drive by wire throttle.
    For 2017: 3.5L, 5.0L PFI, 2.7L ecoboost DFI only the 3.5L ecoboost has both injection types. 2018 up has both direct and port fuel injection on all types. Before 2017, ecoboost has only DFI.
    2004-2008 has the really good regular cab
    2009-2014 workable regular cab
    2014-up has marginally acceptable regular cab (space to store the flat, sectionalized, bed cover)
    Wikipedia lists the 4.6L 2V engines in the F-series 2001-2010 (good) Also 4.6L 3V from 2008-2010 (not good, due to spark plugs)
    Also lists 5.4L 3V 2004-2008 (bad due to poor spark plug design and cam phasers failing for the VVT feature) You want a 2V design in either the 4.6L or 5.4L, or 2009 and up.
    2011 starts the 5.0L 4V Coyote engine (good) Naturally aspirated. So far thru 2019 model year.
    Wikipedia also lists the 5.4L 2V 1997-2003, 2004 for Heritage models (good) and 3V 2004-2008, and 2009-2010. I believe the 2009-2010’s are okay, based on multiple internet searches. The 2004-2008 will have the bad spark plugs and the cam phasers.

    Based on this, rankings of Fords are:
    1) 2004-2008 regular cab with 4.6L 2V engine
    2) 2009-2014 regular cab with 4.6L 2V engine (2003-2011) or 5.0L engine (2011 up)
    3) 2009-2011 regular cab with 5.4L 3V engine
    4) 2015+ with 5.0L (PFI standard) and 6-speed transmission (2018+ has 10 speed in all but base V6, 3.3L)
    5) 2018+ with 2.7L ecoboost may be okay b/c it has both types of fuel injection. But maybe water pump problem

    Avoid: 2004-2008 with 5.4L 3V engine (but ok if the spark plugs have been replaced with upgraded ones. Cam phaser oil screen cleaned, or cam phasers replaced, also if timing chain tensioners and/or timing chain replaced.)
    2009-2011 with 4.6L 3V engine (same note as above)
    3.7L, 3.5L, 3.3L engines (even w/o ecoboost) as the water pump is behind the timing chain cover and major work

    Ford Integrated Wheel End (IWE) problems:

    New Ford Wish List
    Model: 2017 Ford F-150 XL Regular Cab, 8′ Box, 5.0L V8 FFV Engine, 6-Speed Automatic Electronic Transmission w/Tow/Haul Mode, 4X4, 3.31 Electronic Locking Axle Ratio
    Equipment Groups: 101A, XL Chrome Appearance Package, Equipment Group 101A Discount, XL Chrome/Sport Appearance Package Discount, Class IV Trailer Hitch, Power Equipment Group
    Exterior Options: Bedliner – Spray-In, Box Side Steps, Extended Range 36 Gallon Fuel Tank, Fog Lamps

    Ford F250
    Really early versions have 5.4L 2V. Mid versions have 3V. Later versions have 6.2L OHC.
    2004-2010 have decent bed heights. Later ones the bed is too high.

    2014-up 4.3L V-6 has 285HP, but uses direct gas inject. (based from LT1 small block V8) The 2007-2013 has 195HP but port fuel injection, and is based on the classic small block Chevy V8. All are naturally apirated and OHV design.
    Same for 5.3L V-8. For 2019, there is the new ECO-TEC3 version (4.3 & 5.3) which have cylinder deactivation and gas direct inject.
    1996–1999 Chevrolet/GMC C/K full-size trucks had small block Chevy 350
    Any and all regular cabs have no room behind the back seat, *except* for the 2019’s! They are on par with F150, Ram and Titan. Good.

    Based on this, rankings for Silverados are:
    1) 2014-up, 4.3L V6
    2) 2001-up, 5.3L V8
    3) 1996-2000, 5.7L V8

    Nissan Titan
    2017 – has 3.79 rear end gears. Also 2.937 overall final drive ratio. Also has direct inject engine. (unsure about additional port fuel injection) **Also has reported short block replacement problems!**
    2004 – up has drive by wire throttle control
    2004 – 2008 has rear differential problems, leaking rear axle seals. Ones that have a finned rear end cover are okay, I believe after 08. Check to see if the rear end was serviced on any 04-08