Ford vs. Dodge vs. Chevy, Which is better?

by Bo Griffith, Certified Diesel Mechanic
Ever since diesel pickup trucks started getting popular back in the late 80’s, there has been a debate on which trucks were the best. For the sake of this article, I will try and break down the discussion into several time periods to cover all the iterations of all the engines 12 in total between the three. Keep in mind, this article is more anecdotal than anything else, and you will have to draw your own conclusions.

(1986-1993) In all reality, the first engines didn’t put up any impressive figures initially. In 1989, the 12v 5.9 Cummins put up a mere 160 horsepower, but a respectable 400 ft-lbs. torque. The 7.3 International IDI put up 185 horse, and 338 ft. lbs. torque. Lastly, the 6.2 Detroit used by Chevrolet had 160 horse, with 285 ft. lb. torque. In the first generation of diesel engines, I will have to give the prize to the 5.9 just for the power available. Not only did it come with more power, it was much easier to supe-up than the other engines on the market. Reliability wise, they were all very good. There were a couple of notable issues, such as the “killer dowel pin” in the Cummins, the cylinder wall cavitation in the International, and the fact that the 6.2 would shake itself apart due to poor crankshaft balance. (1994-2002) Ford introduced the 7.3 Powerstroke engine in 1994, and it was an instant legend. Surpassing both Dodge and Chevy in sales, there are still 2 million of these trucks on the road today, 13 years after production ceased. This truck was known for good power output and reliability. While the 12v Cummins was still a good engine, not much had changed about it. Chevrolet had switched over to the 6.5 Detroit, which did have a little more power output, but still lagged behind the others. Keep in mind, when Chevy came out with a diesel engine, it was to get better fuel economy, not necessarily more power. For the mid 90’s to early 00’s, the 7.3 Powerstroke still sits as king of the hill. That was bound to be shaken up at some point though.

(2003-2007) With new emission regulations coming down the pipe in the early 2000’s, manufacturers had to start updating these older engine systems. Dodge upgraded their injection system to be a high pressure common rail, this is after they doubled the valves in the engine to 24. [after 1998] Chevrolet partnered with Isuzu to come out with the now famous Duramax. Ford traded in the old 7.3 design for the new, improved (I use that word lightly) 6.0 Powerstroke.

Both Dodge and Chevy had some problems with this new, complicated injection system. The LB7 Duramax had many more problems, leading to a class action lawsuit, and eventually an extended warranty on the injectors. Speaking of class action lawsuits, how about that 6.0? The real problem with the 6.0 was that it wasn’t designed to work as well in the higher horsepower pickup truck market. The VT365 worked great in medium duty trucks and buses, but was tuned for a much lower power output. The 6.0 had a lot of power, but just wasn’t durable, between head gaskets, EGR coolers and injectors. Need some Stiction Eliminator? For the mid 2000’s Cummins is once again the “best” with the early Duramax in a close second.

(2008-2010) After 2007, emission regulations got even more stringent, causing vast overhauls by both Ford and Dodge. Ford finally switched over to common rail injection, with the International 6.4 engine this engine would only have a short 3 year run. Dodge made the switch to the ISB 6.7 engine, finally putting the trusty 5.9 Cummins to rest interesting fact, the 6.7 uses about 40% of the parts the original 5.9 used. The transition was made pretty easily by the Duramax lineup, making it my favorite from this time period, unlike the Powerstroke, [which was very, very different and complicated]

(2011-present) 2011 brought us EVEN MORE emissions regulations, leading to the use of DEF. Ford went to the drawing board for the first time to come up with their own diesel engine, breaking up their 25-year relationship with International. What they came up with was a compact graphite iron block, and a reverse flow engine. Reverse flow? Yes, the intakes are on the outside of the engine, with the exhaust coming out to the turbo in the engine valley. Other than a potentially deadly glow plug issue on the first run of engines, they are very reliable. Dodge still uses the 6.7 engine, and Chevy has the 6.6 Duramax. The Duramax has adapted to every new regulation almost seamlessly, other than a few cold weather DEF issues. They currently sit at last place on listed power output but not by much.

I really can’t say which engine is best, being a Ford guy, I will lean towards the Scorpion engine, I mean how cool is that name? But all the engines have immense power, and towing capability. If you are looking for a new truck, I would base a decision off of aesthetics and personal preference. You really are not going to go wrong with any American 1-ton truck manufactured today. I don’t see any trucks sticking out until they reach 1,000 ft-lb. torque, which isn’t that far off, seeing as we have two trucks over 800 ft. lbs.

Originally published in LSI Innovation Magazine – Issue 104

11 thoughts on “Ford vs. Dodge vs. Chevy, Which is better?”

  • The only reason I did not go with the new Powerstroke is because of it’s impressive, but very complicated design. After testing all three domestic HD pickup Diesels, it came down mostly to personal preference of the truck itself, and to a lesser extent than in years past, the engine.

  • ford is the worst i had one and it lasted 8 month before it was time to trade in and it was not used. it was the ford f 150 year of 2016

  • well at least ford put in a tail gate warmer for the person sitting on the side of the road waiting on the tow truck won’t be cold.

    the only good thing adout ford trucks

  • Just like the articles says, it’s a personal preference, as seen by the replys here. All 3 put some pretty good numbers up. Each one does have their little problems, as nothing is perfect. I prefer the Ford, that’s a preference not because it is the best. The people I know who have the Dodge, most of them have elontronic problems. Dodge has a history of this. Now I know I’m going to nit pick Chevy but I would not buy one because they took the buy out from the government. Again, preference and not saying Chevy is bad, just didn’t like that. I have a 2000 Excursion with the 7.3 in it. I have close to 400,000 miles on it and all I have done is new tranny, 1 injector, and glow plug module. So where is sitting on the side of the road come from. Each manufacturer has had their problems. So again, preference, preference, preference.

  • I bought a 2011 Ford diesel with 22,000 miles, I’ve put 120,000 on it since I bought it, with my last trip to the mechanic the total in repairs comes to just under $10,000.00 ! I can’t justify spending 10k with 120,000 miles of use!! I’ll never buy Ford again,and am actually driving to look for a new truck ( NOT A FORD)

  • I’m a hotshot driver and drive a Duramax not because I drive a Duramax but because I see superduty fail the most from all 3 I mean all the time over all Dodge 6.7are #1 Duramax#2

  • Sorry for ford enthusiast but quicker trucks are not stronger nor long lasting run out faster yes unless you go with the 7.3 which was very strong

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