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On some days operating Toolmonger feels like a job. A long, weary job. But sometimes we see a comment like this one, and it reminds us why we keep plugging away day after day. From reader Toolaremia on my Don’t Freeze Your *ss Off post.

Chuck, your friend could have saved himself a lot of work if he’d just put a water separator and proper fuel filter on that Olds. Never would have had to fix it again. There was nothing wrong with the engine itself.

The problem was by then the beancounters were running (ruining) GM and they skimped on proper fuel handling and other things. Diesel fuel back then was horrible, and you really *had* to have a separator and hardy filter. So water got into the engine, lifted the heads, and the uninitiated blamed the engine instead of the fuel and the beancounters.

See “Diesel problems” here:

In the original post I’d mentioned that I learned about insulated coveralls from a friend who worked incessantly on his 350 diesel-powered Delta 88. And I’m willing to bet Toolaremia is totally right. Most of the work he did was head related, so it matches up perfectly with the comment.

This, friends, is why it pays to read not just the posts on Toolmonger, but the comments, too. If you’re reading via feed, you’re getting only half the story. Another great example: On that same post a number of Toolmongers (Will Atwood, Toolhearty, Gough, David Bryan, and jeff as of this moment) recommend insulated bibs plus a coat as a much better solution than coveralls. Being a bit, um, pear-shaped myself, I think they’re on to something. I’ll probably go that way myself the next time I buy.

Anyway, thanks to all who read — and comment — regularly. It keeps us motivated to deliver posts every day, and it makes Toolmonger a much more valuable resource to all who read and participate.

(Thanks, Jess Driscoll, for the great CC-licensed photo.)


15 Responses to Comment Of The Week: Chevy 350 Diesels’ Real Issue

  1. Major Al says:

    This makes sense….

    The armed forces have had ba-zillions of these engines in service, with nowhere near the failure rate of the infamous Olds. I remember in great detail training sessions in 1984-5 on the militarized blazer which focused on the differences from the civilian model. Lots of attention was devoted to the fuel filtering arrangement and the water separator, which was mounted to the firewall under the hood IIRC. The civ blazers had none.

    I spent almost 10 years on active duty, and while I won’t say 350 V8 diesels were trouble free, we had nowhere near the problems with them that the civilian models experienced. FWIW, my uncle owned not one, but two of the accursed GM diesels of the era, an olds and later a buick. Nothing but one problem after another with both of them…..


  2. David says:

    “If you’re reading via feed, you’re getting only half the story.”

    So, hows about you set up a feed with comments…


  3. Chris says:

    David: There is a comments feed, albeit for the whole site rather than per-post. The link is in that paragraph just above the comments section.


  4. @David:

    Look on the very bottom of the page, there’s an RSS feed for all comments on Toolmonger. In fact here’s the link:


  5. MattC says:

    I remember riding in a diesel-powered Olds Delta 88 taxi in Iceland in the early 1990’s. I asked the owner if he had any problems with this engine (knowing about the horrendous debacle of this engine in the States). He told me that with a proper fuel filter and water separator, the engine had been basically trouble free. Again ,GM wonders why it is in this predicament. This is just another example of cost-cutting that alienated legions from GM showrooms.

  6. Wheels17 says:

    One to keep in mind, if you tuck the coveralls in to your boots, have wrist straps on the gloves, and a good scarf, nothing gets into the coverall. My experience with coat, bibs, and snow is that I eventually get a load of snow inside the bibs when I’m crawling around under one of my “projects”.

  7. bigalexe says:

    They built a Chevy 350 in Diesel! My life is now made complete, now if only I could get one that is brand new.

    -Yeah I’m not old enough to remember when they came out.

  8. Blair says:

    I had a 1981Toronado with the diesel, and it too ended up with head problems, had it replaced with an up-graded diesel (on GM’s dime), and never had another problem. And for cold climates, a block heater made starting easy.

  9. Blair says:

    OH, I also am a jacket, and bibs guy, for 30 years now:)

  10. ambush says:

    A lot of the problems with newer diesels as well can be attributed to fuel quality/lack of fuel filter/separator maintenance. Modern diesel engines are higher performance, and subject to far stricter emissions standards than they used to be. The tolerances and design of the injectors are much less forgiving of water and dirt than older designs.

  11. David P says:

    Correct me if I am wrong but didn’t the CUCV and HMMWV use the 6.2 diesel? From what I know about GM diesels in military applications the 5.7 Olds diesel was never used in any truck, anywhere, military or not. BTW- the HMMWV has a real nice fuel filter/water separator and part of its daily maintenance is checking it.

  12. Turbobrick says:

    The Olds diesel had two problems: the water separator issue and weak TTY head bolts with holes that didn’t have threads going all the way down. The latter problem was aggravated by mechanics who were new to the whole “TTY” concept and would try to re-use head bolts that looked okay at first glance = the replaced headgasket would meet its demise very soon.

    I saw a Pontiac Parisienne Safari 5.7dx (wagon) on sale locally just recently and I had a really hard time walking away from that one…

  13. Toolaremia says:

    Hey Chuck, thanks for the kudos! I’m glad you found my kinda-off-topic post informative. 🙂

    BTW, it wasn’t a Chevy diesel, it was an Olds. At that time the beancounters hadn’t destroyed all the uniqueness of the different brands yet, so the Olds diesel was an Olds through-and-through. No Chevy in it.

    @Turbobrick: Yep, the TTY head bolts were a contributing factor. But had the fuel had a decent separator and filter (and both properly maintained), they never would have been touched. No doubt GM cost-cutting also meant no training for service personnel (and they probably didn’t trust GM anyway).

  14. paganwonder says:

    Thanks for your hard work at Toolmongers! I check this site daily and it’s my first resource when shopping for a tool. The comments from real tool users are worth a million gigs of comments from vendor sites.

  15. Fabian says:

    I love my VW TDI!

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