Racing Your Diesel Truck

Dec 2, 2009

The world of racing is expanding. It’s no longer just the souped-up sports cars, tricked-out Hondas, and Italian-made speedsters. It’s taking the diesel truck industry by storm. Back in the good old days of farming, fishing, and foraging, diesel trucks were known for power, but not speed. Diesel truck drivers are now harnessing that power and making their trucks run a 10 second quarter mile. Ten seconds!

Don’t think you can go to your local diesel truck dealer, pick a good looking truck, take it to the drag strips and pull off any time worth gloating about. These trucks are decked out with a carefully planned performance arsenal. From how high or low the truck is, down to the types of tires they mount, everything has to be perfect. There are three major categories that deem attention when you decide to fix up your truck to compete at the drags.

Category 1: Fuel

An essential thing to update on your diesel truck is your fuel supply and pressure. This will ensure that your engine is properly lubricated and can act as a coolant for the entire fuel system. If your fuel pressure drops, heat and loss of power can occur, causing wear and damage to the injectors and the engine as a whole.

After securing your fuel pressure you need then to install a good filtration system. It will remove all air from the fuel system. Because air burns significantly hotter than liquid, you want a solid stream of pure fuel. As you all know, heat and your engine do not play well together.

To make certain your engine is running at peak performance, use a fuel additive. They add a cetane level, comparable to adding an octane level to gasoline. Additives can stabilize your fuel by attaching to water molecules and make them combustible. They also help prevent gelling and hard starts, protect against ULSD by bringing the lubricity levels back to your fuel, and lower your emissions. New and old diesel trucks should both use a fuel additive when racing.

The last point about fuels is your injectors. These are fundamental in making your power. To get more power, try using bigger injectors to get enough fuel to pull off nice times on the drag. Always be sure to use the proper size for your application.

Category 2: Drivetrain

Most diesel trucks in the market today come stock with four-wheel drive; this is perfect for racing. However, a few modifications need to be done to prevent parts from breaking and to get you the highest performance possible.

Start with the weakest links like the torque converter and, if manual, the clutch. In order to get the most amount of power to the transmission, upgrade the clutch and components and replace the torque converter with one that can hold a higher amount of torque. The more efficient these work, the more power to the wheels and, in turn, to the road.

Then, trade out the stock components to prevent failure and costly repairs. Install a limited slip or locker to the rear differential to ensure both rear tires are not wasting any traction when you launch out of the hole. For a four-wheel drive launch, you may want to install tie rod sleeves, tie rod ends, and an idler and pitman arm braces to the front end suspension.

Installing track/ladder bars will prevent tire hop and help stiffen your suspension to transfer power more equally to each tire. The very last thing you want is for one of these stock parts to break, sending you careening out of control into the side wall at maximum acceleration.

Category 3: Traction

A nice 6″ to 8″ lift will definitely make your truck look fierce, but in a drag race, you want your truck with either a drop or leave it stock. A lower, softer suspension will help transfer the truck’s weight back, and allow ultimate traction, even in four-wheel drive.

Suspension helps your traction, but your tires are where the race is won. Just like sanding down and lubing up your pine wood derby car’s tires when you were a kid, tires are not to be overlooked. Typically a taller tire in diameter will have a higher top speed. However, make sure the tire size conforms to your gear ratio and track conditions.

The more soft and sticky your racing tires are the better. They need to grip the road to give you the ultimate acceleration. The width of the tire is important as well. For the most part, wider is better to a point. The wider the tire, the better it will grip the road, but too wide a tire will cause friction and unwanted drag.

Be aware of your tires’ weight, considering it’s rotating mass. Obviously, lighter is better to not weigh down your acceleration and waste power on simply turning a heavy wheel.