Isuzu 3.9L Diesel Conversion?

Isuzu 3.9L Diesel Conversion?

Postby TaxiVan [OP] » April 24th 2012, 10:46am

Hi all... Have been watching the price of gasoline steadily climb locally... and given the inconsistency of my van's behavior with the mileage it is supposed to have (differentials, injection spiders, and catalytic converters do not typically go bad before 150,000 miles), I have been considering a diesel conversion. I do not know if the annoying skip my van has is electrical or mechanical issues, but I think given the rising cost of gasoline, I am done spending money trying to find out.

Honestly, with the indications that the van may have twice the mileage the odometer would have you believe, I am starting to think I may have slop in the distributor gear, timing chain, or perhaps even a wiped camshaft lobe, it seems to skip every other stroke, possibly indicating an exhaust valve not allowing the engine to fully purge itself. I am therefore looking for a vehicle to take its place so real work can be done on the van.

My van still looks great for the most part, the interior is quite nice for a '98, and the body isn't perfect, but it still looks good. Well worth fixing, and too nice to part out, not to mention AWDs are very hard to find these days. My thoughts are to completely disassemble the undercarriage components of the van, and when it goes back together, everything underneath would be new or rebuilt, for a long-lasting vehicle. Since a remanufactured 4.3L V-6, 4L60E trans, and transfer case alone would cost over $3,500, I am thinking a diesel conversion could be worthwhile.

I have run across a company that makes a nice adapter kit to put a 3.9L 4-cylinder Isuzu diesel (NPR box truck engine) in any vehicle with common GM or Ford transmissions. Of course, a standalone controller is required for transmissions with electronic control.

I have a perfectly good 6.2L V-8 Detroit Diesel, 1982 model with 38,000 actual miles. But I am not sure I want a V-8 diesel in this van, it is difficult enough to service and repair with a gas V-6, and I want the end result to be a reliable and efficient conversion that can be driven every day in the real world. I thought the 3.9L Isuzu 4-banger would be a good alternative.

My main concern is my '98's factory 4L60E transmission. The controller (factory or stand-alone) needs a throttle position sensor input for the control electronics, and being fully mechanical pre-1995 and coming from a commercial truck, I doubt the Isuzu diesel has one, if it does, it is only possible (not likely) that its sensor uses the same voltage ranges, and I am not sure it is possible to fit it with one that will work. Therefore, I have done a bit of research that indicates the 700-R4, being the 4L60E's predecessor, is very similar, but perhaps not quite as strong. However, 700-R4s have been successfully used in street/strip race cars for years now, and if the innards can be upgraded to compensate for the extra torque, I think this is doable.

Any thoughts?
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Re: Isuzu 3.9L Diesel Conversion?

Postby chevymaher » April 24th 2012, 12:00pm

They used 700R4's with alot of potent engines in heavy trucks. Personally I think they are a good transmission. Everybody says the electronic is the way to go. But nobody knows how to do it, or what you need. It is a scavenger hunt. If it cost me time and is a pain it ain't so great to me. Plus it cost lots of unneeded money to buy computer parts to make them work.

I found a site somewhere and read up on the transmissions. They said other than year case changes in the tail shaft bolt pattern. The 700R4 and the 4L60 And 4L60E's were internally the same.
Valve bodies were all that were different.

Personally I think they are the answer to computer issues. Camaro's had them for years. I have never seen them have the goofy issues the computer operated ones do. Just set it and forget it. It shifts right forever.

I have not completely figured out the interchangeability of parts yet. But just like the V-6's I will soon. I about to have to go there. I working on it.

Okay another country heard from. I will go sit in my corner now. :dunce:
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Re: Isuzu 3.9L Diesel Conversion?

Postby paintdrying » April 24th 2012, 1:30pm

Sounds like a fun project. Being that you are looking for a reliable vehicle for work, stay as original as possible. Whenever something is changed from factory to custom you are going to have a lot of fiddling to do. I would just go and buy a different vehicle.
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Re: Isuzu 3.9L Diesel Conversion?

Postby Wagon Master » April 24th 2012, 3:59pm

I'd be interested in doing the same conversion. Where did you find sources?

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Re: Isuzu 3.9L Diesel Conversion?

Postby Jasen » April 24th 2012, 4:15pm

Have you checked he dimensions, 4 bangers tend to be taller.


Heres a conversion underway.

http://www.astrosafari.com/viewtopic.php?f=127&t=9631&p=140946&hilit=diesel+conversion#p140946
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Re: Isuzu 3.9L Diesel Conversion?

Postby TaxiVan [OP] » April 25th 2012, 3:42am

Jasen wrote:Have you checked he dimensions, 4 bangers tend to be taller.


I've been looking for measurements on the 3.9L Isuzu and can't find them, however, the Cummins 4BT (also a 3.9L 4-cyl) appears to have dimensions, weight, and power output similar to the 4.3 V-6.

Wagon Master wrote:I'd be interested in doing the same conversion. Where did you find sources?

Thanks


http://www.isuzudieselswapper.com/ has adapter kits to bolt this engine to most common GM and Ford transmissions. These engines are completely mechanical pre-1995, so they are a good candidate for diesel conversion, but electronic control is an issue on the '94-up electronic-controlled 4L60Es and the like.
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Re: Isuzu 3.9L Diesel Conversion?

Postby Jasen » April 25th 2012, 4:12am

At the bottom of the page is a PDF link showing the exterior dimensions.
Just to point out, dry weight of the 4BDG1T is around 850 lbs.

http://www.isuzu.co.jp/world/product/industrial/b_spe01.html

I used to drive a 22' flat bed with one of these motors, the thing was a rocket for a medium duty truck and would blow the doors off a chevy 455 Kodiak.
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Re: Isuzu 3.9L Diesel Conversion?

Postby TaxiVan [OP] » April 25th 2012, 5:36am

Interesting... that page shows the displacement as 4.3L, not the 3.9L I thought it was...
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Re: Isuzu 3.9L Diesel Conversion?

Postby Jasen » April 25th 2012, 6:48am

I didn't notice that. As it turns out that's the 4BG1 which is probably the latest incarnation of the old 4BD1. I just looked at the marine engines too, they make a 3.0 and the 4.3. The marine 3.0 is 101 kw=135 hp vs the auto 4.3 83kw=111hp :confused: But seeing you'd be getting a used motor it's a mute point, unless your wealthy enough to afford a diesel crate motor, but you might look into the older marine 3.9's to see if they have more power as well.
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Re: Isuzu 3.9L Diesel Conversion?

Postby LumpyLumpy is online! » April 25th 2012, 3:53pm

Preface with I don't know anything about dlesels...

I would rethink or ditch the thought process component that includes "Because the price of gas has gone up recently". Dielsel is more expensive than gasoline. The thousands you'll spend on the new motor changeover plus the increased fuel cost will not begin to relieve the cost of gasoline unless you're getting triple the MPGs or something.

It might be a fun project. I just wouldn't do it JUST because gas was high.


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Re: Isuzu 3.9L Diesel Conversion?

Postby Jasen » April 25th 2012, 5:08pm

First off, diesel is spelled diesel :mrgreen: and was invented by this man Image
Rudolf Diesel
There is a substantial increase in MPG that could approach double, so if gas in $4.19 and diesel $5.05 your ahead. Theres less maintenance, no plugs, $50 caps $90 wires, theres less electronic gizmos and sensors to cause problems. As far as longevity, I think the 4.3 is close inline with the 4BD1T being 250-300k mile engines. Gas is going to continue to go up in price and you can't make it in your back yard like bio diesel or a couple other emerging alt. fuel sources. I wasn't looking at prices last night, but I ran across a few either side of $3k so that's not horrible.

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Re: Isuzu 3.9L Diesel Conversion?

Postby LumpyLumpy is online! » April 26th 2012, 12:15am

Jasen wrote:First off, diesel is spelled diesel...

There is a substantial increase in MPG that could approach double, so if gas in $4.19 and diesel $5.05 your ahead. Theres less maintenance, no plugs, $50 caps $90 wires, theres less electronic gizmos and sensors to cause problems...



When I said I didn't know anything about dielsleselel that included spellun... :doh:

OK on the less maintenance. I'm just saying I'd make a lot of serious calculations about costs before spending a few K on a diesel if it were solely for MPG reasons.

I've never seen a double MPG figure quoted in any kind of estimate nor ever heard anyone describe such a gain. $5 fuel vs $4 fuel is a 25% increase in cost. If you really did get double the mileage, then I guess that might begin to approach unity. But we haven't paid for the engine yet.


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Re: Isuzu 3.9L Diesel Conversion?

Postby Jasen » April 26th 2012, 12:32am

I've read some write ups about people doing medium duty truck diesel swaps into P/U's SUV's and claiming as much as doubling MPG over the OE gasser's, taking a grain of salt with that is why I say approaching double ;)
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Re: Isuzu 3.9L Diesel Conversion?

Postby TaxiVan [OP] » May 2nd 2012, 1:07am

Lumpy wrote:Preface with I don't know anything about dlesels...

I would rethink or ditch the thought process component that includes "Because the price of gas has gone up recently". Diesel is more expensive than gasoline. The thousands you'll spend on the new motor changeover plus the increased fuel cost will not begin to relieve the cost of gasoline unless you're getting triple the MPGs or something.

It might be a fun project. I just wouldn't do it JUST because gas was high.


Jasen wrote:First off, diesel is spelled diesel...

There is a substantial increase in MPG that could approach double, so if gas in $4.19 and diesel $5.05 your ahead. Theres less maintenance, no plugs, $50 caps $90 wires, theres less electronic gizmos and sensors to cause problems...



Lumpy wrote:OK on the less maintenance. I'm just saying I'd make a lot of serious calculations about costs before spending a few K on a diesel if it were solely for MPG reasons.

I've never seen a double MPG figure quoted in any kind of estimate nor ever heard anyone describe such a gain. $5 fuel vs $4 fuel is a 25% increase in cost. If you really did get double the mileage, then I guess that might begin to approach unity. But we haven't paid for the engine yet.


Lumpy's input is logical, however, Jasen is correct here, except that diesel costs about the same as gasoline, give or take $0.10, at least in my area. My research indicates that the engine I have in mind could approach 24-32 mpg, if the vehicle is set up accordingly. Compare that with the 12-14 I am averaging now (17-18 on the highway on a good day). The other thing to consider is that I drive over 35,000 miles every year. Taking this into consideration....

35,000 divided by 17 mpg = 2,058.82 gallons. 2,058.82 x $4.00 per gallon = $8,235.29 per year in fuel cost.

35,000 divided by 32 mpg = 1,093.75 gallons. 1,093.75 x $4.00 per gallon = $4,375.00 per year in fuel cost.

So I would save enough in fuel alone to pay for the conversion in about two years. I also no longer have to worry about a sensor going crazy and bringing the engine down in the middle of nowhere. In addition, I will save about $400 a year on tune-up, not to mention if I can do the conversion with a rebuilt engine for under $8,000, the van will last ten years. 10 years x $3,860.29 a year = $38,602.90. What I'm looking at here, is the following:

Rear differential needs major work
Engine/Trans are questionable due to unknown mileage
Spider fuel-injection unreliable in my experience
Front steering/suspension needs work
Rear suspension needs work

Looking around for a replacement, prices on newer vans similar to mine are Astro-nomical (yuk-yuk). A 2002 AWD Astro on eBay Motors is a Buy-It-Now $9,995. A 2005 is 10,980. A 2005 RWD is $8,900. Yes, they can be had for less if you look in the right place, but let's face it, folks, these things are getting hard to find, and I really think mine is worth spending the money. The body is still in good shape with no rust that I know of, the interior is nice save for a few stains in the carpet, and I really like the way it drives. Everything that would have to be removed for the conversion I have in mind is in need of repair or replacement anyway, and if I can get double the fuel economy for about the same money it would cost to replace the van, I think I'd be money ahead. Fortunately, I am in a locality that does not do or require smog testing, and I think local state inspectors would not give me a problem as long as it still has a catalytic convertor.

I also have had problems with reliability and driveability in wet weather that no one can figure out, and I would rather repower the van with something different than get rid of it. My plan is to buy a reasonably-priced 4WD SUV to take the van's place while it is down for the conversion, then once the van is back on the road, have the SUV converted as well, for it will likely have the same problems by then.

I spoke with a mechanic that is experienced in diesels, and he is confident it can be done, and is willing to do the work. He seems to have the same line of thinking I have, that if a replacement gasoline-powered van is going to cost $5,000-$10,000, I am probably better off to slap a diesel in the one I have.

As to engine dimensions being different... here is a pair of comparison photos from a similar swap done on a newer Silverado pickup originally equipped with a 4.3L Vortec. The link to the conversion follows.

Comparo.JPG


Note the engine fits into the bay quite nicely, and seems to be about the same size...

http://www.isuzudieselswapper.com/photo.html
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Re: Isuzu 3.9L Diesel Conversion?

Postby paintdrying » May 2nd 2012, 1:14am

hey now in color
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Re: Isuzu 3.9L Diesel Conversion?

Postby TaxiVan [OP] » May 2nd 2012, 2:07pm

paintdrying wrote:hey now in color


Say what? :confused:
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Re: Isuzu 3.9L Diesel Conversion?

Postby windowlesswonder » May 16th 2012, 6:49pm

I have heard of the 3.9 and 4.3 being rather interchangeable in most of the box-like vans. In most cases too not only are you cutting your gas totals for the year by 30-50% but you have a nice working silverado part that is worth a nice chunk of change as well...
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Re: Isuzu 3.9L Diesel Conversion?

Postby donsafariguy » June 12th 2012, 3:18am

diesels 40 to 70 cents higher everywhere ive been just not with it
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Re: Isuzu 3.9L Diesel Conversion?

Postby TaxiVan [OP] » June 23rd 2012, 9:35pm

donsafariguy wrote:diesels 40 to 70 cents higher everywhere ive been just not with it


Can't just look at the higher price... I've been getting 12 mpg city... good chance that the diesel would get twice that... 6.2 V8s (likely the engine I will use now) are capable of well into the high 20s to low 30s...
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Re: Isuzu 3.9L Diesel Conversion?

Postby kevreif » November 4th 2012, 8:58pm

a few years back i put an Iveco 3.9 liter into a 92 astro. i had to make a 4" body lift kit on the van. that engine was a few inches higher then the 4.3 v6 gas.

also i ended up having to cut a hole in the dog house to put a U on the air intake. i think the 4BTs have the intake on the other side, and I don't know about the Isuzu diesel. just watch that turbo can get in the way of things.

i am thinking of doing another diesel swap and i think the isuzu diesel will be a good fit, as it works in GM trucks it seems that parts interchangeability is much more likely...

i am in central pa, idk where you guys are but if i can be of any help let me know!

best of luck!

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It is currently October 31st 2014, 6:01pm

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