The average heavy-duty truck engine can last up to 750,000. At an average of 45,000 miles per year, that is a pretty long life. But what do you do when your aging truck is approaching the end of the line? There is a pretty intense debate in trucker communities about whether it is more cost-effective to rebuild or trade-in. Let’s take a look.
The average Cummins ISX in-frame rebuild costs around $11,000 for parts and labor. Due to the dual-cam design, there is a lot of labor involved in dismantling the front of the motor and performing the rebuild. The most common failure is the head, which is a $4,000 part with an additional $1,500 in hardware kit parts. And this is just in parts. The job also takes 40-50 hours in labor.
- Cummins ISX In Frame Cost
- What is an In-Frame Motor Rebuild?
- Cummins X-Series
- How Much Does a New Cummins ISX Cost?
- Overhaul Your Cummins Engine with Genuine Cummins Repairs
- How Much do Truck Drivers Spend on Maintenance
- Is a Warranty Worth It
- What Other Expenses do Commercial Truck Drivers Have?
- Should You Work with a Certified Repair Shop?
- Financing an In-Frame Engine Overhaul
- The Bottom Line
Cummins ISX In Frame Cost
Any owner-operator knows that getting the most miles out of your truck is the bottom line of making money as a truck driver. If you run a well-maintained Cummins ISX, you can extend the miles on your truck with a modest investment with an in-frame rebuild.
What is an In-Frame Motor Rebuild?
An in-frame motor rebuild can prolong the life of your truck. But not every motor is a good candidate for an in-frame rebuild. Generally speaking, if the motor has always been well-maintained with oil changes and has maintained good oil pressure, then an in-frame rebuild can add many more useful miles by providing a refresh of components that tend to break down and blow motors.
The alternative, used more commonly for motors that have more extensive wear, is an out-of-frame rebuild where the motor is pulled, rebuilt, and replaced. Rebuilding a motor is an expensive endeavor, and an in-frame rebuild aims to ease the burden of cost by offering a cheaper alternative.
The Cummins X-series is a straight 6 diesel engine used in heavy-duty trucks and motorcoaches. The ISX is also sometimes called the signature series engine. This engine came out to replace older, obsolete models in response to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) 2001 emissions regulations.
Cummins diesel engines produced prior to 2010 featured a dual overhead cam design with a high-pressure injection system. Early innovations between 2002 and 2010 were geared towards improving exhaust recirculation and filtering particles out of the diesel soot. Since 2010, these innovations have become standard features on newer models.
ISX12: Diesel engine produced between 2010 – 2020. The manufacturer began phasing this model out in 2018, with the final production year in 2020.
X12: Diesel engine produced 2018 – Present as a replacement for the ISX12.
ISX12G: Natural gas version of the 11.9L motor produced between 2013 – 2017.
ISX12N: Natural gas version built off of the X12 block to replace the ISX12G.
ISX15: 14.9L diesel engine produced between 2010 – 2020. Cummins began phasing this motor out in 2016, with production ending in 2020.
X15: 14.9L diesel engine replacement for the now discontinued ISX15, produced from 2016 to the present.
The focus of any carbon-based motor is emissions control as fossil fuels compete with renewable energy sources for the future of our transportation industry.
The Cummins ISX offers versatility as a dual fuel motor, meaning that it can operate properly using either natural gas or diesel fuel.
While the biggest advantage to using natural gas is lower NOx emissions, modern engine designs have achieved emissions 90% less than current EPA standards.
How Much Does a New Cummins ISX Cost?
If you are opting to pull and replace your Cummins ISX, you may be limited to a rebuilt model only. Retrofitting an older truck with a newer Cummins ISX is a little more work. But there are some situations where overhauling the existing engine isn’t feasible.
The average cost of a rebuilt Cummins ISX diesel engine is $11,250 before labor or parts kits. By comparison, a Cummins ISX in-frame kit is about $3,189.
Overhaul Your Cummins Engine with Genuine Cummins Repairs
Cummins engines are well-known around the world for offering best-in-class power and performance to power the trucking industry. For trucks with upwards of 500,000 miles on the engine, maintenance prices start to climb into the multiple tens of thousands per year.
Cummins is committed to keeping its engines on the road longer, and they offer OEM overhaul kits designed to get the job done.
Signs Your Engine Needs an Overhaul
Every engine is influenced by individual factors. How they have been driven and maintained, as well the terrain of the typical route, all factor into the useful life of an engine. A short-haul trucker who runs through the mountains on a continuous loop will work the engine harder than a long-haul trucker who drives a variety of routes through different types of geography.
Starting around 500,000 miles, start to pay more attention to changes and maintenance with your engine. Early intervention can save you thousands. Engines around 750,000 miles start to creep into the high-mileage category and start to become candidates for an overhaul. While some notable exceptions have passed the one million mile mark without work.
If you begin to notice fuel dilution, where your motor is mixing gas and oil, the engine is beginning to wear down. New or excessive engine noises like pinging and rough starting are another indicator of a motor that is wearing down.
Cummins Overhaul Kit Options
Cummins offers three different levels of overhaul kits designed to meet a variety of budget and use needs. A classic kit is the most economical option and is designed to keep your engine running.
These kits include pistons, rings, cylinder liners, main bearings, upper engine gasket set, piston cooling nozzles, connecting rod bearings, oil pan gasket, fuel and lube filters, and coolant thermostat, turbo studs, locknuts, and an oil bypass valve. A classic kit costs $2,595 from Cummins. Or about $812 – $1500 from aftermarket vendors.
A Pro kit is a mid-range option designed to extend the useful life of your engine. In addition to all of the components of the classic kit, the pro kit includes a cylinder head, lube oil pump, water pump, fuel pump, roller, barrel, and plunger.
A Pro kit costs about $5,995 from Cummins. The Elite kit is the highest-priced option, but it is also designed for longevity. This kit adds fuel connectors, fuel injectors, and connecting rods to the pro kit. The Elite kit costs about $7,995.
How Much do Truck Drivers Spend on Maintenance
The average annual cost of operating a commercial truck can reach well into the six figures. With the cost of diesel fuel at sky-high prices, driver salaries struggling to keep up with the cost of living, and significant expenses for maintenance and insurance, the costs continue to rise.
The average cost of maintenance on a commercial truck is $15,000 to maintain airlines/hoses, brakes, alternators, motors, transmissions, and wiring. And when a big expense hits, aging trucks can see three times that amount in annual maintenance costs.
Is a Warranty Worth It
With the high price of keeping a commercial truck on the road, you may be wondering if extended warranty coverage is worthwhile. An out-of-frame overhaul or rebuilt engine will come with a price tag between $30,000 – $40,000, while the average in-frame overhaul tops $11,000. For most owner-operators, warranty coverage is a no-brainer investment.
However, for every proponent of extended warranty coverage, there is a horror story about someone who was denied coverage when it came time to use the warranty. In most cases, you need to keep pretty meticulous service records in order to have any teeth to bite back when your warranty coverage is denied.
However, as long as you are working within the defined parameters of the warranty (i.e., no excluded modifications and documented regular service), there should not be an issue.
What Other Expenses do Commercial Truck Drivers Have?
The true cost of operating a commercial truck is much higher than you might think. The trucking industry estimates that the average cost is $1.38 per mile or up to $180,000 per year. On the top of the list of expenses is the cost of diesel fuel. With the current national average at $3.17 per gallon, these trucks use an average of 70,000 gallons per year. That is a gas bill that reaches almost a quarter-million dollars. Of course, not all truckers put that number of miles in, but when taking averages into consideration, it is quite a lot.
The next highest expense is the salary collected by the truck driver. This is the money that he or she puts in their pocket in exchange for their time and services to drive the truck. The average trucker makes between $42,000 – $55,000 annually.
The cost of repairs and maintenance is nothing to overlook either, with the average truck requiring $15,000 in maintenance annually. Insurance costs can be around $6,500 annually. And tire expenses can top $4,000 annually. Permits and licenses add another $3,600, and the cost of taking showers or grabbing a cup of coffee at the truck stop is another $600 – $1500 per year.
The bottom line on trucking industry prices is that there is a lot that goes into moving freight by trucking. All of this contributes to increased shipping costs and a heavier burden on suppliers to meet the rising costs.
Should You Work with a Certified Repair Shop?
The price tag of an in-frame engine overhaul can vary widely. Certified engine overhauls cost between $20,000 – $40,000, including parts and labor. A Cummins certified repair shop will cost more than a non-certified shop and are necessary for continued warranty coverage.
But that doesn’t mean that a non-certified shop will perform shoddy workmanship. Many times a non-certified shop still employs quality mechanics that can do the job for a fraction of the price.
Before you go one route or the other, it is a good idea to understand the pros and cons of each. Certified shops keep your warranty intact and add resale value to your engine and truck. With certified repair, it is easy to verify the work.
However, with non-certified shops, you may be able to skip an expensive tow and save some money on the repair. If your truck isn’t currently under a warranty that dictates where the work is to be performed, it may be a good option.
Financing an In-Frame Engine Overhaul
If this is your first overhaul, you may need a quick primer on where to find financing. Your regular bank or credit union is not likely to understand the value of spending $20,000 to overhaul an engine with a million miles on it. However, there are several companies that specialize in exactly this type of financing. A quick internet search can help you get a list started.
When choosing a lender, make sure you understand the relationship of what product is being offered. Some parties are simply brokers who negotiate deals between drivers and banks. Some parties represent direct lenders.
And some parties belong to a finance company. This is not to say that one model is better than another, but you should understand who is involved and how they are profiting from lending you the money. This information will help you avoid predatory lending schemes or unsavory loan terms.
The Bottom Line
Many truckers eventually face the question of whether or not it is worth investing in an in-frame overhaul. The cost of an overhaul depends on who is performing the work, what parts are used, and the extent of the overhaul.
With parts costing up to $11,000, the total cost of a Cummins ISX In Frame from a certified repair dealer can range between $20,000 – $40,000. With similar prices for a rebuilt engine or out-of-frame overhaul, it can be confusing to choose the best option to prolong the life of your truck.