The Right Way to Test Drive a Used Diesel Truck

Whether your goal is to tow, haul, or simply own a diesel-powered pickup truck, there are plenty of reasons to want to buy a used diesel pickup. After all, not many vehicles allow you to tow upwards of 20,000-pounds while also giving you the capability to do just about anything. But there are some things you should do before buying a used diesel truck, and one of those things includes taking the pickup out for a test drive. 

A red 2020 Chevrolet Silverado Diesel full-size pickup truck travels on a four-lane highway past pine trees and a snow-capped mountain
2020 Chevrolet Silverado Diesel | General Motors

Why you should test drive a used diesel truck before buying it

This one might seem like common sense, but not everyone has the time or patience to take a used diesel truck out for a test drive. But really? You should. In fact, Gauge Magazine reports that how the used diesel truck handles on the road is a good indicator if it is worth paying for or if you should skip that particular truck altogether and look elsewhere.

But what is the best way to test drive a diesel truck? Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as getting behind the wheel and taking the pickup of your choosing out for a spin. 

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First things first, try to start the used diesel truck

Now, this is an easy one. At this point, you should have the keys in hand and be comfortably seated behind the wheel of the pickup. Once you’ve got yourself all settled in, it’s time to try starting the truck. According to CarsDirect, if it’s cold out, the truck may struggle to start because diesel fuel is thicker than gas and is harder to move through the truck’s lines when it’s cold. CarsDirect suggests, then, that you try starting the truck from a cold start. “If it takes a long time, then there are problems with some of the glow plugs in the head. These can be replaced, but are expensive to do so,” CarsDirect explains.

But that’s not the only thing you should be paying attention to when test driving a used diesel pickup. When the truck is running, CarsDirect reports that you should see what color exhaust is coming from it. CarsDirect explains, “A light black color is good, but if it is too thick, or has a white color, then there is a problem within the engine. It could be that the fuel/air ratio is off, but it could be that the cylinders need to be bored or replaced.”

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Now it’s time to take the used diesel truck for a spin

You’ve managed to start the used diesel truck, have taken a gander at the exhaust fumes, and are ready to hit the road for a test drive. What comes next? Well, according to Gauge Magazine, if you’re test-driving a used diesel truck with a manual gearbox, you’re going to want to shift to a higher gear and accelerate while driving. Gauge Magazine reports that this will help you check the condition of the truck’s clutch. Diesel Power Gear also recommends a few hard stops to test out how well the used diesel truck’s brakes work.

But there’s more to a used diesel truck than its brakes and clutch. According to Diesel Army, “While driving it you’ll want to make sure it reaches operating temperature, the transmission does not slip or slam into gear, and of course make sure there are no unusual noises or vibrations.”

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Don’t forget to have the truck checked out by a mechanic

Yes, this one is inconvenient, and it will definitely cost you, but there are benefits to having a used diesel truck checked by a mechanic before you buy it. Not only will doing so help ensure that you’re buying a truck that’s in good condition, but it will also help you understand whether or not the truck is actually worth the price it’s being sold at. After all, no one wants to overpay for a used diesel truck.