9 New Diesel Trends
As with any automotive niche, a lot of trends come and go. Some you can live with; others you can definitely live without. The diesel world is not immune to such fads. Throughout its short history, the diesel movement has seen its fair share of cringe-worthy performance, cosmetic and childish blunders that—for whatever reason—caught on for a period of time. We have a list of nine of the worst diesel fads that have fortunately lost steam over the years.
But while we say good riddance to many dead and dying trends, it’s anything but a sign of a shrinking industry. In fact, the diesel world continues to grow in leaps and bounds, and for each fading trend there is a new fad taking hold. Case in point: Exhaust stack systems have given way to use of stacks as tips on conventional exit exhaust systems. The “go big or go home” frame of mind in turbocharger shopping has been replaced with correctly sized, drop-in replacement options that offer superb driveability. Custom, application-specific tuning has killed off the desire to stack electronic power-adders to make big horsepower, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. To find out what’s hot right now in the diesel realm, keep reading. If you’re new to the industry, you may be surprised. If you’ve been around a while, you’ve likely already noticed these new trends develop huge followings.
1. “Cali Lean”
As far as street-bound, show-type trucks are concerned, the Cali lean is definitely popular right now. It’s not always as in-your-face as the CenCal–style trucks many of us are familiar with, but a subtle rear-squat stance is the target objective nonetheless. It’s particularly common among the big wheel and tire crowd. The look is either accomplished by pulling the truck’s rear blocks completely, replacing the factory blocks with shorter versions or lifting the truck in a manner that raises the front end noticeably higher than the rear. Leveling kits are extremely popular in the diesel segment, too, but we’ve seen the Cali lean more and more frequently over the past three to five years. For some truck owners, their trucks were once lifted or leveled up front. On a recent walk through the Scheid Diesel Extravaganza’s massive show ’n’ shine, we spotted several ’11-and-newer F-350s that had been treated to a slight Cali lean by replacing the factory four-inch blocks with two-inch replacements from BDS Suspension.
2. Axle-Dump Exhaust Systems
This trend used to be popular, lost traction for a number of years, but now seems to be making a comeback: the axle-dump-style exhaust system. Instead of exiting in the traditional manner behind the passenger-side rear tire, these systems forgo the use of a conventional tailpipe section—with the piping abruptly ending after curving over the rear axle. They’re most prominent on the flashier, show-ready trucks, but we’ve seen our fair share of them aboard daily drivers, too. While MBRP doesn’t offer specific turn-down, axle-dump-style exhaust systems anymore, we’ve seen countless versions of its conventional exit systems be made to work in this fashion by enthusiasts (like what’s shown above).
3. Custom Tuning
Custom, application-specific tuning has all but completely killed off the need (and the desire) to ever stack boxes again. One of the biggest reasons for this is EFI Live. Available for ’01-’16 Duramax-powered GMs and ’06-’18 Cummins-equipped Rams, EFI Live software is used by countless aftermarket calibrators to build custom tuning files unique to each customer’s specific modifications and performance needs. Full control over vitals like injection timing, duration, rail pressure and map tables allow the tuner to develop calibrations that not only provide maximum performance potential but keep the engine out of the danger zone while doing it.
4. Stacks as Tips
Gigantic-diameter exhaust tips may be out of style in the diesel segment, but enthusiasts are anything but done adding a unique final touch to their exhaust systems. When a 12- or 18-inch-long exhaust tip just isn’t enough, this is what you get. Instead of having the equivalent of a 10-inch round, galvanized pail hanging off the tail section of the exhaust system, many enthusiasts are now opting to use stacks as exhaust tips. While the outer diameter is a subtler six, seven or eight inches, most pickup-truck-intended stacks measure 36 inches in length.
5. Ghetto Fogging
At virtually any diesel event with a chassis dyno present, you’re bound to see truck owners adding to their truck’s fuel-only horsepower numbers with a little (or a lot of) nitrous oxide. During dyno competitions, ghetto fogging—where a bottle of nitrous is cracked open and sprayed directly into the turbocharger—has become insanely popular. While it’s fun to add several hundred horsepower to the equation, this edgy trend can be a bit dicey. If the timing isn’t right, considerable damage can be done. Spray too soon (such as at low boost) and you risk experiencing a nitrous backfire, a blown head gasket and other internal engine damage. Spray too long and you can experience all of the above a second time. Play at your own risk!
6. Diesel Fuel Additive
This one has been brewing for a number of years and is now an automatic addition when tens of thousands of diesel owners fill their tanks. A well-rounded additive provides a bump in pump diesel’s cetane rating, improves its lubricity, removes internal deposits and carbon buildup within the injectors and also helps balance out the inconsistent (and sometimes even poor) fuel quality we get at the pump. Thanks to performing all these functions—on top of offering a multitude of additional benefits, such as preventing the formation of algae, dispersing water and reducing emissions—Diesel Power Products’s F-Bomb formula is one of the best-selling additives on the diesel market.
7. Affordable, Drop-In Performance VGTs
Turbo builders have been experimenting with upgraded variable-geometry chargers for more than 10 years, but now several companies have it down to a science. A larger, more efficient compressor wheel, optimized turbine wheel and upgraded thrust bearing is par for the course in this segment. This means you can take your VGT-equipped truck (i.e. ’03-present Ford, ’04.5-and-newer GM or ’07.5-’18 Ram) to the next level without sacrificing low-rpm response, long-term reliability or producing excessive EGT. Let’s face it: drop-in replacement parts are always cheaper than reinventing the wheel, so it stands to reason why direct, bolt-in turbo swaps are so popular. According to Diesel Power Products, a major online retailer in the diesel game, some of its best-selling, drop-in replacement VGTs are the Stealth 64 VVT from Duramax Tuner (’04.5-’10 GMs), the Fleece Performance Engineering Holset VGT Cheetah (’07.5-’12 6.7L Cummins) and BD Diesel’s Screamer Stage 2 (’03-’07 6.0L Power Stroke).
8. Extra Capacity, Mid-Ship Replacement Fuel Tanks
We don’t know what the deal is with OEMs offering tiny fuel tanks on heavy-duty ¾- and 1-ton trucks, but it’s nowhere near enough fuel capacity for vehicles that can tow in excess of 15,000 pounds. One of the biggest complaints among late-model diesel owners is the lack of driving range from the factory. For example, even though a ’13 Ram 3500 dually can tow 30,000 pounds when properly equipped, once it’s sitting at its 37,600-pound GCWR and is barely getting 8 mpg, you’re stopping every 200 miles to refuel. In instances like this, Titan Fuel Tanks has become an extremely welcome lifeline. Its mid-ship replacement (and even its in-bed auxiliary tanks) offers far more capacity, along with military-grade, cross-linked polyethylene construction. In most cases, the Titan variant doubles the factory fuel capacity—and bolts directly in place of the stock tank.
9. Stretched Tires
We know this is a big no-no for tire manufacturers, but despite its inherent safety hazards, diesel enthusiasts are dead set on sporting the stretched-tire look. Making a tire that’s rated for a maximum rim width of 12 inches work on a 14-inch wheel is especially common in the diesel truck segment right now. With newer, wider wheels becoming available all the time (24x16 and even 26x16), stretched fitments are only becoming more pronounced. While stretched-tire fitments definitely draw attention to the massive wheels they’re mounted on, it places extreme stress on the tire’s sidewall and bead, not to mention the fact that it leads to premature tread wear and poor handling characteristics.