Please help! should I walk away from this vehicle?

Hi, I’m a single woman who is trying to buy a truck for an extended road trip down to Central America. Needless to say, i need a reliable car. I just brought in a Ford 450 6.0 liter diesel truck (2004) for pre purchase inspection. It’s owned by a volunteer fire dept who has all mantainance records and has presumably kept it inspected on a ridged schedule. The ford dealership said that there were several issues:

“Performed check over possible head gaskets required coolant leaking out degas bottle Oil pan seeping rear suspension air bag bases broken trans cooler lines rusty.” (I put the spaces in as it was one long line of words. )

Question: What is the likelihood that there are major engine issues here? The little internet searching I did indicated that leaks in coolant combined with gasket leaks can be a major problem over the entire engine.

help help!


“possible head gaskets required” = walk away.

Why such a huge, heavy vehicle? Why not something like a 4x4 Toyota Tacoma or 4Runner?

There may be, but in all honesty I’m always wary of dealership inspections. Their primary goal is to sell you a new truck, and they tend to write up anything that might not be perfect, and a list can be made on any vehicle that age. Their comments may not be meaningful. Especially when they include the word “possible” in the description of a “possible” problem.

To my mind it makes sense to spend an additional $100 to get it checked by an independent shop whose goal is not to sell you a new vehicle. The truck may be fine.

Thanks for the comments,

The reason I’m looking at this large truck… it’s actually an ambulance that I’m converting into a camper…. I"m doing a year long trip down the PanAmer Highway and I need 4x4 and diesel with livable space…. not something that’s easy to find!
Interesting about the thought on bringing to a dealership…

I like the way you’re thinking. You’ve defined your needs beautifully for the trip, including the diesel engine, which can operate fine on the less refined fuel that you may encounter. The military uses diesels for its war machinery because the quality of the fuel available when invading a third world country is not reliable, and diesels are far more tolerant of poor quality fuel.

I like to say that no vehicle can be looked at by a dealership, even for a lightbulb, without their listing at least $4,000 worth of work that “needs to be done”. And $3990 of it doesn’t need to be done at all (I’m assuming the bulb costs $10). This isn’t just theoretical, it’s decades worth of actual experience.

Sincere best.

Ambulances have hard lives. I wouldn’t want one as a personal vehicle. Additionally, they’re heavy as hell. That 4x4 might help you if you’re stuck in the snow, but I wouldn’t want to be jungle-trekking in one. The first mud you get to, you’ll sink in and have to be winched out, and the extra width will be a detriment on narrow tracks.

You might think about getting a 4runner and a camping trailer. Drop the trailer when you go off road.

Thanks everyone for your input. I’ll be walking away from this one!

i would run.

I’ve spent a good amount of time in the Peruvian backcountry, and everyone (I mean, everyone) drives a Toyota Hilux. They’re nigh-indestructible, and, if you do have a problem, you’ll be able to find parts and someone who knows how to wrench on them. So, given that the Hilux isn’t sold in the US, I’d get a Toyota Tacoma which is pretty much the same thing, and either get a trailer as @Shadowfax recommended or tent camp.

I also noticed loggers using old Mercedez-Benz Unimogs in the jungle. These things must have been military surplus from the 1960s, or something, but they are beasts. Portal gears on the wheels and snorkles for the exhaust and air intake. They’d climb over three-foot boulders in the middle of a four-foot river and keep trucking. Probably get terrible gas mileage, though.

Oh boy. I agree with the others. Before you go though read “River of Doubt”, the account of Teddy Rosevelt in his exploration and see if you still want to go. I would stay out of the water and not sleep on the ground.