Small Fleet Champ Larry Limp and team take do-it-yourself maintenance to new levels

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Overdrive's 2023 Small Fleet Champ in the 11-30-truck division, LNL Trucking owner Larry Limp, this year put LNL maintenance ingenuity to work after the Cummins ISX in one of his 2015 Peterbilt 579s failed, as he describes in this video. The truck had about 990,000 miles on it when it "dumped coolant into the oil pan," Limp said. Just why? Limp wasn't sure during a visit to LNL headquarters in Bedford, Indiana, in late March. Diagnosis would "be a post-mortem," he said, "when we get it apart. We'll see what we can learn."

That's right, Limp and company maintenance head Wes Johnson and others among the crew planned to go ahead and overhaul the ISX, the first such model of Cummins engine Limp's had a hand in rebuilding. Again, a learning opportunity, he stressed, with lessons sure to be put to good use in the future. The 2015 Pete's engine is not the only ISX LNL owns by a long shot.

Taking trucking's independent owners' do-it-yourself ethic to new practical heights, Limp and his brother designed and built the gantry crane featured in the video in the run-up to removing the ISX from the Pete in pursuit of "another engine of a million miles. ... I don't like to farm anything out if I don't have to," Limp said. "I can control the expense a whole lot better if it's in-house."

LNL Trucking's shop-built craneLimp and his brother, Joe (an experienced fabricator to say the least) got each side of the crane to within 1/16th of an inch in height to match, working with little more than chalk lines on the floor to map out the frame. Catch more views of the pieces of the puzzle in the video.

[Related: Leave trucking better than you found it]

Limp details the materials used to build it in the video up top, including plenty in the way of scrap steel for the framing: 

  • 4-inch pipe makes the uprights.
  • Angle welded together to form a box along the base
  • H-beam at the top, with the trolley and chain hoist purchased and ordered

It's 10 and a half feet high by 12 feet wide -- about 11'6" inside the uprights -- big enough to position above the truck's cab to pull the engine, which the team did just a week after Overdrive's visit to LNL's shop in March. 


ISX motor out of 2015 Peterbilt on jack stands"No injuries!" Limp wrote along with this picture of the engine after the team spent 45 minutes hoisting it and repositioning on jack stands in the shop. A success all around.

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Limp had suspected a failure inside the head, prior to taking the motor apart "by the book, I guess you'd say," as he put it. Yet it turned out "the head gasket was pristine. No coolant in any head bolt holes. No pits in any liners." Though he's "been told I might be out in tall grass here ... I think it was a turbocharger failure."

Jury's still out -- LNL will exchange the current turbo in finishing up the process of repowering the truck with the overhauled ISX. The "aftermarket rebuilder will totally disassemble it and go back to bare bones on that turbo. I think we may learn more at that time. 

"The true cause is still somewhat unknown." 

The last time LNL needed to pull an engine, they hired a local wrecker operator they trusted -- "$200 out, $200 in," Limp said -- who's no longer in business. "We've got about $1,000 in scrap steel" and parts for the gantry crane build, he said. That might sound like they're $600 and no small amount of time spent in the hole, yet it is 100% certain to see future use.

"It's put together well enough it'll be something to put in the will" to specify just "who's going to get it," Limp laughed. 

The tanker fleet's owner's drive is emblematic of perennially contenders' in Overdrive's annual Small Fleet Championship competition, sponsored by the National Association of Small Trucking Companies. I can’t is not in Limp's vocabulary, he said, when it comes to obstacles. For trucking success, “adapt and overcome” are certainly words to live by.

Enter your small fleet (3-30 trucks) in the 2024 Overdrive Small Fleet Championship. Finalists will square off in November in Nashville, Tennessee, at the NASTC conference.


Larry Limp: I don't like to farm anything out. If I don't have to, I can control the expense a whole lot better if it's in-house. Well, we built it for pulling engines. We've got one that needs overhauled and we've never overhauled an ISX engine, so we want to pull it out so we can see it, check what we've got, inspect so that when we put it back together, we're looking at another engine of a million miles. The uprights are a four inch schedule 40 pipe that we procured at a local scrap yard. The angle also came from the scrap yard that we made our own base as we weld, cut and welded angle together to make our box. Then it's got seven inch H beam at the top. It's half inch flange, half inch web. Then the trolley and chain hoist. Those were items from Amazon. Got almost as much in that as we've got in the scrap to get our pipes to fit upright, to make our, A's. We used a chalk line, drew our template, if you will, on the floor with chalk lines for fitment and I think there's a 16th of an inch difference in height from side to side. I mean they're almost just as close as you can get to. Perfect with a chalk line and a concrete floor.

It's 10 and a half feet from the bottom of the H to the floor and it's 12 feet wide. Actually about 11 six on the inside. So it'll roll back along the truck and there's still room to get between it and the side of the truck on each side. It's a 2015, it's got 900, 990,000 on it, I think is what the engine’s got on it. Trucks got on it. Not quite certain what happened, but it dumped coolant into the oil pan. Why? It's still to be determined when we come apart with it. It'll be a postmortem looking for what failed, see what we can learn. I'm assuming that it must have blown a head gasket internally. That's just an assumption. I don't know. It didn't put any coolant to the outside of the block. It just blew cooling out the pressure relief on the radiator.

The last time that we pulled an engine out of truck frame, we had a wrecker service come in and pull it out and that's been 10 years ago and like everything, change is inevitable and the operator of the wrecker operator that done it, he's no longer operating wreckers. He was a guy that was really attention to detail, driven, and we were able to pull out and put back in without pinching any wires or getting anybody hurt. Since he's not in the business anymore. The last time it was 200 out, 200 in, so that's $400 to do it. We've got about a thousand dollars in scrap steel and Amazon parts to build this, and this'll be here. I mean, it's put together well enough that it'll be something to put in the will. Who's going to get it?