The best small diesel engine swap is a hotly contested topic among enthusiasts of all kinds. Whether you’re looking to power up your off-roader or simply want to improve the performance of your daily driver, there are plenty of diesel engine swaps that can help you meet that goal.
What is Small Diesel Engine?
Small diesel engines are typically used in vehicles like passenger cars, light trucks, SUVs, RVs, and even boats. They are known for their efficiency and high torque ratings which make them ideal for powering smaller vehicles. Typically they use a four-stroke cycle with compression ignition as opposed to spark ignition.
Do diesel RVs get better gas mileage?
Diesel motorhomes offer major fuel savings, thanks to diesel’s higher energy density. Up to 10% better economy per volume compared with gasoline engines makes them an appealing option for those looking for greater efficiency on the road.
Best small diesel engine swap
The most popular small diesel engine swap is the Cummins 4BTA 3.9L turbocharged inline four-cylinder used in Dodge Ram pickups from 1989–2002. It offers an amazing balance between fuel economy and power with its 150hp and 400 lb-ft torque rating while utilizing less fuel than standard gasoline engines. Plus it’s relatively light compared to similarly sized gas engines, making it even more attractive for a swap into smaller vehicles.
The GM 6.2L and 6.5L diesel engines are also popular options for a small engine swap, although they’re not as fuel efficient as the Cummins 4BTA 3.9L turbocharged engine. The 6.2L produces 150hp and 310 lb-ft of torque while the larger 6.5L delivers 190hp and 380 lb-ft of torque to make up for it in power potential, if that’s what you’re after from your engine swap project.
Another great option is the Mercedes OM617 diesel inline 5-cylinder which is roughly the same size as the Cummins 4BTA but offers even higher power output with its 300hp and 430+ lb-ft of torque. It’s also one of the most reliable diesel engines on the market, making it a great choice for those looking for an engine swap that offers reliability as well as plenty of power.
For those looking for a more unique option, there are also some smaller four-cylinder engines from Isuzu and Mitsubishi that can offer good performance when properly tuned. The Isuzu 4JB1 2.8L turbocharged inline four-cylinder produces 140hp and 247 lb-ft of torque while the Mitsubishi 4M42 3.2L turbocharged direct injection engine produces 130hp and 292 lb-ft of torque, both with high fuel economy ratings as well.
Ford Duratorq TDCi turbocharged inline four-cylinder diesel is a great choice for those looking for an engine swap that won’t break the bank. This 2.2L engine offers excellent fuel economy with its 130hp and 250 lb-ft of torque rating while also being relatively lightweight compared to other engines in its class.
The Toyota 1KD-FTV is a great option for those looking to put the power of a larger engine into something light. This 3.0L turbocharged inline four-cylinder diesel produces 170hp and 340 lb-ft of torque and is one of the most reliable diesel engines on the market, making it an excellent choice for any engine swap project.
When considering a small diesel engine swap, it’s important to remember that you have plenty of options and should research them thoroughly before making a decision. The right choice for your build will depend on the type of vehicle you’re working with, your desired power output, and your budget. With careful consideration, you can find an engine swap that fits all of your needs!
Philippe strives to give you the best overview of automotive equipment, tools, parts, and solutions to a variety of complex automotive problems, based on his own experience. You can read his car reviews on TopSpeed.