The 2.8L Duramax has been around since 2012 before it was eventually introduced into the U.S market. The engine was designed specifically for truck use but has been extended to vans. It features new technologies to deliver power and fuel efficiency. Before it was released in North America in 2016, the engine was upgraded to feature an improved exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) and aftertreatment system to meet stringent emission standards.
The engine is an inline-four-cylinder configuration with a variable-geometry turbocharger. The usual vibration inherent in most four-cylinder engines is eliminated by using a balance shaft to reduce the engine shaking forces. With 181HP and 369 lb-ft of torque rating, the engine could tow up to 7,700 pounds. Compared to other engines in the Colorado and Canyon lineup, the engine has an impressive fuel economy. The 4WD has an EPA-estimated 20/29 MPG for city and highway driving, while the 2WD got a slightly higher rating at 22/31 MPG for city and highway driving.
What Cars Use the 2.8L Duramax?
The engine was specifically designed for trucks but has been used both in trucks and vans since its release. The 2.8L Duramax has been used in the following vehicles:
- Chevrolet Colorado
- GMC Canyon
- Chevrolet Express
- GMC Savana
Variants of the 2.8L Duramax Engine
Prior to the release of the 2.8L Duramax in North America, the engine has been available in other regions. The engine made its debut in the International-market in the 2012 Chevrolet Colorado. The engine variants included:
- XLD28 Engine
- LWN Engine
The 2.8L Turbo Diesel I4 Duramax XLD28 was a 2.8 liter, four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine. The engine was used in the Chevrolet Colorado, Chevrolet Trailblazer, and Isuzu KB, all sold in the International Markets. However, the 2.8L Duramax XLD28 engine was revised, and some significant changes were made so it could meet the strict emission laws of the North American market.
The revised engine debuted in 2016 Colorado and Canyon as the 2.8L LWN I-4 Duramax turbo-diesel engine designed specifically for the United States and Canada markets.
2.8L Duramax Engine Specs
|Engine||2.8L Duramax LWN I-4 engine|
|Valvetrain||Dual overhead camshafts (DOHC)|
|Block/Head||Grey Cast Iron/Aluminum|
|Bore X Stroke||94.00 x 100.00 mm|
|Torque (lb-ft)||369 lb-ft of torque|
LWN I-4 Duramax Engine Performance
When you haul the 2.8L Duramax, you will feel the engine’s low-end torque at play. The engine got its high towing capacity thanks to its enormous torque. But, during normal driving, it is an entirely different ball game as the low-end torque only has a little impact.
No doubt, there is that initial rush from the turbo spool up and engine torque when you floor the accelerator pedal when pulling away from a stop light. However, the response you get when you floor the accelerator while cruising at 40 or 50 mph is close to nothing.
Well, the reason can be attributed to the engine horsepower. Like Randy Pobst said, ‘torque is what you feel when you get on the gas, and horsepower is how long you feel it,’ which explains the situation with the 2.8L Duramax. So, there is that initial push when accelerating from 0mph due to the engine torque. However, after accelerating to about 50/60mph, you won’t feel much again because of the engine’s modest horsepower.
2.8L Duramax Tuning Potential
The engine rolls out of the assembly line, ready to deliver 181hp and 369lb-ft. of torque. Compared with the other engines in the Colorado or Canyon lineup, the 2.8L Duramax has a remarkable towing capability and a satisfactory performance. However, you can further increase the engine torque and horsepower by installing aftermarket tunes. Depending on the tune, you can get as much as 30-50hp and 30-80lb-ft of torque increase while staying within safe engine design tolerance.
Duramax Tuner has various tunes for the 2.8L Duramax, including a tune for the dead pedal. Most of their tunes work without modifying any part of the truck. Their Sport/Economy tune, best suited for daily driving, adds 45hp, and 60lb-ft of torque. You can push your truck even further with their Performance/Race tune, which adds up to 52hp and 80lb-ft of torque.
Green Diesel Engineering also has a fully compliant tune for the 2.8L Duramax that increases the engine output by 40hp and 70lb-ft of torque, reduces turbo lag, and improves fuel efficiency by 2-4mpg.
2.8L Duramax Common Issues
- Emission system
- Failed Turbocharger
- Dead pedal
- Timing belt replacement
- Carbon buildup and clogged injectors
1. 2.8 LWN Failed Emission System
General Motors had to revise and make significant changes to the engine to meet the stringent emission laws of the North American market. One of such changes was utilizing a new Exhaust Gas Recirculation (EGR) system. The system reduces exhaust emissions by recycling and mixing some of those emissions with the fresh intake air headed to the combustion chamber. However, adding cool exhaust gas to the fresh intake air leads to less efficient combustion, causing more fuel to leave the combustion chamber unburnt and increasing Diesel Particulate Matter (DPM) production.
The increased soot production was recognized, and an aftertreatment system was introduced to filter exhaust gas on its way out.
2.8 Duramax Emissions Systems
- A Close-Coupled Diesel Oxidation Catalyst (DOC) Converter, which converts Hydrocarbon (HC) and Carbon monoxide (CO) in the exhaust fume into Carbon dioxide (CO2) and Water (H20).
- A Selective Catalyst Reduction (SCR) Converter which converts Nitrous oxide (NOx) into Nitrogen gas (N2), Carbon dioxide (CO2), and Water (H2O).
- A Diesel Particulate Filter prevents the release of Diesel Particulate matter by trapping and incinerating them when the filter becomes clogged.
A clogged EGR valve or cracked EGR cooler are some issues that have been identified with the EGR system. The Selective Catalyst Reduction (SCR) Converter is often plagued by contaminated or crystalized diesel emission fluid. If the fluid is left sitting for a couple of months, it crystallizes and clogs the DEF injector, causing your truck to run in limp mode or fail to start.
With the DPF filter, the problem usually stems from the regen mode. The DPF regeneration requires a high engine RPM and will suspend or terminate the process in substandard operating conditions. The process will be resumed during the next ignition cycle when all the required conditions are met. After several failed regeneration attempts, the ECM will limit your engine performance.
Symptoms of Emission System Failure
- Illuminated check engine light
- Increased engine back pressure
- Reduced engine power
- Rough idle
- Reduced fuel efficiency
- Increased emission
- Knocking noise from the engine
- Limp mode
A malfunctioning emission system can be quite frustrating. It is even worse during winter or for those in colder climates because the DEF pump doesn’t perform so well in cold temperatures. The pump usually goes bad during winter and is always on national backorder. However, proper maintenance reduces the chances of the aftertreatment system failure.
Some people may be quick to suggest deleting the aftertreatment system since it eliminates the need for service and chances of failing. The truth is, the system is incapable of causing engine damage. In the worst case, it will throw some error codes and drop your engine into limp mode until the issue is rectified. Considering that tampering with an emission control system is illegal and attracts a hefty fine, you are better off leaving the system.
2. 2.8 Duramax Failed Turbocharger
The engine features a variable geometry turbocharger. The compact size of the turbocharger makes it spool up very fast and gives it a great power output. The turbocharger has vanes actuated by a rod controlled by an external control module. The vanes are usually open under low engine load but close when more power is needed to increase engine power and create high pressure.
Although the turbocharger’s setup is simple and gets the job done, the system has experienced catastrophic failures. There have been several complaints about the turbocharger failing during cold or freezing temperatures, and most of these failures were due to bent fins.
General Motors was aware of these failures and issued a service bulletin that acknowledged the issue. The bulletin stated that some drivers of the 2016-2018 trucks and vans equipped with the 2.8L Duramax might notice a whining noise during acceleration, while in gear, or in neutral. The cause was identified as a bent turbocharger compressor blade and suggested replacing the turbocharger.
Symptoms of 2.8L Duramax Turbocharger Failure
- No boost
- Loud whine or whistle from the turbo
- Loss of power
- Reduced fuel economy
- Damage to the inducer of the compressor wheel
Replacing the turbocharger when it fails is an expensive fix. However, you can prevent the untimely failure of your turbocharger by replacing the cold air intake filter regularly, closely monitoring your engine performance, regular oil changes, inspecting the turbo during the oil change, and boost testing your truck at every oil change
3. Dead Pedal
Shortly after the engine was released in 2016, drivers noticed the dead pedal when stomping on the accelerator from a slow roll. Most drivers complained about the delay in throttle response, talking about a second or more before accelerating. The sluggish throttle response increases the risk of an accident when trying to merge into moving traffic or accelerate during an emergency.
Well, the dead pedal feel is due to torque management. The throttle is always more responsive when you slowly ease on it rather than flooring it all at once. Like most diesel engines, the 2.8L Duramax was designed for steady throttle application to reduce emissions. Hence, the less your foot changes the throttle settings, the better the engine behaves.
There are several plug-and-play throttle response systems that help reduce the lag in throttle response during acceleration. They plug into your accelerator harness and work the magic. The other option is to get a tune that removes the torque management and improves throttle response.
4. Duramax I4 Timing Belt Replacement
The engine is a dual overhead camshaft and drives a timing belt that powers the injector pump, water pump, and alternator. A timing belt was used instead of a timing chain for lower noise production, packaging, and serviceability. The belt was estimated to have a 150,000-mile service interval. Vehicle engineering had since advanced from the 80s when timing belts were unreliable and experienced unexpected failures. The belt should exceed its estimated replacement interval, but it is best to have it replaced once it reaches 150,000 miles.
Unlike the 3.0L Duramax, whose timing belt replacement requires separating the engine from the transmission to access the belt at the back of the engine, the 2.8L Duramax has its timing belt at the front, and the most you may have to remove is the radiator fan. Situating the timing belt at the front of the engine makes the replacement process less complex than the 3.0L Duramax.
Symptoms of Failed Timing Belt
- Temperature warning
- Overheating engine
- Low oil pressure warning
- Timing belt replacement service warning
5. Carbon Deposit and Clogged Injectors
Direct injection design is currently the most preferred engine design by most vehicle manufacturers. The reason is not farfetched from the fact that design improves engine performance, reduces fuel consumption, and reduces exhaust emissions. However, the design brought about some issues that weren’t common with port-injected engines — carbon buildup in the intake manifold and clogged injectors.
With direct-injected engines, carbon deposit from the exhaust gases gradually gathers in the intake port and valves. Also, since the injectors are located directly above the engine cylinder for more precise fuel injection, they are exposed to intense carbon buildup from the combustion process, which clogs their nozzles over time.
Symptoms of Carbon Buildup
- Sluggish acceleration
- Check engine light
- Engine misfire
- Reduced fuel efficiency
- Heavy exhaust emissions
- Rough idle
Symptoms of Clogged Injectors
- Crank but no start
- Engine misfire
- Lean fuel mixture
- Reduced engine performance
- Rough idle
- Reduced fuel efficiency
Using fuel additives have proven to help prevent carbon buildup and clogged injectors. The additives provide lubricity and prevent deposit buildup on the injector tips. Installing an oil catch can or occasional walnut blasting procedures are the most effective way of tackling carbon buildup in the intake manifold.
GM’s 2.8L Duramax Reliability
The 2.8L Duramax is a great engine with impressive design and quality. Most problems identified, including carbon buildup, clogged injectors, and timing belt replacement, were either an issue peculiar to direct-injection engines or required routine maintenance. Also, you can get used to the dead pedal with gradual accelerations, install a throttle response system, or tune out the torque management to improve throttle response during acceleration.
The major problems with this engine were issues with the emission system and turbocharger. The possibility of both problems developing increases during freezing temperatures but could be prevented with proper maintenance. Overall, the 2.8L Duramax has performed reliably well since its release and has proven to be a perfect fit for diesel enthusiasts looking for a midsize truck with an excellent towing capacity and fuel economy.
2.8L LWN I-4 Duramax Engine Summary
The engine debuted in 2012 as the 2.8L Turbo Diesel I4 Duramax XLD28 and was later introduced into North America as the 2.8L LWN I-4 Duramax. Although it has had its fair share of problems, they weren’t significant enough to bring its reliability into question. The mini Duramax was famous for its tuning potential but has been replaced by the 2.7L L3B Turbo engine.