359 Peterbilt: Most Common Problems

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Attention all truck enthusiasts and aficionados of the open road! Have you ever wondered about the inner workings and quirks of the iconic 359 Peterbilt? This legendary rig has carved its name into the annals of trucking history, but like any seasoned traveler, it’s not without its hiccups. Join us on a journey as we unravel the enigma of the 1979 Peterbilt 359 and dive deep into the realm of Peterbilt 359 engines.

In this expose, we’ll explore the most common problems that these mighty machines face. Buckle up as we navigate through the intricate world of trucking, from engine intricacies to road-tested solutions. If you’re ready for a ride filled with insights, stay tuned for an exploration of challenges and triumphs in the world of the 359 Peterbilt, where service and repair manuals serve as the invaluable guides to ensure smooth journeys on the road.

359 Peterbilt Common Problems

Understanding the 359 Peterbilt

Before we dive into the common problems, let’s take a moment to appreciate what makes the 359 Peterbilt a favorite among truck enthusiasts. This legendary truck model has a rich history and boasts a strong following, thanks to its classic design, solid build, and powerful engines.

The most common engine in a Peterbilt 359 is the Caterpillar 3408. It is a 14.6 liter, six-cylinder diesel engine that produces up to 450 horsepower and 1,750 lb-ft of torque. It is known for its durability, power, and fuel efficiency.

Other engines that were available in the Peterbilt 359 include:

  • Cummins N14
  • Detroit Diesel Series 60
  • Mack E7

Some Peterbilt 359 owners have also swapped out their original engines for newer models, such as the Cummins ISX or the Paccar MX-13.

It is important to note that the engine in a Peterbilt 359 can vary depending on the year and model of the truck. For example, earlier Peterbilt 359s may have had different engine options than later models.

If you are unsure what engine is in your Peterbilt 359, you can consult the truck’s owner’s manual or contact your local Peterbilt dealer.

The Heart of the Beast: Cummins Engines

One of the defining features of the 359 Peterbilt is its engine. Many of these trucks have Cummins engines, renowned for their reliability and performance. Cummins offers various engines, including the popular Cummins ISX 871 and Cummings 400. These engines are workhorses, but they, too, have their quirks.

Cummins engines are built to withstand the harshest conditions. They are used in a wide variety of applications, including:

  • Heavy-duty trucks and buses: Cummins engines power some of the most popular trucks and buses on the road today. They are known for their ability to tow heavy loads and deliver excellent fuel economy.
  • Construction equipment: Cummins engines are also used in a wide variety of construction equipment, such as excavators, bulldozers, and cranes. They are known for their power and durability, which is essential for demanding construction applications.
  • Marine vessels: Cummins engines are also used in a variety of marine vessels, such as tugboats, ferries, and cruise ships. They are known for their reliability and fuel efficiency, which is important for long-distance voyages.

People also know Cummins engines for their innovative technology. Cummins was one of the first companies to develop electronically controlled diesel engines. These engines offer improved fuel efficiency, reduced emissions, and better performance.

359 Peterbilt running smoothly

Common Problems and Solutions

Now, let’s delve into the nitty-gritty of the most common issues that 359 Peterbilt owners face and how to address them.

1. Hard Start Issues

Possible Causes: Engine compression problems, slow cranking speed, faulty spark plugs, low-quality fuel, and power issues.

Solution: Start by checking the engine compression and cranking speed. Replace worn-out spark plugs and ensure you’re using high-quality fuel. Address any underlying power issues promptly.

2. Fuel Pressure Problems

Possible Causes: Low fuel pressure, fuel supply issues, pump problems, clogged fuel injectors, intercooler or turbocharger issues, and cylinder head trouble.

Solution: Regularly monitor fuel pressure, maintain a clean fuel supply system, and ensure your injectors are functioning correctly. Address intercooler, turbocharger, or cylinder head issues promptly.

3. Rough Ride

Possible Causes: Fuel-related issues, air cleaner problems, body panel damage, unusual noises, and EGR valve leaks.

Solution: Regular maintenance is key. Keep your air cleaners clean, repair body panel damage, and promptly address any unusual noises. Monitor your EGR valve for leaks. And act accordingly.

4. Black Smoke

Possible Causes: Incorrect air-to-fuel ratio, clogged air cleaners, faulty fuel injectors, pump issues, and problems with the intercooler or turbocharger.

Solution: Ensure your air-to-fuel ratio is correct, and keep air cleaners clean. Check and replace faulty fuel injectors and address any issues with the intercooler or turbocharger.

5. EGR Valve Problems

Possible Causes: Exhaust Gas Recirculation (EGR) valve issues leading to coolant consumption and white residue buildup.

Solution: Regularly inspect the EGR valve and address any coolant consumption or residue buildup promptly. Seek professional exhaust services if needed.

6. Electrical Issues

Possible Causes: Problems with the electric panel, malfunctioning instrument cluster, dashboard lights, radio issues, gas gauge inaccuracies, warning lights, and air pressure sensor problems.

Solution: Regularly check your electrical system, including the instrument cluster and dashboard lights. Address radio and gas gauge issues promptly. Don’t ignore warning lights or air pressure sensor problems.

7. AC System Woes

Possible Causes: A/C system malfunctions, unpleasant cabin smells, heating, cooling, and defrosting problems, and idling issues.

Solution: Maintain your A/C system regularly, address cabin smells promptly, and ensure proper functioning of the heating, cooling, and defrosting systems. Don’t neglect idling issues.


In the world of heavy-duty trucks, the 1979 Peterbilt 359 stands as an icon, revered for its power and style. However, like any classic, it has its quirks. Delving into the realm of Peterbilt 359 engines, we’ve uncovered the most common problems that can leave any truck enthusiast scratching their head. From electrical gremlins to transmission troubles, these challenges are no match for the determined driver.

So, if you’re ready to conquer the road in your 359 Peterbilt, always remember that knowledge is power. Address these issues proactively, and your trusty steed will keep on rolling. Don’t wait; take action today to keep your 359 Peterbilt running smoothly for miles to come!


  1. Do all 359 Peterbilts have Cummins engines?

No, not all 359 Peterbilts have Cummins engines. Nevertheless, they are a popular choice among owners, primarily because of their reliability.

  1. How can I improve fuel efficiency in my 359 Peterbilt?

To improve fuel efficiency, maintain a clean fuel system, ensure proper tire inflation, and drive at a consistent speed.

  1. What should I do if I notice black smoke coming from my exhaust?

Black smoke could indicate an issue with the air-to-fuel ratio or fuel delivery system. Have it checked by a professional mechanic.

  1. Why is the EGR valve important, and how does it affect my truck?

The EGR valve helps reduce emissions. However, if it malfunctions, it can lead to coolant consumption, and consequently, white residue buildup.

  1. How often should I have my 359 Peterbilt serviced?

Regular maintenance is key. Follow the manufacturer’s recommended service schedule and address issues promptly to keep your truck in top shape.

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