1996 International 4900

Flatbed Tipper

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1996 International 4900
Harsh International Hoist
Harsh International Hoist

This is not Navistar International's latest and greatest. What you are looking at is about the most generic, forgettable looking truck anyone ever built. This is not to say that it isn't a good truck. Rather this truck represents the ultimate in utilitarianism. It doesn't even have any fake plastic chrome.

In the early 1990's you will find that IH made 2 or 3 basic midrange trucks depending on how you classify them. They made them all white and if you didn't like white you can paint them. The cabs and plastic nose were all about the same. The Variants you will will find include the CDL required versions shown here, a lighter non-CDL version, and the low rider.

Thanks to the wisdom of our federal government Commercial Driver's Licenses (CDL) are required for trucks rated over 26,000 lbs gross. This is sort of midway through the range of gross weights suitable for a 2 axle truck. Suffice it to say that what you see here is the Heavy variant--a 22 foot van body with a 3,000 lb power tailgate (lower photo). This is a classic heavy class pickup and delivery truck---though not equipped that way anymore, in its day it was a reefer.

Typical of the heavy version is a D466 engine, a 6 speed transmission (IH's better Idea for a classic 5 speed and a 2 speed rear end) and Air brakes along with a 21,000lb rear axle and a 12,000 lb front axle. The Non-CDL version will have lighter axles and is more likely to have hydraulic brakes. The third variant is the 'low-rider'. These have low profile tires and aslowa frame height as possible. You most commonly see these with roll off flat beds for hauling disabled automobiles.

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Farm Truck Configuration
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Not the Biggest Nose around

The cab itself is Spartan, though quite large. There is no glove compartment, and pockets above the sun visors dump their stuff out every time you hit a bump. The truck shown features an Bostrom Air suspension seat. The instruments are easy to read, but include only the basics. Brake application pressure, turbo boost, turbo temperature, transmission and rear end temperature gauges are not to be found.

This 1996 model is new enough to be an "E" engine with the computer mounted on the fire wall. The headlight dimmer is in the turn signal lever as is common in many autos, but the electronic cruise control is a series of buttons on the dashboard, which are badly lighted and difficult to use after dark. The instrument lights are good and evenly light all of the instruments. The heater and air conditioners knobs are oddly configured and poorly lighted. The radio lacks the familiar clock found in GMC vehicles, but it will tune into the 'weather band'. This particular truck has 347,000 miles on it and the doors work as new, and the truck is free of rattles. My most serious complaint is of noise. Although this is not unique to this truck, and is a trucking tradition, the badly soundproofed cab is noisy enough that you can't hear the radio while driving at highway speeds. Outside the truck makes less noise than a Dodge diesel Pickup (pre 2003 models) but inside there is more noise than necessary. All the lights are hooked together on one rocker switch, and there is no spring loaded 'blinker' switch for giving the high sign to other truckers by blinking the ICC lights. There is a door pocket on the drivers door, but otherwise the truck is largely devoid of places to stash 'truck papers' and the like.

1996 International 4900

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1996 International 4900

This particular truck is equipped with dual fuel tanks and no crossover line. The lack of a crossover line reduces the risk of fuel spills caused by road hazards breaking the line, but also means that the tanks do not draw down evenly. This can provide you with some surprises if you are manually checking the fuel and only check one tank. The right tank is the primary tank and has the fuel gauge. This gives you some weird readings. On a recent 800 mile trip the fuel gauge went down to about half, by 400 miles, and then stayed there for the next 400 miles. It took an 84 gallon fill with the left tank nearly empty and the right tank about half full like the gauge said.

The 6 Speed transmission is a good match for the truck. With the 4:10 rear end it hits the double nickle speed at 1900 RPM, while a fairly wide working range of the engine allows you to move through urban traffic in the 30-45 MPH range with ease. The shift pattern is a little odd---at least for a guy used to 5 speed transmissions. There are none of the infamous "U" shifts, but first and second are on a spring, and Reverse on on a 'double spring' to the left of first. Under most conditions you will start out in second, but you can make the 1-2 shift if needed as it is 'straight down' instead of being a 'U' turn common in older 5 speed boxes. Of course, all the gears are syncro. No more of the straight cut gears that we grew up with.

Other features that idiot proof the truck and make life easier for even the experienced driver include an air dryer and auto slack adjusters on the brakes. The breaker panel is behind a plastic cover on the bottom of the dashboard near your left knee. The starter is on a spring in the key switch instead of on a separate push button. This truck is equipped with an ether starting aid though it is one of the easiest starting diesels I've encountered. Welcome also as an option is a 'jumper cable lug' which allows the use of jumper cables without opening the battery box, which is on the left and doubles as a driver running board. The right mirror is electric adjustable-- welcome feature. Missing though is the electric window roller on the right. The cab is so big that you have to park the truck and climb over there if you want to adjust the right window.

These days trucks usually have a couple radios and a telephone mounted in them, but only minimal provision is made for this. There are power lugs on the dash board, but no logical place to install the radios or other portable electronic devices.

Chickens and Geese

As in increasingly common, particularly with electronic controlled engines, there are plenty of 'chickens and geese', which trucker talk for various alarms. Push too hard up a hill, and the engine overheats. This produces a violent alarm combination of flashing lights, and pulsatiang buzzers, but doesn't shut the engine down, at least immediately. However the low water sensor will do just that. If the water level is just marginal (at the add water line) and you head the truck up a steep hill, the low water sensor will have a panic attack and shut the engine down leaving you stranded on a steep uphill. I strongly reccommend that anyone driving one of these trucks carry a gallon of water for such occasions.

The truck is equipped with air conditioning, but its capacity is not impressive. On high the fan is so noisy as to send you reaching for your earplugs, and at any lower setting it can't seem to keep up on a hot day, but then I can remember when truckers set the hand throttle and got out on the running board on hot days when grinding up long hills.

Maintenance Issues

The IH 466 engine is a very well regarded engine in the industry. It is very popular in school buses and other mid range vehicles. It is competitive with the Cummins C8.3 now known as the ISC in its electronic format. The only real issue with the engine is a pretty strong directive to reset the tappets every 2,000 hours, as the engines have habit of hammering themselves to death on the top side if the tappets get loose.

Harsh Hoist

A truck like this which in intended to be an all purpose truck isn't unless it has a hoist under the flatbed. There are a variety of styles of hoists suitable for truck beds, and we have used some of them. Our earlier trucks had a classic scissors lift in them. Those lifts usually entail a large one way cylinder laying flat between the truck frame and the bed frame rails. The front end of the cylinder is anchored and the back of the cylinder is connected to a A-framed shaped toggle. Expand the cylinder and the A-Frame tilts to the back and linkages lift the bed. While these are classic, they are also really bad news on sidehills or uneven ground. The problem is that the linkage provides no sideways structural support for the bed so if the truck is off balance left or right all of the forces on on the hinges on the back of the truck frame where the frame attaches to the bed. It isn't that you can't make the hinges strong enough but truck frames have some flex in them and this flex allows the bed to swing some to the down hill side--further destabilizing the truck.

Other designs include a long multi segment cylinder standing vertically behind the cab on the front of the bed. This is common these day on dump trucks, but it takes a really long extending cylinder to get a high dump angle on a long bed. They too, add no lateral stability.

A third style we have had is just a couple of cylinders anchored to the truck frame usually just below the bottom of it and running up to the bed. The work if big enough, but again, no lateral stability.

Finally we have the design from Harsh International of Colorado shown here. IT uses smaller compound cylinders which keeps the cost down, since they can get the bed up without having to extend 20 feet as a front mount would. The crucial addition however, is the structural scissors hinge. The folding scissors hinge is securely attached to the truck frame and also to the bed frame. It prevents the bed from shifting to the side if you left on the bed on a side hill. IT doesn't mean that you can't tip the truck over if you dump on uneven ground, but it prevents the bed from swinging off to the side aggravating the problem. Needless to say this design is very popular with farmers and others that must use a flat bed dump off the beaten path.

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