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Hollywood has long had a love affair with trucks. When a studio wants to show the protagonist as a powerful hero but still down-to-earth guy, it puts him behind the wheel of a truck. Sometimes the truck itself is the hero; think of the countrified but charming tow truck Mater in "Cars." The latest in a long line of truck tie-ins is the "Man of Steel" version of a Dodge Ram pickup with print ads and television spots linking the vehicle and the superhero. After the movie's premiere in New York, the custom-painted Superman-themed truck will be auctioned for charity.

Onscreen, these trucks and their GMC/Chevy Duramax, Dodge Cummins or Ford Powerstroke engines do some amazing tricks, up to and including transforming into sentient, world-saving robots like Ironhide in "Transformers" whose alter-ego was a GMC diesel. Your truck may not perform Hollywood-quality stunts, says Gem State Diesel's master technician Gage Burlingame, but a well-maintained diesel engine can manage some remarkable real-world heroics. "When you need your truck to pull a stump or tow a horse trailer, you'll be glad you picked something with enough power to do the job," he says. "Diesel maintenance takes a little more effort, but it pays off in reliability and power."

Burlingame recommends regular maintenance visits for diesel engines. "Every engine needs occasional maintenance, but because diesel engines are made with precision parts, they should be inspected frequently. A diesel fuel injection pump that needs cleaning can lower fuel efficiency by as much as 20 percent and rob a truck of its towing capacity. Think of the particulates and contaminants that get into fuel lines as your truck's kryptonite."

Manufacturers vie to get product placement in the latest summer blockbuster because it's one of the best ways to show off their trucks' virtues. What you might not know, though, is how many trucks work behind the scenes to make movies happen. When shooting on location, trucks haul trailers full of equipment across rugged terrain or maneuver through narrow streets that won't accommodate a larger vehicle. The volcano in "Dante's Peak" was done with special effects, but the rocky landscape was pure Idaho; when the production filmed in historic Wallace, Idaho, some of the crew made the 400-mile trek from Meridian, Nampa and Caldwell in a fleet of trucks.

Without the power and reliability of diesel trucks, you wouldn't see some of the spectacular stunts in movies. Whether you have an older model or are in the market for a new truck, show your diesel some appreciation as it performs its everyday heroics.


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