All There Is To Know About The Detroit Diesel 353 Specs

Any devoted car enthusiast must have heard about Detroit Diesel – one of the world’s most popular and long-running engine brands.

Since its 1938 release, Detroit Diesel has produced hundreds of best-sellers – among which the 353 lines proudly stand out.

If you are one of those buying the 353 for the first time, this guide is for you. Keep scrolling to learn more about the Detroit Diesel 353 specs.

What Is Detroit Diesel 353?

detroit diesel 353 specs

The 3-53 engine (or 353 for certain regions) is a high-powered diesel engine produced by the famous Detroit Diesel label. For those curious about the meaning behind each number in the title:

  • “3”: The engine’s amount of cylinders 
  • “53”: The average Cid – cubic inch displacement per iron cylinder head. Every propulsion engine of the Detroit 53 series shares the same cubic displacement, hence its name.
  • No “V” after the number “3”: The cylinder block’s inline layout. 

Critical insights into the meaning of these numbers allow beginners to distinguish the Detroit 3 53 apart from other cousins, such as 4-53 (four-cylinder version), 6V-53 (“V” design, inline six-cylinder model), and more! 

Despite belonging to the brand’s “ancient” models, 3-53 engines can still be sported in numerous modern vehicles and even at warfare zones.

Cases in point are medium trucks, generators, boats, and more!

What Are The Detroit Diesel 353 Specs?

As a highly-acclaimed two-cycle model, Detroit 3-53 features a bore/stroke ratio of 3.845 to 4.5 (in inches) and an engine displacement of 3×53 – equalling 2.61 liters or 159 cubic inches.

With three cylinders combined, the engine’s compression ratio falls to 21:1.

As such, the rotary engine can accumulate total power outputs of 101 HP (@2800 rpm), with the continuous gross powers maxing out at 70 HP (@2400 rpm).

Accompanying this horsepower is an equally impressive maximum torque, which reaches 205 ft-lbs (@ 1800 rpm).

The Detroit 353 model also includes:

  • A 42-amp, 12V alternator
  • Exhaust manifold/ exhaust elbow/wet exhaust valves
  • Crankshaft pulley and stock gauges
  • Five-blade, 22-inch design fan
  • SAE No4 flywheel models and flywheel housings
  • Throttle-controlled, variable-speed governor
  • Clean-tip, camp-operated fuel injector body
  • Oil lubrication full-flow filter
  • Inclined 10-degree unit oil pan

Regarding engine dimensions, the 353 Detroit presents a 27 inches width, 35 inches height, and 33 inches length.

Without any fluids inside, this three-cylinder engine reaches 965 pounds when measured dry – four times lighter than a Chevy 350 engine!

Considering this model is as old as some of my relatives, these numbers and features are very impressive! 

Still, I must admit the Detroit Diesel 3-53 measurements lag a bit behind much from their 3V-53 counterparts (with “V” cylinder walls), especially regarding dry weight, auxiliary power plant, and torque.

A quick sum-up chart of their engine specs below would put things in perspective for you: 

Type2-cycle diesel2-cycle diesel
Displacement2.61 liters, 159 cid2.61 liters, 159 cid
Compression18.7:1, 21:121:1
Bore3.875 in (or 98 mm)3.875 in (or 98 mm)
Power Stroke4.5 in (or 114 mm)4.5 in (or 114 mm)
Weight~ 1,000 pounds dry965 pounds dry
Engine DimensionsLength: 33 inchesLength: 33 inches
Width: 29 inchesWidth: 29 inches
Height: 40 inchesHeight: 35 inches
Peak Horsepower131 HP @ 2,500rpm101 HP @ 2800rpm
Peak Engine Torque Specs312 lb-ft @1,600 rpm205 ft-lbs @ 1800rpm

What Are The Pros and Cons of Diesel Detroit 3-53 Engines?

3 cylinder detroit diesel

3-53 engines enjoy exceptional versatility during marine applications, great horsepower per CIDs, and quiet operation/ better fuel economy once modified.

Still, these motor homes are not invincible against limitations.

With a less-than-ideal weights-to-horsepower ratio and difficulties in injector synchronization, this engine is higher maintenance than most.

The Pros

Great Thermal Efficiency

As one of the best two-stroke diesel engines on the market, the 3-53 models offer an extremely impressive CID (cubic inch displacements) ratio – as indicated in the chart above.

Hence, its thermal efficiency reaches incredible peaks, allowing the engine to deliver better output than expected – especially considering its seemingly moderate size.

Great Marine Applications

Although 3-53 models are also made to work with highway vehicle applications, their max pressure shines best for marine machines.

Their caspers-construction legs can easily operate in both counter-clockwise and clockwise directions, offering amazing flexibility for any marine vessel.

Great Fuel Economy (For Remanufactured Diesel Engines)

Aftermarket modifications to the 3-53 bring its fuel economy to new heights, saving lots of money for tight-budget drivers.

Plus, they increase horsepower outputs while simultaneously reducing the grinding idle noises. No wonder both your driving experience and stroke engine efficiency are significantly improved!

The Cons

High Maintenance

Despite the undeniable benefits, you need to keep an eye out for a few drawbacks.

For one, the 3-53 mostly relies on oil-filled crankcases instead of the usual, conventional oil-fuel mixture found in 4-cycle engines.

Thus, lackluster maintenance is out of the question; you must monitor the oil level every time your van/truck model enters the main roads.

Not Suited To Weight-Prioritizing Environments

Unfortunately, the 3-53 has a very high HP-to-pound ratio. This drawback becomes all the more obvious when pitched against other engines (the Cummin 6BT, for instance):

  • A 3-53 engine of 159 Cid has a dry weight of 965 lbs
  • A Cummin 6BT engine of 358 Cid is measured at only 975 lbs

Can you see the difference now? Suffering from limited weight disparity, the 3-53 will not fare well in driving conditions where lightweight and maneuverability are the top priority.

Synchronization Issues

Like a broad range of other 53-series engines, the 3-53 also utilizes mechanical unit injectors.

This unit fuel injection does deliver great performances in general, but let’s face it: synchronizing their injectors is no easy feat due to each bank being controlled by the same linkage.

Constant adjustments and monitoring will be required to ensure the best injector productivity.

Which Vehicles Use 353 Detroit Diesel Engine? 

3-53 detroit diesel turbo

Detroit Diesel engines 3-53 are widely used in chassis, duty, and commercial trucks and vehicles.

Chevy/ GMC (especially those from the 1960s to 1980s), Peterbilts, and Studebakers are some commonly-known examples.

But what impresses people most is how 3-53 fits terrifically into military vehicles for hours without issue. Below is a shortlist for your future reference: 

  • Ammunition Resupply Vehicle: CC
  • Armored Fighting Cars: MOWAG Piranha
  • Battle Control Vehicle: LAV-A2, URUTU EE-11, CV
  • Command Vehicle: ACV CP, M4, M577
  • Engineer Vehicle: ESV, ACV ENG
  • Fire Support: EE-Cascavel, FSV
  • Infantry Fighting Vehicle: AMX VCI/13, YPR 765, VCC-1


Detroit Diesel 353 specs work well with marine, heavy-duty, or even military applications – though certain drawbacks still need to be addressed.

Note down my extra tips to ensure the best fuel pressure, and write to me if you get stuck with any model of the Detroit Diesel series!

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