So I have this 1997 K2500 long bed pickup that has had a hard life. For a while it belonged to a repo man. For a while it belonged to a landscape company that used it for plowing snow. The plow is about 80% worn out and the truck is on its third transmission (though I believe that the second one wasn't assembled correctly by the rebuilder, and they *did* cover it under warranty). The truck has 91,000 miles on it. It has the 5.7.

I use it to plow snow, pull an 8,000 pound trailer, and to carry my slide-in camper.

The engine has a tick in it that seems to be, gradually, getting louder. I'm not an expert on these things but people I trust have told me that it's probably due to a cracked piston.

Trying to get my head together for when the time comes. The body, suspension, and steering are all solid, the transmission now fairly new, and everything works. I need a long bed for the camper and there aren't that many on the used market around here, and all told I don't especially want to sell the truck.

So what would you all suggest when the engine fails? Should I just put in a new long block and call it good? Are there performance upgrades I should consider while I have the engine out? Are there good used engines available? I'd really rather have a 7.4 -- should I think about swapping one in?