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Boosting Performance - Diesel World Mag

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Boosting Performance

November 4th, 2009

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Expert Tips on How to Get the Most Bang for Your Buck

When it comes to turning up the wick on your turbo diesel-powered truck, it usually comes down to installing the right combination of power parts. Basically, pumping up the power on a diesel engine requires moving more air and more fuel through the engine.





The first order of business is to get more air mass into the engine in order to add more fuel to burn with the added oxygen, which in turn generates higher cylinder temperatures and pressures associated with higher engine power output. Fortunately, aftermarket support for today’s turbo-diesel engines makes making power almost too easy with super efficient air filters, intakes, and exhaust, intercoolers, programmers, fuel pumps, injectors, and turbos. It’s all out there. All it takes is money and knowing what to choose, when to install and how to tune it.


In this article we’ll focus on the “what to choose and when to install it” of teasing more power from your engine. The original premise for this article was to delve into when you should step up and install a more “powerful” turbo, i.e. a turbocharger with more mass flow. However, upon interviewing several leading figures of the performance diesel community, it quickly became clear that for most enthusiasts, installing a high-flow turbo wouldn’t be to their benefit. Not that tweaking the turbo a bit wouldn’t be advantageous on some makes and model years of diesel trucks. However, everyone was in agreement that there is a proper sequence of installing performance equipment, and that larger turbos were only a small piece of the puzzle.


We posed a series of questions about the proper sequence of upgrading a turbo diesel to Petery Treydte, Director of Technical Communications at Gale Banks Engineering; Justin McCarthy, Technical Manager, Bully Dog Technologies; Brian Roth of BD Power, and Max Lagod, owner, Hypermax Engineering.


You’ll notice for the most part the industry is in agreement on the overall approach. However, there are some divergent opinions on the order of operation and in the area of modifying turbochargers. We’re not here to settle those differences. We’re of the opinion that the sources we consulted are knowledgeable and credible. The differing views probably arise from each firm’s experience with various combinations and approaches. We suggest you shop intelligently and ask a lot of questions of each source before you buy. In the meantime, here are their comments:


What is the most cost and performance effective sequence of adding performance components?


A: Diesel upgrades have become a very personalized arena and everybody has an opinion about the best methods and products to use to improve the performance of their vehicle. There are many issues that can affect an individual’s choices regarding the order in which modifications should be done, including: budget, performance improvement, impact on fuel economy, and even the make of the vehicle.


Generally speaking, a Ram-Air intake is a good first modification to make because it is relatively low cost, is easy to install and will give a moderate improvement in fuel economy and power. Improving airflow into the engine is logically followed by a free-flowing Monster Exhaust to allow the air out of the engine.


After these two modifications, a Six-Gun tuner is the next logical step; increases in airflow mean that fuel can now be safely added to the engine for dramatic power increases. Those who are serious about achieving the maximum potential from their engine should next consider an intercooler upgrade for increased air density.


Turbocharger, injector and fuel pump upgrades should only be considered by serious racers and will be the most costly upgrades. These types of modifications will require customized fuel tuning for optimum results. – Peter Treydte, Gale Banks Engineering


A: My order of preference is electronics, intake, exhaust, injectors, fuel pump, then intercooler. Combinations producing less than 600 hp generally do not need an intercooler upgrade and turbo upgrades are usually not needed at power levels below 500 hp. Electronics, intakes, and exhausts are the most cost effective parts for your daily driven truck. If you want to build a truck for sled pulling or drag racing, then you’ll need to upgrade injectors, turbo, fuel pump, as well as adding a heavy duty transmission, larger head bolts, Propane or water methanol. After those components are installed and tuned, you could add the intercooler. – Justin McCarthy, Bully Dog Technologies


A: I tell my customers the first 100 hp is relatively inexpensive; it’s the second 100 hp that costs real money. We have a good reliable package for the 6.0-liter engine. We’ve got an exhaust, an electronic module and a bigger intercooler for the Fords. That puts them in the range of 485 hp. The next phase is to enhance reliability. The Fords don’t have the best track record for head gaskets. So we have performance head gasket sets. Next is stepping up on the injectors and a turbo upgrade then you have a package that’s reliable while making power above the 500 hp level.


With our Mach7 package, we’re making about 480 to 500 horse. Some guys have trouble with the head gaskets, some don’t, but that’s the threshold or limit of what the stock components can contain. But for the guys who add 100 hp and are now making 425 horse, they tend to keep chugging along. But they don’t stay there. They end up turning the daily driver into a hot rod truck.


Realistically, a 6.0-liter, with a electronics package, turbo upgrade, injectors, air cooler and exhaust, can make 625 hp. But then you need to get a transmission that’ll handle that. – Max Lagod, HyperMax Technologies


A: The best route to go when adding performance is to start with base components that will help to support the upgraded power. This would mean that a good course of action might be: 1. Exhaust system; 2. Intake kit; 3. Turbo kit; 4. Intercooler; 5. Fuel system upgrade; 6. Electronic tuner/module ; 7. Fuel Injectors.


Having too much fuel or too much power without the supporting pieces makes for unusable performance, not to mention blown-up stock parts.⬬- Matt Bozarth, ATS Diesel


A: As with a gasoline performance engine, the best first steps are the simple ones that lay the foundation for getting more air/fuel into the engine, and more exhaust out. We recommend starting off with our X-Intake cold air intake package, and one of our X-Hale performance exhaust systems. The next popular step is to add a performance module, like our X-Tuner for the Dodge-Cummins or Ford Power Stroke, and our Intimidator module for the Duramax. Once you start changing the stock fuel curve, we highly recommend the use of a monitoring system, such as our X-Monitor or new X2 monitor.-Brian Roth, BD Power


Does make and model year influence the sequence?


A: The order of modification upgrades may vary slightly depending on the year and make of the vehicle, but the general guidelines will be predominately accurate. For instance, the factory intercooler on a 1998-2002 Dodge is a relatively good design from the factory and upgrading it may not be cost effective except for the most extreme racers. – Peter Treydte, Gale Banks Engineering


A: Some of the older models you cannot add engine electronics to, other than that the sequence above would stay the same. – Justin McCarthy, Bully Dog Technologies


A: All of the 6.0-liter Fords are the same. I tell my customers if you’ve installed a chip and you start bumping the power up, you should at least put a pyrometer in the truck to keep track of the exhaust temps, which are the number one killer of these engines. If you don’t do anything else, at least you can see that towing that trailer with your foot to the floor is causing the exhaust to heat way up.


I’ve been keeping our customers with the Mach 7 module in the range of 1200-1300∞F by defueling at 1300∞. That seems to be the magic number to keep the exhaust valves, pistons and turbochargers alive. Above that, the turbos start glowing and eventually pieces start coming of them and out the tailpipe. Even with the older 6.9 and 7.3 IDI engines, we put the limit at 1250∞F and they’d tow all day.


The older IDI engines are all mechanical upgrades. We sell turbo kits, to get the air to the engine. And then we add fuel by turning the right screws on the mechanical fuel pump. – Max Lagod, HyperMax Technologies


A: The sequence can vary somewhat from truck-to-truck and year-to-year. For example; the automatic transmission on a later model Dodge (2003+) or on a Duramax will handle slightly more horsepower and torque than an older Dodge or Ford truck. With 6.0L Power Strokes, ATS utilizes our E-Power tuner along with the transmission upgrades since it also remaps the transmission parameters for improved shifting and pressure control.


Later trucks may need different fuel system modifications versus an earlier model. With earlier 12-Valve Cummins trucks the P7100 pump can be modified to flow large quantities of fuel, whereas the common rail motor will need our Twin CP3 system to match the fuel volume.


With some trucks such as the 6.0L Power Stroke the need to upgrade the turbo can present itself much earlier. Many times the charger update is essential due to failure of the stock variable turbo. – Matt Bozarth, ATS Diese


A: Not really. An engine is an engine-it doesn’t care how the fuel is delivered so long as it gets there. However, the method changes. For example, earlier Cummins engines would employ modifications to the injection pump such as our Fuel Stop Plate, (instead of an X-Tuner) as well as 3000-rpm governor spring kits. For some extra performance above the electronic modules, we also offer larger injectors that flow more fuel.


If you have a Dodge-Cummins, we would also recommend our Pulse cast iron exhaust manifold, and if you have a Duramax, we would recommend our Full Bore driver side exhaust manifold that replaces the pinched-down factory unit.-Brain Roth, BD Power.


When in the performance enhancing sequence should one upgrade the turbo?


A: The need for turbocharger upgrades is partially dependent on the age of the vehicle and partially dependent on the needs of the vehicle owner. Older trucks such as early model Dodge Cummins and Ford Power Strokes used non-wastegated turbos that might benefit from a smaller turbine housing and the addition of a wastegate. Later model trucks with variable geometry turbos may not need to be upgraded for most purposes. Hard core racing enthusiasts are often looking toward compound turbo systems to build massive amounts of boost. – Peter Treydte, Gale Banks Engineering.


A: The turbo would be one of the last things to mess with. If anyone is looking for a really good setup without spending a whole lot of time and money, you should just look at engine electronics, an air intake, an exhaust, with a little bit of transmission modifications that seems to be what most people are looking for. – Justin McCarthy, Bully Dog Technologies.


A: The variable geometry turbocharger on the 6.0-liter is tough to match. You get the best of both worlds: you get a tight housing for good bottom end throttle response; but when you’re making lots of horsepower, the vanes open up reducing back pressure. Some guys don’t like them because they say they stick. But my experience is that if you don’t run them real hot for a long time, they don’t stick.


Where I find I can offer my customers a performance gain is with work on the compressor side. We have a custom wheel and housing we’re developing that provides the airflow rates to handle upgraded fuel delivery rates above 500 hp. – Max Lagod, HyperMax Technologies


A: When performing more than a mild upgrade, the turbo does become ineffective. When the turbo was originally matched to the factory trim truck, airflow and map ranges were determined based on stock fuel and power output. With increased power it becomes important to complement the extra fuel with more air. – Matt Bozarth, ATS Diesel


A: Above a 100-120 hp increase, we always recommend transmission modifications. In most instances, we have found that the torque converter clutches will begin to slip, resulting in torque converter “shudder.” We recommend a BD-modified valve body and a BD heavy-duty torque converter minimum. If you plan further mods later on (and most people do), we recommend a complete transmission assembly, along with our torque converter. In Dodge applications, the stock flex plate should be replaced with our billet steel Black FleX-Plate, which can handle up to 1,500 lb-ft of torque. A lot of enthusiasts don’t realize that even a mildly modified Cummins can crack or disintegrate the stock flex plate.


Only after reinforcing the driveline do we recommend turbo upgrades. BD offers single and twin turbo systems for the Dodge Cummins, our SuperMax single turbo upgrade for the Duramax, and our PowerFull single turbo upgrade for the 6.0 Power Stroke are our most popular systems.


We feel it is very important for enthusiasts to understand that an upgraded turbo is probably the best thing you can do for your engine. Adding more fuel to a diesel engine (with a module, injectors or both) has the opposite effect compared with a gasoline engine; adding fuel alone causes it to run hotter with higher exhaust gas temperatures (EGTs).


The stock turbo is at or near its performance threshold from the factory, so it simply can’t move enough air to compensate for the added fuel. By adding a larger turbo, airflow can keep pace with the added fuel; EGTs go down, and power levels go way up! Not only that, but exhaust smoke on acceleration is dramatically reduced (because the added fuel can actually be burned now) and fuel economy typically increases as well.


And contrary to popular belief, a larger turbo won’t affect low-speed drivability, if it is engineered for diesel applications like BD/BorgWarner turbos are. These units use BorgWarner’s extended tip technology that helps the turbo spool up quickly at low rpm, and deliver strong mid and top-end power as well. A turbo diesel can perform as well on the track as it does towing a trailer when set up properly with the correct combination of parts.


When boost levels reach a certain point, an aftermarket intercooler is a good idea; we offer our Cool-It intercooler for the Dodge Cummins, which can take up to 100 psi boost and flow 1,500 cfm of air, with a 200Ẻ reduction in intake temps, typically. For applications we do not offer intercoolers for (or for extreme performance applications) we also offer our Boost Cooler, which is a water/methanol injection system that reduces intake temperatures dramatically during times of high demand (drag racing, pulling a long hill, etc.). -Brian Roth, BD Power


What upgrades to the turbocharger can you recommend? Change or modify the wastegate, housing, compressor wheels, or turbine Wheels?


A: Each engine configuration may have different needs and therefore different upgrades may be effective. For instance, the 1989-1993 Dodge Cummins utilized a non-wastegated turbine housing with a relatively large turbine housing. The Banks Quick-Turbo provides dramatic improvements in acceleration by using a smaller, wastegated turbine housing. The 2000-2003 Ford Power Stroke has a compressor wheel that goes into a surge condition with relatively minor power modifications, a condition that is remedied by using the Banks High-Boost compressor wheel. Each turbo is unique to its application, and therefore there is not one specific “fix” that works for all cases. – Peter Treydte, Gale Banks Engineering


A: The whole turbo. – Justin McCarthy, Bully Dog Technologies


A: I’m recommending the compressor side upgrades we talked about earlier. – Max Lagod, HyperMax Technologies


A: The recommended upgrades depend on what truck is being modified. On 1995.5-2002 7.3L Power Strokes an upgraded compressor housing can make an amazing difference. With most other trucks the difference in performance is negligible until the complete turbo is upgraded to one such as the Aurora Series chargers. Going this route provides better performance in all areas such as: airflow volume, reduction in exhaust gas temperatures, stronger bearings, better flowing housings, improved compression ratios. – Matt Bozarth, ATS Diesel


A: Modifications to stock turbos are available, but the improvements are very small. Turbochargers are a matched set of components, and when you change one part of the puzzle to gain in one area of the curve, you can lose it elsewhere. Not to mention the fact that turbochargers use very small tolerances and are very sensitive to dirt-so if someone “modifies” your turbo with a different housing, etc., you could be opening yourself up for big-time trouble. It’s much better, and safer, to go with an engineered turbo system.-Brain Roth, BD Power.


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