Performance Tuning/Flash Programmer
By Jim Bigley
Performance tuning/flash programmers appear to be carving out a market with the Duramax performance crowd - and for good reason. Programmers offer a number of distinct advantages beyond those available with performance modules like the Edge Juice or Van-Aaken. In brief, here is a list of what a programmer can do for you and your Duramax.
Power modules, such as the Edge Juice/Attitude and VanAaken retain a couple of important advantages, including power level selection on-the-fly and (in the case of the Edge/Attitude) can monitor, display and help control EGT automatically.
The ability to read/reset diagnostic trouble codes and view/analyze real-time engine data are reasons enough to own a programmer. When combined with an ability to correct tire size induced speedo errors as well as add power, these programmers become a "must have" product for just about anyone involved with the Duramax on an enthusiast level. Those of you who run just a programmer by itself would do well to install a boost/EGT gauge set and a performance exhaust system to help protect the engine from extreme exhaust temperatures possible with many of the high-end performance tunes.
We recently had an opportunity to spend some time with five different tuning/flash programmers.
Advertised as having "Uncompromised Diesel Performance", the Bully Dog Power Pup tuning module offers four levels of power - beginning with a 55 HP tune, then incrementing to 80, 95 and finally ending with a 155 HP "Extreme" tuning level (numbers included with the programmer vary a little from their web site power ratings).
To run with the big dogs, Bully Dog requires Power Pup owners to either visit their www.bullydog.com web site or call 1-208-397-3200 to acquire an unlock code before being able to install the 155 HP Extreme tune (this tune is an extra cost option). When run with nitrous, the Extreme program is reported to boost total power to more than 500 ponies at the rear wheels.
Aside from having the ability to upload a variety of power tunes, the Power Pup provides the truck owner the ability to remove the vehicle speed limiter, adjust the vehicle programming for tire size changes, and can retrieve/reset any diagnostic trouble codes stored by the vehicle ECM. Power Pup can also reset the Allison adaptive learn process (which can produce firm/harsh shifts). Run the Extreme program with a stock Allison, and you'll sooner or later get an education in tranny codes.
Bully Dog's enclosed instruction sheet is a bit on the lite side... I'd like to see a few quality photos of actual display screen sequences that provide a visual tie-in with the written instructions. However, Bully Dog includes an exhaustive list of Diagnostic Trouble Codes (though in very small print).
The Bully Dog Power Pup seen here was provided by:
US Diesel Parts
GMC Duramax LB7 '01-'04 43566 MSRP $449.00
Duramax HOT Xcelerator
The Xcelerator is available in different versions having different ultimate power levels. The versions listed below are their high-end units, and which generate the most juice. While not the least expensive, component quality, the padded hard case, complete and in-color instructions and general attention to detail are what'll get your attention first. The included hard case is a nice touch (how are you supposed to carry these things without them?), as are the nicely done and in-color instruction sheet. PPE also includes a complete diagnostic trouble code list (in large easily-read print). Check the Pacific Performance web site for some amazing videos and even more information concerning Duramax diesel performance.HOT LB7
The Excelerator seen here was provided by Pacific Performance Engineering.
Said to be "Engineered to Raise Hell", the DiabloSport Predator was among the first successful and commercially available programmers for the Duramax. Available for both the 2001-2004 LB7 and 2004+ LLY Duramax 6600 equipped trucks, the Predator is priced competitively, and provides power increases capable of being handled by most stock/unmodified Allison transmissions.
There are other programmer choices offering power increases above 120 horsepower, but the Predator does a fine job within the power selection range available in our test units. Predator's programming is said to "alter programming in very small increments throughout the entire RPM range, for a smoother and more predictable power delivery."
The LB7 Predator (part no. U7180) is the only unit we've test-driven to date. As advertised, it provided a user friendly and smooth power increase. If I could fault the LB7 version, it is that it "marries" itself to your VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) when first installed, and is only useable on that vehicle - even if you restore the truck's original programming. The LLY Predator (part no. U7193) however, can be moved from vehicle to vehicle as long as you restore the truck's original programming before using it on another truck. This is how all programmers should operate (why doesn't their LB7 version do this?).
DiabloSport's web site turned out to be informative and easy to navigate, but I could not locate a mailing address or phone number (what's up with that?). The ability to download/install custom tunes (using their optional PC Interface Kit) sets DiabloSport's Predator tuner/programmer apart from the others we've seen. The PC Interface Kit allows you to connect your Predator to your PC to:
The Predator User Manual is available for download at DiabloSport's Predator page.The LB7 Predator contains five programs to choose from:
Note: The LLY Predator contains same five programs shown above except the XPerformance tune is rated at 100+ RWHP and 260-ft/lb TQ.
The LB7 DiabloSport Predator programmer seen here was provided by:
US Diesel Parts
The LLY DiabloSport Predator programmer seen here was provided by:
Quadzilla Performance Technologies' Stealth Tuner is advertised as being "the ultimate programmable hand-held programmer, for both performance and features."
Quadzilla's Stealth Tuner was one the earliest to offer performance programming above 200 horsepower, and several top-performing competition trucks around the country are using the Stealth. Their programs have been proven at the track.
Quadzilla's Stealth Tuner offers these key features:
I would recommend that any performance tune above 120 HP be used in combination with a performance modified Allison transmission and possibly nitrous for best track performance. As with Bully Dog, Quadzilla's instruction sheet is a bit skimpy. I'd like to see a little more information.
The Quadzilla Stealth Tuner seen here was provided by:
* Our thanks go to the listed vendors. This "Roundup" would not have been possible without their support. Please give them a call for any and all of your Duramax performance needs.
Additional Notes: Check current manufacturer listings for any changes or updates to their programmer capabilities. The information provided here was believed to be accurate at the time of publication.
Before up/downloading vehicle programming, always remove the related OnStar fuses if your vehicle is equipped with OnStar. Inadvertant activation of OnStar, either by yourself or the OnStar center can interfere with the programming. An OnStar activation can produce an error in the new program upload, which could result in either a dealer visit to have them reprogram your ECM to correct the error or in a worst case scenario could require ECM replacement.
Before up/downloading vehicle programming, always bring the engine up to operating temperature before attempting to alter the vehicle's programming using one of these tuners. This prevents the glow plug system and/or intake heater from drawing down the battery voltage while you're attempting to download or upload program changes.
When up/downloading vehicle programming, always sit in the truck with the doors closed and seat belt fastened, to prevent any related electrical activity from interfering with the program changes.Here is a list of "Real-Time" data read by the DiabloSport Predator :
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