Performance Tuning/Flash Programmer

Press "YES" for More Power!

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.

  • Upload a variety of power level programs from mild to wild.
  • Alter programming for fuel injection timing and injected fuel pulse-width.
  • Can later return stock programming to the vehicle computer for diagnostics or troubleshooting.
  • Increase or eliminate the vehicle speed limiter.
  • Some programmers listed here can raise the governed engine RPM.
  • Adjust vehicle programming for tire size or gearing changes to correct speedometer/odometer error.
  • Read & erase diagnostic trouble codes.
  • Predator can display an exhaustive list of real-time engine data (see list).

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.
Let's have a look:

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 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
2400 Palmer - Missoula, Montana 59808
Call: 1-800-823-4444 -- Fax: 1-406-721-5097

GMC Duramax LB7 '01-'04 43566 MSRP $449.00
GMC Duramax LLY '04.05-'05 43567 MSRP $499.00

Duramax HOT Xcelerator
Pacific Performance Engineering made a name for itself a few years ago by offering their highly regarded Maximizer power module for the Duramax. Now, PPE has entered the Duramax programmer market with the "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.

  • Application: 2001 through early 2004 LB7 6.6L Duramax Diesel trucks.
  • HP/Torque: Additional 300 HP and 600 lb-ft torque max at the flywheel. (standard 230 HP and 475 lb-ft)
  • Features: Raise rev limiter to 4,500 RPM, remove vehicle speed limiter, four power levels, speedometer corrections, retains stock programming, and more...
  • Installation: Simple download into the OBD II port under the dash. 1-year warranty. MSRP $979
  • Application: 2004 & 2005 LLY 6.6L Duramax Diesel trucks.
  • HP/Torque: Additional 180HP and 360 lb-ft torque max at the flywheel. (standard 130 HP and 260 lb-ft)
  • Features: Three power levels, Speedometer corrections, Speed limiter removal, retain stock programming, and more...
  • Installation: Simple download into the vehicle's OBD II port under the dash. 1-year warranty. MSRP $879.79

The Excelerator seen here was provided by Pacific Performance Engineering.

Pacific Performance Engineering
303 N. Placentia
Fullerton, CA 92831
Ph: (714) 985-4825 Fax: (714) 985-9907

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:

  • Update Predator software version. Version updates are available to download from the DiabloSport's download page.
  • Export your current tune from your Predator to your PC.
  • Upload DiabloSport dealer custom tunes into your Predator that were created for your specific vehicle.

The Predator User Manual is available for download at DiabloSport's Predator page.

The LB7 Predator contains five programs to choose from:
  1. Stock Tune: Adjustable vehicle speed limit up to approximately 120 MPH varies based on vehicle (can also lower vehicle speed limit), set-up weight, tire size, 2wd vs. 4wd, etc.
  2. Tow Tune: 40 RWHP and 100-ft/lb TQ, made specifically for towing. DiabloSport recommended weight limitations based on manufacturer suggested limits for the vehicle.
  3. Economy Performance Tune: 65 RWHP and 150-ft/lb TQ, designed for Economy and Performance, fuel economy depends solely on driving style, and will vary from vehicle to vehicle. DiabloSport recommended weight limitations of 8,000 Lbs.
  4. Performance Tune: 85 RWHP and 195-ft/lb TQ, designed specifically for performance street driving. DiabloSport recommends this tune not be used for towing.
  5. XPerformance Tune: 120 RWHP and 240-ft/lb TQ, designed specifically for competition or off-road. DiabloSport recommends this tune not be used for towing.

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
2400 Palmer - Missoula, Montana 59808
Call: 1-800-823-4444 -- Fax: 1-406-721-5097

The LLY DiabloSport Predator programmer seen here was provided by:

Kennedy Diesel
W3351 26 Rd. Loyal, WI 54446
Call: 715-255-9433 Fax 715-255-9499

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:

  • User adjustable parameters
  • Removes vehicle speed limiter
  • Correct speedometer/odometer for tire size changes
  • Increase fuel economy
  • Read and erase engine codes
  • Reset the Allison adaptive learn process (which can produce firm/harsh shifts)
  • Versions offering power increases of up to 215 HP and 424 ft lbs of torque
  • Towing Model is available with 50 HP, 70 HP, 90 HP and 110 HP levels.
  • Racing Model is available with tunes of 70 HP, 110 HP, 135 HP and 165 HP levels.
  • Competition Model is available with tunes of 70 HP, 110 HP, 135 HP and 215 HP levels.

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:

Kennedy Diesel
W3351 26 Rd. Loyal, WI 54446
Call: 715-255-9433 Fax 715-255-9499

* 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 :
  • a. Engine Speed - x rpm
  • b. Desired Idle Speed - x rpm
  • c. ETC - XF
  • d. Start Up ECT - XF
  • e. IAT - XF
  • f. Baro - X kPa
  • g. Boost Pressure Sensor - 0 kPa
  • h. Fuel Temp - XF
  • i. Calculated Fuel Rate - X mm
  • j. Intake Air Heater - X V
  • k. Glow Plug Feedback Signal - X V
  • l. MAF - X lb/m
  • m. Accelerator Pedal Pos.1 - X V
  • n. Accelerator Pedal Pos.2 - X V
  • o. Accelerator Pedal Pos.3 - X V
  • p. TDC Offset - X
  • q. MAP - X Psi
  • r. Main Injection Timing - X
  • s. Vehicle Speed - X Mph
  • t. Crank Reference Missed - X
  • u. Engine Load - X %
  • v. Engine Oil Life - X
  • w. FRP Regulator Command - X %
  • x. Inj Pump CAM Reference Missed - X
  • y. IPC Fuel Disable - Inactive
  • z. Auto Learn Timer - Inactive
  • aa. PCM/VCM in VTD Fail Enable - No
  • bb. VTD Fuel Disable Until Ign Off - No
  • cc. Desired Fuel Rail Pressure - X Mpa
  • dd. Actual Fuel Rail Pressure - X Mpa
  • ee. Ignition Voltage - X V
  • ff. Battery Voltage - X V
  • gg. Engine Run Time - X
  • hh. Glow Plug System - Off
  • ii. A/C Relay - Off
  • jj. Wait to Start - Off
  • kk. FRP Regulator Relay - On
  • ll. Intake Air Heater Feedback Relay - On
  • mm. Intake Air Heater Relay Command - Off
  • nn. Mil Command - On
  • oo. Cruise On/Off Switch - Off
  • pp. Cruise Set/Coast Switch - Off
  • qq. Cruise Resume Switch - Off
  • rr. Cruise Brake Pedal Switch - Applied
  • ss. Cruise Control Active - No
  • tt. Water in Fuel - Disabled
  • uu. Alternator L Terminal - Disabled
  • vv. Engine Oil Level - Ok
  • ww. Stop lamp Pedal Switch - Disabled
  • xx. Low Coolant Level - Enabled
  • yy. DTC Set this ignition - No
  • zz. PCM Reset - No
  • aaa. PNP Switch - In Gear
  • bbb. 4WD Low Signal (If Equipped) - Disabled
  • ccc. 4WD Signal (If Equipped) - Disabled
  • ddd. Check Trans. Lamp - Off
  • eee. Clutch Pedal Switch - Applied
  • fff. Reverse Enable - No
  • ggg. Front Axel Switch - Unlocked
  • hhh. A/C Request Signal - No
  • iii. A/C Sec. High Press. Switch - Closed
  • jjj. A/C Clutch Feedback Relay - Off
  • Engine Data 2
  • a. Engine Speed - X RPM
  • b. TP Angle - X%
  • c. Calculated Fuel Rate - X mm
  • d. Engine Run Time - X
  • e. Base PWM Cyl. #1 - X mS
  • f. Base PWM Cyl. #2 - X mS
  • g. Base PWM Cyl. #3 - X mS
  • h. Base PWM Cyl. #4 - X mS
  • i. Base PWM Cyl. #5 - X mS
  • j. Base PWM Cyl. #6 - X mS
  • k. Base PWM Cyl. #7 - X mS
  • l. Base PWM Cyl. #8 - X mS
  • m. Balancing Rate Cyl.1 - X mm
  • n. Balancing Rate Cyl.2 - X mm
  • o. Balancing Rate Cyl.3 - X mm
  • p. Balancing Rate Cyl.4 - X mm
  • q. Balancing Rate Cyl.5 - X mm
  • r. Balancing Rate Cyl.6 - X mm
  • s. Balancing Rate Cyl 8 - X mm
  • t. Fuel Temperature - XF
  • u. FRP Regulator Command - X%
  • v. Desired Fuel Rail Pressure - X Mpa
  • w. Actual Fuel Rail Pressure - X Mpa
  • x. Main Injection Timing - X
  • Fuel Trim Data
  • a. Engine Speed - XRPM
  • b. MAP - X PSI
  • c. ECT - F
  • d. MAF - X Lb/m
  • e. Fuel Temperature - F
  • f. Calculated Fuel Rate - X mm
  • g. Vehicle Speed - X MPH
  • h. TP Angle - X %
  • i. PNP Switch - In Gear
  • j. 4WD Low Signal (If Equipped) - Disabled
  • k. 4WD Signal (If Equipped) - Disabled
  • l. Check Trans. Lamp - Off
  • m. Clutch Pedal Switch - Applied
  • n. Reverse Enable - No
  • o. Front Axle Switch - Unlocked
  • p. Desired Fuel Rail Pressure - X Mpa
  • q. Actual Fuel Rail Pressure - X Mpa
  • r. Main Injection Timing - X
  • s. Pilot Injection Fuel Rate - X mm
  • t. Main Injection Fuel Rate - X mm
  • u. FRP Regulator Fuel Flow Command - X mm
  • v. Pilot injection Timing - X
  • w. Desired FRP Regulator - X mA
  • x. FRP regulator Command - X mA
  • y. Pilot Injection Command - X S
  • z. Main Injection Command - X S
  • aa. FRP Regulator Command - x%
  • bb. Fuel Level - X %
  • cc. BARO - X kPa
  • dd. Engine Run Time - X
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