When it comes to tuning a duramax some know exactly what they want but others want to review their options. The possibilities to tune a duramax are so vast with more options coming available monthly. When tuning diesels became a possibility about 20 years ago there were few options available with little variation. Fast forward to 2019 and the tuning technology for diesels has improved leaps and bounds. Diesel owners now have the ability to DIY diesel tuning, custom diesel tuning or select from a wide variety of plug and play diesel tuners. With all of those options considered lets review some of the best options when tuning a duramax.
Custom Tuning A Duramax
Of all the options available to diesel owners today, custom tuning is probably the most popular. The ability to dial in the precise needs of the owner by adjusting various metrics is very appealing. These custom tunes can be one off with a single installation or available in packs with shift on the fly(SOTF) capabilities. Custom tuning in this capacity is often completed by professionals with years of experience. They know the capabilities and the limits of the Duramax and tune accordingly. This type of tuning can also greatly vary in price depending on various options.
Individual Custom Diesel Tunes
Popular instances of single tunes usually will be in tow vehicles, track trucks or daily drivers. While the single tune will usually enhance performance over stock, being bound to a single tune means only thriving in certain areas of driving. These tunes can be downloaded per application or long term use. The typical single tune options are:
- Tow Tune – Tow tunes allow for maximum efficiency while towing and often include updated shift points for the transmission as well.
- Race Tune – Race tunes are often only used as single tunes on vehicles who only drive on the track. These vehicles are often upgraded with a larger turbo, compound turbos, built transmissions and more. Races tunes will typically give ultimate power but in exchange will wear out other components at a faster rate.
- Fuel Efficiency Tune – These tunes are great for those that daily drive their diesels whether around town or on the highway. While diesels aren’t typically thought of to be fuel efficient, tunes can increase efficiency to high 20’s mpg. The downfall of this tune is reduced responsiveness and power.
Shift on the fly tuning has been around for a number of years. SOTF tuning was originally found in plug n play diesel tuning but now is available as an option for custom tunes. Shift on the fly tuning literally allows a driver to shift the tune they desire at a moments notice. Usually this is done via a physical switch or application. Switching between a fuel efficiency tune and a race tune can be done within seconds for maximum usability.
As most duramax owners have only one vehicle the SOTF duramax tuning option is top notch. The ability to change the usability of the truck at a moments notice will make this type of tuning on of the most popular.
DIY Diesel Tuning
With the constant growth of the internet, information on tuning a duramax from the comfort of your garage is now at your fingertips. This type of tuning is especially intriguing to those that are hands on. Without going into the complete DIY diesel tuning guide, there are a few key areas to understand here.
Equipment needed to complete DIY tuning on your duramax will usually consist of the following:
- Laptop: While most people have a laptop, having one that will handle the load of the software needed to tune is important. Another laptop feature to lookout for is certain ports needed to connect cables to the truck.
- Software: When tuning your own duramax you will need to make sure you have the correct software to complete the job. The most common software to tune is EFILive which covers the tuning aspect and the interface aspect.
- Upload Device: Depending on your preference, you have the option to upload to via a laptop or standalone device. This device, typically an AutoCal, will allow for tune upload without lugging a laptop to the vehicle.
- License: When tuning a duramax with the EFILive software a certain license is needed. Testing isn’t needed to acquire the license but payment is, so be aware. Also, the license purchased is only valid for one VIN, so no tuning all of the town.
While self tuning might seem fun or interesting a lot of research should be done prior to taking on this task. If done incorrectly there is great risk to harm the tuned vehicle. For those looking to possibly tune as a profession, learning this software as well as vehicle metrics is a good idea.
Plug and Play Diesel Tuning
Plug and play duramax tuning has been around since the beginning of diesel tuning. The original way to maximize power output from the Duramax has in recent years become the less popular option. Often times viewed as the safer, more reserved diesel tuning the companies in this space are large productions. These companies also are very closely watched by governing bodies to ensure their products meet federal guidelines. Companies in the plug and play market have been fined as much as $300,000 dollars for not complying to federal emission laws.
Products in this category are relatively safe but don’t expect any crazy horsepower jumps.