4 x 4 Australia
HOW CAN YOU MAKE MORE POWER FROM YOUR TURBO-DIESEL ENGINE SAFELY AND RELIABLY? WE INTERVIEW TWO QUALIFIED MECHANICS WHO SPECIALISE IN DIESEL TUNING, TO GIVE US THE GOOD OIL ON DIESEL PERFORMANCE UPGRADES
UPGRADING the performance of turbo-diesel four-wheel drives is big business, with nearly every man and their dog offering a product or solution spruiking big claims of more power and better fuel economy. The good news though, is these days there is so much information and knowledge out there on this topic, however on the flip side, the bad news is it’s not always easy to find the right information or people to handle this task safely and reliably.
It’s not all doom and gloom though, as we’ve enlisted the help of two extremely talented and experienced off-road specialists to cut through the bull and give you solid information to better make the right decision for your needs and vehicle.
For this article, I tracked down two qualified mechanics who specialise in diesel tuning for a good old Q&A session. I know these fellas and have trusted them to work on my own vehicles.
Giving us their pearls of wisdom, we have Stephen Houghton (Stevo as he’s better known), owner of Queensland’s Coolum Motors and CRDTECH Tuning; and Steve Etcell, owner of AE-CO 4X4 in Riverstone (NSW) who specialises in everything 4x4 including diesel engine conversions, performance upgrades and custom fabrication.
These aren’t keyboard warriors, these experts are super experienced in the field and practise what they preach by building and racing high-performance diesel-powered 4WDS. We sat down with these absolute champions who were kind enough to give us their time, and asked them the same questions to see what they feel works and what you should avoid, as well as seeing if they agree with each other on the right and wrong ways to make more power from your turbo-diesel 4x4.
WHAT ARE PERFORMANCE MODULES, HOW DO THEY WORK AND WHAT ARE THEIR PROS AND CONS?
STEPHEN HOUGHTON: “Performance modules are mostly plug-and-play piggyback ECUS, they are either STS (Straight To Sensor) or some are hardwired. These units also mainly trick the ECU by altering the signals to and from the various sensors being utilised. They are mostly live-tuned on the dyno, which gives the tuner real live-control over the vehicle.”
PROS: “Live tuning is heaps easier and quicker than altering the ECU software.”
CONS: “You are limited in what you can change.”
WHAT ARE PERFORMANCE CHIPS, HOW DO THEY WORK AND WHAT ARE THEIR PROS AND CONS?
STEPHEN HOUGHTON: “Performance plug-in chips come in a range of different options, most are basic and alter the signal back to the ECU to mainly raise fuel rail pressure. This is very old technology, and generally if something goes wrong in the chip, the ECU has no idea and will keep adding fuel until catastrophic failure occurs.”
PROS: “Not many … they are easily removable I suppose, which is a pro.”
STEVE ETCELL: “Performance chips are generally a plugand-play item that requires no tuning and may have a small amount of user adjustability.”
PROS: “They are easy to fit at home.”
CONS: “Conservative performance gains, limited adjustability, not suited for high-power or heavily modified engine set-ups.”
STEVE ETCELL: “Performance modules are generally a tuneable device that is best installed and set up by a professional on a dyno, and then tuned to suit your specific vehicle and modifications.”
PROS: “They are customisable depending on specific vehicle requirements, can offer significant safe gains.”
CONS: “Slightly more expensive than a generic chip.”