Ma­jor tune-up

Diesel Power - - Contents - By KJ Jones

FOUR YEARS AGO, I be­lieved (and stated in the first is­sue pro­duced with me as ed­i­tor) it was only go­ing to be a mat­ter of time be­fore the U.S. En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency would even­tu­ally lower the boom on com­pa­nies—large and/or small—that con­tinue to defy its rules for­bid­ding re­mov­ing, dis­abling, can­cel­ing, and/or delet­ing, emis­sions-con­trol-re­lated hard parts and ECM strate­gies for late-model ve­hi­cles. I mean, only a few years later when we saw it hap­pen at the OEM level

(the Volk­swa­gen emis­sions de­ba­cle of

2016), one could pretty much bet the farm the af­ter­mar­ket would be next in line for in­creased scru­tiny by the feds.

Well, the ham­mer did fall, as De­rive Sys­tems, the folks who bring us Bully Dog and SCT tun­ing soft­ware, pro­gram­mers, and such, an­nounced they are now work­ing with the EPA to “es­tab­lish and pro­mote en­hanced prac­tices within the au­to­mo­tive af­ter­mar­ket in­dus­try,” ba­si­cally in re­ac­tion to a com­plaint filed by the EPA that pretty much says “we gotcha!” for vi­o­lat­ing Sec­tion 203 of the Clean Air Act (in De­rive’s de­fense, many of the prod­ucts cited may be legacy pieces, pro­duced by the two com­pa­nies long be­fore De­rive took them over). I liken this to the way a sus­pected crim­i­nal would take a pros­e­cu­tor’s deal for shorter time, in lieu of pos­si­bly los­ing a trial and go­ing up the river for a long stretch.

What are these new prac­tices? Well, they in­clude up­dated prod­uct-de­vel­op­ment pro­ce­dures and re­vamped test­ing. My lay­man’s in­ter­pre­ta­tion of this is the com­pany is say­ing its days of giv­ing users the abil­ity to delete or oth­er­wise get around emis­sions con­trols us­ing any of its sub­sidiaries’ prod­ucts are over, be­cause they will no longer be pro­duc­ing de­vices that fa­cil­i­tate do­ing it (for on-road/street ve­hi­cles), and em­ploy­ees and deal­ers will be trained and cer­ti­fied to en­sure it doesn’t hap­pen.

While my mes­sage in 2014 sounded a prover­bial alarm, I tem­pered it some by say­ing delet­ing emis­sions gear, “black smoke,” and all that go with it are the ac­cepted norm in com­pet­i­tive en­vi­ron­ments such as drag races, sled pulls and dyno events. I also ex­plained and con­tinue to im­plore that my hope is for man­u­fac­tur­ers, tuners, and the diesel com­mu­nity as a whole to see the light and work hard to de­velop parts and pro­grams that im­prove per­for­mance while com­ply­ing with EPA reg­u­la­tions. Sure, I un­der­stand do­ing this re­quires a lot more time and fi­nan­cial in­vest­ment than cheat­ing does, but I’m happy that many in­flu­en­tial play­ers in this space are giv­ing it a try (and have been do­ing so for a long time).

Hon­estly, it makes me glad to hear en­thu­si­asts who were once all about smoke and noth­ing but smoke now talk about mak­ing “clean power” with their trucks’ emis­sions equip­ment in­tact. Tuners even share news via so­cial me­dia about the in­roads they make with ECM cal­i­bra­tions that are fast be­com­ing known as “emis­sions-on” (all the key hard parts are still in­tact) tunes.

Case in point, us­ing HP Tuners’ newly un­locked (lit­er­ally), pre­vi­ously im­pen­e­tra­ble ECM that con­trols the 6.6L Du­ra­max L5P en­gine of ’17-to-present GM trucks, tuner Kory Wil­lis of PPEI Cus­tom Tun­ing re­ports that a beta ver­sion of his cal­i­bra­tion pro­duced 526 hp and 1,068 lb-ft of torque with the truck’s smog hard­ware in­tact (stock num­bers were 386 hp/818 lb-ft).

Now, it’s im­por­tant to un­der­stand that HP Tuners’ L5P ECM Ex­change Ser­vice (send them a stock pro­ces­sor, and they will send you an un­locked pro­ces­sor that sup­ports cus­tom tun­ing for L5P) has a $2,499 price tag (I be­lieve the swap with Kory’s tun­ing comes in at about $4,000), and it opens a ridicu­lously big can of worms with re­gard to a new Silverado or Sierra’s fac­tory pow­er­train war­ranty, as unau­tho­rized ECM swap­ping is a huge no-no in GM’s eyes. How­ever, de­spite the ad­min­is­tra­tive catch-22, the costs, and the emis­sions-on tun­ing not hav­ing EPA ap­proval, it’s very cool to see such sub­stan­tial per­for­mance gains with the lat­est Du­ra­max V-8, and to know those gains can be im­proved on.

We’re fast ap­proach­ing the Spe­cialty Equip­ment Mar­ket As­so­ci­a­tion’s (SEMA) an­nual trade show in Las Ve­gas, Ne­vada, and the Per­for­mance Rac­ing In­dus­try (PRI) trade show in In­di­anapo­lis, and I have a strong feel­ing the De­rive (Bully Dog/SCT) sit­u­a­tion will be a pop­u­lar topic of dis­cus­sion at both events. While I be­lieve the EPA’s com­plaint also in­cludes ECM pro­gram­ming for gas en­gines, my opin­ion is the agency’s watch­ful eye is now go­ing to be fo­cused on oil­burn­ers more than it ever has been. But that does­nÕt mean I think the sky is fall­ing or this is the prover­bial end of the hobby.

What this does is make clear the fact that our ef­forts to move diesel per­for­mance for­ward with a fo­cus on clean­li­ness—and hav­ing (gasp!) EPA ap­proval—need to con­tinue in earnest. I urge af­ter­mar­ket-parts man­u­fac­tur­ers to work with SEMA and use the SEMA Garage’s badass emis­sions lab

(if they’re not al­ready do­ing so) to test and re­fine prod­ucts, putting them in the best po­si­tion to pass CARB’s strin­gent eval­u­a­tion and hope­fully re­ceive the all-hal­lowed Ex­ec­u­tive Or­der num­ber of ap­proval.

KJ JONES [email protected]­thu­si­ast­net­work.com

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