Power Punch

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Getting to the track is almost as fun as being at the track with these tow vehicle performance enhancements that boost truck performance, fuel economy, and drivability.

Racers—all of them—are obsessed with power. Most will dig deep into their finances, and their personal efforts, to add a few horsepower to a race car in a competitive class. Yet another investment in power—in their tow vehicles—will pay big dividends as well. The performance aftermarket offers a host of electronic and mechanical aids that can markedly improve a tow vehicle’s power, driver-friendliness, and fuel economy, which may just be the most important improvement of all given the persistent increases in fuel prices.

Tuning Tools

Some of the equipment available allows teams to do a quick tune-up of their hauler, using proprietary technology, often in handheld packages that can be plugged into a hauler’s data ports. At COBB Tuning in Austin, Texas, customers can find a way to better the behavior of Ford trucks equipped with the automaker’s 10-speed automatic transmission. As COBB Tuning’s Kirstin Backes explained, “One of the most common complaints in the Ford trucks in the last few years has been the 10-speed’s shift characteristics. From the factory, they’re always hunting for a gear. All the up-and-down shifting is annoying as a driver, and it only gets exacerbated when you’ve got a load behind your truck. We can fix that with the COBB Accessport and a few minutes of your time.”
The Accessport module is advertised as an easy-to-use ECU upgrade solution for a variety of performance vehicles and trucks. It essentially replaces the factory’s more conservative engine-management settings with either off-the-shelf or enhanced custom powertrain mapping for any level of customer modification. The Accessport rides in a holster and is plugged into the vehicle’s OBD II port to input pre-loaded mapping, with driver-selectable tuning settings that are fine-tuned to any power modifications already on the truck by following directions on the unit’s screen.

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Edge Products’ Insight CTS3 on-dash monitor provides drivers with real-time data that includes transmission fluid and coolant temperatures, engine oil and exhaust gas temperatures, boost pressures, and more.

“It will help you make more power, and many drivers see improvements in their fuel economy after a good tune is loaded,” Backes said. “You can’t beat that combo when you’re pulling another vehicle to the track. Freed-up airflow, combined with a good ECU tune, will add substantial power, and you don’t even have to leave your garage to make it all happen.”
Holley in Bowling Green, Kentucky, offers a variety of towing-related horsepower products through several brands under its wide corporate umbrella. Several recent product releases are aimed directly at tow-vehicle performance. Under its DiabloSport brand of tuners and programmers, Holley produces a variety of plug-in tuning devices, most of which can be hand-carried, that are aimed at providing flash tuning upgrades to gasoline-fueled trucks. The DiabloSport loaded-in tuning maps can boost power for trucks using 87-octane fuel, with greater gains realized when the fuel is 93 octane. The DiabloSport tuners offer variable valve timing and torque management calibrations.
One such offering, which Holley sources said offers maximum control for Stellantis, Ford, or GM vehicles, is its Trinity 2 programmer. This is built around a haptic 5-inch touchscreen with multiple menus and monitoring functions and is updatable via Wi-Fi using either Windows or Mac-based computer operating systems. With 10 analog and digital function readouts, the Trinity 2 is expandable via licensing agreement to cover multiple vehicles in a customer’s fleet.
In some newer trucks, especially recent General Motors trucks with 5.3-, 6.2-, and 6.6-liter engines, owners can find that the factory ECM and TCU settings may be locked. DiabloSport offers exclusive in-field tuning kits that will unlock the modules and allow uploading of a performance tune. Added horsepower, optimized transmission calibration, and improved throttle response are the advertised benefits. DiabloSport also promises better 0–60 times, improved passing power, and more consistent transmission operation.
Superchips, another Holley holding, offers a variety of handheld flash tuners and inline tuning products for gasoline- and diesel-fueled trucks produced by a variety of automakers. Owners of Ford F-150 trucks from 2021 and up are directed to Superchips’ new Pulsar XT module. This unit allows trucks that tow with the 3.5-liter or 2.7-liter EcoBoost engines to reprogram the tune without first unlocking the truck’s ECM. Superchips forecasts power gains of 65% with the Pulsar XT, along with up to 90 additional pounds-feet of torque. If the truck has been re-geared or fitted with taller tires, the Pulsar XT allows the user to properly calibrate the speedometer, adjust the Tire Pressure Management System (TPMS) engagement threshold, or bypass the TPMS entirely. The system also allows users to dial up the available power as needed—when climbing a hill, for example. The component is legal under the federal EPA’s anti-tampering rules.
Another Pulsar XT is aimed at owners of Ram pickups with the 3.6-liter V6 or 5.7-liter Hemi V8. While not specifically a power-adding device, this Pulsar XT allows owners to disable the Ram Multi-Displacement System, which drops cylinders under moderate loading for fuel-saving purposes. There are seven preset throttle-booster settings. The Pulsar XT also disables the truck’s engine auto start and stop, can be specifically calibrated for tires of 28 to 40 inches in diameter, and can compensate for gear ratios from 2.73 to 5.38. The unit can also adjust the TPMS warning threshold and can recall previous tow and haul settings on startup. It’s all controlled through an Android or iOS smartphone app.
Under its Edge Products brand, which dates to 1999, Holley offers tuning and monitoring equipment aimed at the light-diesel truck owner. To make sure everything’s operating properly, Edge Products recommends its Insight CTS3 on-dash monitor, which provides drivers with real-time data that includes transmission fluid and coolant temperatures, engine oil and exhaust gas temperatures, boost pressures, diesel particulate filter (DPF) regeneration frequency, and DPF soot load. The Insight CTS3 has hundreds of configurable displays for keeping track of a broad range of powertrain functions. External temperature probes and temperature and pressure sensors can be added to reveal data not disclosed by normal OBD-II functions. The unit has self-diagnostic programming that will allow it to report functional problems on the fly.
The Insight CTS3 can be used for full tuner applications across nearly all Ford, GM, and Ram diesels produced from 1996–2024. Edge Products’ Evolution CTS3 and Juice with Attitude CTS3 platforms offer added power and torque, modified transmission shift strategies, and calibrations specifically developed to improve overall drivability and towing performance.

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Superchips’ hand-held tuners enable the driver to perform multiple functions, not all of them related to engine performance. Some models enable the driver to adjust the Tire Pressure Management System engagement threshold or bypass it entirely.

These tuning tools from Edge Products offer improved drivability and towing performance by increasing mid-range torque and adding up to 180 horsepower over stock ratings, according to company sources, who added that most users report an improvement in mileage, throttle response, and passing power on the highway.
Among its newest offerings, Edge has released its Evolution CTS3 with Locksmith for owners of trucks equipped with the GM LP5 Duramax diesel engine. The system allows ECM and TCM unlocking and tuning, directly from the cab, using an industry-leading touchscreen with multiple digital monitors. Covering 2020–2023 models, the Evolution CTS3 is said to deliver “massive power gains” with improved throttle response. A PC and downloaded Update Agent software is required to complete the tuning process. Edge Products’ sources said the system will add up to 125 horsepower at the tires, for which the speedometer can be calibrated to match tire sizes. Four calibration maps are offered for tuning the GM 10-speed automatic transmission. Monitored functions include soot and regeneration frequency, with adjustable speed and rev limiters, among other functions. The component is legal in all 50 states.
Another of Edge’s newest products for diesel applications is the EZX, which is an inline programming module controlled through an intuitive smartphone app along with the truck’s factory steering-wheel controls. According to Edge Products, the EZX is applicable to 2013–2024 Ram Cummins, 2017–2022 Ford Power Stroke, and 2020–2022 GM 3.0L Duramax diesel engines. It adds emissions-friendly power (up to 65 horsepower) that is adjustable on the fly with the app monitoring variables such as tire size, pedal sensitivity, the truck’s speed limiter, turbo timing, and engine brake setting recall, among other variables. The system is completely plug-and-play and leaves no trace of ECM tampering, the producer reported.
The recent merger under Derive Systems in Sanford, Florida, has brought the tuning products of Bully Dog and SCT under the same corporate umbrella. Jay Payson said the firms’ products are intended to boost horsepower, improve fuel economy, and enhance the overall experience of driving a tow vehicle with added performance.
The SCT BDX Performance Programmer and X4 tuning accessories are known in the marketplace for delivering street-tested and dyno-proven tuning files developed by expert, in-house calibrators. Both are described as adding horsepower, torque, and a more responsive towing experience. Some of the calibrations are also aimed at improving fuel efficiency. The systems have the capability to monitor variables such as coolant temperature, battery voltage, and spark timing, which helps ensure the vehicle is running optimally. As Payson explained, “This not only enhances the driving experience but can also prevent potential issues before they become serious problems.”

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PPE’s new bar-and-plate transmission fluid cooler has a larger effective cooling area and bigger core than the OE cooler, but it still utilizes the factory mounting hardware for ease of installation.

For diesel-powered towing vehicles, Bully Dog offers the compact GT Diesel Performance Monitor & Tuner. The unit can be mounted by suction cup and bracket inside the cab and is updatable via PC interface. The multi-function tuner is capable of performing both monitoring and diagnostic functions with a variety of pre-loaded tuning maps. Performance is relayed to the driver through a series of virtual gauges that project rpm, boost level, road speed, and operating temperatures.
Both the SCT BDX and X4 offer user-friendly data interfaces, with the BDX featuring a full-color display along with Wi-Fi-enabled software updates and tuning downloads. This allows access to up-to-the-minute tuning data without requiring access to a personal computer, enabling custom performance tailoring. The devices can also serve as diagnostic tools, capable of reading and clearing diagnostic trouble codes. This feature can save a trip to the mechanic by allowing drivers to address some problems themselves, according to company sources.

Engine to Drivetrain

Pacific Performance Engineering (PPE) in North Las Vegas, Nevada, has a full catalog of horsepower-improving accessories for trucks, including newly upgraded cast-iron cylinder heads for the General Motors Duramax diesel V8. Another such improvement can be realized from PPE’s air-to-water intercooler kit for 2011–2023 Ford trucks equipped with the 6.7-liter Power Stroke. The unit advertises increased cooling efficiency and improved density of the incoming fuel charge, both of which enhance performance under heavy loads, such as towing. A simple, drop-in installation is also cited, along with a 50% larger core and reduced inlet backpressure when compared to a stock intercooler. The flow-optimized, cast-aluminum end tanks of the PPE intercooler are reported to improve airflow, while also reducing frictional pressure drop by a calculated 63%. Sources at PPE said this ensures a constant and smooth airflow with minimized flow restrictions and maximum performance, along with significant fuel-economy benefits.
For those who tow with GM trucks, PPE also now offers its bar-and-plate transmission fluid cooler for trucks equipped with the 6.6-liter Duramax. The unit is a direct replacement for the OEM fluid cooler and uses OEM mounting hardware for speed and simplicity. The PPE unit has a larger effective cooling area and bigger core, which, according to PPE sources, allows the unit to draw 200% more thermal heat from the transmission fluid than the factory cooler can manage. That can result in a 40% drop in fluid temperature, improving transmission operation under all load conditions. The cooler is crafted from high-quality aluminum for better temperature dissipation than stock and comes with a limited lifetime warranty.

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Components from Wehrli Custom Fabrication not only improve a truck’s performance, but the company also offers custom powder coating that can match a tow vehicle’s or race car’s color scheme.

Wehrli Custom Fabrication of DeKalb, Illinois, is a one-stop source of equipment for the mechanical and cosmetic upgrading of light- to medium-duty trucks, especially diesels. Established in 2010, Wehrli produces specialized components for Duramax-powered GM pickups, Fords with the Power Stroke diesel V8, and Cummins-motivated Ram trucks. Among its offerings are drop-in enlarged turbochargers for a variety of models, dual-turbo conversions for the Cummins six-cylinder diesel, and intake kits for the three major diesel providers.
Wehrli sources explain that their selection of intakes, intake horns, intercooler pipes, and down pipes increase both air and exhaust flow for the turbocharger, resulting in improved efficiency, better throttle response, and turbo spool-up. According to the manufacturer, Wehrli turbo components eliminate weak points in the factory design that can contribute to lost power, boost leaks, and complete failures during hard-working and high-performance applications. One of them is a custom 67-mm drop-in turbocharger intended for use with the Ford 6.7-liter Power Stroke diesel from 2017–2019.
Wehrli also offers upgraded silicone boots to withstand higher boost pressures than the factory components, with an eye on increasing reliability and eliminating both blown factory boots and horsepower-robbing boost leaks. The various intake kits that Wehrli designs and produces are also advertised as improving intake air velocity and volume, while providing a more aggressive engine and turbo exhaust note during acceleration. Cosmetically, Wehrli also offers custom powder coating that can match a tow vehicle’s or race car’s color scheme.
In addition to offering supercharger kits for both hot street and race applications, Vortech Superchargers in Oxnard, California, also produces its Charge Cooler upgrade package for Ford F-series trucks equipped with the 3.5-liter EcoBoost engine package. The system, which reduces the temperature of the incoming air charge, can be upgraded to a complete system that incorporates the DiabloSport hand-held tuner and Vortech tuner file, plus all necessary hoses and related equipment. Andrew Schwartz said that Vortech superchargers increase power and torque, making for easier hill climbing with improved fuel economy, depending on the driver.
“If the customer is looking for a product with race-winning performance that
delivers quality and durability, there’s no better product on the market,” Schwartz said.


COBB Tuning
Derive Systems
Pacific Performance Engineering
Vortech Engineering
Wehrli Custom Fabrication


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