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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
I've decided to write up a thread so we can get some answers out there about tuning. I personally have run tunes from every big name tuner out there and run them in just about any situation you could think of. I tow light, I tow heavy, I drive in the city and out on the highway. The truck is used for everything from moving 14k of equipment to taking my boys to baseball.

I've been very fortunate in the fact that I've had the oppurtunity to work with tuners like Bill at PHP, Tony Wildman, Vivian at Quick Tricks, Eric at Innovative Diesel, Matt at Gearhead and Chris at Truck Source Diesel. All wonderful people willing to go out of their way to help customers get exactly what they want from their trucks. I've had so many tunes and revisions of tunes, its not even funny. In this thread I plan to throw out some general knowledge and give my experience with particular tunes. I'll also hit on what FICM tuning does to these tunes as I've run all of Bill's (PHP) FICM tunes. I'll also give differences of how the tunes performed with different turbos.

I hope to have members share their own experiences as well. This should help guys trying to get their own tuning down, know more of what to ask for and what to expect when buying and revising a tune.

Let's start with what I believe to be the most popular tunes, race tunes. This catagory would include tunes like the Super Panty Dropper from TSD, the Xtreme X and Xtreme Race from IDP, the Looney Wild from Quick Tricks, the SRL+ from Gearhead, PHP's 140X and Tony Wildmans Race tune. First, I'd to say that any of the above tunes are Race tunes. A lot of guys daily drive these tunes, myself included, but you have to realize that these tunes are designed to put the most power possible down so you can get down the track as quick as possible. I think a huge misconception is that you can simply order one of these tunes, throw it on a basically stock truck (intake&exhaust) and run clean and cool on the street with EGT's never climbing above 1100*. In my opinion 75% of guys are trying to run a tune that fueled to heavily for the street. Any tuner can write a street tune for you that will still perform excellent, but not net you the highest horsepower/track times possible. It will be much more drivable with less smoke and heat. Still, everyone wants the MOST power all the time so they go with the big tunes.

In most cases the trans tuning is different in race tunes and doesn't work great in normal street driving. This is where most revisions will need to be made. The race tunes tend to go through the gears fast even at light to moderate acceleration. This leads to your truck being in OD with the converter locked at 40mph, or less on some tunes. When this happens, the truck lugs, you get under the turbo and create massive amounts of smoke until the trans downshifts or the turbo lights. This may not be as much an issue for guys who live where the terrain is mostly flat, but most of us who live where there are a lot if hills this is no bueno. I have a Looney Wild Track file that will go through the gears, get into OD and lock the converter at 35-38mph under light to moderate acceleration. Now, under hard acceleration, this tune is fast and really puts the power down. This is the tune I made 485RWHP and 968RWTQ on PHP's dyno with stock injectors and a 64.7mm turbo. The tune is a monster up top, but not streetable at all. This is because its a race tune. It does exactly what its supposed to under the conditions it was designed to run, puts down the most possible power and moves the truck as quickly as possible. Did I ever try to tweak this tune for daily driving? NO. If you change the trans tuning to make it more streetable, you would lose some of the ability to run as fast as possible at the track.

There is a lot of talk about early lock up tunes. Again, these are great for racing, but in my experience don't work well for daily driving. I have several versions of the SPD tune from Chris at TSD and some are early lock up. What this does is lock the torque converter earlier in the shift strategy allowing more load to be placed on the engine, leading to more power being put to the ground and less parasitic loss. On the street though, if the truck gets in too high a gear and you lose drive pressure at low RPM, you get under the turbo, lug the engine and get high temps and smoke. Sometimes this can be countered by adjusting the VGT duty cycle up, but then you can cause excessive back pressure and surging. You can also tap the tow/haul and in most cases the trans will downshift and gain RPM, but if you are running a tune designed for street use in your application this won't be necessary. Personally, I'm not a fan of early lock up tunes for daily driving.

I have one tune that does a great job of being streetable and putting down very good power under racing conditions. As a matter of fact, by the seat of the pants feel, it its probably the quickest tune I have. The tune is an IDP Xtreme X tune. Under normal driving conditions the tune holds gears longer than my race tunes. One thing that I really like is that it shifts 1-2, 2-3,3-5, then holds 5th gear with the converter locked till about 55mph and then shifts into 6th and locks the converter. You never get under the turbo with this tune and its setup so that by simply letting out of the throttle and tapping the brake, you unlock the converter. This is also exactly how my PHP 140X tunes shifts. The IDP tune "feels" slightly quicker, but I have no hard evidence that it is or isn't. Both tunes shift excellent under all conditions and are my favorite shift strategies. Doesn't matter if your in town in stop and go traffic, on hilly backroads or out on the interstate, the truck is always in the powerband and the correct gear for conditions. Personally I prefer the PHP tune as my daily driver because it seems to have a bit more low end and very linear power. I did DD the Xtreme X for a long time and its a very streetable tune. One seems to pull a little harder up top and one feels stronger out of the hole. I will say that my IDP tunes have the quickest and hardest shifts of all my tunes. Eric has a reputation for having the safest transmisdion tuning due the how quick his tunes shift. No lag in the shifts reduce the amount the clutches slip and prolongs the life of transmissions. Guys like Shawn Ellerton, who pionered 6.0L performance only use IDP, so to me that says a lot. The PHP tuning has very quick crisp shifts as well. These tunes are very compareable as far as temps go as well. About 1400*@WOT is the max I see. This is with the 64.7mm turbo utilizing the 03'/PMax 10blade turbine wheel. With the 63.5mm and the stock 13blade turbine wheel, I could get about 1500*. Both lose about 100-150* when the water/meth is engaged. That is with a -20* windshield washer fluid which is about 35-40%methanol and 60-65% water.

The TSD SPD tune is what I'm currently DDing since it has the open vanes at idle and I love the low rumble that produces. I can't stand the pissed off hairdryer noise that is associated with tunes running 35% or more duty cycle at idle. The 15% duty cycle at idle doesn't cause anymore lag or any less throttle response, it just does away with the rushing air sound at idle. Just what I prefer. The TSD tunes are well known for making great power and being very clean and streetable. The linear nature of the power output is excellent. The shifts are quick and smooth. The Gearhead SRL++ tuning is very compareable to the TSD SPD tuning. Very linear power and very quick smooth shifting. Both tunes run extremely clean. As a matter of fact, 3-4 years ago when Chris Guest and I started the Georgia PowerStroke Diesel Association, we had our first dyno event at PHP. My truck was a 2006 250 ECLB 4x4 ON 35's with intake, exhaust ,FICM tune and TSD's Super Panty Dropper. Chris's truck was a 2006 250 CCSB 4x4 on 35's with intake, exhaust, FICM tune and Gearhead's SRL++. We dynoed back to back and Chris made 454RWHP/980RWTQ and I made 451RWHP/ 999RWTQ. The trucks couldn't have been any better matched. Both trucks ran extremely clean, hardly any smoke. Both trucks were very streetable and comfortable to drive.

The Looney tune and Looney Wild are what always seemed to make the most power on the dyno in my truck. When talking about Quick Tricks you have to mention customer service, as in Vivian can't be beat. She is awesome and always has time to talk and discuss your goals. If you need revisions or tweaks, she is on the ball. As far as the tunes go, the Looney and Looney Wild are fast tunes up top. The Looney Wild is what I made 485RWHP/968RWTQ with a cast 64.7mm compressor and stock 13blade turbine turbo. It never made more the 24psi of boost on the dyno, but I'd see 28-29psi on the street. On my stock turbo I have pushed up to 1800* on the Looney Wild @ WOT(stock injectors), so this is the hottest tune I have. With the upgraded turbos the temps came down to around 1650* @ WOT with the 63.5mm/13 blade and 1500* @ WOT with the 64.7mm/10 blade. Around 100* decrease in these temps with water/meth. Shifting on these tunes is softer than the rest of my tunes. Much like stock. Some people complain of the "Light switch" affect, which is a lot of power coming on at once during acceleration. I noticed this on my Looney Wild, but not as much on the regular Looney. Fact is, the Looney Wild is an aggresive race file so that's to be expected. Once you figure it out its very easy to drive. My tunes from Tony Wildman are very compareable in how they feel to Vivian's tunes. Tony's tunes seem to shift a bit firmer and run 50-100* cooler. Otherwise they are very close. Tony's tunes seem to have a lot of power come on very early (1700-2000RPM), while the Looney Wild seems to have the power come on a little later (2300-2600RPM). Both these tunes are a little hotter and a little smokier than the others, but with the aftermarket turbos the smoke cleared significantly.

Another thing to discuss is heat or EGT's. Most of the time when EGT's are discussed, we're talking about WOT. Cruising EGT's are usually fairly consistant. My truck cruises around 700-750* @ 70mph on any of these full fuel tunes. That is unloaded on flat ground holding steady throttle with ambient air temps of between 80-90*. Of course that number rises or drops depending on throttle position and the truck runs cooler in the winter (who'd have guessed that? LOL). Where the difference seems to be for me is how quickly temps rise during normal acceleration. Some tunes seem to climb rapidly and level off and some seem to slowly climb along with throttle input and level off at cruising speed. When daily driving a high horsepower tune, you have to expect to see hotter than stock temps. I've had countless people complain of getting up to 1000* on a hill while driving normally. This the nature of the beast when driving a full fuel tune. I routinely run up to 1200* while driving between Dallas and Rome GA. The hills are long and steep. Its not hurting anything. 1000* is not an issue at all, as a matter of fact, at 1100* you're starting to burn of the carbon deposits in your engine. 1200* you're still ok. 1300* is fine for short periods, I wouldn't want to hold it for an hour, but several minutes while pulling a hill is fine. I've actually had the conversation with Eric @ IDP that you want to see 1350*+ @ WOT on a full fuel tune to insure a complete fuel burn. 1400* is ok for short sprints too. Most guys see well upwards of this while running down the quarter mile. 1500*+ is beginning to get hot and can cause damage if these temps are sustained for any extended amount of time. I don't worry about temps up to 1600*+ while doing 0-100mph+ runs or quarter mile sprints, but wouldn't want to be holding that temp for 30 seconds while towing up a hill. Like I said, I've been to 1800* before for a very short period and suffered no adverse affects. If you're afraid of 1100*, don't run a high HP tune. You can call your tuner and have them bring your EGTs down, but they're doing that by pulling fuel and in turn you'll be making less power. The best thing you can do is opt for a mild street tune instead of the full fuel race tune. You'll still get a huge power gain over stock and have much more controlable temps.

I have an IDP street tune that I love to run. It typically gets loaded whenever someone needs to borrow my truck or I'm towing between 5-8k. I rarely change from my SPD or PHP 140X if I'm towing 5k or less. The street tune runs great and the temps never go over 1300*. It doesn't get the fuel economy that the big tunes do, but there is still an improvement over stock. Its all about choosing the right tune for your application.

Now let's discuss towing. I have a weekend/side job on a farm north of Rome GA. I also have a place in TN. I use my truck to move equipment several times a year. Depending on the tractor, implements and trailer combination that I'm towing, the load can get up to 14k. Remember when I said I routinely see 1200* under normal driving on the hills between Dallas and Rome? I rarely break 1100* on the same run with 10k+ in tow using my tow tunes. The tow tunes hold gears longer, keep RPM up and don't fuel anywhere near as hard. My favorite heavy towing tunes are my IDP Aggressive tow and my Gearhead tow tunes. Both of these tunes are excellent when pulling the heavier equipment. If you don't know the geography of N GA into middle TN, it isn't flat, at all. Its covered with long steep grades and rolling hills. Even with FICM tuning (currently running the PHP Atlas 80, but recommend the 40 for anyone towing with consistancy) my temps stay very much in check. There are 2 grades, both a mile+ long that I will sustain1100*+ (depending on ambient air temp) while pulling if I hold 55-60mph. Both of these tunes have a turbo brake built in, which really helps slow the truck on the down hill grades. Now, the tow tunes do not net great fuel economy, but if I'm towing that much, I'm not very concerned with fuel economy. If I'm geting 8-10mpg, which I always do, I'm happy. On my big tunes, unloaded I can hand calculate 19-21mpg highway. You can't expect anywhere close to this while towing, especially in an 8k truck on 35's.

Economy tunes. I've never had much luck with them. Ivecalways got the best fuel economy on my highest HP tunes and this seems to be what 99% of guys report. I get better fuel mileage and make tons more power on the high HP tunes, so that's what I run for increased fuel econ.

In the end, you need to figure out exactly what you intend to use your truck for and what your goals are. Then contact the tuner of your choice and give them that information. Let them recommend a tune for you based on the goals you have. Also, don't limit yourself to one tuner. Try several and run the tune you like the most. Its also nice to change up every once in a while.

I hope this helps some folks out and I hope others will chime in with their experiences.

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Pretty good read.:thumb:
 

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Discussion Starter #3 (Edited)
Pretty good read.:thumb:
Written over 2 days and no proof reading, so........ be gentle.

I just wanted something that guys could look at regarding tuning. Let's face it, you can spend all the money in the world on hard parts, but without a good tune, it won't run for crap.

I'm gonna write a little more, especially concerning FICM tuning, but I kinda wanted to see what guys had to say and what questions came up first.

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Written over 2 days and no proof reading, so........ be gentle.

I just wanted something that guys could look at regarding tuning. Let's face it, you can spend all the money in the world on hard parts, but without a good tune, it won't run for crap.

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Agreed.

I'm going to make this thread a sticky.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Agreed.



I'm going to make this thread a sticky.

You don't have to do that. I'm afraid of its a sticky some guys may not see it or comment. I'd really like to get a bunch of other guys to comment on their experiences with different tunes and setups in a helpful manner.

Maybe a sticky later?


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You don't have to do that. I'm afraid of its a sticky some guys may not see it or comment. I'd really like to get a bunch of other guys to comment on their experiences with different tunes and setups in a helpful manner.

Maybe a sticky later?


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That will work.
 

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Great input. I'm relatively new to all this stuff but you definitely covered on everything I've noticed since watching EGTs, playing with turbos and different tunes too. :thumb:
 

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Fantastic information and experiences! Really helps clear things up!
 

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Can anyone explain the adaptive transmission learning stuff? I kinda know what it is and how it works but can't explain it as well as someone else can I am sure. I had Chris at TSD turn mine off as much as he could and I like it a lot, my shifts are the same day in day out, unlike my other tunes I have run that did not have anything done to the adaptive learning.
 

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Good read for sure. I'd say how ficm tunes react with ecm tunes and how they interact with one another and pulse width, also maybe disclose on engine load an smoke factor and spool up?

I love the race tune but like you stated, lugging the motor an being under the turbo sucks.however the mileage is nice. I'm seeing 21.5 on my full fuel gearhead tune

I really want to try php tunes because I absolutely dispose slow shifting an flaring. I want quick an firm like you stated. Idp has some amazing shifting so php will get my next try. My full fuel srl flares an lags when shifting, but I load my idp an it shifts perfect and no flare. So as powerful as a tune may be, its not that great if it won't shift properly to your liking.
 

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Excellent read. And like Jeff I love how TSD turns off adaptive learning. Shifts the same day in and day out

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Great write up and definitely worthy of a sticky.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
As far as FICM tuning goes, I've run all of PHP's FICM tunes. I've found that while each has their place, I'm not a fan of the Hercules 100 for anyone that tows. The Hercules 100 is a lot of fuel, and quick. I've seen it make over 400RWHP and over 800RWTQ on a basically stock truck (4" exhaust) with NO ecm tuning. Stock Ford ecm program, no SCT, no other tuning at all, just the Hercules 100. Oh, and that truck was on 38's. I've run the H100 and even towed, light, with it. You just can't pull enough fuel to be safe in my honest opinion. Even with a very small 5x10' open trailer (single axle, tiny tires, maybe 500lbs) and two fourwheelers ( one weighs 600 and the other around 700) plus maybe 400lbs of gear, for a total of around 2200lbs, I had to switch to a tow tune to keep EGTs even remotely in check going up to our place in TN. Keep in mind that I tow the equipment, 10-14k this same route and have done it on the SPD with the Atlas40, keeping a very close eye on EGTs. I don't recommend towing heavy on a big ecm tune, just using this as reference. If, you know for a fact that you would never tow and your truck was strictly a street truck, this might be a good option. It does help to spool the turbo faster, but temps rise quick as a result of the extra fuel on the bottom and smoke is increased as well. When temps rise fast on the bottom end, it becomes very hard to control them and make them level out. I have a hard time recommending this FICM tune, simply because if you're not watching your gauges like a hawk, I can see it getting someone in trouble.

The Atlas 80 is what I'm currently running. It seems to do a great job of providing a quick spool up and still allows enough fuel to be pulled to tow. This FICM tune is still heavy on the fueling, but not like the 100. I didn't run this tune with the 63.5mm/13blade turbos, because it still seemed a little much, but with the 64.7mm/10blade turbos, its very nice. While the 10 blade turbine wheels offer better air flow in the mid to upper RPM range they lack a bit on the bottom. Two things have come along and made them much better on bottom end. One was the addition of the single plane, billet compressor wheel and the other was FICM tuning. The 80 still isn't recommended for anyone who tows, but in my experience, as long as you watch your gauges, its a great tune. Really gets the turbo going and while temps do rise quicker than the 40, they are controllable. Unloaded on my big ECM tunes paired with the 80 my temps will rise quickly to 800-900* under normal acceleration and then level off and fall back into the 700-750* range while cruising. While towing you still see the temps rise quick, but as the truck gets moving and less throttle is needed the temps quickly level off and drop. The Hercules 100 never seemed to.want to drop off near as much as the 80. The spool up and increase in throttle response over stock felt about the same to me between the 80 and 100. The biggest difference I noticed was the 80 allowed temps to level.off quicker and fall off more at cruising. Basically, the gains were about the same but the 80 allows for much more controlable EGTs.

The Atlas 40 is a good FICM tune for guys looking for a quicker spool and better throttle response, but still need to tow. The temps with this FICM tune are very controlable. I used this tune when running the 63.5mm/13blade turbos and the combo was great. Made excellent power, helped spool up and towed like a beast. This is the tune I recommend about 75% of the time. Its a great all around FICM tune. While it doesn't offer the increase of the 80, its more tow friendly and less likely to push temps into the red. If you live at altitude I would never recommend anything more than the 40.

Everyone I know that has tuned their FICM, myself included, has reported some kind of fuel mileage increase, but thats to be expected due to differences in vehicles, weights, tire sizes and driving styles. Typically I hear an average of 2-4mpg increase. That's an average of all the tunes. It really depends on you and your setup, but I feel its safe to expect a slight increase in fuel mileage along with the benefits of quicker spool and better throtyle response.

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Does anyone have any input of PHP's FICM tune over IDP's?
 

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How about issues with tunes?

Not with tuners, but more with things that I see with certain tunes like check engine codes.

On one I load I will get a cylinder #5 contribution code set, but only a soft code.

Switch to a different tune, different tuner, and I get a glow plug module coms error that sets the check engine light with a hard code.

Go to stock and all codes are gone.

Not a complaint, just wanted to see if anyone had this experience?

Otherwise a very good synopsis of the various tunes and what to expect.

Thanks,
Sean
 

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I cant comment on idps newer ficm tuning. But their old stuff wouldn't cold start for ****.

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Sean thats gonna vary based on strategy and possibly tuning errors

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Matt, great info here. Thanks for taking the time to write all that out. I've got pretty limited experience with tuning but I'll throw in a couple of thoughts. I have the Atlas 40 FICM tune and have tried the Looney, MPD, SPD, and PHP's 140X for ECM tuning.

As far as the overall feel of the tunes, my favorites are the SPD and 140X. The Looney is a good tune, but I don't like the light switch effect. Both the SPD and 140X have good linear power through the throttle, but the 140X's shifts are much firmer than the SPD. Mileage seems to be about the same for both tunes, I see 13-14 straight city and 18+ straight highway. I haven't had any issues keeping temps in check unloaded or hauling light, up to about 8-9k. I generally have a pretty light foot and don't really run the truck harder than medium throttle on the 140X or SPD, and the truck moves around town with ease. Smoke is easy to control on both tunes, generally it'll put out a good puff when I punch it and cleans up quick when the turbo lights.
 

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Sean thats gonna vary based on strategy and possibly tuning errors

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Dave,
I have contacted the tuner to see what strategy he used and if I can get another tune with a different strategy. It only happens at startup so I am wondering if it is an issue with how quickly the truck starts.

Different tunes I have all start differently. Some quiet and very tame, other sound like they are about to take off like a rocket.

Thanks,
Sean
 
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