The funny thing about taking care of any vehicle is the amount of stuff that’s vital to its operation, yet it’s all stuff that you can’t physically see or touch. From the life of the bearings to the shape of the pistons, the internals of a motor are all but a mystery. We do the best we can to maintain them, but short of completely deconstructing the powerplant, all we can really do is take educated guesses based on dipstick readings and flashlight inspections.
The 24-valve 5.9-liter Cummins: big and powerful, but nonetheless difficult to get a reading of just by dipstick levels. The F5 will change this.
Any edge we can gain to better understand our trucks — and how they are doing at any given moment – is something that all careful diesel owners strive for. It’s all the greater when we can have that ability, and also collect data, read error codes, prepare for future modifications, and more. The best way to get all these boxes ticked is through a high-tech programmer like the new Superchips F5.
As the latest entry into the successful Flashpaq line of products, the F5 has been making waves in the diesel and gas community. Power and capability in Jeep, Ford, GM, and Ram have all been possible thanks to this programmer. We had to see for ourselves what this device could do, and sourced an F5 (PN 3845) and a 2006 Quad Cab 2500 to make it happen.
Background Of The F5
We spoke with Matt Barker at Superchips to get a better understanding of the company, the F5, and how both can positively impact the diesel realm. “Our mission is to bring premium features and tuning down to a value price point,” said Barker. “We also strive to provide users with an extraordinary driving experience.”
Touting features found in programmers up to triple in price, the F5 certainly has a lot of bang for the buck.
The Flashpaq lineup has been a Superchips mainstay for years and is centered around value combined with premium features. Put another way, the bang-to-buck ratio is one that many truck owners admire. “Flashpaqs provide great horsepower per dollar,” said Barker. “We really designed these units to offer people features like diagnostics, monitoring, and performance tuning in a low-cost, hand-held tuner.”
Everything got ramped up – faster programming, faster updating, and a new sleek design. – Matt Barker, Superchips
Feedback and technology improvements have affected the F5 in a tremendous way, affirmed Barker. “We listened to our customers and found some improvements that we could enable,” he said. “We included a color screen and also boosted our programming times and update speeds.” Compared with the predecessor, the F4, Barker explained: “Everything got ramped up – faster programming, faster updating, and a new sleek design.”
One thing a few people might not be aware of is the user friendliness that is imbued into the F5. The user interface has been cleaned up to be as functional as possible, and with faster programming speeds, the installer won’t have his or her patience tried.
Speaking of speed, tunes included with the F5 are designed to assist in a variety of situations for diesel owners. There are four in total: economy, towing, daily driving, and extreme.
“Economy is really designed to improve mileage potential … it is still a horsepower increase over stock,” Barker explained. “It is designed to be more efficient while still providing a performance increase. Towing is really designed around improving shifting on most applications. It helps with low-end torque and eliminates unnecessary downshifting when towing on the highway.”
Compared to its predecessor, the F4, the F5 has improved processing and tuning speeds as well as a high-resolution color screen and an easy-to-use interface.
“Daily driving is all about making the vehicle more enjoyable to drive by increasing responsiveness and efficient fuel usage. It’s also a power increase over stock,” he continued. “It’s going to be more aggressive than the economy tune, and the kick-in is a little higher. Lastly, extreme tuning is all-out performance. It’s designed to put a grin on your face. It’s like another step of aggressiveness, as the fuel kicks in sooner so the whole range is getting more power and torque.”
On top of all these features, the F5 is, of course, able to help with our original musing: how can we get a better understanding of what’s going on inside the engine? The F5 does it the way the professionals and gearheads trust, through the OBD-II port and speaking directly to the truck’s “brain” in the ECU. “The F5 does diagnostic trouble code reading and clearing, as well as monitoring and data logging,” said Barker. “Parameter IDs include things like boost, coolant temperatures, and exhaust gas temperatures.”
Several tuning options are available for the F5, including those designed to improve fuel mileage, towing, and top-end performance.
As we mentioned above, the truck we sourced for this installation was a 2006 Dodge Ram 2500. The engine is the 24-valve 5.9-liter Cummins, producing 325 hp and 610 lb-ft of torque. Nothing, except the usual maintenance, has been done to it over the years.
The dyno graph results show the stock tune file for the truck: 319.3 horsepower, 590.4 lb-ft of torque.
The potential for getting more out of that engine was within reach when the F5 was installed, but before we got to that point, we wanted to get a baseline of how much power the truck was making. We strapped the vehicle in place and let our Dynojet dynamometer do its thing.
Results showed the 2500 made 319.3 hp and 590.4 lb-ft of torque. Both horsepower and torque climbed at a very steady rate up to about 2,500 rpm, then reached their peaks at about the same time near 2,900 rpm. It was a very clean run and would be easy to compare to later on as the “after” dyno passes were made.
Flashpaq F5 Highlights
- High-definition, 2.8-inch color screen
- High-speed processor to improve updating time and enable faster programming
- Performance tuning for mileage, towing, and daily driving
- Tuning designed to eliminate excessive downshifting to improve overall driveability
- Installs in just minutes with no tools required
- Two-year powertrain warranty
Installing the F5 was as easy as could be, starting with connecting the unit to a computer and letting it update through a downloadable patch. After a few minutes, it was ready to go. All we had to do was connect it to the OBD-II port and let the F5 power up, and we were on our way.
Navigating through the F5’s menus was a breeze thanks to the directional pad just below the screen. From here, we hit “OK” on the Tune menu and turned on the ignition once prompted. We waited as the F5 did its job, saving the stock tune file of the 2500 that we could always use to revert the truck back to stock.
After the stock tune file was saved, we were free to choose from any of the tunes – and we did. One by one, we went through all four tunes we had available: Mileage XS, Tow, Tow Performance, and Performance. Below, you can see the results we achieved.
All three levels of tuning showed great improvements over stock. The most robust of these was the Performance tune, which achieved more than 130 hp and 230 lb-ft of torque compared to the factory tune. The Mileage XS tune, unfortunately, cut off after about 3,000 rpm, but you can see it had already achieved the maximum results and trending downwards.
Our Mileage XS run (shown in orange) boosted the numbers a great deal, ramping up to 396.2 hp and 725.7 lb-ft of torque. Next, the Tow run (shown in red) made 371.0 hp and 683.6 lb-ft of torque. Afterward, the Performance run (shown in green) was all about pure power, and our dyno bore out just how much truth there was to F5’s capability as the truck pulled 456.1 hp and 833.7 lb-ft of torque. Talk about oomph! Last but not least, the Tow Performance run (shown in blue) made 427.8 hp and 780.6 lb-ft of torque.
Examining the graph a little further, we noticed that all four dyno pulls seemed to converge on 2,875 rpm as the crossover point where torque was on its way down as horsepower kept climbing. The obvious difference was that each of the three tunes totally smoked the stock tune, and our peak gain was a whopping 136.8 hp and 243.4 lb-ft of torque. As one of our shop techs put it, “Not bad for a plug-and-play install!”
The truck is pulling a heck of a lot more power and torque now, all thanks to the Superchips F5.
Also of note was that the tunes got to work much earlier in the rev range, starting as low as 1,900 rpm in the case of the tow tune. They could also keep on working for longer after the stock tune had quit; case in point, the performance tune still making power at 3,100 rpm where the stock tune had given up at 2,870 rpm.
Left: all of the different tuning options available for use on the Dodge. Right: now, we can see some of the parameters that interest us including fuel rail pressure, ambient temperature, and so on.
After the fun of the dyno runs, we got more acquainted with the F5 and its other abilities. We were, of course, pleased to see all the PIDs we could monitor throughout the drivetrain, and knew the truck owner would have a great interest in his exhaust temperature as he looks to start towing trailers in the near future.
Overworking a vehicle like the 2500 isn’t easy to do, but it’s something anyone will try to avoid if possible. Thanks to the F5, diesel enthusiasts have that ability to stay on top of what’s going on in places they can’t see, as well as improve drivetrain performance parameters from shift points to output numbers. We highly recommend you check out Superchips’ website to learn more about the tuning possibilities for your rig, and it can’t hurt to peruse the company’s Facebook page as well.