True balance in life is hard to find. We all juggle work, family and hobbies, but some of us favor certain areas more. When we started talking to Rob Coddens, it was quickly apparent that years of martial arts has taught him balance. In this month’s Lessons Learned, we seized the opportunity to interview Coddens, perhaps better known as “Idaho Rob”, to share his wisdom with us and you.
Rob has been hands-on in the shop, building and working on performance vehicles most of his life. He started in high school with a 1934 Ford 2 door sedan with a built small block Chevy backed by a 4 speed transmission. Grosse Pointe South High School in Detroit, Michigan had a great shop class and Coddens spent a lot of time there. When he wasn’t in class he spent his time working on his Ford, racing it or working to pay for parts for it. Still in school, Coddens built a fiberglass bodied Jeep with a strong V8 that he wrenched on and played with. After graduating high school, Coddens bought a motorcycle and toured the country. He had spent most of his early life in Detroit and wanted to see what the rest of the country looked like and had to offer.
In the late 80’s and early 90’s while working in the construction industry, Coddens got pretty involved in motorcycle road racing. Even though a privateer, he won some races and really enjoyed racing in places like Pokono, Indy, and Road Atlanta. Unfortunately, broken bones in his back, hands and feet didn’t mix well with his construction job back in Detroit, so he had to retire from road racing.
About that same time, Coddens took a job in Idaho at a back country ranch. “I really enjoyed hunting and fishing and the outdoor lifestyle,” said Coddens. The ranch had no phones, no TV and was shut down/isolated from the outside world for 6 months during the winter. “My wife and I lived back then kind of like The Shining (minus the crazy scary part!) and really enjoyed it,” continued Coddens.
When his wife got pregnant they decided it was time to move into a bigger city and Coddens went back into construction in Boise, Idaho. Around this time (2004) he wanted to get back into drag racing. Since they had just started a family and didn’t want to over extend themselves financially, Coddens just decided to drag race his construction truck (2004 LLY Duramax). From 2004 to 2007 Coddens started to make a name for himself and help a lot of trucks go fast, but it was still just a hobby. It wasn’t until 2007 that Coddens opened Adrenaline Truck Performance (ATP Trucks). Today they have a 10,000 sq. ft. building on 2 acres. They have 11 employees and not only do they work on customer trucks and sell parts, but they also manufacture performance parts themselves.
Today, the name Idaho Rob is synonymous with Duramax, but Rob Coddens has had a tremendous amount of success in many different areas of his life. So, we discussed what he has done over his life to come up with some of the most important lessons that he has learned through the years. Here’s what he has to share with you.
Lesson 1: Balance: It’s important to find a balance between money, fun and family.
Lesson 2: Being resourceful can yield great results.
Lesson 3: EFILive.
Lesson 4: Race what you have. It doesn’t have to be a record setting truck. Have fun!
Lesson 5: Building Power!
Photos Courtesy of Rob Coddens and NHRDA
Lesson 1: “It’s important to find balance between money, fun and family.”
Coddens has studied martial arts and boxing for most of his life. Balance is an important aspect of both disciplines. When most people think martial arts they instantly think of people like Bruce Lee or some MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) guy just beating the snot out of someone. But most martial arts teachings are about control, balance, and behavior, and in fact many are against aggressive actions. For Coddens, his martial arts training has really taught him to balance what he wants with what he needs. “I see guys all the time over extending themselves for a hobby and it affects their daily life or family life,” says Coddens. “One of my most lofty goals is trying to find that balance between work, family time, and living life to the fullest.”
Even early on, before Coddens was married, he struggled with balance. For most, racing is about being competitive and generally that takes a fair amount of money. Coddens was always smart about getting the right parts that he needed without over extending himself. When he was road racing, “I did pretty well. I never had much money for equipment, so I was always running a year or two old equipment, yet I still won some races,” Coddens mentioned. Fast forward to 2004, Coddens and his wife just had their second child and he wanted to get back into drag racing. Money was very tight. “At that time, I couldn’t afford a drag car and a truck. So I started taking my diesel in stock form and racing at a local track. It was the only thing I had to race,” said Coddens. Having been a racer in one form or another for most of his life, it didn’t take long before he started figuring out how to go faster. Instead of buying the latest go fast parts, Coddens was able to make what he had work because that is what he could afford without taking food away from the family table.
Lesson 2: “Being resourceful can yield great results.”
The Duramax was introduced in 2001. By 2004, when Coddens started to get into drag racing, the engine had gone through some slight updates and revisions and was a very reliable engine. The thing is, the entire diesel market was just starting to expand and there really weren’t many performance parts for these trucks. What was available was pretty expensive. “I was working on a very limited budget with a new family and wasn’t making a whole lot of money in the construction industry. I was trying to do things a little out of the box” said Coddens. “I did things the cheap way to improve the performance. When I finally got some discretionary income, I always bought quality parts,” he continued.
Early on, Coddens learned that the CP3 fuel pressure is regulated by voltage. So Coddens hooked up a switch to the pump that would allow him to bump the pressure from 23,000 psi to 26,000 psi. “We picked up some ET that way,” said Coddens. He also looked at the low pressure mechanical fuel pump (lift pump). “We would slam shut the return line with a solenoid. We also added a second turbo. At that time, I got in with a guy who had done it on the Dodges and he built me a very inexpensive kit for it. He was one of the first to ever do it on a Duramax. It was sort of a progression from there, getting in with good people that wanted to help me out because I was doing well in the performance side of things. So I didn’t have a lot of cash outlay, but the performance really improved by leaps and bounds,” continued Coddens.
Another example was Coddens jumping into mechanical tasks that he had never done before but couldn’t afford to pay someone else to do. A perfect example of that was his transmission. “I had never taken an automatic transmission apart before, so I took the one out of my brand new truck and learned. I used stock clutches, but increased line pressure instead of buying a full tranny kit,” Coddens said. “I didn’t mind re-doing things if they didn’t work, but what I found was a lot of stock parts did and do work outside of what people in the industry would say. Just because it is an expensive part doesn’t mean it will work better than a stock part,” he continues.
Many of the companies that were early pioneers in Duramax performance were working with Coddens to develop parts and refine what they had already manufactured.
Lesson 3: “EFILive.”
Anytime someone starts to take a vehicle outside of the factory parameters, things start going wrong. “(We ran into) limiting tables and torque management issues,” said Coddens. These were among the biggest struggles they had early on with the electronics. “The truck didn’t like all of the boost we were throwing at it and it would go into limp mode. So a lot of what we were doing first was to work with EFILive and show them what the truck was doing in relation to the limp side of things. We first worked with finding limiting tables and removing those. Then we worked on fine tuning things; petal position, torque table, timing tables,” Coddens continued.
Once EFILive expanded on the tuning, the performance would be in the hands of the tuners. “We now had control of the timing, so we could spool big chargers easier. The fueling was very good. We had control of pressure, when the injector was going to fire and for how long. So down the road when dual CP3’s came out, we could manipulate the pressures. We could see what we were doing now,” reflected Coddens.
As he started tuning, Coddens would spend countless hours at the track. “I would throw one degree of timing at it. That is all I would change. Then I would go out and see what it did as far as performance, noise, drivability and so forth. It just gave us full control of what was going on with the truck. Pair that up with data logging and we could see exactly what the truck was doing. We would change this, but the data logging said it was doing something else. So then we would work with EFILive to find the next table really doing the controlling. It was a long process, but EFILive was a great company to work with. They too were performance enthusiasts and they wanted to see us do well. In the early stages they worked very closely with me and a small number of other tuners,” explained Coddens.
EFILive has expanded its common rail tuning support to include 2001-2014 Duramax, 2006-2009 Cummins, and the new Chevy Cruze. “Tuning common rail diesel engines is basically the same across all of these platforms. Injector duration, timing, fuel pressure, and turbo boost are the big four, and all common rail diesels use these, so principles remain the same between models and years. That being said, there are many hundreds of hours in testing and fine tuning to get the best possible mixture of mileage, drivability, and power for each make, model and year. EFI is only limited by the mechanical parts used and the person behind the keyboard,” explained Coddens.
Lesson 4: “Race what you have. It doesn’t have to be a record setting truck. Have fun!”
Coddens biggest focus is “making sure it’s fun. It’s a hobby, it’s a passion, but don’t allow it to interfere with your life,” says Coddens. He constantly races whatever vehicle they have. In 2013, he was lined up against someone many times in his wife’s VW TDI bug that runs 18.80’s instead of his 9 second race truck. “I wanted to race. It wasn’t that I wanted to go 9 seconds… I wanted to compete against the person next to me and it didn’t matter that I was in an 18 second diesel Bug and they were in a 9 second Corvette. I just wanted to race and with bracket racing you can race whatever you have,” says Coddens.
One of the biggest pieces of advice Coddens gives new racers is, “Go out and have fun. Learn the basics. The greatest way to do it? Go to your local track with whatever piece of equipment you have and start learning the drag racing side of things. Enjoy the competition. It isn’t a competition on how fast you can go; it’s a competition on reaction time and how you do each time compared to your last run. Try to do everything the same every time whether your truck is fast or slow. It is all about consistency as a driver. A consistent truck helps too,” Coddens laughs.
Coddens is at the point now that he has reached all of his goals for his white race truck 2002 GMC Max’d Out. Wanting to progress forward in his racing career, he is looking at some sort of sub 7 second vehicle. But having learned along the way that little steps are good, he purchased a 1965 El Camino that had been a drag vehicle. He has since converted the vehicle to a Duramax, and will race it this year in its second season, working out the bugs as he goes along. The El Camino is only a stepping stone for him, but there are major things to learn along the way. This marks his first 2wd diesel, which will be the fastest and lightest drag vehicle he has driven. “Bottom line. Race what you have available to you. Slow or fast, bring it to the track! Have a blast, meet new friends and keep it lighthearted.”
Lesson 5: “Building Power!”
Coddens has always been one of the front runners when it comes to Duramax power. He was one of the first people to be running compounds on a Duramax and he continues to push the boundaries. In 2010, ATP started manufacturing its own performance parts. “There were some products available, but we felt we could do it better. We installed some of the products we were purchasing and found deficiencies in them, so we designed new products that would do the same job but install easier in about half the time. So we moved forward with some of those parts. We see a need and we fill it.”
Today, there are tons of companies building hard parts for these engines. The more manufacturers investing in this market, the further the market can progress. So it is a little surprising that 2,000+ horsepower Duramax engines aren’t out there. “The crankshaft is our number one challenge. We have had stock Duramaxes break cranks and mid-power Duramaxes break cranks. Even though we can have them tested, magnafluxed and everything, you don’t know when they are going to break. That is probably the biggest issue in the industry right now,” mentioned Coddens.
“We have great rods, pistons, cylinder heads, studs, dampeners, flywheels, flex plates…all that stuff is working really well. Right now we are dealing with crankshaft issues. In my research, it is a harmonics problem, not an overpowering problem,” he continued. They are currently testing an alternative firing camshaft (alternative firing means the firing order is changed). “We have been testing an alternative firing camshaft… so far this year we have had no crankshaft issues,” mentioned Coddens.
What’s the future hold?
If you visit ATP’s website, you will see a video of their 2013 Chevrolet Duramax LML on the dyno. What is unique about this truck is the emissions equipment is still on. “We are following emissions rules and not deleting anything. What we are trying to do is work within our parameters… get the best power as well as keep the emissions piece intact,” explained Coddens.