Project MCLB Heavy Hauler: 500+ horsepower With EFILive Tuning!



When it comes to performance, there are few things that have the kind of horsepower per dollar return as a tuner does. Sure, water/methanol can be close, but everything else requires other components to make the big power. Injectors require lots of air or nitrous to really produce the power while, turbochargers can make use of extra fuel, but you have to have the fuel in order to produce the power. We have been witness to people making over 500 additional horsepower with just the addition of spray. That is a huge gain, but you had to be over fueled to get there.

For Project MCLB Heavy Hauler, we wanted to utilize some of the most powerful tuning out there for our 2006 Dodge. This project is going to be built over the course of many months, so there will be quite a few steps to get to our end goal. The tuning had to be flexible enough to work with each of our steps, since having the coin to take a truck from bone stock to fully built in one step isn’t necessarily something most of us have.

The AutoCal comes with two cables. One, plugs into the trucks OBD II connector and the other into your computer.


EFILive, aren’t they only for Duramax?

“We were being inundated by the Dodge community with requests for the same type of tuning ability as the Duramax community enjoys. To date we’ve released the ’06-’07 5.9L Dodge Cummins tuning software and ’07-’09 6.7L Dodge Cummins tuning software.  Our developers continue to work on enhancements for those platforms and extending our Cummins year model support,” explained Donna Blackmore, Business Manager for EFILive.

What makes EFILive so unique?

EFLIive’s uniqueness comes from the fact that they are not actually a tuning company. They have spent countless hours developing the software, reverse engineering and integrating their customer operating systems to allow tuners almost complete access to all engine parameters. This access, allows experienced tuners the ability to really go in and tune the engine as they want. They have full access to injector pulse width, timing, shift points, RPM and  pretty much any other parameter.

We were the first to offer the Diesel community a better and cleaner way to tune their engines — Donna Blackmore

“We were the first to offer the Diesel community a better and cleaner way to tune their engines,” commented Blackmore. “Other companies produce handheld tuners with pre-loaded tunes. EFILive, FlashScan, and AutoCal are the tools that give customers the ability to create their own tunes to suit their conditions, hard parts, and requirements for their own trucks, rather than taking a one-size-fits-all approach. EFILive is very lucky to have dealers and customers who work and have been with us for a long time, some Beta test our software and, also, have created successful Diesel Tuning businesses,” mentioned Blackmore.

One of the other really unique aspects of EFILive is the ability to use a programmer, but change the power levels as you drive. Traditionally, if you use a programmer, you would have to pull over and re-tune the truck if you wanted a different power level. Since EFILive has pretty much full access to the ECM, they have come up with a way to deliver additional tunes to the ECM without reflashing. Then by adding a CSP5 switch, owners have the ability to choose which tune the ECM is running simply by turning the knob to the appropriate setting.

All of this is done on the CAN bus and for the installer, it is very easy to install the switch (see below). There are some modules that can be programmed to change the tunes as well. EFILive AutoCal has the ability to switch the tunes without reflashing the truck (but, we recommend your passenger switches tunes via AutoCal or you pull over so you keep your eyes on the road).

The Blank Stare

The AutoCal programs the truck like a standard programer does. With the key on, engine off, plug in the AutoCal.

Since EFILive isn’t a tuning company, when enthusiasts buy one of their products, it actually comes blank. Yep, blank! There are really two options when it comes to EFILive. Option one, is to purchase the FlashScan programmer that allows you (the tuner) to tune your own truck with complete access. Their tuning software is free to download, but requires FlashScan to actually program the truck.

Option two, purchase their AutoCal and have one of the best tuners in the country tune your truck. So, let’s see, we can try and tune the truck ourselves and risk breaking something or we can have an expert tune the truck for us… Yeah, we opted for AutoCal!


“AutoCal is a unique product, we realized early on that our customers required another piece of hardware that complemented FlashScan and took the tunes created by the tuner to their customer base,” said Blackmore. “AutoCal really took tuning to a new level, very quickly tuners were able to compete directly against the traditional handheld market, but with hardware containing all the EFILive bells and whistles.  Effectively, the tuner creates custom tunes for a truck that can be emailed and installed onto AutoCal remotely, but what makes it so unique is that you can also data log how the vehicle performs and send that feedback back to the tuner for review.  Tune revisions can also be made remotely.  AutoCal can read diagnostic trouble codes (DTC’s) as well as PID’s (Parameter Identification), and offers a multi-vehicle licensing,” continued Blackmore.


Who to use for Tuning?

For us, there is a pretty short list of tuners in the market that we would entrust this type of project to. One name that is always around the top of most people’s list is Eric Eldreth from Innovative Diesel Performance. In the Ford world, Innovative Diesel is one of the “go to places” for all things Power Stroke (tuning and parts), but over the years, has been expanding their offerings and now does quite a bit of Duramax and Cummins business.

A good rule of thumb is that when you are upgrading your truck, if you upgrade the fuel injectors or turbocharger, you should have new tuning done — Eric Eldreth

“We have been doing custom tuning since 2001,” said Eldreth. “We have been extremely successful with the Ford stuff and it was a logical progression for us to start offering EFILive tuning. We actually have been doing it for quite some time for the Duramaxs, but it was only available through our dealer network. Now with the addition of the Cummins tuning, we are offering it to everyone.”

The beautiful thing about custom tuning is that we can slowly upgrade our truck and we don’t have to worry about potential issues. If we upgrade to some large injectors, we can have a lot of the extra fuel pulled out. The truck will still run well until we upgrade our turbocharger, transmission or whatever the weak link is.

When it comes to this project, Eldreth was the first person we called, not only for tuning, but for help in selecting the right parts to reach our horsepower goals. “Because we tune so many trucks from all over the country, we see a lot of combinations,” commented Eldreth. “We have really learned what works well and what doesn’t depending on what they are trying to do with their trucks.”

“A good rule of thumb is that when you are upgrading your truck, if you upgrade the fuel injectors or turbocharger, you should have new tuning done,” explained Eldreth. Each of these components drastically affect the drivability of the truck and how everything is working. Other modifications like exhaust, intake, intercoolers, elbows and similar bolt on upgrades really just help the engine run more efficiently and don’t alter the key characteristics of the combustion cycle.

Downloading the software installs two programs. EFILive Explorer and EFILive Scan and Tune. The Scan and Tune allows owners to adjust the AutoCal settings. Some of the important settings are what PID's to monitor and what type of vehicle is being tuned.

For us, we plan on upgrading a few of the weak components before we start diving into more horsepower. By opting for custom tuning now, we should be good for quite some time before we need to have new tunes written.

CSP5 or not?

Since adding a five position switch isn’t necessary, the big question is should you?  It is generally a little extra, but having the convenience of changing a tune anytime is pretty nice. Ultimately, it depends on your driving style. The AutoCal is able to switch tunes, some modules can be setup to change the tunes or you can install the CSP5 switch.

The CSP5 switch has a rotary dial with a circuit board behind it. Care must be taken when handling and mounting it. For our '06 there are two plug options, standard 90 degree and a pass through. We opted for the pass through. One word of advice from Innovative Diesel is to remove the plug when programming the truck. They have had a few customers who experienced issues programming the truck with a pass through.

We opted to install the CSP5 switch because it was easy, cheap and we aren’t 100 percent sure when we will be at a point to do our next upgrades. A little convenience now, is well worth the cost.

So, what do you get

What am I getting for the money? That is the ultimate question isn’t it? As we mentioned before, the EFILive AutoCal comes blank. It is important to do some research and see who is doing what tuning and if everything is happy with them. There are a number of great tuners in the country and with the internet, they don’t have to be in your immediate area to use them. Getting a tune sent to you via e-mail is pretty common and most of the tuners are more than happy to walk customers through how to install everything. (Here is a list of EFILive dealers.)

We opted to mount our CSP5 switch where the cigarette lighter is. The first step was to remove the entire housing, and cut the plastic frame down. Then we used a Bondo bumper retail kit to fill in the hole.

Once the Epoxy had hardened, we drilled a hole in the center. With the hole drilled, we sanded down the backside of the frame and Epoxy to get the switch to mount. We had to cut a little of the switch body as well to get it fully seated. Then with the center panel pulled out, the cable was fed up and the switch was mounted.

Innovative Diesel Performance

As we mentioned earlier, we opted to work with Innovative Diesel on our tuning. When dealing with them, the basic AutoCal will come with three tunes. If you opt for a CSP5 switch, then the tuner will be loaded with five tunes.

No matter which way you end up going, most companies break down their tuning this way. Tune one is generally a slightly modified stock tune (some limiters are turned off and only some very slight tweaking done). Then there is some sort of economy tuning. With Innovative tuning, they have played around with their tune and actually have actually changed the number of injection events from five to one. This makes the engine run much louder (like an 2nd Gen VP truck). Then most of the tuners will give you a hot or race tune if you only have three tunes. If you have five, most tuners will give you a towing tune and a hot street tune. Again, this varies by the tuner or your needs.

The Results

The stock program was extremely consistent on the track.

Before we installed the EFILive tuning, we installed a fully built transmission (click here for that install). This meant that our “Race Tune” could be an all-out tune because our automatic transmission could handle it. After the transmission was installed, we went to the dyno and established a baseline horsepower and torque reading. Then we went to our local eighth-mile track and established our baseline ET and MPH.

(The truck is being tested in street form. This is what you can actually expect out of your daily driver. So, we didn’t do any fancy tricks on the dyno or play around with the truck at the track to get the absolutely best time. Everything was done in street form.)

Our 2006 Dodge Mega Cab Short Bed with a 5.9L Cummins backed by a fully built BD Diesel Performance 48RE transmission as a baseline consistently laid down 326 hp and 608 ft-lbs of torque (plus or minus 4 hp and 10 ft-lbs) after three pulls on Diesel Dynamics’ dyno. In the eighth-mile, our three run average was 10.49 seconds at 67.83 mph (plus or minus 0.05 seconds and plus or minus 0.3 mph).

(Left) It was quite obvious that tune five was putting down more power than we could utilize. Traction was a major issue and we had to feather the throttle. Our best time was 9.48 but most of our runs were in the 9.7X range. (Right) Tune three was just about the maximum power to traction for our setup. We had to feather the throttle just slightly off the line with tune four.

As with most of us, we opted to start our track testing on tune number five! After experiencing a tremendous amount of traction loss during our first pass, it was quite obvious that we need to change our driving style. We couldn’t come up on boost and launch with everything she had. We just don’t have the traction. After half a dozen passes, we were getting some pretty consistent times. The truck was running an average of 9.65 seconds at 78.64 mph but our best pass was 9.48 at 79.67 mph. We are just at the limits of our tires and that is all they can hold. On the dyno however, traction isn’t an issue and we were able to lay down 521 hp and 1033 ft-lbs of torque. (That is a gain of 195 hp and 424 ft-lbs of torque!) If you run the math, it really indicates that we should be running the eighth-mile much faster, and we need to do something about our tires or possibly locker.

Tune number 5 produces some impressive results. Over 500 horsepower and 1,000 ft.lbs of torque, while utilizing basically all stock components. The only upgrade on the truck is a BD Diesel Performance 48RE.

Tune number five produces some impressive results. Over 500 horsepower and 1,000 ft.lbs of torque, while utilizing basically all stock components. The only upgrade on the truck is a BD Diesel Performance 48RE.

Next up, we tested the economy tune (tune #three for us). We were able to leave the line closer to our stall speed (1800 rpms) and when the light turned green, were able to lay into the throttle. The truck was almost spot on every run, with an average ET of 9.76 seconds at an average speed of 76.51 mph. This was surprisingly close to our race tune, indicating that our economy tune is just about everything the tires can actually handle. On the dyno, the truck made 454 hp and 913 ft-lbs of torque.

So, if tune three was just under maximum traction and tune five is well over maximum traction, where was tune four? As luck would have it, we started having traction issues again. So, our average with tune four was 9.75 seconds at 77.29 mph. Just slightly better than tune three, this is surprising because on the dyno, tune four made 467 hp and 963 ft-lbs of torque.

It is really hard to argue that a tuner doesn’t yield the best horsepower per dollar return of any modification. Here, with the use of EFILive and Innovative Diesel’s tuning, we gained almost 200 horsepower and a little more than 400 ft-lbs of torque. That is basically like adding a second engine to the truck.

Level Max HP HP Increase Max Torque TQ Increase
Stock 326.7 608.5
3 454.9 128.2 913.2 304.7
4 467.6 140.9 962.9 354.4
5 521.8 195.1 1033.0 424.5

So, what’s next?

Stay tuned as we address the traction issues, in the coming months to fully utilize our new found power!



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About the author

Chad Westfall

With diesel running through his veins from childhood, Chad has more than a decade of experience in the automotive industry. From editorial work to wrenching, there isn’t much he hasn't conquered head-on. When he’s not writing and shooting trucks and tech, you’ll find him in the shop working on turning the ideas floating around in his head into reality.
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