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Top 5 Custom-Tuning Software for Diesels

A rundown of the leading ECM-programming tools for fine-tuning modified diesel pickup trucks

Mar 6, 2020
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We recently discussed diesel programmers and the role they play in our pursuit of higher performance. Although the OBD-II-driven devices have many different functions, changing the parameters in a late-model truck's ECM is the primary reason why they're used.
The devices feature manufacturer-developed "canned" tunes that change various engine strategies (fueling, injection timing, boost, etc. ). The adjustments promote increases in horsepower and torque, changes in transmission shifting, and basically help optimize a truck's drivetrain per a user's needs or driving conditions.
A plug-and-play programmer and its canned ECM calibrations are recommended as a compliment to other basic diesel modifications (cold-air induction and exhaust), but extensive performance upgrades require operating orders that go beyond those made by preset tunes. The increased airflow of larger and/or additional turbochargers, bigger fuel pumps and injectors, nitrous oxide, and such require more in-depth manipulating of engine-management tables to achieve optimum performance, and the only way to accomplish this is by using computer software that is designed specifically for overwriting these tables and reprogramming ECMs. The process is called "custom" tuning.
Photo 2/7   |   006 Custom Tuning Software Dslp 200300 Tuning Web Tuning Map
The laptop-based programs are not as DIY-intuitive as plug-in programmers are. Not only does custom tuning require the aforementioned computer, but it also needs operators—called "tuners"—who have a strong understanding of compression/ignition engines and how they perform (in stock or modified trim), as well as experience with forced induction, fuel injection, exhaust gas temperature, atmospheric conditions, etc.
The tuning software is used for creating new operating programs that are transmitted into a truck's ECM through its OBD-II port. (The programmers we've discussed are used as the conduits for loading custom tunes.) The tuning process is typically performed at a shop using a chassis dyno, or in an environment where engine data can be logged and calibration and/or mechanical changes can be made if necessary.
Most diesel shops either have or are associated with tuners who create custom ECM calibrations for all of the major diesel-engine platforms. Here is a quick rundown of the Top 5 custom-tuning software that these calibrators use.
Photo 3/7   |   001 Custom Tuning Software Efilive 2

EFILive

With the creation of its Duramax-specific software, New Zealand-based EFILive is the company that led the charge for diesel-tuning programs (for the 2001 6.6L Duramax LB7). Today, EFILive continues to offer its software for Duramax, but the company has really made inroads with ECM calibration for Cummins engines.
Photo 4/7   |   004 Custom Tuning Software Sct Advantage Iii 2

SCT Advantage III

While SCT is probably known more for its user-friendly programmers (which again, are also used for loading custom tunes into an ECM), the company has also created software for tuning almost all of the Big 3 truck manufacturers' diesel and gas engines.
Photo 5/7   |   003 Custom Tuning Software Hp Tuners 2

HP Tuners

HP Tuners will forever be known as the software developer that "cracked the code" first and paved the way for tuning 6.6L Duramax L5P engines (2017 to present). Not to be outdone by that breakthrough, the company's VCM Editor program can also break through the booby traps and blocks inside Ford's 2020 6.7L Power Stroke ECM, creating custom-tuning opportunities for the engine that already makes 1,050 lb-ft of torque.
Photo 6/7   |   002 Custom Tuning Software Ez Lynk 2

EZ Lynk

EZ Lynk is a prevailing tuning software for newer Ford, GM, and Ram diesel pickup trucks. The cloud-based program is used for creating tunes that are moved across the Internet through a proprietary programmer called AutoAgent 2.
Photo 7/7   |   005 Custom Tuning Software Dslp 200300 Tuning Web Smarty Udc Pro

Smarty UDC Pro

The Smarty program is Cummins specific and covers 1998.5 to 2018 Dodge Ram and Ram diesel trucks. MM3's programmer is the proprietary device for transferring UDC Pro custom tunes to an ECM.
 
 
Top 5 Custom-Tuning Software for Diesel
Product Ford Supported Years GM Supported Years Ram Supported Years
1 EZ Lynk X 2008 - 2019 X 2011 - 2016 X 2006 - 2018
2 EFiLive X 2001 - 2016 X 2006 - 2018
3 SCT Advantage III X 1999 - 2020 X 2006 - 2010 X 2013 - 2018
4 HP Tuners X 1999 - 2020 X 2001 - 2020 X 2003 - 2012
5 Smarty UDC PRO X 1998.5 - 2018
 

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