Bully Dog Tuner 101
Horsepower and Fuel Economy at Your Fingertips
The latest tuners enable light-truck operators to monitor, control, and boost engine performance—especially when towing snowmobiles or other loads.
When you're riding the mountainous backcountry of the Northwest and Canada eight months a year, sometimes just getting there is a victory. That's what snowmobile virtuoso Tony Jenkins does routinely, driving a 350hp Cummins-powered truck with a couple of snowmobiles on a bed deck, often with another four on a trailer he tows behind.
"Hauling that much weight through mountainous terrain, there are many situations when I can really use some extra horsepower," Tony explains. "At other times, my main concern is fuel economy."
Tony shares the same challenges as others who operate typical pickup trucks today: He is often required to perform multitasking duties—ranging from transportation of the kids to the rigors of towing the snowmobiles—in a variety of environments, sometimes at high altitudes. In Tony's case, when the snow is gone, so are he and his wife—off to somewhere hauling a 28-foot camper trailer.
The problem is, most light-duty trucks are inflexible as far as torque, horsepower, and fuel economy are concerned. This puts many weekend warriors who haul snowmobile trailers in a quandary: Do they opt for a pickup with heavy-duty power and suffer the added purchase and operating costs . . . or simply accept the performance and mileage limitations of their 300hp pickup when under load or climbing long grades?
Like Tony, many of today's pickup owners are opting for a viable, variable solution: the use of programmable tuners to monitor and control basic engine performance in terms of torque and horsepower, fuel economy, and some engine safety parameters—without modification to engine hardware.
"The Bully Dog tuner allows me to turn up the power on the fly," Tony explains. "At the same time, you can monitor your engine boost pressure and temperatures and get your engine's diagnostics as you drive."
Consisting of a compact, dash- or windshield-mounted control panel with wire leads, tuners are connected to the engine's control module to regulate and monitor performance parameters according to vehicle load requirements and the operator's desires.
Using a tuner, it's possible to increase typical diesel or gasoline engine horsepower up to 25 percent, or to boost fuel economy significantly. Tony says the Bully Dog tuner he installed on his '12 Cummins engine can add up to 120 hp, which has proven to be very useful.
"I've had to turn the power all the way up when I was on backcountry roads and climbing up to the snow," Tony says. "And there have been times when I got stuck. So, I just reset the tuner for full power and was able to hot-rod out of it."
Generally speaking, a variety of horsepower settings (Stock, Tow, and Performance) are available to accommodate various driving conditions. The selected setting is controlled and monitored by the tuner, offering the vehicle operator not only more power or economies, but also improved vehicle control via heads-up display of critical engine performance factors (water temp, oil temp, boost pressure).
With some of the more sophisticated tuners, both horsepower and fuel mileage can be optimized simultaneously.
"The tuner I use not only optimizes performance but is also eco friendly," Tony says. "It is a very affordable alternative to the risks that some drivers take, such as stripping off the cat converter or other illegal stuff that violates emissions standards in order to get more power."
Using the most advanced tuners, owners of vehicles powered by gasoline or light-duty diesel engines can get even more enhanced operational features and benefits.
For example, Bully Dog's Triple Dog GT offers advanced programming and monitoring capabilities, including the ability to easily change settings—even on-the-fly while driving diesel vehicles. This system is the equivalent of four products in one: a vehicle engine tuner, function monitor, performance gauge, and diagnostic device, all in a single unit. In addition to significant horsepower and fuel economy gains, the GT provides a set of monitoring features and diagnostic functions for enhanced driving and safety.
If someone is running in high-horsepower mode and engine coolant or oil temperatures rise above the preset warning level, the GT tuner will automatically recognize the condition and begin to lower the horsepower until the situation is corrected. The tuner will also alert the driver with a message on the panel display that notifies the driver what is happening and why (engine overheating, horsepower lowering).
For Tony, the user friendliness of his Bully Dog tuner is also a big plus. "Anybody can buy this system and install it in about a half hour in their driveway. It's not a device that requires a mechanic," he says.
When selecting a tuner, there are several criteria to consider. These include ease of installation, availability of a model that matches your vehicle's engine, automated monitoring, and control features (that provide maximum vehicle control and the capability to dial-in performance adjustments such as horsepower output on-the-fly).
Bully Dog tuners, for example, are installed cleanly and easily in the cab by attaching to the OBDII port. Installers first connect to the Internet to download the latest software, ensuring files are the most up to date. Then the tuner is connected to the vehicle using provided mounting accessories (OBDII connector and HDMI cable). The vehicle-specific software (Dodge/Cummins, GM, Nissan, or Ford) is installed by using the tuner and following easy steps on the tuner monitor. After calibrating the system, the operator simply dials in the operating and setup parameters that can be calibrated to the driver's specific needs.
Monitoring capabilities may be important to many vehicle operators, such as those with commercial applications or who frequently tow heavy loads. To ensure reliable, optimized performance, the more powerful tuners will monitor turbo boost pressure, engine rpm, transmission temperature, airflow, fuel rail pressure, and other operating parameters.
Another key thing to look for is location of the tuner. Some models locate the control panel under the hood in the engine compartment. This exposes it to heat, cold, humidity, and vibration, which can potentially cause a malfunction or even failure. On the other hand, cab-mounted control panels are protected from those stresses and can be easily accessed for on-the-fly changes.
To ensure performance and fuel economy are maximized, Bully Dog has a tool called the Driving Coach available on all tuner models. The Driving Coach is an on-screen feedback system that gives drivers specific tips regarding how to improve their driving habits in conjunction with their tuner capabilities to enhance fuel conservation while getting more efficient performance. This feature can prove valuable, particularly on those long hauls to get to the perfect snowmobile spot.