Diesel Chips, Modules, & Programmers

Tuning for more power







diesel chip With modern, computer controlled diesels, one of the simplest ways to increase performance is by adjusting the engine operating parameters. Diesel tuners (diesel chips, modules, and programmers) allow you to unlock this performance potention by adjusting engine settings such as injection timing, fuel/rail pressure, and injector pulse width. The great thing about diesel tuners is that they install in a short amount of time with basic tools & offer large performance gains per dollar.
Note: There is often confusion in the differences between diesel tuners, chips, modules, & programmers. A "tuner" is considered to be any product that re-tunes or alters the factory engine parameters. Therefore, diesel chips, programmers, & modules all fall under the category of diesel tuners, though they each work slightly differently.


Otherwise Known As:

Chip, tuner, box, module, programmer

How It Works:

Diesel Chip:
A chip plugs directly into the engine's PCM & alters operation parameters such as fuel pressure, injection timing, & injection pulse width. Chips are capable of "on-the-fly" tuning, meaning you can change between different power settings while the truck is running or driving.

Diesel Programmer:
Programmers plug into a truck's OBDII (on-board diagnostic) port and then reprogram the vehicles PCM with altered operation parameters. Aftermarket tunes alter injector pulse width, injection timing, fuel pressure, & other events in order to increase performance. Unlike chips & modules, programmers do not offer "on-the-fly" tuning, meaning the engine will have to be shut down in order to select a different performance setting. Changing performance settings can take up 10 minutes to complete the reprogramming.

Diesel Module/Box:
A module/box installs under the hood of the vehicle and connects to various sensors (usually fuel pressure & manifold absolute pressure sensors) & the engine PCM. By collecting data from the sensors, factory engine calibrations are altered & enhanced to optimize performance. Modules may feature "on-the-fly" setting changes if a switch or display is included. Some modules also use in-cab displays to show vital engine data like coolant temperature, turbocharger boost pressure, etc.


• One of the best "bang for the buck" modifications. A few hundred dollars can add 100+ HP & 200+ lb-ft of torque (much more in some applications).
• Installation is simple & straight forward in most installs.
• Many tuners come with pyrometers so that EGT levels can be monitored.
• Most tuners offer "change on the fly" tuning so that in an instant the truck can be changed from stock to performance mode while driving.
• Most tuners also modify transmission shifting patterns to match the increased performance of the truck.
• Economy tunes offer increased fuel economy.


• Exhaust gas temperatures can reach dangerous levels when using "hot" performance tunes.
• Automakers will not warranty a vehicle that has altered electronics. Mechanics can tell when an engine has been modified, even if the tuner/module leaves no trace on the PCM.
• Performance tunes can be harsh on stock engines & vital components may break due to increased cylinder pressures.

Possible Problems:

High EGTs
Blown head gaskets or other internal engine damage.
Stock transmission becomes a weak link and is prone to premature wear/failure.

Est. Gains:

50-150+ lb-ft with a mild tune (safe for towing).
150 - 300 lb-ft with a performance/race tune.
Increased fuel economy with an economy tune.


All Power Stroke, Cummins, & Duramax engines.

Additional Info:

Head studs & transmission upgrades (replacement of the stock torque converter) are recommended. An EGT gauge is also highly recommended to monitor exhaust gas temperatures and avoid catastrophic engine damage.


Canned Tunes:
The diesel performance aftermarket refers to canned tunes as an engine tune that was designed as a universal tune for a specific year, make, & model diesel truck. If you purchase a diesel tuner of any sort from a manufacturer such as Edge, Superchips, Bully Dog, Banks, etc, you are purchasing canned tunes. Canned tunes work well with, & even compliment additional modifications to your engine, just not in the same fashion that a custom tune will.

Custom Tunes:
Custom tunes are tunes that are created for your specific vehicle & operating conditions. Custom tuning often requires your truck to be placed on a dynometer to measure performance & make appropriate alterations in real time. Custom tunes are generally recommended on highly modified diesels that require special tuning to meet the needs of performance fuel system modifications such as oversized injectors, compound turbocharger systems, & fuel pump modifications.

Examples of Canned Tunes:*

An aftermarket diesel programmer that is designed to work on stock 7.3L Super Duty trucks, model year 1999-2003.

An aftermarket module that is designed to work on stock 5.9L 24-valve Dodge Ram trucks, model year 1999-2004.

Examples of Custom Tunes:*

You have your truck live tuned by a professional. The resulting tune(s) are one of a kind and meet your specific performance requirements.

A tune designed by a professional or company for a 2005 6.0L Power Stroke diesel running 250cc injectors & 50 PSI of turbo boost. Though the truck was not live tuned, the tune was created to meet the requirements of the larger fuel injectors & increased boost pressures.

*Examples do not necessarily represent actual products & used for example only.


Which type of Tune do I need?
For daily drivers & tow rigs, canned tunes should be more than adequate for safely improving performance. Custom tuning is recommended on trucks whose main use is drag racing, sled pulling, etc, where the engine has significant modifications over stock & the vehicle is rarely driven for transportational needs. Canned tuning is the cost-effective method, while custom tuning tends to be more expensive.


Related Topics:

Diesel Additives

Diesel Injector Upgrades

Cold Air Intake

Turbocharger Guide