Racing the Diesel

Speed Costs Money. How Fast Do You Want to Go?

The old saying that “speed costs money” has been around for as long as there have been automobiles (and trucks). What hasn’t always been so clear is that the cost of going fast, making more power, or increasing performance usually goes beyond just the cost of the performance parts or the modifications necessary to the vehicle. In most cases, performance is achieved at the expense of durability, reliability and utility of the vehicle. However, there are notable exceptions. Gale Banks Engineering is well known for its pickup truck and motorhome products that improve engine efficiency for better performance and utility while actually reducing the strain on the engine and improving fuel economy. Such improvements are possible by eliminating situations where the engine is actually working against itself. This usually means eliminating pumping loses and restrictions as an engine intakes and exhausts air, freeing the power previously required to overcome those losses to do work or operate more efficiently. Still other Banks products improve drivetrain durability and efficiency by reducing slippage and operating temperatures. And of course, Banks diesel exhaust braking products improve braking performance while dramatically extending the life of a vehicle’s wheel brakes. Interestingly, performance products such as these can actually pay for themselves in improved fuel economy and reduced maintenance over the life of a vehicle.

Banks products have become very popular with customers that want improved performance while protecting the investment they have made in their vehicles. This is especially true for those folks that have selected the more expensive diesel engine option. However, there is another, less conservative group of diesel pickup owners who want blazing acceleration or extra power for truck pulls. These owners are into maximum power. These guys want bragging rights with their diesel pickups, and they are willing to pay for such performance. They don’t expect better fuel economy and they’re willing to risk damaging a few engine parts to get the power and performance they want. These owners are racers.

Modifying a modern diesel engine with computer controlled engine management is one of the simplest forms of hot rodding imaginable. You don’t have to take the engine apart, and the modification pieces cost far less than what’s required to get similar power gains from a gasoline engine. Because diesels throttle the amount of fuel injected into the engine rather than limiting the amount of air entering the engine, notable power gains can be achieved by just increasing the amount of fuel delivered. All that’s required is a simple electronics box to alter the signals from the onboard computer that control the timing and length of the fuel injector pulse and the fuel pressure. Installing such a tuner box is a snap. There are many such diesel tuner boxes on the market that promise big power. Unfortunately, there’s more to the story, and that’s where things can start to affect your wallet.

While you can make more power with more fuel, if you don’t do it right, exhaust gas temperatures go out of sight and that can spell eventual death for the engine or turbocharger – or both. Many racers seem unaware of the potentially expensive engine damage such modifications can cause, or maybe they just don’t care. Their first consideration is how much power they can add to their diesel pickup. They are willing to assume some risk, and that’s just what you do when you overfuel a diesel. The real secret to big power increases is to add both fuel and airflow to achieve complete burning of the extra fuel (see First Air — Then Fuel elsewhere on this site). If you don’t burn the extra fuel, then you’re just overfueling. The telltale sign of overfueling is excessive smoke out of the exhaust pipe, but for a lot of diesel hot rodders, the thick black smoke is a big part of the fun.

The problem with overfueling is that it increases the exhaust gas temperature (EGT) of a diesel, and that can cause engine or turbocharger damage, as mentioned earlier.

If such EGT overtemperature isn’t excessive, and if it occurs for only a matter of a few seconds at a time, most diesels can withstand such abuse without incurring much permanent damage – but there is always some level of risk. Excessive EGT damage is cumulative (see Why EGT Is Important elsewhere on this site).

This brings us back to Banks. How does a company like Banks, with a strong reputation for selling products that offer performance gains without doing any damage, reconcile a line of performance products that are capable of pushing the limits of safe engine operation when adjusted to the maximum power setting? The answer is that Banks systems include a number of exclusive safety features to reduce the risk of expensive engine damage. Banks has done extensive engineering development to create features in its ultimate diesel performance products that aren’t found in other products on the market today. Banks high-output electronic modules for diesel pickups are called Big Hoss and Six-Gun Diesel Tuners, along with an optional Speed-Loader upgrade for maximum power. What this all means is that unlike other racing products, the Banks products are engineered to reduce the vehicle abuse risks that come with maximizing performance, and that means diesel pickup owners using the Banks products may not be faced with as many vehicle repair expenses as those racers who select some other products. Better yet, even with extra features offered by Banks, its products are still competitively priced with other brands of diesel tuners, and they are just as easy to install. But Banks doesn’t stop with just safeguards in its electronic diesel tuner modules.

Banks has always advocated increasing airflow through a diesel and then adding extra fuel to make more power. Remaining consistent with that thinking, Banks also sells Big Hoss Bundles, and Six-Gun Bundles that include the Speed-Loader. These bundles add a free-flowing stainless steel 4-inch Monster exhaust system, along with other pieces such as DynaFact gauges, the low-restriction Ram-Air filter, Techni-Cooler intercooler, BigHead wastegate actuator, Power Elbow, or High-Ram intake, depending on the application. These Bundles combine the performance electronic modules with recommended airflow improvements to achieve the highest of levels of horsepower and torque while simultaneously minimizing the risk of excessive exhaust gas temperature. This is the right way to hot rod a diesel, even for extreme racing use.

Opting for the Banks Bundle instead of just a Big Hoss or Six-Gun module does add some cost to going fast, but in the end it could save very expensive repair bills. So yes, speed does cost money, but when you do it right with Banks, it doesn’t have to cost you your truck too.

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