For those of you who just tuned in, Project 2nd Gen is our 1999 Dodge 2500 with a 24-valve Cummins. The object of the build is to put together a reliable daily driver we can still have fun with at the dragstrip and will offer sold towing performance without breaking the bank.
In the Beginning …
The first order of business was to improve air flow and breathing with a full complement of aFe products, including a 4-inch turbo back exhaust system, Stage 2 intake and BladeRunner intake manifold. We also pulled the silencer ring out of the turbo for improved air flow and a tad more turbo whistle.
Fuel System Upgrades
On the fuel side of things, since the 24 valves were notorious for having weak lift pumps, which can take out the expensive VP-44 in the process, we installed an AirDog II fuel system to provide constant pressure and volume when we turn up the wick. After we installed the AirDog II, we noticed the truck was hard to hot-start—one of the symptoms of a weak VP-44 pump with a cracked diaphragm. And for those of you who missed last month’s issue, we covered the ins and outs of the VP-44 from top to bottom, including the fact that a cracked diaphragm is one of the most common issues. So this month, we’ll bolt in a new Gilmore Diesel Performance VP-44 in Project 2nd Gen.
Installation of the VP-44 is fairly straightforward as a typical R&R operation that involves disconnecting all the fuel lines and unbolting the unit. The drive end of the pump features a keyway that keeps the timing correct in relation to the pulley. A little grease helps keep the keyway in place during installation.
With the fuel system sorted out, both the AirDog II and new VP-44 have set the stage for turning up the fuel and power on the Dodge. For added insurance, we also serviced the trans, added a deep sump pan from PML and filled it with Royal Purple synthetic fluid. Time to rock and roll.
Since this truck will also be used for towing, we had choices to make: Add an A-pillar full of gauges and use a downloader or opt for a newer touch screen tuner that is essentially an all-in-one unit. This setup provides several different levels of tune and power and also provides you with real-time gauges that can watch things like booth, EGTs, trans temp and any other parameters you’d like to see—all in a easy-to-use touch screen display that is typically mounted on the dash.
For Project 2nd Gen, we opted for Edge Products’ newest tuner, the Edge Juice with Attitude CTS (“color touch screen”). The Edge Juice with Attitude CTS offers six on-the-fly adjustable power levels that range from economy to extreme settings and also include a tune for towing. Additionally, the Edge Juice module incorporates powertrain protection features, which means that the module can automatically adjust fueling to protect your vehicle if the EGTs get too hot, the transmission slips or the engine is not warm enough to handle additional fuel.
The cool thing about the Attitude CTS in-cab monitor is that you don’t need a handful of gauges, since the system keeps track of the myriad data. The CTS system, which utilizes a 4.3-inch touch screen, enables you to read and clear trouble codes without a scan tool or trip to the dealer. The Attitude CTS displays up to eight data readouts from dozens of drivetrain parameters, since it’s connected directly to the truck’s OBD II diagnostic port for real-time information feeds.
Among the “extra goodies” with the Juice CTS with Attitude is a new 0-to-60 and ¼-mile performance testing and graphing feature. Additionally, this CTS offers other safety features, such as a built-in turbo timer that will allow the truck to continue to run until the turbo cools, at which time the engine will shut off automatically.
Another cool feature of the unit is user-defined audible alerts that can be set for EGT, boost, engine temp, transmission temp, DPF regeneration, speed and much more. All these options are left up to the user’s discretion and allow you to custom tune your truck to the finest degree. Plus, the CTS will allow you to hook up either the optional Edge backup camera or a DVD player.
Installation of the Juice with Attitude is fairly straightforward, albeit a bit complicated. You have to drill and tap the exhaust manifold for the pyrometer and run sensor wires inside the cab. Then, there’s the matter of where to mount the control and then running the wiring harness to it. The other hard part is making the myriad choices as to what you want to monitor, setting your background screen (you can even upload your own background image, if you prefer) and setting warnings and warning thresholds. On the other hand, once all this is set and you learn the ins and outs of the system, it’s very easy to adjust power levels and change settings.
Our friends at Strictly Diesel in Phoenix, Arizona, did a combo install of our Gilmore Diesel Performance VP-44 and the Edge Juice with Attitude CTS. The combo install took about half a day, but the efforts were well worth it. You can easily adjust power levels on the fly, with a noticeable improvement in power as you go up the range. With the real-time display, you can see the effects of the tuning changes in real time, such as increased EGTs from more fueling, and more boost.
Mileage on the truck improved dramatically, pushing more than 20 mpg on the highway with gentle throttle on the “tow” setting. Speaking of towing: The owner recently purchased a 30-foot travel trailer and made the uphill haul to Prescott (elevation 4,000-plus feet). He was simply amazed at the pulling power of the Dodge and lack of EGTs (less than 1,000 degrees) yanking the 6,000-plus-pound trailer up the long grades.
If you’ve got a second-generation Dodge—or any other diesel, for that matter—it’s worth looking into your gauge and tuning options with the state-of-the art touch screen tuners now on the market. Sure, they’re a little pricier than a downloader, but if you factor in the costs of gauges (unless you have them already), the price is still cheaper. And based on our experiences with Project 2nd Gen, the Edge unit is a good place to start your search.
Gilmore Diesel Performance
Pure Flow Technologies/Air Dog