Nothing says cool like an...
Nothing says cool like an F-350 dualie doing a burnout. Photo by Justin Cesler
Towing-there isn't an oval track racer in this country who doesn't do it. In fact, we are one of the few segments of the automotive hobby (if you want to call it that) that must have a truck and trailer in order to enjoy ourselves every Saturday night. Look around any short track and the pits are full of a variety of different trucks and tow vehicles, many of which are diesel-powered. Towing to the track week in and week out is not only a necessary expense, but a costly one as well. So, naturally, getting the most out of your truck, by trailering efficiently can mean more money in your pocket-a.k.a. your racing budget.
With that in mind we got a hold of Hypertech's Max Energy Power Programmer to see if we could boost the power and efficiency of the new Circle Track dualie.
Founded by Mark Heffington in 1985, Hypertech has grown into one of the technology leaders in the high-performance computer-controlled engine tuning market. In the '80s Hypertech created the original Power Chips to recalibrate an engine's electronic "brains" for improved performance. As time passed and factory computer technology evolved, so did Hypertech's products. Today, its Power Programmers, such as the Max Energy, can optimize a myriad of engine functions such as air/fuel mixture, spark timing, maximum rpm, transmission shift points, and more with a few easy steps.
The Max Energy Power Programmer...
The Max Energy Power Programmer is simplistic in look and ease of use. Just the handheld unit and a cable to connect to the vehicle is all that is needed to make significant horsepower strides. Each programmer comes with instructions and a CD as well.
The Hypertech Max Energy Power Programmer has three tuning choices-Stage 1, Stage 2, and Stage 3-each setting more aggressive than the previous one. All three of those stages are, according to Hypertech, tow-safe, maintaining safe EGT (exhaust gas temperatures) levels while towing the maximum weight specified by the vehicle's manufacturer. To our knowledge, no other tuner offers this level of safe power for towing.
Tuning on the Max Energy starts with Hypertech engineers optimizing the spark and fuel curves point by point over the entire rpm band. With the additional power and optimized transmission functions, drivers use less fuel to accelerate and maintain cruising speeds without the torque converter unlocking and transmission downshifting to a lower gear. The results are a more efficient delivery of power and an increase in fuel mileage of more than 9 percent (depending on application).
The Max Energy Power Programmer has several functions that are important to consider when choosing a programmer for your truck. First off, the Speedometer Calibrator is designed to take into account aftermarket tires installed on your truck. In addition, if you have installed a ring-and-pinion gearset with a different rear gear ratio, the Max Energy allows you to reprogram for correct speedometer and odometer readings, as well as correct part-throttle shifting.
Ramsey's Performance in Lutz,...
Ramsey's Performance in Lutz, Florida, ponied up some dyno time for us to get numbers on our F-350 dualie.
Along those same lines, if you have installed tires that have a different speed rating, the Max Energy allows you to raise or lower the vehicle's top-speed limiter to match the speed rating of the newly installed tires.
The Max Energy has a nifty feature that will automatically increase shift firmness which will reduce clutch slippage and transmission oil temperatures translating into longer transmission life. Just keep in mind that if you have installed an aftermarket shift kit you can't use the shift firmness feature of the tuner.
Also in the shifting category, Max Energy allows you to raise or lower the shift points in 100 rpm increments for maximum towing performance. This is particularly handy if you live in mountainous areas where, when towing, your truck does a lot of shifting. You can customize the shift points for every gear.
A couple of other features of the Max Energy that will come in handy are the Code Reader and Return to Stock option. If you get a "check engine" light or "service needed" message, the Max Energy will allow you to read the code and gives you the ability to clear the code and turn the "check engine" light off. You can then make the necessary repairs to prevent the light from coming back on.
Four big straps in the back...
Four big straps in the back hold the behemoth onto the dyno rollers. Check out how the outer tires hang off the rollers-that turned out to be the subject of some fun discussions at the shop.
Certain manufacturer warranties can be voided by using aftermarket tuners however, the Return to Stock option allows you to safely return your truck's computer to its factory settings before taking it into the dealer for service. Here's how it works.
When you plug it in, Hypertech's Max Energy downloads and saves the stock tuning program, then uploads your customized Power Tuning program. Before taking your vehicle into a dealership for service, you simply choose the Return to Stock setting and you're good to go.
The Max Energy Power Programmer comes with a USB cable and a CD containing software that allows you to quickly update the programmer via the Hypertech website. The CD also contains an installation video and a printable version of the instruction manual.
Using the Max Energy Power Programmer is so simple it's ridiculous. If you can plug in a light and answer yes or no questions, you can add up to 114 horsepower to your truck. No joke, it's that easy.
Shop owner Dennis Ramsey plugs...
Shop owner Dennis Ramsey plugs the Max Energy into the factory diagnostic outlet.
Our subject for this test is a 2010 base model F-350 dualie; nothing fancy, just your basic utilitarian work truck. It sports a 6.7L Power Stroke V-8 Turbo Diesel Engine that rates 735 lb-ft of torque and 390 hp at the flywheel. At the wheels, that translates to 306 hp and 526 lb-ft of torque at 3,050 rpm. That is already a stout combination for towing race car trailers around, but it could be better-a lot better according to Hypertech.
The company offers published dyno data on all of its applications for the Max Energy programmers. This data is gathered on state-of-the-art equipment at its Tennessee headquarters. Hypertech says that we should expect an increase of up to 114 hp at 3,350 rpm, and more than 188 lb-ft at 2,950 rpm depending on which stage we choose.
We wanted to verify that data for you, so we headed over to Ramsey's Performance in Lutz, Florida. Owner Dennis Ramsey was kind enough to give the CT crew a little time on his in-ground Dynojet chassis dynomometer. We have our own Dynojet chassis dyno in the newly refurbed Source Interlink Media Tech Center in Tampa but that dyno is on a lift, and at more than 105 inches wide, the truck wouldn't fit on it. So it was off to Ramsey's.
It takes just a few minutes...
It takes just a few minutes for the Max Energy to begin communicating with the truck.
When we rolled the big white dualie onto Dennis' dyno, the outer tires hung off of the rollers. Getting the rear of the truck centered over the dyno rollers turned out to be a bit of a time consuming process, which in retrospect actually took longer to accomplish than tuning the motor with the Max Energy programmer.
Another problem we ran into was that neither dyno we had access to had the correct diesel sensors. These specialized sensors are designed to gather torque data from a diesel engine. Most dynos use spark from the coil to gather torque data, but since diesels do not have coils we were outta luck. Even so, we could still verify Hypertech's horsepower claims and then infer that the torque claims were accurate as well. Horsepower being a function of torque, we were just working backwards.
Figures 1 through 3 are from the Hypertech data. As you can see from Figure 4 (on the following page), we achieved peak horsepower of 293.83 with the stock tune. We arbitrarily decided to put on the Stage 2 tune and let 'er rip. We netted 364.05 horsepower, a gain of more than 70 ponies. Compared to Hypertech's published numbers of an 80hp increase, we were right in the ballpark. Remember, we're on a different dyno that, while under cover, is outdoors so ambient air temperatures and humidity weren't controlled.
Once the programmer establishes...
Once the programmer establishes communication, you are asked a series of yes or no questions, which you answer using the four paddle buttons on the unit. Here, the Max Energy is checking for any trouble codes, the first step before tuning takes place.
The power gains are impressive, but Hypertech also has data to back up an increase in fuel economy. Now, we all know that if you can increase the fuel economy of your tow vehicle then you save money-money that can be spent on the track. Hypertech engaged an independent EPA/CARB-recognized lab that specializes in diesel testing, Olson Ecologic in Fullerton, California, to test its Max Energy Power Programmer. The results from the EPA transient cycle testing proved a 9.73-percent increase in fuel efficiency with Hypertech's tuning. A near 10-percent gain in fuel economy is significant, allowing the programmer to pay for itself in short order (depending, of course, on how much you drive).
Now, dyno numbers and increased fuel efficiency are great, but where the Max Energy Power Programmer really shines is on the road. We put it to the test by taking our fully loaded race trailer out onto I-75 to do some "passing" tests. The F-350 is a bad mutha trucker without a tune and performed admirably when the hammer was dropped at 60 mph to pass a slower moving truck. Pulling back into the shop we quickly threw a Stage 3 tune on the truck and headed back out to the highway.
With the Stage 2 tune programmed,...
With the Stage 2 tune programmed, Ramsey makes a run, netting a more than 70 horsepower increase. All of our dyno runs where made with the F-350's tow setting turned on.
When the same 60-mph hammer drop was performed with the Stage 3 tune in place, the difference was very noticeable. It was like we were shot out of a cannon, truly hard to believe when you consider we were towing a fully loaded 28-foot race trailer. The shifts were smoother, whether from a dead stop or at highway speed, more power was at our feet and the driveability of the rig was improved overall.
However, being racers we wanted more data. So, we took the F-350 north to Gainesville Raceway, the famous quarter-mile dragstrip a stones throw (sort of) from the University of Florida. The goal was to see what kind of quarter-mile times the workhouse could turn out in stock trim and then with a Stage 3 tune. It was an open track day test and tune so there were plenty of drag racers around with eye brows raised as the dualie ran the traps. The timeslips tell the whole story of why the Max Energy is a must have. In stock trim our dualie went 16.568 at 82 mph, but with the Stage 3 tune she turned a 15.497 at 88 mph, more than a full second faster. Couple that with a fuel mileage increase and an MSRP of $379, and you've got a winning combination.
All in all, the Hypertech Max Energy Power Programmer is money worth spending for your racing program. Remember, your tow vehicle is an integral part of your operation. How you treat it will directly impact how much extra cash you have to go racing.
Figure 1: Hypertech dyno...
Figure 1: Hypertech dyno test data show a steady increase in both horsepower and torque over the entire rpm range.
Figure 2: Peak numbers from...
Figure 2: Peak numbers from the test are telling.
Figure 3: Here is the complete...
Figure 3: Here is the complete Hypertech data broken out into 50-rpm increments.
Figure 4: Our test data for...
Figure 4: Our test data for a Stage 2 tune, though missing torque numbers, verify the Hypertech claims. While our net of 71 horspower is slightly less than the company's 80, we also achieved an increase across the whole rpm span. The dip you see in our graph is a shift point.
Timeslips from Gainesville...
Timeslips from Gainesville Raceway tell the whole story. The slip on the left is our F-350 in stock trim, the one on the right is with the Max Energy Stage 3 tune. A full second faster-need we say more?