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Old 10-11-2014, 05:55 PM   #1
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Adding more power vs safety to engine

I was recently asked my opinion on what was the safest way to add more power to a DP. The owner has a Cummins ISL 8.9 Common Rail with VGT, from the 2006 era. But his question was more generic, as he had read via search, many of the cautions about increasing power. He wanted to know could any increase in power be done safely?

Here is my response to him, and wanted to get opinions on if I missed the mark in some of these?

In order of the best way, least risk engine wise, of adding more power:

1) Buy a coach with a bigger engine to start with!
(Sort of a grinning response. But so often overlooked in purchasing a coach, to be sure you get a coach that supports your intended usage.)

2) See if Cummins has a reflash option for your ECM.

3) Improve back end pressure, via larger exhaust pipes and muffler and sometimes headers/manifolds.

4) If intake CFM is restrictive, add larger airbox and intake pipe along with a good quality stock like filter. (Non K&N or AFE, for example.)

5) One of the many different 'chips' or 'in between the ECM modules' available for different engines. MP-8, DIGI, etc.

6) Water/Methanol injection - juice...
(This is another one of those where how and when you use it, has a bearing on how safe it might be.)
(On pre posting edit, I lump propane injection into this grouping too.)

7) Air boxes with K&N, AFE type air filters.
(I made this last, but I also usually recommend against this for most coach owners. Just too much info available that these filters are usually not as protective as a stock OEM type filter. (Fleetguard, Donaldson, etc.)

Not mention are engine, and possibly specific years of engines, power options. Plates, Banks Kits, and others. Also left out of this are more custom mod's such as larger turbos, changing injectors, blue printing many components, etc.

I told him I felt that if done properly, items 1 - 4 are safe ways of adding power. Item 5, the 'chips/in between modules' is relatively safe, as long as the "tricking" of the ECM to change the position of the fuel metering rod within the injection pump (how most of these work, as I understand it) to provide more fuel - is not too aggressive. For example, if an MP-8, keeping the knob turned down to below 1/2 of the way vs towards the max of the scale. These might also require a supplemental fuel pump to augment those engines where fuel supply might become a problem. (FASS, Bulldog, etc.)

For the ISC, I always felt that the Banks Package was a good way to go. With some solid engineering and testing behind the mix of components. Not available from Banks anymore, thus why I did not mention it. (And was not ISL related either.)

All of these may be coach specific and vary between model years. Other factors such as transmission HP/Torque capability, and chassis engine specific cooling capacity work into this mix too.

Addition of more gauges, such as EGT temperatures, accurate water temps, etc. - can be utilized to reduce the risk of any of these that might be on the fence in the possibility of damaging an engine. Say the chips/modules again, if you see the current settings and specific demands on the engine are causing higher VGT and or water temps - you can either take your foot out of the pedal, and or also back off on the settings, if cockpit controlled.

My last comment to him, and it is one I consider before any changes I might make on my coach. Engines are expensive, Cummins (and CAT, Detroit) have quite a bit of coin in the engineering compromises between power, fuel mileage while meeting specific year emission control requirements. I felt that any of these manufacturers can get more power out of these engines. The question is how long they'd last, and if they would remain legal for over the road usage.

OK gang, sorry this was so long winded. And it was an 'over the campfire' discussion that I've tried to summarize down.

How about it, any major items missed? Any major disagreement on the different options in relation to relative safety to the engines?

Best to all, take care of your rig's, and they'll take care of you!
Smitty
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Old 10-11-2014, 06:07 PM   #2
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I think you covered many of the options available. Another consideration is the transmission's torque/hp limitations. Also, more power, after many of the mods you mentioned, requires more fuel, which means more heat. The limits of the cooling system also needs to be considered.
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Old 10-11-2014, 07:31 PM   #3
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I'm certainly not an expert on diesels or the performance enhancements available for them.

I have been a DP owner and full timer for going on 8 years. I've done my own maintenance for the last 5 years.

I'm of the opinion that you are not going to be able to have much impact on the real world performance of a diesel motorhome. Make sure you keep the PM up and learn to maximize your engine's performance by sound driving technique.

Relax and enjoy the ride. It is what it is.


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Old 10-11-2014, 07:45 PM   #4
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Not a diesel expert but I have done some research on gasoline engines. and in this I think there is some crossover.

SOME "Upgrade" or "Tuner" chips, are well designed well programmed by folks who actually know what they are doing and test the chip and package out (Some come with other mods as well, custom headers, exahust and air intake mostly)

Some.. Are not and the end result is a factory rep standing there saying "Warranty Denied". and for good reason.

In short buyer beware.. IN the Gasoline world I know two I'd trust.. Alas my brother is the diesel man, not me.
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Old 10-11-2014, 07:54 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wa8yxm View Post
Some.. Are not and the end result is a factory rep standing there saying "Warranty Denied". and for good reason.


Not sure how much warranty would be left on a 2006 Cummins.
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Old 10-11-2014, 07:54 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve Ownby View Post

I'm of the opinion that you are not going to be able to have much impact on the real world performance of a diesel motorhome. Make sure you keep the PM up and learn to maximize your engine's performance by sound driving technique.

Relax and enjoy the ride. It is what it is.


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Full time since '07
The Banks kit on our ISC did make a very noticeable difference. In fact it never gets down to the stock 1050 ft lbs till 2100 rpm and the HP and torque curves are stronger than the plots for the ISL 450 over most of the range. BUT I would think the ISL would perform better even if the charts don't show that.
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Old 10-11-2014, 10:44 PM   #7
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Smitty, you forgot propane injection Propane injection system units information, diesel engine performance products, parts, accessories
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Old 10-12-2014, 11:26 AM   #8
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I lumped this in with item 6 within the Water/Methanol. It's been around along time, and with caution probably as safe as the chips. I think that is a comment that can be made for most of the chips/modules or propane/juices approach - if done cautiously and with restraint, adding power can be done relatively safely.

It's the ability to control the driver, and how much they want to crank things up - that is the risky point! (I resemble that comment...)

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Old 10-12-2014, 11:53 AM   #9
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That is the system for propane that I have on my truck. I put mine on for mileage, but I can tell you that before I got it set where I wanted it, That stuff will make your diesel way more powerful! The transmission and head gaskets are the problems there. BTW, when I am running the propane I get 5+ more MPGs than without. I get 25.5 MPG gunning empty at 65 MPH. I have not been running it for a while because the price of propane motor fuel was about $4 a gallon. It also cleans up the smoke some too.
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Old 10-12-2014, 01:02 PM   #10
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I think my box stock ISC does just fine
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Old 10-12-2014, 01:13 PM   #11
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I think my box stock ISC does just fine
Since I never race my coach, (and never intend to), 250hp suits me fine.
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Old 10-12-2014, 03:35 PM   #12
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Great info Smitty, always eager to enhance performance and
and improve efficiency.
Someone has told me that water/methanol injection could help
with EGR function and longevity. What say you?
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Old 10-12-2014, 04:45 PM   #13
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I thought of another low risk change that will redirect more power to the drive wheels. Rear radiator coaches, can add kits to switch the cooling fans away from using direct engine (usually fan belt) driven cooling. I've never heard any downside to those that have made these changes, well - possibly except to their wallets!

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Old 10-12-2014, 04:47 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by fishdoc View Post
Great info Smitty, always eager to enhance performance and
and improve efficiency.
Someone has told me that water/methanol injection could help
with EGR function and longevity. What say you?
Sure hope someone else on the board can answer this for sure. I have not heard of this, and have no real knowledge on if it is true. It sounds plausible, as the propane fortified ULSD should burn more completely.

Best,
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