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What Diesel Performance Parts to Buy For Cummins, Duramax, and Powerstroke Diesel Pickups

Odds are if you are reading this right now you have a diesel pickup or are thinking about getting one.  The very first logical step most diesel pickup owners take is to modify their truck for more power, mileage, or reliability.  But where do you start?  What is safe?  What the hell do all these things do?  Let’s see if we can’t help shed some light on everything for you.

We are going to assume for the purposes of this article that you aren’t looking for the highest horsepower drag racing, sled pulling, dyno shredding extreme diesel pickup.  We will assume that you need to drive your truck every day for a daily driver.  You might use it for work.  You tow a trailer from time to time.  All the things a normal diesel owner users their truck for.  Not the smoke blowing magazine things that many of the younger diesel crowd embraces.  We are talking real world on a budget and making your truck last modifications.  Hopefully this helps you decide on the best best diesel pickup performance parts for your truck.


Cold Air Intakes and Filters:  Upgrading your factory air box or filter is one of the easiest modifications that you can do to your diesel pickup.  With the cost of regular replacement filters for the factory air box being usually over $50, it does not take long to recoup your money if you invest in a reusable, washable air filter.  While an air filter is good, we suggest a complete cold air intake system.   We carry several brands such as S&B, AFE, K&N, and Banks.  All of these systems will increase the air flow to your engine.  Most generally these systems will show a 8-12 horsepower increase and a perhaps a mile per gallon of fuel mileage or so.  There is really no down side if you purchase a quality air filter or intake system.  They will deliver more air and deliver that air cooler.

Exhaust Systems:  Of course if getting more air in the engine is good, getting the hot exhaust back out quicker and more efficiently is also just as important.  On diesel pickups up to 2007, a turbo back exhaust can be installed as a standalone modification.   You will not get any check engine lights.  Installing a four or five inch exhaust system will increase exhaust flow and lower exhaust gas temperatures.  We have found that a four inch turbo back exhaust system is adequate for most applications.  We do not see any performance increase for five inch over four inch up to around the 600 horsepower level.  Only a drop in exhaust gas temperatures and a deeper sound.  If you tow a lot, a five inch exhaust is a good choice for the egt reduction.  If you have a 2007 or newer truck you will not be able to install a turbo back exhaust without some sort of programming to shut the check engine lights off that you will get from removing the factory exhaust. (check your local laws first)  The same benefits are realized with the newer trucks sometimes even more so due to the restrictive nature of the factory exhausts.  BTW, installing a DPF back exhaust on a new truck does absolutely nothing for performance exhaust get rid of the ugly factory tip. 

Programmers and Power Modules:  There are two kinds of electronic performance enhancers.  The first is the TS Performance or Edge Juice with Attitude style.  They plug in under the hood to the factory engine harnesses.  They do not change the computer programming at all.  They adjust the signal between the engine computer and the engine to increase the horsepower.  These are great choice for those who are worried about voiding their factory warranty.  These boxes can be removed and leave no trace for the dealership to see.  They work really well but do not allow for any custom programming so they have their limitations.  The other sort of programmer is the style we all know that connects into the diagnostic port under the dash.  They will actually change the programming stored in the computer from the factory.  This allows the programmer to change nearly every aspect of the way the truck runs.  They will store the factory program and then install the modified version.  If you have to go back to stock, it will allow you to install the factory program back in.   Some of our favorite programmers are SCT, Superchips, EFI Live, and Bullydog.  They are all quality units and can increase horsepower anywhere from 50 to 300 horsepower depending on the model of truck.  Fuel mileage can also increase from between one to ten miles per gallon also depending on the truck.  There is not another modification that can more radically change the way your truck runs.

Fuel Systems:  Once you start modifying your truck you may find out that the volume of fuel that needs delivered cannot be achieved with the factory fuel pump.  We carry fuel systems like FASS and Airdog to solve this issue.  Not only do these systems provide more fuel volume to feed your diesel pickup, but they have other benefits as well.  First they filter the fuel much better than the factory filter setup.  With the cost of today’s diesel fuel injectors and common rail injection pumps, adding extra filtration is good insurance.  The second benefit is that the fuel systems remove entrapped air which increases fuel mileage and performance.  I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend a fuel system to any diesel pickup owner, no matter their level of modification.

Intercoolers:  If you are increasing your diesel pickup’s horsepower with some of the above modifications, you may want to be looking at an upgraded intercooler if you tow a lot.  The intercooler’s job is to cool the charge air after it leaves the turbocharger and before it enters the engine.  As you increase the horsepower by adding more fuel and boost, you will find you exhaust gas temperatures climbing when you are towing.  We suggest a quality intercooler like a Mishimoto, AFE, or Banks brand intercooler.  They work really well.  The stock intercooler was designed for stock horsepower and boost levels.  There is a rule of thumb that for every 10 degrees you can drop the intake air charge, you will pick up 1% horsepower.  So not only can you lower your exhaust gas temperatures keeping them in a safe range, but also pick up more horsepower and fuel economy.

Large Diesel Fuel Injectors: We get asked about fuel injectors and nozzles all the time.  For the sake of this article we would advise the customer to not upgrade or stay small.  Most of the newer diesel fuel injection systems will provide enough fuel for 450-500 horsepower.  Which is usually plenty for most people.  But if you have done all the above modifications and still want more, a set of nozzles is usually a quick and easy way to gain an extra 50-100 horsepower.  We suggest either Dynomite Diesel or Industrial Injection depending on your budget.  We have seen bone stock trucks run smoother and pick up fuel mileage after installing a set of Dynomite nozzles or injectors.  The aftermarket units are better flow matched that the factory large production pieces.  Just remember though not to go too big.  If you do, you will run into rail pressure problems because the stock injection pumps can only keep up with so much volume.

Injection Pumps: Along the lines of larger injectors, unless you are needing more horsepower than the stock pump will supply, there is no reason to upgrade unless your stock pump fails.  We do see a performance increase by swapping to a higher output pump even on a bone stock truck.  We suggest injection pumps from Fleece Diesel, ATS Diesel, or Industrial Injection.  These higher output pumps put out more volume than the stock pump which lets the engine maintain the desired rail pressure.  If the engine can maintain rail pressure, the fuel will be properly atomized when injected into the cylinder.  Our rule of thumb on the upgraded pumps for a daily driver/tow/work truck is do not upgrade unless there is something wrong with your stock pump.  Then it makes sense to install the next size larger pump.

Turbochargers:  There is perhaps not a more misunderstood category of diesel performance upgrade parts than turbochargers.  First things first, turbochargers just supply air to the engine.  They cannot by themselves add horsepower unless you have extra fuel to burn.  We get customers all the time calling with bone stock trucks who want to upgrade their turbochargers expecting more power.  You will not gain more power in most cases unless you have extra fuel to burn.  Let’s try to make the simplest example to illustrate.  Let’s say it takes one unit of air to burn one unit of diesel fuel.  The turbocharger that comes stock on most trucks provides 10 units of air to burn 6 units of fuel.  That’s why we do not see any smoke from stock trucks.  All of the fuel available is being burnt.  So adding a larger turbocharger that provides 15 units of air will not increase horsepower by itself.  On the other hand if you are feeding the engine 20 units of fuel with larger injectors or extreme tuning, the stock turbo cannot keep up with 10 units.  Also along the same lines as the intercooler, the cooler the air you can feed the engine the more horsepower it will make.  The stock turbochargers will start building lots of heat when pushed beyond the factory boost levels.  A larger turbocharger can deliver more air and cooler which results in a performance increase.  Our advice is always to pick the smallest turbocharger that will fit your application.  We suggest aftermarket turbochargers from ATS Diesel, Industrial Injection, and Garrett.  It would probably be best for you to call us to help you fit the right upgraded turbocharger for your Cummins, Duramax, or Powerstroke diesel pickup.

 If you have any questions at all on your application, please feel free to send us an email at or call us toll free at 1-877-367-9351.  We are glad to answer any and all questions you have.