Can You Still Tune Your Diesel Truck?

When Dodge released the Cummins-powered Dodge Ram in 1989, mainstream diesel performance hit a home run. The trucks were reliable but underpowered in stock form, but it wasn’t long before enthusiasts discovered that the 5.9L 12-valve engines could be “turned up” for more power by simply turning a screw in the injection pump to add more fuel, resulting in gains of up to 100 horsepower—and a lot of exhaust smoke.

Is it illegal to tune a diesel truck?

Clients who wish to perform emission deletes on their trucks send us emails, phone calls, and live chats every day. All of these customers have the same issue: their automobiles require frequent, expensive maintenance, and they are fed up with it. I truly sympathize with them; many of them have had traumatic situations and are simply searching for a way out. However, before we delve too far into the weeds, there are a few fallacies that we commonly encounter.

Myth #1 – Deleting or Tuning a Truck is Legal

There is no way around it; tampering with or modifying your truck’s emission system in any manner is completely unlawful. It is not a state or local law (though such do exist), but rather a federal law. The first thing clients remark when we discuss it is that “it’s only for off-highway use” or “it’s for tractor pulls.” They believe that by doing so, they will be able to avoid any laws, but this is far from the case.

Yes, your emission system can be lawfully removed from your vehicle, but it will require recertification by the manufacturer and the issuance of a new emission label and certification. You can’t just sign a piece of paper and declare that your engine has been recertified. You’d have to pay to have your engine re-certified by the original equipment manufacturer, which is a costly process.

Myth #2 – There are no EPA Police

This is technically correct. A federal emission law, on the other hand, can be uploaded by any state or municipal government. This misconception is similar to someone declaring, “There are no IRS cops,” despite the fact that the IRS can collect and enforce laws from a building thousands of miles away. The extent of testing and enforcement will differ depending on your state and county.

Myth #3 – The EPA doesn’t go after the little guys

Another prevalent misunderstanding among clients is that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) does not target small enterprises. For your convenience, the EPA maintains a list of every single resolution filed against the Clean Air Act for cars, organized by year. Cases range from tuning equipment providers being taxed over $4 million to a single owner doing a DPF delete on a single car.

If you think you’re “too small” to be noticed or cared about, rest assured that you’re wrong. It only takes one employee or service provider to report the problem, and you’ll be in serious trouble in no time. If the removal/tuning has been done frequently or on a wide scale, the cases might be both civil and criminal.

The fines can quickly mount, as the EPA has the authority to levy civil penalties of up to $7,500 per day for major violations and $37,500 per day for minor violations.

Myth #4 – Only California Cares about Emissions

We get calls from county and state governments asking for a software solution to detect pollution manipulation on commercial trucks on a regular basis. We don’t have a response yet, but I can assure you that someone is working on one right now. There is a sizable demand for a device like this. The reason for this is that the fines are so high that a government agency might pay tens of thousands of dollars each month for that software and still make a profit.

California isn’t the only state with this problem. Several counties in Texas already require emission testing on commercial trucks, and states like Minnesota, as well as New York, are following suit. They’ll find a means to collect fines if there’s money to be made!

Myth #5 – Deleting my emissions will solve all my problems

This isn’t even close to being accurate. Your first task will be to find a competent “tuner” to assist you, and based on our experience, there are more incompetent ones on the market than good ones. To be honest, the truly outstanding tuners aren’t promoting because they know what they’re doing. In terms of technical expertise and capacity, the ones that do advertise are often at the bottom of the totem pole. They frequently clone one ECM software to another without thoroughly inspecting the intricacies.

So, what exactly does this imply? It indicates that if your engine is tuned by a bad tuner, you will have serious issues. Poor engine performance to your engine flinging a rod through the block are all possibilities. Inexperienced tuners, for example, will often remove the EGR on the PACCAR MX engine. The EGR, on the other hand, cools the combustion chamber. With the EGR removed, your head will shatter, and you’ll be dealing with a far worse problem. Modern engines are built to work in harmony with all of their components, and changing one component might lead to more serious issues. If you think it’s just MX engines, consider this Facebook user who had an ISX removed:

Aside from these urban legends, there are a few more things to consider.

Finding a Shop to Help You

You’ll have a hard time finding a franchised dealership to help you once you’ve removed your emissions. They don’t want to take on the risk of working on decommissioned emission equipment, and they can’t guarantee the work. That means you’ll have to find a qualified independent facility willing to work with you on your own. Even if the engine problem you’re having has nothing to do with your tune or delete, as most of you know, seeing them on the open road can be challenging at best.

Reselling Your Truck

If you ever consider selling or trading in your truck, you will almost certainly run into problems. If you sell it with parts removed, the individual who buys it or takes it in trade will have a legal case against you. You made an unlawful change without informing the customer, and now you’re facing legal (and financial) consequences. You will very certainly have to pay to restore all deleted components to their original configuration. Even taking your truck to an auction doesn’t exempt you from liability, as one forum user pointed out. Law enforcement frequently attends public auctions to guarantee that no illegal activities are taking place. Note:


There are two basic approaches for emission adjustment, according to the “economy.” The first option is to save money by learning to do it yourself. Because it requires downloading ECM information to your laptop/computer, updating the software, then pushing it back, you should have a foundation in computer science and how diesel engines work if you go this route. The actual “tuners,” who are subject matter experts, do exactly that.

These folks, on the other hand, are often hard to discover and are aware of the risks indicated above. They gain money in a different way, by selling the “tunes” to repair shops. Do you remember the guy who advertised on Facebook and Craigslist that he would do a tune for $1,000? That individual has no idea what he’s doing. He’s buying tuning files from real specialists, marking them up, uploading them to your ECM, and then walking away from you for good.

That’s all we know about eliminating and optimizing your engine. Our recommendation is to avoid it and instead work with a local, experienced repair shop that has access to necessary diagnostic instruments and repair information. You’ll be alright if your engine is well maintained and you can locate a qualified repair facility that can effectively troubleshoot emission difficulties. If you can’t find one, we recommend taking advantage of our hands-on aftertreatment diagnostics training class.

Is it safe to tune a diesel engine?

Massive amounts of black smoke should not be coming out of your exhaust as a result of the chip. Although diesel chip tuning is a more straightforward operation when compared to petrol chip tuning, this does not imply that diesel engines are unbreakable.

With a diesel engine, you don’t have to worry about detonation, but you do have to be concerned about exhaust gas temperatures. Excessive exhaust gas temperatures can harm your cylinder head, valves, and possibly even your turbo.

Unlike a petrol engine, where adding more fuel lowers exhaust gas temperatures, adding too much diesel has the reverse effect, which is why you should avoid using a chip that produces too much black smoke.

You may boost the performance of your diesel engine without producing a lot of black smoke.

Extra black smoke may be OK for brief amounts of time if you’re driving to the track, but regular and repeated black smoke events, as well as the excess heat that comes with them, must take a toll on the engine’s life.

Excessive black smoke can also harm or clog your DPF, but good heat shielding that keeps the DPF at a high temperature can help to counteract the effect of the excess soot by making the DPF more effective. DPFs (Diesel particulate filters) prefer to operate at high temperatures; driving about town, for example, is not ideal for a DPF; they need good exhaust flow and heat to fully clean themselves.

Did the EPA ban diesel tuning?

At least 28 separate companies were identified to be engaged in the production of at least 45 diesel tuners, according to E.P.A. investigators. The companies are not named in the article because the E.P.A.’s investigation into the subject is still ongoing, according to the report.

It would be far more difficult to crack down on the diesel-tuner business than it would be to go after a single company like Volkswagen. Mr. Kodjak of the International Council on Clean Transportation explained, “There are a lot of little enterprises in play; it’s more difficult to regulate than one major multinational automaker.” “Amazon has diesel tuning equipment for sale.” Your engine may be retuned for $400.”

“By no means are all of these illegal,” he continued. “A lot of them are small businesses.”

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has shut down various manufacturers as part of its investigation: Punch It Performance and Tuning, a small Florida company that had been selling illicit diesel tuners online, was fined $850,000 earlier this year by the government.

The settlement was reduced “due to their restricted financial ability to pay a bigger penalty,” according to E.P.A. papers. Defendants have stated that they will sell residential real estate properties obtained with earnings from the manufacture and sale of defeat devices in order to pay this penalty.”

Is DEF delete illegal?

It’s not difficult to find someone who can modify or remove the Diesel Exhaust Fluid (or DEF) emissions systems on your agricultural equipment if you look hard enough. Given the openness with which this service is provided, a farmer could be forgiven for thinking DEF alterations are permitted.

They aren’t. The EPA Clean Air Act forbids anybody from removing or rendering inoperable an emission control device on a motor vehicle in the United States. Under a different name, the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, Canada has essentially the same statute.

Even though it is forbidden, DEF tampering occurs. What is causing this, and what are the potential consequences?

Early DEF systems, according to Kevin Rossler, Sales Manager for Markusson New Holland Ag in Regina, could be problematic.

“There were early concerns in agricultural equipment as it developed into Tier-Four emissions or DEF systems,” explains Rossler. “An error code from a sensor failing at seeding time could cause you to lose power, which is quite inconvenient. As a result, several operators wanted to get rid of their DEF systems or purchase DEF delete kits to avoid having to utilize them.”

Interfering with a DEF system can get you in trouble with the law, but that’s not the only danger. It will also nullify the manufacturer’s warranty on the equipment. When equipment with tampered DEF arrives at a dealership as a trade-in, it must be returned to its original DEF settings before it can be resold. That’s $5,000 to $7,000, according to Rossler’s experience.

He advises equipment owners to let go of any remaining misconceptions regarding DEF, stating that current versions of the technology work significantly more consistently. DEF systems are unlikely to cause problems in the field, but they’re excellent at what they’re supposed to do: regulate emissions from agricultural equipment and help farming keep its good environmental reputation.

“Early DEF systems are nothing like what we have now,” says Larry Hertz, WEDA’s Regional Vice-President for Canada. “Today, you could place your face right close to the exhaust pipe and nothing would come out. DEF is required by legislation in order to maintain air quality. That’s all the more incentive to leave your DEF alone and let it do its thing.”

Are diesel tuners worth it?

Will a Tuner Help Me Save Money on Gas? Yes, a tuner should theoretically improve your truck’s fuel economy by enhancing engine efficiency. The highest fuel economy advantages are often seen with tunes ranging from 65 to 90 additional horsepower. This is not the case all of the time, however.

Is Remapping a diesel safe?

Almost all current cars, whether diesel or gasoline, can be’mapped.’ A remap is generally safe if done correctly, since a responsible specialist will verify that any’mods’ are done within your car’s performance restrictions. A proper remap can help you save money on gas and reduce your carbon footprint.

How much does it cost to chip a diesel?

While the new ECU chip may be installed by an ordinary DIY mechanic, there are some potential issues. Failure to properly install the chip might cause serious damage to the engine, resulting in costly repairs down the road. Depending on the sort of automobile you have, professional installation can cost anywhere from $400 to $700.

If you think you can install the chip yourself, a new chip can cost anywhere from $300 to $600, depending on the vehicle you’re tuning.

How often do you tune up a diesel engine?

How Often Should A Diesel Engine Be Tuned? An Inspection of a Diesel Truck When Should You Get Your Car Serviced? A maintenance check should be performed every six to twelve months or every 10,000 miles when utilizing a Diesel Truck on a regular basis.