Programmers & Modules FAQ Questions

Questions & Answers

What is the Difference between a Programmer and a Module?

(For the purpose of this explanation the term tune or tuning will be used to encompass any signal or communication that occurs between the vehicles computer and engine.)

By installing a programmer or a module you are adding a new tune to your vehicle. By adding a new tune to your diesel vehicle, you are simply modifying the signals that the vehicle's computer (ECM) sends to the electrical components of the engine. The difference between a programmer and a module/chip can be explained by the manor in which that signal is modified.

Programmers are installed or downloaded directly to the vehicle's ECM through the data port under the dash. This new program or data modifies the ECM's calibrations so that the original signals are changed to incorporate the desired effects created by the selected tune. This new signal is then sent out to the electrical components of the engine. Thoroughbred Diesel refers to this kind of tuning as Pre-ECM modifications.

Modules or chips can be installed in many different places on a diesel vehicle and placement usually varies greatly depending on the effect the module is intended to have. To explain it simply, a module is installed somewhere in between the ECM and at least one electrical component that the ECM communicates with. When the signal leaves the ECM it travels through its normal route until it reaches the module. At this point the signal enters the module, is modified by the computer elements inside of the modules, and then exits the module and continues on its path to the desired electrical component. Thoroughbred Diesel refers to this kind of tuning as Post-ECM Modifications.

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Will a Tuner Increase My Fuel Economy?

Yes, in theory a tuner will increase your trucks fuel economy by increasing the efficiency of your engine. On average we see the best fuel economy gains occur when using tunes ranging from 65 to 90 extra horsepower. This is not however the case 100% of the time. Each vehicle and driving style is different and each owner should try out different tunes in order to find the most economical one.

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Can Adding a Tuner Damage My Engine?

DO NOT BE AFRAID OF TUNERS! In the rare case that a tuner is faulty there is a slim possibility that it could cause damage to a vehicle. A near impossible set of circumstances would have to occur in order for a tuner to cause damage. You will often hear people make claims such as, “ That tuner destroyed one of my injectors." From our experience, we have found that this is usually a result of a preexisting faulty part. In other words, the injector would have already been failing. By adding the tuner, the owner was demanding more work out of that faulty part which in turn caused the part to reach complete failure at a much faster rate. We encourage you not to fear tuners. Very few people had any issues at all with tuners, and those few problems that have occurred usually are a result of user error during install.

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Can a Tuner Damage My Transmission?

Tuners do not damage transmissions, drivers do. It is important to always keep in mind that a tune can only deliver as much power as the person pressing the pedal allows it to. With that in mind, a driver must realize that a transmission has limits and by adding a tuner, they are often times pushing that transmission to its limits. Drivers should practice caution and often times reprogram their truck to a lower HP tune depending on the conditions they will be driving in. For example, stock trucks should not be towing on a 120 HP tune. Instead, the driver should de-tune the vehicle to around 60-70 HP before departing on the trip.

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Where Do I Download My Programmer?

All programmers will download through the data port. This port is more commonly referred to as the OBDII port, or the scan port. It is the same port used to scan a vehicle if a check engine light occurs. This port is usually located on the divers side, under the dash, near the steering wheel.

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Where Do I Install My Module?

There is not one specific place in which a module is installed. Its location will be dependent upon the electrical component it will be affecting. To determine the installation location of a module you will first need to choose a module.

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What is Shift On The Fly Tuning?

In order to change tuning the programmer or module must be plugged into the vehicle by some means. For the majority of tuners the vehicle must be turned off and placed into Park in order for the tuning to be modified. However, if your tuner is equipped with shift on the fly tuning then you do not have to turn the vehicle off to modify the tuning. You can change program levels and make other modifications while driving down the road.

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Will I have to Leave My Programmer Plugged In?

No. Programmers only have to be plugged in while you are installing or modifying tuning. The exception to this rule is when you have shift on the fly tuning or monitoring systems, which accompany the programmer. Both of these features require that the programmer remain plugged into the data port at all times in order to function.

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Will I Need Anything Extra If I Install a Tuner?

Most tuners have tunes that are made to work with completely stock vehicles. These tunes are generally rated at 120 HP and under. You might notice that some tuners come with tunes above 120 HP. If you tune a stock truck to a setting above 120 HP you will most likely not have enough fuel to supply the demand that this particular tune. A simple add-on, and one of the first upgrades you should install, is an upgraded lift pump filtration system. We recommend an AirDog of FASS system. These systems supply more fuel to your engine allowing you to actually achieve the HP rating that the tunes claim.

- For manual trucks, adding a tune above 120 HP can cause excess stress on the clutch. Running a tune of this caliber on a stock or non-performance clutch can cause it to slip, and eventually cause the clutch to fail, leaving the driver stranded on the side of the road. We recommend upgrading to a performance clutch such as a South Bend or Valair Clutch system.

These upgradse are not necessary unless you plan to be over aprox. 120 HP. A stock truck is more than capable of handling 120 HP and under tunes, as long as the truck is not towing excessively heavy loads.

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Will a Tuner Work On Multiple Truck?

No. Tuners will only work on one truck at a time. Some tuners do allow you switch between trucks once the tuner has been completely removed from the vehicle. Some tuners however, have a feature known as vin locking. This means that when the tuner is installed onto a vehicle it registers and permanently mates with that particular truck. The tuner can be completely removed from that truck, but it cannot be installed on another vehicle after that.

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Can You Combine Two Tuners On One Vehicle?

In the performance industry the act of combining two tuners on one vehicle is known as Stacking. Generally speaking, stacking involves combining either a programmer and a module or a module and another module onto one vehicle. It is not possible to stack a programmer with another programmer. Stacking can be a somewhat risky ordeal because each tuner was designed and tested to operate independently. Therefore, when attempting to stack, you can run into communication conflicts where one tune will over write the other, or completely block communication altogether. It is our policy at Thoroughbred Diesel to not recommend any stacks. If you want to stack we recommend that you browse through forums and ask other fellow enthusiasts which stack they have attempted and achieved success with.

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Will I Need Gauges With a Tuner?

As long as you intend to run your vehicle on a tune under a 120 HP setting, you will most likely not need gauges. If you plan on doing any towing, with ANY tune installed on the vehicle then we recommend you strongly consider gauges.

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Will I Notice an Increase In Power if I Install a Tuner?

Yes! Even if you install the lowest level tune that we offer, you will be able to feel a noticeable increase in power.

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Will Adding a Tuner Make My Truck Smoke?

Unfortunately there is not a definitive yes or no answer to this question. In general, adding a tuner should make your truck smoke more. However, the degree to which it smokes is completely dependent upon the tuner.

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