6.0 Powerstroke Tuner: An Overview
A tuner or programmer is one of the most popular ways to add extra horsepower to your car or truck, and this is especially true for a diesel engine since there is so much untapped potential the OEM calibration leaves on the table. Ever since the advent of electronic fuel injection, drivers have been increasing the power output of their engines with nothing more than some electronic adjustments, but what exactly is a tuner or programmer, and how does it make more power from your diesel engine?
In the simplest terms, a programmer is an electronic device that alters the calibration files inside your truck’s engine control module, and it does things like increase boost pressure from the turbocharger, adjust the fuel mixture, and alter the injection timing, all to create a more efficient combustion of the fuel being injected into your engine, and extract more horsepower. Most popular tuners or programmers offer several different levels of calibration or tunes to suit different driving styles and uses, whether that be towing, commuting, or racing at the track. As your mood changes, you can easily switch back and forth between tunes within a matter of minutes, simply by plugging in your tuner into the OBD2 port underneath the dash and hitting a few buttons.
The 6.0 Powerstroke was used in the Ford Superduty trucks between the 2003.5 and 2007 model year, and while it earned a reputation of being a somewhat unreliable engine, when it comes to increasing performance with a tuner, it’s a great engine platform to work with and you can easily add at least another 100 horsepower to your 6.0 with a tuner alone, and your power gains can be even higher if you combine a programmer or tuner with a cold air intake, or exhaust. The question of which tuner is best can lead you down a rabbit hole of research since there are so many great options out there, and each brand has slightly different features, so to make things simpler, we’ve compiled a list of the most popular tuner options for the 6.0 Powerstroke, and we’ll go over the features and benefits of each to help you make your decision simple.
SCT Tuner 6.0 Powerstroke Review
When it comes to tuning any Ford vehicle, one of the first names that comes to mind is SCT, and they make two great options that will allow you to install a performance tune on your 6.0 Powerstroke. The first is the SCT X4. It’s a compact yet powerful handheld tuner that has three different tune options to suit any driving condition: a towing tune that adds another 65hp and 75 lb.ft. of torque, a street tune that adds 105hp and 130 lb.ft. of torque, and finally a performance tune that adds 150hp and 248 lb.ft. of neck snapping torque. The SCT X4 has a full color screen, can store up to 10 custom tunes, will update over Wi-Fi, and can display engine sensor data in real time for datalogging or diagnostic purposes. Plus, you can also use the X4 to read and clear any engine trouble codes that may appear. When you are done tuning your truck with the X4, you can disconnect it and store it in the console and the tune file will stay flashed into your Powerstroke’s ECM.
The SCT Livewire TS can add up to 120 dyno proven horsepower and 248 lb.ft. of torque to your 6.0 Powerstroke, but the main thing that sets the SCT Livewire apart from the X4 is the 4” color touch screen display. Many diesel owners prefer to have additional gauges installed in their truck to keep an eye on the engines vitals but installing gauges can be a very labor intensive job and often requires drilling holes into various parts of your engine to install new sensors. The SCT Livewire TS eliminates all the hassle of analog gauges by tapping into the information stream that’s already available through the OBD2 port under the dashboard. The Livewire TS easily mounts to your windshield with the included suction cup mount, and in a matter of moments you can see just about any parameter that’s picked up by your engine’s computer, like boost pressure, turbo vane position, injection control pressure, engine oil temperature, and more. Every SCT tuner comes with dyno proven power gains, but if you have modified your trucks gear ratio or tire size, you can easily adjust those options to ensure your speedometer is reading correctly, and your transmission shift points are correct.
Bully Dog Tuner 6.0 Powerstroke Review
Another great option for a tuner on your 6.0 Powerstroke is the Bully Dog GT Platinum, and the one thing that sets it apart from the competition is the switch on the fly capabilities. The Bullydog GT has four different power levels to choose from, and all it takes is the touch of a button to raise or lower the power output of your Powerstroke. The four levels are stock (which adds no horsepower) a +50hp towing tune, a +75hp performance tune, and finally a +110hp extreme setting for when you really need to get up to speed in a hurry.
The Bullydog GT mounts easily on the dashboard or windshield of the truck where it will also act as a performance gauge and will display (up to four at a time) just about any parameter that’s recorded on your engine’s computer, like boost pressure, injection control pressure, injection timing, oil temperature, and more. My favorite part of the GT Platinum is the rolling display that shows the previous 20 seconds (roughly) of data so you can go back and check to see what the maximum or minimum value of a given parameter was. This could be used to show peak boost after merging onto the freeway, or to record a drop in injection control pressure when diagnosing a performance issue on the 6.0, or dozens of other readings.
Edge Evolution 6.0 Powerstroke Review
Edge Products has been making quality tuners for diesel trucks for a long time, and for the 6.0 Powerstroke they offer the Evo HT2 and the Evolution CS2. The Evo HT2 is a compact handheld tuner that can reflash your ECM in minutes, giving your 6.0 Ford some newfound power and spunk, making it exhilarating to drive. It will add up to 111 horsepower and 162 lb.ft. of torque on its maximum setting, but also has a fuel economy tune option if you don’t need all that extra power and you want to save some money at the pump. Other features of the Evo HT2 include tire size adjustment from 28” to 38” which covers the most common truck tires on the market, plus advanced options to customize the rev limiter and shift points and firmness to your liking, and the ability to correct the speedometer if you change gear ratios in the axles. Of course, you can also read and clear DTC codes to help with the diagnostic and repair process.
If you want performance gains and a gauge monitor all in one, the Edge Evolution CS2 and CTS3 are both a great choice for the 6.0 Powerstroke. They mount on the windshield with a suction cup or directly onto the dash in an optional mounting pod and will display your engine data in real time. The Evolution CS2 has a compact design, and can display up to 8 parameters at once, and you can customize the 2.4” high resolution display of the Evolution CS2 to your liking with different color schemes. The Evolution CTS3 is a little larger, with a 5-inch full color capacitive touch screen that can show up to a whopping 16 parameters at the same time, plus you can configure several screen layouts and switch between them with a simple swipe, plus the CTS3 offers more advanced features like a 0-60 and ¼ mile timer, and an internal data logger.
There are four different performance tunes available on the CS2 and CTS3, ranging from Level 1 which adds 20hp and 80 lb.ft. all the way up to Level 4 which adds 100 horsepower and a massive 200 lb.ft. of torque. One other great thing about the Edge Evolution CS2 and CTS3 is the expandable accessory system (EAS) which lets you install additional sensors the truck may not have, like a thermocouple to keep an eye on exhaust gas temperature, additional pressure and temperature sensors (pre and post intercooler temps for example) or even a turbo timer which lets your engine run for a few minutes after you turn off the key to let the turbo and engine oil cool off, which helps prolong the life of your engine.
Best Tuner For a Stock 6.0 Powerstroke
So, which tuner is best? If we’re being perfectly honest, SCT, Bullydog, and Edge all offer great quality tunes for your 6.0 Powerstroke with each offering similar power increases over stock, so the main difference is in the extra features each offers. If maximum power output is what you need, the SCT X4 offers the most powerful tunes of the group. If you want a potent handheld tuner that can easily flash your Powerstroke ECM to add power in just a few minutes, the Edge Evo HT2 is a great option. If you want the ability to switch tunes on the fly with a simple push of a button, the Bullydog Platinum GT has you covered, and finally, if you want powerful tuning with the added benefits of a gauge display monitor, the SCT Livewire TS or Edge Evolution CTS3 have what you need.
Probably the most common question asked about tuners lately is will it allow me to remove any emissions devices like the EGR? In short, no. No tuner will permit you to remove the federally mandated emissions components from your truck. They are there to keep the air we breathe clean, and all modern tuning is designed to work with the emissions components in place to optimize its performance and output no additional pollutants.
6.0 Powerstroke Tuner without Studs? Risk vs. Reward
Adding horsepower to your 6.0 Powerstroke could not be easier than with a new tuner, but if you spend any time on the internet researching the 6.0 Powerstroke, you probably have run into the debate about tuning your Powerstroke and the need to install aftermarket head studs, like from ARP, PPE, or Gator Fasteners. The reason this debate is so important, is because the bolts holding the cylinder head to the block are also responsible for the clamp load that seals the head gasket tight enough to keep the combustion pressure inside the engine and out of the cooling or oil systems. The issue lies with the fact that when the 6.0 Powerstroke was designed, the number of head bolts per cylinder was reduced from six to four, and even though the fastener was made a little larger than on the previous generation of 7.3 Powerstroke, the four 14mm torque to yield bolts simply do not offer enough clamping force to keep the head sealed to the block when you have excessive cylinder pressure. This is a well-documented problem, and there is unanimous consent that in racing applications with larger turbochargers and bigger injectors, stronger aftermarket head studs are an absolute must, but what about the guy who wants to run just a programmer?
The answer is it depends on a lot of variables. Some 100% bone stock trucks have head gasket issues, and some owners have increased the power output of their Powerstroke significantly while still running the stock torque to yield head bolts without having any issues. Generally, if you are running around a 100-horsepower tune or less, and you are driving sensibly (I.E., not towing on the hot tune) your stock head bolts probably won’t present any issues at first. However, it is worth mentioning that this is not a guarantee of longevity, and if you are increasing the performance of your 6.0 Powerstroke, some ARP Head Studs are a highly recommended upgrade (bordering on a must-do), especially if you have a heavy right foot, and plan on performing future modifications above and beyond a tuner to extract more power from your Powerstroke.
Powerstroke Tuners from DPP
Diesel Power Products is your go-to destination for all things diesel, so if you are looking for a tuner, head studs, cold air intake, or even maintenance items for your 6.0 Powerstroke, you should give them a shot. The best part is, DPP is staffed by experts who know performance parts inside and out, so if you still need help making the decision about which tuner is right for you, then give them a call, let ‘em know what your performance goals are for your Superduty, and they can recommend a tuner that will meet all your needs.