5 Popular Performance Upgrades for Diesel Engines

Diesel engines are long lasting and reliable. We use them in heavy machinery and large trucks because diesel engines have the power to maintain these devices and keep them running. However, there may be times when you want to get under the hood, make some adjustments, and get a little more power or fuel efficiency out of your engine. ATL Diesel is here with five popular performance upgrades for diesel engines that can help you increase its horsepower and keep things running well.

1. Replacing or Changing the Engine Control Module (ECM)

In many diesel engines, the engine control module (ECM) serves many valuable functions, from controlling or adjusting your engine’s air-fuel mixture or capping your maximum RPM (revolutions per minute). The ECM works by drawing power from your vehicle’s battery and gathering and analyzing information to ensure that systems are running efficiently.

The ECM is an essential piece of equipment in many modern engines. The electronic monitoring of your engine helps users identify and correct problems before they become more prominent. However, drivers may also install or modify their existing ECM and reprogram it for different functions.

Some of the common reasons to reprogram an ECM are to remove limiters and gain some additional horsepower or increase torque to improve general performance and power in your engine. In addition, when done correctly, adjusting your engine’s ECM may help improve fuel efficiency by adjusting factors like the air-fuel ratio, ignition timing, and manifold pressure. Of course, several other factors outside the ECM can impact fuel economy, but safe and effective reprogramming may save drivers anywhere from 5 to 10 percent at the gas pump.

2. Installing New Fuel Injectors

If you plan to reprogram to adjust your engine’s air-fuel ratio, it’s natural that you may want to install some new fuel injectors. Fuel injectors are electronic components in your engine that spray fuel directly into the engine’s intake manifold. The fuel injectors need to operate at the same RPM as the rest of the engine, so making necessary adjustments is an essential part of the process.

The spray process of your fuel injector delivering the spray of fuel around the intake valve happens in microseconds and has RPMs of around 1,800. Installing new or additional fuel injectors allows for more fuel to reach the engine, which results in more horsepower.

In addition, many advanced fuel injectors have a designated injector nozzle if you’re looking for even more power. The nozzles allow the injector to build up more fuel pressure by atomizing the fuel before releasing the spray. Overall, enhanced atomization results in better engine performance and higher fuel economy.

3. Upgrading the Air Intake

One of the most popular performance upgrades for diesel engines is to enhance or adjust the air intake. Improving the airflow allows more air to get into the engine, which is a surefire and natural way to increase power and help prevent your motor from overheating.

Air intake kits take in outside air and store it in the engine compartment. Air in this compartment goes through a chilling process, resulting in colder air. The colder air holds more oxygen due to its increased density. That dense oxygen becomes part of your engine’s air-fuel ratio, increasing horsepower and making your engine more powerful without needing to increase storage capacity or add extraneous devices. Plus, many air intake systems lower air temperature while protecting your filter from elements that fill it with gunk and grime.

Some of the reasons why air intake upgrades are so popular with enthusiasts are because they are:

  • Cost effective
  • Easy to install
  • Some of the most fun yet effective ways to boost diesel engines

4. Enhancing the Performance Exhaust

Something that every auto enthusiast should remember is that the more you increase your engine’s horsepower, the more you want to ensure that power can safely leave your engine. We’ve talked about devices or modifications that allow more air to enter your engine. Still, if that air doesn’t have anywhere to go, you may wind up creating an imbalance. This could lead to all the steps you took to improve performance creating more extensive damage.

Enhancing your current exhaust system or installing a performance exhaust allows your engine to maintain optimal air levels. When you can maintain these levels, your engine doesn’t need to use excess fuel to try to keep things balanced.

While a performance exhaust system may not have the more extreme gains in fuel efficiency that we see with some of the other upgrades, drivers can still appreciate the benefits. A proper performance exhaust system allows your engine to safely expel exhaust without disrupting your engine consumption and also saves an extra 1 to 2 percent in annual fuel spending.

5. Putting in a Turbocharger

For drivers looking to get really hands-on with their engines and do everything they can to increase power, a turbocharger is the best way to go. Turbochargers or superchargers can really amp up your engine’s horsepower while installing new hardware on your machine.

Turbochargers gather more air and push more pressurized air into the engine through the intake. Turbocharged air allows for higher power and enhanced fuel efficiency. Basic turbos help increase airflow up to four times more than that of a traditional non-turbo engine. Furthermore, installing a performance turbocharger may improve horsepower up to 10 times that of a conventional engine. Therefore, people looking for the most popular performance enhancement options for a diesel engine can significantly benefit from installing a turbocharger.

If you’re looking for parts and services to improve your diesel engine performance, ATL Diesel is here for you. We have a wide selection of upgrade parts and rebuild kits for several makes and models of diesel engines. We have complete Cat 3406b rebuild kits and upgrades for your truck, car, or heavy machinery. If you’re unsure which parts you need, tell one of our specialists your engine serial number, and we can confirm which parts are right for you. For any additional questions, comments, or concerns, please reach out to us anytime, and we’d be happy to help!

5 Popular Performance Upgrades for Diesel Engines