you’re riding the mountainous backcountry of the American Northwest and Canada eight
months a year, sometimes just getting there is a victory. That’s what
snowmobile virtuoso Tony Jenkins does routinely, driving a 350-horsepower
Cummins-powered truck with a couple of snowmobiles on a bed deck, often with
another four on a trailer he tows behind.
“Hauling that much weight through mountainous terrain, there
are many situations where I can really use some extra horsepower,” Jenkins
explains. “At other times, my main concern is with fuel economy.”
Jenkins shares the same challenges as others who operate
typical pickup trucks today: They are often required to perform
multi-tasking duties, ranging from transportation of the kids to the rigors of
towing the snowmobiles, in a variety of environments and often at high
altitudes. In Jenkins’ case, when the snow is gone, so are he and his wife, off
to somewhere hauling a 28-foot camper trailer.
The problem is that most light-duty trucks are inflexible as
far as torque, horsepower and fuel economy are concerned. This puts many
weekend warriors who haul snowmobile trailers in a quandary: Do they opt for a
pickup with heavy-duty power and suffer the added purchase and operating costs,
or simply accept the performance and mileage limitations of their 300-hp pickup
when under load or climbing long grades?
Like Tony Jenkins, many of today’s pickup owners are opting
for a viable, variable solution: the use of programmable tuners to monitor and
control basic engine performance in terms of torque and horsepower, fuel
economy and some engine safety parameters without modification to engine
“The Bully Dog tuner allows me to turn up the power on the
fly,” Jenkins says. “At the same time, you can monitor your engine boost
pressure and temperatures, and can get your engine’s diagnostics as you drive.”
Consisting of a compact dash- or windshield-mounted control
panel with wire leads, tuners are connected to the engine’s control module to
regulate and monitor performance parameters according to vehicle load
requirements and the operator’s desires.
Using a tuner, it is possible to increase typical diesel or
gasoline engine horsepower up to 25 percent, or to boost fuel economy
significantly. Jenkins says the Bully Dog tuner he installed on his 2012
Cummins engine can add up to 120 horsepower, which has proven to be very
“I have had to turn the power all the way up when I was on
backcountry roads and climbing up to the snow,” Jenkins says. “And there have
been times when I got stuck. So, I just reset the tuner for full power, and was
able to hot-rod out of it.”
Generally speaking, a variety of horsepower settings (e.g.
stock, tow, performance) are available to accommodate various driving
conditions. The selected setting is controlled and monitored by the tuner,
offering the vehicle operator not only more power or economies, but also
improved vehicle control via heads-up display of critical engine performance
With some of the more sophisticated tuners, both horsepower
and fuel mileage can be optimized simultaneously.
“The tuner I use not only optimizes performance, but is also
eco-friendly,” Jenkins says. “It is a very affordable alternative to the risks
that some drivers take—such as stripping off the cat converter or other illegal
stuff that violates emissions standards—in order to get more power.”
More Advanced Systems
Using the most advanced tuners, owners of vehicles powered
by gasoline or light-duty diesel engines can get even more enhanced operational
features and benefits.
For example, Bully Dog’s Triple Dog GT offers advanced
programming and monitoring capabilities, including the ability to easily change
settings on the fly while driving diesel vehicles. This system is four products
in one: a vehicle engine tuner, function monitor, performance gauge and
diagnostic device. In addition to significant horsepower and fuel economy
gains, the GT provides a set of monitoring features and diagnostic functions
for enhanced driving and safety.
If a driver is running in high horsepower mode and engine
coolant or oil temperatures rise above the preset warning level, the GT tuner
will automatically recognize the condition and begin to lower the horsepower
until the situation is corrected. The tuner will also alert the driver with a
message on the panel display that notifies the driver what is happening and why.
“From what I understand, Bully Dog is able to optimize
engines for greater horsepower or added fuel economy because these guys are
spending more time than the vehicle factory does in figuring out various tuning
requirements,” Jenkins says. “That enables them to put the motors into a sort
of higher mode, and actually makes the emissions cleaner. That’s partly because
the engine is performing more efficiently.”
To Jenkins, the user friendliness of his Bully Dog tuner is
also a big plus.
“Anybody can buy this system and install it in about a half
hour in their driveway. It’s not a device that requires a mechanic,” he says.
What To Look For
When selecting a tuner, there are several criteria to
consider. These include ease of installation, availability of a model that
matches your vehicle’s engine, automated monitoring and control features.
Bully Dog tuners, for example, are installed cleanly and
easily in the cab by attaching to the OBDII port. Installers first connect to
the Internet to download the latest software, ensuring that files are up-to-date.
Then the tuner is connected to the vehicle using provided mounting accessories
(OBDII connector and HDMI cable). The vehicle-specific software is installed by
using the tuner and following easy steps on the tuner monitor. After
calibrating the system, the operator simply dials in the operating and setup
parameters that can be calibrated to the driver’s specific needs.
Monitoring capabilities may be important to many vehicle
operators, such as those with commercial applications or who frequently tow
heavy loads. To ensure reliable, optimized performance, more powerful tuners
will monitor turbo boost pressure, engine rpm, transmission temperature, air
flow, fuel rail pressure and other operating parameters.
Another key thing to look for is location of the tuner. Some
models place the control panel under the hood in the engine compartment. This
exposes it to heat, cold, humidity and vibration, which can potentially cause a
malfunction or even failure. On the other hand, cab-mounted control panels are
protected from those stresses and can be easily accessed for on-the-fly
To ensure that performance and fuel economy are maximized,
Bully Dog has a tool called the Driving Coach available on all tuner models.
The Driving Coach is an on-screen feedback system that gives drivers specific
tips on how to improve their driving habits in conjunction with their tuner
capabilities to enhance fuel conservation while getting more efficient
performance. This feature can prove valuable, particularly on those long hauls
to get to the perfect snowmobiling spot.
For more information, contact Bully Dog Technologies in American Falls, ID
(877) 285-5936 or www.bullydog.com.