Winch to Hitch: Tune Yourself

September 2017 Column, Feature Trevor Mason

I’ve talked in this column before about tuning and how it can radically affect your truck’s performance. In fact, pretty much anybody who’s looking to get more power out of his truck knows that tuning is not only a pretty standard step along the way, but damn near a requirement.

There are lots of companies that cater to this and provide both the hardware and software to achieve your lofty horsepower goals. But what if you want to do it yourself? You’d be out of luck on the hardware end (unless you’ve got untold manufacturing and soldering prowess), but as for software, there are a couple of companies out there who strive to fulfill that exact desire.

HP Tuners and EFILive are two of the most well-known tuning companies in the industry. If you’re serious about tuning and want to make the most of your truck, you can use the tools that these companies provide and try your hand at doing the tuning yourself!

While that might sound like rocket science or brain surgery (that is, something best left to the professionals), it’s not quite as daunting as it might sound. Plus, life wouldn’t be much fun if you didn’t take a little risk every now and then. So what do these guys have to offer?

HP Tuners

HP Tuners has a VCM (vehicle control module) suite (a computer program) that allows you to tune multiple vehicles. It lets you dial in, scan, modify, and re-flash the VCM. It lets you make all sorts of changes to the way the onboard computer controls the vehicle. In [very] simple terms, the VCM has two parts: the operating system and the data itself. The OS remains untouched, while the data is what you’re editing and re-uploading to the VCM. Other features of the suite include TunerLock, which locks down your VCM so only you can access it, and a VATS/BCM Relink, in which the vehicle anti-theft system (if the vehicle has one) hooks back up to the body control module.

Examples of what you can edit include EGR, air pump, injectors, engine diagnostics such as MAP Error Values and MAF Error Values, and the speedometer and speed limiter. After making a few choices such as year, make, model, and engine size, you can get a file from the HP Tuners depository and download to your computer. After you make your edits, you re-upload the file into the engine’s VCM and you’re off to the races. (


EFILive’s Tuning Tool reads the entire contents of an Engine Controller (ECM), Powertrain Controller (PCM), or Transmission Controller (TCM) and stores it on your PC’s hard drive. This data is displayed in easy-to-read tables, charts or 3D surface models. With this data, EFILive can assess areas where your engine is struggling or problems it’s having. Scripting allows you to create an automated change list to apply to a stock tune based on a previously tuned file. Instead of manually changing 50 tables for a base performance tune, a script can be run on a stock tune and change those 50 tables in under 10 seconds.

If you’re not feeling that adventurous, EFILive also offers a Scan Tool that lets you retrieve and clear fault codes, scan and log high-speed data and diagnose faults using what they call Dynamic Vehicle Testing. (

Obviously, there’s way more to get into with this stuff than I have room for. We’ve also recently learned of a new company called MM3 Power who uses the popular Smarty Touch hardware platform as base and has created their own open tuning platform that’s designed to be able to load tuning software files from the UDC Pro and from a variety of different tuning softwares. They’re a real up-and-comer with a lot of potential. So if you’ve got the itch to try something new, some crazy tuning idea that no one else believes in, give these companies a look and see what you can make your truck do!

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