Best Emissions Friendly Diesel Tuning Options

Want Diesel Tuning that’s eco-friendly and won’t lead to the EPA at your doorstep?

Diesel trucks hold so much untapped potential, horsepower and torque only a fingertip’s length away. How do you access all this untapped potential? All you need is a tuner or programmer. Tuners help achieve high horsepower, torque, and better overall performance from your diesel. There are a lot of options out there, but not all of them provide the same results. If you have an older diesel, tuning is much less complex. There aren’t emissions systems you have to worry about. Tuning a newer diesel is a completely different story. You have to worry about picking a tuner that is CARB approved and offers emissions friendly tuning. What are emissions friendly tunes? Keep reading! We’ll give you everything you need to know.

What is Emissions Friendly Tuning?

Emissions friendly tuning refers to tuning that doesn’t disable emissions devices on a diesel truck. While they don’t delete emissions devices, they still might not be CARB approved or have an EA number. Emissions compliant tuning refers to tuners and programmers that have been tested and approved for use by state and federal governments. They also don’t increase the amount of tailpipe emissions from the truck. Diesel emissions include Nitrous oxides, carbon dioxide, and diesel particulate matter. Scientists have found these to be detrimental to human health and have also cited them as a reason for global warming.

What are Diesel Emissions?

Ever seen a diesel “black smoke”? The black smoke emitted from the tailpipe is unburnt hydrocarbons. This is most commonly seen on older trucks that don’t have emissions systems. Newer trucks feature emissions devices like diesel particulate filters, diesel oxidation catalysts, exhaust gas recirculation systems, and diesel exhaust fluid systems that prevent “black smoke” and other emissions from being released.

Upon release, these emissions systems were at best unreliable. They broke frequently and they costed an arm and a leg to replace or repair. Instead of spending a couple thousand dollars to replace the emissions devices, truck owners opted for emissions removal and delete tuning. Emissions-removed or noncompliant tuning refers to tunes that defeat emissions devices and allow their removal. Deletes or deleting means removing emission devices. While it does lead to increased carbon emissions, it makes tremendous impacts in terms of improved fuel economy and power gains. It’s also only a fraction of the cost of emissions repair and replacement.

Why You Should Roll With Emissions Friend or Compliant Tuning

Although it’s not as cool, you should stick with emissions friendly or compliant tuning. Because of the EPA crackdown in 2019, delete tuning is almost non-existent. Many of the largest tuning companies shut down after they were slapped with huge fines. Modern emissions systems have become more reliable too. The newer diesel trucks already have impressive horsepower, torque, and fuel economy numbers too, so the gains needed by deleting emissions aren’t really necessary. Take the L5P Duramax for example, it provides a whopping 445 horsepower and 910 ft/lb of torque from the factory. Ram’s 2019 HD trucks equipped with the 6.7L Cummins and Aisin transmission produce over 1,000 ft/lbs of torque. Ford’s 2020 SuperDuty tops both of those with an impressive 475 horsepower and 1,050 ft/lbs of torque.

Delete tuning also results in the loss of your factory warranty 100% of the time. The last thing you want to deal with is powertrain failure. Unfortunately, it can happen. If your truck is deleted, manufacturers will give you the bird when it comes to covering this failure under warranty. Deleted trucks featuring emissions noncompliant tuning will also fail emissions testing. This means every year you would have to take off your exhaust, and install all of your emissions devices back on the truck.

Why Get Tuning At All?

Why do you want more horsepower, torque, and better overall performance from your diesel? It’ll help you tow that extra heavy trailer or extend the time it takes for you to fill-up your tank. It can seriously make a difference. If you’ve ever driven a tuned diesel, you know what I’m talking about. It helps improve drivability, fuel economy, and most importantly it makes driving a diesel even more fun.

Best Clean, Emission-Friendly Tuners & Programmers

The best tuner for you depends on what truck you have. Certain trucks have more secure ECMs decreasing the amount of tuning available. We’re going to a write an entire post about tuning an L5P Duramax because there aren’t many options. For the rest of you guys, here is what we recommend.

1. EZ Lynk Custom Tuning

The EZ Lynk tuning platforms allow you to receive custom tunes directly from the cloud. This is ideal, because you don’t have to upload any tunes to a computer and then download them to a tuning device. EZ Lynk also gives you access to custom tuning. Custom tuning offers personalized tuning that is based on existing modifications. It produces the best results because it is based on your exact truck. It can also be tweaked to achieve optimal performance. With this product, you’re going to want to pick a reputable tuning company. Check out our best custom tuning companies post for a list of our favorite custom tuning companies.

EZ Lynk Auto Agent

2. EFI Live Custom Tuning

EFI Live is my favorite tuning platform for my Duramax or Cummins trucks. While it doesn’t allow cloud-based tune delivery, it’s very straightforward to download tunes to an Autocal and it allows you to store your tune files on a computer. It’s less expensive than EZ Lynk tuning and it delivers the same results. Just make sure if you opt for EFI Live tuning that you have a windows computer. EFI Live tuning isn’t compatible with Mac computers. EFI Live requires custom tunes. Check out our Custom Tuning Companies post for help deciding which tuning company to use.

EFI Live Autocal

3. Bully Dog or SCT BDX Custom Tuning and Box Tuner

Bully Dog’s BDX programmer is unique because it offers box tuning for a variety of trucks while also offering custom tune capabilities. Custom tunes are delivered via the cloud. I actually used the BDX to get custom tunes for my 2014 Powerstroke from Innovative Diesel. Check out our Bully Dog BDX programmer review for more information.

4. Banks Derringer

Banks Power has been around a long time and they are known to test their products extensively. They were the first company to come out with L5P Duramax tuning and their new Derringer delivers! The Derringer is now available for most Diesels 2010-Current and is a wonderful option for diesel enthusiasts looking for smooth, reliable power. For optimal results and more insight on your diesel, pair your derringer tuner with a banks idash datamonster for real-time truck monitoring. For older trucks, consider Bank’s Automind, Economind, Big Hoss, or Six-Gun tuners.

5. Edge Products

Edge is another company that has been around a long time. They not only offer tuning, but some of the best monitoring devices around. This is where I believe Edge really shines. Edge products like the CTS Juice /W attitude or the Evolution CTS2 offer quality emissions-friendly tuning with data monitoring. Definitely don’t overlook Edge because they offer tuning for just about every Diesel available. Recently, Edge released their new Pulsar tuner for the L5P Duramax which is the easiest tuner to install on these trucks. They’re also really affordable compared to other tuning available for the L5P Duramax. Even if you decide to go with another tuner like EFI Live or EZ Lynk, invest in a CTS2 Insight. You won’t regret it!

Want Specific Tuning Recommendations for your Vehicle?

Not all of the tuners listed above are available for every diesel. If you visit our diesel resource page, select your diesel type and click product recommendations. We’ll have our favorite tuners listed for your specific truck! Don’t forget to invest in a monitor and a pyrometer to keep an eye on your EGTs!

10 Tips To Get the Best Deal On A Diesel Truck

Diesel trucks aren’t cheap. Have you seen the price tag on a new 2019 truck? Every truck, even the basic ones, can put you out 50 grand. What about the Laramie Longhorn trucks for Ram, The Limited models for Ford, or Chevrolet’s High Country Edition? Now you’re out over 60, maybe even 70 grand. Is this what you have to pay to step into a newer diesel truck? What if I told you that you can save yourself thousands of dollars on a new or used diesel truck? Well, you can, and I’ve created 10 tips for getting the best deal on a new diesel truck.

I worked at a car dealership in college, so I’ve had the chance to see the inner-workings of a dealership. I’ve also spent massive amounts of time in your shoes, navigating dealerships and trying to get the best deal possible on a truck. So, what can you do to get the best deal on a diesel truck? I’m going to give you my 10 tips for getting the best deal on a diesel truck below.

1. Do Your Research

Research is an important first step to getting the best deal on a new diesel truck. Before you even go look a truck, you need to find out how trucks are priced in your area and surrounding areas. What I typically do is use car-finding apps like Cargurus, AutoTrader, or Carfax and make a list of potential trucks i’m interested in. For new trucks, I think Cargurus is probably your best bet. If you’re looking at pre-owned trucks, use Carfax as any truck listed there will give you a FREE Carfax Report. These sites or app will allow you to enter your zip code and find all of the trucks available within a certain radius. You can probably narrow down your options significantly, as you can see prices, mileage, features, and more about all of these trucks! Once you’ve done this, you can map out where you want to go and what trucks you want to see! I may look at 10 to 20 trucks in person before I find the right truck, and more importantly, the right purchase point.

2. Don’t Fall In Love With The Truck You’re Buying

We’ve all experienced that feeling, being googly-eyed over a truck. You think about all of the potential upgrades you could do to make it the perfect truck. It’s written all over your face, you LOVE the truck. How could that be a bad thing? Well, the last thing you want a dealer to see is how much you are into a truck. Then, they feel like they’ve got you hooked, and you may be unable to get the deal you want. Play it cool. You can be impressed with a truck, but keep it on the inside. Make the dealer feel like they need to work to give you a deal. Make them work for you. I’m not saying don’t be nice, but try and contain your excitement!

Extra Tip: If you want to take it a step further when you’re buying a used truck, you can. When I visually inspect a vehicle, I point out any and all flaws to my salesman or sales consultant. Do a thorough inspection inside, underneath, and around the truck. Many times you can find an issue the dealership may not be aware of, and you can save yourself some money!

3. Be Willing To Walk Away

Don’t ever think that this truck is “The One”. There are literally hundreds or thousands of trucks within 100 miles of you. The best deal may be away from your local dealership! I RARELY use the dealerships in my hometown. By traveling 50 miles, I can have a much better purchasing experience and get a much better deal. You don’t want to get stuck on one truck and then be forced into an uncomfortable purchasing decision.

Even if you are close to getting the deal you want, walk away. Don’t settle! Dealerships get kickbacks from manufacturers for volume and sales people get commission even on a “losing” deal. You’ll probably get a call or text a day or two later to come buy the truck at the price you want. If you don’t, just move on!

4. Don’t Fall For Dealer Mind Games

If you’re shopping at traditional dealerships, the odds are that you’ll encounter a lot-lizard or two when trying to find the best deal on a new diesel truck. They’re probably going to try to play games to get you to buy today. They’ll also probably lie to you and say, “This price isn’t going any lower.” Dealerships make money on trade-ins, the actual diesel truck you buy, kickbacks from manufacturers, and financing. There is always room for negotiation, unless the dealership uses a no-haggle pricing strategy. If that’s the case, the price is usually priced lower anyways. The truck probably isn’t going anywhere either. As stated in one of my previous tips for getting the best deal on a new diesel truck, just walk away!

5. Take Advantage Of Rebates

Have you seen a truck commercial that mentions incentives or rebates? Rebates can save you thousands of dollars off of a new truck. There are numerous available rebates at any given time, but not all of them are easily found. For example, if you’re a business owner, you can most likely qualify for commercial rebates! Were you a member of the military? Most manufacturers offer a military discount. Disabled or handicapped consumers can also get their own specific rebates. Here in Florida, if you’re a member of the Florida Association of Realtors, you can even get a rebate for that. The last truck I purchased, I got for $10,000 below MSRP. You heard that right, $10,000 below MSRP. Rebates are probably the most important factor on getting a good deal on a new diesel truck.

Extra Tip: From my personal experience, Ram and Chevrolet usually have the best rebates at any given time. Check online and google rebates for your manufacturer of choice. Make sure you ask your sales consultant or sales manager you’re dealing with about rebates too!

6. Trade-In Smart Or Don’t Trade In At All

Trading in another vehicle can be a life-saver! When you a trade a vehicle in, you can save significantly on taxes! This is because you only get taxed on the difference between your trade-in and the vehicle you’re buying. For example, if you trade in a vehicle at $25,000, for a truck priced at $30,000, you only get taxed on the difference of $5000. If you’re thinking about trading in a truck in good condition, especially if it has low miles, the dealer may want to re-sell it! It is much cheaper for dealerships to acquire inventory by trade-in than by auction! This is because of administrative fees, wages, and transportation costs the dealership incurs! Therefore, the dealerships can pay you more than auction value for your vehicle.

Take a look at the Kelly Blue Book Car Value tool. You can get a basic range of what your vehicle is worth. Keep in mind, you’re never going to get full retail value. You might be able to get more money selling your truck to private party if you have an old gem like a 7.3L Powerstroke or 5.9L Cummins. Heavily modified diesel trucks should be returned to stock or should be sold by private party. Dealerships won’t give you more money for those American Forces or those fox shocks. You definitely won’t get what you put into the truck. With stock trucks however, it’s often not worth selling your vehicle private party because while you might get a thousand or two thousand more, you miss out on your tax savings!

7. Buy New, It Might Be A Better Deal

At least where I live in Central Florida, used diesel truck pricing can be very close, or even above new truck pricing! I literally saw a 2014 GMC Sierra 2500HD with 10,000 miles priced at $58,000 a couple of months ago. That’s about the price of a new Denali or SLT after incentives and rebates. If pricing is close, I tend to just buy new. I just bought a 2018 Ram 2500 Megacab for $52,000. Like I mentioned above, the MSRP was around $62000. The weeks before, I had visited numerous dealerships looking for a used Megacab but no dealerships would go below 47 or $48,000. That’s with 10-20,000 miles too! For a couple thousand more than the used trucks I looked at, I got a brand new truck, no headaches, and a full warranty.

8. Save Money Financing

Dealerships make money financing automotive loans. Don’t be a fool and think you need to use their inflated interest rates! If you’re above a 700 credit score, you can normally get below 5% APR. For my last truck, I got 3% APR for 72 months. Most dealerships accept external financing, so take advantage of it! Shop around for the best interest rate! Small, local credit unions usually have the best rates. Every percentage point counts! If your credit needs work, you might have to settle for a worse interest rate. Make your payments on time and in-full. In a year’s time, you can refinance and get a better interest rate! Financing plays a big role in making sure you get the best deal on a diesel truck! Don’t overlook this vital detail!

9. Buy Commercial

If you’ve never had the pleasure of purchasing a vehicle from the commercial side of a dealership, you are seriously missing out. Commercial salesmen typically offer you a much better buying experience. They are laid back, no-pressure, and willing to do everything they can for you. Commercial departments work in terms of volume. Commercial departments get paid by their automotive manufacturer if they meet a certain quota of sales every month or quarter. Because of this, they usually offer customers much better pricing. For our commercial vehicles and trucks, we use Crystal Automotive in Crystal River. If you live around Central Florida, you seriously need to give Don over there a shout. He always gets me the best deal on a new truck. Anyways, by using the commercial department, you can help get yourself the best deal on a diesel truck!

10. Never Pay Sticker Price or MSRP

I can’t stress this enough, never pay MSRP or Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price, on a new vehicle. Take advantage of rebates. Negotiate! There is always room for negotiation to take place. You can ask dealerships to throw in things like tinted windows, running boards, floor mats, or other accessories to get yourself a better deal too! Sometimes, you can even get free maintenance or service for a year or two! Be creative! Getting the best deal on a diesel truck is all about structuring a deal that is best for you!

Buying A New Truck in 2019?

Check out our articles on the new 2019 Ford Superduty, 2019 Ram Heavy Duty trucks, or the new Chevrolet or GMC Duramax! We’ve had to chance to drive some of these trucks, and even if we haven’t driven them personally, we have a ton of insider knowledge! Want to watch a video showing you the trucks instead? Here’s one of our video reviews of the 2019 Ram 3500 HD.

2019 Ram 3500 Laramie Longhorn Megacab