Taking It To The EdgeSharpening Your Diesel's Performance With Edge Products
Some of us consider driving an art form; every time we turn the key in the ignition, we're looking for our masterpiece, our zone when the road and all our vehicle's moving parts are in perfect alignment, like the stars on a really good night.
The canvas makes no difference in the creation of this masterpiece. It could be a Porsche 356 Cabriolet swooping through Big Sur in rhythm to Bob Seger's "Hollywood Nights." It could be a Dodge Ram with a weekend worth of dirt bikes in tow, transitioning seamlessly from highway to mountain grade, its Cummins diesel ticking off the miles like a metronome. Or, it could be a jewel of a Prerunner, effortlessly skimming above desert terrain like a metallic gazelle. It doesn't matter. The masterpiece exists when the engine purrs at that level of pure efficiency that tells you when you ask for a surge of power, it's there and then some. It exists when your vehicle borders on the edge of fluidity, where everything works like the automotive gods ordained.
The irony behind all this fluff is that this illusive zone of pure bliss is exactly how the vehicle is supposed to drive. And in that simple concept lies the premise behind Edge Products, the manufacturer of computer modules and programmers designed for diesels.
The company was founded in 1999 by two Ogden, Utah cousins with a "passion for speed," according to current president Tom Carlin. Brett Satterthwaite was a mechanical engineer; Taylor Satterthwaite was in marketing. Like most aftermarket companies, Edge began with the Satterthwaite's conviction that they could make a better module. In their pursuit of speed, they started taking apart other modules and programmers. They developed a local following for their product, but kept their day jobs until 2001. Finding a distributor in Idaho sent sales past the point where the two could meet the demand in their off hours. The cousins quit their day jobs.
For those who have followed the rise in popularity of diesel pickups, you've already recognized the perfect timing of Edge Products. When the OEs, starting with Ford in 1994, began to tame some of the driver-comfort problems associated with diesels by introducing electronic fuel injection and turbo charging, the demand for them shot up like a rocket, doubling in a little over 10 years.
"Diesels became much more mainstream," explains Carlin. Mainstream doesn't preclude the need for speed, but it does preclude having to worry about blowing up your engine by exceeding exhaust gas temperatures (EGT).
"What Edge products did was allow the driver to change power levels on the fly," he adds, "And address safety issues with technology that protected the engine." As diesels grew in popularity, so grew Edge Products, currently housed in a 24,000 square foot facility. In March of this year, MSD Ignitions purchased the company, magnifying the scale of engineering resources, says Carlin.
The Satterthwaites are somewhat removed from the day-to-day operation of Edge Products, but that hasn't quelled their thirst for speed. Brett now builds custom dune buggies powered by Corvette engines.
Most off-roaders are familiar with computer programmers and modules for their gas-fueled rigs. These units change engine and/or powertrain parameters by re-programming the vehicle's on-board computer. The computers are programmed at the factory for the "average" driver and "average" driving conditions. Off-roaders are anything but average, and so are those enthusiasts with diesel tow vehicles that are used to get their highly modified 4x4s to the trailhead.
One of the things that sets Edge apart, according to Aaron Stewart, Edge's director of technical support, is the aversion to the idea that one module fits all diesels. There are three ways to get more horsepower out of a diesel. You can change the fuel pressure, the timing, or the duration of ignition — or change all three.
With pressure modules, the computer is tricked into thinking fuel pressure is too low. The fuel rail pressure is increased, more fuel is delivered to the engine and viola — you've got more power.
Timing and duration modules, a more sophisticated approach, either advance or retard the timing and adjust the amount of time the injectors stay open when they fire. Different engines do better with different approaches.
For example, the simpler pressure units work well for Dodge Cummins and Ford's 7.3 Powerstrokes and deliver 70 or 50 horsepower gains, respectively.
The more complex units are better suited for GM's Duramax and the smaller 6.0-liter Fords, as well as for Cummins' owners who want exceptional power and are willing to add-on additional engine enhancements.
Another distinction is just how and where Edge measures its products' horsepower gains. Significant gains are measured at the rear wheels. Sounds obvious, doesn't it? If the horsepower is measured at the crankshaft, to get a useable real world reading, the resulting number would have to be reduced by 30 percent, approximately the amount of power needed to move everything between the crankshaft and the rear wheels.
Exactly where on the power band the additional power kicks in is especially relevant to diesel drivers who really want their torque and power in the lower ranges — to get the load moving and convert dead weight to rolling weight. Diesels bear no resemblance to small, high-revving engines designed to run well at high RPMs. If the horsepower gain is measured at redline, you need to look at the dyno chart to see how much power is really available where you need it. Edge products are tuned to provide the most power in the most useable part of the power band.
Let's talk testing: Once the engineers have developed a model-specific product, it's put through what Edge calls its Alpha testing, two or three weeks on real trucks in the Ogden area. Modifications are made based on the results of this initial testing; then the unit is Beta tested by 30 more diesel drivers across the country. This extensive testing gives Edge the kind of real-world information necessary to map out the unit's parameters for a broad range of driving conditions.
The mainstay of the Edge product line is the Juice and the Juice Platinum. The Juice installs under the hood in five minutes, increasing fuel economy by up to 10 percent, and with the addition of the Attitude (more on that later), provides five levels of power, from 40 to 115 horsepower and up to 290 lb./ft of additional torque. The unit communicates with the engine's ECM for smooth, precise power curves.
The Juice Platinum features additional options including turbo timing, transmission features and removal of the speed and rev limiters. "The newer diesels use smaller turbos that are more responsive," explains Stewart. "They also spin faster and generate more heat. With the safety features built into our products, the parameters are set to protect the stock components that, simply, can't handle the extra power."
Under an excessively heavy load, the unit backs off the power, maintaining safe EGT, boost and avoiding transmission lock-up. The advance safety features on the Platinum incorporate audible alerts for EGT, speed, boost and engine and transmission temperature. One of the true beauties of the additional towing power is you don't have to keep downshifting to maintain speed up a steep grade.
The Attitude performs two functions. The in-cab controller adds two power levels with a simple push of the mode button and acts as a gauge for RPM, boost, EGT and a dozen other parameters. The information is displayed on a backlit LCD screen for easy, clear reading. The A2 does all of the above, plus includes a complete navigation system with full-talking functions and pre-loaded maps of the U.S. All this in a unit that fits in your hand!
The Evolution programmer connects to the On Board Diagnostics port (ODBII) and reprograms the computer parameters in 20 seconds, increasing horsepower by 35 and torque by 50 lb./ft. Once it's downloaded the performance software, the unit can be mounted on the pod provided in the kit and acts as a gauge providing life information on how well your vehicle is performing. The Evolution not only displays the troubleshooting codes, it includes a definition of the code so you don't need to dig in your glove compartment for the manual to analyze potential problems. The Evolution is also available for some gas-fueled engines.
For the diesel owner who wants quick and easy fuel economy, on-the-fly power level adjustments and added towing power, the EZ fits the description. The EZ plugs into two stock connections and with a flip of the power adjustment switch you're good to go. With three power levels (towing is best at Level 1 or 2), the unit boosts horsepower by 65.
If you're a Jeep owner, don't feel left out. Edge recently introduced the Trail Jammer performance kit for 4-liter inline-six Jeeps that includes a performance module, a machined throttle body to increase air intake, and a cold air intake system to maximize air flow. The result is a 4x4 that performs better both on and off the dirt with a 20 percent increase in horsepower.
So, if you want to unleash the real power under the hood of your diesel tow vehicle and still protect its engine from damage, or you're just one of those driving artists in search of your own personal masterpiece, go no further than the Edge.