Installing a TST PowerMax CR Computer and PDR Twin Turbo Kit on a '03 Dodge Ram Diesel.
By Lance Clifford

While researching options on getting more power for my 2003 Dodge Ram 2500 Cummins diesel, I found there were many options available to me. Technology has come a long way over the years, and squeezing more horsepower and stump pulling torque out of a diesel truck is easier than ever!

While surfing the Vendor's area of the Pirate Bulletin Board, I came across a company called Dunk's Performance. Dunk's Performance specializes in diesel and off road performance. I gave them a call and talked to Michael, who told me about the various aftermarket chips that were available for my Cummins. I already had a 70 horsepower Edge EZ, and while the power increase was significant, my anemic '03 CA Emission truck still needed more power for my tastes. Not to mention my buddy's '04 Ford Powerstroke was faster - stock!

TST Power Max CR computer

After telling Michael what I was looking for, he recommended I go with a new computer out on the market - the TST Powermax CR. It was relatively new, but was creating quite a buzz in the diesel community with its claimed 150 hp gain, and whopping 500 ft lb. torque gain! Yes, you read that right, not 500 ft lb. total, but an additional 500 ft. lbs. of torque!

I knew right then and there this was the chip for me. Michael warned that an automatic transmission may not be too happy with all that added power, but the way I looked at it my CA emission truck came with 235hp from the factory, yet the same transmission comes in the 305hp H.O. model, and even the newer '04 and newer 325hp Dodges. Adding a simple Edge EZ to one of these trucks would be about the same hp as adding the TST to my truck. Did I mention that I have an ATS Stage IV transmission? Ok, ok... Power really isn't an issue for my transmission. ;)

TST remote without EGT controls/gauges

TST remote with EGT controls/gauges.

When I received the unit a couple of days later, I immediately went outside to install it. The first step was to unplug the existing Edge EZ (two simple plugs) and set it aside.

The TST was a relatively easy install, requiring you to unplug the map sensor, and plug the piggy back plug of the TST into it. The same process is done for the injectors, cam sensor, and crank sensor. It was a little tricky getting the crank sensor unplugged due to lack of room, but that was the only difficult part of this task. Entire installation time was about 45 minutes. It's hard to believe that an additional 150 hp and 500 ft lbs of torque is available by simply plugging something in!

Since I already have an "X Monitor" digital gauge set, I elected not to buy the optional built in TST pyro/boost gauges on the controller. However looking back, I would recommend this option because it comes with a "defueler" option that allows you to set a predetermined pyrometer temperature setting, and the TST will automatically defuel the truck once it hits this temperature.

The TST controller is a very slick setup, allowing full control of the available power. It has countless settings, allowing you to set your horsepower and torque setting individually of each other, from 0-0 (stock) all the way to 9-9 (hang on tight!)

After everything was all installed and ready to go, I hopped in the truck, set the TST on horsepower 9 and torque 9, and hammered down. As the tires completely lost traction and disappeared in a cloud of smoke, I briefly forgot I was driving a 7,000lb truck, and thought I was driving a sports car. The truck most certainly had an incredible power gain, however the pyrometer pegged at temperatures above 1,600 degrees! Considering you don't want to go over 1,200 - 1,300 degrees or engine damage can result, I soon realized that this chip was more than the stock truck could handle at full tilt. However being sensible with the settings, reasonable pyro temperatures are totally within reason.

On a trip to Moab, UT, I found the added power of the TST chip to make a much more enjoyable trip towing two rock buggies (about a 10,000lb load). Power was never an issue, and I was able to keep my pyro temps manageable by running at lower settings on the TST (setting 3-3 seemed to work well). On the way home from Moab, the unimaginable happened. While going over a freeway overpass, I hammered down to catch up to my friend Mike. A thunderous boom, a poof of white smoke out the tail pipe, and the truck immediately died.

As I coasted to the side of the road, I of course had the sinking feeling in my gut that I just worked my stock turbo too hard, and killed it. The motor had no compression, so we were thinking maybe a blown head gasket and/or a blown turbo. We dropped the truck off at the Dodge dealership in Price, UT, and went home. They called me a week later, and said that they believe the turbo failed due to lack of oil lubrication, and that the truck required a new motor due to turbo debris inside the engine. However my warranty would not be honored due to the installation of the TST chip. While it was the dealer's diagnosis that the turbo failed due to lack of oil lubrication, it was Corporate Chrysler's decision that an aftermarket computer caused the failure. A new engine would cost me $12,000, so I had the truck towed back to Shaffer's Offroad in Carson City, NV and wondered what to do with my $35,000 boat anchor.

It just so happens that in Mike Shaffer's former life, he was a diesel mechanic for Dodge. He said he would be happy to tear the motor down and see what it would take to fix it. Upon tear down, he found a few pieces of turbo debris in the head holding some of the valves open. They sent the head to the machine shop and had it cleaned up. While the head was off, I decided to have it sent up to Piers Diesel Research to have it o-ringed to handle any future boost I might throw at it. At this point in time, I really wasn't planning on doing anything major, but studding and o-ringing the head couldn't hurt.

The only visible damage to the motor seemed to be the turbo debris stuck in the valves. Once SOR received the head back from Piers, they reassembled the motor. The only thing we needed now was a new turbo. Did it make sense to buy a new whimpy stock turbo? OF COURSE NOT!!!!

See part two - OBSCENE POWER!