If you’re looking to add a bit of extra power to your Duramax LB7, a tuner or programmer is hands-down the best bet. Tuning will unlock the biggest horsepower gains for a relatively inexpensive price, making it the best bang-for-your-buck LB7 modification.
In addition to adding upwards of 100whp and 150+wtq tuning will provide better gas mileage, more efficient towing, and lead to better overall performance. It is always the first modification I recommend when working with LB7 owners to beef up performance.
There are a few considerations to make when choosing a tuning solution for the LB7. I’m going to walk you through all the things you need to consider like custom tuning compared to plug-and-play devices. Additionally, I’ll provide a few recommendations on what I consider the best tuning options to be for the Duramax LB7.
Programmers vs. EFI Live
There are a lot of plug-and-play tuning devices for the LB7. Some of them are “chips” that basically piggyback the ECU, such as the TS MP8, and others are flash tuning devices commonly referred to as programmers.
With respect to the Duramax LB7 the only tuning options I usually recommend are EFI Live or high-quality programmers like the PPE Xcelerator and the Edge CTS3.
The biggest difference between the two is that the programmers like the Xcelerator and CTS3 come pre-loaded with canned tunes. These tunes offer a few different power levels and some economy and towing tunes making it a simple solution that you just plug in and go.
EFI Live on the other hand does not come pre-loaded with tunes. You have to buy the device plus select a tuner, such as Kory Willis from PPEI, who will sell it to you with their own tunes pre-loaded onto it. EFI Live also supports transmission tuning, which the other devices do not. This is a more expensive options but the tunes this device comes with are going to be a lot better than the canned tunes on the Xcelerator and CTS3.
EFI Live is the superior tuning solution, but the Xcelerator and CTS3 are great plug-and-play options if you are stock or lightly modified and looking for a more budget friendly option.
Duramax LB7 Custom Tuning
A lot of people misconstrue custom tuning with buying an EFI Live device with tunes on it from the big custom tuners like PPEI, DuramaxTuner, etc.
These custom tuning companies build canned tunes that come pre-loaded onto the EFI devices when you purchase through them. The tunes are tailored towards the modifications you have and your current truck setup, but it isn’t truly custom tuning. The tunes they come with are just a lot better than the canned tunes the other programmers come with since they aren’t setup based on your existing mods and setup.
The other tuning option is getting real custom tuning which requires you to work directly with the tuner to do data logs, or in-person dyno tuning, to build a tune that is 100% customized and optimized for your engine and your existing modifications. I recommend this when you are running advanced modifications like turbo upgrades, larger injectors, and so on.
Duramax LB7 Tuning Benefits
The most notable benefits are the huge horsepower and torque gains you get from tuning. However, there are also a lot of other benefits. First, you get tunes that can help with towing and fuel economy, which helps the device pay for itself over time. Secondly, it helps your engine run better and more efficient overall.
- 100+whp power gains (can provide 200whp+ with a built trans)
- 400+wtq power gains (built trans required for much more than 150)
- Increased fuel economy by ~2-3mpg
- Better towing
- More efficient and better running engine
Best Duramax LB7 Tuning Setups
The best setup is in part dependent on your goals and your budget. When working with LB7 owners I always recommend one of two setups: EFI Live or an Xcelerator/CTS3.
If you are stock or lightly modded sticking to a more budget friendly programmer is a great option. If you are running some more advanced mods, aren’t concerned about spending an extra $500, or want the best money can buy then I recommend EFI Live.
PPE Xcelerator: Best Budget Programmer
Buy Here: Duramax LB7 PPE Standard Xcelerator
Within the LB7 community, PPE’s Xcelerator is usually the most recommended plug-and-play device. It’s a great budget option at only $450 and it comes pre-loaded with 5 power levels, ranging all the way top to +225hp and +335 torque. Running these power levels will require some additional mods which I’ll cover below.
Overall, if you are stock or lightly modified (ie. intake, exhaust) then this is going to be a great option without breaking the bank. Having installed this on many LB7’s in the past I would say the tunes on here are a bit better than the CTS3 but it doesn’t come with some of the nice-to-have amenities like Edge device does.
Edge Evolution CTS3: Best Tuning + Monitor Combo
Buy Here: Edge Evolution CTS3 for Duramax LB7
The one thing that the PPE device (and EFI Live for that matter) lacks is monitoring capabilities. It is always recommended to have either gauges or a device to monitor EGTs, transmission temps, boost levels, and other engine variables to ensure your engine is running properly.
The Evolution CTS3 offers both tuning and monitoring capabilities for the LB7. It also has a nice touchscreen making it a bit more user-friendly and visually appealing. If you can stomach an extra $300 then the CTS3 is a great option for the LB7.
As I mentioned on the Xcelerator, myself and the LB7 community usually consider the PPE device to have better standard tunes. But with that being said, the ones on the Evolution are still very good for stock and lightly modded trucks.
EFI Live: The Best Tuning Solution
Recommended Companies: PPEI, DuramaxTuner, WCF, Overland
EFI Live is going to be the best tuning solution. When you purchase through a custom tuner all of the tunes will be tailored to your existing upgrades making the tunes on here the best tunes available for any LB7. It might be a little overkill if you are completely stock, but EFI Live offers the ability to add custom tuning down the road and you can easily purchase additional tunes to fit your needs.
It offers the most versatile functionality and can also handle transmission tuning and more. The caveat is that EFI Live tuning can get expensive. If you are stock and looking for a simple solution you will probably run closer to $1,100 to get the device and tunes. But if you want transmission tuning, have upgraded injectors/turbo/fuel pump/etc. you can pretty easily shoot beyond the $1,500 price point. If you want a monitor or gauges you can add in an extra $300-$500 which makes the full setup rather expensive.
Supporting Mods for Tuning & Other Considerations
Tuning increases horsepower mostly by turning up the boost levels on the turbo. This puts some additional stress on the turbo so I always suggest a couple supporting mods to take some of the stress off of it. Furthermore, the LB7 does have a couple common problems with injectors and head gaskets.
Here are a few recommendations, suggestions, and considerations when you add tuning:
- Cold Air Intake: I always recommend adding an intake with tuning, it helps supply the turbo with additional airflow to help it reach the higher boost levels more easily
- Downpipe/Exhaust: bringing more air in and turning up the boost means we’ve got more air we have to get out of the engine. An exhaust system will help do this, reducing backpressure in the exhaust and increasing turbo efficiency
- Injectors: the stock injectors are a common problem, tuning might lead to these needing to be replaced a bit sooner if yours are old
- Lift Pump: more power requires more fuel, upgrading the lift pump never hurts and might be required to hit some of the higher power levels
We have a complete guide on LB7 mods which discusses power limits, fueling, transmission and turbo limitations along with a ton of other helpful ideas.