In the 1980s the enthusiast aftermarket turned to the ECU for added performance by replacing the computer chip and thirty years later, the tradition continues but the technology employed today is light years ahead of what was available in the early days of EFI hot rodding. By the early 2000s the aftermarket tuning and diagnostic companies began accessing the ECU through the OBD-II port. Re-flashing the ECU with a custom calibration became the preferred method of modification instead of swapping computer chips. It has spawned an entirely new marketplace as the hand-held devices became more than just a delivery vehicle for the calibration and now handle diagnostic functions, data logging, and even allows end-users to make modifications like bumping ignition timing, and changing speedometer calibrations for tire and rear gear upgrades. Today, SCT offers its most advanced hand-held programmer, dubbed the BDX.
We linked up with Johnny “Lightning” Wiker of JLP Racing to see the effects of the BDX programmer on a 2017-2018 Ford 6.7L Powerstroke engine. Wiker reports a gain of 2 miles-per-gallon while towing his massively long trailer that carries his NMRA race truck, a Gen 2 Lightning that runs mid-8s, and his 2013 Cobra Jet Mustang. Since drag racing is cool and always a great judge of performance gains, Wiker ran his 2017 F-350 pick-up truck during a NMRA national event. First pass he ran was in 100% stock trim and it produced a 15.13 at 89 mph result. Using the BDX programmer, he loaded a new tuning strategy into the ECU and went back on track, this time recording a 14.42 at 96 mph, an improvement of .71-seconds and 7 mph over stock.
The BDX is stacked with all sorts of features that we’ve come to expect in digital devices these days, from its sleek size and shape that mimics a cell phone to the WiFi capabilities. The screen offers clear and highly-visible graphics and gauges, which can be customized. Using cloud technology, dubbed CloudTune, the BDX tuner receives firmware updates and custom tunes through the cloud, eliminating the need for computers or wire hook-ups. The BDX comes with three levels of SCT tunes and is capable of holding up to 20 custom calibrations. It also allows a variety of custom vehicle functions, like ignition timing adjustments, rev limiter settings, and even wheel and tire size calibration. That allows the BDX to custom tailor your vehicle to your specific standards.
For diagnostics, the BDX gives enthusiasts the capabilities of monitoring a custom set of engine parameters (PIDs) in real time. The customization screen allows users to view various bits of information in the form of gauges or simpler readouts. Using SCT’s free LiveLink software, the device can data log the vehicle’s performance and play it back for review. The DLX file can also be transferred through WiFi for further review by another party. Like most hand-held tuning devices, the BDX pulls double duty as a diagnostic tool by reading and clearing trouble codes, eliminating the need to rely on a dealership to perform those tasks.