Riding the Big Hoss

Diesel Power Summer 2005

by Steve Temple

photography Steve Temple

How Banks Gets More Horses from a Ford F-250 Power Stroke

Think of your diesel truck as a sleeping giant. It’s amazing how docile it may seem. But poke it with a stick, and you’ll really rile that truck into action. That’s been the approach of Gale Banks, who’s pulled more power out of diesel engines than just about anyone—from motorhomes to record-breaking Bonneville salt racers. Banks has a history of breaking things—particularly speed records. Throughout the years, he has earned trophies at the Bonneville Salt Flats for the world’s fastest pickup, fastest piston-engine automobile, and fastest passenger car. And those are just a few of his record-setting achievements.

What about a more typical scenario? If you’re looking for performance gains from your diesel pickup, take a look at the Banks Big Hoss Bundle. This upgrade can markedly raise the power on any of the three major U.S. brands of late-model diesel engines (GM, Dodge, and Ford), in some cases as much as 50 percent (or even more with the Speed Loader option). On the Ford 6.0L, specifically, it can pump up the output by as much as 138 hp and 231 lb-ft of torque, all with the simple twist of a dial on the dash. This knob manipulates three basic engine parameters: fuel pressure, timing, and injector pulse width.

Given these seven-league step-ups in performance, we figured you’d like to see just how easy it is to install the system. All that’s required is replacing the intake tubes, intercooler, and exhaust system, and also making some changes to the engine computer, using the Banks Six-Gun Diesel Tuner module.

The intake is basically a simple plumbing job, swapping out the factory pieces for Banks’ higher-flowing tubing. A bit of trimming and modification is required on the battery trays, but, otherwise, it’s a straightforward job that will take about a day for someone with modest mechanical skills.

The Banks tubing for the intercooler is not only larger in diameter, but also smoother in shape, with no pinches or restrictions as seen on the stock components. The Banks intercooler looks similar to the factory unit and is a direct replacement, but it’s a far more efficient unit. That’s because it’s much thicker, with more surface area for improved heat transfer.

The Banks Techni-Cooler, with its huge 3-1/2-inch boost tubes, works with Banks’ High-Ram inlet casting to pack more power-producing cool, dense air into the engine. You get the maximum reduction in boost temperature with a minimum loss of boost pressure, which dramatically increases the flow of air to the engine’s radiator, which is vital when pulling heavy loads up steep grades.

To protect the engine in this situation, the Banks system monitors a number of variables with an AutoRate powertrain management system. Among other features, it provides lock-up protection for the torque converter clutch, turbo calibration, precise fuel delivery at shift points, an exhaust gas temperature (EGT) limiter in the Speed Loader option, and coolant monitoring. If there’s any indication that the engine is being overtaxed, Banks Six-Gun has a self-diagnosing ActiveSafety feature with an automatic bypass, which returns the engine to its standard settings.

To make the most of the Banks tuning module, the exhaust must be upgraded for a better flow. Also, a thermocouple is a necessary addition to carefully monitor EGT, since it will be higher as you dial up the output.

Speaking of output, we tested the Ford F-250 after installing the Banks upgrades. When tooling around town, we were amazed how easy it was to burn rubber. Getting scratch in a big-honking diesel 4X4 was a new and thoroughly enjoyable experience for many of us.

That prompted us to bait a sports car on the freeway as well. We pulled up next to an Acura that had been tricked with all sorts of tuner paraphernalia, and then promptly stomped on the loud pedal, leaving the boy racer in our diesel exhaust. What’s the cost of a Banks Big Hoss? Not much. Price of the pucker on that kid’s face? Priceless.

Be sure to visit Diesel Power magazine online!

Riding the Big Hoss
1. The Banks Big Hoss Bundle combines all of the company’s diesel performance upgrades into one package.
Riding the Big Hoss
2. To start, we removed the stock tube from the hot side of the factory intercooler.
Riding the Big Hoss
3. We then used two prybars to lift out the core support.
Riding the Big Hoss
4. We then removed the stock intercooler–the Banks intercooler fits in the factory location for the intercooler.
Riding the Big Hoss
5. Several other factory parts had to be removed as well, including dual batteries, the hold-downs for the radiator and condenser, and the airbox.
Riding the Big Hoss
6. Here’s a comparison of the Ford factory unit versus the Banks intercooler. Note the larger diameter of the intercooler tubing (2-1/8 vs. 3 inches) for increased airflow and heat transfer.
Riding the Big Hoss
7. The Banks intercooler is also more than 1 inch thicker (2-7/8 vs. 1 inch) for more surface area.
Riding the Big Hoss
8. Here are the intercooler tubes, with factory versus Banks. The cool side is shown on the left (driver side) and hot side on the right (passenger side).
Riding the Big Hoss
9. Note the crimping of the stock component to fit around the alternator. It restricts airflow and impairs cooling.
Riding the Big Hoss
10. We trimmed the battery tray for easy clearance for the tube on the passenger side.
Riding the Big Hoss
11. A mini lift block for the driver-side tray needed to be installed, too.
Riding the Big Hoss
12. The High Ram intake features an enlarged plenum and a larger-diameter opening to fit the larger intercooler tube.
Riding the Big Hoss
13. Note that the fan shroud needed to be trimmed to make room for the new piece.
Riding the Big Hoss
14. We then slid in the Banks intercooler, using the factory mounting pads and hold-downs.
Riding the Big Hoss
15. We used a bit of silicone spray to lubricate the rubber hose connectors before sliding them on. We made sure the bolt on the clamp was positioned away from the underside of the hood, or the torquing of the engine may poke a hole in the hood.
Riding the Big Hoss
16. We installed the passenger-side intercooler tubes.
Riding the Big Hoss
17. Here’s the completed install of the Banks intercooler and its tubing (stock components, such as the fan shroud, batteries, and airbox, still remain to be reinstalled).
Riding the Big Hoss
18. A thermocouple probe must be installed to accurately measure exhaust gas temperatures (EGT). For that, a bung was first drilled and tapped into the left-side exhaust manifold. The exhaust manifold should be removed for this process to ensure that absolutely no metal shavings get into the turbocharger, which can cause serious damage. After drilling and tapping the exhaust manifold, we thoroughly cleaned it with a high-pressure air hose to remove all traces of metal shavings before installing the probe.
Riding the Big Hoss
19. Note the difference in size between Banks Monster Exhaust (top) and the factory exhaust head pipe. Monster Exhaust pipes have much higher flow due to a larger, more consistent diameter. Banks uses a 4-inch constant-diameter, stainless-steel tubing, which is designed to last considerably longer than exhaust made from aluminized steel.
Riding the Big Hoss
20. The factory catalytic converter is the only part of the stock exhaust that was not replaced with the Banks Monster Exhaust pipes. After the head pipe was installed, the factory converter could be reinstalled.
Riding the Big Hoss
21. After fitting on the Banks Monster Muffler, the tailpipe and tip went on next.
Riding the Big Hoss
22. The Banks Six-Gun Diesel Tuner mounts under the hood on the driver-side inner fender on ’03-’04 Ford 6.0L Power Stroke diesel models (consult Banks’ manual for information on mounting the Six-Gun on ’05 models). To clear a spot for the Six-Gun, a small clip must be removed, which attaches the hood latch cable to the inner fender. After pushing the cable out of the way, the inner fender area was cleaned with rubbing alcohol to ensure a good bond for the Six-Gun’s adhesive backing.
Riding the Big Hoss
23. The Banks Six-Gun takes up very little room when mounted into position on the inner fender, and it requires no mounting screws or bolts.
Riding the Big Hoss
24. In addition to the large connector that plugs into the Powertrain Control Module (PCM), there are several wires that must be spliced with included T-Taps.
Riding the Big Hoss
25. Banks provides detailed wiring installation instructions in its Six-Gun Diesel Tuner Owner’s Manual.
Riding the Big Hoss
26. Banks provides a template for locating its Six-Gun control switch knob on the Ford’s dashboard.
Riding the Big Hoss
27. The Speed Loader increases the output of the Banks Six-Gun Diesel Tuner by 23 hp and 25 lb-ft of torque. The Speed Loader upgrade also provides the important safety feature of limiting fuel delivery when the EGT reaches a preset temperature (1,400 degrees F on the Ford 6.0L Power Stroke diesel). The unit is small, mounts in any convenient location under the dash near the Six-Gun control switch knob, and plugs in line into the wiring for the dash-mounted Six-Gun switch.
Riding the Big Hoss
28. Detailed wiring instructions to install Banks DynaFact electronic gauges are also in the Big Hoss Bundle.

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