How to Increase Torque in a Diesel Engine


Mark Nyholm|Feb 20, 2017 10:01 AM

Torque – the end game for every diesel enthusiast

I bet if I asked six different people how much torque is enough, maybe, just maybe, two of them would agree that stock is enough. I would be in the group of four devising ways to build more torque. But, then again, I’m the guy who can’t leave well alone. Heck, when I was a kid, I’d tear apart anything my folks had with an engine just to put it back together again. But it never went back together the same as I always looked for ways to make it better.

I guess that’s what led me down the path of a mechanical engineering degree. Nonetheless, you don’t have to have a degree to desire more torque. Some of my good friends, whom I consider some of the best in this business, I doubt even went to college. They have the true passion and desire – that’s all it takes.

How to build more torque the economical way

Quick and dirty – buy a programmer and drop a tune on your stock truck and you’re well on your way to an additional 100-200 ft-lbs of torque.

That was simple. Want some more?

Modify the exhaust and crank up the tune to make another 100 ft-lbs. The modern turbodiesel pickup can be a blank slate if you wish. The sky is almost the limit. There is one thing I will promise you, however; if you tune it, the day will come. Yes, the day you spool up the turbo, drop the hammer and boom. You just spent a cool $6,000 to rebuild the tranny. These trucks seem limitless, but they aren’t. If you want quick, modest torque increases, just buy the programmer. But do so with the expectation that someday you’ll be spending money to fix your truck’s weakest link.

How to build more torque the foolish way

Most people I know in this camp are looking for an immediate return; they’re not looking at the future. Like Johnny Cash once said, “One day at a time.”

That’s about how reliable these trucks are on the road, too. The other common theme to this group is they typically don’t have much money. So, if you find yourself playing with these boys, make sure you first make the same modifications as your economical counterparts I listed above. Then, drop on a new charger, add bigger injectors and include new intake components with a high-flow filter.

Once again, go back to the programmer, grab the “Race” tune and away you go. More torque. But now you’re messing with fire. Speaking of fire, this group may also add a little happy gas with a decent-size nozzle to spray the heck out of it. I’m talking about nitrous oxide (NOS) for those who didn’t get my reference. This is most surely a recipe for disaster, but man is it fun to drive.

How to build more torque the smart way

Perhaps you know Ray McClelland at Full Throttle Kustomz. Ray and I got to chatting last year at Diesel Power Challenge. You should take a lesson from his playbook. Ray has done it all ways and will tell you that there is only one real way to build torque. Just like building a house, you have to build your foundation before doing anything else. The two previous methods started with a programmer to dial-up torque. When you do that, inevitably you find the weak link, fix it, find another weak leak, fix that and the saga continues.

If you really want to build torque, pull the drivetrain out of your truck and build it the right way. If you don’t have the skills, there are plenty of mechanics who do. Just be ready to spend some money. The engine, transmission and driveline need components that are capable of withstanding your programmer for any length of time. I’ve been in 1,500+ ft-lb daily driver trucks. These guys build from the ground up and do it reliably. Now, this method isn’t cheap, but what kind of fun is? You can’t take your money with you, so you might as well burn it up while you can.

Not that you’re asking, but my truck is in the “smart way” camp, partly because it’s my daily driver and mostly because I’m pretty particular about my rig. So, it’s unlikely you’ll find me on the side of the road, but you will find me testing the limits of the build. Or testing the limits of my financial situation.

Massive torque needs better lubricants

Another reason you’re not likely to find me stranded on the side of the road is because I upgraded my truck to high-quality synthetic lubricants. AMSOIL synthetic lubricants, of course. All that added power and torque takes its toll on your rig in the form of extreme heat and pressure. Lubricants formulated for standard service may not stand up to the abuse you throw at them.

AMSOIL Signature Series Max-Duty Synthetic Diesel Oil is formulated to deliver 6X better wear protection*, helping ensure your truck survives your modifications so you can enjoy it. We also formulate a full line of transmission fluids and gear lubes to protect the components that put all that power to the ground.

You don’t have to take my word for it. Just check out what two-time Diesel Power Challenge winner and defending Ultimate Callout Challenge winner Lavon Miller of Firepunk Diesel has to say about AMSOIL products.

Find AMSOIL Products for My Truck
*Based on Detroit Diesel DD13 Scuffing Test for Specification DFS 93K222.

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