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Caressing the Cummins 24-Valve

Posted in How To on June 1, 2000
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Dodge pickups with the 1998 and up 24-valve Cummins engine run strong right off the dealer’s lot, but for many that’s not a good enough reason to settle for the factory performance. Besides, as well as the new Dodge Cummins runs, it is a bit weak below 1,500 rpm. At least compared to what happens beyond that range. However, one can’t just do the customary intake, exhaust, and turbo modifications with the ISB motor. Now there are three computers on board—which is one reason for the better factory numbers—that also have to be dealt with. Needless to say, the aftermarket responded to the challenge, and as a recent visit to Gale Banks Engineering proved, so did the new 5.9L engines.

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Our test mule was a 1999 Dodge 2500 pickup with an automatic trans and 4.10:1 gears. It put out a respectable 411 lb-ft of torque at 1,800 rpm and 197 hp at 2,800 on the chassis dyno. Just five years ago, those would have been great numbers for a stock diesel pickup, but whether it’s because the towed loads are getting heavier or the grades are getting longer and steeper, such “low” output doesn’t seem to cut it anymore. Unstrapping the Ram from the dyno and treating it to a complete Banks PowerPack system would surely cure the relative laziness of this beast.

Installation of a PowerPack is relatively straightforward and could likely be handled over a weekend by the mechanically gifted. Getting the Quick-Turbo turbine housing and BigHead wastegate actuator in place would take the most skill, while plumbing the 4-inch stainless exhaust system requires the most grunt. Wiring the boost and EGT gauges, replacing the intake and air filter, and plugging in the OttoMind are all simple tasks. At the Banks facilities it was all done in a matter of hours, and then the Dodge was strapped onto the 3,200 lb-ft–capacity dyno again.


For this particular test Banks also experimented with a different electronic setup. As the horsepower and torque curves show, that increased power at high rpm, but it cost us (compared to the standard PowerPack) at lower engine speeds. While the test mule’s 650 lb-ft at 1,500 rpm couldn’t beat the regular results with a PowerPack (704 at 1,700), it had more to give above 2,500 rpm than is the norm. Likewise, this tester got more than 300 hp from 2,600 rpm on, whereas prior tests had a 292hp peak at that rpm. Since Banks, as well as most diesel drivers, favors power down low in the rpm band, you can bet that this experimental setup won’t make production.

Rest assured, too, that the Banks crew will chip away at the 24-valve’s performance until one day we might say, “Oh, only 704 lb-ft and 292 hp? I remember driving one of those.” After all, the manual transmission and axles should be good for about 1,000 lb-ft. For now, after being used to driving a standard 24-valve Dodge and loving every minute of it (with the possible exception of its low-rpm performance), believe us when we say that having 700 pounds of torque at the rear tires makes an already great vehicle well over 77 percent more enjoyable.

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Gale Banks Engineering
Azusa, CA 91702

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