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A Calibration Update Will Not Fix Your Aftertreatment Issues!

Apr 18, 2017

Today’s modern, emission compliant engine is controlled by a central Electronic Control Module (ECM). The ECM’s software analyzes input from various sensors. It controls the way your vehicle operates and drives. The ECM can control horsepower and torque, acceleration, and more. It can also de-rate your vehicle if it detects something is wrong: a plugged DPF will usually put a vehicle into “crawl” mode. Additionally, the ECM tells the Aftertreatment system how to work. If the ECM is telling the Aftertreatment the wrong thing, or if it is receiving the wrong information, then regens can’t reach the right temperatures at the right time, and the DPF plugs up faster.

aftertreatment biology

Aftertreatment Biology

This is especially important to understand when it comes to managing Aftertreatment related repairs. The Aftertreatment system is a complicated network of mechanical components. These components work together to reduce polluting emissions. From the combustion chamber, all the way to the exhaust tip, every component must be working and communicating together perfectly. One way to understand this is to think of the Aftertreatment system like the human body:


  • ECM = The Brain
  • Engine = The Heart
  • Exhaust/DPF = The Lungs
  • Sensors = The Nerves (Communication)

“For the Aftertreatment to work properly, make sure that the ECM has been calibrated to the most current updates, AND that specific ‘owner-accessible’ parameters have been adjusted for the exact duty cycle (work application) of the vehicle.”

— Rob Seegers

 Diesel I.O., Master Mechanic

Drive Smarter, Not Harder

The easiest thing you can do to improve Aftertreatment is to make sure that the ECM (the brain) is set-up properly for each vehicle. This ensures that the “Brain” is telling the “Heart and Lungs” the right things. In accordance with Diesel I.O. optimization, “set-up properly” means that the ECM has been calibrated to the most current updates, AND that specific “owner-accessible” parameters have been adjusted for the exact duty cycle (work application) of the vehicle. We call this process “Duty Cycle Programming”. Without it, the Aftertreatment will never be able to operate at its maximum efficiency.

But I Already Do Calibration Updates…

Calibration updates are NOT the same thing as custom programming! A Cal update is simply making sure that the software that controls the ECM is current and up to date. It is a necessary and important part of making sure the ECM can work properly, but it is NOT going to customize available features that can improve your vehicle’s efficiency and reliability.

What Custom Programming Really Does

When you customize the ECM specific for a vehicle’s type of use, the Aftertreatment system will finally be able to work properly. Custom programming, when done correctly, results in:

  • Regens that do a better job of keeping the DPF clean
  • Regens at the right time
  • Improved performance
  • A DPF that stays cleaner, for longer
  • Improved efficiency
  • Reduced emissions
  • Reduced fuel waste
  • Fewer regens
  • Reduced repairs
  • Reduced downtime

Here are just a few of the custom parameters that can be adjusted on a Cummins ISX:

  • Vehicle Setup Application Type
  • On-Highway
  • On/Off Highway
  • Vehicle Setup Transmission Type
  • Top Gear Ratio
  • Cruise Control Switch Setup
  • Engine Brake Vehicle Braking Option
  • High Soot Load Shutdown

These are all parameters that should be adjusted specifically for each truck. Cummins does an excellent job of providing adjustable parameters and features that will improve efficiency. However, they don’t do the actual customization for you. According to Cummins, the OEM/dealership should be doing that.

cummins engine vehicle setup

Face the Facts

Factory ECM settings from Cummins are generic “one-size-fits-all”, and the ECM does not require that any custom adjustments be made for the vehicle to be operable. If you are having on-going issues with Aftertreatment maintenance and repairs, chances are that the dealership did not make the correct adjustments, or possibly any adjustments, to your ECM.

This customization option is frequently missed because of poor communication between the manufacturer and the OEM. Many dealers are simply unaware of the available options, how to actually adjust them, or how they interact with the Aftertreatment system.

This results in many vehicles operating with inefficient Aftertreatment systems that continue to break down. There have been many situations in which a refuse truck was operating with an “On-Highway” application, for example. So, while custom programming should have been done when you first purchased the vehicle, it probably wasn’t.

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The Diesel I.O. Difference

Diesel I.O. Duty Cycle Programming takes custom programming to the next level. With over 10 years of research and development behind it, Duty Cycle Programming provides the most accurate and effective combinations of parameter adjustments needed to ensure maximum efficiency and reliability.

As an example, selecting the “On/Off Highway” application for a delivery truck is an important first step in customizing the ECM. However, it does not automatically change all the available features needed to maximize efficiency. Diesel I.O.’s Duty Cycle Programming takes things to the next level by adjusting additional features and parameters based on things like:

  • engine run time spent in idle
  • engine run time spent in PTO
  • engine miles driven in Top Gear
  • typical route
  • traffic patterns
  • hills vs flats
  • proximity to yard
  • average daily run time/mileage
  • average speed
  • average HP use
  • current Aftertreatment health
  • repair history

Diesel I.O. uses only professional, licensed software (authorized service tool) to make our adjustments, and does not adjust any settings outside or beyond the manufacturer’s recommendations. This keeps the original manufacturer warranty in-tact. Finally, Diesel I.O. optimization service does not violate CARB/EPA emission standards. In fact, with Duty Cycle Programming, the Aftertreatment system becomes even more efficient. The best part of it, Duty Cycle Programming can improve your entire emission compliant fleet-not just the new trucks!

Custom programming your ECM’s is just the first step in improving your fleet’s efficiency and reliability. First, your fleet needs to be set-up correctly with Duty Cycle Programming. Second, it needs to be maintained with a new perspective on preventing repairs. Learn more about the Diesel I.O. Aftertreatment Predictive Maintenance service and how it works with Duty Cycle Programming by contacting InTu Mobility today.

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