‘Killing a Duramax’ Gale Banks YouTube series methodically tunes a diesel to death

Learning or perfecting a skill by watching YouTube videos is known as attending YouTube University. GM Authority picked up on one of the video site’s more fascinating courses, hosted by Gale Banks; in a fair world, he should be referred to as Professor Banks when it comes to diesel engines and truck tuning. A few months after GM introduced the updated L5P 6.6-liter Duramax diesel V8 in the 2020 Chevrolet Silverado HD and GMC Sierra HD that ships with 454 horsepower and 910 pound-feet of torque, Banks decided he wanted to methodically tune the engine to death. The purpose of the resulting series, called “Killing a Duramax,” is to push more power out of the engine in order to discover which parts break and when — or, as Banks puts it, force-feed the Duramax “until the crank hits the street and the heads hit the hood.” With that knowledge, Banks can figure out all the weak points on his way to building what he calls a “Superturbo,” that being a supercharged, twin-turbo race engine with more than 1,000 hp.

What makes the series fascinating is Banks’ knowledge, paired with the company’s comprehensive iDash engine monitoring system that keeps tabs on a glut of parameters every step of the way. So for instance, you get Banks explaining the differences between inches of mercury and barometric pressure, how those are different from the water content of the air measured in grains, then showing those readouts on the iDash, then explaining in detail how they affect the air density in the Duramax system. The stock Borg-Warner variable turbo gets a lot of airtime — Banks accuses it of being “out to lunch” because he feels it’s the weakest link on the engine. That turns into a turbo teardown and a deep explanation of performance pitfalls, such as when air pressure on the turbine begins to diverge from the boost pressure coming from the compressor. Banks says he can keep close tabs on where power’s coming from, because the iDash monitors the horsepower contribution provided by the ambient air, the turbo, and the intercooler separately.

The major changes so far are a stouter Precision 7675 turbo and TurboSmart wastegate (episode 5), a twin intake (episode 6), a custom liquid-cooled intercooler from a marine engine, a new GM oil cooler and synthetic oil (episode 10), and new injectors (episode 11). What makes the series surprising is that after nearly a year of hard running beyond maximum listed specs and through 11 episodes, the Duramax has been tuned to 852 hp on its stock block and internals and shows no sign of dying. 

For the diesel-inclined and tech-minded, “Killing a Duramax” is a treat. Any time you get a free 20 minutes, as Banks says, “Spool is in session.” 

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