Gallery: Power Gains with Hooker Headers, HP Tuners, MSD & Big 3 Racing


One of the most rewarding parts to install is a new exhaust system. The sound, the look and most importantly the performance gains. Recently we installed Hookers Blackheart series headers and full exhaust on our 2013 Daytona in Short vs. Long Tube Header Performance With Hooker Blackheart. The Hooker Blackheart system looks and sounds incredible and with basic hand tools we installed it in a weekend. The appearance and sound is only half the fun, the increased performance is the other. To get the most out of our Blackheart exhaust we turned to MSD, HP Tuners and Big 3 Racing for the finer details.

Before we installed the Hooker Blackheart exhuast system we stopped by Big 3 Racing for a dyno pull to see what the current horsepower and torque numbers were. We pulled 353 ft-lbs of torque and 341 horsepower on the dyno. Once we had the exhaust installed our next step was searching out a tuner that would maximize our performance gain with the exhaust. After talking with Big 3 Racing and a few others that we realized that HP Tuners would be the key to unlocking the full potential of our new exhaust. Their software is used by many dyno shops and heard only good things about them.

Above: The Blackheart exhaust looks as good as it sounds. 

HP Tuners is not your store bought handheld tuner. They have created an interface and software that plugs into the car and then into a laptop for highly customized tuning. Their software allows customization of supported vehicles Powertrain Control Module (PCM) and Transmission Control Module (TCM). HP Tuners’ Jan Moeller told us, “All parameters that are in the factory computer are mapped out in the software allowing full control of engine and transmission functions on most late model Dodge vehicles.”  We left the tuning up to the professionals at Big 3 Racing, we did not want to mess anything up and we do not have a dyno in our garage. If you are looking to tune yourself you can buy the equipment through HP Tuners just like a shop could but it’s not necessary if you are wanting a custom tune on your car. 

Big 3 Racing (B3R) is very familiar with HP Tuners and all we had to do was purchase a HP Tuners licensing credit from them. It will link to our Daytona’s VIN saving us from ever purchasing another credit in the future. The credits do not expire or have any restrictions. Whether we build the motor, trans, rear end, etc in the Daytona B3R will be able to create a new tune without us buying another credit. We would have cost for the dyno time but that would be it. Who knows what the future might bring us and how many tunes we will need, going this route with HP Tuners will save us money now and in the long run.

Above Left: They strapped us down for our run before the exhaust installation. Above Right: The display allows the tuner to watch the vital components as the car is running on the dyno.

Within HP Tuners software the user can adjust the PCM’s fuel, timing, torque management and much more. On the TCM side the user can control shift timing, shift speeds, shift pressures, torque management, rpm limits, etc. Jan Moeller of HP Tuners commented, “Our software allows the end user to calibrate the vehicle as compared to downloading a canned tune. We also offer a much more enhanced scanner for data logging and performing functions like clearing codes, tpms settings, gear and tire size.”

HP Tuners is always trying to crack the latest vehicles as they come off the lot. They were the first ones to support tuning for the Dodge Demon and Jeep Wrangler JL. Along with PCM tuning for Gen III HEMIs but many other Mopar engines too. They currently support 2003-2012 Cummins diesel motors, 2.4 turbo 4 cylinder, Pentastar 3.6 V6, and many more. For a complete list of vehicles and engines click here. Along with the PCM tuning they offer TCM tuning for the Nag-1 and the ZF8HP 8-Speed transmissions and a couple others.    

Above: HP Tuners VCM Suite is show here with all the necessary cables and software to plug into our computer and car.

Although we were not the ones tuning this time around, we picked up a VCM Suite for the future when we might need to change some parameters at the track. If you want to buy the HP Tuners handheld to tune your car you can purchase the VCM Suite through their website. It includes their handheld, software, wires to plug into your laptop and a few credits to get you started. Once you own the VCM suite you can tune your vehicle through a laptop and the HP Tuners software. They are currently in the process of developing a Dodge tuning class that you can take online through the Tuning School.

Deciding on HP Tuners it was time for the fun part, a day at the dyno. Unfortunately before we could head to B3R we had a couple things to do. We needed to go over the car to make sure it was ready for dyno. We also knew it would be a good time to upgrade our ignition. We wanted to make sure we had a perfect spark and no issues throughout our timing curve. What better way to ensure the best spark possible than a set of MSD’s Blaster Hemi Coils. We called them up to learn more about their new bolt-it coil packs.

Above Left: Our 5.7 in stock form besides the K & N cold air intake that was previously installed. Above Right: Under the cover you can see the stock black coils with the red clip locks. 

The MSD Blaster Coils are a direct replacement for the stock coil packs with no modification needed to install. The coil packs are offered in either the famous MSD red or black for a more subtle look. Although they look better under the hood, the performance is what we were after. At 36,000 volts we knew that we would have plenty of spark to help burn the extra fuel from the tuning. The patented winding design would also allow for better high rpm operation.      

The installation itself only took us a few minutes. Our Daytona only had 50k on the clock so the coil packs and bolts came off fairly easy without any major force. With higher milage vehicles its possible that the boots will be stuck on the spark plug and might require a little bit of force to remove them. If you vehicle is around 100k miles it would also be a good time to replace your spark plugs.

Above Left: Using a swivel adapter made it easier to access the two bolts holding the coils in place. Above Right: With the new MSD Blaster coils installed we left the engine cover off because why would you want to cover them up.

After installing the MSD Blaster Coils we did a once over on the Daytona in preparation for the dyno. Think of going to the dyno like you are going racing. Anything that would be an issue or at the track could be an issue on the dyno and potentially more dangerous. Of course we checked all the basics; oil, coolant, transmission fluid, rear differential oil, etc.  With high speeds and long durations, the dyno could induce extra wear to your vehicle if fluid levels are low or leaking. The guys at B3R do care about safety and your ride. If they see potential issues they may ask you fix them before they would allow the vehicle on the dyno. We also filled up with 93 octane fuel so we did not run out on the dyno. We found out later that we should of filled up with Shell or Sunoco fuel and might of had better results on the dyno, we filled up at a local gas station before the drive.

Lastly do not show up to a dyno with a dash full of warning lights. Unfortunately we are guilty of this one, kinda. When we installed the Hooker Blackheart exhaust we knew it would throw a check engine light due to deleting two of the O2 sensors. Before the installation we had no warning lights on the dash. Afterwards we had the check engine and traction control lights pop on. Not only did the lights come on, we had a slight miss while driving and had starting issues.

Above: They strap us in before scanning the Daytona and had to pull us off the dyno later. 

The traction control light should have prompted us to have it scanned to read what codes were throwing the lights before driving to the B3R. We knew ahead of time that the car might run a little different and that the check engine light was normal due to deleting 2 of the O2 sensors. Apparently it was running much rougher than what they were saying. B3R is not in our backyard, we drove the car 100 miles to their shop. We showed up at B3R and they scanned it to verify what codes were causing the lights. Instead of the two they expected, there was a long list of codes. It seemed as if we had no crank sensor.

We threw it on a lift to check the crank position sensor. We forgot to plug the sensor back in when reinstalling the starter. The sensor is tucked beside the starter and the plug is wired in with the starter wires. When we installed the starter you can barely see the crank positioning sensor and completely forgot to plug it in. Plugging it back it fixed most the codes but still had a misfire on a couple of cylinders and could not run the car on the dyno that day. Halfway home we noticed the misfire went away. We scanned it a couple days later and only the two O2 sensor codes were appearing like they should.

Above: Although this was taken during the Blackheart exhaust installation you can see the starter wires and the plug for the crank positioning sensor all tied together. 

With the misfire gone and only the two O2 codes appearing we rescheduled another dyno appointment a couple weeks later. We we arrived they scanned the Daytona and the 2 O2 sensor codes appeared like expected. B3R strapped the car down and hooked up their laptop. Before the first run they adjust a few metrics with the HP Tuners. The guys at Big 3 Racing do a lot of tuning and have a good idea what metrics need adjusted before they start into the dyno pulls. Each car can be a little different but they will keep making dyno pulls until the car is at its best.

B3R does not tune every car like a race car, they are considerate of what the car is used for. If it is a dedicated race car that is trailered to each event then they will tune it for that type of driving. If it is a daily driven and are looking to gain some power for toying around then they will tune it that way. B3R used HP Tuners to set the Daytona up with a 93 octane tune for the most power for a daily driven car. They explained this does not mean we fill up with 93 when we want, we needed fuel up with 93 octane every time.   

Above Left: Rick Tunkett is not only an owner but also does most of the tuning at Big 3 Racing. Above Right: You can see HP Tuners in action as Rick created the perfect tune for us.

Although they could have changed some metrics in the TCM, we held off at the moment. We wanted to keep the smooth shifting characteristics for daily driving. They did turn off the Multi-Displacement System (MDS) or ECO mode so the motor would stop switching between 4 and 8 cylinders anymore. We did not buy a Charger equipped with a 5.7 HEMI for it to run on four cylinders. It would also help with the annoying exhaust note when it would drop to 4 cylinders for a gain in fuel mileage.

B3R asked if we drove the car all year round, which we do, so they made sure that the car would still start in the frigid winter temperatures. They did recommend we install a 180 or 190 thermostat to help keep the engine cooler in the summer. Since we have started to increase the power output, the cooler we can keep the motor the better. They went ahead and adjusted the electric fans to kick on sooner and stay on longer to help keep the motor cooler. 

Above: The final dyno pull netted us 363 hp and  383 ft-lbs.

We thought the tuning wouldn’t take that long since we only installed exhaust and MSD coil packs but Big 3 Racing treated it the same as if we had a $30,000 motor build. The tuning and dyno session lasted all morning, took a break for lunch and then finished up by the early afternoon. After multiple passes and finalizing our timing curve, we were ready for the final pull. We ended up with 383 ft-lbs. of torque and 363 horsepower. That put us at an increase of 30 ft-lbs. of torque and 22 horsepower at the wheels!

Leaving Big 3 Racing we could instantly feel the power difference from tuning the car. With the custom tune from Big 3 Racing the Daytona was finally running perfectly. The MSD Blaster Coils were and Hooker Blackheart exhaust were performing at flawlessly. Most of all if it was not for HP Tuners creating incredible software none of this would be possible. Cruising back home we had to be careful because it was easy to cruise above the speed limits. We can not wait to get this thing out on the track and see how these upgrades perform.

Modification list

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Gavin Wollenburg

Sales Associate/Staff Editor – gavin.wollenburg@shawgroupmedia.com Gavin grew up around Mopars in his lakeside home in Ohio, his father showing him nearly everything he needed to know about haulin' some serious rear in his '72 Dart Swinger. Since then, he's made his little A-Body a serious autocross contender and regularly shows the modern boys how an old Dart does it!

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