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2021 aftermarket LS engine controllers; the good, the bad, and the ugly

Lil'John

Former #278
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Title kind of states it. Let us discuss what aftermarket ECM/PCM/controllers are available for LSx engines.

Of interest to me are drive by wire capable as well as boost capable... retaining MAF would be nice. In my case, my engines are 2004s. Nice would be to reuse stock harness plugs/sensors.

So give me the good and bad of what is out there.

I know that HP tuners is out there for tuning but seems to have some limitations in my opinion(2004 PCM can't do boost and MAF)
 
Sub'd.

Also curious about the digital dashes vs individual gauges/retrofit recipients dash?
 
I have a Holley Terminator X and have installed a few of them in different rigs.

Simple,
Cheap (give of take $1000 with brand new harness and WB O2 sensor),
Super capable (DBC, DBW, 4 speed trans electronic control, Boost, NOS, Fuel & Oil Pressure inputs, 4 programmable inputs, 4 programmable outputs, Custom I/O maps and PWM capable, yada yada)

Doesn't support MAF but that have never been an issue for me.

It will work with the lineup of the Holley Dashes, I run a 7" in my buggy. They use a CANbus network so wiring is minimal.

I would like to upgrade to a ECUMaster ECU in order to drive a PDM through can for the wiring, but it's outside of my price range so I'm happy with the Holley stuff.

I've heard good and bad from FITech, but the only time I've put my hands on one the guy was taking it out of his rig bc switcing to a Holley.
 
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Holley terminator or x can't remember, is my plan. Buddy has one on a turbo 6.0 and it works great. The version he has is 200 bucks more I think. But it will run a 4l60 or 80 also. I plan on using the guage screen. I believe the screen also has switches for lights or whatever in it. It would really simplify alot of wiring.
 
I am pretty sure Wandering Frenchie has the Holley Terminator as well. He was talking about being able to use the PWM to control speed of fans and fuel pumps.
If I didn't have a harness and tune already. This is the route I would go on a new build. Even though the upfront cost is higher than piecing something together and getting a single tune, but if you want to make changes down the road and or retune then you could quickly be saving money.
 
I used a stock pcm from 04 lq4 with a PSI wiring harness ..for the transmission I used a TCI Ez-TCU, but it’s a 4l80e but it does support the 6l80e.

if I were to do it again I’d go with post 04 so you can use the can bus to drive gauges...
 
On a Gen IV LS (05-20) factory PCM, what options are there to run gauges off of CAN bus?

AEM and AIM both offer high quality dashes that will read the OEM CAN protocol. They both even have a plug and play option with an OBD2 port.
 
I’m running a Smartwire PDM and IQ3 dash, if the pcm I had supported the can bus, they have a obd2 cable that gives access to all the sensors. That let’s you program any of the available data either in the dash display or external gauges. Haltech also has displays available...but also AIM and AEM have displays also
 
On a Gen IV LS (05-20) factory PCM, what options are there to run gauges off of CAN bus? The only ones I'm aware of are:

https://www.powertunedigital.com/

https://www.speedhut.com/about-freedomgauges.html


I have a Gen IV LS3 crate engine using the E38 ECU. For the dash I have a AEM CD7 that runs off the OBDII port. It uses a through port takeoff for the OBDII, so you're still able to plug a tuner or whatever into the port. Everything on the Canbus can be displayed on the 3 pages of screens on the CD7.

Because my pile is a mall crawler, I'll have one page that looks like a normal dash with turn signals and the like. For offroad, I'll have a page that's just important info to keep an eye on.
 
I’m running a Smartwire PDM and IQ3 dash, if the pcm I had supported the can bus, they have a obd2 cable that gives access to all the sensors. That let’s you program any of the available data either in the dash display or external gauges. Haltech also has displays available...but also AIM and AEM have displays also

I think that you can pair a Dominator EFI and a smartwire via can bus and command a ridiculously small amount of outputs (like 4 or so) of the smartwire via the network. IIRC I read that on the Holley forum.
 
Dakota Digital is also CANBUS - I have several of theirs.
 
Unless you need the aftermarket ECU things like traction control, advanced boost controls, etc, I would try to run a Gen 4 LS ECM (E67 or E38). The OEM is designed better, way cheaper to replace if you destroy one somehow, and are much more resilient to shorted wiring and issues like that. You can run a 4L or 6L auto, MAF or SD, etc. Only DBW currently with the factory ECMs. GMPP has a Gen 4 that does DBC but it's not worth the price.

Edit: I forgot your engine is a 2004, so you'd need to swap the crank reluctor wheel and switch to a gen 4 timing cover/cam gear to run a Gen 4 ECM.

Otherwise a 411 Gen 3 will do just about everything you want?
 
I’m using Holley Terminator X Max. I’m happy with it so far. The wiring was super easy. The tune provided for the engine seems pretty good. I will probably have to pay someone to get my trans tune right on my 4L60e.

Over all, I’d recommend it.

The setup is a 4.8 with a small cam and valve springs. Everything else in the engine is stock. Stock 4L60e attached to a np231 transfer case.
 
Also, there is the new Haltech Nexxus R5 which has an integrated PDM and is super badass.
Pricey though.
 
Interesting turn into dashes... but cool.

Unless you need the aftermarket ECU things like traction control, advanced boost controls, etc, I would try to run a Gen 4 LS ECM (E67 or E38). The OEM is designed better, way cheaper to replace if you destroy one somehow, and are much more resilient to shorted wiring and issues like that. You can run a 4L or 6L auto, MAF or SD, etc. Only DBW currently with the factory ECMs. GMPP has a Gen 4 that does DBC but it's not worth the price.
I agree with the above sentiment on most items; OEM spent a boat load of cash on their items so the quality will be there compared to aftermarket.

Edit: I forgot your engine is a 2004, so you'd need to swap the crank reluctor wheel and switch to a gen 4 timing cover/cam gear to run a Gen 4 ECM.

Otherwise a 411 Gen 3 will do just about everything you want?

I've got HP Tuner licensed for 2004 silverados. I've got two engines I'm playing with.

1) Stock 6.0L with cam that is giving me fits. For a 6.0L, it is under whelming in power... my stock 2000 4.3L feels better. I tried a thread a few months ago to diagnose the issue and never resolved it. I've gone through 4 PCMs, two stock harnesses(one only lightly worked), and two sets of injectors.

2) Built up 5.3L with turbo that is in flight. For it, the deficit on the stock 2004 PCM is the fact that in order to get into a boosted table, one has to get rid of the MAF tuning. Probably not a big issue. It has a 4l80 behind it and will be running drive by wire.
 
1) Stock 6.0L with cam that is giving me fits. For a 6.0L, it is under whelming in power... my stock 2000 4.3L feels better. I tried a thread a few months ago to diagnose the issue and never resolved it. I've gone through 4 PCMs, two stock harnesses(one only lightly worked), and two sets of injectors.
.

have you compression tested it?
 
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