BMW M44 Tuning

"All you need to know about tuning the BMW M44 engine!"

Herein we examine M44 tuning and summarise the premier modifications for your car. BMW M44 make awesome project engines and with the best uprated upgrades like remapping, turbo improvements and camshafts you will maximise your driving fun.

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History, Power & Specs of the Engine

The M44 is a DOHC four-cylinder petrol engine which replaced the BMW M42

  • M44B19 from 1996-2000
    1,895 cc (115.6 cu in)
  • 103 kW (138 bhp) at 6,000 rpm 180 Nm (133 lbft)  at 4,300 rpm

Tuning the BMW M44 and best M44 performance parts.

Best M44 modifications

The top M44 upgrades on an engine are sensibly the ones that give the biggest return for your cash.

We won't be swayed by popular M44 upgrades, they need to be cost effective.

Significant gains on the M44 can be made from camshaft upgrades. Altering the camshaft profile alters the intake and exhaust durations on the engine and can dramatically change the power band and power output.

Fast road camshafts usually bump the performance over the rev band, you could sacrifice a little low down torque but higher rpm power will be higher.

Competition camshafts, bump the higher rpm power band but as a result the car will not idle smoothly and low end power nearly always suffers.

For a car driven daily must carefully try to match your power band to your driving style.

I'd be shocked if you find a M44 Motorsport camshaft is a pleasure to live with when in heavy traffic because low end power will be very lumpy. Competition cams are designed for maximum power at the top end of the RPM range, a place that most daily commutes will not permit!

Some M44 engines respond better to extreme cam durations so set your engine up on a rolling road.

The engine timing and injectors and fuel pump also have a large bearing on the torque gains you'll achieve.

Altering valve durations can alter the torque band and on most engines the exhaust and intake durations do not need to match, although most cams and tuners use matched pairs there are some advantages to extending the intake or exhaust durations.

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Best mods for your M44

  1. Fast road Camshafts are generally the biggest mechanical mod upgrade, but they must be installed by someone who knows what they are doing and tracking one down can be a challenge but you might find a local firm to regrind a stock camshaft .
  2. Air Induction and Performance Exhausts - Note that on their own these mods will NOT ADD POWER in most cases, but they can help enhance power after other mods by losing a restriction.
  3. Remaps - A Remapped M44 ECU provides the most power compared to your outlay, replacement ECUs, and piggyback ECUs are all alternatives.
  4. Internal engine mods - crank, pistons, conrods & compression ratio including balancing and blueprinting
  5. Upgrades to turbochargers and superchargers - Adding a turbocharger is the most dramatic method to increase air supply, allowing you to combust more fuel and make power gains. Although one of the most challenging mods it does provide the largest gains.
  6. Flywheel lightening - a lighter flywheel will improve the engines free revving nature. But not always suitable for all M44 engines.

M44 Tuning Stages

Typical stage 1 mods often include:
drilled & smoothed airbox, Intake manifolds, Remaps/piggy back ECU, Fast road camshaft, Panel air filters, Sports exhaust header/manifold.

Typical stage 2 mods often include:
Fast road cam, induction kit, Sports catalyst & performance exhaust, high flow fuel injectors, fuel pump upgrades, Ported and polished head.

Typical stage 3 mods often include:
Internal engine upgrades (head flowing porting/bigger valves), Twin charging conversions, Competition cam, Crank and Piston upgrades to alter compression, Adding or Upgrading forced induction (turbo/supercharger), Engine balancing & blueprinting.

Carefully think through your options and then acquire your upgrades and set yourself a power target to avoid costly mistakes.

ECU mapping allows a tuner to unlock the full potential of all the modifications you've fitted to your M44.

(In some cases, as the factory ECU is locked flashing is not an option, so an aftermarket ECU is the route to take, and many of these will outperform factory ECU's but make sure it has knock protection and that you get it setup properly.)

It will usually give you around 30% more power on turbocharged vehicles and you can expect to see around 15% on NA (naturally aspirated) engines, but your results usually depend much on the modifications you've carried out and the condition of your engine.

It is the main goal to any engine upgrade task to get air into the M44 engine

An intake manifold will channel the air from the filter and allow it to be drawn into the engine cylinders with fuel for the squish phase.

Design and rate of flow of the Intake manifold can make a big improvement to fuel atomisation on the M44.

We often see plenum chambers are needing performance upgrades, although some OEM provide well optimised plenum chambers.

Larger M44 valves, doing some M44 port enlargement and head flowing will also boost performance, and significantly will make space for a better performance increase on other tuning mods.

M44 Turbo upgrades

NA (naturally aspirated) engines need quite a lot of work when you add a turbo, so we have a separate guide to help you take into account the pros and cons of going this route on your M44

Increased induction with a turbocharger upgrade increases the amount of gasoline an engine can burn, resulting in enormous power improvements making it one of the most significant upgrades you can do on your M44.

However, when power levels rise, engines will require higher-quality components or they will fail and break. So TorqueCars suggest you install forged components to take advantage of these limitations.

A lot of people spend a lot of money upgrading their M44s with turbos just to have the vehicle blow up on their first excursion thereafter.

Even with a larger turbocharger, low-end latency is a common problem, whereas tiny turbochargers spool up rapidly but lack the power improvements associated with high-rpm engines.

Fortunately, we have variable vane turbos, which allow the vane angle to be adjusted based on speed to reduce latency and boost top-end torque.

The exhaust flow from dual scroll turbos is split into two separate channels and pushed through the turbocharger by different-sized vanes. They also boost the engine's ability to scavenge.

When a lot of air is sucked into the engine, the air flow sensor (AFM/MAF/MAP) has a tendency to impede it if it's not used to coping with so much airflow.

Going up you'll find 4 bar air sensors coping with quite large power gains, whereas the OEM air sensor sapped power at a much lower level.

Adding a supercharger or additional turbo will make large torque gains, although more challenging to configure. We have this guide to twinchargers if you want to read more.

Fuelling upgrades on the M44

Don't overlook the need to boost the fuel delivery when you are increasing the torque - it makes the car more thirsty. It is important to over specify your flow rate on the injectors.

The accepted safe increase is to add 20% when specifying an injector, this accounts for injector deterioration and gives a bit of spare capacity should the engine require more fuel.

We think this one is common sense, but you'll need to match your fuel injector to the type of fuel your car uses as well.

All the following flywheel power targets will assume an injector duty cycle of 80% and a base of 58psi of fuel pressure at idle.

4 Cylinder turbocharged engines

  • 58 PSI 340cc/min 200hp
  • 58 PSI 511cc/min 300hp

4 Cylinder NA (naturally aspirated) engines

  • 58 PSI 285cc/min 200hp
  • 58 PSI 426cc/min 300hp

4 Cylinder supercharged engines

  • 58 PSI 312cc/min 200hp
  • 58 PSI 468cc/min 300hp

Performance Exhausts for the M44

If your current exhaust is causing a flow limitation, you may need to upgrade it.

Even with moderate power improvements, the exhaust flow rate on most factory exhausts is adequate. However, when power levels rise, you'll need a better flowing exhaust.

Exhaust systems for sportscars maximise the amount of air that gets to the engine.

However, if the exhaust pipe is too big, i.e. it has a bore of more than 2.5 inches, you will lose a significant amount of flow rate and end up with a loss of power and torque.

Adding a sports catalyst, which has a significantly greater surface area, essentially eliminates this limitation and raises the vehicle's performance to the levels you would anticipate without a catalyst fitted, yet keeping the car road legal.

Weak spots Issues & problem areas on the M44

These engines generally prove to be reliable and solid as long as they are regularly serviced and maintained.

Carbon build up in the head, particularly around the valves which will sap power or create flat spots, this is a larger issue on direct injection engines but should be looked out for on all engines. We have tips on removing carbon build up.

Some of our members have had issues with flat spots or glitches after applying mods and upgrades or tuning, this is not usually related to this engines design, so instead see our article on diagnosing flat spots and problems after tuning which should help you get the bottom of this issue.

Regular oil changes are vital on the M44, especially when tuned and will help extend the life and reliability of the engine.

If you would like to know more, or just get some friendly advice on Tuning your engine please join us in our friendly forum where you can discuss M44 tuning options in more detail with our owners. It would also be worth reading our unbiased tuning articles to get a full grasp of the benefits and drawbacks of each modification.

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2 Responses to “M44 Tuning”

  1. Peter Lovelock says:

    I really enjoyed your article,good common sense stuff.

  2. Peter Lovelock says:

    I really enjoyed your article,good common sense stuff.We have a 1988 bmw e30 which we are racing in bmw race series 2ltr class,which we are re powering with a m44.I have built a new intake with individual runners and trumpets going into a insulated 6ltr plenum with a 70mm throttle body feeding from a insulated cold air box.I have also fabricated a set of 4 into 2 into 1 s/s equal length headers.We are wanting to bore the e/block to take 87mm pistins,but are unsure about the very little gap between cylinders therefor the sealing aspect.I thought mayby you could offset the bores to one another,or dose someone out there have any sugestions or bright ideas?

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