Honda J-series Tuning

"All you need to know about tuning the Honda J-series engine!"

Our aim here is to look at J-series tuning and highlight the best modifications for your car. Honda J-series are awesome to work on and with the right modified upgrades like remaps, turbo improvements and camshafts you will certainly maximize your driving pleasure.

The J series was designed and built in the US, by Honda engineeers. It was a great V6 engine but this time designed to be transversely mounted.

Cylinders can be switched off to save fuel using the new VCM technology. A whole bank is removed from the combustion cycle providing an inline 3 engine and this actually works really well.

Check out our video introduction to Honda Tuning, all you need to know about mods and upgrades on your Honda.

History, Power & Specs of the Engine

  • 998–2003 2.5 L J25A
    • 1998–2003 J25A - Inspire, Saber
  • 1997+ 3.0 L J30A
    • 1997–2003 J30A1 - Odyssey, CL, Avancier, Accord
    • 2003–2005 J30A4 - Accord
    • 2003–2007 J30A5 - Accord, Inspire
    • 2005–2007 JNA1 - Accord Hybrid
    • 2013+ J30Y1 - RDX (China)
    • 2017+ JNA2 - Acura MDX Sport Hybrid
  • 1998–2008 3.2 L J32A
    • 1998–2003 J32A1 - CL, TL, Inspire
    • 2001–2003 J32A2 - CL Type-S, TL Type-S
    • 2004–2008 J32A3 - TL
  • 1998+ 3.5 L J35A
    • 1999–2001 J35A1 - Odyssey
    • 2002–2004 J35A3 - MDX, Vue (also referred to as GM L66)
    • 2002–2004 J35A4 - Odyssey, Pilot
    • 2005+ J35A6 - Odyssey, Pilot
    • 2005+ J35A7 - Odyssey, Inspire
    • 2005–2008 J35A8 - RL, TL Type-S
    • 2006–2008 J35A9 - Ridgeline, Pilot (4WD)
  • 2008–2014 3.5 L J35Z
    • 2006–2008 J35Z1 - Pilot (front-drive)
    • 2008–2012 J35Z2 - Honda Accord
    • 2008–2012 J35Z3 - Honda Accord (manual transmission)
    • 2009–2014 J35Z4 - Honda Pilot
    • 2009–2014 J35Z5 - Ridgeline
    • 2009–2014 J35Z6 - TSX V6, TL (front-drive)
  • 2013+ 3.5 L Earth Dreams J-series
    • 2013+ J35Y1 - Accord
    • 2013+ J35Y2 - Accord
    • 2014+ J35Y4 - RLX
    • 2014+ J35Y5 - MDX
    • 2015+ J35Y6 - TLX, Ridgeline (2017+)
  • 2007–2014 3.7 L J37
    • 2007–2013 J37A1 - MDX
    • 2009–2012 J37A2 - RL
    • 2007–2014 J37A4 - TL (AWD)
    • 2010–2013 J37A5 - ZDX

Tuning the Honda J-series and best J-series performance parts.

Best J-series parts

The ultimate J-series tuning parts on an engine are sensibly the ones that give the best power gain for you spend.

We won't be swayed by popular J-series tuning parts, they need to be cost effective.

Altering your J-series camshaft will make a dramatic difference to the engine torque. Choosing a higher performance camshaft profile raises the torque accordingly.

Fast road camshafts usually bump the bhp across the rev range, you may lose a little bottom end bhp but your top end will be higher.

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

For a car driven daily, really you should, ideally aim to match your engines power to your typical driving style.

I'd be surprised if you have ever thought or claimed that a J-series Race cam 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!

Different J-series engines respond better to extreme camshaft durations than others.

The ECU mapping and injectors and fuel pump also have a large bearing on the torque gains you'll get.

A longer valve duration 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.

Please watch our video which covers the 5 principles of tuning your car. Be sure to keep up with our latest YouTube content and subscribe.

Best Engine Mods for your car

  1. Engine Tunes - engine tuning/remapping provides the most advantage in terms of cost savings,  aftermarket ECUs, and piggyback ECUs are all alternatives.
  2. Fast road cams are one of the most significant mechanical changes, but they must be installed by someone who knows what they're doing and they are not always easy to source but you might find a local firm to regrind a stock camshaft.
  3. Intake and Exhaust - Note that on their own these mods will NOT ADD POWER in most cases, but they can help enhance power after other mods by removing the restriction.
  4. Upgrades to turbochargers and superchargers - forced induction is the most efficient approach to increase air supply, allowing you to burn more fuel and make more power. It is one of the most costly upgrades but provides the best gains.
  5. Head work - The goals of porting and flowing the head are to get air flowing into the engine while removing flow restrictions and turbulence.

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

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

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

Review your options and then source your tuning mods and set yourself a power target to avoid wasting your time and money.

remap should help to fully realize the full potential of all the upgrades you've fitted to your J-series. The AEM EMS is used quite a lot on the J series engines. (If you have an auto box you need to retain the original ECU to handle that, otherwise you can go fully aftermarket ECU and open up a whole new world.)

The AEM Fi/C is a great alternative but you have to know what you are doing with it but one nice feature is the dual map option allowing the user to install a switch to flip between maps!

Megasquirt have an interesting kit option which can be used on the J series. NB: keep the timing between 100 degree -17 and under 200 degrees / +25 or you'll run into problems from flatspots to misfires (or worse)!

(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 figures achieved may vary depending on the upgrades you've carried out and the condition of your engine.

Getting air into your J-series is vital to any performance tuning project.

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

Head swaps work quite well, for example with J32A2 heads, Intake & exhaust header/manifolds & pistons on the J35 block giving around 325hp!

The J37 intake manifold and throttle body are also popular power upgrades on some of the J series blocks.

Structure and flow characteristics of the Intake manifold can make a large improvement to fuel delivery on the J-series.

Commonly we find the intake manifolds are improved through performance upgrades, although some manufacturers provide fairly well optimized intake manifolds.

Fitting big valve kits, doing some J-series port enlargement and head flowing will also boost power, and as an added benefit will give you increasing the power increase on other mods.

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 J-series

The more air you can get into an engine, the more fuel it can burn and uprating the induction with a turbocharger upgrade makes major power gains.

When an engine has a turbocharger mods are going to net you a larger power gain and we find turbo engines already contain stronger components.

There are common areas of failure for every engine, with some being very over engineered and some just sufficiently able to handle stock power

Discover these limitations and fit higher quality crank and pistons to survive the power.

We've seen guys spending a loads on turbocharger upgrades on the J-series only to watch the engine explode soon after it's used on the roads.

Larger upgraded turbos tend to suffer a bottom end lag, and little turbos spool up much more quickly but won't have the peak rpm power band gains.

In recent times the range of turbo units is always moving on and we now see variable vane turbo units, permitting the vane profile is altered according to speed to lower lag and increase top end bhp and torque.

Twin scroll turbo units divert the exhaust gases into a couple of channels and direct these at differently designed vanes in the turbocharger. They also boost the scavenging effect of the engine.

It is common that there is a limitation in the air flow sensor AFM/MAF on these engines when considerably more air is being drawn into the engine.

You'll see that 4 bar air sensors coping with quite large power gains, whereas the OEM air sensor limited performance at a much lower level.

Adding a supercharger or additional turbo will make large torque gains, although more challenging to get working. We have this article on twincharging if you want to read more.


Don't omit to boost the fuel system when you are increasing the power - it makes the car more thirsty. We would recommend you to be generous with your injectors flow rate.

As a rule of thumb add 20% when fitting an injector, helps cope with 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.


Only look to improve your exhaust if your exhaust is actually causing a restriction.

On most factory exhausts you'll find your flow rate is ok even on modest power gains, but when you start pushing up the power levels you will need to get a better flowing exhaust.

Note that with the largest exhaust you can find you'll reduce the exhaust flow rate - the best for power gains are usually between 1.5 to 2.5 inches. It is the shape and material more than the bore size.

Typically exhaust restrictions come around the catalysts installed, so adding a better flowing sports alternative is the answer. This keeps the car road legal and will flow much better due to it's higher internal surface area and design, so has the added benefit of keeping your car road legal. The alternative decat should be considered an off road only mod, as removing a catalyst is illegal in most territories and regions for road registered cars..

Weak spots Issues & problem areas on the J series

The engines are generally reliable and solid units, as long as you follow the manufacturers service schedules, and use a good quality oil to ensure longevity. Few problems should happen 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 j series, 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 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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One Response to “J-series Tuning”

  1. Robert E Sherman says:

    I have a J35Z3. it’s true VTEC not iVTEC and has no cylinder deactivation. However, you do have to be vigilant on maintenance, or the valves will stop holding pressure. if that happens you basically have to rebuild or replace the heads. I love mine, a few bolt-on upgrades, a tune and some better struts and this thing is a street rod. I did machine the heads at 200k but otherwise this thing is solid. I heard some of them leak oil from poison rings, mine doesn’t consume oil and when I put magnaflow performance warm up cats on it, the old ones just had carbon, no oil in the cats so I am lucky there I guess. love that engine!

    the Acura J35A8 is similarly desired by tuners and is a popular swap engine. My friend dropped on into a 06 civic… it’s crazy fast. he had a rough time mounting, I think he had something manufactured at a local machine shop and had to use an Acura ECU and wiring harness… did I mention it’s crazy (humiliated a turbo Civic) fast?

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