Honda R series Tuning

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

TorqueCars will examine R series tuning and provide tips on the greatest upgrades.

Honda R series make awesome project engines and with the right sports parts like remaps, turbo kits and camshafts you will maximize your driving enjoyment.

History, Power & Specs of the Engine

  • 2006 1.6 L R16A (Honda Civic) i-VTEC
    (Singapore, Egypt, Turkey, Cyprus)
  • 2006 1.8 L R18A1 (Honda Civic) i-VTEC
  • 2006 1.8 L R18A2 (Honda Civic) i-VTEC (EDM)
  • 2006 2.0 L R20A1 (Honda Stream) i-VTEC
  • 2013 2.0 L R20A1 (Acura ILX) i-VTEC

Tuning the Honda R series and best R series performance parts.

Best R series parts

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

When talking about the best greatest for your R series engine, we are going to focus on the upgrades that give the best power gain for you spend.

The camshaft profile plays a big part in the engines power output so camshaft upgrades make quite a large difference. The intake and exhaust durations will alter depending on the chosen camshaft profile, so large engines power gains are on offer for camshaft upgrades.

Fast road cams tend to boost the performance across the rpm band, you could drop a little low end bhp but your high end rpm power will be better.

Motorsport cams, boost the high end rpm power band but as a result the car will not idle smoothly and low end power nearly always suffers.

A Competition camshaft won't do well if on the daily commute, because the lumpy idle will make the car prone to stall and smooth driving at low rpm becomes impossible. If you are developing a track car this doesn't matter as you are in the high end of your RPM range anyway and that is where you want the power to be.

You should ideally match your bhp range to your usage of the car so for a car driven daily stick with a mild fast road R series camshaft

Some R series engines respond better to mild camshaft durations so view each engine as unique.

The map and fuelling also will make differences on the power gains you'll achieve.

Altering valve durations can alter the power 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 subscribe and support our new channel.

Best Engine Mods for your car

  1. Mapping - 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: Fast road camshaft, Sports exhaust header/manifold, Panel air filters, drilled & smoothed airbox, Remaps/piggy back ECU, Intake manifolds.

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

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

Review your options and then find your tuning mods and set yourself a power target to void expensive mistakes.

ECU mapping should help to release the full potential of all the mods you've fitted to your R series.

(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 power output usually rely on the mods you've fitted and the condition of your engine.

Feeding air into your R series is the main goal to any engine upgrade task.

Intake take the air from the filter and allow it to be sucked into the engine cylinders with fuel for the squish phase.

The size of bore and shape and rate of flow of the Intake manifold can make a large effect on to fuel mixing and power on the R series.

I usually find air intake manifolds are needing aftermarket tuning parts, although a few OEM provide reasonably well designed air intake manifolds.

Fitting big valve kits, carrying out R series port enlargement and head flowing will also boost power, & more importantly will raise potential for raising 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 R 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 impressive power gains.

When your car is turbo charged modifications are going to net you a larger power gain and you'll see that turbo charged engines are made with more solid components.

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

Research these limits and fit better pistons and crank to survive the power.

It's not unheard of people spending a lot of money on turbocharger upgrades on the R series only to watch the car throw a rod just after it's been finished.

It is common that there is a limit in the air flow sensor MAF/MAP 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 was restricting performance at a much lower level.

Adding a supercharger or additional turbo will make large torque gains, although harder to get working. We have this in depth look at twinchargers if you want to read more.

Fuelling

You will need to ensure that the engine is not starved of fuel so will need to increase the fuelling when you start extending past 20% of a performance increase.It makes sense to be generous with your injectors flow rate.

The accepted safe increase is to add 20% to the flow rate when buying an injector, this takes into account injector deterioration and allows some 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.

Exhaust

You only need to increase your exhaust if your current exhaust is creating a restriction in flow.

On most factory exhausts you'll find the 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.

Sports exhausts can help increase the flow of gases through the engine.

But if the exhaust is too large, ie: it's over 2.5 inches bore, you will lose a great deal of the exhaust flow rate and end up losing power and torque.

Typically exhaust restrictions are traced to the emissions filters installed, so adding a faster flowing performance catalyst removes the restriction. We note that performance cats perform similarly to decats and have the added benefit of keeping your car street legal, as decats or catalyst removal is illegal in most territories for road going cars.

Weak spots Issues & problem areas on the R 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 r engine 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 r series 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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