Land Rover Defender Tuning

"Tuning guide to the most effective Defender modifications."

We review and look at Defender tuning and summarise the premier modifications. Land Rover Defenders offer good returns when tuned and with the ultimate motorsport upgrades you can really increase your driving enjoyment.

We guess that your bought your Defender for practical reasons and not for fast road/track day use. However with some power mods and suspension upgrades you can improve on an already impressive package.

The engines are a delight to work with and with cam upgrades to head work offer credible power gains.

The Defender is a good project car to carry out. With the right mods your Defender can be transformed into a fun car. Don't waste money, do your homework and follow our unbiased guides to each performance upgrade to avoid disappointment.

Tuning tips and articles

Engine tuning Transmission tuning Care care Intake & exhaust mods Improve handling Forums

 

Handling/Suspension upgrades

Handling modifications are often a priority for the Defender.

Good suspension tweaks that usually enhance handling for the Defender include a couple of degrees negative camber and 1-1.5 degrees of toe in or out on the front wheels. Toe in for stability, or Toe out to improve cornering. It would also pay to improve the brakes, by adding larger discs and or higher friction pads..

Drop the car optimally somewhere in the region of 29mm - 36 mm and fit sports stiffer dampers, bigger drops will need other modifications in most instances. Most Defender owners look to raise the suspension which makes a lot of sense, a higher ride height gives much more ground clearance. A set of adjustable suspension components will allow you to tweak the setup to suit your needs. Many have a winter and summer setting they go between.

Turning our attention to the Defender's engine we need to get a bit more power out of the top end. It is a work horse and very reliable if well maintained.

Keep the car looking standard but add lots of power mods and you'll surprise many cars at the lights as you pull away!

To be completely frank and honest, on the more modest engine sizes you are wasting your time spending money on modifications, so if this applies to you get yourself an engine swap then apply the following mods.

Engine Tuning.

Typically these modified modifications are usually carried out by our members, decide how far you wish to go in your tuning project before you get going.

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Getting the correct grade of sports parts for your planned usage of the car is essential. Stage 3 competition upgrades just don't work well on the road difficult in stop start traffic.

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. 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: Lighter flywheel, Suspension upgrade (drop 30-40mm), Alloy wheels, Remap, Sports exhaust, Panel air filter.

Typical stage 2 mods often include: fuel pump upgrades, Power/Sport clutch, Ported and polished head, high flow fuel injector, Fast road cam.

Typical stage 3 mods often include: Engine balancing, Competition cam, Sports gearbox, Internal engine upgrades (pistons/head/valves), Adding or upgrading forced induction (turbo/supercharger).

Peak power is all well and good but for a drivable and fun car you need a wide power band and perhaps extending the rev range.

In this article we shall give a little insight into the world to the best modifications for your car, but we'd encourage you to spend some time on the site looking into the details of each type of performance part.One of the best mechanical performance mods you can do to your NA (naturally aspirated) engine is to fit a fast road cam .

It maximises the intake and exhaust flow and pushes up the power if done right. Ideally you'd add other mods and finish up with a reflashed ECU. We'd also caution you not to go with a competition cam as this upsets the engines idling and general town driving characteristics.

Don't forget to increase the fuelling when you are increasing the power - it makes the car more thirsty.

If you find you experience flat spots and power surges after your sports upgrades you should check the fuelling and try a higher octane fuel as well. Uprated injectors will enable you to supply sufficient fuel to the engine.

A fuel pump will only deliver a finite amount of fuel, so you may need to uprate this if your injectors are demanding more fuel.

Intake and Exhaust Tuning.

Now we move on to the intake and exhaust and ensure proper flow through the engine. Contrary to popular belief there is often a small power gain achieved by fitting an induction kit, they only become beneficial and are recommended after you increase the engines power to the point where the standard air intake box cannot cope!

Raising the air intake by means of a snorkel is a popular mods on the Defender, and if you are going near water the last thing you want is to suck it into the intake.

For most Defender engines TorqueCars would suggest you just go with a washable panel air filter. On heavily tuned engines and turbo vehicles an induction kit will help release the power providing you address the problem of supplying cold air.

Do not go with the biggest exhaust you can buy this will slow the exhaust 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.

Head porting and polishing the head will allow you to maximise your air/fuel charge. Leave this to a professional though with a proper flow bench and machine tools A good multi plate fast road performance clutch will help to keep that power going where it should. Never skimp or expect the standard clutch to cope. The best mods in our opinion for your Defender are fast road camshaft, remap, induction and exhaust, suspension.

NA (naturally aspirated) engines do not achieve big power gains if you remap them, unless you have done extensive modifications. With turbocharged engines this is another story. A remapped turbo will give significant power gains and fully release the potential power of the engine. Despite the large cost involved adding forced induction to a NA (naturally aspirated) engine will give large power gains. Superchargers are usually easier to add than turbos. It is difficult to map fuelling with a turbo as the boost increases exponentially with revs.

It is simpler to map a supercharger because the boost is directly proportional to engine speed on a linear curve. Alternatively you could perhaps add water injection to cut down knock.

Alloy wheel upgrades.

Due to the fact that alloy wheels are lighter they improve performance and they will help to cool the brake disks. If you are serious about performance then you will need to carefully choose your tires - ideally with a track legal slick tire. Large Defender alloy wheels can decrease performance. If you get big alloy wheels you will be changing your final drive ratio.

For this reason try to keep the overall rolling diameter of the wheel the standard factory sizes. In all cases not going above 18 inches in our opinion this gives the widest range of handling and off road control. Larger wheels can make the Defender crashy and hard to control under heavy loads.

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

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