180 SX Tuning

"Tuning the Sexy Nissan 180"

Nissan have a pretty good track record when it comes to making cool cars. The 180 SX is certainly no exception.

The S13 has the lower powered CA18DET 1.8 Turbo engine but is still a pretty potent performer and just crying out for more power.

The 180 SX is also known as the S13 and also the S110 Silvia depending on the locality you are in. The pop up headlights are peculiar to this model but we have seen an S13 front end on the S14 and S15.

It was also badged 200 SX in some areas so can get confusing. We shall base this article on the CA18DET engine but you can read the other Nissan tuning articles for options on other engines.

Tuning tips and articles

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


Engine Tuning.

Typically these tuning modifications are usually carried out by our members, decide how far you want to go before you start.

Getting the best motorsport upgrade kits for your planned usage of the car is essential. Stage 3 motor sport mods just won't work well on the road and will make the car undrivable.

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

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

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

You really need to keep as much low end power as possible and aim to get a long power band rather than a narrow top end power hike.

Some 180 SX owners have managed to get engine swaps including the twin turbo unit from the 300ZX, the 2.4 NASP lump from the US 240 SX, the SR20DET engine and even the impressive Skyline RB25 block.

When tuning your 180SX keep the power band long and wide and focus on handling upgrades.

The 180SX is a brilliant fun sports coupe from Nissan and also makes a practical daily run around. Your targets when tuning the engine should be a nice flat torque range. You don't want all the torque to be at the top end of the rev range unless you are creating a motor sport car.The point of our pointers is to give a limited introduction of customizing mods and point you in the right direction, our forum is where you can ask for more detailed advice and tips on your customized car project, the best modified upgrades and all aspects of modding cars.One of the biggest mechanical upgrades you can do on your NA (naturally aspirated) engine is to fit a fast road cam .

The exhaust and intake durations play a large part in your cars power band, but be careful here, getting this wrong can upset the idle and make the car difficult to drive in traffic. You'd need to follow a camshaft upgrade with other mods and finish with a reflashed ECU to fully realise your gains.

You will need to ensure that the engine is not starved of fuel so will need to look at the fuelling.

Using higher octane fuel is another option if you find you are suffering from pinking or premature ignition on your Nissan project after fitting other sports mods. To get sufficient fuel you may need to increase the injectors on your 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.

Breathing mods are usually next up. Maximum power gains come from a full induction kit with a cold air feed on heavily tuned engines, this can be sited within an air box but a panel filter should suffice for most applications. TorqueCars suggest you use a panel air filter as these are easy to clean and maintain and generally perform better than paper ones.

Sports exhausts generally help improve air flow from the engine but avoid an exhaust that is too large or you could very well end up with a reduced flow rate. So generally speaking, keep to 1.5 to 2.5 inches as a rule of thumb.

Polishing and porting 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 When you start tuning your 180 SX you will often find that the standard clutch starts to suffer so get an uprated clutch.

With turbocharged engines this is another story. A tuned/remapped turbo will give big power gains and take full advantage of the strength of the block.

The single turbo 1.8 engine still manages to put out 173 which actually compares favourable to modern cars and with its light weight and rear wheel drive makes it into a fun track day car.

A turbo swap or even a hybrid turbo is an option for those wanting to get larger power gains. The standard block can reportedly handle power gains up to 250bhp with more on offer if you are prepared to do some strengthening mods.

Either tune/remap the engine or fit a boost controller to fully realise the power you have on offer.

Handling/Suspension upgrades

When it comes to tuning the 180 SX, the brakes should be fairly high up on your priorities. The standard brakes prove to be pretty capable but with a set of good fast road pads you dramatically reduce your stopping distance and increase car safety. Upgrading to larger vented disks and a 6 pot caliper will really enable you to stop almost dead from any speed in next to no time.

Suspension mods are many and varied. The 180sx is popular for drifting although as a result of this a lot of 180's have parts and even body panels from the S14 and S15 fitted to them. We recommend  a suspension drop of no more than 40 mm for best results and would advise you to keep the rim size to 16 inches.

If you set the toe out to degrees on the front, and add a little negative camber then cornering will often improve.

We would go to a maximum drop of 29mm - 40 mm on most models. You risk rubbing on the arches if you go lower than this.

To get better mid range and peak power you could add an induction kit with a cold air feed and a full performance exhaust with a sports cat. Add to this a fast road camshaft and you have a potent track day weapon.

Alloy wheel upgrades.

The benefits of alloys include reducing your unsprung weight and better brake cooling via the extra air flow they allow. Don't forget that your choice of rubber greatly affects your cars grip and handling. It is not worth compromising performance with cheap tyres when you can buy directional tread pattern performance tires.The downside to large alloys on your 180sx is that you alter your effective final drive ratio and this will have a detrimental effect on performance.

Due to this fact aim to keep the overall rolling diameter of the wheel the recommended OEM sizes. We would advise you to keep the rim size to 16 inches.

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 180sx options in more detail with our other 180SX/s13 owners and see what they have done to their cars. It would also be worth reading our unbiased Nissan tuning articles to get a full grasp of the benefits and drawbacks of each modification.

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