Nissan CA Tuning

CA16 S, DE, CA18 DE / ET / DET & CA20 E,S,DE,DET

"All you need to know about performance parts and tuning the Nissan CA engine!"

The Nissan CA provide a fun base for your project and with the best upgrades like ECU maps, turbo improvements and camshafts you will noticeably increase your driving pleasure.

Our aim here is to consider CA tuning and provide tips on the best modifications.

History, Power & Specs of the Engine

  • CA16S
    81 PS 80 hp at 5200 rpm and 123 Nm (91 lbft) at 3200 rpm
  • CA16DE
    122 hp  at 6400 rpm and 137 Nm (101 lbft) at 5200 rpm
  • CA18(i) 91 hp  at 5200 rpm
  • CA18E 113 hp at 5600 rpm, 16.5 kg⋅m (162 Nm; 119 lbft) at 2800 rpm
  • CA18S
    89 hp and 149 Nm (110 lbft)
  • CA18DE
    131 hp  at 6400 rpm and 159 Nm (117 lbft) at 5200 rpm
  • CA18ET  133 hp and 183 Nm (135 lbft) 
  • CA18DET  166 hp and 228 Nm (168 lbft)
  • CA20E  105 hp and 160 Nm (118 lbft)
  • CA20S
    102 hp  at 5,200 rpm (118 lbft) at 3,600 rpm

Tuning the Nissan CA and best CA performance parts.

Best CA modifications

The greatest CA tuning parts on an engine are sensibly the ones that give the best value for money.

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

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 power band gains are on offer for camshaft upgrades.

Fast road camshafts tend to raise the power through the rpm range, you could drop a little low end power but top end will be higher.

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

To create a twin cam version of the 2.0 block you could fit a twin cam head from the CA18DE/T and as long as you switch manifolds and alter the timing pulley belts it works quite well.

So the following have been created but are not official engine versions from Nissan.


In a typical daily driver should ideally to optimize your torque band to your usage of the car.

I'd be completely gobsmacked if you have found a CA Motorsport camshaft is a pleasure to live with when driving in heavy traffic. The low end idle will be very lumpy and irregular, so something you would notice on a track when you drive in the upper third of the rpm band, but on roads this is a serious issue and we've heard from lots of drivers lamenting their decision to add an extreme competition cam profile to their engine.

Each engine responds better to mild cam durations so set your engine up on a rolling road.

The ecu map and fuelling also have a large bearing on the bhp gains you'll hit.

Extending exhaust or intake durations can alter the bhp 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 CA20DE/CA20DET/CA20T/CA20ET

  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.

CA20DE/CA20DET/CA20T/CA20ET Tuning Stages

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

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

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

The CA engine blocks respond well to upgrades and thanks to their popularity there are plenty of mods and tuning parts about.

remap should help to unlock the full potential of all the upgrades you've fitted to your CA. The APEXi SAFC 2 has been used on the CA projects with the N60 MAF  but the N62 can also be setup on a custom map. Mapping can be a pain on some setups, so consult with a specialist before buying parts to check they can be mapped.

(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 vary depending on the upgrades you've done and the condition of your engine.

Shoving more air into the CA engine is the whole point to any engine tuning project.

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

The bore size, shape and flow rate of the Intake can make a large change to fuel mixing and power on the CA.

Commonly we find the manifolds are begging for performance upgrades, although a few makers provide decently flowing headers.

Big valve conversions on the CA, doing a bit of port matching and head flowing will also lift power, and significantly will raise potential for a greater power increase on other modifications.

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 CA

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 motor has a turbocharger upgrades are going to make more power and we find turbo charged engines will have strengthened components.

However most engines have weakspots

We recommend you find these limits and fit higher quality components to cope with the power.

We see many people spending a loads of money on turbo upgrades on the CA only to suffer the indignity of watching the motor go up in smoke on it's first outing after it's completed.

Larger upgraded turbo chargers commonly suffer a bottom end lag, and smaller turbo chargers spool up quickly but won't have the peak end torque gains.

Thanks to progress the choice of turbochargers is always moving on and we commonly find variable vane turbochargers, allowing the vane profile is altered according to speed to lower lag and increase top end bhp.

Twin scroll turbochargers divert the exhaust gases into 2 channels and flow these at differently angled vanes in the turbocharger. They also improve the scavenging effect of the engine.

It is common that there's a limit in the air flow sensor (AFM/MAF/MAP) on these engines when a lot more air is being drawn into the engine.

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

Adding a supercharger or additional turbo will make large bhp gains, although harder to get working. We have a twincharger bhp adding guide if you want to read more.


When you lift the power you will need to look at to the fuel delivery.

More power needs more fuel. We would recommend you to over specify your injectors flow rate.

The accepted safe increase is to add another 20% when fitting an injector, this allows for injector deterioration and provides you some spare capacity should the engine need 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
  • 58 PSI 682cc/min 400hp

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
  • 58 PSI 625cc/min 400hp


You should look to uprate your exhaust if your current exhaust is actually creating a flow problem.

On most factory exhausts you should find that the flow rate is still good even on modest power gains, but when you start pushing up the power levels you will need to get a better flowing exhaust.

Do not go with the biggest exhaust you can find this will slow up 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 are in the catalyst and filters installed, so adding a freer 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

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 , 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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2 Responses to “CA16 CA18 & CA20 DE DET Tuning”

  1. Eddie Tye says:

    Parts for sale spot. I may know a guy who has a ca16de thanks

  2. TorqueCars says:

    Hi there, we actually do have a parts for sale and cars for sale section within our forum. I plan to make this a more prominent feature in future updates of the site.

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