Nissan MR18DE Tuning

"All you need to know about performance parts and tuning the Nissan MR18DE engine!"

The Nissan MR18DE are awesome to work on and with the right sports mods like ECU maps, turbo improvements and camshafts you will really maximise your driving fun.

Here we look into MR18DE tuning and show the greatest mods that work.

History, Power & Specs of the MR18DE Engine

  • 130 PS (96 kW; 128 hp) at 5500 rpm and 176 Nm (132 lbft) at 4800 rpm
  • 124 PS (91 kW; 122 hp) at 5500 rpm and 174 Nm (128 lbft) at 4800 rpm

Fitted to the

  • 2004–2012 Nissan Tiida/Versa
  • 2006–2019 Nissan Grand Livina
  • 2006–present Nissan Wingroad
  • 2009-2014 Nissan Cube

Tuning the Nissan MR18DE and best MR18DE performance parts.

Best MR18DE tuning mods

Just because particular tuning mods are popular with MR18DE owners it doesn't mean it is good, so we'll concentrate on the ultimate tuning mods that will give your MR18DE the best power gain for you money.

Altering your MR18DE cam will make a dramatic difference to the engine bhp. Choosing a higher performance cam profile raises the bhp accordingly.

Fast road camshafts tend to boost the bhp through the rev band, you may sacrifice a little low end torque but the top end will improve.

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

A Competition camshaft makes it harder when driving around busy urban areas. This is because a competition cam causes a very lumpy idle, and makes the car more prone to stall or jerk along in stop start traffic, sadly though many ignore this and end up ruining a perfectly good car and having to revert back to a fast road, or OEM cam profile.

You should ideally match your torque band to your typical driving style so for a car driven daily stick with a mild fast road MR18DE camshaft

Different MR18DE engines respond better to different camshaft durations than others.

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

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

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

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

    The MR18DE engines respond well to upgrades and we see that there are plenty of modifications and performance parts about.

    A remap will help fully realize the full potential of all the parts you've done to your MR18DE.

    (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 the end result usually differs on the parts you've done and the condition of your engine.

    It is the whole point to any engine modification project to get air and fuel into each cylinder

    The intake plenum transmit the air during the suck phase from the air cleaner and allow it to be drawn into the engine cylinders with fuel for the squish phase.

    Shape and flow characteristics of the Intake manifolds can make a substantial effect on to fuel atomisation and engine efficiency on the MR18DE.

    Many mass produced engine plenum chambers are in desperate need of an upgrade, although some OEM provide well optimised plenum chambers.

    Larger MR18DE valves, doing some port matching and head flowing will also raise power, & importantly will permit a greater power increase on other modifications.

    MR18DE 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 MR18DE

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

    If a car has a turbocharger parts are more reliable and we find turbo charged engines use more solid components.

    There are reliable limits for every engine, with some being incredibly solid and some only just able to handle stock powerIt is important to find these limitations and install more solid crank and pistons to survive the power.

    We've seen people spending a lot of money on turbo upgrades on the MR18DE only to have the motor catastrophically fail when it's finished.

    Bigger turbo chargers will usually suffer a bottom end lag, and small turbo chargers spool up much more quickly but don't have the peak end bhp gains.

    Thankfully the market of turbo units is always increasing and we now see variable vane turbo units, permitting the vane angle is altered according to speed to lower lag and increase top end performance.

    Twin scroll turbo units divert the exhaust flow into two channels and push these at differently profiled vanes in the turbo. They also boost the scavenging effect of the engine.

    It is common that there is a restriction in the air flow sensor MAP/MAF/AFM on the MR18DE when considerably more air is being drawn into the engine.

    We note 4 bar air sensors coping with quite large power gains, whereas the OEM air sensor limited bhp and torque at a much lower level.

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


    Don't omit to raise the fuelling when you are increasing the power - it makes the car more thirsty. Don't forget to be generous with your injector capacity.

    As a rule of thumb add 20% capacity when specifying an injector, this accounts for injector deterioration and gives a little 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

    MR18DE Performance Exhausts

    You may need to uprate your exhaust if the existing exhaust is actually causing a restriction.

    On most factory exhausts you'll see the exhaust flow rate is still fine 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 will certainly help air flow through the engine but avoid an exhaust that is too big 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.

    Usual exhaust restrictions come around the catalyst installed, so adding a faster 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 MR18DE

    The MR18DE 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 MR18DE, 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 MR18DE engine please join us in our car forums where you can discuss MR18DE tuning options in more detail with our MR18DE owners. It would also be worth reading our unbiased Nissan tuning articles to get insights into each modification and how effective they will be for your car.

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