Nissan QR20DE Tuning

"All you need to know about tuning and performance parts on the Nissan QR20DE engine!"

The Nissan QR20DE make awesome project engines and with the optimum modifications like ECU maps, turbo kits and camshafts you will greatly increase your driving pleasure.

In this article we examine the options for your QR20DE tuning and highlight the ultimate mods that work.

History, Power & Specs of the QR20DE Engine

  • QR20DE 148 hp at 6000 rpm 148 lbft at 4000 rpm
  • QR20DD 148 hp at 6000 rpm 148 lbft at 4400 rpm

Tuning the Nissan QR20DE and best QR20DE performance parts.

Best QR20DE tuning parts

When talking about the ultimate modifications for your QR20DE engine, we are going to focus on the ones that give the best power gain for you spend.

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

Fast road cams commonly increase the bhp over the rev range, you could sacrifice a little low down torque but high end rpm power will be better.

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

For a car used daily one must carefully try to optimize your power band to your preferences.

I'd be surprised if you have found a QR20DE Competition 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.

Some QR20DE engines respond better to mild cam durations check your engine on a rolling road.

The map and injectors and fuel pump also will say much on the power gains you'll get.

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.

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

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

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

    The QR20DE engines respond well to mods and we're pleased to see that there are increasing numbers of upgrades and performance parts around.

    ECU mapping allows a tuner to unlock the full potential of all the tuning parts you've done to your QR20DE.

    (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 will depend much on the tuning parts you've fitted and the condition of your engine.

    Pushing fuel and air into each cylinder is the main goal to any performance tuning task.

    An intake manifold will channel the air during the suck phase from the air filter and allow it to be drawn into the engine and mixed with fuel.

    Structure and flow characteristics of the Intake manifolds can make a big effect on to fuel delivery on the QR20DE.

    I usually find plenum chambers are in dire need of a performance upgrade, although a few OEM provide reasonably well designed plenum chambers.

    Increasing the QR20DE valve size, doing some 3 or 5 angle valve jobs and porting and head flowing will also boost performance, & more importantly will raise potential for raising the performance increase on other tuning mods.

    QR20DE 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 QR20DE

    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 an engine is turbocharged, modifications are more reliable and you'll see that turbo engines will have stronger components.

    There are common areas of failure for every engine, with some being very over engineered and some just sufficiently able to handle stock powerWe recommend you find these limits and install better quality components to cope with the power.

    It's not unheard of car owners spending a fortune on turbo upgrades on the QR20DE only to experience the whole thing literally blow up soon after it's used on the roads.

    Bigger turbo chargers often experience a bottom end lag, and low capacity turbo chargers spool up quickly but do not have the peak rpm bhp gains.

    In the last 10 years the range of turbo chargers is always improving and we commonly find variable vane turbo chargers, allowing the vane profile is altered according to speed to lower lag and increase top end bhp and torque.

    Twin scroll turbo chargers divert the exhaust gases into a couple of channels and direct these at differently angled vanes in the turbocharger. They also boost the scavenging effect of the engine.

    It is not unusual that there is a limitation in the air flow sensor MAF/MAP on the QR20DE 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 power at a much lower level.

    Adding a supercharger or additional turbo will make large power gains, although more complex to configure. We have this feature on twinchargers if you want to read more.


    Don't miss you'll need to look at the fuel delivery when you are increasing the power - it makes the car more thirsty. It makes sense to over specify your injector capacity.

    The rule of thumb is to add 20% to the flow rate when buying an injector, which takes into account injector deterioration and gives a little 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.

    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
    • 58 PSI 568cc/min 400hp

    4 Cylinder supercharged engines

    • 58 PSI 312cc/min 200hp
    • 58 PSI 468cc/min 300hp
    • 58 PSI 625cc/min 400hp

    QR20DE Performance Exhausts

    Only look to replace your exhaust if your current exhaust is actually creating a flow problem.

    On most factory exhausts you should find that the exhaust 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.

    Sports exhausts can usually air flow from the engine but do not go too large or you might just stuff your flow rate and make things worse. So generally speaking, keep to a size of 1.5 to 2.5 inches for best results.

    Typically exhaust restrictions can be located the catalysts installed, so adding a higher flowing high performance aftermarket one will improve air flow, and rather than doing an illegal decat, will keep the car road legal.

    Weak spots, Issues & problem areas on the QR20DE

    The QR20DE 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 QR20DE, especially when tuned and will help extend the life and reliability of the engine.

    Valve clearances need to be checked and reset on all engines without hydraulic lifters.

    Overheating can cause major issues so check the cooling system is in good condition especially the water pump.

    If you would like to know more, or just get some friendly advice on Tuning your QR20DE engine please join us in our car forums where you can discuss QR20DE tuning options in more detail with our QR20DE 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.

    Please help us improve these tips by sending us your feedback in the comments box below.

    We love to hear what our visitors have got up to and which upgrades work best for you on your car. Which helps us keep our guides and tips up to date helping others with their modified car projects. Your feedback and comments are used to keep this page up to date, and help improve the accuracy of these QR20DE tuning guides which get regular updates and revisions.

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