Nissan RB20E Tuning

"All you need to know about tuning the Nissan RB20E engine!"

We got asked for some tips on improving the RB20E and which tuning mods we rate as the best, so we've put together this tuning guide to cover what we feel are the main areas for improvement and tuning on the RB20E engine.

The Nissan RB20E are awesome to work on and with the optimum uprated parts like remaps, turbo improvements and camshafts you will maximise your driving fun.

Here we review RB20E tuning and show the optimum modifications.

History, Power & Specs of the RB20E Engine

  • RB20E
    single-cam NASP
    Power: 129 to 148 hp @5600 rpm  133 lbft @4400 rpm

Tuning the Nissan RB20E and best RB20E performance parts.

Best RB20E mods

Just because particular tuning parts are are common on RB20E it doesn't mean it is good, so we'll concentrate on the top tuning parts that will give your RB20E the best power gain for you money.

Altering your RB20E cam will make a dramatic difference to the engine power band. Choosing a higher performance cam profile raises the power band accordingly.

Fast road cams usually boost the performance throughout the rev range, you may lose a little low down torque but higher rpm power will be lifted.

Race cams, boost the higher rpm power band but as a result the car will not idle smoothly and low end power nearly always suffers.

In a road car it makes a lot of sense to match your engines power to your cars usage.

I'd be amazed if you think that a RB20E Motorsport camshaft is a pleasure to live with when in heavy traffic because low end power will be very lumpy. Competition cams are designed for maximum power at the top end of the RPM range, a place that most daily commutes will not permit!

Each engine responds better to different camshaft durations so set your engine up on a rolling road.

The map and fuelling also will make differences on the bhp gains you'll get.

Longer valve 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 subscribe and support our new channel.

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

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

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

    The RB20E engines make great tuning projects and we're happy to report there is a lot of upgrades and performance parts out there. Two aftermarket ECU's we regularly see on members projects include the E-Manage Ultimate and the Power FC where power exceeds what the stock ECU can handle.The stock engine can handle around 350 bhp but you'll need to have added at least a turbo from the RB25 to get there.

    Increasing the fuelling and turbo will see around 400-420bhp still on stock internals but the mapping must be spot on .

    A remap will help release the full potential of all the modifications you've done to your RB20E.

    (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 may differs on the modifications you've done and the condition of your engine.

    Feeding more air into your RB20E is the aim to any tuning job.

    Intake transmit the air from the air filter and allow it to be drawn into the engine cylinders with fuel for the squish phase.

    The bore size, shape and rate of flow of the Intake manifolds can make a noticeable effect on to fuel engine efficiency on the RB20E.

    Commonly we find the intake manifold are improved through performance upgrades, although some car makers provide reasonably good intake manifold.

    Larger RB20E valves, doing a bit of 3 or 5 angle valve jobs and porting and head flowing will also boost power, & more importantly will raise potential for a greater power increase on other modifications.

    RB20E 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 RB20E.

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

    If a car is fitted with a turbo tuning parts are simpler to install and you will discover turbocharged engines will have uprated components.

    However engines have weakspots, even the RB20, although turbos are generally stronger than the NASP versions. We recommend you find these restrictions and upgrade to higher quality components to survive the power.

    It's not unheard of car owners spending a a stack of money on turbo upgrades on the RB20E only to watch the engine block go up in smoke soon after it's been finished.

    Bigger capacity turbos tend to experience low end lag, and smaller turbos spool up more quickly but do not have the high rpm torque gains.

    We are pleased that the market of turbo units is always improving and we are seeing variable vane turbo units, allowing the vane profile is altered according to speed to lower lag and increase top end performance.

    Twin scroll turbo units divert the exhaust gases into a couple of channels and flow these at differently designed vanes in the turbocharger. They also increase the scavenging effect of the engine.

    It is not unusual that there is a limitation in the air flow sensor MAP/MAF/AFM on the RB20E when loads 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 performance at a much lower level.

    Adding a supercharger or additional turbo will make large bhp gains, although more difficult to setup. We have this in depth look at twinchargers if you want to read more.

    Fuelling

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

    More performance needs more fuel. It makes sense to over specify your flow rate on the injectors.

    The rule of thumb is to add 20% capacity when specifying an injector, which takes into account injector deterioration and affords a bit of 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.

    6 Cylinder NA (naturally aspirated) engines

    • 58 PSI 189cc/min 200hp
    • 58 PSI 284cc/min 300hp
    • 58 PSI 378cc/min 400hp
    • 58 PSI 568cc/min 600hp

    6 Cylinder turbocharged engines

    • 58 PSI 227cc/min 200hp
    • 58 PSI 341cc/min 300hp
    • 58 PSI 454cc/min 400hp
    • 58 PSI 682cc/min 600hp

    RB20E Performance Exhausts

    You should look to boost your exhaust if your exhaust is actually creating a restriction in flow.

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

    Note that with the widest exhaust you can source 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.

    Usual exhaust restrictions can be traced to the catalyst installed, so adding a higher 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 RB20E

    The RB20E 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 RB20E, 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 RB20E engine please join us in our car forums where you can discuss with our RB20E owners. It would also be worth reading our unbiased articles to get a full grasp of the benefits and drawbacks of each modification.

    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 tuning parts 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 RB20E tuning guides which get regular updates and revisions.

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