Nissan RD28 Tuning

"All you need to know about tuning and performance parts on the Nissan RD28 engine!"

The Nissan RD28 is a notable diesel engine, revered for its resilience and efficiency. First introduced in the late 1980s, this 2.8-liter inline-six engine has powered a variety of vehicles, from the rugged Patrol to the sophisticated Skyline and even the stately Cedric.

Whilst you won't hit substantial power gains in this project, you can certainly improve the torque and flexibility of the engine with relatively cheap and simple upgrades.

Its longevity in production, spanning into the early 2000s, is a testament to its robust design and the trust Nissan placed in its diesel technology.

The Nissan RD28 are popular tuning projects and with a few sensible motorsport enhancements like ECU maps, and fuel upgrades you will really increase your driving experience.

Let us review RD28 tuning and highlight the premier modifications for your car.

Modifications such as upgrading the turbocharger, enhancing fuel injection systems, and optimizing the engine’s ECU can unlock significant gains in power and efficiency.

For enthusiasts looking to enhance their RD28 engine, this article will dive deep into the best practices for diesel tuning, from basic upgrades to more advanced modifications. Whether you aim to improve fuel efficiency, increase torque for towing, or simply boost overall power, understanding the foundation and capabilities of your RD28 is the first step towards effective tuning.

History, Power & Specs of the RD28 Engine

  • 100 PS (74 kW; 99 bhp)  (181 Nm; 134 lbft)
  • 94 PS (69 kW; 93 bhp) at 4,800 rpm  (177 Nm; 130 lbft) at 2,400 rpm

The first gen engine came in the...

  • Nissan Skyline R31 series 1985–1987
  • Nissan Laurel C32 ~ C34 series 1986–1993
  • Nissan Cedric / Nissan Gloria Y30 ~ Y32 series 1985–1993
  • Commercial (taxi) Nissan Cedric / Nissan Gloria Y31 series sedan 1987–1999
  • Nissan Crew K30 series 1993–1999

2nd generation

100 PS (74 kW; 99 bhp) at 4,800 rpm  (178 N⋅m; 132 lbft) at 2,400 rpm

  • Nissan Cedric / Nissan Gloria Y32 & Y33 series 1993–1999
  • Nissan Laurel C34 - C35 series 1994–1999

Tuning the Nissan RD28 and best RD28 performance parts.

Originally, the RD28 was not turbocharged, focusing instead on reliability and fuel efficiency. However, later versions, particularly the RD28T variant, introduced turbocharging, significantly enhancing performance by increasing both horsepower and torque. This turbocharged version was especially popular, providing the extra grunt needed for heavier vehicles and more challenging driving conditions.

Best RD28 parts

When talking about the best modifications for your RD28 engine, we are going to focus on the parts that give the biggest return for your cash.

Getting a fast road cam helps you to make more peak power but for the gains I have to question the cost of this upgrade on a naturally aspirated diesel engine.

In a daily driver one must carefully try to optimize your bhp range to your cars usage.

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

The engine timing and fuelling also have a large bearing on the torque gains you'll hit.

Extending exhaust or intake durations can alter the torque 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 - with an aftermarket or piggyback ECU you can do limited engine tuning/remapping on these, the aim is generally to increase fuel delivery which can make more smoke.
    2. Fuel upgrades - injectors and fuel pump will help you make higher power figures and improves torque through the rev range.
    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 - adding 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.

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

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

Typical stage 3 mods often include:
Adding or Upgrading forced induction (turbo/supercharger),  Internal engine upgrades (head flowing porting/bigger valves), Crank and Piston upgrades to alter compression

The RD28 power plant are great to work on and thanks to their popularity there are quite a few choices of modifications and performance parts out there.

A remap helps fully realize the full potential of all the tuning parts you've done to your RD28.

(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. Most drivers with an RD28 will simply opt for a piggyback ECU module or tuning box, but beware there are only a few good quality units around, most are quite crude.)

It will usually give you  20% on NA (naturally aspirated) diesel engines, but figures achieved usually rely on the tuning parts you've fitted and the condition of your engine.

Forcing air into your RD28 is the whole point to any car tuning project.

Intake take the air from the air cleaner and allow it to be pulled into the engine cylinders.

Structure and rate of flow of the Intake can make a substantial improvement to fuel mixing and power on the RD28.

It's not uncommon that manifolds are needing aftermarket tuning parts, although a few manufacturers provide reasonably good headers.

Increasing the RD28 valve size, doing a bit of port matching and head flowing will also increase torque, and significantly will allow you to get a better torque increase on other modifications.

RD28 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 RD28

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

When the engine has a turbocharger upgrades are going to net you a larger power gain and you will discover turbo engines are made using many forged and stronger components.

There are reliable limits for every engine, with some being incredibly solid and some just sufficiently able to handle stock power.

You'll commonly see there is a restriction in the air flow sensor MAF/MAP on the RD28 when considerably more air is being fed into the engine.

You'll see that 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 and torque gains, although more difficult to get working. We have this feature on twinchargers if you want to read more.


Probably the only noticable mod for these engines is around fuel, and generally the more fuel you have the more you can burn and make more power, but this can get quite smoky if taken to the extreme.

You will need to ensure that the engine is not starved of fuel so will have to pay attention to the fuelling when you start extending past 20% of a bhp increase. It makes sense to over specify your flow rate on the injectors.

The rule of thumb is to add 20% when fitting an injector, this takes into account injector deterioration and gives you some 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.

RD28 Performance Exhausts

You only need to uprate your exhaust if the existing exhaust is actually causing a restriction and I have not found this to be the case with the RD28, even with decent power bumps.

But if the exhaust pipe is too large, ie: it's over 2.5 inches bore, you will lose a lot of the flow rate and end up sapping power and torque.

Typically exhaust restrictions are traced to the catalyst and filters installed, so adding a higher flowing race alternative such as a sports catalyst pretty much removes this restriction, thanks to it's larger size and surface area, and will effectively raise the performance to levels you would expect without having a catalyst installed, but keeps the car road legal.

Weak spots, Issues & problem areas on the RD28

The RD28 engines are generally reliable and solid units, as long as you follow the manufacturers service schedules.

The Nissan RD28, like any engine, has its set of common issues that owners and technicians often encounter. Here are some of the notable problems associated with the RD28 engine:

1. Overheating

Overheating is a frequent issue with the RD28, especially in models where the cooling system isn't adequately maintained.

Inadequate cooling can lead to severe engine damage, including warped heads and failed head gaskets.

Ensuring the radiator, water pump, and thermostat are in good condition is crucial for preventing overheating.

2. Cylinder Head Cracks

The RD28 engine is particularly susceptible to cylinder head cracking, often as a result of the aforementioned overheating.

This problem can cause oil and coolant to mix, leading to poor lubrication and potential engine failure.

Regular inspections and maintaining proper engine temperatures are essential preventive measures.

3. Timing Gear Issues

Another common issue is wear and tear on the timing gears. Since the RD28 uses a gear-driven timing setup rather than a belt or chain, these gears can become worn or misaligned, particularly in higher mileage engines.

This can lead to timing issues that affect the engine's performance.

4. Turbocharger Problems

For the turbocharged versions (RD28T), turbo failures are a known issue, particularly due to oil starvation or the natural wear and tear of the turbo bearings.

Regular maintenance of the turbo system, including timely oil changes and ensuring proper oil flow to the turbo, can help mitigate these problems.

5. Fuel Injection System

Diesel engines like the RD28 rely heavily on their fuel injection systems. Issues such as clogged fuel injectors or problems with the injection pump can lead to poor engine performance, decreased fuel efficiency, and increased emissions.

Regular cleaning and periodic inspection of the fuel system can help maintain its efficiency.

6. Glow Plug Failures

Glow plug issues are common in many diesel engines and can lead to difficulty starting, especially in cold weather.

Checking and replacing faulty glow plugs is a relatively simple but crucial aspect of RD28 maintenance.

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 RD28, 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 RD28 engine please join us in our friendly
where you can discuss with our RD28 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 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 RD28 tuning guides which get regular updates and revisions.

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