Nissan S15 (Silvia) tuning tips.

"Every cloud has a Silvia lining"

The S15 has become a popular drift car with its good weight distribution and large array of cheap performance tuning parts.

It is also a storming track day car with the right modifications and offers bullet proof reliability.

It shares many components with other Nissans notably the S13,200sx, R33 skyline and the S16.

We have just published a full and recently updated SR20DET tuning guide with the latest mods and recommendations for this engine.

Drift tuning and fast road tuning will have similar aims with the main difference being mainly drivetrain and suspension related.

Handling/Suspension upgrades

Improving the handling for DIY mechanics first priority in your S15 tuning project.

Putting a little negative camber at the front wheels and around 1 to 1.7 degrees of toe in to improve stability or toe out for better cornering, will greatly improve your S15 in handling and cornering.

We would go to a maximum drop of 28mm - 35 mm. on most models. You risk compromising your handling if you go lower than this.

Turning our attention to the S15's engine we need to get a bit more power out of the top end.

The best power gains come from larger engine sizes. The more you start with the bigger the return on investment so engine swaps are good value mods for small engined cars.

Tuning modifications.

If you are pushing more air into the engine then you will need to match this with more fuel.One of the first mods will be to uprate the injectors. The big daddys are the Nismo 550cc injectors which will need a R33 fuel pump from the GT-R to deliver the fuel needed.

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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.

Typical stage 1 mods often include: Suspension upgrade (drop 28mm - 35 mm.), Panel air filter, Sports exhaust, Alloy wheels, Lighter flywheel, Remap.

Typical stage 2 mods often include: fuel pump upgrades, Fast road cam, Power/Sport clutch, high flow fuel injector, Ported and polished head.

Typical stage 3 mods often include: Sports gearbox, Internal engine upgrades (pistons/head/valves), Competition cam, Engine balancing, Adding or upgrading forced induction (turbo/supercharger).

Tuning tips and articles

Engine tuning Transmission tuning Care care Intake & exhaust mods Improve handling Forums

Peak power is good on competition cars but for a drivable and fun car you need a wide torque band and perhaps extending the rev range.

In this article we shall give a brief overview to the best mods for your car, but we'd encourage you to spend some time on the site looking into the details of each type of performance upgrade.Fast road cams offer one of the biggest bhp gains for your money as far as a bolt on tuning mods goes on a NA (naturally aspirated) engine.

The intake & exhaust valve durations play a large part in your cars power band, but be careful here, getting this wrong can upset the idle and make the car impossible to drive in traffic. You'd need to follow a cam upgrade with other mods and finish with a reflashed ECU to fully realise your gains.

Don't forget to pay attention to the fuelling when you are increasing the power - it makes the car more thirsty.

If you find you experience flat spots and surges after your uprated parts you should check the fuelling and try a higher octane fuel as well. To get sufficient fuel you may need to uprate the injectors on your engine.

If you are increasing your fuelling with bigger injectors you will also need to get a bigger fuel pump to supply it.

OEM replacement turbos will give better power and performance characteristics. We recommend a ball bearing based turbo for their resilience and fast spooling nature. Another option is to go with a conversion to a larger turbo. The GT-RS turbo is a start performer with  a Garrett GT28 compressor.

Utilising components from the R33 skyline and a range of tuning parts from HKS, Blitz and Boss you will hit higher power figures approaching 400bhp.

S15 Intake and Exhaust Tuning.

Breathing mods should also be high up on your list of modifications. We would suggest a BOSS stainless steel manifold and a HKS muffler on the rear. (The Dragger makes a good sound but we have seen the best power gains from a HKS hyper muffler.)

Now we move on to the intake and exhaust and ensure proper flow through the engine. Induction kits only help to increase performance if your air intake is struggling! Adding an induction kit to most standard engines will see NO LOW END POWER GAIN AT ALL. If you have heavily modified your engine and it's need for air INCREASES DRAMATICALLY then an induction kit is the answer and will help remove this restriction.

Maximum power gains come from a full induction kit with a cold air feed on heavily tuned engines, this can be sited within an air box but a performance panel filter should suffice for most applications. TorqueCars suggest you use a panel air filter as these are easy to clean and maintain and generally perform better than paper ones.

Sports exhausts can usually air flow through 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 around 2.5 inches to maximise flow rates, and this should take into account the amount of air your engine is moving.

Getting a professionally ported and polished head with larger valves can fully release the engines power. In nearly all cases of S15 tuning your clutch will start to suffer and this should be improved - read our guide on clutches for more information. The best mods that we recommend for your S15 are Remapping or piggy back ecu, fast road cam and air intake and exhaust.

Turbo engines are just begging to be flashed. You will see significant power gains on most modern turbocharged cars including diesels making a tune/remap one of the most cost effective and significant modifications for your money.Adding forced induction will see impressive power gains but this is usually too expensive to be cost effective. Superchargers are generally easier to add than a turbo. With a turbo the power curve is related exponentially to the engine speed making it difficult to map fuelling with.

Superchargers however will give a boost which is correlating to engine speed so is easier to map. To cope with forced induction you will usually need to decrease the engines compression ratio .


Addition of a fast road cams, say 250-260 degrees (not a race spec one) will lift power even further and it is entirely possible to hit 400bhp with this selection of modifications.

Uprating the clutch becomes vital as soon as power rises above 250-300 bhp.

An intercooler will increase the efficiency of the forced induction side of the engine.

You will also benefit from a boost controller and turbo actuator. For competition use heat can be a problem so get a good quality oil cool such as the Blitz oil coolers.

A tune/remap will help to lift power to much higher levels but this is best left to last and we would certainly recommend a custom remap.

Silvia S15 Alloy wheel upgrades.

The benefits of alloys include lowering your unsprung weight and more efficient brake cooling via the extra air flow they allow. We can't go into too much detail here about tires but they are how the car puts the power down on the road so are a critical choice. soft compound tires work well on S15, and make a big difference over budget tires. We'd like to point out although they can look cool on the S15 large alloy wheels will actually decrease your performance. The larger you go the lower your acceleration will be - this to the change in your effective final drive ratio.

For this reason we would advise sticking to a maximum wheel size of 18 inches, although we know some of our members have gone larger than this with no problems.

If you would like to know more, or just get some friendly advice on Tuning your car please join us in our friendly forum where you can discuss S15 options in more detail with our S15 owners. It would also be worth reading our unbiased Nissan tuning articles to get a full grasp of the benefits and drawbacks of each modification.

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Please join us in our forum to discuss the S15 tuning options in more detail with our S15 owners. We also have quite a few drifters, so you will be able to discuss technique and drift specific mods in our drift forum. It would also be worth reading our tuning articles to get a full grasp of the pros and cons of each type of modification.

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