Nissan VG20E Tuning

"All you need to know about performance tuning the Nissan VG20E engine!"

The Nissan VG20E make awesome project engines and with the best modified parts like ECU maps, turbo improvements and camshafts you will maximize your driving pleasure.

Let us consider VG20E tuning and show the greatest mods that work.

History, Power & Specs of the VG20E Engine

115 PS (85 kW; 113 hp) and 125 PS (92 kW; 123 hp)

  • 1983–1987 Nissan Gloria/Nissan Cedric Y30
  • 1987–1999 Nissan Gloria/Nissan Cedric Wagon/Van Y30
  • 1986-1988 Nissan Bluebird Maxima U11
  • 1986-1992 Nissan Leopard F31
  • 1987–2002 Nissan Gloria/Nissan Cedric Y31
  • 1991–1995 Nissan Gloria/Nissan Cedric Y32
  • 1996–2002 Nissan Gloria/Nissan Cedric Y33
  • 1997-1999 Nissan Leopard JY33

Tuning the Nissan VG20E and best VG20E performance parts.

Best VG20E upgrades

When talking about the best modifications for your VG20E engine, we are going to concentrate on the upgrades that give the best power gain for you spend.

Getting a fast road cam helps you to make more peak power, and we generally recommend this as a primary mod on petrol engines, and secondary on Diesels to a remap.

Altering your VG20E camshaft will make a dramatic difference to the engine torque. Choosing a higher performance camshaft profile raises the torque accordingly.

Fast road cams tend to increase the power through the rpm band, you may sacrifice a little low down torque but top end will be lifted.

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

For a car driven daily you'll need to match your bhp range to your driving style.

I would be surprised if you find a VG20E Motorsport and race cam is a pleasure to live with when on the daily commute, because the lumpy idle will make the car prone to stall and smooth driving at low rpm becomes impossible. If you are developing a track car this doesn't matter as you are in the high end of your RPM range anyway and that is where you want the power to be.

Each engine responds better to more aggressive camshaft durations check your engine on a rolling road.

The ecu map and fuelling also have a large bearing on the bhp gains you'll achieve.

A longer valve duration 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.

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

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

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

    Plan your options and then acquire your modifications and set yourself a power target to void expensive mistakes.

    Mapping helps release the full potential of all the upgrades you've done to your VG20E.

    (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 mileage usually differs on the upgrades you've done and the condition of your engine.

    Feeding fuel and air into each cylinder is the main goal to any engine upgrade job.

    Air Intake manifolds carry the air from the filter and allow it to be pulled into the engine cylinders with fuel for the squish phase.

    The shape and rate of flow of the Intake manifold can make a substantial difference to fuel engine efficiency on the VG20E.

    I usually find air intake manifolds are begging for performance upgrades, although a few makers provide reasonably well designed air intake manifolds.

    Adding a VG20E larger valve kit, getting port matching and head flowing will also lift bhp and torque, & importantly will allow you to get raising the bhp and torque increase on other parts.

    VG20E 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 VG20E

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

    If the engine is turbocharged, upgrades are going to net you a larger power gain and you'll see that turbocharged engines are made with stronger components.

    However you'll find engines have weakspots.It is important to find these limitations and upgrade to better pistons and crank to utilize the power.

    We see many tuners spending a lots of money on turbo upgrades on the VG20E only to suffer the indignity of watching the car catastrophically fail on it's first outing after it's been completed.

    Big capacity turbos will usually experience low end lag, and smaller turbos spool up much more quickly but do not have the peak rpm bhp gains.

    Thankfully the world of turbochargers is always developing and we commonly find variable vane turbochargers, permitting the vane angle is altered according to speed to lower lag and increase top end power.

    Twin scroll turbochargers divert the exhaust flow into two channels and feed these at differently angled vanes in the turbo. They also help the scavenging effect of the engine.

    It is not unusual that there's a restriction in the air flow sensor (AFM/MAF/MAP) on the VG20E when loads more air is being fed into the engine.

    We see 4 bar air sensors coping with quite large power gains, whereas the OEM air sensor sapped torque at a much lower level.

    Adding a supercharger or additional turbo will make large bhp gains, although more challenging to get working. We have this guide to twinchargers if you want to read more.


    When you raise the performance you will need to uprate to the fuel delivery.

    More performance needs more fuel. It makes sense to be generous with your flow rate on the injectors.

    The accepted safe increase is to add 20% to the flow rate when specifying an injector, helps cope with injector deterioration and allows 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.

    VG20E Performance Exhausts

    Only look to uprate your exhaust if the current exhaust is actually causing a restriction.

    On most factory exhausts you'll find 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.

    Don't go with the largest exhaust you can buy this will reduce 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.

    Typically exhaust restrictions are in the filters 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 VG20E

    The VG20E 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 VG20E, 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 VG20E engine please join us in our friendly
    where you can discuss with our VG20E owners. It would also be worth reading our unbiased articles to get a full grasp of the benefits and drawbacks
    of each modification.

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