Nissan VG20ET Tuning

"All you need to know about tuning the Nissan VG20ET engine!"

The Nissan VG20ET are fantastic to work on and with the best upgrades like ECU maps, turbo improvements and camshafts you will enhance your driving opportunities.

TorqueCars will review VG20ET tuning and summarise the premier modifications.

History, Power & Specs of the VG20ET Engine

170 hp (127 kW) - itnercooled or 155 hp (116 kW)

  • 1984–1989 Nissan 200Z (Z31)
  • 1984–1989 Nissan 200ZG (Z31)
  • 1984–1989 Nissan 200ZS (Z31)
  • 1984–1989 Nissan Laurel Medallist (C32)
  • 1986–1988 Nissan Leopard (F31)
  • 1984–1990 Nissan Bluebird (PU11)

Tuning the Nissan VG20ET and best VG20ET performance parts.

Best VG20ET modifications

Just because particular mods are are common on VG20ET it doesn't mean you should fit it, so we'll concentrate on the optimum mods that will give your VG20ET the best power gain for you money.

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 VG20ET camshaft will make a dramatic difference to the engine power band. Choosing a higher performance camshaft profile raises the power band accordingly.

Fast road camshafts commonly push up the power across the rpm range, you could drop a little bottom end torque but the top end will be better.

Motorsport camshafts, push up the top end band but as a result the car will not idle smoothly and low end power nearly always suffers.

A Motorsport and race camshaft will just annoy you whilst 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.

You should ideally optimize your engines power to your preferences so for a car driven daily stick with a fast road VG20ET camshaft

Different VG20ET engines respond better to extreme cam durations so set your engine up on a rolling road.

The engine timing and fuelling also will say much on the bhp gains you'll achieve.

Altering 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.

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Best Engine Mods for your VG20ET

    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.

VG20ET Tuning Stages

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

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

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

The VG20ET power plant respond well to mods and we're happy to report there are increasing numbers of upgrades and performance parts about.

A remap helps unlock the full potential of all the upgrades you've done to your VG20ET.

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

It is the whole point to any engine performance tuning job to feed air and fuel into your VG20ET

Intake flow the air from the air filter and allow it to be drawn into the engine and mixed with fuel.

Structure and flow characteristics of the Intake can make a large difference to fuel mixing and power on the VG20ET.

Commonly we find the intake manifold are in dire need of aftermarket parts, although some car makers provide well optimised intake manifold.

Big valve conversions on the VG20ET, doing some port work and head flowing will also improve power, and more importantly will afford you raising the power increase on other parts.

VG20ET Turbo upgrades

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.

Keeping the wastegate open from longer and at lower RPM ranges will boost power and help eliminate the power surge as the turbo kicks in. Modern turbos spool up much better than the old OEM ones.

When the engine has a turbocharger upgrades are going to make more power and you will discover turbo engines are built using more solid components.

However you will find engines will need better parts at higher power limits. It is important to find these restrictions and fit higher quality crank and pistons to survive the power.

We've seen people spending a lot of money on turbocharger upgrades on the VG20ET only to suffer the indignity of watching the car literally blow up soon after it's been enthusiastically driven.

Bigger upgraded turbochargers will usually experience no power at low rpm, and smaller turbochargers spool up much more quickly but won't have the top end power band gains.

Thankfully the choice of turbo chargers is always evolving and we now see variable vane turbo chargers, where the vane profile is altered according to speed to lower lag and increase top end power.

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

You'll commonly see there's a limit in the air flow sensor MAF/MAP on the VG20ET when considerably more air is being pulled into the engine.

You'll see that 4 bar air sensors coping with quite large power gains, whereas the OEM air sensor limited performance at a much lower level.

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


Don't dismiss the need look at the fuel system when you are increasing the bhp and torque - it makes the car more thirsty. Don't forget to over specify your injectors flow rate.

As a rule of thumb add 20% to the flow rate when specifying an injector, this takes into account injector deterioration and affords you some 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.

VG20ET Performance Exhausts

You only need to uprate your exhaust if your current exhaust is creating a restriction.

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.

Sports exhausts can help increase the flow of air through the engine.

But if the exhaust is too big, ie: it's over 2.5 inches bore, you will lose much of the exhaust flow rate and end up lacking power and torque.

Typically exhaust restrictions can be located the filters installed, so adding a faster 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 VG20ET

The VG20ET 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 VG20ET, 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 VG20ET engine please join us in our friendly
where you can discuss with our VG20ET 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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