Nissan VG30E Tuning

"All you need to know about performance tuning the Nissan VG30E engine!"

Now we will look at VG30E tuning and point out the best upgrades. Nissan VG30E are good project engines and with carefully picked performance upgrades like ECU maps, turbo kits and camshafts you will greatly maximize your driving fun.

History, Power & Specs of the VG30E Engine

  • 153 hp (114 kW) and 182 lbft (247 Nm)
  • 160 hp (119 kW) and 173 lbft (235 Nm)
  • 160 hp (119 kW) 182 lbft (247 Nm)

The VG30E can be found in...

  • 1984–1989 Nissan 300ZX 160 / 165 hp (119 / 123 kW)
  • 1984–1989 Nissan Laurel
  • 1985–1994 Nissan Maxima 160 hp (119 kW)
  • 1987–1988 Nissan 200SX SE
  • 1990–1992 Infiniti M30/Nissan Leopard
  • 1990–1996 Nissan Pathfinder/Nissan Terrano
  • 1992–1999 Nissan Gloria/Nissan Cedric 179 hp (133 kW)
  • 1993–1998 Nissan Quest/Mercury Villager

Tuning the Nissan VG30E and best VG30E performance parts.

Best VG30E upgrades

When talking about the greatest modifications for your VG30E engine, we are going to concentrate on the modifications that give the best power gain for you spend.

Sporty camshaft profiles raise the top end power band, which makes it a best mod for NASP and turbo petrol engines, but on diesels, we've always seen top end power gains through performance camshafts if done properly.

The cam profile plays a big part in the engines power output so cam upgrades make quite a large difference. The intake and exhaust durations will alter depending on the chosen cam profile, so large engines power gains are on offer for cam upgrades.

Fast road camshafts commonly raise the power through the rpm range, you could drop a little bottom end power but higher rpm power will be better.

Motorsport and race camshafts, raise the higher rpm power band but as a result the car will not idle smoothly and low end power nearly always suffers.

A Motorsport camshaft makes it harder 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.

You should ideally match your power band to your preferences so for a road car stick with a mild fast road VG30E camshaft

Each engine responds better to more aggressive cam durations so view each engine as unique.

The map and injectors and fuel pump also will make differences on the bhp gains you'll hit.

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

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

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

    The VG30E units respond well to mods and we're happy to report there is a lot of upgrades and tuning parts about.

    Remaps helps unlock the full potential of all the mods you've done to your VG30E.

    (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 figures achieved may rely on the mods you've fitted and the condition of your engine.

    It is vital to any engine tuning task to feed more air and fuel into each cylinder

    The intake plenum flow 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 flow characteristics of the Plenum can make a substantial change to fuel mixing and power on the VG30E.

    Many mass produced engine intake manifolds are crying out for performance upgrades, although some OEM provide fairly well optimized intake manifolds.

    Larger VG30E valves, doing a bit of 3 or 5 angle valve jobs and porting and head flowing will also increase bhp, and importantly will permit an improved bhp increase on other upgrades.

    VG30E 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 VG30E

    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 is turbo charged tuning mods are simpler to install and you'll see that turbo charged engines will have better components.

    However you'll find engines will need better parts at higher power limits.We recommend you find these limits and fit more solid crank and pistons to handle the power.

    We've seen tuners spending a lots of money on turbo upgrades on the VG30E only to experience the engine explode on it's first outing after it's used on the roads.

    Larger capacity turbo chargers will usually suffer low end lag, and little turbo chargers spool up much more quickly but won't have the peak rpm engines power gains.

    We are pleased that the market of turbos is always developing and we commonly find variable vane turbos, permitting the vane angle is altered according to speed to lower lag and increase top end bhp.

    Twin scroll turbos divert the exhaust gases into a couple of channels and flow these at differently angled vanes in the turbocharger. They also boost the scavenging effect of the engine.

    It is common that there is a limit in the air flow sensor MAP/MAF/AFM on the VG30E when considerably more air is being fed into the engine.

    Going up you'll find 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 performance gains, although more challenging to setup. We have this article on twincharging if you want to read more.


    Don't omit to improve the fuelling when you are increasing the power - it makes the car more thirsty. We would recommend you to be generous with your flow rate on the injectors.

    The accepted safe increase is to add 20% to the flow rate 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.

    VG30E Performance Exhausts

    You may need to replace your exhaust if the current exhaust is actually causing a restriction.

    On most factory exhausts you'll find your flow rate is still 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 generally help improve air flow out of the engine but avoid an exhaust that is too large or you could very well end up with a reduced flow rate. So generally speaking, keep to 1.5 to 2.5 inches as a rule of thumb.

    Usual exhaust restrictions are traced to the catalyst installed, so adding a higher 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 VG30E

    The VG30E 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 VG30E, 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 VG30E engine please join us in our friendly
    where you can discuss with our VG30E 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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