Nissan VG33E Tuning

"All you need to know about performance tuning the Nissan VG33E engine!"

Let us detail the best approach to VG33E tuning and provide tips on the ultimate upgrades.

Nissan VG33E have loads of potential and with the right uprated upgrades like ECU maps, turbo upgrades and camshafts you will definitely improve your driving experience.

History, Power & Specs of the VG33E Engine

  • 170 (127 or 134 kW) 266 Nm  196 lbft
  • 180 hp (127 or 134 kW) 274 Nm 202 lbft

It was fitted to ...

  • 1996–2000 Nissan Pathfinder
  • 1996–2004 Nissan Pathfinder In Australian Models
  • 2003–2006 Nissan Navara In Australian Models
  • 1997–2000 Infiniti QX4
  • 1999–2004 Nissan Frontier
  • 2000–2004 Nissan Xterra
  • 1997–2002 Nissan Elgrand

Tuning the Nissan VG33E and best VG33E performance parts.

Best VG33E upgrades

Just because particular parts are appear in lots of VG33E projects it doesn't mean its worth having, instead we will focus on the best parts that will give your VG33E the best power gain for you spend.

Performance camshafts work better at higher RPM, so are more suited to petrol engines, than diesel ones, but we've always seen top end power gains through performance camshafts on most engines.

Useful gains on the VG33E can be made from camshaft upgrades. Altering the camshaft profile alters the intake and exhaust durations on the engine and can dramatically change the torque and power output.

Fast road cams tend to increase the power through the rpm range, you may lose a little low end power but your higher rpm power will be lifted.

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

On a car used daily it makes a lot of sense to match your torque band to your cars usage.

You'll never have found a VG33E Competition cam is a pleasure to live with when driving around busy urban areas. This is because a competition cam causes a very lumpy idle, and makes the car more prone to stall or jerk along in stop start traffic, sadly though many ignore this and end up ruining a perfectly good car and having to revert back to a fast road, or OEM cam profile.

Some VG33E engines respond better to less aggressive cam durations so set your engine up on a rolling road.

The engine timing and fuel pump and injectors also have an effect on the bhp gains you'll make.

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. Mapping - 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, Intake manifolds, Remaps/piggy back ECU, Panel air filters, Fast road camshaft.

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

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

    The VG33E engines respond well to mods and we note that there is a growing number of modifications and tuning parts about.

    Mapping should help to establish the full potential of all the upgrades you've done to your VG33E.

    (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 power output usually depend much on the upgrades you've done and the condition of your engine.

    Getting air into your VG33E is the main goal to any engine upgrade task.

    The intake manifolds flow rates are important because this channels the air from the air filter and allow it to be drawn into the engine cylinders.

    Design and flow characteristics of the Intake manifold can make a large improvement to fuel engine efficiency on the VG33E.

    I usually find intake manifolds are in dire need of a performance upgrade, although a few OEM provide reasonably well designed intake manifolds.

    Adding a VG33E larger valve kit, doing a bit of port work and head flowing will also boost performance, and importantly will make space for increasing the performance increase on other modifications.

    VG33E 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 VG33E

    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 turbo charged upgrades are giving better power gains and you'll see that turbo charged engines use strengthened components.

    However every engines have limits.Research these limitations and fit higher quality components to handle the power.

    We've seen car owners spending a lot of money on turbo charger upgrades on the VG33E only to suffer the indignity of watching the engine block go up in smoke soon after it's completed.

    Bigger capacity turbochargers commonly experience no power at low rpm, and little turbochargers spool up quickly but don't have the peak rpm torque gains.

    In recent times the choice of turbo units is always evolving and we commonly find variable vane turbo units, allowing the vane angle is altered according to speed to lower lag and increase top end bhp.

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

    It is common that there's a limit in the air flow sensor AFM/MAF on the VG33E when loads more air is being pulled into the engine.

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

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

    Fuelling

    When you lift the bhp you will need to look at to the fuel delivery.

    More bhp needs more fuel. Most tuners we speak with say to over specify your injectors flow rate.

    The rule of thumb is to add 20% capacity when fitting an injector, this allows for 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.

    VG33E Performance Exhausts

    You may need to increase your exhaust if the existing exhaust is actually causing a restriction.

    On most factory exhausts you should find that your 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.

    Sports exhausts generally help improve air flow out of the engine but do not go too wide 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.

    Usual exhaust restrictions can be traced to the catalyst and filters installed, so adding a better 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 VG33E

    The VG33E 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 VG33E, 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 VG33E engine please join us in our friendly
    forum
    where you can discuss with our VG33E 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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    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 VG33E tuning guides which get regular updates and revisions.

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    One Response to “VG33E Tuning”

    1. Allen Ellis says:

      My Personal mods for tuning a car. Adjust idle to 600RPM. Add transmission cooler, Replace EGR valve, Replace spark plugs, Replace axle fluids..use synthetic oil, add octane booster to fuel.

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