Nissan VG33ER Tuning

"All you need to know about performance tuning the Nissan VG33ER engine!"

The VG33ER, the supercharged variant of Nissan's robust VG series engines, presents an intriguing opportunity for tuning enthusiasts looking to significantly boost power output.

Building upon the proven strategies used for VG33E upgrades and adapting these to the VG33ER with its factory supercharger setup can result in an impressive increase in performance, potentially easily pushing  beyond the 250 horsepower mark.

One engine that keeps cropping up in emails and questions we get sent, is the VG33ER, so we've created an article to take you through what we feel are the main modifications that you should tune and outline which modifications we feel are the best. Please share  your own experiences in the comments section.

We shall look into VG33ER tuning and report on the best mods that work. Nissan VG33ER make awesome project engines and with carefully chosen modified enhancements like remapping, turbo upgrades and camshafts you will really improve your driving fun.

History, Power & Specs of the VG33ER Engine

This is a supercharged version of the VG33

210 hp (157 kW) at 4,800 rpm with 246 lbft (334 Nm) of torque at 2,800 rpm.


  • 2001–2004 Nissan Frontier SC
  • 2002–2004 Nissan Xterra SC

Tuning the Nissan VG33ER and best VG33ER performance parts.

Best VG33ER parts

When talking about the ultimate modifications for your VG33ER engine, we are going to concentrate on the modifications that give the best value for money.

Altering your VG33ER camshaft will make a dramatic difference to the engine engines power. Choosing a higher performance camshaft profile raises the engines power accordingly.

Fast road camshafts commonly bump the performance across the rpm range, you could sacrifice a little bottom end power but the higher rpm power will improve.

Competition camshafts, bump 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 driving in heavy traffic. The low end idle will be very lumpy and irregular, so something you would notice on a track when you drive in the upper third of the rpm band, but on roads this is a serious issue and we've heard from lots of drivers lamenting their decision to add an extreme competition cam profile to their engine.

You should ideally match your bhp range to your driving style so for a typical daily driver stick with a fast road VG33ER camshaft

Different VG33ER engines respond better to more or less aggressive cam durations check your engine on a rolling road.

Upgrading the VG33ER to a 3.4-liter displacement with a refined supercharging setup represents a substantial commitment

Similar to the VG33E upgrade, the process for enhancing the VG33ER begins with increasing the engine displacement to 3.4 liters. This involves several key modifications:

  • Piston Upgrade: Utilizing pistons from the VH45DE engine, specifically 1 mm oversized Q45 pistons, is crucial. This change not only increases the displacement but also raises the compression ratio from around 8.9:1 to approximately 9.7:1. Higher compression is vital for improving the efficiency and power output of the engine, particularly when combined with forced induction.
  • Engine Boring and Notching: The engine block must be bored to fit the larger pistons, and the pistons should be notched to accommodate valve movements, ensuring there are no clearance issues during operation.
  • Performance Cams and Valve Train: Upgrading to performance camshafts will help in optimizing the valve timing, which is crucial for managing the greater air flow needs of a larger, supercharged engine.
  • Head Work and Porting: Modifying the cylinder heads and performing porting work will significantly improve air intake and exhaust flow, which is essential for both naturally aspirated and supercharged engines.
  • Upgraded Intake and Exhaust Systems: An efficient, high-flow intake system and a less restrictive exhaust system will help the supercharged engine breathe better, essential for maximizing the benefits of the increased displacement and compression.
  • ECU Tuning: Custom tuning of an aftermarket ECU is crucial in managing the complex dynamics of a modified, supercharged engine. Proper tuning ensures that the engine runs smoothly and efficiently, optimizing the fuel and ignition maps for the increased air and fuel flow.

The map and fuelling also will say much on the power gains you'll get.

A longer valve duration can alter the power 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 superchargers (replacement or pulley swaps) - forced induction gains are 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:
Fast road camshaft, Panel air filters, drilled & smoothed airbox, Remaps/piggy back ECU, Intake manifolds, Sports exhaust header/manifold Supercharger pully swaps

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

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

The VG33ER engines make great tuning projects and we see that there are plenty of modifications and tuning parts about.

Mapping or ECU tunes should help to fully realize the full potential of all the modifications you've done to your VG33ER and as with most Nissans you need to go the aftermarket ECU route for best results.

It will usually give you around 30% more power on supercharged vehicles, but figures achieved often rely on the modifications you've carried out and the condition of your engine and the need to match fuel and air is often the limiting factor.

1. Haltech Elite Series

Haltech’s Elite series, particularly the Elite 2500, is well-suited for complex engine configurations like the supercharged VG33ER.

It offers sophisticated control over all necessary engine parameters, including boost control, which is vital for supercharged engines. The ECU also features comprehensive data logging, which is invaluable for fine-tuning and diagnosing any issues that might arise during operation.

2. Link G4+ Series

The Link G4+ ECUs, such as the Storm or the Xtreme, are excellent choices for managing modified engines.

These units provide robust control over fueling, ignition, and boost, along with real-time tuning and data analysis capabilities. Their user-friendly interface and wide range of tuning options make them ideal for custom setups in performance vehicles.

3. AEM Infinity Series

The AEM Infinity ECU offers high-end engine management and is known for its ability to seamlessly integrate with a variety of engine types, including those with superchargers.

It provides precise control over boost and supports direct fuel injection control, making it a strong candidate for the VG33ER, especially in highly modified scenarios.

4. Megasquirt MS3Pro

Megasquirt’s MS3Pro is a versatile ECU that can be a cost-effective solution for those who are comfortable with a more hands-on approach to their engine management.

It supports electronic boost control and has extensive customization options, which are beneficial for tuning a supercharged engine like the VG33ER.

It is the whole point to any engine performance tuning job to push air into the VG33ER engine

Intake carry the air from the filter and allow it to be fed into the engine cylinders.

Design and flow characteristics of the Intake manifolds can make a large effect on to fuel delivery on the VG33ER.

Many mass produced engine air intake manifolds are in dire need of performance upgrades, although some OEM provide decently flowing air intake manifolds.

Increasing the VG33ER valve size, carrying out port matching and head flowing will also boost bhp, & importantly will afford you raising the bhp increase on other mods.

VG33ER Turbo upgrades

Supercharger Considerations

Given the factory supercharger in the VG33ER, further modifications can enhance its output:

  • Supercharger Upgrade: The stock M62 supercharger might be adequate for initial upgrades, but for those seeking maximum performance, upgrading to a larger M90 supercharger, if adaptable, would provide a significant boost. This larger supercharger matches better with the increased displacement and airflow requirements of the 3.4-liter engine.
  • Pully upgrades: altering the pully size will cause the supercharger to spool up at higher speeds and the smaller pully will effectively improve the gearing so makes a simple upgrade and decent bump in power.
  • Intercooling and Boost Management: Improving the intercooler setup ()and precisely managing boost levels will be critical in maintaining engine integrity and performance under higher loads.

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

However most engines will have power limits.Discover these restrictions and fit more solid crank and pistons to cope with the power.

We see many car owners spending a fortune on turbo upgrades on the VG33ER only to see the whole thing literally blow up soon after it's completed.

Bigger turbo units often experience low end lag, and low capacity turbo units spool up more quickly but do not have the high rpm engines power gains.

Thanks to new tech the world of turbo units is always developing and we are seeing variable vane turbo units, allowing the vane angle is altered according to speed to lower lag and increase top end performance.

Twin scroll turbo units divert the exhaust gases into 2 channels and feed these at differently angled vanes in the turbocharger. They also help the scavenging effect of the engine.

It is common that there's a limit in the air flow sensor (AFM/MAF/MAP) on the VG33ER when considerably more air is being drawn into the engine.

We note 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 torque gains, although more difficult to get working. We have this in depth look at twinchargers if you want to read more.


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

More bhp needs more fuel. It is important to over specify your flow rate on the injectors.

As a rule of thumb add another 20% when buying an injector, this accounts for injector deterioration and allows 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.

VG33ER Performance Exhausts

Only look to uprate your exhaust if your current exhaust is actually creating a restriction in flow.

On most factory exhausts you'll find your flow rate is fine even on modest power gains, but when you start pushing up the power levels you will need to get a better flowing exhaust.

Note that with the biggest exhaust you can buy this will slow up 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 catalyst and filters installed, so adding a higher flowing performance catalyst removes the restriction. We note that performance cats perform similarly to decats and have the added benefit of keeping your car street legal, as decats or catalyst removal is illegal in most territories for road going cars.

Weak spots, Issues & problem areas on the VG33ER

The VG33ER 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 VG33ER, 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 VG33ER engine please join us in our car forums where you can discuss with our VG33ER owners. It would also be worth reading our unbiased articles to get a full grasp of the benefits and drawbacks of each modification.

Please help us improve these tips by sending us your feedback in the comments box below.

We love to hear what our visitors have got up to and which tuning mods 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 VG33ER tuning guides which get regular updates and revisions.

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