Nissan VK45DE Tuning

"All you need to know about tuning the Nissan VK45DE engine!"

One engine that keeps cropping up in emails and questions we get sent, is the VK45DE, and what parts work best on it. So this article has been assembled to cover the primary areas you should tune and outline which modifications we feel are the best.

This pages aim is review VK45DE tuning and summarise the best modifications. Nissan VK45DE are awesome to work on and with the optimum sports tuning mods like remaps, turbo kits and camshafts you will certainly improve your driving enjoyment.

History, Power & Specs of the VK45DE Engine

  • Infiniti Q45 340 hp (254 kW) (451Nm; 333 lbft) 2002–2006
  • Infiniti FX45 320 hp (239 kW) 446Nm; 329 lbft) 2003–2008
  • Infiniti M45 340 hp (254 kW)(451Nm; 333 lbft) 2003–2004
  • Infiniti M45 325 hp (242 kW) (461Nm; 340 lbft) 2006–2010
  • Nissan Fuga 450 GT 333 hp (248 kW) 461Nm; 340 lbft) 2004–2010
  • Nissan President 276 hp (206 kW) (451Nm; 333 lbft) 2003–2010

Tuning the Nissan VK45DE and best VK45DE performance parts.

Best VK45DE tuning parts

When talking about the best modifications for your VK45DE engine, we are going to focus on the modifications that give the best value for money.

Significant gains on the VK45DE can be made from cam upgrades. Altering the cam profile alters the intake and exhaust durations on the engine and can dramatically change the power band and power output.

Fast road camshafts usually push up the bhp and torque across the rev band, you might lose a little low down bhp but the top end will be higher.

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

On a daily driver you'll need to match your engines power to your usage of the car.

I'd be amazed to hear from any driver that a VK45DE Motorsport cam is a pleasure to live with 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.

Each engine responds better to different cam durations than others.

The ECU mapping and injectors and fuel pump also have an effect on the bhp gains you'll hit.

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

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

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

    Carefully think through your options and then acquire your upgrades and set yourself a power target to avoid costly mistakes.

    Mapping helps to establish the full potential of all the tuning mods you've done to your VK45DE.

    (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 the end result will vary depending on the tuning mods you've done and the condition of your engine.

    Forcing more fuel and air into each cylinder is the aim to any engine modification job.

    Intake manifold take the air from the filter and allow it to be drawn into the engine cylinders with fuel for the squish phase.

    Design and flow characteristics of the Intake can make a substantial change to fuel delivery on the VK45DE.

    Many mass produced engine plenum chambers are in dire need of an upgrade, although a few manufacturers provide decently flowing plenum chambers.

    Fitting big valve kits, carrying out VK45DE port enlargement and head flowing will also increase power, and significantly will allow you to get a better power increase on other tuning mods.

    VK45DE 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 VK45DE

    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 an engine has a turbo already fitted upgrades are giving better power gains and turbo charged engines are made with better components.

    However you'll find engines will need better parts at higher power limits.Discover these restrictions and upgrade to better quality crank and pistons to survive the power.

    We've seen mechanics spending a a stack of money on turbo upgrades on the VK45DE only to suffer the humiliation of seeing the car literally blow up on it's first outing after it's been completed.

    Big turbos commonly suffer no power at low rpm, and little turbos spool up more quickly but don't have the high rpm power band gains.

    In the last 10 years the choice of turbochargers is always evolving and we commonly find variable vane turbochargers, where 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 push these at differently profiled vanes in the turbo charger. They also improve the scavenging effect of the engine.

    It is not unusual that there's a restriction in the air flow sensor AFM/MAF on the VK45DE when considerably more air is being drawn 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 gains, although more complex to install. We have this in depth look at twinchargers if you want to read more.


    When you lift the bhp and torque you will need to ramp up to the fuel delivery.

    More bhp and torque needs more fuel. It makes sense to be generous with your injectors flow rate.

    The rule of thumb is to add 20% when fitting an injector, this accounts for injector deterioration and provides 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.

    VK45DE Performance Exhausts

    You may need to boost your exhaust if your exhaust is actually creating a restriction in flow.

    On most factory exhausts you should find that your flow rate is 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 will certainly help 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 for best results.

    Common exhaust restrictions are traced to the catalyst 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 VK45DE

    The VK45DE 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 VK45DE, 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 VK45DE engine please join us in our car forums where you can discuss with our VK45DE 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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