Nissan VK50VE Tuning

"All you need to know about tuning the Nissan VK50VE engine!"

As many of our forum members have emailed and posted questions about the VK50VE and tips on how to modify one, so we've created an article to take you through what we feel are the main modifications that make for improvement and tuning success on this engine.

TorqueCars will review VK50VE tuning and provide tips on the premier modifications. Nissan VK50VE are fantastic to work on and with a few sensible performance upgrades like remaps, turbo improvements and camshafts you will definitely maximize your driving pleasure.

History, Power & Specs of the VK50VE Engine

390 hp (291 kW) at 6,500 rpm and 51 kg⋅m (500 Nm; 369 lbft)

Tuning the Nissan VK50VE and best VK50VE performance parts.

Best VK50VE parts

The ultimate VK50VE parts on an engine are typically the ones that give the best power gain for you spend.

We won't be swayed by popular VK50VE parts, they need to be cost effective.

Significant gains on the VK50VE can be made from camshaft upgrades. Altering the camshaft profile alters the intake and exhaust durations on the engine and can dramatically change the engines power and power output.

Fast road camshafts commonly push up the bhp and torque throughout the rpm band, you might lose a little bottom end bhp but your higher rpm power will be lifted.

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

In a road car you'll need to optimize your power band to your preferences.

I'd be shocked if you'd have found a VK50VE Competition camshaft is a pleasure to live with when in heavy traffic because low end power will be very lumpy. Competition cams are designed for maximum power at the top end of the RPM range, a place that most daily commutes will not permit!

Different VK50VE engines respond better to more or less aggressive cam durations than others.

The ECU mapping and injectors and fuel pump also will say much on the power gains you'll get.

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

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

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

    Review your options and then find your tuning mods and set yourself a power target to avoid disappointment.

    ECU mapping allows a tuner to unlock the full potential of all the mods you've done to your VK50VE.

    (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 often rely on the mods you've carried out and the condition of your engine.

    Pulling air into the VK50VE engine is the whole point to any engine performance tuning job.

    The intake manifolds take the air during the suck phase from the filter and allow it to be fed into the engine cylinders with fuel for the squish phase.

    Design and flow characteristics of the Plenum can make a noticeable change to fuel atomisation on the VK50VE.

    We often see intake manifolds are in dire need of aftermarket parts, although some OEM provide well optimised intake manifolds.

    Increasing the VK50VE valve size, getting port matching and head flowing will also improve bhp and torque, and significantly will make space for raising the bhp and torque increase on other upgrades.

    VK50VE 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 VK50VE

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

    If your car has forced induction tuning mods are going to make more power and we find turbo charged engines use stronger components.

    There are tuning limits for every engine, with some being very over engineered and some only just able to handle stock powerIt is important to find these restrictions and install more solid crank and pistons to utilize the power.

    It's not unheard of car owners spending a loads of money on turbo upgrades on the VK50VE only to see the VK50VE throw a rod on it's first outing after it's first rolling road session.

    Big turbos will usually suffer a bottom end lag, and low capacity turbos spool up much more quickly but do not have the peak end torque gains.

    In the last 10 years the world of turbochargers is always developing and we are seeing variable vane turbochargers, allowing the vane profile is altered according to speed to lower lag and increase top end bhp.

    Twin scroll turbochargers divert the exhaust flow into two 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's a limitation in the air flow sensor AFM/MAF on the VK50VE when loads 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 torque at a much lower level.

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


    When you lift the performance you will need to increase to the fuelling.

    More performance needs more fuel. It makes sense to be generous with your flow rate on the injectors.

    As a rule of thumb add 20% when specifying an injector, which takes into account injector deterioration and affords 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.

    VK50VE Performance Exhausts

    Only look to replace your exhaust if your current exhaust is actually causing a flow problem.

    On most factory exhausts you should find that your flow rate is still fine 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 equal out the flow of air through the engine.

    But if your exhaust is too big, ie: over 2.5 inches bore, you will lose a great deal of the exhaust flow rate and end up losing power and torque.

    Common exhaust restrictions are traced to the 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 VK50VE

    The VK50VE 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 VK50VE, 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 VK50VE engine please join us in our car forums where you can discuss with our VK50VE 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 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 VK50VE tuning guides which get regular updates and revisions.

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