Nissan VQ30DET Tuning

"All you need to know about tuning the Nissan VQ30DET engine!"

In this article we review and look at VQ30DET tuning and highlight the premier modifications. Nissan VQ30DET are popular tuning projects and with a few sensible motorsport tuning mods like a remap, turbo kits and camshafts you will really improve your driving fun.

The race version of this engine was a twin turbo and made around 473hp showing what this 3.0 VQ engine is actually capable of with the right parts, so let's look into this engine and see what can be done to raise the power and which parts would work best on it.

First up let's look at the history and specs of this engine, which differed according to year and region.

History, Power & Specs of the VQ30DET Engine

  • 270 PS (199 kW; 266 hp) and 271 lbft (367 Nm)
  •  280 PS (206 kW; 276 hp) at 6000 rpm and 285 lbft (386 Nm) at 3600 rpm '89 onwards

You will find the VQ30DET in the following car models

  • 1995–2004 Nissan Gloria Y33,Y34
  • 1995–2004 Nissan Cedric Y33,Y34
  • 1997–1999 Nissan Leopard Y33
  • 1996–2001 Nissan Cima Y33
  • 2001–2007 Nissan Cima F50

Tuning the Nissan VQ30DET and best VQ30DET performance parts.

Best VQ30DET modifications

The optimum VQ30DET parts on an engine are obviously the ones that give the best value for money.

We won't be swayed by popular VQ30DET parts, they need to be cost effective.


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Best Engine Mods for your VQ30DET

    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.

VQ30DET Tuning Stages

Typical stage 1 mods often include:
Intake manifolds, Panel air filters, drilled & smoothed airbox, Fast road camshaft, Remaps/piggy back ECU, Sports exhaust header/manifold.

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

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

VQ30DET Performance Cams

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

Fast road camshafts normally raise the power through the rev range, you may sacrifice a little low end bhp but your top end will be higher.

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

On a typical daily driver it makes a lot of sense to optimize your torque band to your preferences.

You'll never have ever asserted that a VQ30DET Motorsport and race 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 VQ30DET engines respond better to extreme camshaft durations than others.

The ecu map and injectors and fuel pump also have an effect on the power gains you'll make.

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.

Plan your options and then find your modifications and set yourself a power target to void expensive mistakes.

Remaps allows a tuner to release the full potential of all the upgrades you've done to your VQ30DET.

(In some cases, as this one, 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.)

Some of our members have used the following aftermarket ECU's to good effect in their projects. You'll generally find harnesses available now for most of the aftermarket ECU options for these engines.

      • LINK G4X
      • Megasquirt
      • Apexi
      • Syvecs
      • Haltech Elite 1000/1500
      • IMPUL Hi Power

An aftermarket ECU is harder to setup and requires some specialist knowledge of your engine and parts you've fitted, but gives better performance and helps you optimize the timing and fuelling to a fine degree of accuracy - we suggest you go for the Link G4+ (or a G4 with an external knock control unit) or the better but more expensive Syvecs ECU (the upgraded data logging feature is extremely useful)

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 your mileage usually differs on the upgrades you've fitted and the condition of your engine.

It is vital to any engine tuning task to feed air into the VQ30DET engine

The intake plenum take the air during the suck phase from the air cleaner and allow it to be drawn into the engine and mixed with fuel.

Shape and flow rate of the Air Intake manifolds can make a big difference to fuel delivery on the VQ30DET.

Most manifolds are needing performance upgrades, although some manufacturers provide decently flowing headers.

Fitting big valve kits, doing a bit of port work and head flowing will also raise torque, and as an added benefit will give you a better torque increase on other upgrades.

VQ30DET 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 VQ30DET

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.

If an engine is turbocharged, parts are going to make more power and turbo engines already contain uprated components.

There are reliable limits for every engine, with some being extremely strong and some just sufficiently able to handle stock powerWe recommend you find these limitations and upgrade to better pistons and crank to handle the power.

There are many guys spending a a stack of money on turbo charger upgrades on the VQ30DET only to suffer the indignity of watching the VQ30DET literally blow up on it's first outing after it's been completed.

Large capacity turbo chargers will usually experience a bottom end lag, and small turbo chargers spool up much more quickly but do not have the peak end engines power gains.

In recent times the market of turbos is always developing and we are seeing variable vane turbos, allowing the vane profile 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 feed these at differently designed vanes in the turbo. They also boost the scavenging effect of the engine.

It is not unusual that there's a restriction in the air flow sensor AFM/MAP on the VQ30DET when a lot more air is being sucked into the engine.

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

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


You will need to ensure that the engine is not starved of fuel so will have to pay attention to the fuelling when you start going beyond 20% of a bhp and torque increase. We strongly recommend you to be generous with your flow rate on the injectors.

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

All the following flywheel power targets will assume an injector duty cycle of 80% and a base of 58psi of fuel pressure at idle.

6 Cylinder NA (naturally aspirated) engines

      • 58 PSI 189cc/min 200hp
      • 58 PSI 284cc/min 300hp
      • 58 PSI 378cc/min 400hp
      • 58 PSI 568cc/min 600hp

6 Cylinder turbocharged engines

      • 58 PSI 227cc/min 200hp
      • 58 PSI 341cc/min 300hp
      • 58 PSI 454cc/min 400hp
      • 58 PSI 682cc/min 600hp

VQ30DET Performance Exhausts

Only look to improve your exhaust if the current exhaust is actually causing a restriction in flow.

On most factory exhausts you'll see your flow rate is 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 can usually air flow from 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 2.5 inches for best results.

Usual exhaust restrictions are in the catalyst installed, so adding a better 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 VQ30DET

The VQ30DET 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.

Keep an eye on the oil consumption, piston ring and cylinder wear is exacerbated by poor quality fuel resulting in blow by.

Exhaust cam cover wear and failure can result in rough idling.

Regular oil changes are vital on the VQ30DET, 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 VQ30DET engine please join us in our car forums where you can discuss VQ30DET tuning options in more detail with our VQ30DET owners. It would also be worth reading our unbiased Nissan tuning articles to get insights into each modification and how effective they will be for your car.

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