Nissan VQ40DE Tuning

"All you need to know about tuning the Nissan VQ40DE engine!"

The Nissan VQ40DE offer good returns when tuned and with the ultimate motorsport parts like remapping, turbo improvements and camshafts you will maximize your driving fun.

This pages aim is consider VQ40DE tuning and report on the optimum modifications for your car.

History, Power & Specs of the VQ40DE Engine

By taking the VQ35DE and increasing bore and stroke we have a 4.0 V6 engine, it boast light camshafts, variable intake and VVT and a special coating of molybolenium on the pistons.

  • Nissan Frontier (D40)
    268 hp (200 kW; 272 PS) at 5600 rpm 285 lbft (386 Nm) at 4000 rpm
  • Nissan Xterra
    271 hp (202 kW; 275 PS) at 5600 rpm 294 lbft (399 Nm) at 4000 rpm
  • Nissan Pathfinder
    269 hp (201 kW; 273 PS) at 5600 rpm 290 lbft (393 Nm) at 4000 rpm
  • Suzuki Equator
    276 hp (206 kW; 280 PS) at 5600 rpm 283 lbft (384 Nm) at 4000 rpm
  • Nissan NV1500
    270 hp (201 kW; 274 PS) at 5600 rpm 291 lbft (395 Nm) at 4000 rpm
  • Nissan NV2500 HD
    271 hp (202 kW; 275 PS) at 5600 rpm 282 lbft (382 Nm) at 4000 rpm
  • Nissan NV Passenger
    269 hp (201 kW; 273 PS) at 5600 rpm 294 lbft (399 Nm) at 4000 rpm
  • Nissan Patrol
    275 hp (205 kW; 279 PS) at 5600 rpm 291 lbft (395 Nm) at 4000 rpm

Tuning the Nissan VQ40DE and best VQ40DE performance parts.

Best VQ40DE tuning parts

Just because particular tuning mods are appear in lots of VQ40DE projects it doesn't mean you should fit it, instead we'll focus on the optimum tuning mods that will give your VQ40DE the biggest power gain return for your cash.

Significant gains on the VQ40DE 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 raise the bhp and torque through the rev range, you might lose a little low end power but your higher rpm power will be lifted.

Motorsport cams, raise the higher rpm power band but as a result the car will not idle smoothly and low end power nearly always suffers. The VQ engine started in 1994 and has appeared in top engine lists and won awards every year since then this VQ platform is V6 and capacity ranged from 2.0 to this 4.0 version.

A Motorsport cam won't do well if in heavy traffic and the light cam and profile Nissan chose on this is actually quite a good performance road compromise.

You should ideally match your torque band to your cars usage so for a typical daily driver stick with a fast road VQ40DE cam

Some VQ40DE engines respond better to less aggressive cam durations check your engine on a rolling road.

The ECU mapping and fuelling also will say much on the bhp gains you'll hit.

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.

Please watch our video which covers the 5 principles of tuning your car. Be sure to keep up with our latest YouTube content and subscribe.

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

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

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

    Plan your options and then acquire your mods and set yourself a power target to save yourself from expensive mistakes.

    ECU mapping should help to establish the full potential of all the tuning parts you've done to your VQ40DE.

    (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 outcome usually vary depending on the tuning parts you've fitted and the condition of your engine.

    Pulling more fuel and air into the VQ40DE engine is vital to any engine tuning job.

    Air Intake manifolds flow the air during the suck phase from the air filter and allow it to be pulled into the engine and mixed with fuel.

    The bore size, shape and rate of flow of the Air Intake manifolds can make a big change to fuel atomisation and engine efficiency on the VQ40DE.

    I usually find air intake manifolds are in dire need of an upgrade, although some car makers provide fairly well optimized air intake manifolds.

    Larger VQ40DE valves, doing a bit of port matching and head flowing will also boost bhp, and more importantly will make space for an improved bhp increase on other upgrades.

    VQ40DE 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 VQ40DE

    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.

    When the engine is fitted with a turbo modifications are going to net you a larger power gain and we find turbocharged engines already contain strengthened components.

    However most engines have weakspots. We recommend you find these restrictions and install forged components to utilize the power. Stock cranks on the 3.5 turbos are strong enough to handle power approaching 1000bhp so make a good option on other VQ engines.

    We see many car owners spending a loads of money on turbo upgrades on the VQ40DE only to suffer the indignity of watching the car catastrophically fail just after it's used on the roads.

    Big upgraded turbos often experience a bottom end lag, and small turbos spool up much more quickly but do not have the peak rpm engines power gains.

    In recent times the market of turbo chargers is always evolving and we now see variable vane turbo chargers, permitting the vane angle is altered according to speed to lower lag and increase top end torque.

    Twin scroll turbo chargers divert the exhaust gases into two channels and flow these at differently angled vanes in the turbo. They also boost the scavenging effect of the engine.

    It is common that there's a restriction in the air flow sensor (AFM/MAF/MAP) on the VQ40DE when a lot more air is being drawn into the engine.

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

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


    When you increase the bhp and torque you will need to uprate to the fuel system.

    More bhp and torque needs more fuel. Don't forget to over specify your injectors flow rate.

    The rule of thumb is to add another 20% when fitting an injector, this accounts for injector deterioration and affords a bit of 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

    VQ40DE Performance Exhausts

    Only look to improve your exhaust if your current exhaust is creating a flow problem.

    On most factory exhausts you'll find the 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.

    Do not go with the widest exhaust you can get you'll slow up the exhaust flow rate - the best exhausts for power gains are usually between 1.5 to 2.5 inches. It is the shape and material more than the bore size.

    Common exhaust restrictions come around the catalyst and filters 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 VQ40DE

    The VQ40DE 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.

    Regular oil changes are vital on the VQ40DE, 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 VQ40DE engine please join us in our car forums where you can discuss with our VQ40DE 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 VQ40DE tuning guides which get regular updates and revisions.

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