Starlet tuning

"A star performer"

The Starlet is a good car to base a tuning project on.

The Starlet Turbo is a positive gem and responds very well to tuning showing what the car is capable of.

Few cars give such good handling and sharp performance rewards for so little expenditure on modifications.

The Starlet turbo is an import only model as far as the UK goes and really is the best one you want for your tuning project but there's nothing stopping you from doing an engine swap on a non turbo variant.

A tuned/remapped ECU and fast road camshaft, will make the biggest difference overall but lets just go through the best areas to focus attention on.

Tuning tips and articles

Engine tuning Transmission tuning Care care Intake & exhaust mods Improve handling Forums


Handling/Suspension upgrades

Handling modifications are at the top of your mod list for the Starlet.

Good suspension tweaks that dramatically enhance handling for the Starlet include a couple of degrees negative camber and 1-1.5 degrees of toe in or out on the front wheels. Toe in for stability, or Toe out to improve cornering. It would also pay to improve the brakes, by adding larger discs and or higher friction pads..

We suggest that you fit modified suspension and lower the car by 27mm - 36 mm. Larger drops require arch work - especially on models already equipped with performance suspension.

Top end torque should be your overall aim with a nice fat wide peak torque band.

Engine Tuning.

This list of the stages and uprated modifications are usually fitted by our members, decide how far you want to go before you begin.

Getting the right sports upgrades for your planned usage of the car is a time and money saver. Stage 3 motor sport mods just won't work well on the road difficult in stop start traffic.

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.

Typical stage 1 mods often include: Sports exhaust, Lighter flywheel, Suspension upgrade (drop 27mm - 36 mm.), Engine Tunes/Remapping, Alloy wheels, Panel air filter.

Typical stage 2 mods often include: fuel pump upgrades, Ported and polished head, Power/Sport clutch, Fast road cam, high flow fuel injector.

Typical stage 3 mods often include: Competition cam, Engine balancing, Internal engine upgrades (pistons/head/valves), Adding or upgrading forced induction (turbo/supercharger), Sports gearbox.

Peak power is good on competition cars but for a daily driven car you need a wide power band and perhaps extending the rev range.

The whole aim of our advice is to give a little insight into the world of modifying performance parts and point you in the right direction, our forum is the place to go for detailed advice and tips on your car tuning project, the best modified upgrades and all aspects of modding cars.A fast road cam often proves to be one of the best NASP power modifications you can do from a single upgrade to your engine.

The intake & exhaust durations play a large part in your cars power band, but be careful here, getting this wrong can upset the idle and make the car hard to drive in traffic. You'd need to follow a cam upgrade with other mods and finish with a reflashed ECU for the best performance gains.

You will need to ensure that the engine is not starved of fuel so will need to look at the fuelling.

Turning our attention to the Starlets 133bhp engine we need to get a bit more power out of the top end. This should really be done in stages allowing you to decide how far to go with the next level.

A tune/remap or turbo upgrade are the logical first upgrades for large power gains on the 133bhp version.

Frequently power losses, and erratic idling after sports parts are done can usually be traced to timing or fuelling issues. Uprated injectors will enable you to supply sufficient fuel to the engine.

Uprate the fuel pump to cope with the extra fuel requirements of your tuned Starlet's uprated injectors.

To be completely frank and honest, on the more modest engine sizes you are wasting your time spending money on modifications, so if this applies to you get yourself an engine swap to the turbo and then apply the following mods.

Generally speaking the Starlet turbo is nicely setup and it only takes a few tweaks to make it a fun track day car.

Paying attention to the head you need to ensure good flow of air, so porting and polishing the head and getting it gas flowed provides a nice usable base to work from. Big valve conversions are another option and feed more air into the engine. You need to be careful that any head work matches your chosen cam profile.

Toyota Starlet Intake and Exhaust.

Breathing mods are usually next up. For small Starlet NA (naturally aspirated) engines go with a washable panel air filter and don't expect much if any of a power increase. On the turbo vehicles an induction kit will help increase power.

Sports exhausts will certainly help air flow through the engine but do not go too large. Stick to 1.5 to 2.0 inches for best results. Rather than the decat which falls foul of most emissions regulations go with a sports cat. The sports cats give a very similar gain to the decat.

In nearly all cases of serious Starlet tuning your clutch will start to slip and this needs to be uprated - read our article on clutches for more information.

NA (naturally aspirated) engines do not achieve big power gains if you tune/remap them but with turbo engines this is another story. A tuned/remapped turbo engine will give a phenomenal power gain. If you raise the boost levels too high you might suffer from knock but this can be countered with a water injection kit.

A front mounted intercooler will further benefit the engine, cooling the heat generated by compression within the turbo.

The turbo itself can be uprated either by getting a big turbo conversion and plumbing this in yourself or by getting your OEM turbo with uprated internals (known as a hybrid). In all cases get a turbo with ball bearings rather than thrust bearings as these last longer and spool up more quickly plus they last a lot longer.

The engine should be strengthened if you want to go beyond 200bhp and we would recommend cryogenic treatments as well if you are serious about having reliable power. It is a good revvy little engine and if balanced and blueprinted you can raise the red line and create a screamer of a car.

Toyota Starlet Wheel modifications.

Because alloy wheels are lighter they improve performance and they help to cool the brake disks. The downside to large alloy wheels on your Starlet is that you alter your effective final drive ratio and this will have a detrimental effect on performance. Aim to keep the overall rolling diameter of the wheel the same as supplied from the factory. In all cases we do not recommend going above 16 inches.

Weight reduction also makes quite a difference to performance and handling and we have seen some Starlets stripped out for racing.

Please join us in our forum to discuss the Starlet options in more detail with our Starlet owners. It would also be worth reading our Starlet tuning articles to get a full grasp of the pros and cons of each type of modification.

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4 Responses to “Tuning the Starlet for more bhp power and Starlet performance increase”

  1. adil says:

    Me an my cuzs did most of the stuff an we got a TD04L turbo its a 1.3 motor we lookin for it two make 200bhp or more what can we do

  2. kyle durbal says:

    hi!! this really helps i have a toyota ae111 and i just put in a starlet engine and box and i wanna get a lil more speed 😀

  3. Aiyaz Muhammed says:

    Thanks very much…my ep82 starlet just had mods allocated to it. Your information is great.

  4. Earl Thorne says:

    I have a Ep 82 with a 4e engine. I wana get more power from it. I wana race it on a 1/4 mile drag. I would like some advice.

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