Volvo D20 Tuning

"All you need to know about tuning the Volvo D20 engine!"

The Volvo D20 provide a fun base for your project and with the optimum tuning mods like ECU maps, turbo upgrades and camshafts you will maximise your driving experience. he Volvo D20 make a good tuning project and with the ultimate motorsport upgrades like ECU maps, turbo upgrades and camshafts you will positively maximise your driving enjoyment.

We were emailed us for more information on tuning and building a modified D20 and particularly which turbo upgrades work best, so this how to guide has been assembled which covers our go to parts for this engine and what we feel are the greatest value parts you can do. We shall look into D20 tuning and point out the best mods that work.

History, Power & Specs of the D20 Engine

1979–1986 D20 — 2.0 L (1,986 cc) SOHC, 50 kW (68 PS) — Volvo 240

Tuning the Volvo D20 and best D20 performance parts.

Best D20 upgrades

Just because particular upgrades are popular with D20 owners it doesn't mean it is good, we shall concentrate on the optimum upgrades that will give your D20 the biggest power gain return for your cash.

Altering your D20 cam will make a dramatic difference to the engine engines power. Choosing a higher performance cam profile raises the engines power accordingly.

Fast road cams commonly increase the bhp and torque throughout the rev band, you could sacrifice a little bottom end bhp but your high end rpm power will be lifted.

Competition cams, increase the high end 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 need to match your torque band to your cars usage.

I'd be shocked if you'd think that a D20 Motorsport camshaft 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 extreme cam durations so set your engine up on a rolling road.

The engine timing and fuelling also have an effect on the bhp gains you'll get.

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.

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 mods for your D20

  1. Remaps - A tune/remap provides the most power compared to cost, replacment ECUs, and Tuning boxes are all alternatives.
  2. Fast road Camshafts are are often the best upgrade for an engine, but they must be installed by someone who knows what they are doing and they are not always easy to source but you might find a local firm to regrind a stock camshaft.
  3. Air Induction and Performance Exhausts - Please 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. Head work - The goals of porting and flowing the head are to get air flowing into the engine while removing flow restrictions and turbulence.

D20 Tuning Stages

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

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

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

Plan your options and then acquire your parts and set yourself a power target to avoid disappointment.

ECU mapping allows a tuner to fully realize the full potential of all the parts you've done to your D20.

(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 usually rely on the parts you've applied and the condition of your engine.

Shoving more air and fuel into each cylinder is the aim to any engine tuning task.

An intake manifold will channel the air from the air filter and allow it to be sucked into the engine and mixed with fuel.

The bore size, shape and flow characteristics of the Air Intake manifolds can make a big effect on to fuel engine efficiency on the D20.

Commonly we find the intake manifolds are improved through aftermarket tuning parts, although some car makers provide decently flowing intake manifolds.

Big valve conversions on the D20, doing a bit of port work and head flowing will also increase power, & importantly will allow you to get a better power increase on other mods.

D20 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 D20

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

If the engine is fitted with a turbo modifications are giving better power gains and you'll see that turbo charged engines will have many forged and stronger components.

There are common areas of failure for every engine, with some being extremely strong and some only just able to handle stock powerIt is important to find these limitations and install more solid crank and pistons to handle the power.

We've seen drivers spending a loads of money on turbo charger upgrades on the D20 only to suffer the humiliation of seeing the whole thing go up in smoke on it's first outing after it's used on the roads.

Big capacity turbo chargers tend to experience a bottom end lag, and low capacity turbo chargers spool up quickly but won't have the peak rpm power band gains.

In recent times the choice of turbo chargers is always evolving and we commonly find variable vane turbo chargers, where the vane angle is altered according to speed to lower lag and increase top end bhp.

Twin scroll turbo chargers divert the exhaust flow into 2 channels and direct these at differently profiled vanes in the turbocharger. They also help the scavenging effect of the engine.

It is not unusual that there's a limit in the air flow sensor AFM/MAP on the D20 when considerably more air is being pulled 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 bhp and torque gains, although more complex to setup. We have this feature on twinchargers if you want to read more.


When you lift the bhp you will need to uprate to the fuel system.

More bhp needs more fuel. Most tuners we speak with say to be generous with your flow rate on the injectors.

As a rule of thumb add 20% to the flow rate when buying an injector, this takes into account injector deterioration and gives you some 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.

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

5 Cylinder turbocharged engines

      • 58 PSI 273cc/min 200hp
      • 58 PSI 409cc/min 300hp

D20 Performance Exhausts

You should look to uprate your exhaust if your current exhaust is creating a flow problem.

On most factory exhausts you should find that the flow rate is 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 increase the flow of gases through the engine.

But if your exhaust is too large, ie: it's over 2.5 inches bore, you will lose much of the flow rate and end up lacking power and torque.

Common exhaust restrictions can be traced to the emissions filters installed, so adding a freer 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 D20

The D20 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 D20, 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 D20 engine please join us in our car forums where you can discuss D20 tuning options in more detail with our D20 owners. It would also be worth reading our unbiased Volvo tuning articles to get insights into each modification and how effective they will be for your car.

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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 D20 tuning guides which get regular updates and revisions.

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