Volvo B52 Tuning

"All you need to know about tuning and performance parts on the Volvo B52 engine!"

Our aim here is to detail the best approach to B52 tuning and summarise the greatest upgrades. Volvo B52 make a good tuning project and with carefully chosen modified upgrades like remapping, turbo improvements and camshafts you will positively improve your driving opportunities.

History, Power & Specs of the Engine

The B52 provided a scaleable platform which could offer a straight 4, 5 or 6 layout with minimal extra fuss. It was in production right up to 2016.

  • 1993–2002 B52 — 2.0 L (1,984 cc) /2.3 L (2,319 cc) / 2.4 L (2,435 cc) / 2.5 L (2,521 cc) DOHC1993–2002 B5202 — 2.0 L (1,984 cc)
    Volvo 850,
  • 1993-1997 B5252 — 2.5 L (2,521 cc)
    Volvo 850,
  • 1993–2002 B5204 — 2.0 L (1,984 cc)
    Volvo 850,
  • 1993–2002 B5234 — 2.3 L (2,319 cc)
    Volvo 850, Volvo S60, Volvo S70, Volvo V70, Volvo C70
  • 1998–2009 B5244 — 2.4 L (2,435 cc)
  • 1993– B5254 — 2.5 L (2,521 cc)

Tuning the Volvo B52 and best B52 performance parts.

Best B52 modifications

The best B52 tuning mods on an engine are sensibly the ones that give the biggest return for your cash.

We won't be swayed by popular B52 tuning mods, they need to be cost effective.

Significant gains on the B52 can be made from camshaft upgrades. Altering the camshaft profile alters the intake and exhaust durations on the engine and can dramatically change the bhp and power output.

Fast road camshafts commonly bump the torque throughout the rev range, you may lose a little low end power but your high end rpm power will be higher.

Race camshafts, bump the high end rpm power band but as a result the car will not idle smoothly and low end power nearly always suffers.

A Motorsport and race camshaft won't do well if in heavy traffic.

You should ideally match your engines power to your driving style so for a road car stick with a shorter duration B52 camshaft

Different B52 engines respond better to extreme camshaft durations than others.

The ECU mapping and fuelling also have an effect on the bhp gains you'll achieve.

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.

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Best Engine Mods for your car

  1. Mapping - 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: Fast road camshaft, drilled & smoothed airboxPanel air filters, Intake manifolds, Sports exhaust header/manifold, Remaps/piggy back ECU.

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

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

The B52 engines are great to work on and we're finding that there is a growing number of modifications and tuning parts out there.

remap helps to establish the full potential of all the parts you've done to your B52.

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

It is the aim to any engine upgrade project to push air into your B52

Intake manifold take the air during the suck phase from the filter and allow it to be pulled into the engine cylinders with fuel for the squish phase.

Design and rate of flow of the Intake manifolds can make a large improvement to fuel atomisation and engine efficiency on the B52.

Commonly we find the air intake manifolds are in dire need of aftermarket parts, although a few OEM provide decently flowing air intake manifolds.

Increasing the B52 valve size, doing some port work and head flowing will also boost torque, this will give you raising the torque increase on other parts.

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 B52

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

If an engine is fitted with a turbocharger mods are giving better power gains and you'll see that turbocharged engines use stronger components.

However every engines have weakspots

Discover these limits and install better quality components to cope with the power.

It's not unheard of car owners spending a lot of money on turbo upgrades on the B52 only to see the motor throw a rod just after it's been finished.

Larger capacity turbo chargers often suffer no power at low rpm, and smaller turbo chargers spool up really quickly but do not have the peak rpm power band gains.

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

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

It is not unusual that there's a restriction in the air flow sensor AFM/MAP on the B52 when considerably more air is being pulled into the engine.

You'll see that 4 bar air sensors coping with quite large power gains, whereas the OEM air sensor was restricting torque at a much lower level.

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

Fuelling

You will need to ensure that the engine is not starved of fuel so should look at the fuelling when you start extending past 20% of a power increase.It is important to be generous with your injectors flow rate.

The accepted safe increase is to add another 20% when buying an injector, which takes into account injector deterioration and provides 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.

Exhaust

Only look to replace your exhaust if the current exhaust is actually creating a restriction in flow.

On most factory exhausts you'll find the exhaust 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.

Do not go with the biggest exhaust you can source you'll reduce 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 are traced to the catalysts installed, so adding a freer 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 B52

The B52 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 B52, 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 B52 engine please join us in our friendly forum where you can discuss tuning options in more detail with our B52 owners. It would also be worth reading our unbiased tuning 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 parts 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 B52 tuning guides which get regular updates and revisions.

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