Volvo D5204T D5204T5 Tuning

"All you need to know about performance tuning the Volvo D5204 engine!"

Here we look into D5204 tuning and outline the optimum modifications. Volvo D5204 really good project engines and with the optimum modified upgrades like a remap, turbo improvements and camshafts you will substantially increase your driving opportunities.

History, Power & Specs of the D5204 Engine

The D5204 was  a very well built diesel engine and copes well with modifications, it was not available in North America where diesels were dropped but elsewhere it has proved to be a fantastic engine.

  • 2.0D I4 148 hp D5204T5
  • 2.0D I5 175 hp D5204T

Tuning the Volvo D5204 and best D5204 performance parts.

Best D5204T T5 tuning mods

The top D5204 parts on an engine are in our opinion the ones that give the biggest return for your cash.

We won't be swayed by popular D5204 parts, they need to be cost effective.

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

Fast road camshafts usually raise the performance across the rpm band, you could sacrifice a little low end torque but the high end rpm power will be higher.

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

For a car used daily you need to match your bhp range to your preferences.

I'd be gobsmacked if you find a D5204 Motorsport and race camshaft is a pleasure to live with when in heavy traffic because low end power will be very lumpy. Competition cams are designed for maximum power at the top end of the RPM range, a place that most daily commutes will not permit!

Each engine responds better to less aggressive camshaft durations so set your engine up on a rolling road.

The map and fuel pump and injectors also have a large bearing on the torque gains you'll achieve.

A longer valve duration can alter the torque 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.
  6. Typical stage 1 mods often include:
    Remaps/piggy back ECU, drilled & smoothed airbox, Panel air filters, Fast road camshaft, Intake manifolds, Sports exhaust header/manifold.

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

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

    The D5204 engine blocks are great to work on and we note that there is a growing number of parts and tuning parts out there.

    ECU mapping should help to establish the full potential of all the tuning parts you've done to your D5204.

    (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 your mileage often depend much on the tuning parts you've done and the condition of your engine.

    Forcing more fuel and air into your D5204 is the main goal to any tuning project.

    Intake manifold carry the air from the air cleaner and allow it to be fed into the engine cylinders with fuel for the squish phase.

    Design and flow rate of the Plenum can make a substantial improvement to fuel mixing and power on the D5204.

    Most air intake manifolds are ripe for a performance upgrade, although some manufacturers provide reasonably good air intake manifolds.

    Larger D5204 valves, doing some port work and head flowing will also boost bhp and torque, and as an added benefit will allow you to get a better bhp and torque increase on other mods.

    D5204 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 D5204

    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.

    When your car is fitted with a turbo mods are giving better power gains and you will discover turbocharged engines use stronger components.

    There are weak spots for every engine, with some being extremely strong and some just sufficiently able to handle stock powerDiscover these limits and install better quality crank and pistons to survive the power.

    We see many people spending a fortune on turbocharger upgrades on the D5204 only to suffer the humiliation of seeing the car literally blow up on it's first outing after it's been completed.

    Bigger capacity turbo chargers often experience low end lag, and smaller turbo chargers spool up quickly but don't have the peak rpm power band gains.

    Thankfully the market of turbo chargers is always increasing and we now see variable vane turbo chargers, permitting the vane profile is altered according to speed to lower lag and increase top end torque.

    Twin scroll turbo chargers divert the exhaust gases into a couple of 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 MAF/MAP on the D5204 when considerably more air is being drawn into the engine.

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

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


    When you raise the power you will need to uprate to the fuel delivery.

    More power needs more fuel. It is important to be generous with your injectors flow rate.

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

    D5204 Performance Exhausts

    You may need to uprate your exhaust if the current exhaust is actually causing a restriction in flow.

    On most factory exhausts you should find that the flow rate is good 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 generally help improve air flow from the engine but avoid an exhaust that is too large or you could very well end up with a reduced flow rate. So generally speaking, keep to 1.5 to 2.5 inches as a rule of thumb.

    Usual exhaust restrictions can be located the catalysts installed, so adding a freer flowing high performance aftermarket one will improve air flow, and rather than doing an illegal decat, will keep the car road legal.

    Weak spots, Issues & problem areas on the D5204

    The D5204 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 D5204, 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 D5204 engine please join us in our car forums where you can discuss D5204 tuning options in more detail with our D5204 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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