Modding tuning and best performance upgrades on the GM ECOtec engine!

Tuning guide "ECOtec Modifications"

ECOtec Modifications Guide

How to modify and upgrade the GM ECOtec

"Comprehensive guide to performance tuning the GM ECOtec engine!"

Forums like the one at TorqueCars are regularly seeing threads about how to improve the ECOtec from people wanting to know what are the things tuners are recommending when it comes to ECOtec modifications. So let us look into GM ECOtec parts and outline the best modifications on this great engine and point out some potential pitfalls along the way.

The GM ECOtec are awesome to work on and with the best tuning enhancements like remaps, turbo improvements and camshafts you will noticeably maximize your driving enjoyment.

In this article we review ECOtec tuning and outline the best modifications.

The optimum ECOtec upgrades on an engine are usually the ones that give the biggest return for your money.

We won't be swayed by popular ECOtec upgrades, they need to be cost effective.

ECOtec induction kits

Improving air intake on the ECOtec

You need air and fuel for an engine to work. If there is little supply of fuel then it will run lean, if there is not enough air it runs rich resulting in lost power . We'll pick up on fuelling later in this article but for now we shall look at air supply.

So the fundamental goal to any performance tuning project to get air and fuel into your ECOtec but this has a knock on effect with the air flow sensor.

It is common that there is a limitation in the air flow sensor MAP/MAF/AFM on the ECOtec 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 sapped torque at a much lower level.

Intake manifolds take the on the suck phase from the filter and allow it to be pulled into the engine and mixed with fuel.

The bore size, shape and flow characteristics of the Air Intake manifolds can make a noticeable effect on to fuel atomisation on the ECOtec.

Many mass produced engine intake manifold are ripe for an upgrade, although some manufacturers provide reasonably well designed intake manifold.

Increasing the ECOtec valve size, doing some port matching and head flowing will also raise torque, the fantastic side effect is it will give you increasing the torque increase on other tuning mods.

ECOtec performance cam tips.

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

The map and injectors and fuel pump also have an effect on the power gains you'll hit.

Extending exhaust or intake durations can alter the power 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.

Altering your ECOtec camshaft will make a dramatic difference to the engine power band. Choosing a higher performance camshaft profile raises the power band accordingly.

NB: Fast road cams normally increase the performance throughout the rev range, you might lose a little low end power but the top end will be better.

Competition cams, increase the top end band but as a result the car will not idle smoothly and low end power nearly always suffers.

A Race cam makes it harder when driving in heavy traffic.

You should ideally match your engines power to your typical driving style so for a road car stick with a fast road ECOtec cam

Stage 1, 2 and 3 mods for the ECOtec

Before we break the best tuning upgrades down into stages of tune, let's list the most effective tuning upgrades for you.

  1. Suspension Upgrades - always improve your cars handling
  2. Brake Upgrades - Even before adding power improve those brakes
  3. Intake - make sure the intake is not restricted, use filters and intake upgrades to improve this
  4. Exhaust - as with 3 ensure there is not restriction in the exhaust, cats are the usual bottleneck
  5. Tunes - remapping, piggyback ECU's and aftermarket ECU's can all make decent gains
  6. Fuelling - when you've increased power you'll need to match this with more fuel
  7. Turbo upgrades - Improving the intake with a large turbo and better flowing intercooler will be the biggest power gain you'll see (but one of the most complex).

This video guide to tuning cars is a great starting point to work from in your project.

Stage 1 ECOtec parts:

Fast road camshaft, Intake headers, Drilled & smoothed airbox, Remaps/piggy back ECU, Panel air filters, Sports exhaust manifold.

Stage 2 ECOtec parts:

Sports catalyst & performance exhaust, Ported and polished head, fuel pump upgrades, high flow fuel injectors, induction kit, Fast road cam.

Tuning tips and articles Engine tuning Transmission tuning Care care Intake & exhaust mods Improve handling Forums

Stage 3 ECOtec parts:

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

Review your options and then find your tuning mods and set yourself a power target to avoid wasting your time and money.

Mapping should help to release the full potential of all the parts you've done to your ECOtec.

You will typically expect to see gains of approximately 20-30% more power on turbocharged vehicles and you can expect to see around 15% on NASP engines, but your mileage usually depend much on the parts you've done and the condition of your engine.

Turbo modifications on the ECOtec

To get a turbo working on a NASP engine there is a lot involved, from lowering compression ratio to improved fuel supply and mapping, so we have found a great guide to helpavoid the common pitfalls or end up with an unfinished project because you were not told what you were getting into by doing this on the ECOtec.

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

If a car is turbocharged, upgrades are simpler to install and we find turbo engines are built with stronger components.

There are tuning limits for every engine, with some being extremely strong and some only just able to handle stock power

See where you'll find these limitations and install better quality components to utilize the power.

We see many guys spending a loads of money on turbo charger upgrades on the ECOtec only to watch the engine catastrophically fail on it's first outing after it's been enthusiastically driven.

Large turbo units tend to experience low end lag, and smaller turbo units spool up quickly but won't have the high rpm torque gains.

In recent times the choice of turbochargers is always evolving and we now see variable vane turbochargers, permitting the vane profile is altered according to speed to lower lag and increase top end performance.

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

Beefing up the air intake by adding a supercharger or additional turbo will help you achieve very large performance gains, although more complex to configure. We have this article on twincharging if you want to read more.

Tips about fuel supply on the ECOtec

Don't forget to increase the fuel delivery when you are increasing the bhp and torque - it makes the car more thirsty. Care modifiers usually say to be generous with your flow rate on the injectors.

As a rule of thumb add 15% capacity when specifying an injector, helps cope with injector deterioration and allows you some spare capacity should the engine require more fuel.

Don't forget that different fuel grades will usually require different settings, a high octane fuel will burn more efficiently than lower octane fuel for example. A car will trim fuel supply to keep within the ideal air fuel mix but at the extreme ends you may need to adjust your injector capacity, or the mapping or you'll get flat spots and potential lean or rich fuel issues..

Recommended ECOtec performance exhaust upgrades

You may need to uprate your exhaust system with an upgraded one is if the existing exhaust is actually creating a flow problem.

On most factory exhausts you should find that the flow rate is fine even on modest power gains, but on a serious tuning project with a big boost in power you will certainly need to get a better flowing exhaust.

Don't go with the widest exhaust you can buy this will slow up the exhaust flow rate - the best for power gains are usually between one and a half to two and half inches. Your exhaust design, the bend angles and construction are what have more effect on flow rates than your pipe width to a certain extent. So the exhaust design is a big factor.

Typically exhaust restrictions come around the emissions filters installed, so adding a higher flowing race alternative will help avoid this restriction.

Catalyst removal (NB:catalysts reduce harmful engine emissions) is illegal in most countries and regions.

Faults issues and things to look out for on the ECOtec

Like most engines an ECOtec, should have few issues if it gets properly serviced and looked after.

We cannot stress enough the need for oil changes with the correct grade of oil on the ECOtec, failure to do this will exacerbate engine wear, on a tuned ECOtec this is more important than ever and close attention should be paid to your maintenance schedule.

If you are interested in learning more or getting impartial tuning advice for your ECOtec why not pop over to the forums at TorqueCars where you can chat about ECOtec tuning options and read about others projects who may be planning to do similar modifications on their ECOtec.

We need your help to complete and improve this page, so do give us your feedback in the comments box below.

We want to know your experiences with tuning mods on your ECOtec, it helps us improve our tips and keeps us current so please use the comments box to drop a tip.

If you liked this page please share it with your friends, drop a link to it in your favourite forum or use the bookmarking options to save it to your social media profile.

Check out TorqueCars new YouTube channel, and see their awesome new content...


Please use our forums if you wish to ask a tuning question, and please note we do not sell parts or services, we are just an online magazine.

Help us improve, leave a suggestion or tip

Your Constructive comments on this article