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  • Tuners tips on "N54 tuning"

    N54 tuning Guide

    Tuning the BMW N54

    "Comprehensive guide to tuning the BMW N54 engine!"

    The BMW N54 really good project engines and with a few sensible sports upgrades like a remap, turbo improvements and camshafts you will definitely increase your driving enjoyment.

    In this article we look at N54 tuning and show the ultimate modifications.

    The top N54 modifications on an engine are in our opinion the ones that give the best value for money.

    We won't be swayed by popular N54 modifications, they need to be cost effective.

    Significant gains on the N54 can be made from cam upgrades. Altering the cam profile alters the intake and exhaust durations on the engine and can dramatically change the bhp and power output.

    NB: Fast road cams commonly raise the bhp and torque across the rpm range, you could drop a little low down power but your higher rpm power will improve.

    Motorsport and race cams, raise the higher rpm power band but as a result the car will not idle smoothly and low end power nearly always suffers.

    On a car used daily you need to optimize your bhp range to your cars usage.

    I would be surprised if you find a N54 Competition camshaft is a pleasure to live with when in heavy traffic.

    Each engine responds better to more aggressive cam durations than others.

    The map and fuelling also have an effect on the bhp gains you'll make.

    Altering 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.

    Stage 1 mods: Sports exhaust manifold, Intake headers, Fast road camshaft, Drilled & smoothed airbox, Panel air filters, Remaps/piggy back ECU.

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

    Stage 3 mods: Internal engine upgrades (head flowing porting/bigger valves), Adding or Upgrading forced induction (turbo/supercharger), Crank and Piston upgrades to alter compression, Competition cam, Twin charging conversions, Engine balancing & blueprinting.Plan your options and then acquire your parts and set yourself a power target to save yourself from expensive mistakes.

    ECU flashing helps unlock the full potential of all the tuning mods you've done to your N54.

    It will usually give around 30% more power on turbocharged vehicles and you can expect to see around 15% on NASP engines, but power output usually vary depending on the tuning mods you've applied and the condition of your engine.

    It is the whole point to any engine modification project to force fuel and air into each cylinder

    Intake manifold transmit the air from the air filter and allow it to be pulled into the engine and mixed with fuel.

    The size of bore and shape and rate of flow of the Intake manifold can make a noticeable effect on to fuel atomisation and engine efficiency on the N54.

    Commonly we find the intake manifold are improved through an upgrade, although some car makers provide fairly well optimized intake manifold.

    Fitting big valve kits, carrying out port work and head flowing will also boost bhp, and importantly will give you a better bhp increase on other tuning mods.

    Turbo upgrades

    NASP 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 N54

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

    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.

    When the engine has a turbocharger parts are going to make more power and most turbo charged engines already contain better components.There are tuning limits for every engine, with some being extremely strong and some only just able to handle stock power

    It is important to find these limits and upgrade to higher quality crank and pistons to cope with the power.

    There are many mechanics spending a lot of money on turbocharger upgrades on the N54 only to suffer the indignity of watching the car literally blow up on it's first outing after it's been completed.

    Large upgraded turbos tend to suffer low end lag, and little turbos spool up quickly but don't have the high rpm power band gains.

    In recent times the market of turbo chargers is always evolving and we commonly find variable vane turbo chargers, permitting the vane profile is altered according to speed to lower lag and increase top end power.

    Twin scroll turbo chargers divert the exhaust gases into a couple of channels and push these at differently profiled vanes in the turbo charger. They also help the scavenging effect of the engine.

    It is common that there's a limit in the air flow sensor MAP/MAF/AFM on the N54 when a lot more air is being sucked into the engine.

    Going up you'll find 4 bar air sensors coping with quite large power gains, whereas the OEM air sensor sapped performance at a much lower level.Adding a supercharger or additional turbo will make large performance gains, although harder to setup. We have this feature on twinchargers if you want to read more.

    Fuelling upgrades and mods

    You will need to ensure that the engine is not starved of fuel so must increase the fuelling when you start extending past 20% of a bhp increase.

    It is important to over specify your injector capacity.

    The rule of thumb is to add another 20% when specifying an injector, this accounts for 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.

    Exhaust upgrades and mods

    Only look to increase your exhaust if your current exhaust is actually creating a restriction.

    On most factory exhausts you'll see the 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. Don't go with the largest exhaust you can find 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.

    Typically exhaust restrictions are in the catalyst and filters installed, so adding a faster flowing performance alternative will help avoid this restriction.

    Weak spots, Issues & common problem areas on the N54

    The N54 engines, if regularly serviced and maintained, are generally very reliable and have few issues.

    Regular oil changes are vital on the N54, particularly when the engine has been modified and is putting down more power than the manufacturer intended.

    For more information on Tuning your N54 engine please join us in our friendly forum where you can discuss tuning options in more detail with our N54 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 really like hearing from our readers, and hearing about which upgrades were the most effective for them, it helps us improve our recommendations and articles to reflect current trends in modifications and ensures that our N54 guides and tips are kept up to date.

    Additional references

    Tuning the BMW N54 and best N54 performance parts.

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