Welcome you power hungry animals! If your wanting 200bhp then look no further I’m going to try my best to talk you through it! This is considered the limit on the standard engine and turbo, further tuning you’ll be looking at a bigger turbocharger!
Check Your Health
If you’re fat, how would you feel to be asked to run a marathon? Asking your engine to handle nearly double the stock boost pressure without work and additional help is just silly! So there are a few things we need to do to ensure your engine is healthy. If your engine is poorly or has issues, tuning and pushing it will only accelerate the problem and may lead to a failure!
Everyone loves free performance!
The air conditioning system on these cars is very very annoying. Not only do they sap a serious amount of power from your car, turned on or off. But the weight of the system and the rotational drag on the engine also slows you down. With the system fitted it is also a chuffing joke to get to the oil filter! So removing this system has a huge benefit for tuners as the excess space created makes space for intercoolers and filter systems!
Nothing kills acceleration more than weight. The main reason for these cars being so nippy is because they weigh less then 920kg’s! So removing additional weight is free and helps even more. Back seats, Spare Wheel, Jack, Toolkit, your Mates or Girlfriend all slow you down!
The GT Turbo’s aren't affected by this, but the Glanza V’s are so check out the guide below for removing this restriction.
So you've now removed as much weight as possible, moving on to the good bits. The 4E-FTE engine is a very tuneable little lump. It’s actually very easy to get good power gains out of them, there are many different ways to get to the same results. I’ve read lots of information on forums and other websites, talking to lots of tuners and even fellow members. Below I’m going to go through the best way in my opinion.
As on any car, putting an aftermarket exhaust system on a car is a great way to allow the engine to get rid of its waste faster and easier. Amplified on turbocharged cars, as they don’t require any kind of back pressure from an exhaust to generate more power. They just need to get rid of the waste as fast as possible. The Starlet Turbo comes with a very small diameter exhaust system that is restrictive at stock boost levels, but will become a real issue at any more boost pressure! The stock item will also be rusty, old, possibly collapsed inside, which will all restrict the engine further!
The first part of the exhaust the change is the cat-back system. It connects up to the catalytic converter just under the engines sump pan and goes all the way to the tailpipe at the back of the car. There are plenty of choices of exhausts, anything that’s 2.25” to 2.5” will be plenty big enough for the standard ct9 turbocharger.
The second part of the exhaust you should change is the catalytic converter. It bolts directly on to the side of the turbo and connects up to your cat-back exhaust system. The cat is effectively a very fine mesh to filter out harmful exhaust gases from going into the atmosphere. It’s very restrictive and removing it will see a very noticeable gain in performance. A De-Cat Downpipe replaces the entire unit with a straight through pipe.
The final part of the exhaust you need to change is the manifold. On the 4E-FTE engine the manifold is a particularly poor design in terms of tuning/flow. The ports on cylinders 2 and especially 3 are very restrictive and can result in engine failure if boost pressure is raised with this restriction in place! An easy and cheap way of removing this restriction is to grind out the restrictions down the ports. This will do the job, but it won’t flow as well as a tubular manifold. An aftermarket tubular manifold will give the exhaust gases a nice clean, smooth and direct route to the turbocharger.
Just like the exhaust system, the standard intake system is again, very restrictive. The standard route comes off the hot turbo, up and straight over the red hot exhaust manifold, down the side of the hot engine and to a sealed air box at the back of the engine bay! Not an ideal route for performance!
Relocating the air filter to in front of the radiator is an excellent place to allow fresh air to get into your turbocharger! This will require removal of your air conditioning system however! We have a guide on how to relocate your air filter in our wiki section for less than £30!
To stop debris going into the turbocharger, another option is to simply use mesh as a filtration system. This is a very cheap and probably the least restrictive way for an intake setup. There is also a guide in our wiki section on how to do this!
When the air has been compressed by the turbocharger, the air is very hot and passes through the tiny top mounted intercooler core before going into the engine. The standard top mounted intercooler does a very good job at the standard boost pressure, but again when we are planning on raising the boost pressure level and tuning the car it soon becomes a limiting factor.
A front mounted intercooler is the best way to fix this issue. Relocates the intercooler system to the front of the car where the cold air is. The colder the charge temperatures of the air going into the engine, the much denser the air will be (more oxygen). The more oxygen the bigger bang you’ll get inside the cylinders and therefore resulting in more power.
Now we have freed off the flow of air and gasses in and out of our engine, we need to ensure the Ignition & Fuel system is up to the job!
The stock fuel pump can flow enough fuel to reach more power, however being as old as these cars are, means they are getting on a bit! A direct fitment Walbro 255lph uprated fuel pump kit is a very wise investment. They will provide a stable fuel flow for over 350bhp on these cars, so for the stock engine and turbo its more than enough.
The stock ignition system will also most likely be just as old as the pump. The HT Leads are terrible and very small. The King Leads are usually the main culprit for these cars just starting to randomly misfire one day. Changing them is another very wise move. Spark Plugs, Distributor Cap and Rotor Arm are also worth replacing if they are showing signs of wear. There not expensive and worth it to ensure you get a perfect spark inside your engine.
The final part that I’d recommend is a vented oil catch can. The standard breather port vents into the intake system, which can sometimes lead to a build up of oil in the pipework when the boost pressure is raised. Run a line from the breather port on the rocker cover to a tank somewhere in the engine bay. This is preferred over a breather filter fitted directly onto the port on the engine. They can spit oil vapour out making an oily mess in your engine bay, especially at 1bar of boost!
At this point your car should be ready to handle the additional boost pressure, your nearly there!
To allow you to adjust your boost pressure you’re going to need to fit an adjustable turbo actuator. The turbo actuator is what controls when the wastegate port opens and closes to bleed off excess exhaust gas. This allows fine adjustment of how much boost pressure is built in the system. The stock actuator has a very soft spring inside and is not adjustable in any way. Adjusting the length of the threaded rod to change the boost pressure, lengthen the rod to lower the boost pressure, shorten the rod to raise the boost pressure.
This can also be adjusted by a Manual or Electronic Boost Controller. However a stronger adjustable actuator is always a wise investment to keep the boost pressure stable. You can use a controller with an uprated actuator!
The standard ECU on the Starlet Turbo’s have a Fuel Cut Defend system built in. This will kick in if the ECU recognizes the boost pressure going higher than 0.85Bar by cutting fuel. It’s a very violent jerk that will come as quite a shock if you’re not expecting it. When setting boost pressure remember that you will always build more boost in higher gears at higher speeds. So set your boost perfect in 4th or 5th gear at a decent speed. If you don’t hit fuel cut then, then you won’t in low gears at slower speeds.
Fuel Cut Defenders are devices which allow you to go beyond the factory fuel cut limiter by raising that limit. At this point you’re where your engine can be destroyed in minutes if you’re not VERY careful. Without excess fuel pressure and an aftermarket ECU to control your system, it’s only going to end in tears. Aftermarket ECU’s have raise the fuel cut limiter so a fuel cut defender is something I would suggest avoiding!
There are three major tried and test ways for tuning these cars with
aftermarket ECU’s. Each type have their own features and pro’s and con’s which
are listed below.
JDM Plug & Play Aftermarket ECU’s
These ECU’s are basically a stock ECU that has been opened up and fitted with
additional circuit boards to allow control over certain parameters inside the ECU. There provided by some of the major JDM tuners such as Blitz, JAM, MINEs, ZEP, TOMs and SARD.
They all tend to have the same feature lists:
- Removed or Raised Fuel Cut Limiters
- Removed 112mph Speed Limiters
- Increased Rev Limiters (Varies 8000-8300rpm)
- More Aggressive Tuned Map
There also great as they allow you to run 1-1.2bar of boost pressure without the
need to visit a rolling road or get your car remapped. To fit you simple unplug the stock ecu and reconnect the new one. Simple!
However there is a downside, because they aren’t mapped specifically for your own car and its setup. It doesn’t guarantee to be 100% perfect, they may run rich in some places in the rev range or lean in others. Usually its small amounts, but its worth getting your fueling check at a local tuners to be safe!
There not available new anymore and tend to be priced second hand between £400-£550.
Tuneable Piggyback ECU’s
By far the most popular way of tuning these cars here in the UK at the moment. G-Reddy’s range of E-Manage ECUs are readily available and offer much more adjustability then a Plug & Play ECU. These ECU’s piggyback the stock ECU and override certain parameters needed to tune the car for more boost pressure.
Plug & Play Wiring Harness’s do exist for these ECU’s but are rare, the majority come
with a bare harness that will require wiring into the stock wiring loom in your
Once wired in they also then require mapping on a rolling road by a professional tuner. They do all the same things the Plug & Play ECU’s do but the map will be custom made to work perfectly with your car and its modifications.
These are still available new, but tend to fetch between £140-£240 second hand. The ECU will need to be wired in by a professional and then a Mapping Session by a tuner which will cost between £250-300. The majority of tuners here in the UK offer packages to supply, fit and tune an E-Manage to your car for between £500-£550.
Tuneable Standalone ECU’s
The final way is by far the best way of tuning these cars. A full standalone ECU gets rid of any factory ECU and all its parameters meaning you have full control over every element of the engines tune.
This is usually considered overkill for the stock engine and turbo and the gains would be minimal at this level of power. However if you’re looking to go for a bigger turbo or engine work further down the line this would be a wise purchase.
The majority of the standalone systems on the market for these cars are not plug and play and require wiring in with the exception of the Apexi PowerFC.
These systems tend to start at the £800 mark and go up into the sky!
That’s it, if you've followed this guide you car should be producing between 190-210bhp depending on the health of your engine and turbocharger. It won’t take long for you to get used to this kind of power however and the search for more power will soon hit you. The next step will be a turbo upgrade on the stock engine. Another guide will be available soon on how to do this!
The spec of my car back when I was on the stock engine & turbo:
Blitz Access ECU
Zisco Ram Horn Manifold
Fujitsubo Power Getter Exhaust System
Toy Tuning Air Filter Relocation Kit
HDI Front Mount Intercooler
HKS Actuator @ 1.1bar
Walbro Fuel Pump Kit
Magnacore HT Leads
Irdium Spark Plugs
202.6bhp & 173.4lb-ft