In the late 80s, the hype that surrounded its bigger brother, the Nissan VH45DE, was unmatchable, especially for V8s during that time. This was when Japan was using the 4-cylinder engine for high fuel efficiency. So Nissan decided to make a V8 that can conquer the V6s.
It is incredibly reliable, can handle high temperatures better due to its better cooling efficiency.
The engine’s reputation grows not only as a commuter type of engine, but it also became famous for the street races during that time. We can fairly say that this engine is far ahead in its time as no other V8 engine competes apart from Toyota’s 1UZ-FE on that same year.
That powerful motor we are talking about is the Nissan VH41DE, a notable member of the VH family. We will discuss its engine design, power, applications, issues, tuning potential, aftermarket support, reliability, and many more.
What are VH41DE Engines?
The Nissan VH41DE engine is a naturally-aspirated, V8 90-degree, water-cooled gasoline engine from the automaker’s line of the engine family, VH. The engine was produced from 1989 to 2001 and first appeared on the Nissan Cima Y32.
This engine was based on the legendary V8 VH45DE. But, it has an overall narrower engine package due to the relocation of the alternator at the top of the engine, an important characteristic when planning for future engine conversions. It also uses a double row timing chain which is different from the single row timing chain of the VH45DEs.
Nissan VH41DE uses a lightweight aluminum engine block with cylinders arranged in ‘V’ at a 90-degree angle. The block is supported by a five-bearing crankshaft system and two aluminum heads with two cast camshafts, one for each, and four valves per cylinder (total of 32 valves). It also features Nissan’s Variable Valve Timing Control system (VTC) on the intake camshafts. In this electronically controlled coil-on-plug ignition system, each spark plug has its own individual coils and uses a multi-point fuel injection system.
Since 2001, VH41DE was replaced by VK45DE.
Engine Specifications and Design:
- Production Run: 1989 – 2001
- Cylinder Block Material: Aluminum
- Cylinder Head Material: Aluminum
- Configuration: V8 90 Degrees
- Bore: 93 mm
- Stroke: 76 mm
- Valvetrain: DOHC with four valves per cylinder
- Displacement: 4.1 L (4130 cc)
- Compression Ratio: 10.5
- Weight: 573 lbs.
- Max HP: 268 HP at 5,600 RPM
- Max Torque: 278 lb-ft at 4,000 RPM
The Nissan VH41DE engine block is a closed-top deck made from aluminum material supported with a crankshaft system that has five main bearings, six-bolt main bearing caps with studs, and a long core bearing girdle.
It also features low-friction molybdenum-coated pistons, which had a flat-top design with recesses for the valves, plus forged steel crankshaft and connecting rods. Its bore was retained from VH45DE’s 93 mm, a shorter stroke of 76 mm, 147 mm connecting rods, and a compression ratio of 10.5. The redline is at 6,900RPM.
The crankpin diameter is 51.97 mm, while the crankshaft journal diameter is 63.96 mm. The Nissan VH41DE engine has an aluminum oil pan, one oil control ring, and two compression rings.
Apart from the cooling properties of Aluminum, Nissan used it to reduce the weight of the engine.
The engine block is covered with two robust and lightweight aluminum double overhead cylinder heads, which have an excellent cooling efficiency. It is integrated with a variable valve timing control system on the intake camshafts.
The VH41DE has sodium-filled exhaust valves, hydraulic lash adjusters, a cross-flow cooling system, and equipped with an electronic throttle body. Included in the modification of the VH41DE from the VH45DE are an improved intake and exhaust manifold. And the camshafts are driven with a double row timing chain instead of one.
The intake valve diameter is 38 mm, while the exhaust valve diameter is 33 mm. Both the intake and exhaust duration are 248 degrees.
The VH41DE also has pentroof combustion chambers that improve the engine’s anti-knocking performance, and it also allows a faster air-fuel mix burn inside the chamber, resulting in better engine efficiency.
The VH41DE engine produces 268 HP at 5,600 RPM and 278 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 RPM.
Applications of the VH41DE Engine:
- 1991 – 1996 Nissan Cyma Y32, 266 HP, and 279 lb-ft
- 1992 – 1996 Nissan Leopard, 266 HP, and 278 lb-ft
- 1996 – 2001 Nissan Cyma Y33, 266 HP, and 277 lb-ft
- 1997 – 2001 Inifiniti Q45, 266 HP and 278 lb-ft
Engine Upgrades, Tuning, and Modifications
One of the reasons why the automotive community loves the VH41DE is its huge potential and cooperation in terms of tuning and upgrades. For a V8 engine, it seems like this engine is designed for such a platform. Mainly due to its strong internals down to the bottom end. In addition to that, the VH41DE engine has enormous aftermarket support and the VH45DE engine, making it easier to build something out of your imagination. You can customize and change it depending on your preferences.
As many of us know, standard builds for V8s are bolting in superchargers, but there are also lots of turbos builds out there if you need some ideas. With some upgrades, VH41DE is capable of producing 300 to 400 HP.
You can start by upgrading the fuel injectors, intake, headers, and valve springs.
Another thing to consider is to buy 4-2-1 headers, cold air intake, a 3-inch performance exhaust system, and adjust the ECU. It will not only add power to the engine, but it will also improve the sound of your machine. You can also increase the engine displacement to 4.5, which is the same as the VH45DE, but you need to buy a VH45DE piston and VH45DE crank; the other internal parts, such as the connecting rods, can remain.
After all these aftermarket upgrades, this can give you at least 60 HP and increase the power to 320-350 HP.
Problems Surrounding VH41DE Engines:
As much as we wanted to keep our engines in pristine condition throughout their service years, we cannot elude some factors that might affect the engine performance, reliability, and overall durability of the machine, such as age and mileage.
Issues pose a severe risk not only for the engine itself but also for us who use it because of the engine failure, and the consequences might be out of hand. That is why we are creating a precautionary list that will give you a heads up.
Contrary to the VH45DE engine, the VH41DE uses a metallic timing chain guide. Nissan addressed the issue by replacing it. This increases not only the reliability of the engine it also solves the problem that haunted the succeeding VH45DE engines.
It is also essential to use high-quality fuel all the time in this engine due to its catalytic converters. Bad gasoline restricts the machine’s optimum performance, and the ceramic dust accumulated from that will grind the cylinder walls and cause abrasion within those borders. When that happens, it will go into the oil system and eventually spread on the whole engine; the only solution is replacing it with a newer one. But you can prevent that by mounting a high-flow catalytic converter and an ECU reflash.
In addition to that, we cannot stress enough the significance of changing the oil with the recommended ones and use high-quality only, do not compromise. This regular maintenance pays off in the long run, especially on the condition of a decade-old engine like the VH41DE.
Do not forget to inspect the engine from any foreign sound or dirt regularly.
As for the remaining components, the VH41 is quite reliable and a durable engine, so you don’t have to worry much regarding them.
The VH41DE has clearly proved itself through its longevity throughout the years. Many enthusiasts use this engine as a swap option and even their first choice of powerplant. To put it simply, this engine delivers the necessary power needed; added to its hefty characteristic are its features that are ahead of its era.
It is also a good engine platform for tuning with its decent power output but at a lower cost. It has a lot to offer, after all, and its potential is not fully tapped yet.
Overall, this engine is solid, highly reliable with its strong stock internals and colossal potential; it also has immense aftermarket support, which makes it easier to deal with.
Though it has some issues and problems, it does not amount to any engine flaw design, and most are due to external factors. With the proper care and maintenance, this kind of engine can last at least 250,000 miles.
I hope that this simple discussion helped you understand the VH41DE engine’s design, power, applications, tuning potential, aftermarket support, issues, reliability, and overall impact on the industry and community.