NA Tuning – Getting Started

Latest News Club Forum Technical Engine, Exhaust, Transmission NA Tuning – Getting Started

This topic contains 0 replies, has 1 voice, and was last updated by  nick_scott 1 year, 1 month ago.

Viewing 1 post (of 1 total)
  • Author
  • #3875

    Registered On: 19/09/2016
    Topics: 1
    Replies: 0

    The most common question posed by a new 86/BRZ owner is how do I improve the performance of my car without going FI.

    The answer is invariably Headers + Tune.

    This leads to multiple questions about which headers? Which tuner? What’s the difference between EL and UEL? What’s the difference between Tomei and ACE? Do I need a CAI (Cold air intake)?

    The following is a collection of information I have found through independent research and Club member recommendations.

    Please take this as opinion and not fact, but hopefully it helps guide you.

    UEL vs EL

    UEL headers are unequal length. Some of the first Subaru’s to hit the AUDM came with UEL headers (Gen 1 Liberty). The design of a UEL header means that half the exhaust gases are routed down a shorter path than the other half, leading to mismatched sound and the famous ‘boxer burble’. If you want your 86/BRZ to sound like a WRX then UEL is your choice. UEL will aid somewhat in decreasing the torque dip in the 86/BRZ, but this is also dependent on your brand and tune.

    The best UEL headers to get if you are in Aus are the Tomei/PSR headers. Better JDM UEL headers can be bought for more $$$ cheaper domestic headers can be bought for less $$, an of course you get what you pay for. The PSR UEL header offers the best bang for buck(read performance vs price) if wanting UEL.

    EL headers are equal length and are more efficient. EL headers will make the boxer engine sound more like a straight six. EL headers give better top end power, again dependent on brand and tune. If wanting to build a NA track car EL is the way to go, but on the street there will be negligible difference between a UEL and EL setup (brand and tune dependent).

    The best EL headers to get if you are in Aus are the ACE CS400 which are a 4-2-1 system. The SME race headers and street headers are also good systems, both being 4-1 systems. Of course there are more expensive systems but ACE have great R&D and a ~$1500 price point. Cheaper headers may do the job but will not have the R&D of ACE, SME and JDM brands(HKS, Garage Revolution, Fujitsubo).


    If you are located in Sydney and intend to keep your car NA then it is hard to go past Ben and the guys at IXA. Results speak for themselves and IXA are responsible for some of the fastest NA track 86/BRZs in NSW. IXA also offer member prices. There are also a number of workshops who sponsor the club and offer member prices on tunes such as PVS, Tunehouse etc.

    Another option is to buy an OFT (Open Flash Tablet) and tune your car yourself. This is extremely easy with multiple YouTube videos showing you how to do it. An OFT can be bought online for about $500-600 second hand. Ensure it has been unmarried from the previous car if buying second hand.

    To CAI or not to CAI

    This is a funny topic, as I recall when I bought my first NA Subaru at 17 CAIs were all the rage, but veteran Suby owners maintained they were a waste of time and money for an NA, and they also suck in hot air. I found this to be true on the EJ engines, however with the FA20 in the 86/BRZ opinions differ.

    There are a lot of CAI options for the NA 86/BRZ, such as Injen, Greddy and Perrin. Given the price points are $500+ the majority opinion is they are not worth it. However if going down the CAI path and staying NA it is best to speak to IXA or refer to this thread

    A drop-in air filter from K&N or Apexi will do the trick with the stock air box. These can be bought for $50-80 at Supercheap or online. You can couple this with an upgraded intake hose/sound pipe delete such as this Perrin system

    Manifold spacers

    So some people run spacers on their intake manifold that increase the volume of the manifold. Crawford manufacture such a product (see:

    Do they work? Yes. Are they worth it? This depends on your budget. Yes they are cheaper than a CAI and have a bit more proof of working, but it pays to be dubious of manufacturers claims. Try to speak to someone running them before you buy. Be advised you may need another tune as well.

    You can also retrofit your 2012-2016 86/BRZ with the 2017 manifold. This will net some gains with a tune, but again at $800 it comes down to budget.


    Without going into it too much, to expect massive gains by modifying your catback/axleback is to be overly wishful. In some cases modifying the catback to a larger size can drop back pressure and make engine performance worse. I treat catbacks as a sound modification rather than a performance modification. If you do this you won’t be disappointed. Again be dubious and wary of manufacturer claims tat their catback increases power by 5kW etc.

    Heatwrap vs ceramic coating

    No question about it, ceramic coating is much better than heatwrap. But much more expensive. I’d advise some sort of heat wrap/ coating for headers, as it increases performance and keeps excess heat away from the engine bay.

    Wrap + coating? All the research I’ve done says this can be dangerous due to overheating the headers and leading to cracks. However this in a track car scenario where the headers reach very high temps. In a street situation it may be fine. But why do it when ceramic coating alone is sufficient.



    I hope this gives some initial guidance. Please comment if you disagree with the above or would like to add more detail/info.

    Again as I stated previously take this as opinion not fact, this is the result of my research on multiple forums and talking to members.

    If you are interested in building a high performing NA 86?BRZ I refer you to Simon ( and Sho’s ( builds. Be advised these build threads may be out of date.








Viewing 1 post (of 1 total)

You must be logged in to reply to this topic.