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Phlebmaster’s 98 Frontier Evolution ka24det


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It’s been a long time but I still haven’t forgotten my Ratsun peeps. I have had several projects since my last Datsun but this little sleeper is pertinent to this forum.

Anyway, I have been working on a new project and thought I would share for those looking to turbo an NA. I have been posting up on ka-T.org so I’m sorry for the copy and paste but it’ll get you up to date. As per my usual this post will be picture heavy.

This has been my work truck for the past two years. I work in construction so my truck has been indispensable. However the miles have started to catch up with it so there were some things that I needed to decide to do. I could’ve purchased another vehicle and use that or the second option was to modify the hell out of this truck and make it something fun and worth having. I definitely can tell you it was not cheaper because a car payment probably would’ve cost less in the amount of work and money spent on this so far. It is not quite finished but I’ll start this thread out by catching everybody up with what I have done so far.

Vehicle: 1998 Nissan Frontier 
Engine: original ka24de 260,000 miles now has a few modifications (spoiler) it has a turbo, intercooler, wastegate, bov, Altima cams, NPR 240sx pistons and Nippon rings, bearings, valves and seals all new, ARP head studs, 3” down pipe and 2.5” straight pipe exhaust with a side exit so I can hear that turbo spooling. Stage 3- 6 puck clutch. 

I would like to start out by saying I know I have made a few errors during this process but I believe those are part of the education and I don’t mind paying for my education. So hopefully I can help others with outlining some of the pitfalls that I had to deal with and possibly support anybody else doing this to a Frontier. This was my first time turbocharging a non-turbo vehicle. If you have the time to look at some of my other projects I have done things with supercharged vehicles but most of them have been naturally aspirated. By far the turbo is the most exciting for many reasons but just for the sound alone is worth it. 

Since this original post I have added quite a few things to make this truck reliable as well as fun. 

nismo 550cc injectors 

AEM AFR wideband 

Apexi Neo fuel management 

Digital oil and fuel pressure gauges

340lph fuel pump

and a few more things I’m sure I forgot to list.









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Pitfalls of my build 

Here are a few things that I did wrong as a cocky noob. I mean what could go wrong? eBay turbo is cheap and if I do it right it should last…. Right? Might want to read on…..

Mistake 1. I did my research and due diligence to see what it would take to turbo my NA truck. However I ignored a few key points because, hey I know what I’m doing. Well, you “can” turbo your car on the cheap but don’t count on it lasting for long. My eBay emusa turbo was great for about a month and I even closely followed the instructions, but even with that said the turbine bearing was shot and started blowing oil. I’m not Saying that all of them are that way but I can tell you it is hit or miss and that is truth. I paid $120 for this one. There is one caveat to this turbo failure, detonation occurred which broke my first set of pistons because I ran too lean and over boosted. This likely contributed to the failure.

Fixed: replacement turbo was a dual ball bearing and spools much better but also a more reliable option. I paid $325 for this one which is still half of what a Garrett will cost you. I am sure that I will be replacing this one again with a Garrett eventually but just be aware that quality matters when it comes to this. stay tuned for how this one works.

Mistake 2. A $10 manual boost controller is fine. Hey it’s cheap and what could go wrong? I mean I’ve got a wastegate and bov so this should work. Well, I am here to tell you that it is a critical piece of this set up. This thing did nothing and my turbo overspooled. This caused me to get lean and BOOM I was rolling coal down the road. My ring lands broke and I had to replace my first set of broken pistons. 

Fixed: I learned alot and got a reputed digital version and set it up for adjustment in the cab. Now I know where it is and if I’m overdoing the boost for my engine.

Mistake 3. Now let’s discuss the wastegate and cheap bov. Those are just safety nets and I can’t understand how good ones cost so much. I’ll just get the less expensive stuff and save money, right? Wrong!! The bov got stuck closed and I didn’t know the wastegate wasn’t set up correctly. This mistake contributed to my second set of broken pistons. On a good note: ARP head studs are worth the price. I can tear down my engine in about 2 hours at this point (valve cover to oil pan) pistons out.

Fixed: I did more research and learned how to set up the wastegate properly with my digital boost controller and purchased a greddy FV bov. I also learned how to set up the bov properly and the best port on my throttle body to use. Don’t just use any old vacuumed port. I used one at the base of my throttle body just past the butterfly. 

Mistake 3. I can get by with stock injectors and if keep the boost down I’ll be okay. Well, that was pretty dumb and I even read lots of posts saying that was a bad idea. But hey, I know what I’m doing and I’ll be fine. Nope! I get anything above 2-3 lbs of boost and I go lean. The ecu is pretty good with the stock injectors but doesn’t know what to do above 2-3 lbs of boost.

Fixed: I am installing an AEM wideband O2, bigger fuel pump (hardwired) and high ohm 550cc injectors. But that’s not going to work without ecu programs for that. Thank goodness for the Adjustable FMU. This will help but still not the perfect answer. The FMU is adjustable from 1:1 to 14:1 boost preference controls. This means the fuel injectors will get better pressure based on the boost level and increase the amount of fuel as the boost increases hopefully keeping it in the Goldilocks zone for AFR. I believe it is around 12-12.5 for 10lbs of boost. Not sure on that yet. 

I’ll make sure I report what it takes to make it work properly and tell you if it doesn’t. The last thing will be the ecu and tuning which is not easily available for the Frontier. I may have to swap out my intake and sensors to a 240sx and then I can get a programmed ecu for it. 

I don’t want to discourage anyone from wanting to do this to their vehicle. 
I hope this helps with anyone who wants to know what happens when you get cheap stuff. In the end I will have to spend just as much as I would have for quality parts the first time. I love the turbo sound and all of the things I’ve learned about this process. It would have been better if I listened to the good advice from those who said get the good stuff.



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37 minutes ago, datzenmike said:

Jesus, look who just walked in. Construction? You're a pipe inspector?


Yes those are all hard lessons. Boosting is not cheap, or easy

Good to see ya again. Lets see.... we've had at least 3 forum updates since you were last here.

Chief pipe inspector to you. Haha, it’s been too long! But here I am just the same to share my new adventures. Good to hear from you my friend. 

I build new homes and a superintendent for a couple of builders. 

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I’ve been running the Apexi Neo for a little over a week and now I have some things to share. Keep in mind that what I am using isn’t the best setup for a turbo, however it is doing it’s job for the most part. 

The ideal setup is to run a tuned stock ecu or a standalone. The other options are piggyback systems that control fuel and timing. The frontier doesn’t have much in the way of aftermarket support in this case. The Apexi doesn’t have timing control but seems to work well with the adjustable FMU and bigger injectors. Without timing management I will not have the best power possible for my Ka24det.


With that said, I have to say the real time adjustment is helpful with my system. My dash looks like a Christmas tree with all of the gauges and stuff. I also use a obd2 Bluetooth adapter for monitoring other engine aspects. 

If you are considering going from NA to turbo, I recommend getting the support infrastructure first. Most of them can be installed prior to adding the turbo.


1. Wideband O2- this is nice to have even if NA.

2. Fuel pressure regulator. I recommend an adjustable FMU if you are going with larger injectors and pump. The adjustable option is great for your transition process.
3. Larger fuel pump- hard wired. Lots of write ups for how to do it. The FMU should be installed prior to installing the larger fuel pump.

4. Fuel and oil pressure gauges. Digital is a great option.

5. Sourced larger injectors. But hold off on installing them until you have the ecu modifications. Washing your cylinders with fuel sucks.

6. Sourced ecu tuning, standalone or piggyback. This is probably the most expensive item in the list but it’s the most important. Once you decide on your best option, have this available prior to adding your turbo and intercooler. If you don’t have any experience with tuning, find a trusted dyno expert. This is also important for getting the most from your turbo and reliability. Unless you enjoy rebuilding your engine every time you push the engine to far or miss a detail with your setup. 
7. Sourced quality turbo. The options for your engine are tremendous and confusing. First decide on your power goals and what your engine can handle in stock form. Meaning if you are not upgrading your internals - be conservative. You can always tune for more power later.

8. Sourced turbo exhaust manifold. You have several options available. I went with the top forward mount because it was the best fit for my truck. Look at your engine bay and see where your A/C, steering and other potential obstacles are before deciding. I went with the cast iron log because it was inexpensive but I plan on getting a SS equal length manifold. 
9. Turbo down pipe and exhaust system. This depends on what turbo you want and effects power and heat management. You want to have the largest diameter exhaust you can use. This reduces heat and back pressure which can kill your turbo if too restricted. There are lots of options, 5 bolt, 4 bolt, Vband etc… getting the right angles can be tricky because it is dependent on how the manifold and turbo down pipe bolts line up. Vband is the most flexible but harder to seal. 
10. Sourced intercooler. This is mostly diy and the hardest thing to install because it requires trouble shooting the routing and mounting. Lots of options available but get the largest diameter tubing that works. Less restrictive is best just like the exhaust. Also the larger ones reduce intake temps and stress for your turbo.


Edit: don’t forget about your bov, wastegate and boost controller. Haha


All of those except the injectors and ecu should/could be installed and sorted before installing the turbo and will make your life easier later. You will have your hands full with your intercooler and exhaust system. 



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Okay so I’ve been diddling my little Neo and working out the tuning. I’m on the right track with the fuel ratio according to the AFR and the timing is consistent at WOT acceleration. Here are my numbers for today’s power test. The screenshot in my previous post was made without anything to control the boost or fuel and that’s the time my first set of broken pistons happened. 

keeping in mind, these are just numbers of measurements and not real numbers for actual performance. In stock form my truck had about 140 hp and maybe 135 foot pounds of torque. 

I will share several screenshots. The first one is a baseline with no-load. The next are sequential runs. What I like to see is the consistency in the timing and the real time  fuel usage for each run. This allows me to make any adjustments manually that I need to since my system does not automatically adjust timing. Also I can continue to raise or lower the amount of fuel delivery throughout each RPM range as needed.



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CSVLog_20210925_172443.csvOkay one last run for the night after a few adjustments. However I am pretty sure this is the limit for stock internals in the Ka24de. 

I will likely have to advance the timing just a tad for anything more but that’s super risky. I am reviewing the data log to see all the information, see attached. It’s a lot more detail but you can see when I hit this number about halfway through. The boost is off by about 10psi so if you add 10 it would be closer to the actual boost levels. The ecu reading is off the stock sensors. I hit approx 13-15 psi at peak boost with a GT35 turbo!


Not bad for a few adjustments!2C2BEB29-B17A-4423-9B1C-DA7E68A9FED7.thumb.png.9b8e505e1334faa72872d3dad2d46c16.png

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7 hours ago, ]2eDeYe said:

How about some pics of the exterior of this beast 🙂

As you wish! But she ain’t much to look at. Which makes it so much fun when an unsuspecting person tries to pass. lol 


I have to do 2 posts so here’s the driver side with the side exit exhaust.94862612-06F7-40B2-8E60-4193F4FCAE08.thumb.jpeg.ee7d034fedd27fdea8412e67e941e813.jpeg

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On 9/28/2021 at 6:09 AM, Z23T said:

What adjustable FMU are you using, and are you happy with it?

The brand is SPA and I chose the composite version for the 3 way fuel lines so I can run the digital fuel pressure gauge off the third line. So far I am very happy with this one. I am running a 340lpm fuel pump and no leaks. The adjustable boost controlled fuel pressure seems to be what I needed for my setup. 

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I got bored, so I’m swapping out the pistons for these CTI versions. They are Altima pistons but have a similar compression as the 240sx pistons. However they don’t have as much mass and are lighter. Plus they have different sized piston rings than stock. Instead of 1.5 1.5 2.8 they are 1.2 1.2 2.5 which will reduce friction adding to quicker RPM jump. I am taking a huge risk with this type of piston however I have run them in the past and been satisfied. Just the next portion of the evolution of my truck. I’m also changing out the front control arms and all the steering linkage Since I have not done that and it has proven to be worn out. After the next adventure I’ll be posting more pictures soon


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So I’m waiting on delivery of the upper and lower control arms today and then will start replacement of the front suspension and steering systems. I went with upgrading the bushings for better handling. More in that later….


”while I’m in there” I’m replacing the clutch fan with a 16” electric fan and using an adjustable thermostat controller. I hate skinning my knuckles on that damn fan. This will help with the rpms as well as the lighter pistons.


Oh, and I got a set of pulstar plasma plugs. I am very skeptical about gimmicks and claims of a million mpg and HP but one thing they do well is ignite the fuel mixture fully. Since I don’t have timing adjustments I’m hoping to tighten the accuracy of it with these plugs. Snake oil??? Maybe but I’ll keep you posted. 

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I finally got all my parts. I’ll have more instructional information and updates soon. But I have my work cut out for me as you can see in this picture. 

1. upper and lower control arm replacement.

2. tie rods and steering linkage including polyurethane bushings for strut bars.

3. lighter pistons

4. water pump

5. electric fan swap with adjustable thermostat controller.

6. spark plug replacement for the plasma plugs.


I will make sure to outline any difficulties experience and improvements.


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It was a busy weekend but not as productive as I intended. Damn Oregon rain!! Anyway, I have the new pistons in and ready to reassemble the engine so I can fire it up and make sure everything‘s good there before I tear the suspension down. If you’re ever curious what detonation will do to a Piston take a look at this picture. Here’s a picture of the new pistons in place and one of the many sets of pistons that I have demolished due to not having the correct air fuel mixture and piston rings not being gapped properly for a turbo set up. If you think you can just get away with it think again. Measure those damn rings and make sure that they are not going to expand to the point of bunching up and breaking your ring lands in your pistons. The first three times rebuilding the engine was fine but he gets a little old after fourth or fifth time Because I was in a hurry and neglected to check the ring gap.260D2E63-BBB9-409F-99A2-F6416380CD17.thumb.jpeg.6950d3c10701f830d3927641aad39714.jpeg


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4D46C131-A229-4529-9FBF-6F8E8DDEE294.thumb.jpeg.d7462ee9ca5cd7a3ad2c48ce7dde26ac.jpegI need to figure out how to compress my pictures so I can post more than one per post. Anyway here is what happens when you do not gap your piston rings properly with a turbo set up. Also Detonation played a part in this damage. So make sure that you take the time to make sure the piston rings are gapped properly especially if you’re using aftermarket stuff.

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FWIW i had a buddy install those plugs in a vq35 and rave about them.  He then installed a set in a built up chevy 350 and hated them badly.  Same guy but two very different experiences with those plugs.

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50 minutes ago, Lockleaf said:

FWIW i had a buddy install those plugs in a vq35 and rave about them.  He then installed a set in a built up chevy 350 and hated them badly.  Same guy but two very different experiences with those plugs.

Thank you for your reply. That’s what I gathered from reviews and other sources. My hope is that I will be able to get a little more control over the timing and combustion. I should be able to compare the data log information and see what happens with the AFR details from my wideband. 

fingers crossed! But I will make sure I close the loop with my experience in case others are considering the plasma plugs. 

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Sahweet!! I found a compressor app for my pictures. Let’s see if it works.


the Apexi NEO is a fuel management system similar to power commander for motorcycles. It adjusts your fuel output based on your parameters that you set based on your setup. It uses the MAP and MAF information as well as RPM. The main reason I am using this is so that I can put in larger injectors and fuel pump with an adjustable fuel pressure regulator and get it to run. The wideband tells you the AFR so you can adjust the settings on the fly. The most complicated part of this process was determining which pin number on my ECM matched up with the correct wire to the device. Even the factory service manual wasn’t clear on wire color or pin location. I kind of had to do a process of elimination and testing circuits to make sure I was in the right wire. But I marked the ECM for future reference if I ever have to do more work on that device. I recommend labeling your wires and anything that could possibly help the next guy who happens to encounter your contraptions. My experience with the Apexi Neo has been pretty good but You definitely need to read the book for setting it up. It’s not always clear or intuitive but it is probably one of the better systems for those that don’t have a couple grand to spend on a standalone. Plus it is removable without affecting your vehicle so you can go back to stock without any problems.


93F5BF5D-D909-4871-86ED-A0461F0F4710.thumb.jpeg.b737598a5b97c0968bb2eeaa3b6d4179.jpegA4EE29A7-D317-4801-B6AA-C45EAE82CD7B.thumb.jpeg.544d791e44fa8d8f97474e90f118817c.jpegThe next couple of pictures after this group is of the oil cooler I put Inline for the oil feed to the turbo. It’s actually a motorcycle oil cooler from an old engine that I had and it is quite remarkable that I can touch the oil feedline after driving it without burning my hands. It definitely does the trick. The oil pressure to the turbo is great no issues there. That was my main concern is reducing the oil pressure to the turbo but it seems to be flowing pretty well. Considering it came off of a motorcycle with probably a tiny oil pump it’s pretty efficient.  Anyway it was kind of an out-of-the-box thinking and it might work for somebody else.



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