VG33e upgrade from a VG30e for Hardbody D21 and Pathfinder WD21

 Updated 2/4/2018

Decided to upgrade my spare vg30e to a vg33e while rebuilding it. Should get more HP and TQ. Using OEM parts from different Nissan models.. This engine went in my 92 WD21 in 2012. 

Advantages for this upgrade;

  • More HP and TQ via bigger pistons and injectors.
  • Noninterference design via vg33 pistons.
  • 105k timing belt via 94+ round tooth belt.  All VG motors 1994--2004 are Round tooth. 
  • Relocated oil filter via Quest oil pump. The Quest has always had a front mounted oil pump.

Some VG30e versus VG33e facts:

The blocks are identical on the outside as far as I can tell. They both have 3 dip stick locations, same oil pan pattern, trans, oil pump, head and water pump holes. So all the accessories will bolt up. The Cranks and rods are the same sizes also for bearings. The Head gaskets are obviously different for 2 reasons. Bigger bore and the vg33 is missing some water jackets. All VG33s have the oil filter on the oil pump. All VG30s are mounted on the block right side EXCEPT Quest  (V40). The cranks have the same bolt pattern and bearing sizes. Different oil pump drive sizes and harmonic balancer sizes. Nissan labels these 2 sizes as 32mm and 25mm. You can use either belt, round or square, cam pulleys are identical size. But crank sizes are different. All VG33s are round tooth belts. Only VG30s 94+ are round. 93 and older are square and only rated at 60k. 96 V40 Quests went to a 32mm oil pump but stayed vg30e until the v41 model. Distributor mount is the same for all heads. Intakes are identical, plenums differ. Cams mounts are same so any cam for either engine work. The vg33 heads have 10mm exhaust studs compared to 8mm on the vg30. Valve cover mounts are same. Timing covers vary by model. You can any combination based on which pumps you want.    

VG33E was available in the following US market vehicles:

96-00 - R50 = Pathfinder and Infiniti Qx4 as standard
99-03 - V41 = Quest and Mercury Villager as standard  
99-04 - D22 = Frontier optional
00-04 - WD22 = Xterra - optional

Some Quest facts. (Yes I own Quests)
93-98 - v40 = VG30E  = 1 sliding door Made in TN -  25mm crank until 96+ 32mm crank
99-03 - v41 = VG33E = 2 sliding doors made in TN  - All 32 mm crank
04-10 - v42 = VQ35DE = 2 sliding doors made in Canton MS 

 VG30 versus VG33 pictures

 This is my plan

Part Engine Condition Why From Cost
Block VG33 used Bigger bore 91.5 versus 87 junkyard S150
Crank 32mm  VG30 used Already own 3 of every accessory original engine 0
Pistons and rings VG33 new Block needed a bore, always need new rings $229
Crank polish and check VG33 used Labor to clean and check crank Local Machine shop $29
Rods VG30 used They are the same, one of the vg33 rods was broken Local Machine shop 0
Rod blasting VG30 used Labor to clean rods Local Machine shop $30
Block bead blast VG33 used Labor to clean block Local Machine shop $75
Block bore charge VG33 used Labor to bore out 6 holes Local Machine shop $90
Main and rodbearings VG3x new King brand VG30DE is different! ebay $28
FULL Gasket set VG33 new Most gaskets same as vg30 except exhaust and head. ebay $70
Heads VG33 used flow better and bigger 10m exhaust studs junkyard $120
Cams VG30 used Quest and D22s have weaker cams original engine 0
intake manifolds VG3x used Same  original engine 0
Throttle body gasket vg30 new different Autozone 3
injectors  vg33 used bigger friend $20
injector connectors vg33` used different friend $0
exhaust manifolds VG3x used Keep headers, may need to enlarge holes from 8mm to 10mm original engine 0
Valve covers VG30 used do not have any vg33 ones original engine 0
Distributor VG30 used Want to keep it obdI, either will work. original engine 0
Oil pump 25mm VG30 used From a V40 93-95 Quest so the oil filter will be moved  ebay $50
Oil pump seal 25mm VG30 new I used a vg33 gasket set dealer $5
Oil filter mount VG33 used from a D22 on ebay so filter is easy to replace ebay $15
Oil pickup tube VG33 used From a D22 so it will bolt up. D21 version is curved friend / ebay $10
Oil Pan VG30 used Stock w/d21 original engine 0
Timing cover lower VG3x used Quest Any year will work using a vg33 or 300zx z31 junkyard $20
Timing cover upper frt and rear VG30 used Should fit with new lower original engine 0
Crank timing gear VG30 used Want to keep round tooth belt. 94 up are round tooth 105k belts original engine 0
Water pump 2wd or 300zx style VG30 new Easier to install and use a different timing cover Autozone 2wd d21 or 300zx  $30
Dip stick tube VG30 used Missing on the vg33 block. Needs to be moved over one hole.  original engine d21 0
Oil gallery plugs 11024-K0100- VG3x new Stock ones have to be removed for block cleaning Dealers $.72
Freeze plugs 00933-13090- VG33 new Stock ones have to be removed for block cleaning dealer $.61
Total $972
Optional parts
Oil pressure valve 15241-40F00 VG30 new vg33 blocks dont have these under the block off plate dealer $2.70



Find a good used VG30e for its crank, rods, cams and external parts.

 First step find a used complete vg30e to minimize down time. Found a pathfinder that was hit head on. Engine hoist got stuck in the mud. Throw the engine in the back with hoist and head home. This engine is a 94. So its the first year of the round tooth belt that all the vg33 motors have.


VG33 short block

Also find a short block vg33e. You only need the block but the heads are better. They have 10mm exhaust studs. This crank was bad, but I did not need it anyway. 

VG30 tear down

Strip the vg30e engine down to the block and sell it. Just need all but the block. 

First remove the plenum. Just a few hoses and allan bolts. And injector harness.



Then remove the fuel rail

Remove the intake.


Then remove thermostat assembly. 3 bolts.


Remove oil pan and pickup tube.

Remove belt and cam gears and rear cover.

remove crank pulley. This can go on 6 ways. Only one is correct! remove balancer


Remove belt tensioner


Remove water pump. The wd21 uses a 4wd d21 pump. The d21 has a much smaller 2wd version shared with the 200sx and 300zx. That is what I will be using.

Remove camshaft covers

Remove heads, you may need to loose rocker cross bars to fit socket in bolt. remove the 2 small 6 mm bolts. One on each head.


pop the heads off. discard gaskets.


Remove rear main seal holder.

Remove main caps girdle and rods/pistons. Then remove oil pump timing gear and pump. Note the round teeth 105k belt. I need to resuse this gear with the vg33 heads.

I removed the gear by wedging the pump off and or hitting the pump.

Oil pump back and insides

Then remove dip stick tube with a punch from oil pan side.


remove both front studs as spares.

Oil filter pressure relief and tube. The pressure relief is needed on the vg33. But there only $2.70 new.

Should look like this now. Just need to remove knock sensor. This one is actually still good.


Now prepare the VG33 block for cleaning. Do the same as above if needed. Then remove oil galley plugs. I drilled a hole then used a bolt extractor.

Oil and waterplugs removed. I did not remove freeze plugs. machine shop can do this.

I had to move the dipstick location. I punched out the aluminum plug.

Oil dipstick locations. There is THREE choices. This is the one on the right side. 2 on the Left side.

Remove the 2 steel splash plates from inside the block.

I took the vg33 block, new pistons and old vg30 rods to machine to have block bored .50mm bigger and had the rods checked and cleaned.


All the rods were fine. I do not need new pin bushings. I dropped off the crank to be checked and polished. It came back polished and can use STD bearings.

New parts Needed:

Full Gasket set


VG33 pistons .50mm bigger.

New vg33 .50 over, then std, then vg30e piston. Note most VG33 pistons are non interference, unlike vg30 were only Quest was.


Freeze plugs. I was going to use brass plugs. But it appears OEM ones are stainless. So I will use VG33 factory ones. For some reason VG30 and VG33 have different part numbers.

Main and rod bearings. I choose King brand. Same items for vg30 and vg33. Only vg30de is different.


Used parts needed (optional).

I want to move the oil filter to the front. I bolted a D22 Frontier oil filter mount onto a V40 Quest oil pump with oil pickup tube from a D22 and a D21 oil pan. Pure bolt on!

Installed the cleaned crank with new bearings.  Install crank tested with plastigauge.

Install rods on new pistons and install rings.


I stripped down the used 94 V40 pump and cleaned it. It is rebuildable. Its only $20 for a new regulator. 

I had to buy 2 new seals. Since the vg33 kit did not come with the 25mm oil seal. Only $5 at the dealer. Same seal for all old vg30s with a 25mm crank.


Installation is a pure bolt on. Using a d22 pickup tube and oil mount. v40 pump with the d21 crank and d21 oil pan. So easy. 

Had to use a new lower timing cover. I ordered a 300zx used one, but it does not fit,  , needed a Quest 93-2003 cover. There $117 new!! Found some used ones fro 20-25 on

Here is some style differences between models compare page for pictures. This is why I am using a 2wd D21 water pump.

Installed the oil pan and rear main seal. I love this seal holder. Should have use black sealant.

Now to rebuild the heads. I plan to replace the valve seals and lap the valves. I used a parts washer with purple power to degrease the parts then a blast cabinet with glass bead to clean them.

Here is a test blast. I used glass bead in a blast cabinet. Great way to clean aluminum!


I had to make a jig to strip the heads. Made head assembly and disassembly so much easier.

Heads before cleaning. This is the vg33 head that came with the thrown rod short block. Note this is an engine that never changed the oil.

I removed the valves to replace the seals and clean the valves. 

After the parts washer soak

 After glass bead blast. I upgraded to a made in USA gun and it worked so much better.

Then clean all the small parts and valves.  The vg30 and vg33 use all the same valves,lifters,seals etc. Only the cams are different.

Now install the 2 steel washers then valve seals, then valves. The seals and washers are different sizes from intakke to exhaust. The valve keepers are the same.

Install cam with assembly lube and the seal. I found a h233 pinion bearing(cage removed) was the perfect size to pop the seal on.

To rebuild the lifters I had to take apart to make sure they were good. Some were solid and some were spongy. Solid means they are stuck or bled. To be sure they were not stuck I had to dissamble and clean them. Only takes a few minutes. The lifters part number 13231-V5004 are same for vg30 and vg33 intake and exhaust. They are about $20 each. None were broken or showed any signs of wear or damage.

First remove the clip from the top. You CAN NOT do anything with the vent on top with a paper clip. The release valve is under the piston.

Now remove piston. If the piston was spongy before the valve will slide out. If it was solid you need to release the valve with a paper clip.

Now remove the valve and spring with a magnet Test the release valve and make sure it works smoothly. .

Now clean all parts and install spring, a few drops of oil and install valve. Press the release valve with paper clip again to lower valve down.

Reinstall piston and soak in oil. Update: I could not get them to bleed in oil. This was useless for me.

I cleaned the threads before installing the cams.

Install the heads. Then a new Knock sensor. I decided to weld the 10mm socket and grind down the socket. This made the torque sequence must easier.


Install intake manifold as a unit per FSM. 


The heads and intake all torqued down together.


Now install the thermostat housing and tube under intake. Then thermostat. Note tabs to install cover correctly.


Install intake snout and cut the bypass hose to length and assemble. The vg33 bypass is twice the lenght of the vg30. Its half the price.  I used RTV sealant here on houings. I did not see any gaskets on old or in the gasket kit.


Now install the upper timing cover rear cover cam gears and belt. 2wd Water pump can go on before or after belt. (this is a modifed 4wd pump) 


Tighten the idler all the way loose. Then slip on belt on marks. This belt did not have any marks. So I had to count teeth and label as needed.


When the belt is tight the allen bolt should be around 5 o' clock.


I ran into a clearance issue with quest timing cover with d21 harmonic balancer. I had to make the cover the same style as 300zx with a cutoff wheel.


The v40/41 and z32 lower covers use the same bolts. So I ended up with some odd sizes left over.

There is a gap between v41 and wd21 covers!!! But it was a simple bolt on.

Install oil filter mount.

Install harmonic balancer and pulley. The pulley has to go on correct way. There is 6 options since it is not keyed. Just make sure timing marks line up with cover pointer.

Install the oil dipstick. Just hammer in the tube with a punch.

I found some vg33 injectors and wire connectors so I decided to use them instead of the vg30 injectors. I had to use a hammer screwdriver on a few of the seized screws. 

Here is a d21 vs d22 injector harness. Basically cut off the 6 injector connectors and solder onto the vg30 harness. I was hoping for a clean swap but some cut and solder was required.

I lost one of the rubber fuel injector spacers $1.77 at the dealer. The gasket set kit did not include these, So I ordered 1 injector rebuild kit $4.50 at This had all the gaskets for one injector.

Install day. Pulled old vg30. I had to make a new cross bar. 


After taking some parts of original vg30e I noticed the old intake gaskets were a better design so I swapped the intake gasket. 

Plenum rebuild. First I stripped down the donor 94 plenum. The only difference I could tell from 92 is it hasa EGR temp sensor. The 92 has a plug instead. 

Left in purple power a few days to clean the insides of carbon.

Engine runs awesome and has noticable power difference. Reminds me of my stock 96 vg33e Pathfinder. Also my stock 88 Pathfinder! This pathy has 5.13 and 35" tires with lots of steel on all 4 sides.