Ultimate SR20 Rebuild Guide: Part 1 - The Teardown

by Nikita Rushmanov


Hello and welcome to the Ultimate SR20DET Rebuild Guide! In this series we will be covering the disassembly, blueprinting and reassembly of a S13 SR20DET engine in extreme detail. We will explain how each measuring tool works and how you can use it to precisely blueprint an engine. We will also cover some of the custom tools we need to make along the way.


Before we get started, let’s go over the history of this motor and why we are tearing it down. It’s important to have a good idea of what may have caused the damage to your motor so that you know what to look for. Figuring out what went wrong is the most important step during a rebuild!


Let’s introduce our friend, the SR20.


The SR we will be working on came out of my drift car. It has standard sized ACL main and rod bearings, a 0.9mm APEXI MLS head gasket, ARP head studs, a dual rocker guide conversion and a Greddy oil pan. It was fed by a stock T25 turbo, running stock engine management with stock injectors being fed by a Walbro 255. Of course it also had the basic bolt ons, intercooler, exhaust and a chinese exhaust manifold. The boost was set at 13psi, the knock sensor has been bypassed with a resistor and the fuel pressure was set to 47psi at atmosphere (5 psi higher than normal to help with injector duty cycle).


This engine was originally blueprinted and assembled by me October 2nd, 2017. Since then, this engine has seen 5 drift events and roughly 7,500 miles of street driving, destroying 3 axles and 1 transmission in the process. I first noticed trouble on January 18th, 2018, when I noticed the unmistakable sound of lifter tick during a canyon run. There was no oil in the oil pan. Unbeknownst to me, the engine has been burning oil when on boost, which I completely failed to notice since I mainly drove the car at night. After getting some oil and getting the car home, I pulled the oil filter and cut it open for inspection. There was a lot of bearing material present in the filter since the engine ran dry. Since the engine was running very smoothly and pulling hard, I foolishly assumed that the engine lost all the oil due to an oil leak. I climbed under the car and tightened some hoses hoping that would fix the issue. I then drove the car to Las Vegas, where I again cut open the oil filter to see if my bearings were still getting eaten. This time there was no metal, and the dipstick didn’t indicate any oil loss. I assumed the car was alright, and proceeded to run about 30 laps at Vegas drift without any issues (other than exploding 3rd gear), after which I drove the car back to Los Angeles. The car ran fine until another fateful canyon run in February. This time I definitely felt that the car wasn’t running quite right, and even in the dead of night I was able to see the smoke plumes coming out of the back. I limped the car home and performed a compression test the next morning, 155 35 155 155. Cylinder #2 was gone.


So that brings us here. Now that you know the story of the engine, let’s get right into the teardown! Every time you experience an engine failure, it’s important to find the root cause and learn from it.


This is our blown SR20. We already pulled it out of the car and put it on an engine stand.

Before we begin, we need to prepare our workbench. I like to cover my workbench with a large white towel for laying out parts. The towel prevents your parts from rolling around, helps keep them clean, and the white provides a nice contrast that lets you see. I also mentally note the directionality of my workbench. Basically, in this case, the left of the workbench is the front of the engine. That way all the parts are laid out in the same order and direction, so that I know how to put them back.
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Thursday, June 07, 2018 1:33 AM
Destroyed ringlands is a very usual SR death. While you are at it, clean the cam oil spraybars, these are notorious head killers.
Good to see an SR without a rocker arm stopper kit. People do not understand that a stuck rocker is an instant engine killer. Better get it out of the way if it comes loose.

Now put forgies in there, slap a gtx2867r or a g25 550/660, a cheap Z33 transmission and enjoy your new tyre shredding engine !

Thursday, June 07, 2018 6:40 AM
Long time SR20 guy, never heard of ditching the shim and running two rocker guides. What’s the reason for this?
Thursday, June 07, 2018 9:10 PM
Rockwood, it's something that I've considered doing. There is actually a fair bit of discussion of the value of running dual guides and ensuring that you don't pop a rocker. Just a bit more safety.
Friday, June 08, 2018 1:16 AM
Excellent article definitely learned some things looking forward to the next one! Curious has anyone considered running the solid lifters? Why or why not?
Saturday, June 09, 2018 2:39 AM
The dual guide conversion is common here. I do not know if it is the reason for it, maybe the guy is "just building them right", but my local nissan engine builder has never had an sr20 pop a rocker. Even in harsh environment like drift championship ( try googling for "dg sr20 ncma", you will find pics of the engine and how that s14 ran on the dyno. The engine was used a couple of seasons then sold, still working, and might still be)

Saturday, June 09, 2018 7:58 AM
So let me get this straight, you live in the states, with plentifull acces to good drift engines, and you choose to run this POS. I respect your bravery, but from where I am siting, not puting an LS in there, looks more like stupidity if nothing else. People here pay a lot of money for lousy bmw v8's, and can only dream of getting a realiable 300HP v8 for $500. Seriously, I am amateur drifter myself, and when my m52b28 exploded I lost a year of driving (blame the shit shop owner for never actually working on my car) , so now, the most important thing about an engine, its realibility, and SR20 is garbage on this front, and quite weak everywhere else.
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