Best Nissan Maxima Mods & Upgrades Guide

Throughout the Maxima’s lifespan in America, it is often considered to be the more upscale big brother of the Altima. With premium options and a V6 configuration, the Maxima aims to fill many of the voids that the Altima may have. However, Maxima’s history is not the main focus of this article.

Within this guide, we will focus on the best modifications and upgrades for the newer generations of the Nissan Maxima. However, what aftermarket products can boost power, performance, and durability for an affordable value? To answer that question, let’s better understand the Nissan Maxima’s engine and associated specs in the following section below.

Nissan Altima modded engine


The 2022 Nissan Maximas comes with a naturally aspirated V6 engine that produces 300 horsepower. First, let’s gather a better understanding of Maxima’s adaptability toward upgrades and modifications. So, let’s take a look at the configurations of the Maxima that Nissan offers in 2022 and their associated price.

2022 Nissan Maxima Configurations:

  • SV – ($37,090)
  • SR – ($42,250)
  • Platinum – (43,320)

Due to the different available configurations of the Maxima throughout its different generations, and their ranging accessories and price, many of our listed modifications will produce different power and performance gains. Yet we find our list below to be a great starting point of research for those trying to amplify the potential of their Maxima’s engine.

Best Nissan Maxima Performance Upgrades

  • Intake
  • Tune
  • Exhaust Headers
  • Turbo Kit

Throughout this guide, we will do our best to further detail the modifications listed above, their price points, and the associated power gains with each. There are almost a superfluous amount of different upgrades that can be applied to the Nissan Maxima. So many, that it is nearly impossible to cover them all within a single article.

However, we will do our best to discuss the highest recommended and most impactful upgrades for your Maxima’s engine system. Our listed horsepower gains may vary depending on different variables such as the quality of aftermarket products. Therefore its important to remember that this is more of an outline for your Maxima customization project.

1) Intake Upgrades

Upgrading your intake is often one of the first modifications that many drivers choose for their engine project. A new intake can optimize airflow to boost power while cleaning up the aesthetics of your engine bay and creating better induction sounds. Some may consider these power boosts to be marginal at best. However, in conjunction with a good tune and other supportive modifications, an intake can be an essential piece of your customization puzzle. An upgraded intake is an affordable and simple modification that appeases many drivers.

There are a variety of different intakes available for the Maxima, many with differing types of construction. First, let’s take a look at some of the basic benefits of a new intake in the following list below:

  • 2 – 10 horsepower gains
  • Close/similar torque gains
  • Improved induction sounds
  • Improved throttle response

Some Maxima drivers may experience a ranging growth in overall horsepower with a new intake. Again, without additional supportive mods, these gains will be marginal at best. Drivers may also experience an increase in performance specifically tied to better throttle response. Certain eras of the Nissan Maxima’s intakes have questionable construction quality. Therefore, a new intake can carry substantial improvement for your Maxima engine’s airflow.

2) Tuning

Tunes may be one of the most effective upgrades for your Nissan Maxima engine project. This is due to the fact that they are often easy to acquire and install. Unfortunately, this is not necessarily the case for Maxima. It may be difficult to find a proper tune for your Maxima engine. The demand for a Maxima tune is not as high as certain other engines. However, this does not mean that a tune is impossible to find. However, it does mean that we won’t make a tune our first recommendation for your Maxima.

With an upgraded intake or exhaust components alone, one won’t gain substantial power. Yet, with a good tune and a collection of high-quality mods, drivers can expect more substantial increases in overall power. Some Maxima’s could expect an increase in 3-8 total horsepower from a proper tune. Many drivers may find the value of a tune reasonable for their project. But, it’s hard for us to justify the overall cost and associated hassle.

Yet, as one starts accumulating more modifications and upgrades, the value of a tune greatly increases. With the appropriate supportive modifications, drivers may see an estimated growth of closer to 10-20 overall horsepower. In conclusion, tuning a Maxima can be a good choice. However, it becomes a great decision after the addition of other mods. Additionally, the increase in induction sounds can be an aspect that many drivers seek out.

3) Exhaust Mods

Next on our recommendations for Maxima modifications, are upgraded exhausts. The Maxima’s stock exhaust is not known for extremely efficient airflow. Therefore, upgrading exhaust components can improve performance and power. Due to the vast variety of different exhaust modifications, it will be nearly impossible to list them all in a timely manner. However, we will cover some of the basics.

Upgraded exhaust options can range from an entirely new system to cat-backs, axle-backs, Y-backs, and more. The bigger the replacement, the more likely to see a substantial increase in power. Generally, catless options are the most efficient in terms of power gains and affordability. Some of the expected benefits of an upgraded Maxima exhaust may include:

  • 4 – 10 horsepower gains
  • Close/similar torque gains
  • Better performance engine sounds

With an upgraded exhaust alone, drivers should expect less substantial growth in power gains. Again, this is a reminder that larger gains are generally associated with a collection of supportive mods and a good tune. In summation, an exhaust modification is a great option for many drivers seeking to boost their car’s overall power. An exhaust will offer an improvement in overall sounds and power. Yet, for purely power gains we recommend prioritizing other modifications aside from an upgraded exhaust system.

4) Upgraded Headers

One of the most effective upgrades in terms of price for power is upgraded exhaust headers. Headers may also be commonly referred to as the exhaust manifold. Due to the importance of the header’s location within the exhaust system, it is often considered one of the most important aspects or components of a Nissan Maxima’s exhaust system.

The overall aim of upgraded exhaust headers is to reduce back pressure and increase power and performance. The reduction of back pressure is directly tied to power gains. Different values of an upgraded header may include:

  • 6 – 15 horsepower gains
  • Close/similar torque gains
  • Increased performance sounds
  • Lowered exhaust gas temperature/EGTs

Again, these upgrades may be the most economical in terms of power gains for price. Regardless of the challenge that DIY exhaust manifolds may bring, they still are considered the best bang for your buck. In addition to overall power gains, drivers may experience better or more aggressive performance sounds emitting from their engine system. Now let’s take a look at the two main subcategories of headers, catless versus high-flow.

Catless vs. High Flow Headers

Various types of header upgrades are available for the different configurations of the Nissan Maxima. Two of the main categories for aftermarket headers are catless versus high-flow headers. Generally, catless headers completely remove the catalytic converter reducing weight and streamlining exhausts. In comparison, high-flow headers utilize a design that incorporates a high-performance catalytic converter that also reduces weight and optimizes airflow without a complete cat deletion. Catless options generally offer higher power gains, yet high flow headers have the benefit of potentially remaining street legal and easily passing an emissions test.

Additionally, two other main sub-categories of header upgrades include short-tubes (shortys) versus long tubes. Long tube headers include the exhaust manifold plus the additional pipe the manifold connects to. When prioritizing power gains first, many drivers seek out long tube headers for their overall boost. Drivers will still experience an overall power gain with upgraded short tubes, however, we recommend long tube headers for those trying to substantially boost their Maxima’s performance. These are the differences that can create the extra small amounts of horsepower, that collectively build up to bigger engine power gains.

5) Maxima Pulley Upgrades

Our next few recommendations and upgrades may not be as extensively covered as the previous few that have made our list. Due to the fact that engine customization projects can become extremely extensive. Therefore we will try to summarize a few more upgrades that can help boost your Maxima without being too verbose. With that said, upgraded pulleys are another option that many drivers may seek out.

Pulleys are a component that connects directly to the drive belt. Upgrading a pulley to a lightweight performance aftermarket option can reduce overall engine mass and optimize the drive. In lamens terms, this upgrade can make the engine pull the engine belt and drive more easily. Horsepower gains and performance gains can vary from an upgraded pulley, however, engine benefits may include:

  • Increase of 2-8 horsepower
  • Close/Similar torque gains

These gains may be seen as minimal. Yet again, it’s important to remember that substantial gains are often the product of many small increases in overall horsepower that collectively add up.

6) Turbo Kits

Again, all of the 2022 Nissan Maximas are offered with a naturally aspirated 3.5L V6 engine. Due to the fact that these engines are naturally aspirated, there are certain limits to modifications and upgrades. Upon reaching these limits, Maxima drivers may look for more extensive or serious modifications such as turbo kits. However, it is important to remember that an increase in turbo or induction will often increase engine liabilities and potential faults. Although, a larger gain of horsepower, ranging up to around 40-50 hp is associated with turbo and supercharger kits.

In conclusion, once tallying up the costs of many of these mods drivers can spend thousands and thousands of dollars on their Maxima engine. These upgrades aren’t even including supportive components such as new wheels and tires, upgraded suspensions, and more. Turbo upgrades may be attractive for their overall power gains but may break the bank and throw you off your budget.

Nissan Maxima Engine Modification Gains

Since there are so many different available mods and upgrades for the Maxima, it can be hard to nail down a specific amount of horsepower or torque gained. With that said, let’s take a closer look at some of the most common mods for the Maxima and their general associated costs.

Maxima Mods For 10-20 whp Gains (~$1,000)

Below is the following list of our first steps, or entry modifications for your Maxima that can produce up to 10-20 gains in overall horsepower:

  • Intake
  • Tune
  • Pulley

Most of these listed mods can be done for less than $1,000, however, the price may vary depending on the quality of parts and labor costs. With an upgraded intake, pulley, and good tune a Maxima should expect at least around 10 horsepower gained. Yet, if planning on expanding modifications to more costly and dynamic options it’s important to hold off on your tune. A tune can be a great way to balance your supportive mods on a finished engine customization project.

Upgrades For 20-30 whp Gains (~$1,500)

Our next step-up in budget and overall power gains are the following modifications listed below:

  • Intake
  • Tune
  • Headers
  • Pulley

Some of these may be considered redundant, as they are listed twice. However, this aims to illustrate that many of these mods can vary in price and power output. The 2022 3.5L V6 engine will see greater improvements in overall power than some of its smaller predecessors.

The addition of new headers can expand your budget, but may also be the piece of the puzzle to boost your power.

Upgrades For 30-40+ whp Gains ($2,000+)

Finally, we are almost reaching the max potential of mods for Nissan Maxima, and likely reaching the end of many drivers’ modification budgets. The 2022 Maxima’s start with 300 horsepower, yet with a combination of these collective mods drivers may see a gain of up to 40 horsepower.

  • Intake
  • Tune
  • Exhaust
  • Pulley
  • Headers
  • Throttle body
  • Cams
  • Forced induction

Again, we list some of our entry recommendations and basic bolt-on mods. Then we progress into our more substantial and pricey upgrades that can further boost the potential of your Maxima’s engine. Our rule of thumb throughout this guide has been, “you get what you pay for.” Therefore, many of the more expensive and severe modifications, such as turbo kits, may result in the most substantial power gains. However, some of these bigger mods arent for the faint of heart and require a diligent balance and understanding of your Maxima’s engine system.

Best Nissan Maxima Mods Summary

The Maxima may not be the most profound choice for an engine customization project. However, that does not mean there isn’t a community out there that has done some impressive work on their Maxima engines. The newer naturally aspirated 3.5L V6 engines can be both adaptable and overall enjoyable to modify. Certain smaller predecessors from Nissan may be considered weak, however, Nissan seems to be progressively increasing Maxima’s overall power and performance.

Some of our entry-level recommended bolt-on mods can result in a boost of 10-25 horsepower. Again, the more substantial power gains are often a product of much more costly and extensive upgrades. However, a new intake, tune, and pulleys are all great mods to start your project. More extensive mods such as camshafts and turbo kits will produce larger horsepower gains, yet they require a diligent installation and more supportive modifications.

It wouldn’t be surprising if the modding community continued to grow for the Maxima due to its potential. Let us know in the comments below your experience with modifying the Maxima, and what potential upgrades you may be considering!

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  1. My concern isn’t necessarily the engines maximum induction potential before stress starts to heavily factor into the engines longevity as a whole, but moreso the CVT’s capability to handle said upgrades. I, personally, have a love/hate relationship with the CVT and my limited knowledge of the inner workings of said transmission, gives me some real concerns as to its ability to continue breathing life to the wheels when hp starts being applied. Any information will be well received as I continue researching to make a sound decision on engine upgrades. Thank you

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