The 3 Most Common Nissan 3.5 Liter V6 Engine Problems

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Since its inception in 2000, the Nissan 3.5 engine has soothed the taste of everyone who craves a heavy-duty engine. Despite its ruggedness, it is prone to developing specific faults which may affect its performance, just as you will find in other engines.

Some of the Nissan 3.5L engine problems are:

  1. Oil Leaks
  2. Excessive Oil Use
  3. Timing Chain Failures

However, you may notice other problems, but the problems mentioned earlier are mostly common, based on my experience. These problems require an immediate fix to avoid quick deterioration of your engine.

However, I will discuss these problems, including the symptoms and solutions. Sit back and read this article to the end, as I will provide you with everything you need to know about this incredible engine.

What Are The Most Common Nissan VQ35DE Engine Issues?

1. Oil Leaks

Is it fair to tag oil leaks as an issue common only to this engine? Honestly, I’ll answer in the negative. Apart from the fact that most engines tend to leak oil once they start to age, the Nissan 3.5L is a modern engine that’s controlled mostly by a computer.

But why will this problem come under a common problem of the Nissan VQ3DE 3.5L engine? Here’s the thing, and the Nissan 3.5L isn’t alone in this.

The engine comes with Valve Cover Gaskets (VCG) that easily become weaker. This results in oil leaks as this engine ages. Don’t forget, the valve cover gasket seals the valve cover up to the peak of the cylinder.

It’s primarily responsible for preventing motor oil from escaping out as it moves through the valves, rockers, and camshafts.

Nissan 3.5L engine VCG is produced from a rubber-like material. As this engine works from time to time, the VCG gets weaker due to the heat. The continuous heat from the engine causes the VCG to crack, and oil begins to leak. Cracking results in slow oil droplets.

Thankfully, cracked VCG may not sometimes need urgent attention, but as expansion increases, oil seeping can become worse, exposing the engine to risk.

Oil droplets can sometimes be dangerous when the engine is hot as they may result in fire or explosion. VCG is located on the top of the engine, and due to this, the chances of oil spillage are high.

Oil droplets can touch other parts of the engine, which may result in untimely wear and tear. The point I am driving at is, oil leak may require urgent attention depending on its condition and the danger it poses. I, however, recommend you replace your VCG once you notice oil leaks.

What To Watch Out For

It is good that you are familiar with what is responsible for causing the oil leak in the Nissan 3.5L engine. Now, let’s find out some symptoms you will notice before holding VCG responsible.

  • Visible Leak: This is one of the earliest signs of a damaged VCG, and this is why I always inspect my engine before driving off. I do this because VCG can begin with a small leak without notice.
  • Burning Oil Smell: As I said earlier, oil droplets begin small and may not even be noticed on the ground. Why? The engine is made of different parts and can prevent the droplets from reaching the ground. When the engine becomes hot, and there are droplets, this result in burning smell.
  • Smoke From Engine Bay: I usually observe the amount of smoke popping from the engine bay. When the smoke becomes excess, I know it is time to replace my VCG.

What To Do

As I have discussed above, it can be easy and cheap, especially if you are wary of the symptoms. Thankfully, the Nissan 3.5L engine VCG is one of the VCGs I found cheaper to replace. With $10-$20, you can get a new VCG for your Nissan engine to get it up and running again.

However, you may have to pay for labor if you are not DIY’er. Professional mechanics can take a few hours to fix this issue. Even if you are an experienced DIY’er, you will need some patience and deeper know-how.

2. Excessive Oil Use

Nissan 3.5L consumes oil at a faster rate, and two reasons are responsible for it: fast-ageing engine and higher mileage. Additionally, other things can also be responsible.

Typically, oil consumption happens in two ways: you either burn oil or it leaks out of the engine. However, oil consumption shouldn’t pose any concerns for users of this engine.

Based on my experience with this engine, I am unaware of any likely cause of excessive consumption, even when it is an apparent 3.5L engine problem.

Of course, paying attention to your oil level is essential. Why? I’m very sure you wouldn’t want your engine to get knocked because running your engine on a low oil level can be harmful to your engine.

Otherwise, excessive consumption on this engine is not something to worry about except spending a few bucks for timely oil top-up.

Finally, I would advise you to see a mechanic if your Nissan 3.5L engine becomes unbearable, especially if the consumption results in excess smoke from the exhaust.

Usually, as engines age, they tend to lose compression, and when this happens, the engine burns oil faster.

What Causes Excess Oil Use

In addition to the natural causes of ageing and high mileage, there are other factors that can be responsible for extreme oil consumption.

Let’s take a look:

  • Extreme Conditions: Pulling heavy loads, driving under terrible operating conditions, extreme weather, can be contributing factors to excessive oil use.
    If your Nissan 3.5L is pulling heavy loads, whether high up the mountain or on level ground, the car is definitely going to consume more than normal fuel. I believe this is a no-brainer compared to when you’re pulling light loads or heavy loads on flat terrain.
    Additionally, the harder the engine works, the more fluid it’ll consume. Idling the car for a longer-than-usual period will cause a higher consumption of fuel.
  • Oil Viscosity: Lighter viscosity is another important cause of high oil consumption. If you change the oil viscosity from 15W-40 to 10W-30, there is a high chance that the car will consume more oil. Follow the owner’s manual for the recommended oil viscosity for your oil.
  • Carbon Build-Up: Carbon deposits can build up in the combustion chamber as well as on the exhaust valves. Carbon deposit build-up is due to burning oil.
    If the oil gets into the combustion chamber, the resultant effect is the formation of a deposit on top of the pistons. This will obstruct the free flow of air, leading to power loss. It’ll also take a toll on the overall performance of the engine.

What To Do

Guess what? I could not trace any fault responsible for excessive oil consumption in this engine except engine age. I, however, recommend you use high-quality oils.

Sticking to high-quality oil with a heavier weight and viscosity will not drain quickly. Using 15W-40 over 10W-30 will be recommended. Constant and frequent oil changing is also another measure to prevent excessive oil consumption.

3. Timing Chain Failures

This specific problem is not far from the Nissan 3.5L engine, and on the other hand, you should not be misled by the search results you get online. Why?

The problem is also not as common as the internet portrays it. The Nissan engine is prone to two common problems here – timing chain guides and tensioners.

These specific parts are responsible for keeping tension and guiding the timing chain in the engine, just as the name implies.

Both timing chain guides and tensioners are crucial to the healthy performance of the Nissan timing chain system. If there are issues with timely chain guides or tensioners, they require immediate attention; otherwise, they may damage your engine’s timing chain itself.

I’ll talk more about the symptoms, but you should watch out for any rattling engine sound. The rattling sound is one of the symptoms I found out to indicate a damaged timing chain.

I did check my timing chain, having covered about the 150,000-mile mark. I noticed that the timing chain is likely to develop problems at about 100k miles.

Although some Nissan 3.5 engines will not show any problem with their timing chain even after covering more than the 200,000-mile mark, it is, however, required to pay attention to it if you notice any strange signs.

What To Watch Out For

Having understood what a timing chain is, let’s find out what symptoms you should watch for before you can hold your timing chain responsible.

  • Clunking Sound: This sound comes first among the symptoms of a bad timing chain and usually comes from the engine bay. The clunking sound points straight to a failing or ageing timing chain. Ignoring this caution for a long time can result in the chain slipping, throwing off ignition timing.
  • Check Engine Light Comes On: This symptom indicates the timing chain has slipped off in the engine. You may also notice that the engine refuses to start if it is rattling when it’s idling.
  • Metal Shavings: Make sure you change the engine oil or filter every 3,000 to 5,0000 mile mark. When you find tiny pieces of metal that shave off the timing chain and escape into the oil pan, it’s an indication that the timing chain is wearing out.

Other signs include an engine rattling on idling, engine’s refusal or failure to start, an engine misfire, and more.

What To Do

Lots of labor and time may be required to replace guides and tensioners in your Nissan 3.5L engine. However, it can be costly and may need you to spend about $500-800. However, this cost may vary depending on your mechanic, location, engine model, and other determining factors.

The timing chain parts can be purchased for around $100-400. If you are replacing tensioners or guides, you may spend less. Due to my experience with fixing this specific Nissan 3.5L engine problem, I advise you to go for a timing chain kit to replace the system completely.

If you plan to keep your engine in the long run or your engine has high mileage, it is good to opt for a full timing chain.


1. What Is The Lifespan Of The Nissan 3.5L Engine?

The answer is not cast in stone. The lifespan of any engine is dependent on multiple factors.

Maintenance, engine design, component parts, and faithfulness to recommended fluid are things you should take seriously. The handling of your car by your local technician can also take a toll on the lifespan of your engine.

When you properly maintain your Nissan 3.5L engine, it can easily extend to about 100,00 miles. However, it may go beyond this mile for a more extended lifespan.

Talk about versatility and reliability? The Nissan 3.5L 3ngine is the definition. It is strong and reliable while providing users with the best driving experience.

2. Does Excess Oil Affect The Performance Of My Nissan 3.5L Engine?

The old saying still holds true: excess of everything is bad. The effects of excessive oil in the car cannot be overemphasized. You’ll notice a lot of issues once the engine has an excess supply of oil. To start with, the crankshaft and other associated components are put under severe pressure on both terminals.

When excess oil gets into the engine, the crankshaft head and tail couplers, which are primarily responsible for blocking oil leaks, will come under weak pressure.

The situation can become worse and more severe if the pressure is on the flywheel because excess oil on this part can contaminate and eventually destroy the clutch.

The second thing you might observe is that there will be friction on the crankshaft. Ideally, the crankshaft is supposed to run smoothly but when it’s covered with too much oil, the crankshaft will experience traction and higher resistance to optimal performance.

What’s more, too much oil might also result in engine wear. The car requires proper lubrication of the engine parts, but when under-lubricated or over-lubricated, the engine will wear quicker than normal and eventually damage sooner than its lifespan.

Lastly, the spark plugs will start to foul. At this point, you’ll need to replace the spark plugs, and that will be costly and telling on your budget.

3. What Are The Specs Of Nissan 3.5L Engines?

Features: Specs:
Displacement 3498cc (3.5L)
Aspiration Natural
Head Material Aluminum
Horsepower 228hp to 300hp
Compression 10 : 1 or 10.5 : 1
Torque 246-274 lb-ft

4. What Are The Possible Causes Of Oil Leaks?

1. Broken Or Loose Oil Filter

Earlier, I identified a bad valve cover gasket as a major culprit. But the oil filter won’t escape scrutiny, honestly, if I discover any oil leaks in my Nissan 3.5L engine. The reason is simple: the oil filter is essentially integrated into the engine to sieve out any impurities in the oil.

However, once the filter becomes loose due to pressure from the engine or is degraded as a result of mileage coverage, overuse, or age, the oil will start to leak. Guess what? You won’t have to break the bank to replace an oil filter. It is cheap to purchase and seamless to fix.

2. Excessive Oil

Having oil in excess in the engine can cause an overflow. What you’ll notice is some puddle under the car in the garage or driveway. In this instance, the engine oil light may neither flash nor blink. A dipstick or special tool may help you gauge the oil level.

3. Loose Filler Cap

This is an issue I personally never thought could cause an oil leak before. But when the filler cap is weak or becomes loose, oil puddles – sometimes a pool of oil, depending on the amount of oil that leaks away – will form beneath your car and hood. You can easily readjust the filler seal or buy a new one if it won’t stay in place.

Final Thoughts

Truth be told, the Nissan 3.5L engine has relatively few issues. Replacing your valve cover gaskets, the timing chain, and other parts of your engine prone to common problems with after-market can cause your engine to break down.

You can, however, opt for after-market parts except if confident of their originality and effectiveness. Opting for OEM is always the best decision in replacing your faulty engine parts.

Worried about what the best maintenance culture is? Always watch out for signals and symptoms from your engine as they show. When you notice these symptoms, always ensure to fix them as quickly as possible to prevent the sudden knockout of your engine.

Other Nissan 3.5L engine problems from the ones discussed above require instant attention as well. Curious to know why? I do not want anyone to have a taste of my experience driving down Beacon Street. It was simply horrible.