The 3 Most Common Toyota 3.5L V6 2GR-FE Engine Problems

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It is a usual thing for wear and tear to set in as engine components age. The Toyota 2GR-FE engine is not immune to any of the common mechanical, electrical, or hydraulic issues cars generally experience.

These problems are not indications that the 2GR-FE is not good but a signal that it is prone to anything that can affect the engine. However, the problems also serve as a signal that there’s the need to replace or fix certain parts.

The Toyota 2GR-FE is prone to having certain problems. They are:

  1. Spark Plugs And Ignition Coils
  2. Variable Valve Timing (VVTi Oil Leaks)
  3. Idler Pulley

In general, this engine is one of the most reliable on the market despite the above-listed problems. However, this engine may develop other issues but not as common as the ones mentioned earlier. Fixing these issues will help prevent deterioration and shut down of the engine.

Throughout this article, I will discuss the signs and solutions to these problems. However, these issues may vary since all engines tend to break down due to old age or other factors.

What Are The Most Common Toyota 2GR-FE Engine Issues?

1. Spark Plugs And Ignition Coils

This specific problem shouldn’t have been termed common in the 2GR-FE engines but then it can affect the overall performance of your engine. Although certain engines quickly experience ignition coil failure, it is, however, not a threat to this engine even though it can affect its amazing functionality.

The spark plugs are responsible for providing the needed sparks that ignite the mixture of air and fuel in the engine. Functional spark plugs literally supply the explosion your engine needs to perform optimally and give off the power.

On the other hand, the ignition coil, as the name suggests, is an integral part of the car’s ignition system. It works in close consonance with other main components of the electrical unit of your car engine, including the spark plugs, distributor, alternator, and switch battery.

When the ignition system is failing, the first two parts to inspect are the spark plugs and the ignition coil. Without them, the entire system can become deskbound and dysfunctional. Don’t forget, diesel engines are ignited via compression, not a spark.

Usually, replacing the spark plugs in this engine can happen after every 100,000-mile mark, while ignition coils can partially extend to their life. However, some ignition coils and plugs may have an extended lifespan beyond that range. Guess why? It’s due to the maintenance involved.

Changing the Toyota 2GR-FE ignition coils may happen when your engine covers up to 150,000 miles. For supercharged models of this engine, the need to replace the ignition coils may come sooner. However, there are two parts responsible for wearing these parts quickly: boost and extra power.

What To Watch Out For

Having understood ignition coils and spark plugs can last for a longer time, let’s talk about certain signals to watch out for once these components begin to experience wear and tear.

  • Misfires: Whether it is the spark plugs or the ignition coil, any fault to the ignition system will cause the engine to misfire. Misfiring is the first thing I noticed with the Toyota 2GR-FE engine.
    As wear and tear begins to set in, plugs and ignition coils will not perform at their best which causes the engine to misfire.
  • Engine Stutters: Faulty spark plugs and ignition coils will cause the engine to stutter. When this happens, it prevents the engine from performing best by stuttering acceleration.
  • Power Loss: This is one of the symptoms I find extremely difficult to spot in my Toyota 2GR-FE engine. Perhaps because it takes negligence and lack of proper attention to allow your engine to lose power if the spark plugs or ignition coil fails. It is likely seen because it takes place over time.
  • Check Engine Light Comes On: The check engine light on the dashboard can also come on once the ignition system is having a problem. Normally, the light shouldn’t illuminate except there is an issue with the engine, and faulty spark plugs or ignition coil is a major trigger.

What To Do

Sometimes, you may think the culprit of a failing ignition system is the ignition coil but only to check and find out that the spark plugs are behind the fault. So, the first task is to run a scan and carry out a thorough inspection of the source of the issue.

I recommend there should be a replacement of your spark plugs if you have covered beyond 100,000 miles. It is best to replace all six plugs, even if they need to just replace one of them arises. Although it is not connected to ignition coils but replacing them all will enhance the general performance of the engine.

You may need to budget about $50 to purchase a set of 6 spark plugs, but the ignition coil sets can be a bit expensive, maybe between $150 and $250. I bet even if you have no DIY experience, you can change your spark plugs right in your garage or driveway.

2. Variable Valve Timing (VVTi Oil Leaks)

All engines suffer oil leaks due to age or other factors, and this is not a hidden problem in the Toyota 2GR-FE. Oil leaks can be traceable to different sources.

Although oil leak is common in Toyota engines, they are, however, primarily noticed in models up to 2010, making it one of the most common 2GR-FE engine problems.

The VVTi system works on a rubber hose, feeding oil to it. An iron to rubber is designed in this engine which is prone to wear and tear at a certain point in time, and when this happens, the VVTi begins to leak oil.

About a decade ago, Toyota provided relief on this issue by designing an all-metal pipe, perfecting any model produced a decade ago.

However, it is a good idea to opt for the all-metal design pipe as a substitute for the rubber hose pipe. A continual oil leak for example will require that you replace the damaged part. The preventive maintenance I’d recommend for this issue is to replace the rubber pipe with the iron designed.

The engine tends to lose oil and pressure faster if the leaks persist and ultimately knock out the engine. I am sure you understand what it means for an engine to lack oil, right?

I don’t mean to scare you but to adopt a preventive maintenance culture. There is no need to panic, as I will discuss the symptoms to watch out for before holding your VVTi as the culprit.

What To Watch Out For

I watch out for the following symptoms before holding my Toyota 2GR-FE VVTi responsible for oil leaks.

  • Visible Oil Leak: Since this is one of the easiest to find out if my VVTi is faulty, I usually conduct a routine check before igniting my engine. If you notice a puddle under your car, variable valve timing can be an issue.
  • Check Engine Illuminates: The engine control unit (ECU) of Toyota 2GR-FE monitors and regulates the performance of the engine. Hence, when the VVTi solenoid starts to fail, a trouble code will appear and store in the ECU before it signals the driver through the illuminating check engine light.
    As we may have noted, the illuminating zone warning from the check engine light can cause a wide range of faults. It is best to call a local mechanic to inspect and diagnose the issue.
  • Engine Oil Becomes Dirty: The VVTi works under perfect condition when the engine oil is clean. But debris-filled, dirty oil will cause the VVTi to malfunction, leading to loss of viscosity and lubricity.
    The dirt often clogs the tunnel of the oil to the VVTi gear and chains through the solenoid. The gear drive can also be damaged if the oil is not replaced immediately.
  • Increased Fuel Consumption: When you notice that you visit the gas station often, there is a chance that the culprit is failed VVTi.
    After all, the role of the VVTi is to optimize engine performance by ensuring that the valves open and close properly and on the button. If you fail to attend to the issue promptly, the entire system can be compromised.
  • Low Engine Oil: Leaks from an engine are a quick way to lose a reasonable amount of oil in the 2GR-FE, and this is why I inspect thoroughly before driving my car. A cracked hose pipe can result in oil leaks.
  • Smoke From Engine: A broken hose pipe can result in rapid loss of oil pressure. Are you wondering what the outcome of this is? Watch your engine produce a lot of smoke.

What To Do

I do not contemplate changing my hose pipe completely once I notice any of the above symptoms associated with a damaged VVTi. Replacing it is easier, whether you’re opting for a DIY or mechanic. It comes cheaper and only requires a few hours to fix.

Finally, I should remind you that replacing your Toyota 2GR-FE VVTi oil hose pipe with the metal one is the surest way to avoid the above symptoms. Guess what? You won’t need to break the bank to get the metal hose.

3. Idler Pulley

The idler pulley is one of the most common 2GR-FE engine problems. Although not all common to all Toyota models, it is, however, mostly associated with the earlier model 2GR-FE engines. In 2009, Toyota solved the idler pulley problem by replacing the earlier idler pulley with a heavy-duty one.

The idler pulley problem is mostly found with 2005-2008 models, including sienna, highlander, and many other brands. Don’t be surprised if any of these models develop idler pulley problems.

Idler pulley, in most cases, is not as severe as you may assume, and it’s easier to find out if you’ve got a bad idler pulley. In most cases, the engine produces an ugly and loud noise. When you notice these sounds, holding your idler pulley as the culprit wouldn’t be a wrong decision.

Two idler pulleys are common in most Toyota 2GR-FE models, and replacing the two even when one is faulty will be one of the nicest decisions to make. Also, once your engine is beyond 100k miles, replacing the belt will enhance your engine.

What To Watch Out For

Do you already have an idea of what idler pulley is? It’s time I let you know what to watch out for to know the steps to take once you observe.

  • Squeaking Noise: Should you notice any squealing sound from your Toyota 2GR-FE, just be informed it is time to replace your idler pulley. It signals that the belts are rubbing against other components of the engine.
    On startup, the idler pulley may bind or slip to produce a squeaking sound if you don’t address the issue promptly, it will deteriorate to the point of breaking down other important parts of the engine, and eventually the engine itself.
  • Rattling: The engine is usually the last major victim of any trouble with your car. A rattling sound from your engine is a clear warning that there should be a replacement of your engine’s idler pulley.
  • Visible Wear: Wear and tear sets in as the idler pulley is subject to overuse, age and mileage will also take a toll on the performance of the pulley. When the idler pulley is beginning to wear out, you will notice certain visi9ble marks on the surface. The wear will cause the tensioner belt to slip.
  • Awkward Movement Of Drive Belt: Your Toyota 2GR-FE engines often come with a drive belt that is responsible for supplying power to a wide range of parts of the engine. The drive belt is also equipped with several other belts that are joined together by the idler pulley.
    The idler level ensures there is no contact between the belt and other different components. However, if the idler pulley collapses, the belt starts to wobble or move in an awkward manner. This side-to-side movement signals that the idler pulley is bad.

What To Do

As I mentioned earlier, idler pulley issues are a common phenomenon in certain models, such as Sienna, Camry, and others. These models use double idler pulleys which make them more costly in replacement.

Yet, for maximum engine functionality, it is best to replace both idler pulleys. Other models such as RAV4 and Highlander work on electric power steering. So, it may not bother you so much if your Toyota 2GR-FE engine model is in the latter category.

However, replacing the idler pulley can be a fun experience for an average DIY enthusiast. Within a few hours, you will be done changing both pulleys. If you are opting for a mechanic, you may budget up to $150 to $300.


1. How Do I Know My 2GR-FE Engine Has An Idler Pulley Problem?

As indicated above, there are many signs that accompany a damaged or worn idler pulley. Being an important component in the optimal performance of the car and delivery of the engine, the idler pulley needs to be maintained and inspected as regularly as recommended.

When it collapses, you may notice a rattling or squeaking sound from the engine, visible wear and tear marks on the surface, and wobbling of the belts. The belts may also start to rub against the pulley. These symptoms are not alien to many of the models of the Toyota 2GR-Fe engine.

2. Is The Toyota 2GR-FE Engine Reliable?

Absolutely! Despite the issues, there are only a few engines that can compete with the Toyota 2GR-FE engine in terms of performance and reliability. The engine is a reliable piece of technology. But like all machines, it is prone to damage.

But as amazing as a machine can be, if it is not maintained as recommended, it will certainly collapse. So, the rule of thumb is: take scheduled servicing seriously and make maintenance a priority at all times. The horsepower and the torque are incredibly high.

3. What Are The Specs Of Toyota 2GR-FE Engines?

Here are the top metrics and specifications of the Toyota 2GR-FE engine:

Features: Specs:
Horsepower 268hp to 296hp
Valvetrain Dual Over Head Cams – Four-Valve Per Cylinder
Torque 248 lb-ft to 260 lb-ft
Cylinder Block Material Aluminum
Valvetrain Layout DOHC
Cylinder Head Material Aluminum

Final Thoughts

Talking from my experience while driving down the park, I would not advise anyone to adopt after-market parts such as spark plugs and ignition, VVTi, idler pulleys, and more as replacements. After-market parts can compound your 2GR-FE engine problems except if you are confident of its quality and effectiveness.

It is always the best idea to fix the above problems by opting for the original equipment manufacturer’s parts. Are you curious about the surest way to extend your engine’s lifespan? Adopt regular maintenance and inspection culture.