4 Common 3.6 VVT Engine Problems to Keep in Mind

American manufacturers are most famous for their fire-breathing V8 engines. But that didn’t stop Chrysler from trying its hand at creating a fuel-efficient V6 powerplant. Today, we’ll take you on a tour of what they came up with – the 3.6-liter VVT engine.

If you know anything about mid-2000s Chrysler quality, you know where this is going. The 3.6 Pentastar had its fair share of issues. We will explore some of the most common problems today.

When looking at the 3.6-liter VVT Pentastar engine, common problems that you may come across include issues with the oil pump, water pump failures, damaged rocker arms, and ticking sounds from the cylinder head. Make sure to get these reliability gremlins sorted before they make the Pentastar engine a complete write-off.

Introduction To The 3.6 VVT Engine

Chrysler 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 Engine: Versatility and Reliability

It would be unfair if we didn’t give you an overview of this engine before discussing its issues. So, let us take a quick history lesson on the Pentastar V6.

Chrysler first showed off this efficient powerplant at the 2009 New York Auto Show. It took another two years for this engine to find its way under the hoods of some of the most popular cars on the road. Vehicles powered by the 3.6 VVT engine include the Dodge Challenger, Chrysler Pacifica, Dodge Grand Caravan, Ram 1500, and the Jeep Wrangler.

At the time, this Pentastar V6 was one of the most technologically advanced engines ever produced by the Chrysler Corporation. Compared to its predecessor, the engine was 42 lbs lighter, consumed 11% less fuel, and produced 38% more power.

The manufacturer used high-pressure die-cast Aluminum to create the engine’s cylinder block. Each of the six cylinders had cast iron liners and was angled 60 degrees from each other. The open-deck design of the engine kept the material costs down while also reducing the overall weight.

The power figures of the 3.6-liter VVT engine vary between different models. For example, it produces 295 horsepower along with 250 lb-ft of torque in the Jeep Wrangler. On the other hand, Dodge Challengers equipped with the same powerplant make 305 horsepower and 268 lb-ft of torque.

The use of Variable Valve Technology (VVT) was a distinguishing feature of the 3.6-liter Pentastar V6. This technology increases engine efficiency by optimizing valve opening and closing times. It allows the engine to have a smooth idle without sacrificing top-end performance.

Now that you know more about the 3.6-liter VVT engine by Chrysler, let us move forward with discussing its most common issues.

3.6 VVT Engine Problems

3.6L VVT Engine

Chrysler’s reputation for building rather unreliable powerplants continued with the 3.6 VVT engine. Some of the 3.6 Pentastar’s most well-known shortcomings include,

  • Oil Pump Issues
  • Water Pump Failure
  • Faulty Rocker Arms
  • Cylinder Head Problems

We will now go through these issues one by one to understand the causes behind them as well as the common symptoms.

1. Oil Pump Issues

The oil pump is one of the 3.6 VVT engine’s points of failure. Although this issue is not common, it has still plagued a fair share of owners.

In an internal combustion engine, the oil pump is responsible for pressurizing and circulating engine oil through critical engine components. A failed oil pump can lead to many expensive repairs.

Oftentimes, the first indication of 3.6 VVT engine oil pump failure is a sudden loss in oil pressure. Make sure to keep an eye on the oil pressure gauge to catch this issue before it gets out of control.

If the oil pump of your Pentastar V6 has gone bad, getting a replacement pump is the best action you can take. The typical oil pump replacement cost for this engine falls between $1000 and $1300.

2. Water Pump Failure

Similar to the oil pump, the water pump of this Chrysler engine can also fail. Not only that, but there are other cooling issues with this engine as well. Clogged radiators and faulty thermostats are two that immediately come to mind.

As we mentioned earlier, the heads of the 3.6 VVT engine are made using Aluminum. This is done through a sand casting process. Although it boosts engine performance, this sand-casting process becomes a major concern when it comes to engine cooling.

After the sand casting process is done, the engine usually goes through a thorough cleaning process before moving on. But, this does not guarantee that 100% of the sand has been removed.

If even a tiny amount of residual sand is left behind, it can lead to some major consequences. These grains will circulate through the cooling system, clogging it up and leading to cooling issues down the line.

In addition to sand, other contaminants can clog the internals of the cooling system too. This debris includes gasket materials and metal shavings from the engine’s internals.

Although this is not a common issue, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Oftentimes, engine overheating is the first main symptom of cooling issues. Additionally, abnormal engine temperature gauge readings also indicate that your engine is facing some issues with cooling.

3. Faulty Rocker Arms

The rocker arms are what transmit camshaft movements to the engine’s intake and exhaust valves. These components are also known for failing on the 3.6-liter VVT Pentastar powerplant.

Rocker arm failure mostly happens on engines that have passed the 15,000-mile mark. Several symptoms you can use to identify rocker arm failure before it does extensive damage to your 3.6 VVT include the check engine light turning on and engine misfires.

Engine ticking is another common indication of rocker arm failure. This sound typically comes from the upper engine area.

Rocker arm failures of 3.6 VVT engines were so notorious that FCA even had to issue a service bulletin in the March of 2014. Beware of this issue, as rocker arm failure can result in expensive repairs equalling thousands of dollars.

4. Cylinder Head Problems

Around 0.5% of vehicles equipped with the 3.6 VVT engine made between the years of 2011 and 2013 suffered from cylinder head issues. The issue was mainly linked to the vehicle’s left cylinder bank. When it comes to vehicle models, Jeep Wranglers produced during this period were the most affected type.

Frequent misfires, the check engine light turning on, and inadequate engine power are some indications of cylinder head issues.

Faulty valve seats were the main culprits behind 3.6 VVT cylinder head failures. These had a tendency to overheat, which ultimately resulted in cylinder head failure.

The manufacturer took several steps to remedy this issue. Chrysler upgraded the cylinder head design in August 2012, outfitting them with hardened valve seats and guides. Additionally, they offered an extended engine warranty covering 150,000 miles or 10 years on some affected vehicles.

Preventive Maintenance Tips To Keep The 3.6 VVT Running Smoothly

Now, let’s take a look at some tips that you can follow to keep these problems from arising in the first place.

Follow The Maintenance Schedule

Performing maintenance work as scheduled is the best way to preserve not only the 3.6 VVT but any engine out there. During maintenance, the mechanics will be able to swap out any faulty components that may cause issues in the future.

Keep An Eye On The Temperature Gauge

As we discussed, most issues with the 3.6 VVT are caused by engine overheating. So, keeping an eye on the temperature gauge is a good precautionary measure.

If you notice that the temperature needle is creeping up higher than normal, pull over safely and stop the engine. This will limit the damage that would otherwise be done to the engine’s internals.

After letting the engine cool down, take a look at the coolant reservoir. If it is running low, refill it up to the manufacturer’s recommended level. We recommend you take your vehicle to a mechanic as soon as possible to identify the cause of overheating and apply the necessary fixes.

Swap Out The Cooling System Components

As we have established in this article, the 3.6 VVT has some cooling problems too. Replacing the error-prone OEM components with more durable aftermarket ones is an effective way of limiting these issues.

Consider swapping out the water pump and the oil cooler, as these are two parts that fail frequently on these engines. Although the initial cost will be high, replacing these parts now will save you a significant sum of money that would otherwise be spent on repairs later on.

To wrap things up, we can safely say that although the 3.6-liter Pentastar has some well-known problems, you shouldn’t discard it as an utter failure. If you choose wisely, this powerplant can be quite bulletproof and serve you reliably. And if you currently own a vehicle with this V6 under the hood, make sure to keep a close eye out for the issues we discussed here today.

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Mahir Ahmed


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