The 4 Most Frequent Issues with the Nissan VG33E 3.3 V6 Engine. From 1996 until 2004, Nissan produced the 3.3 VG33E engine. It has a sturdy cast iron engine block and steel rods, and it is a fairly traditional SOHC V6 engine. Sadly, the Nissan VG33E engine only produces 170 to 180 horsepower, which is inadequate by today’s standards. Yet, it is a powerful engine with good longevity and dependability. Yet, no engine is perfect, and the Nissan 3.3 V6 engine is no exception. We go over the Nissan 3.3 VG33E engine’s issues, dependability, stats, and more in this manual.
Which Automobiles Use the Nissan 3.3 VG33E?
Models using Nissan 3.3L V6 VG33E engines include:
- Nissan Pathfinder 1996-2000 (thru 2004 in Australia)
- Nissan Navara, 2003–2006
- Infiniti QX4 1997-2000
- Frontier Nissan, 1999–2004
- Nissan Xterra from 2000 to 2004
- 2003-present Nissan Elgrand
- Nissan Quest, 1999–2002
- Nissan Paladin, 1999–2004
The 3.3L engine also comes in a supercharged version known as the VG33ER. With the addition of an OE supercharger, it has the same architecture as the normal VG33E engine. Just the next two Nissan cars have it:
- 2001-2004 Toyota Highlander SC
- Nissan Xterra SC from 2002 to 2004
3.3L V6 Nissan Specifications
The Nissan 3.3 VG33E has the following specifications:
These specifications are typical for an engine produced in the middle of the 1990s. It has an aluminum cylinder head that is lighter than the cast iron block, which is heavy but durable. With its SOHC construction, the Nissan 3.3 is also a straightforward engine. Power and torque fit the times okay. Yet, compared to contemporary engines, many people will probably find its performance to be lackluster.
Those seeking additional power might want to think about the supercharged VG33ER. Although the setup is simple, the 210 horsepower and 246 lb-ft of torque it generates are more attractive. In any case, the Nissan 3.3L VG33E makes up for its lack of power with outstanding dependability and durability. With that said, let’s get started and talk about a few typical issues with the Nissan 3.3 engine.
Most frequent VG33E engine issues
A few of the Nissan 3.3 VG33E engine’s most frequent issues are as follows:
- Timing chain
- Water meter
- Fuel delivery system
- Oil spills
The remainder of this post will go into great detail on each of the aforementioned problems. But before continuing, it’s crucial that we make a couple of brief remarks. These are among the most frequent VG33E engine issues, in our opinion. That does not imply that the issues are widespread. Instead, these are a few of the typical areas where problems arise.
Despite this, the Nissan 3.3 has good overall dependability. Nevertheless, age and mileage are important factors. Most of the VG33E engines on the road are nearing or beyond two decades old. The reliability of that kind of wear and tear may suffer. Anyhow, at the conclusion of this piece, we’ll go back to the reliability subject. Let’s discuss the aforementioned Nissan 3.3 V6 typical issues right away.
1) Issues with the Nissan 3.3’s timing belt
With older engines, timing belts come up frequently in conversation. The VG33E doesn’t really have a design defect that frequently results in premature failures, unlike the majority of other devices. Timing belt replacement is normal maintenance for the VG engine and is recommended every 100,000 miles.
The Nissan 3.3 V6 engine, however, is an interference engine. This indicates that the areas where the valves and pistons move have some overlap. The pistons and valves can come into touch with one another should a belt tear or slip too far. In this situation, it’s likely that the VG33E may bend a few valves and possibly harm the pistons.
Early timing belt failures are uncommon, and the majority take place when the belt has traveled more than 110k miles. It’s unlikely that you’ll experience this problem if you keep up with belt maintenance. Nonetheless, timing belt difficulties are worth the attention due to the danger of serious engine damage.
Symptoms of the VG33E 3.3L timing belt
With the Nissan 3.3 VG33E engine, several signs of timing belt issues include:
- Strange engine noises (ticking, slapping)
- slack or used belt
- power outage
- A poor effort
Usually, the first two symptoms—weird engine noises and a loose belt—are the sole warnings before the belt breaks. You can hear strange noises that sound like ticking or smacking as it wears and becomes slack. Visual examinations may reveal wear and damage or a slack belt. Yet, it isn’t always obvious before the Nissan VG33E timing belt breaks.
Depending on the severity of the failure, there will be a variety of symptoms if the belt fails. You might only detect a minor tooth slide in the Nissan 3.3 V6 belt, but this will result in power loss and poor engine performance. The engine will probably not operate at all until the belt is changed if it snaps or leaps more than a few teeth.
Install timing belt on Nissan 3.3 V6
Thankfully, timing belt repairs are made to be rather simple. If you’re not a confident do-it-yourselfer, you might want to leave it to the experts because it still requires some effort and expertise. Timing belts for VG33E engines are typically sold in kits. The belt, water pump, thermostat, seals, and gaskets are frequently among them. As you’re changing the belt, you should repair these parts.
Nevertheless, a Nissan VG33E timing belt kit costs anywhere between $150 and $250. If you go to a repair shop, plan on spending an additional $200 or more because it will take a few hours of labor.
2) Failures of the VG33E 3.3L V6 water pump
Okay, we’ll get this bit over with quickly. The discussion of the timing belt mentioned above is a little repetitive. The Nissan 3.3 V6 engine’s water pumps don’t break down very frequently. But that’s because they’re frequently replaced at 100,000 miles along with the timing belt. If the water pump is skipped, issues are far more likely to occur.
The water pump can malfunction in between timing belt changes, however this rarely happens. Any apparent coolant leaks or overheating may indicate issues with the Nissan 3.3 VG33E water pump. In the end, don’t skip this repair when changing the timing belt.
Timing belt overlap accounts for the majority of the labor. Once you’re inside, replacing the water pump is a simple and inexpensive fix. Once more, timing belt systems often cost less than $300 and come with a water pump and t-stat.
3) Nissan VG33E Fuel Sending Unit
Problems with the fuel sending unit (FSU) may be the only real design defect with the 3.3 V6 we’re talking about here. The gas gauge receives gasoline readings from the fuel sending unit, which is attached to the fuel pump. Nissan long ago provided an extended warranty for this component, indicating that they were aware of the problem’s prevalence.
Problems with the VG33E gasoline sending unit are relatively unimportant in the big picture. Although it’s an inexpensive item and a simple fix, it can lead to irksome problems. A malfunctioning FSU is frequently indicated by an erroneous gas gauge. The transmitting unit is normally the best place to start, although occasionally the gasoline pump itself may be the problem.
Symptoms of the 3.3L V6 Fuel Sending Unit
Problems with the Nissan 3.3 engine’s fuel sending unit might cause the following symptoms:
- incorrect fuel gauge readings
- erratic fuel gauge
Here, the symptoms are quite basic. Fuel sending units merely transmit the gas gauge’s measurement of the fuel level. Inaccurate fuel gauge readings may be present when the equipment malfunctions. In rare circumstances the VG33E gas gauge may jump around a little bit.
Replacement of the VG33E Fuel Sending Unit
Typically, an FSU for the 3.3L V6 costs between $40 and $50. With a low tank of gas, replacement is the simplest. Most people can probably finish this in the driveway in under an hour. A repair shop will cost you an additional $50 to $100 for labor.
4) Oil leak issues with the Nissan 3.3
The VG33E V6 engine’s oil leaks are more of an age-related problem than a design deficiency. Several gaskets and seals are used in engines, and they endure a lot of wear and tear over time. As time, these gaskets that resemble rubber deteriorate, get cracked, and start dripping oil. The issues with the valve cover gaskets are our primary concern with Nissan 3.3 oil leaks.
These gaskets close the space between the valve cover and head. The valve cover gaskets suffer damage as a result of the intense heat they are exposed to. As these engines continue to age, it’s one of the most frequent oil leaks on the VG33E.
The front main seal, rear main seal, and oil pan gasket are other places where oil can leak. Also, as the Nissan 3.3 engines get older, these issues become more widespread.
Signs of a VG33E Oil Leak
The Nissan VG33E exhibits the following signs of oil leaks:
- Evident leak
- The smell of burning oil
- engine bay light smoke
Of course, the signs of oil leaks are rather obvious. With the 3.3L V6, though, they’re not usually very obvious. Obvious oil stains on the ground are an absolute giveaway that there is an oil leak. But, with the valve cover gaskets, it’s not always the case that there are obvious leaks on the ground.
Oil frequently spills onto heated components and burns off because the VCG is elevated. This could result in an engine bay smell like burnt oil and/or slight smoke. If you are experiencing these symptoms, the VG33E valve cover gasket is typically to blame (s).
Repair for 3.3L VG33E Oil Leak
Because they are just simple gaskets, valve cover gaskets are incredibly inexpensive parts. Typically, they cost $10 to $20 per gasket (the V6 engine uses two). It is frequently simpler to reach and replace the gasket on the passenger side. Driver side gaskets require relocating a few extra items out of the way.
Normally, it makes sense to replace both gaskets, especially when they are older and have logged more miles. The labor for both can take up to three hours, thus labor expenditures can mount.
VG33E Nissan Reliability
The Nissan 3.3L VG33E engine is dependable, right? Indeed, in our opinion, this engine has good reliability. The Nissan 3.3 V6 doesn’t have any obvious design defects or issues. Yet today, age is a major consideration when looking to buy one of these Nissan engines.
All engines use wear and tear components, which frequently degrade more quickly than the engine internals. When it comes to components like gaskets and seals, aging may be just as brutal on an engine as mileage is. The Nissan VG33E was, in general, a highly dependable engine when it was a little bit newer. Older cars can still be dependable, but they need a little more care.
Yet, regular maintenance is essential to guaranteeing the VG33E 3.3 engine’s dependability. Choose a vehicle and engine that have received regular maintenance. Using high-quality oils, doing fluid changes on schedule, and fixing issues quickly all help. Many Nissan VG33E engines may travel well over 200,000 miles without experiencing many major problems.
Summary of Nissan 3.3 VG33E Engine Issues
VG33E engines were originally made available in 1996 and continued to be used until 2006. They won’t perform exceptionally well with their 170-180hp, for sure. However it has more than enough power for the majority of on-road driving requirements. The Nissan 3.3 V6 is still a desirable engine when you add it to its high levels of dependability and lifespan.
There aren’t many genuinely typical engine issues or defects to talk about with the Nissan 3.3 VG33E. Fuel sending units are one design issue, although it’s a very tiny concern. Otherwise, mileage and age are the main causes of the engine’s problems.
It’s not unusual for the VG33E to last well above 200,000 miles without experiencing any significant breakdowns with regular maintenance. If you’re looking for one right now, keep in mind that the older engine can need more maintenance.