The Three Most Common Honda J35 3.5 V6 Engine Issues. The Honda 3.5 V6 engine was launched in 1998 and is being used in vehicles today. Because of the J35’s long history, there have been several modifications and improvements to the engine over the years. All engines, however, share the same fundamental 3.5L V6 SOHC architecture. J35 engines provide an excellent overall balance of performance, fuel efficiency, and dependability. However, no engine is flawless, and the Honda 3.5L V6 is no exception. This page discusses a few typical issues with the Honda J35 3.5 V6 engine, as well as general reliability.
Variations on the J35 Engine
Because there are so many various versions of the 3.5 V6, we’ll probably move this into its own post in the future. For the time being, it is necessary to provide a brief summary of these engines. We’re just interested in the J35A, J35Z, and J35Y engines. However, within each engine, there are more versions, such as the J35A1, J35A3, J35A4, and so on.
J35A Honda Engine
J35A engines were the first in the family, debuting in 1998. It was a popular engine that was still in production until 2012. The J35A, like the others, is powered by a 3.5L V6 SOHC engine with Honda’s VTEC system. In the early 1998-2001 Honda Odyssey, output starts at 210 horsepower. The Acura RL and TL models equipped with the J35 engine produce 286 horsepower. These engines performed admirably for their age. The J35A engines can be found in the following Honda and Acura models:
- 1998-2010 Honda Odyssey
- From 2001 through 2006, Acura MDX
- 2003-2008 Honda Pilot
- From 2004 through 2008, Honda Legend
- 2005-2008 Acura RL
- Acura TL Type-S 2007-2008
- Honda Ridgeline 2006-2008
Engine: J35Z 3.5L V6
Honda J35Z engines, often known as the Earth Dreams 3.5L engine, were manufactured between 2006 and 2014. Specific upgrades from the J35A engine are dependent on the variation of the J35Z engine family. The usage of Variable Cylinder Management (VCM) is the key distinction. This technology was also used by one of the J35A engines. However, VCM is far more frequent on the Honda J35Z 3.5 V6 engine. These engines produce 244-280 horsepower and can be found in the following years and models:
- Honda Pilot (FWD only) 2006-2008
- 2009-2015 Honda Pilot
- Honda Ridgeline (2009-2014)
- 2008-2012 Honda Accord
- RDX (2013-2018)
- Acura TSX 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014
- 2009-2014 Acura TL
- 2011-2017 Honda Odyssey
*The J35Z3 engine in the 2008-2012 Honda Accord 6MT Coupe is the only one that does not use VCM technology.
J35Y 3.5 V6 Honda
Honda introduced the J35Y, the latest generation of their 3.5 V6 engine, in 2013. Except for the manual transmission Honda Accord, all engines include Variable Cylinder Management. For improved performance, emissions, and fuel economy, most J35Y engines use direct fuel injection. They are the most powerful J35 engines, producing 278-310 horsepower. It is available in the following Honda and Acura models:
- Honda Accord 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017.
- Acura RLX 2014+
- Honda Legend 2014+
- 2014-2020 Acura MDX
- TLX 2015-2020 Acura
- Honda Pilot 2016+
- 2017+ Ridgeline by Honda
- Honda Odyssey 2018+
- Honda Passport 2019+
We apologize for the fairly lengthy subject matter here. With an engine that’s been around for over two decades, there’s just so much to dissect. Some of the issues we explain affect specific Honda 3.5 V6 engines more than others, so it’s critical to distinguish. In the future, we’ll go through all of the Honda J35 engines in greater detail. For the time being, let’s get into the meat of this piece and talk about some common issues with the J35 3.5L V6 engines.
Typical Honda 3.5 V6 Engine Issues
Among the most prevalent problems with the Honda J35 3.5L V6 engine are:
- VCM stands for Variable Cylinder Management.
- Timing chain
- Carbon accumulation
In the following sections, we will go through these issues in detail. However, we believe it is vital to add a few quick observations for clarity. These are among the most common issues, in our opinion. That doesn’t mean they’re frequent in the sense that the problems affect a sizable proportion of Honda 3.5 V6 engines. Rather, these are a handful of the most typical areas where failures occur.
Having said that, the 3.5L V6 is fairly reliable in general. After all, we’re talking about Honda, which is well-known for producing dependable, long-lasting automobiles and engines. At the end of the piece, we’ll return to the subject of Honda 3.5 reliability. Anyway, let’s get started on the issues mentioned above.
1) Variable Cylinder Management Issues with the 3.5L V6
We’ve already noted that there’s a lot to unpack with all of the different J35 engines. When it comes to Honda 3.5 V6 difficulties with the variable cylinder management (VCM) system, there’s just as much to talk about. The VCM shuts down one cylinder bank (3 cylinders) when the engine is under low load. In principle, it’s fantastic technology. When you don’t need all of the power, why not turn off three cylinders to reduce pollution and fuel consumption? Nothing appears to be wrong with that.
However, there have been several complaints of VCM system problems and failures. One concern is with the J35 VCM gaskets, which have been known to leak oil. The Honda 3.5 VCM unit is located next to the alternator, which is bad news if leaks emerge. It’s not a big deal if found early enough, but oil spilling on the alternator isn’t good.
There appear to be incidents of excessive oil consumption as a result of the VCM. In 2013, a class action lawsuit was filed about the issue of high oil consumption for 2008-2013 vehicles. It did not include the early 2005-2007 J35A7 engine, but some people have reported problems with those VCM systems as well. Variable Cylinder Management appears to be the source of engine mount, torque converter, and spark plug difficulties in addition to oil consumption.
The faults do not appear to be as prevalent with the newest Honda 3.5 V6 Earth Dreams engine (J35Y). However, some people continue to seek aftermarket fixes or disable the system. We believe that the internet has exaggerated the problem to some extent. Regardless, it’s a concern that owners of 3.5L V6s should be aware of.
Symptoms of Honda J35 VCM
Symptoms of VCM problems on the Honda 3.5L engine might vary greatly. There are several complications that can emerge with the VCM system (or as a result of VCM), so there isn’t always a simple solution. However, there are a few things to keep an eye out for:
- Excessive oil usage
- Oil spills
- Ineffective operation
One of the primary difficulties with the VCM system is the usage of oil. Check the oil on a regular basis, and don’t rely just on the computer to warn you when it’s low. You will most likely notice an oil leak or smell burnt oil if the VCM gaskets are leaking. Vibrations or other issues may indicate that the J35 engine mounts are failing.
Poor overall performance is quite broad, but we included it as a symptom for a purpose. Again, a variety of factors can point to Variable Cylinder Management issues. Poor performance could indicate that it’s time to investigate the 3.5L V6 VCM system.
Honda 3.5 V6 VCM Repair
The precise solution, of course, is dependent on the problem at hand. However, there are several aftermarket options, such as these VCM Tuner devices. We can’t attest to their efficacy, but we would recommend doing some additional study and digging. Otherwise, some people choose to disable VCM entirely.
Those that stick with the OEM solution may not encounter any Honda 3.5 V6 issues. In truth, most will not have any problems because we believe this issue has been exaggerated to some extent.
2) Timing Belt Wear on a Honda 3.5 V6
With the VCM debate completed, we’ll try to move on to the next issues as quickly as possible. Timing belts aren’t a major source of failure on the Honda 3.5 V6 engine. The maintenance schedule is every 8 years or 100,000 miles, but verify the manual for your specific J35 engine. The J35 timing belt does not appear to have any serious problems or faults.
However, it is a critical piece of maintenance, and regular inspections are recommended. The 3.5L V6 is a collision engine. This means that the valves and pistons travel in the same area. In general, interference engines are more powerful and efficient. However, if the timing belt snaps or slips excessively, the valves and pistons may collide. This is not good news.
It’s fairly uncommon for some valves to flex when this happens. Further harm to the Honda 3.5 V6 is also possible. In any case, bent valves will not be cheap to repair. The point is that there is no genuine issue with the Honda J35 timing belt, but it is a normal maintenance component. Make careful you examine the belt after 6-8 years and 75,000 to 100,000 kilometers. Even if everything appears to be in order, you should probably stick to the recommended interval.
Symptoms of a J35 3.5L Timing Belt
Look for the following signs that the 3.5 V6 timing belt is on its way out:
- Strange engine sounds (ticking/slapping)
- MIL (check engine light)
- Power outage
It can be difficult to discover any indications before the timing belt fails. That’s why, as the Honda 3.5 timing belt nears the end of its useful life, we think visual inspections are a good idea. However, in some situations, you may hear strange engine sounds such as ticking or chattering.
Misfires, power loss, and a MIL could indicate that the belt has shifted somewhat. At this stage, it’s an emergency repair since too much slippage might cause the valves and pistons to collide.
Timing Belt Replacement for 3.5L V6
Fortunately, timing belt replacement is a relatively low-cost fix. The timing belt and water pump kit for your Honda 3.5 V6 costs between $125-250, depending on the year and model. In that regard, the water pump, together with the belt, is an excellent item to repair. Seized water pumps can also create timing belt problems, thus regular maintenance is recommended.
The job isn’t too difficult for the do-it-yourself population, making it a fairly inexpensive repair. Those going to a repair shop should expect a few hours of labor, so budget an additional $150-300 for labor.
3) Carbon Build-Up Issues on the Honda J35 3.5
We’re writing about carbon buildup once more. It should be noted that this problem only affects newer J35Y Earth Dreams engines with direct injection. Many modern engines have moved away from port injection (PI) and toward direct injection (DI). In general, the change is for the better. Direct injection provides substantial benefits in terms of performance, emissions, and fuel efficiency. It almost sounds too wonderful to be true, doesn’t it?
One disadvantage of direct injection engines, such as the Honda 3.5 V6 J35Y, is carbon buildup on the intake valves. Engines generate some amount of oil blow-by. This oil returns to the intake tract, where it adheres to intake ports and valves. Traditional PI sprays gasoline into the intake ports while wiping away deposits. Direct injection, on the other hand, pours gasoline straight into the 3.5L V6 cylinders. Nothing is available to clean the oil deposits on the intake valves.
This generates carbon buildup on the intake valves and ports over time. Although it is rarely an emergency, cleaning the intake valves on DI engines is normally excellent maintenance. Excessive carbon deposits can impair drivability and performance. This is a topic that hasn’t gotten much attention with the Honda J35 engine. Carbon build-up issues normally manifest themselves after 80,000 to 120,000 km.
3.5L V6 Carbon Deposit Symptoms
Excess carbon build-up on the Honda J35 3.5L intake valves causes the following symptoms:
- Power outage
- Idle time
- Stuttering or hesitancy
Power loss is one of the most serious performance issues caused by carbon buildup. In some circumstances, it might be rather substantial. This is due to carbon deposits impeding airflow into the cylinders. However, power loss might be difficult to detect because it occurs over tens of thousands of kilometres. It is not an abrupt decrease of power, making it difficult to notice.
Misfires, on the other hand, are a key indicator of excessive carbon deposits on the J35 intake valves. Misfires can be caused by a variety of difficulties, making them difficult to detect. It’s usually better to start with the fundamentals, such as spark plugs. If simple fixes do not resolve the misfires, carbon buildup may be to blame.
Reliability of the Honda 3.5 V6
How trustworthy is the Honda 3.5 V6 engine? We believe the engine’s dependability is above average. Aside from the VCM issues, the J35 3.5L engine has few severe problems. Some people have issues with camshafts, however this is often due to poor maintenance. We didn’t have anything else to talk about. Timing belts are just necessary maintenance items, and carbon buildup is one drawback to an otherwise excellent direct injection system.
Of course, a large part of reliability is determined by maintenance, and the Honda 3.5 V6 engine is no exception. We always recommend using proper oils, changing fluids on time, and repairing problems as they arise. Some dependability is determined by chance, which we cannot control.
Maintain the 3.5L J35 engine properly, and it will most likely reward you with a sturdy, dependable ride. It’s fairly uncommon for the Honda 3.5 V6 to reach 200,000 miles without any problems.
Summary of J35 3.5L Common Issues
Honda introduced the J35 3.5L engine in 1998, and it is still in production today. Given its two-plus decade lifetime, the Honda 3.5 V6 has a plethora of versions. However, they all share the same fundamental 3.5L SOHC V6 architecture. They’re also all good engines with a nice blend of power, efficiency, and dependability.
A few problems and faults with the Honda VCM system have been raised, leading to a lawsuit in 2013. For those who are truly concerned, there are aftermarket solutions and ways to entirely uninstall the system. There weren’t many more genuine issues or defects to discuss. Timing belts and carbon buildup are topics for debate, but we don’t consider them concerns.
Overall, the Honda 3.5 V6 has high reliability, especially when properly maintained. If you stick to the fundamentals, most Honda J35 owners will have a good time with the engine.