The Top 4 Nissan VG33E 3.3 V6 Engine Issues. From 1996 until 2004, Nissan produced the 3.3 VG33E engine. It’s a traditional SOHC V6 engine with a sturdy cast iron engine block and steel rods. Unfortunately, the Nissan VG33E engine, with 170 to 180 horsepower, is underpowered by modern standards. It is, nevertheless, a powerful engine with high reliability and longevity. However, no engine is perfect, and the Nissan 3.3 V6 engine is no exception. This information covers Nissan 3.3 VG33E engine problems, reliability, specifications, and more.
What Vehicles Make Use of the Nissan 3.3 VG33E?
The following Nissan models use 3.3L V6 VG33E engines:
- Nissan Pathfinder 1996-2000 (in Australia, till 2004)
- 2002-2006 Nissan Navara
- 1997 to 2000 Infiniti QX4
- Nissan Frontier 1999-2004
- Xterra (2000-2004) Nissan
- Nissan Elgrand, 1997-2002
- Nissan Quest (99-02)
- Nissan Paladin (1999-2004)
The 3.3L engine is also available in a supercharged model known as the VG33ER. With the addition of an OE supercharger, it shares the same design as the normal VG33E engine. It is only available in the two Nissan models listed below:
- 2001-2004 SC Nissan Frontier
- Nissan Xterra SC 2002-2004
- Nissan 3.3L V6 Specifications
The Nissan 3.3 VG33E has the following specifications:
These are reasonably typical specifications for an engine developed in the mid-1990s. A heavy yet sturdy cast iron block and a lightweight aluminum cylinder head are used. With its SOHC engine, the Nissan 3.3 is likewise a straightforward design. Power and torque are enough for the time. However, many people will undoubtedly find its performance disappointing when compared to modern engines.
Those seeking additional power should check into the VG33ER with a supercharger. It’s a simple system that produces 210 horsepower and 246 lb-ft of torque. What the Nissan 3.3L VG33E lacks in power, it more than makes up for in dependability and longevity. That being said, let’s get started and go over some of the most typical issues with the Nissan 3.3 engine.
The Most Common VG33E Engine Issues
Among the most prevalent issues with the Nissan 3.3 VG33E engine are:
- Timing chain
- The water pump
- Fuel delivery system
- Oil spills
In the following sections, we will go through each of the aforementioned difficulties in detail. However, before we proceed, we need make a few quick notes. These are the most prevalent VG33E engine issues, in our opinion. That is not to argue that the issues are widespread. Rather, when problems arise, they are some of the most typical places.
Having said that, the Nissan 3.3 provides solid overall dependability. However, age and mileage are important variables. The majority of VG33E engines on the road are close to or older than two decades old. Such wear and tear might have a severe influence on reliability. Anyway, we’ll return to the topic of dependability at the end of this piece. For the time being, let’s dive right in and talk about the aforementioned prevalent Nissan 3.3 V6 issues.
1) Issues with the Nissan 3.3 Timing Belt
We have a lot of conversations about timing belts on older engines. The VG33E, like most others, does not have a design defect that causes frequent early failures. Timing belts are routine maintenance that should be performed on the VG engine every 100,000 miles.
The Nissan 3.3 V6 engine, on the other hand, is an interference engine. This indicates that the area where the valves and pistons travel has some overlap. If a belt snaps or slips too much, the pistons and valves may come into contact. In this circumstance, the VG33E is likely to bend a couple of valves and potentially harm the pistons.
Early timing belt failures are uncommon, and usually occur after 110k miles on the belt. If you keep up with belt maintenance, you should avoid this problem. Regardless, timing belt problems are worth mentioning due to the possibility of catastrophic engine damage.
VG33E 3.3L Timing Belt Issues
Timing belt difficulties on the Nissan 3.3 VG33E engine might cause the following symptoms:
- Strange engine noises (ticking/slapping)
- Belt that is loose or worn
- Power outage
- Inadequate performance
The first two symptoms, unusual engine sounds and a loose belt, are usually the only ones present before the belt fails. As it wears and sags, you may hear strange sounds like ticking or smacking. Visual inspections may reveal signs of wear and tear or a slack belt. However, it is not always obvious before the Nissan VG33E timing belt fails.
When the belt fails, you will experience a variety of symptoms, depending on the severity of the failure. The Nissan 3.3 V6 belt may simply slip a couple teeth, resulting in power loss and poor engine performance. If the belt snaps or leaps more than a few teeth, the engine will most likely not start until the belt is replaced.
Timing Belt Replacement for Nissan 3.3 V6
Fortunately, timing belts are meant to be a relatively simple repair. It still requires time and knowledge, so unless you’re a seasoned DIYer, you might want to leave it to the professionals. VG33E timing belts are typically sold in kits. The belt, water pump, thermostat, seals, and gaskets are frequently included. They’re useful to replace when you’re changing the belt.
A Nissan VG33E timing belt kit costs between $150 and $250. If you go to a repair shop, expect to pay another couple hundred dollars for a few hours of effort.
2) Failures of the VG33E 3.3L V6 Water Pump
Okay, this portion will be brief. The timing belt information above is a tad repetitive. Water pumps on the Nissan 3.3 V6 engine break infrequently. However, this is because they are frequently replaced along with the timing belt around 100,000 miles. When you skip the water pump, problems become much more common.
The water pump can fail between timing belt changes, however this is a rare occurrence. Any signs of overheating or visible coolant leakage could indicate a problem with the Nissan 3.3 VG33E water pump. Finally, don’t omit this repair when changing the timing belt.
The timing belt accounts for the majority of the labor. Once inside, the water pump is a simple fix that is also inexpensive. Again, timing belt kits typically include the water pump and t-stat and cost less than $300.
3) Fuel Sending Unit Nissan VG33E
The only true design defect with the 3.3 V6 discussed in this article may be with the fuel sending unit (FSU). The gasoline sending unit connects to the fuel pump and transmits fuel readings to the gauge. Nissan issued an extended warranty for this part a long time ago, indicating that they were aware of the problem.
In the big scheme of things, VG33E fuel sending unit issues are trivial. It’s a cheap item with an easy fix, but it might cause problems. A faulty gas gauge usually indicates a problem with the FSU. In some circumstances, the gasoline pump may be the source of the problem, but the transmitting unit is usually the best place to start.
3.3L V6 Fuel Sending Unit Issues
The following are symptoms of gasoline sending unit difficulties on the Nissan 3.3 engine:
- Fuel gauge readings that are incorrect
- The gasoline gauge is bouncing.
The symptoms are straightforward in this case. The gasoline sending units merely send the fuel level measurement to the gas gauge. When the unit fails, you may observe inaccurate fuel gauge readings. In some circumstances, the VG33E gas gauge may move slightly.
Replacement VG33E Fuel Sending Unit
A 3.3L V6 FSU typically costs between $40 and $50. It’s simplest to replace with a low gas tank. Most people can probably finish this in less than an hour in their driveway. If you’re going to a repair shop, add $50-100 for labor.
4) Nissan 3.3 Engine Oil Leak Issues
Oil leaks on the VG33E V6 engine are caused by age rather than a design problem. All engines require a variety of gaskets and seals that are subjected to a great deal of abuse over time. With time, these rubber-like gaskets deteriorate, develop cracks, and begin to leak oil. Our main focus with Nissan 3.3 oil leaks is on valve cover gasket issues.
These gaskets fill the space between the valve cover and the head. They are subjected to a lot of heat, and the heat cycles wear down the valve cover gaskets. As these engines age, it’s one of the most prevalent oil leaks on the VG33E.
Oil leaks can also occur in the front main seal, rear main seal, and oil pan gasket. These issues are becoming more widespread as the Nissan 3.3 engines age.
Symptoms of VG33E Oil Leak
The following are the symptoms of oil leaks on the Nissan VG33E:
- Visible dripping
- The odor of burning oil
- Light smoke is coming from the engine bay.
Of course, the indications of an oil leak are rather obvious. They’re not usually visible on the 3.3L V6, however. Visible oil patches on the ground indicate that oil is leaking someplace. Visible leaks on the ground do not always occur with valve cover gaskets.
Because the VCG is elevated, oil frequently spills onto hot components and burns off. This may result in a burning oil odor and/or mild smoke coming from the engine bay. These symptoms are frequently caused by the VG33E valve cover gasket(s).
Repair 3.3L VG33E Oil Leak
Valve cover gaskets are extremely inexpensive because they are simple gaskets. They typically cost between $10 and $20 per gasket (the V6 engine requires two). The gasket on the passenger side is frequently easier to access and replace. A few extra items must be moved out of the way to replace the driver side gaskets.
It’s usually a good idea to replace both gaskets, especially if the vehicle is older and has a greater mileage. Labor for both can take anywhere from 3-5 hours, thus labor expenditures can mount up.
Reliability of the Nissan VG33E
Is Nissan’s 3.3L VG33E engine dependable? Yes, we believe this engine is really reliable. The Nissan 3.3 V6 doesn’t have any major design defects or issues. However, age is a major consideration when trying to buy one of these Nissan engines nowadays.
Wear and tear items in all engines do not always last as long as the engine internals. When it comes to items like gaskets and seals, age may be just as brutal on an engine as miles. The point is, when it was newer, the Nissan VG33E was a very reliable engine. They can still be dependable, but older vehicles require a little more care.
Nonetheless, maintenance is critical to ensure the VG33E 3.3 engine’s dependability. Look for a well-maintained vehicle and engine. Quality oils, frequent fluid changes, and problem resolution all go a long way. Many Nissan VG33E engines can travel over 200,000 miles without experiencing major problems.
Summary of Nissan 3.3 VG33E Engine Issues
VG33E engines were introduced in 1996 and continued to be used until 2006. They’re not going to produce outstanding performance with 170-180hp. However, it has more than enough power for most daily driving and on-road demands. When combined with good reliability and lifespan, the Nissan 3.3 V6 remains an enticing engine.
There aren’t many very typical engine issues or defects to highlight when it comes to the Nissan 3.3 VG33E. Fuel sending units are one design fault, but it’s a minor one. Otherwise, most engine problems are merely a result of age and miles.
With careful maintenance, the VG33E is capable of lasting well over 200,000 miles without serious breakdowns. If you’re looking for one now, keep in mind that the older engine may require some more TLC.