The Top 5 Most Common Toyota 3RZ-FE Engine Issues. Toyota’s 3RZ-FE engine is a 2.7L inline-4 that was manufactured from 1994 to 2004. The 3RZ is the 22R-successor, E’s and it was eventually retired and replaced by the 2.7L 2TR-FE. The engine has 16 valves and a double overhead cam layout. It also includes two chain-driven balance shafts.
The engine was overengineered in a good way, producing only 150hp and 177lb-ft of torque. The 3RZ internals are very strong for the engine’s relatively low power output, thanks to a forged crank and forged rods. The cylinder head and pistons are made of aluminum, and the block is made of cast iron.
Fortunately, the engine’s strength combined with its low power output results in a highly reliable engine. This article discusses Toyota 3RZ-FE engine issues and reliability.
Toyota 3RZ-FE powered vehicles
The Toyota 3RZ-FE engine can be found in the following vehicles:
- Tacoma (1995-2004)
- 1996-2000 Toyota 4Runner
- 1994-1998 T100
- Granvia (1995-2002).
- 1995-2004 Hilux
- 1990-2004 HiAce
- 1996-2004 Toyota Land Cruiser
- 2001-2009 Toyota Land Cruiser (Venezuela only)
Toyota 3RZ-FE Engine Issues
The following are some of the most common issues with the 3RZ-FE:
- Failure of the Timing Chain
- Serpentine Belt Squeak
- Water Pump Failure
- Valve Modifications (causes burnt exhaust valves from lack of adjustments)
- Failure of the Balance Shaft Bearing
Before we get into the common problems with the 3RZ, I wanted to emphasize the engine’s dependability. Not all of these issues are common; some are maintenance items that must be replaced at some point.
1. Failure of the 3RZ Timing Chain
Instead of using a timing belt, the 3RZ engine uses a timing chain. Timing chains, which are connected by a chain, open and close the exhaust valves. A set of gears on the front of the engine block connects the timing chain to the cam and crank. A timing cover protects the chain and keeps it lubricated with oil.
The 3RZ-FE has timing guides and tensioners in addition to the chain. The guides keep the chain from slipping off the gears. Tensioners use springs to keep the chain taut. The tensioner in this Toyota engine is hydraulically actuated by oil pressure, which means that if oil pressure drops, tensioners will stop working.
Failure of the timing chain on the 3RZ is more of a maintenance item than a common problem. Toyota claims the chain is intended to last 150,000 miles before it should be replaced. If you have more than 100,000 miles on your vehicle, we recommend inspecting the chain.
Chains naturally stretch over time due to constant expansion and contraction from heat cycles because they are made of metal. The chain may become loose and jump gears as a result of this stretching. When the timing chain jumps gears, the timing is thrown off, resulting in misfires, poor performance, and even catastrophic engine damage.
3RZ-FE Timing Chain Issues Symptoms
- Misfires in the cylinders
- Oil with metal shavings
- Engine rattling noise
- Idling and performance issues
While the timing chain stretches naturally over time, there are two other factors that can lead to premature failure. Overheating engines can cause premature stretching, which can lead to failure. Second, low oil pressure can deprive the timing chain of lubrication, leading to failure.
We’ve seen timing chains on the 3RZ last over 200,000 miles with no problems. While 150,000 miles is the recommended service interval, we recommend having it inspected on a regular basis and replacing it when necessary. Timing chains typically fail gradually over time rather than suddenly, so you should be aware of any problems before they become severe.
Related : The Ultimate 5.7 HEMI Engine Guide
2. Squeaking Serpentine Belt 3RZ-FE
A serpentine belt is a long rubber belt that provides power to different engine systems. The serpentine belt transfers power to the power steering pump, alternator, air conditioning compressor, and water pump via pulleys and a tensioner. A pulley attached to the crankshaft provides rotational power. The crankshaft rotates the pulley, which rotates the belt, which drives the other systems.
The serpentine belt on the 3RZ-FE engine is known to squeak around 80,000 to 100,000 miles. A squeaking serp belt isn’t necessarily a problem, but it does signal that the serpentine belt is on its way out the door. As a result, if the belt starts squeaking, we recommend replacing it.
Serpentine belts are made of rubber and have grooves. The friction on these wears down over time, which can cause the fit to loosen. When the belt becomes loose, it begins to slip, causing the squeak. A faulty pulley or tensioner can also cause the squeak. Fortunately, the belt is usually the source of the squeak on the 3RZ.
The simplest solution is to replace the belt. While you may be able to live with the squeak, it indicates that the belt is about to fail completely. Serp belts are only about $10, so replace it before it destroys all of your major engine systems.
Serpentine Belt Problems
- The sound of squeaking or squealing
- The air conditioner is broken.
- The vehicle lacks power steering.
- The battery is running low.
- The belt appears to be worn or frayed.
- Overheating (from water pump not working) (from water pump not working)
Toyota 3RZ-FE Water Pump Issues
Again, water pump failure is a less common issue and more of a routine maintenance item. Water pumps are in charge of moving coolant throughout the engine. Because the pump operates at high pressures, its internal components are subject to normal wear and tear and deterioration.
The serpentine belt powers the 3RZ-FE water pump, which is belt-driven. While this increases durability, internal components can still fail. Water pumps have what is known as a weep hole or vent hole. The weep hole allows coolant or oil to escape, preventing cross-contamination of these systems.
When the oil seal fails, oil will leak from the hole. When the internal water pump seal fails, coolant leaks from the hole. Unfortunately, on the 3RZ, the water pump usually fails instantly rather than giving any warning signs that it is about to fail.
Water pumps have failed as early as 75,000 miles and have lasted as long as 300,000 miles. However, most water pumps will fail at around 150,000 miles.
Symptoms of Water Pump Failure
The following are symptoms of Toyota 3RZ-FE water pump problems:
- Overheating of the engine
- Engine light on
- Coolant is dripping from the water pump.
- Whining from the pump
- Weep holes are leaking.
If you have a faulty water pump, you can consult our water pump replacement cost guide.
4. Burnt Valves and 3RZ Valve Adjustment
According to Toyota, the 3RZ engine requires valve adjustments every 25,000-30,000 miles. As the camshaft, valve seats, and valves themselves wear down, valve clearance changes. The valve lash on the 3RZ-FE decreases, causing the exhaust valves to not close completely. When the exhaust valves do not fully close, blow-by enters the combustion chamber and burns up the valves.
As a result, the valves must be adjusted on a regular basis to maintain proper clearance and avoid burnt valves. Burned valves necessitate valve replacement, which is an expensive repair. While this isn’t a common problem if your valves are adjusted regularly, it is a common problem for those who don’t have them adjusted at all.
Valve adjustment necessitates the use of a specialized tool and is a difficult task, so we recommend having them adjusted by a reputable shop. There are a few indicators that the valves need to be adjusted, but they aren’t always present or easy to detect, which is why it’s critical to have them checked on a regular basis.
Toyota Valves Need Adjustment
- At idle, there is a ticking noise.
- Engine does not reach redline due to a lack of power.
- Misfires (caused by blow-by in the combustion chamber) (caused by blow-by in the combustion chamber)
- Exhaust fumes
- Increased fuel consumption
5. 3RZ-FE Balance Shaft Bearing Issues
As previously stated, the 3RZ employs two chain-driven balance shafts. Inline-4 engines are the most common application for balance shafts. The system consists of two shafts, each with weights attached. The shafts then rotate in opposite directions at twice the engine’s speed. The mechanism by which they work is rather technical, but the force produced by the rotation of the shafts cancels out vibration produced by the engine.
Bearings are used on the balance shafts to reduce friction and ensure proper rotation. Bearing failure appears to be more common in Venezuelan 3RZ-FEs sold between 2001 and 2009. While this does not appear to be as common in US markets, there have been a number of reports of it happening. It’s common enough for one company to make a balance shaft removal kit.
When the bearings fail, the balance shaft no longer functions properly, resulting in excessive engine vibration.
- Symptoms of Balance Shaft Failure
- There is a lot of engine vibration.
- Idling in a rough manner
- Overall, the running is rough.
- Under acceleration, there is rattling.
- Failures or stalls
Because balance shaft repair is quite expensive, many people who have this problem simply remove the balance shafts. Again, we do not believe this is a common problem, but it has been documented sufficiently for us to mention it given the cost of repair.
Reliability of the Toyota 3RZ-FE
Is the 3RZ-FE engine dependable? Yes, and it’s very dependable in that regard. Major engine components such as the block, cylinder heads, and internals are extremely durable and should never fail. When you put forged components in a 150hp engine, you almost certainly get fantastic reliability.
The valves are the one exception to my previous statement. Valve failure is not a common issue, but it can become one if valve adjustments are not performed on a regular basis. Check valve clearance and seating every 25,000 miles and adjust as needed.
Furthermore, the 3RZ-FE timing chain issues are more of a maintenance item than a problem. The same is true for faulty water pumps. The serpentine belt will probably squeak every 100,000 miles, but it’s a $10 part, so no worries there. The last issue, balance shaft bearing failure, is uncommon enough to raise concerns about the 3RZ’s long-term reliability.
The engine in the 3RZ-FE should easily last 300,000 miles. And it can usually achieve those levels with very little maintenance.