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4 Most Common Nissan 3.3 Engine Problems & 4 Common Reliability

Nissan 3.3 engine problems can be frustrating to deal with. If you own a new car with such an engine, then you may likely not witness any of these problems.

However, as your car ages, gradually, you will begin to notice many of the engine problems crap up all at once. The size of each issue you are likely to face depends on how well you take care of the engine.


Features of Nissan 3.3 Engine

The 3.3 engine is a class of similar engines made by Nissan. Each of the two engines is a v6 3.3 liters engine. Nissan rolled out VG33E – the first version of this engine – in 1996. Subsequently, VG33ER – the second version – entered the scene in 2001.

These two VG machines come from a long line of v6 engines that date back to 1983. Amongst these engines, VG33E is the most popular.

The Nissan 3.3 engine has many features, which are:

  • v6 layout,
  • petrol (gasoline) fuel type,
  • 3275 cc (3.3L) displacement,
  • A cast-iron engine block.

The 4 Common Nissan 3.3 Engine Problems

Your Nissan 3.3 engine has several engine problems. These issues range from simple problems that require simple solutions to complex ones that can cause your machine to break down.

However, there are a few problems experienced by a wide range of people across the world. If you haven’t already, you will probably experience one or more such issues in the future.

What are the most common Nissan 3.3 engine problems?

The Nissan 3.3 engine has four common problems. These problems are:

  • Oil leaks problem,
  • Timing belt issue,
  • Water pump problem,
  • Fuel sending problem.

01. Oil Leaks Problem

Amongst all the engine problems above, the oil leaks problem is the most common. However, this issue doesn’t relate to any engine design flaw. The older an engine is, the more likely it will leak oil.

Using your car every day slowly weakens everything includes the seals and gaskets of the engine. The rubbery gasket hardens and cracks over time.

Within these cracks, oil continuously leaks either when the engine is running or when parked.

Oil usually seeps out from various gaskets located behind and in front of the car engine. It also leaks along the sides of the gasket of the oil pan.

Although several gaskets may leak oil, the most problematic of the oil leaks is the one from the gasket of the valve cover. This particular gasket undergoes severe temperature and pressure conditions over time.

Therefore, the gasket of the valve cover is the most likely gasket to leak oil on a Nissan 3.3 engine as the car ages.

02. Timing Belt Issue

The timing belt issue is a common problem for many car engines. However, this problem usually amplifies as a car engine ages.

Since most Nissan 3.3 engines are old, there is naturally a greater tendency for the timing belt to fail while the engine is operating.

To further amplify the problem, the Nissan 3.3 engine is a type of engine in which pistons and valves move within an overlapping space.

Therefore, the likelihood of the valves and pistons colliding together is high whenever the timing belt slips or cuts while the engine runs.

As a result, an issue with the timing belt of your car engine usually bends the valves within the engines.

In some cases, the problem can escalate by causing partial or complete destruction of one or more engine pistons.

Once this happens, your car engine can become either partially damaged or destroyed completely. Then you will need to spend more money to get it fixed.

03. Water Pump Problem

In general, the water pump of this engine is reliable. As a result, this issue rarely occurs in isolation. In most cases, the water pump fails when the timing belt shatters.

Since the water pump is quite fragile, any slight problem with it can damage your car engine.

However, a faulty water pump doesn’t fail directly. It will usually show you a couple of signs. You will probably see the low coolant light come on, which tells you the water pump is about to fail.

Subsequently, your engine will likely begin to overheat. Additionally, you may find your coolant leaking as the water pump starts to fail.

04. Fuel Sending Problem

The fuel sending problem is the only issue caused by an engine design flaw. However, amongst all the four issues, it is the least problematic for your car engine.

What is the fuel sending problem of the Nissan 3.3 engine?

The fuel sending problem is an issue associated with the fuel sending unit of the engine. This device works with the fuel pump to measure the exact level of fuel contained in the fuel tank.

When this device malfunctions in your car, you are likely going to get inaccurate readings about the fuel level in your tank.

As a result, the fuel meter on your dashboard will always show you the wrong fuel level. In some cases, the fuel gauge bounces continuously.

More often than not, you will run out of fuel on the road simply because you assumed you had enough fuel in your tank.

The Solutions of 3.3 Engine Problems

The good news is, if your car has any of these four problems, you can get it fixed.

What are the solutions to the most common Nissan 3.3 engine problems? Highlighted below are the solutions to each issue.

# Oil leaks are not as dangerous as you may think. However, leaving the problem to persist can lead to bigger problems in the future.

Therefore, you should get it fixed as soon as you or your mechanic notice it. Running your car with low oil levels can damage your engine.

Your local mechanic will replace the old gaskets and seals with new ones. Doing this stops oil leakage. The gaskets and seals are generally inexpensive.

But the labor may cost you a few hundred dollars. So, if you are up for it, you can DIY and save a few extra dollars. This video gives you a look at how the gasket is replaced.

# The timing belt issue is the most tricky issue amongst the four common problems. The easiest way to avoid this problem is to periodically change the timing belt before it’s torn to pieces.

The recommended duration for replacing a timing belt is 160,000 km (100,000 miles). Nonetheless, your timing belt can fail before this distance.

A ticking noise from your engine can be a sign of a failing belt. You may also see visible damage to the timing belt.

In extreme cases, you may experience unexpected power loss or poor performance from your car.

In many cases, changing the timing belt will not cost you’re a whole lot. You should want to have your mechanic do this task as chances are you may damage the water pump in the process.

# As mentioned earlier, water pumps are mostly reliable. Your water pump will fail mostly together with your timing belt. So, you need to get ahead of it and be proactive.

Whenever your timing belt is due for replacement, your mechanic should look at the water pump. Besides, repairing the water pump and its working parts doesn’t cost so much, and it happens rather quickly.

Also, if you need to replace it, you will not spend much money doing so. Therefore, always insist your mechanic checks the water pump when they are working on your timing belt.

# The fueling sending unit problem is generally quickly fixed. Back in the day when an extended warranty that covers the issue was still active, you could have it replaced free at your local Nissan-approved car shop.

Now, you can get a replacement together with labor for under $100.

Nissan 3.3 Engine Reliability

How reliable is the Nissan 3.3 engine? This engine is quite a reliable machine. It offers you great power and decent performance.

Also, the engine doesn’t have any significant manufacturing flaws except the fueling sending unit issue discussed earlier.

However, at this point, all Nissan 3.3 engines are at least 17 years in existence. Therefore, in whatever way you look at it, you are dealing with an old machine.

As a result, you should expect some wear and tear associated with seals and gaskets.

01. Total Mileage

The Nissan 3.3 engine can cover a decent mileage before it begins to develop major problems.

Many car owners can enjoy their cars up to about 320,000 km (200,000 miles) without any worrying issues.

Beyond this mileage, the extreme heat and pressure developed within begins to take a toll on the engine. At a point, you may experience diminished performance and less fuel economy.

But if you have a good maintenance habit. If you take good care of your engine, you can get up to 480,000 km (300,000) miles out of it. Similarly, you will enjoy the power of the v6 engine.

02. Output Power

In general, the 3.3 engine has a suitable output power and torque. The VG33E version of the engine can have an output power of 134 kW, which translates to about 180 horsepower.

This amount of output power equals about 4,800 rpm (revolutions per minute). The exact amount of output power you get depends on the model and year of production of your car.

With the VG33ER version of the engine, you will get an output power of 157 kW – 210 horsepower – for an rpm of 4,800.

Also, you can expect a torque of 334Nm for 2,800 rpm. Overall, the two versions of the engine have an acceptable power output for a machine of that age.

03. Fuel Efficiency

The exact efficiency of each car engine depends on the type of car you own. Nevertheless, the engine is fuel-efficient regardless of car model as all cars with the engine have a similar built and weight.

The engine has a fuel injector, with sequentially injects fuel into the combustion chamber.

Therefore, on average, the Nissan 3.3 engine consumes 7.1 gallons of petrol over a 100 miles range on a highway, which equals about 16 liters of gasoline over a 100 km distance.

However, your engine will likely consume more fuel than 16 liters/100 km since it has at least been in use for one and a half-decade.

04. Internal Engine Design

The Nissan 3.3 engine has an internal design, which makes it an interference engine. In other words, it is a type of engine in which the mechanical parts within the machine overlap.

This type of design makes an engine compact, which equals an excellent compression ratio compared with other types of engines.

Also, it makes the v6 engine more efficient and powerful. However, as discussed earlier, this design feature also makes the engine vulnerable to destruction when a timing belt issue occurs.

Pros & Cons of Nissan 3.3 Engine

Below are the pros of the Nissan 3.3 engine.


  • It has a lot of output power, and it is ideal for moving heavy goods.
  • The engine is ideal for heavy trucks and vans that require a lot of power.
  • This engine has no major inherent flaws.


  • A timing belt problem can destroy engine components due to the interfere nature of the engine.
  • It may be challenging to find new engine components due to the engine’s age.

Maintenance Tips

As always, the maintenance tips of a Nissan 3.3 engine are similar to what you do for other cars. These tips are-

# You should periodically change the timing belt before it crosses the 100,000-mileage range to prevent it from cutting and causing other secondary repair issues.

# You should inspect the car hood for both coolant and oil leakages. Also, check your parking spot to ensure there isn’t any spillage. If you find oil or coolant leakage, make sure you address it as soon as possible.

Last Thoughts

The Nissan 3.3 engine is a powerful v6 engine designed for a wide range of trucks and vans. It is an old engine that still provides joy to thousands of car owners all around the world.

As an interference engine, the engine has a good compression ratio that allows for high performance. The same advantage also becomes a disadvantage when the timing belt develops a problem.