Most Common Nissan GT-R VR38DETT Engine Problems

Nissan GT-R VR38DETT Problems & Reliability

Nissan’s popular R35 GT-R is powered by a 3.8-liter twin turbo V6 VR38DETT engine. However, we’re tempted to dismiss this motor as worthless and move on. Let’s be honest – the GT-R already has a sizable following, and we’re not here to add to it.

That, however, is unjust. The Nissan GT-R is an excellent car, made even better by its VR38 engine. However, every automobile ever built is prone to malfunctions and failures. In this post, we’ll discuss the VR38DETT engine’s reliability and flaws.

GT-R VR38 Engines Are Hand-Built

Since its introduction in 2007, each VR38 has been hand-built. Each is handcrafted by one of only five “Takumi Craftsmen.” Each VR38DETT engine is assembled from top to bottom by these highly experienced and well-trained mechanics. Once completed, their names are permanently affixed to the engine. We believe it is quite cool.

Additionally, it demonstrates the meticulous manner in which the Nissan VR38DETT engines are built. As a result, the GT-R V38 engine is free of many common issues. That is not to say that problems cannot occur.

Especially on modified and aggressively driven R35 VR38 engines. We’ll discuss this further later, but the VR38 engine is quite reliable in its stock configuration. However, there are a few common problems with other power-train components.

Nissan GT-R Common Problems

Several well-documented issues with the GT-R VR38 engine and powertrain include the following:

  • Bellhousing Rattle
  • Transmission Problems
  • Blown VR38 Engine

The asterisks are included for emphasis. We do not wish to give the impression that the VR38 engine is prone to frequent or widespread complete engine failure. Rather than that, the VR38 does not have any significant common issues worth discussing.

Again, various issues can and will arise at some point. There simply does not appear to be anything that is consistently problematic. We’ll discuss blown engines in greater detail below as an interesting topic and something to consider for those modders of R35 GT-Rs.

1) GT-R VR38 Bellhousing Rattle

The transmission of the R35 GT-R is actually mounted at the rear of the car. Chevrolet adopted a similar strategy with their Corvettes. However, the two are slightly different in terms of design. The Corvette’s engine and transmission are connected via a torque tube. Nissan chose to mount the bellhousing to the engine and then connect it to the transmission via a drive shaft.

This enables the VR38 engine and bellhousing to be relocated independently of the transmission. It’s a minuscule amount of movement, but sufficient. The R35 bellhousing’s shaft bearings appear to be the weak point. Over time, the output shaft develops an abnormal amount of play.

The rattling from the GTR bellhousing frequently gets worse over time as more play develops. Fortunately, there are solutions and fixes available. Additionally, it’s a relatively inexpensive repair in comparison to the cost of purchasing even a used GT-R.

GTR Bellhousing Rattle Fix & Replacement

To begin, some owners choose to ignore the rattling. Especially in cases where the change is not too drastic and there is little opportunity for play. For those seeking a long-term solution, companies such as ATR offer options.

They bore out damaged GTR housings to install steel inserts and new shaft bearings. This eliminates the rattling and provides a longer-term solution. The real issue is still the VR38 engine’s overall layout, bellhousing, and transmission setup. As a result, the issue is likely to recur. However, these solutions should buy some additional time.

ATR offers two distinct bellhousing upgrades for the R35 GTR. These begin at $899 and go up to $1,299. Additionally, installation takes a few hours, so factor in labor costs if you’re not planning to do it yourself.

Costs should remain under $2,000 even if the work is performed by an independent shop. It’s not cheap, but in comparison to the GT-R, it’s not bad.

2) Nissan GT-R Transmission Problems

Transmission issues are never fun on any car. The engineering and components behind transmission is often confusing. It’s also not always easy to find local shops experienced enough to actually repair transmissions.

Fortunately, the common issue with the R35 GTR’s transmission is fairly simple. Let’s dive in and explain the common failure.

Transmissions always have metal on metal contact occurring inside. That slowly causes small fragments of metal to be carried around in the transmission fluid. The  Not an issue – normal operation so far.

However, the GTR’s transmission includes two solenoids to control gear selection. Those solenoids can actually act as magnets and attract those small metal fragments. Eventually, the solenoid(s) may become blocked enough to result in problems with the R35 entering certain gears. It seems the solenoid responsible for gears 1 – 3 – 5 – R is the most common.

There are of course other potential transmission problems that occur from time to time. We’re not focused on those issues, but just something to consider. Transmission failure is rare on stock R35 GT-R’s.

However, start pushing things too far and the transmission may be prone to faults. We’ll leave it at that since it somewhat ties into what we discuss about VR38 engine failures.

GT-R Transmission Solenoid Replacement

Often, the GT-R’s transmission solenoids don’t even need replacement. A simple cleaning usually does the job. However, the R35 transmission does need to be dropped to access the solenoids for cleaning.

This job is fairly labor intensive and may cost a couple thousand to fix. It may also be a good time to change to higher quality transmission fluids like Dodson or Willall. Upgrading the filter can’t hurt either.

Final notes – the solenoid issues seem to pop up most often when transmission fluid is changed soon enough. You may be able to mitigate or buy extra time by changing the fluid more frequently.

The idea is that you allow less time for metal to build up in the fluid and potentially stick to the solenoids. Higher quality oils and filters may also help slow down build-up.

3) Nissan GT-R VR38 Engine Failure

Again, this is not a common occurrence. There are no significant, consistent design flaws that should result in the VR38 engine failing abruptly or severely. However – and perhaps this is unique to us – when we think of the R35 GT-R, we tend to think of the 800whp, 1000whp, and 1500+whp examples. Most people understand that getting there costs a lot of money.

Setting a safe upper limit on an engine is never an easy task, and the VR38 is no exception. At stock power and boost, the VR38 is extremely rare to fail. There are, however, a few instances of blown VR38DETT engines with complete bolt-ons. Generally speaking, the further and harder you push things, the more likely the engine will fail.

That is true for any automobile. Though it is widely accepted that the VR38 engine and transmission are capable of producing approximately 650 lb-ft of torque.

Even if the number is less than that, things can still go wrong. At X torque, larger turbos are also easier on the VR38DETT engine. In the future, we’ll have more detailed content on these subjects.

The general concept is that larger turbos shift the power curve to the right, allowing for more top-end power without relying heavily on torque.

GTR VR38 Longevity When Modded

As with the previous discussion of torque limits, it’s difficult to quantify the amount of time spent pushing the R35 beyond stock power. We’ll discuss a few fundamental concepts that are critical to remember. Routine maintenance, such as oil changes, is becoming increasingly critical. Keep an eye on the VR38’s data – look for indications of knock, lean conditions, and so on.

Tuning is also critical for longevity. Select a dependable, high-quality song and err on the conservative side. Consider it as if you were building a more powerful engine. If you want 1000whp, you almost certainly did not build the engine to handle that much power. You’re probably going to build the VR38 to handle 1200whp.

When done correctly, the VR38 should be safe at 650 ft-lbs of torque when equipped with the stock motor and transmission. Again, the risk exists. There are, however, methods for mitigating that risk. You have control over a few factors, including larger turbos, conservative tuning, proper monitoring, and timely maintenance.

Finally, if you’re concerned with pushing the boundaries, you might consider building the R35 engine from the ground up. It’s significantly less expensive to do so up front than it is to do so after a rod has passed through the block.

Then you’re looking at a completely new engine, plus any damage to other components caused by metal fragments. We have no intention of frightening anyone. While both the GT-R and VR38 are fantastic, as with any engine, the VR38 is prone to failure when pushed to its limits.

GT-R VR38DETT Reliability

In general, Nissan’s VR38 engine is an impressive and reliable performer. There are no common issues with the engine itself. Naturally, with age and mileage, issues are bound to arise. However, the VR38DETT does not appear to have any significant design flaws. These hand-assembled engines are near-flawless in terms of quality.

The transmission on the R35 GT-R is the most problematic component of the car. The bellhousing is technically a component of the transmission and suffers from rattling issues as a result of the rear-mounted transmission’s design. Otherwise, the transmission has a history of solenoids clogging and causing shift problems. These appear to be the GTR’s primary flaws.

Is the Nissan GT-R a dependable vehicle? Yes. Is the Nissan GT-R a reliable vehicle? That’s difficult to answer without resorting to broad strokes, but it’s reasonable to consider the GT-R to be above average in terms of high-performance engines.

Certain GT-R and VR38DETT models’ reliability is entirely dependent on luck of the draw. A portion of it has to do with how well the R35 is maintained, driven, and modified.

Nissan GTR VR38 Summary

It’s no secret that the GTR has millions of fans, which makes sense. The R35 Nissan GT-R powered by the VR38 engine is an exceptional car that performs well above its price point.

It delivers supercar-level performance at a fraction of the price of most supercars. Additionally, the VR38 engine is dependable in terms of performance. However, no automobile is perfect or indestructible, and the GT-R is no exception.

The GT-two R’s most prevalent faults are with the transmission, not with the VR38 engine itself. Repairs for bellhousing rattles and transmission solenoid problems can cost several thousand dollars each.

Not bad. Apart from that, the VR38 engine is superb. However, once the engine is pushed beyond its stock capacity, the risk of engine failure increases.

Certain VR38s have been known to stall on stock turbos when fitted with full bolt-ons. Ascertain that you have the necessary supporting mods, a good tune, and that you are monitoring engine parameters. It is widely accepted that the VR38DETT can handle approximately 650 ft-lbs of torque with the stock motor. Not bad at all for a V6.

What are your thoughts on the R35 GT-R and VR38 engine?

Are you contemplating purchasing one? Leave a comment and inform us.

Up Next: Nissan VQ40DE Engine: 3 Most Common Problems

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