Nissan VG33E 3.3 V6 Engine: 4 Most Common Problems

Between 1996 and 2004, Nissan built the 3.3 VG33E engine. Because of the cast iron block and steel rods, it’s a very old-school SOHC V6 engine. Unfortunately, Nissan’s VG33E engine, rated at 170 to 180 horsepower, falls short of modern expectations. The engine itself, on the other hand, is robust and reliable, with a long service life.

However, no engine is perfect, and the Nissan 3.3 V6 engine is no exception. This guide covers everything you need to know about the Nissan 3.3 VG33E engine, including issues like reliability, performance, and more.

What Cars Use the Nissan 3.3 VG33E?

The following Nissan models use the 3.3-liter V6 VG33E engine:

  • 1996-2000 Nissan Pathfinder (thru 2004 in Australia)
  • 2003-2006 Nissan Navara
  • 1997-2000 Infiniti QX4
  • 1999-2004 Nissan Frontier
  • 2000-2004 Nissan Xterra
  • 1997-2002 Nissan Elgrand
  • 1999-2002 Nissan Quest
  • 1999-2004 Nissan Paladin

The 3.3L engine is also available in a supercharged form known as the VG33ER. The OE supercharger is added to the standard VG33E engine’s design. Only the following Nissan models feature it:

  • 2001-2004 Nissan Frontier SC
  • 2002-2004 Nissan Xterra SC

Nissan 3.3L V6 Specs

The following are the Nissan 3.3 VG33E’s specs:

Engine Code VG33E
Layout V-6
Displacement 3275cc (3.3L)
Aspiration Naturally Aspirated
Valvetrain SOHC
Production 1996-2006
Block Material Cast iron
Head Material Aluminum
Compression 8.9 : 1
Bore x Stroke 91.5mm x 83mm
Horsepower 170-180hp
Torque 202 lb-ft

For an engine built in the mid-1990s, these are pretty standard specs. The engine’s block is made of heavy cast iron, but the cylinder head is made of lighter aluminum. With its SOHC design, the Nissan 3.3 is also a simple engine.

For the time period, power and torque are adequate. The performance, on the other hand, may disappoint some users who are used to newer, more powerful engines.

A supercharged VG33ER model may be an option for those who need more oomph. In terms of power and torque, it’s a modest setup, but the final results are quite appealing (210 hp and 246 lb-ft).

The Nissan 3.3L VG33E, on the other hand, makes up for its lack of output with dependability and longevity. That being said, let’s dive right in and talk about a few issues that people have had with the Nissan 3.3 engine.

Most Common VG33E Engine Problems

Most Common VG33E Engine Problems

The Nissan 3.3 VG33E engine has a number of common issues, some of which are listed below:

  • Timing belt
  • Water pump
  • Fuel sending unit
  • Oil leaks

The rest of this article will go into detail on each of the aforementioned topics. However, before we continue, let’s make a few quick additions. These are some of the more common VG33E engine issues, according to our research. However, this does not mean that the issues are widespread. Instead, these are some of the most common places where problems arise.

The Nissan 3.3, on the other hand, has a good track record of dependable performance. However, factors such as age and mileage must be taken into account. The majority of VG33E engines on the road have been in service for close to or longer than two decades.

As a result of the wear and tear, the system’s dependability may suffer. Regardless, at the conclusion of this article, we’ll return to the reliability subject. For the time being, let’s focus on the aforementioned issues related to the Nissan 3.3 V6.

1) Nissan 3.3 Timing Belt Problems

When it comes to older engines, we frequently have to bring up the subject of timing belts. The VG33E, like most others, doesn’t have a flaw in its design that leads to frequent premature failures. The VG engine’s timing belts should be replaced approximately every 100,000 miles as part of routine maintenance.

In contrast, the Nissan 3.3-liter V6 is a non-interference motor. This means that the areas where the valves and pistons travel are somewhat overlapping in nature.. The pistons and valves can come into contact if a belt snaps or slips too far. If this happens, the VG33E is likely to bend a few valves and damage the pistons.

Early timing belt failures are rare; the majority occur after 110k or more miles on the belt. As long as you’re on top of belt maintenance, you shouldn’t have to deal with this problem. It doesn’t matter, because a faulty timing belt can lead to catastrophic engine damage.

VG33E 3.3L Timing Belt Symptoms

The following are signs that your Nissan 3.3 VG33E engine has a faulty timing belt:

  • Weird engine sounds (ticking/slapping)
  • Loose/worn belt
  • Power loss
  • Poor performance

Odd engine noises and a loose belt are usually the only warning signs before the belt breaks. After a while, you may hear strange noises that sound like ticking or slapping. Visual inspections can reveal signs of wear and tear or even point to a slack in the belt. However, the failure of the Nissan VG33E timing belt is not always obvious beforehand.

If the belt breaks, you’ll experience a wide range of symptoms, some more severe than others. If a couple of teeth of the Nissan 3.3 V6 belt come loose, you’ll experience power loss and poor engine performance. Unless the drive belt is replaced, the engine will likely not run at all if the belt snaps or jumps more than a couple of teeth.

Nissan 3.3 V6 Timing Belt Replacement

Timing belts, on the other hand, are made to be easily repaired. Even if you’re a confident do-it-yourselfer, you should probably leave it to the professionals unless you have plenty of time and knowledge to spare.

Kits for VG33E timing belts are the most common way to purchase them. Seals and gaskets are frequently included in this list. While you’re working on the belt, these are useful spare parts to have on hand.

Anyway, a timing belt kit for a Nissan VG33E costs between $150 and $250. If you take it to a repair shop, it will cost you several hundred dollars more because of the time and effort involved.

2) VG33E 3.3L V6 Water Pump Failures

VG33E 3.3L V6 Water Pump Failures

Okay, this section will be brief. With the above discussion of the timing belt, it’s getting a little old. The Nissan 3.3 V6 engine’s water pumps don’t break down very often. However, this is due to the fact that they are frequently replaced with the timing belt every 100,000 miles. If you don’t have a water pump, you’re asking for trouble.

Although timing belt failures of the water pump are possible, they are extremely rare. If the Nissan 3.3 VG33E water pump is overheating or leaking coolant, it could indicate a problem. When it comes to timing belt replacements, don’t skip this repair.

The timing belt overlaps most of the work. It only takes a few minutes to replace the water pump once you’ve gotten into the system. Water pump and t-stat are usually included in timing belt kits, and the total cost is less than $300.

3) Nissan VG33E Fuel Sending Unit

It’s possible that the 3.3 V6’s only real flaw is with the fuel sending unit (FSU). It’s the fuel sending unit that connects to the fuel pump and sends information to the gas gauge about how much fuel is in the tank For a long time, Nissan offered an extended warranty on this part, indicating that they were aware of the problem.

Problems with the VG33E fuel sending unit are inconsequential in the grand scheme of things. It’s a low-cost and simple-to-fix component, but it can cause bothersome problems. A faulty FSU is usually indicated by a misreading of the gas gauge. The fuel pump itself can malfunction in some cases, but the sending unit is the best place to start troubleshooting.

3.3L V6 Fuel Sending Unit Symptoms

Problems with the Nissan 3.3 engine’s fuel sending unit can manifest as the following symptoms:

  • Faulty fuel gauge readings
  • Bouncing fuel gauge

There are only a few signs and symptoms to worry about. The fuel sending units merely transmit the gas gauge’s current reading of the fuel level. Fuel gauge readings that are off are an indication that the unit is malfunctioning. The VG33E gas gauge may jiggle a little bit from time to time.

VG33E Fuel Sending Unit Replacement

The typical cost of an FSU for the 3.3L V6 is between $40 and $50. Replacing it is as simple as buying a full tank of gas. Most people will be able to finish it in their driveway in under an hour. A repair shop visit will cost you between $50 and $100 in labor.

4) Nissan 3.3 Oil Leak Problems

Nissan 3.3 Oil Leak Problems

While the VG33E V6 engine has an oil leakage problem, it is more of an age issue than a design flaw. Many gaskets and seals are used in every engine, and they’re subjected to a great deal of stress over time. Rubber-like gaskets degrade over time, cracking and allowing oil to leak. The valve cover gaskets are the most common cause of Nissan 3.3 oil leaks.

The head-to-valve cover gap is sealed with these gaskets. The valve cover gaskets endure a lot of heat, and that heat wears them down. This is one of the more common VG33E oil leaks as the engines get older.

The front main seal, the rear main seal, and the oil pan gasket are all potential sources of oil leaks. Nissan 3.3 engines are becoming increasingly prone to these issues as they get older.

VG33E Oil Leak Symptoms

The following are the signs of an oil leak on a Nissan VG33E:

  • Visible leak
  • Burning oil smells
  • Light smoke from engine bay

The signs and symptoms of an oil leak are, of course, quite obvious. On the 3.3L V6, they’re not always noticeable, though. There’s no denying it when you see visible oil spots on the ground: there’s a leak somewhere. Visible leaks on the ground are rare with valve cover gaskets.

Because the VCG is located so high, oil frequently drips onto and burns off of hot components. The engine compartment may smell like burning oil or have a slight amount of smoke coming from it as a result of this. The VG33E valve cover gasket is usually to blame if you’re experiencing these symptoms (s).

3.3L VG33E Oil Leak Fix

Because they’re just gaskets, valve cover gaskets are extremely affordable. Each gasket typically costs between $10 and $20. (the V6 engine uses two). The gasket on the passenger side of the engine is typically easier to get to and replace. To get to the driver-side gaskets, you’ll have to remove a few extra components.

When the car is older or has logged more miles, it’s a good idea to replace both gaskets. There is a possibility that both jobs will take 3-5 hours to complete, which means that the total cost of labor will rise.

Nissan VG33E Reliability

Is the 3.3-liter VG33E engine from Nissan dependable? Our research indicates this engine has excellent reliability. The Nissan 3.3 V6 doesn’t have any major flaws or issues. However, a Nissan engine’s age is a significant consideration when shopping for one today.

Even the most powerful engines have moving parts that need to be replaced every few thousand miles or so. When it comes to gaskets and seals, age and mileage can be equally taxing on an engine. To sum it up, the Nissan VG33E engine was a rock-solid performer when it was brand new. Older cars can be dependable, but maintenance is more difficult.

Nissan VG33E Reliability

Despite this, regular maintenance is essential if the VG33E 3.3 engine is to continue running smoothly. Look for a vehicle with a clean title and a well-maintained engine.

The use of high-quality oils, regular fluid changes, and prompt problem-solving go a long way. The Nissan VG33E engine has a proven track record of lasting well past the 200,000-mile mark with few major issues.

Nissan 3.3 VG33E Engine Problems Summary

Since their introduction in 1996, VG33E engines have been in production continuously until 2006. They’re not going to be particularly fast with only 170-180hp. However, it has sufficient power for the majority of on-road and daily driving requirements. This, combined with the Nissan 3.3 V6’s high level of dependability and longevity, makes it a compelling option.

When it comes to the Nissan 3.3 VG33E, there aren’t many common issues or flaws to discuss. It’s true that fuel sending units are a design flaw, but it’s a minor one. Otherwise, age and mileage are the main causes of engine problems.

The VG33E has a proven track record of lasting well past 200,000 miles with only minor failures when properly maintained. The older engine might need some extra TLC if you’re looking to buy one today.

Have you used the VG33E engine before? Are you thinking about getting one?

Let us know what you think by leaving a comment below.

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