Nissan VG33E 3.3L V6 Engine Problems, Reliability & Specs

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The focus of today’s article is the 3.3 V6 engine from the company Nissan. The company makes some solid engines, but this one comes on the lower end, by today’s standards.

The 3.3 V6, with its 170 HP, is a decent performer. Although the engine is good, it does have a few faults that you should be aware of.

Let’s take a look at them.

Out of all, there are four Nissan 3.3 engine problems that you should know about:

  1. Failure Of The Water Pump
  2. Failure Of The Timing Belt
  3. Unexpected Oil Leaks
  4. Wrong Fuel Gauge Reading

These four problems should not be taken lightly. If they were not that important to fix, then this article would not have existed. So, without any further ado, let’s get straight into it!

The 4 Most Common Nissan VG33E Engine Problems

Getting to know the symptoms of failing the Nissan VG33E engine so you can fix and well maintain

Now, let us focus on the problems I outlined above.

We will take an in-depth look at the issue and how a person can fix it.

1. Failure Of The Water Pump

I have written many articles which were dedicated to finding all problems of different engines.

Well, the water pump issue was only to be found on Ford engines. It looks like Nissan has a similar issue of its own.

The Issue

The water pump on the Nissan 3.3L V6 engine is that the water pump does not handle itself well after the 100000-mile mark.

At that point, the timing chain needs replacement—more about that in a moment.

The pump is a fragile part of the engine. It is also an extremely important one. It ensures that the coolant is pumped throughout the engine and stays at optimal temperatures at all times.

Symptoms And Damage

A failing water pump will give you a lot of symptoms. Some of the more common ones are:

  • Low coolant light.
  • Overheating of the engine.
  • The visible leak of the coolant.

If the vehicle shows any one of the three issues, then there is a high probability that the water pump has been damaged.

The low coolant light can be due to a leakage of the pump. Leakage can also suggest a failure of the pump.

Several different reasons can cause the overheating, but a pump failure is highly likely.

If more than one of these issues happens at once, there is no doubt that the pump needs replacing.


As I suggested above, the pump is located near the timing chain.

So if you are lucky enough and are getting a timing chain replacement then that would be the perfect time to change the pump on the engine.

The procedure may cost you a lot, not because of the parts but the difficult labor work. Under these conditions, it is strongly recommended that you don’t use your vehicle.

The engine could stall in the middle of the road, which is a danger to you and the vehicles around you. It is safer to call a towing company.

2. Failure Of The Timing Belt

Now, let’s move onto more pressing matters. First of all, let me clear up the function of a timing belt.

It is the part of the engine that is responsible for the closing and opening of all valves. It is a vital part without which an engine cannot function at all.

The Issue

So, how does a timing chain become faulty?

Well, the reason for this, once again, is wear and tear. Timing belts are not supposed to last a lifetime.

They have been designed to work till around the 100000-mile mark. After that, they need a replacement.

And it is always better to get the belt changed without waiting for any symptoms or damages. They can affect your engine, and the repair can be quite costly.


Let’s say you did not notice or forgot to get the timing belt checked. Don’t worry, as this is a very common issue.

Well, there are some things that you can keep in mind to check to confirm if the timing belt’s time has finally come.

  • Ticking sound from the engine.
  • The belt is worn.
  • Sudden power loss.
  • Poor performance in general.

The first two symptoms confirm that the belt in the engine is at fault. But when it comes to the last two, they can be caused by a variety of reasons.

So, they are not definitive tests. But if they are occurring in conjunction with the first two, then you have your answer.


While talking about the water pump, I did mention that the pump is located next to the belt. It only makes sense to get both of them replaced at once.

Although the belt is a cheap part, the labor will cost you a lot. And, unfortunately, this type of job has to be handled by professionals and cannot be done at home.

3. Unexpected Oil Leaks

An oil leak is an issue that no engine is immune to. After a certain interval of time, there is bound to be something that can cause the engine to start leaking oil.

And, once again, the most common culprit is wear and tear.

The Issue

Let’s talk more about this problem. All engines use gaskets and seals whose purpose is to keep the oil inside the engine.

With time they start to harden and crack. This is to be expected because they do take a lot of abuse.

Whether it be the high engine temperature or the cold environment, there is always a chance that the seals will be affected.

Plus, with some engine models being more than two decades old, a seal compromise should always be expected.

How To Identify

An oil leak is something that you cannot notice suddenly. The compromised seal may only let a few droplets of oil out at first, which is barely noticeable.

The issue slowly escalates over time.

But there are a few things that you can check to be sure:

  • Smoke coming from the engine.
  • The smell of oil burning.
  • Oil on the ground.

All of these issues clearly state that you have the problem of an oil leak. The smoke can be due to overheating, but an oil leak is a more likely scenario.


A leak does not pose an immediate threat to your vehicle. But you should not inevitably delay the repair process.

If the oil level becomes too low in the engine, its lifespan may be severely affected due to friction.

The rubbing parts will be subject to more wear and tear than usual. Plus, an oil leak is an easy issue to fix. It probably won’t cost you a lot, so you should take the time to get the job done.

4. Wrong Fuel Gauge Reading

We have finally arrived at the final problem of this article.

Many of you may have noticed that none of the above issues are due to engine design flaws. This is great news. But that again does not mean that engine is perfect.

The Issue

This final issue is the one that is present only due to a design flaw.

The fuel sending unit, more commonly known as the FSU, is responsible for keeping the gas gauge up to date on the fuel level in the engine.

But in the case of the V6 engine, it malfunctions. This is a serious issue because incorrect readings can cause many problems.


A faulty fuel gauge is easy to identify.

There are two things that you can check to confirm your suspicions:

  • The fuel gauge reading is bouncing.
  • Wrong reading on the gauge.

You can identify the wrong gauge reading when you visit the nearest gas station to fill up the gas.

If the reading does not move or starts bouncing, then the only reason for that is a faulty sensor.


Unlike many other engine manufacturers that do not address design flaws at all, Nissan issued an extended warranty for people who had to face the issue.

So, they not only owned their mistake but offered to fix it for free. But now the warranty is useless as it was offered quite some time back.

Well, the replacement of the FSU will cost you less than $100. Plus, the job is easy, so it can be done from the comfort of your own home.

No need to call a mechanic and shell out extra labor cash. All you need are the appropriate tools and a low tank of gas.

What Is The Nissan 3.3L V6 Engine?

Announced way back in 1996, the 3.3L V6 was a solid engine for its time. With more than decent performance and longevity, it did not take much time before users started loving it.

Although the 170 to 180 HP is considered less by today’s standards, it was more than enough for almost anyone back then.

Even today, for those people who are looking for a decent performing engine and don’t have power needs, this V6 one is perfect for the job.

As you may have noticed in the article above, the engine is absolutely not perfect. It is prone to many issues, mainly due to its old age.

With it having only one design flaw, the faulty FSU, this Nissan engine really is an excellent option for many people.

It can work just fine with inconsistent maintenance, not that I am encouraging you to do that!

Is The Nissan 3.3L V6 Engine Reliable?

An excellent question! The V6 engine has proven to be extremely reliable.

With it being featured in many vehicles, users are still rocking it and are more than pleased with the performance it provides.

With the proper maintenance, it is even possible for you to reach the 300000-mile mark. That is certainly more than a lot of engines.

Again, this is only possible if the engine is kept in top-notch shape and any faults will be repaired as soon as possible, without any delay.

These faults can branch into more issues, which can lead to the degradation of the engine.

No matter how long the engine runs, you can rest assured that there will be no compromise, performance-wise. You will have a pleasant driving experience.

Overall, it is a great engine that has and will surely be appreciated by anyone not looking for a ton of power.

What Cars Use The Nissan 3.3L V6 Engine?

Although the V6 engine was in production for eight years, it was not featured in a ton of vehicles. The car that started it all was the Nissan Pathfinder.

It debuted alongside this engine in 1996 and used it till 2000. However, in Australia, it came with the engine until 2004.

That was a really strange move from the company. 1997 saw the release of two vehicles, the Infinity QX4 and the Nissan Elgrand, with this engine.

The former used this engine until 2000, while the Elgrand came with the same until 2002.

1998 saw no new vehicle release with this engine under the hood. This is something that I find interesting, yet again.

In 1999, the Nissan Frontier, the Quest, and the Paladin were the chosen vehicles to feature this engine under the hood.

Aside from the Quest, which used this engine until 2002, the other two used it until 2004.

The Nissan Xterra started using it in the year 2000, while the Nissan Navara joined the league in 2003.

The final vehicle used the engine until 2006, two years after the engine’s discontinuation.

Nissan 3.3L V6 Engine Specs

Chamber head composition Aluminum
Fuel Gasoline
Fuel injection type Multi point fuel injection
Arrangement V
No. of chambers 12
Valves in each cylinder 2
Valvetrain layout SOHC
Bore 91.5 mm or 3.60 cubic inches
Stroke 83mm or 3.26 cubic inches
Displacement 3.3L or 3275 cc
Internal combustion engine (Type) Four stroke, Naturally articulated
Compression ratio 9.5:1
Power 170-180 HP
Torque 202 lb.-ft
Weight of engine oil SAE 5W-30
The capacity of engine oil 5 quarts w / filter
Firing directive 1-2-3-4-5-6
Interval between oil change 3750 miles (6000km) or 6 months

The Benefits Of Choosing The Nissan 3.3L V6 Engine

I know that many of you are in the final part of your decision of whether to buy the Nissan engine or not.

Well, I also understand if some of you are still hesitant. Enough about all the issues, I will now be outlining some of the plus points of owning this engine.

  • The engine has only one design flaw, which is extremely easy and cheap to fix.
  • The engine can easily cross the 300000-mile mark.
  • Can output almost 200 HP, which is more than enough for most people
  • The V6 engine is extremely reliable.
  • The electrical ignition system for better efficiency.

Frequently Asked Questions

Normally, Google is the best way to go if someone wants an answer.

But in the case of the 3.3L V6 engine, I will be answering some of the most important questions myself as I have seen wrong advice given on various forums.

Q1. Is The Nissan 3.3L V6 A Good Engine?

Unlike many of my other articles, I cannot call this engine a great one. It was when it was revealed to the world, but now it is considered to be underpowered.

But still, the 180 HP is more than enough to satisfy many people’s needs. Plus, the engine is reliable, so it has many benefits.

Q2. How Much Coolant Does The Nissan Engine Take?

Aside from engine oil, the coolant is also an essential fluid that needs to be refilled on time. It is responsible for keeping the engine cool.

Well, the V6 engine takes 2 ¾ gallons of coolant. It is recommended to buy high-quality coolant and oil to make sure that the engine works as efficiently as possible.

Q3. Is The V6 Engine An Interference One?

Yes, it is. For those who don’t know, an interference engine is one that has a better compression ratio than other ones.

It is great for people who are looking for an engine that is powerful and efficient—the V6 engine checks at least one of those boxes.

Q4. What Is The Nissan VG Series?

The VG series, by Nissan, is a lineup consisting solely of V6 engines. The series was introduced in 1983 and became pretty popular throughout its lifetime.

The 3.3L V6 was also one of the engines on the lineup. The last engine on this lineup was manufactured in 2004.

Q5. What About The VG33ER? Is It A Good Engine?

Although the V6, which is the focus of our discussion in this article, is a good engine, some might find it underwhelming.

For those people, I would suggest taking a look at the VG33ER. It is the same engine but comes with a supercharger. It can also output a very decent 210 HP.


The above four Nissan 3.3 V6 engine problems are the only ones you will have to worry about if you own this engine.

The first three issues are due to old age and will happen to any engine if it is used a lot.

So, you should not be worried about that. The only design flaw of the engine is that the FSU becomes faulty.

Nissan offered free replacements back in the day. The replacement still will cost you very little.

All in all, the V6 is a solid engine, and despite it being underpowered, you will be more than content with its performance. You can expect it to last you a very long time.