Chrysler 3.6 Pentastar V6
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The 3.6 Pentastar: Is it Really Bulletproof?

Chandler Stark

Meet Chandler

Chandler is an automotive expert with over a decade of experience working on and modifying cars. A couple of his favorites were his heavily modded 2016 Subaru WRX and his current 2020 VW Golf GTI. He’s also a big fan of American Muscle and automotive history. Chandler’s passion and knowledge of the automotive industry help him deliver high-quality, insightful content to TuningPro readers.

First released in 2011, FCA Stellantis’ 3.6 liter Pentastar V6 engine has quickly become one of the most popular all around power plants. Many people have even gone as far as to say the 3.6 Pentastar is “bulletproof” in its reliability. What exactly does a “bulletproof” 3.6 Pentastar mean and is that really true? That’s what we’re going to answer today.

Is the 3.6 Pentastar bulletproof?
Chrysler 3.6 Pentastar V6 (Credit: Christopher Ziemnowicz/Wikimedia)

The Basics of the “BulletProof” 3.6 Pentastar

To get a nickname like bulletproof 3.6 Pentastar, the engine probably has to be pretty good, right? Well let’s talk a little bit about the 3.6 Pentastar’s basics and the changes it has undergone. The all-aluminum engine is a 3.6 liter V6 with a 96 x 83 mm bore and stroke. It is a quad-cam, dual-overhead camshaft (DOHC) engine with variable valve timing (VVT). There are four-valves per cylinder for 24-valves total. 

The first generation of the 3.6 Pentastar lasted from 2011–2015, and these versions were E85 flex-fuel capable. Compression sat at a modest 10.2:1, and performance ranged from 285-305 horsepower and 251-269 lb-ft of torque. 

In 2016, FCA Stellantis updated the 3.6 Pentastar in a number of ways. Most obvious to consumers was the big jump in compression up to 11.3:1. The update also resulted in better fuel economy and a larger power band. FCA Stellantis upgraded the VVT system, too. The new VVT has both high and low-lift modes, allowing it to prioritize fuel economy and performance depending on need. 

There is also a hybrid version of the 3.6 Pentastar. FCA Stellantis used this in the 2017+ Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid van. This version of the engine has an even higher 12.5:1 compression and runs on an Atkinson combustion cycle. It is connected to a large plug-in lithium-ion battery as well as dual-electric motors that can provide supplemental power. 

How Reliable is the 3.6 Pentastar?

When FCA Stellantis was building the 3.6 Pentastar, they definitely had longevity and reliability in mind. To begin with, the aluminum engine block uses a deep-skirt design and is die-cast for durability. It also has a structural windage tray for stiffness and a structural oil pan. The pistons have polymer-graphite coating, the connecting rods are forged steel, and the crankshaft is nodular iron. All of these point to the engine being pretty overbuilt for just 305 horsepower and 269 lb-ft of torque. 

Overall, we consider the 3.6 Pentastar to be an above average motor in terms of reliability. Though it is not without its common problems, for the most part the engine has proven itself to buyers. As proof, one owner somehow managed to more than 626,000 miles out of his 3.6 Pentastar before finally putting it down for a rebuild. Incredibly, the only major problem he had in the half-a-million plus miles was with the plastic timing chain guides and tensioners. 

That’s obviously not to say that most Pentastars will be nearly that capable, but it’s a pretty good indication of what they are able to accomplish when everything goes right. Previously, we went over the most common 3.6 Pentastar problems, which were cylinder head failure, rocker arm failure, cooling system failures, oil pump failure, and leaking from the oil housing system. While none of these problems are super widespread, they have happened to enough owners that it is worth mentioning. 

Is it Really Bulletproof?

FCA 3.6L Pentastar Engine

So, is the 3.6 Pentastar really bulletproof? Well, we would probably say not. While the engine is known for being relatively reliable and durable, especially the version that made it to 625,000+ miles, we would not call it bulletproof.

There are a number of issues with the cooling system, valve train, and oil system that just make it a bit too problematic to have that title, even if they are pretty minor and not very widespread. Still, we would consider the engine to have above average reliability, especially when left at stock power levels.

Common Bulletproofing Upgrades

For owners interested in “bulletproofing” their 3.6 Pentastar, there are two main preventative maintenance mods that you can do to increase longevity and reliability. These are:

  • Oil Filter Housing Upgrade
  • Coolant System Filter Kit
3.6 Pentastar Oil Filter Housing
3.6 Pentastar V6 Upgraded vs OEM Oil Filter Housing (Credit: ATEM OFFROAD/YouTube)

How to Bulletproof

Up first, we have the 3.6 Pentastar oil filter housing upgrade. The oil filter housing, which also contains the oil cooler, is made from a weak plastic material that is prone to cracking and warping. This often leads to leaking oil, leaking coolant, or both leaking at the same time. Officially, FCA Stellantis blames faulty o-rings, but most have found the oil filter it just cheaply built. 

To fix this, there is an aftermarket aluminum oil filter housing from Dorman that can be swapped in. The new housing eliminates any problems with cracking and warping and is a direct fit replacement. You can find out all about this fix in our 3.6 Pentastar oil housing upgrade guide

Next up is a coolant system filter kit, which removes any foreign debris from the cooling system, like sand. When FCA Stellantis builds the 3.6 Pentastar they use a sand casting process for many of the parts. Allegedly, for whatever reason this is defective on the 3.6 Pentastar and leads to sand remaining in the engine after the process is supposed to be completed. This is said to lead to sand clogging up crucial parts of the cooling system, including the radiator, heater core, water pump, and thermostat. 

In order to remove any potential sand from the system and ensure nothing will become clogged, it is a good idea to install a coolant system filter kit. This will take out any sand, or other foreign debris, and stop it from clogging or destroying any cooling system parts. This can stop you from having to make costly repairs replacing the radiator or other components.

Is it Worth it?

Even for those who are not experiencing problems with their oil filter housing or coolant system, it still might be a wise idea to invest in these upgrades. While they will not guarantee that the 3.6 Pentastar will never suffer any problems, they can drastically increase its longevity and durability in the event that those parts were defective. 

Of the two, we would definitely recommend installing the coolant system filter kit even on a problem-free vehicle. It’s impossible to know the state of your radiator or other components without looking inside them, which is not a realistic possibility for most people. The coolant filter kits are pretty cheap, making them easy insurance. 

However, we would recommend waiting until you experience any problems to swap out your oil filter housing unit. The failure rate for these is pretty low and the swap is very annoying and time consuming, especially due to its location requiring the removal of the intake manifold. 

Overall, the 3.6 Pentastar is a very solid engine even when completely stock. It might not be bulletproof, but it is very well manufactured, and some would even say overbuilt for its use. You probably don’t need these upgrades unless you start to experience trouble, but it’s never a bad idea to eliminate any potential issues before they come up, so ultimately the choice is yours. 

Bulletproof 3.6 Pentastar Summary

The 3.6 Pentastar V6 is a reliable and durable engine, but it is far from being completely “bulletproof.” For most people, the engine will last very long with just proper maintenance, but there have also been noted issues with the valve train and both the cooling and oiling systems. Overall, the Pentastar V6 is solid, but there are a number of improvements it could use before being called bulletproof.

For owners looking to increase the reliability on their 3.6 Pentastar, there are a few bulletproofing upgrades they can do. First would be to upgrade the oil filter housing to an aftermarket aluminum version. This should eliminate leaks and keep the housing from cracking or warping. Second, installing a coolant filter kit will remove any debris from the cooling system. This can help prevent the radiator or other major components from getting clogged, helping to save on costly repairs.

Looking for more content on this awesome engine? Don’t miss some of our other guides including this 3.6 Pentastar supercharger guide, turbo upgrades, and engine recalls

Bulletproof 3.6 Pentastar FAQ

Is the 3.6 Pentastar “bulletproof?”

The 3.6 Pentastar V6 is a reliable and durable engine, but it is far from being completely “bulletproof.” For most people, the engine will last very long with just proper maintenance, but there have also been noted issues with the valve train and both the cooling and oiling systems. Overall, the Pentastar V6 is solid, but there are a number of improvements it could use before being called bulletproof.

How can I bulletproof my 3.6 Pentastar?

For owners looking to increase the reliability on their 3.6 Pentastar, there are a few bulletproofing upgrades they can do. First would be to upgrade the oil filter housing to an aftermarket aluminum version. This should eliminate leaks and keep the housing from cracking or warping. Second, installing a coolant filter kit will remove any debris from the cooling system. This can help prevent the radiator or other major components from getting clogged, helping to save on costly repairs. 

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One Comment

  1. Early 2012 built in 2011.. 110k miles, 26 oil issues are BT failed around 2017 thermostat in 2023, 2-1 downshift clunk comes and goes sometimes not for years. Certain low speed driving seems to trigger it. It goes away typically after a few occurrences. No oil filler housing issues. Typically it’s overtightened by not using a torque wrench or one’s brain causing leaks due to warpage and cracks or the o-rings harden. Dorman part is not a good solution because the aluminum doesn’t isolate the heat from the engine block which is the purpose of the plastic one and I doubt it has as good quality o-rings as the original. If mine leaks I’ll either replace the o-rings and or get a new housing if it’s cracked.

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