The Pentastar V6 range has been Chrysler’s mid-tier powerhouse for over a decade now, comprised of both the 3.2L Pentastar V6 and the 3.6L Pentastar V6 in US markets. In the opinion of most owners of Pentastar-equipped vehicles, it is a well-rounded and generally reliable engine that powers some of the most popular cars that the FCA umbrella has to offer.
With that being said, the Pentastar engine range has experienced its fair share of trouble too. Problems like cam follower/roller failure, connecting rod bearing failure, and oil cooler/oil filter housing failures have all been the subjects of either recalls, lawsuits, or general dissatisfaction with the Pentastar engine as a whole. In this guide, we’ll cover those issues in detail.
Cam Follower Failure
By far, the most commonly reported Pentastar issue is cam follower failure. It has even led to a class action lawsuit which I’ll touch on in a minute. In recent years, many owners of the 3.2/3.6L Pentastar V6 have been reporting loud chatter coming from their engine bay. While many people write it off as injector noise, it has been proven that the Pentastar’s valvetrain design is actually to blame.
The general explanation of the issue is that due to the design of the Pentastar’s valvetrain, the hydraulic lifters fail to create enough oil pressure to keep the cam rollers/followers in constant contact with the camshaft.
To go into more detail about the actual cause of cam follower failure on the Pentastar V6, we need to get a bit technical, so bear with me. As with most modern engines, the Pentastar uses a hydraulic lash adjustment system to actuate the intake and exhaust valves. With this system, a rocker arm is used, with hydraulic lifters on one end of the rocker arm assembly and the ends of intake and exhaust valves on the other. Hydraulic pressure is supposed to keep a cam roller/follower in contact with the camshaft as it rotates, allowing the intake and exhaust valves to open and close.
Unfortunately, due to the design of the Pentastar’s valvetrain, the hydraulic lifters fail to produce enough oil pressure to keep the rollers/followers in complete contact with the camshaft consistently. As a result, the cam makes contact with the cam rollers/followers, leading to damage down the line. That is also what creates the ticking noise that so many Pentastar owners have reported.
Since the Pentastar V6 is one of the most used engines under the entire Chrysler umbrella, the cam follower failure issue is widespread. It affects multiple models from Dodge, Jeep, RAM, and Chrysler themselves.
- 2014-2016 Chrysler Town & Country;
- 2014-2020 Dodge Challenger;
- 2014-2020 Dodge Charger;
- 2014-2020 Dodge Durango;
- 2014-2020 Dodge Grand Caravan;
- 2014-2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee;
- 2014-2020 Chrysler 300;
- 2014-2020 Jeep Wrangler;
- 2014-2020 Chrysler 200;
- 2014-2020 RAM 1500; and
- 2016-2020 Chrysler Pacifica.
Pentastar Cam Follower Failure Symptoms
Luckily, or unluckily, depending on how you look at it, Pentastar cam follower failure is a pretty easy problem to diagnose. That is mainly due to the fact that it produces a pretty noticeable racket under the hood. As I mentioned in the previous section, the most common symptom of cam follower failure is a loud ticking noise coming from under the valve cover. While the ticking can be mistaken for injector tick, the ticking produced by a failed cam follower is much more pronounced. I’ll provide a sound clip below for you to get an idea of what it sounds like.
Depending on the extent of the damage and how long the faulty cam follower has been left to its own devices, it can also cause some pretty significant drivability issues. In addition to the annoying audible symptoms, cam follower failure can also lead to engine misfires resulting in bucking and surging, decreased engine performance, hesitation, loss of power, premature wear on internal components, and eventually catastrophic engine failure, according to the class action lawsuit documentation for the problem.
- Loud ticking noise coming from beneath the valve cover
- Loss of power or power surging
- Failure to start
Cam Failure Follower Recall and Class Action Lawsuit
Since cam follower failure became such a widely reported issue among Pentastar V6 owners, a class action lawsuit was inevitable. The class action took shape on January 28, 2022. That makes it a relatively new case in the grand scheme of things. The bad news about that is that class action suits like this one generally take a few years, at minimum. At that point, compensation is discussed for those who are affected. That is if anyone receives compensation after all those years of waiting. Unfortunately, that is the nature of most automotive engine recalls.
The actual case documentation lays out the specifics of the problem as discussed above but does not go into detail about a possible settlement. As of February 2023, FCA (Fiat Chrysler) was rejected in their attempt to dismiss the lawsuit. They claimed that the prosecution didn’t have the right to “assert claims under the laws of states where they do not reside and for vehicles they did not purchase.” However, the judge was quick to put the kibosh on that. The verdict was that the plaintiffs had every right to continue with their prosecution.
Only time will tell if the lawsuit will pay out in favor of the plaintiffs. However, the bottom line is that we won’t likely hear a verdict for some time. Despite the ongoing class action lawsuit and a large number of Chrysler owners reporting the issue, cam follower has never been an official Pentastar engine recall by FCA directly.
Oil Cooler Failure
While oil cooler failure isn’t an engine recall issued by FCA themselves, there is a very strong case that it should be. One look at the Pentastar V6 forums and you’ll see that the vast majority of Pentastar owners have encountered this issue at least one time during the life of their vehicle. In fact, it is so common that it is truly surprising that Pentastar owners haven’t sought out legal support at this point.
The primary causes of Pentastar oil cooler failure are twofold. For one, it is pretty clear that Chrysler thought that they could get away with cheaping out on materials for the oil cooler and oil filter housing. The oil filter housing in particular is made from flimsy and brittle plastic, leading to issues when exposed to heat. The other issue is that most non-dealer service stations tend to overtighten the oil filter housing cap. The intense torque causes the plastic components to crack and leak.
When the oil filter housing or oil filter cracks, it can begin leaking oil, coolant, or both at a rapid rate. That isn’t what anyone wants to see. If not recognized, or recognized too late, a leak can cause the Pentastar to either overheat or empty the majority of its oil on the ground. Both cases can be catastrophic to the engine. Unfortunately, there isn’t really an OEM solution to the issue. FCA refuses to recognize it as a problem and therefore hasn’t done anything about it. Despite their refusal to acknowledge the problem, they stopped production of the faulty oil filter housing cap.
Unfortunately, oil cooler failure has proven to be an issue on nearly every Pentastar-equipped vehicle. That is due to the fact that they all use the same oil cooler and oil filter housing design. As a result, the issue affects a massive number of vehicles.
- 2014–2022 Jeep Cherokee
- 2011–2014 Chrysler 200
- 2011–2016 Chrysler Town & Country
- 2011–2014 Dodge Avenger
- 2011–present Dodge Challenger
- 2011–present Dodge Charger
- 2011–present Dodge Durango
- 2011–2020 Dodge Grand Caravan
- 2011–2019 Dodge Journey
- 2011–2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee
- 2011–2014 Volkswagen Routan
- 2011–present Chrysler 300
- 2012–2018 Jeep Wrangler JK
- 2019-present Jeep Wrangler JL
- 2020-present Jeep Gladiator JT
- 2011–2015 Ram Cargo Van
Pentastar Oil Cooler Failure Symptoms
In most cases, the leaks from cracked Pentastar oil coolers or oil filter housings begin slowly. Typically, the housing will crack slightly, allowing oil to pool in the valley of the engine. The oil/coolant will then make its way towards the rear of the engine and leak onto the ground near the transmission bell housing. That is the easiest way to identify that you might have a cracked or damaged oil cooler/oil filter housing.
Additionally, if your oil level sensor alerts you that your Pentastar-equipped vehicle is low on oil and no other leaks are visible, it is a good indication that it is likely the oil cooler/oil filter housing. The same principle applies to your coolant level. If you are getting warnings that your coolant level is low or your car begins overheating, the oil cooler/oil filter housing is a good place to check for a leak first.
- Rapid oil or coolant leak
- Vehicle overheating
- Burning oil smell
- Visible leaks on the ground or oil, coolant, or both
Pentastar Oil Cooler Failure Solutions
As I stated previously, it is beyond shocking that FCA hasn’t issued a Pentastar engine recall for this issue. With so many reports of failed oil coolers, it is clearly a larger issue than a few isolated incidents. Despite the facts, FCA hasn’t provided a solution to anyone who has experienced the issue. They have also refused to provide a revised and reinforced product. There are countless reports of Pentastar owners who have experienced this issue and been denied any kind of support.
While there aren’t any OEM solutions to Pentastar oil cooler failure, the aftermarket has pulled through with some options. Companies like Doorman, who have an extremely solid standing in most aftermarket communities, provide a quality replacement option. Doorman’s aluminum Pentastar oil cooler ensures that you won’t ever have issues with plastic oil coolers ever again. Essentially, they are doing what FCA should have done after recognizing it as an issue.
While the Doorman cooler is significantly more expensive than an OEM replacement, you’ll ultimately be saving quite a bit of money in the long run, in addition to peace of mind.
Connecting Rod Bearing Failure Pentastar Engine Recall
Despite the number of issues that have plagued the Pentastar since its release in 2010, there haven’t been very many official Pentastar engine recalls. That is shocking given the number of class action lawsuits and widely reported problems that the Pentastar engines have. However, connecting rod bearing issues were taken seriously by FCA, and a recall was issued for all affected Pentastar engines.
The initial recall information was released in mid-2012 and discussed both the scope of the situation and the details of the Pentastar engine recall more holistically. In some Pentastar engines built between August 31 and September 13, 2011, connecting rod bearing failures were becoming increasingly common. The general consensus was that the failures were stemming from leftover debris from the engine casting process. While details weren’t released in terms of how the actual debris was causing these failures, Chrysler halted the sale of a number of models, including 700 Chrysler 200, Town & Country, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Dodge Charger, Grand Caravan, Durango, and Journey models.
Funny enough, the rod bearing Pentastar engine recall wasn’t the first reported issue that had to do with the V6’s casting process. The Pentastar’s cylinder heads are made using a sand casting process. Prior to the rod bearing recall, many Pentastar owners began reporting cooling system issues caused by leftover casting sand building up in the cooling circuit. Despite being an arguably more widespread issue than the rod bearing recall, FCA hasn’t acknowledged that the casting process is faulty.
In the grand scheme of things, the Pentastar’s connecting rod failure recall was a relatively localized event that didn’t affect too many vehicles. Despite impacting 7 Chrysler (and subsidiary) models, the issue only affected around 700 vehicles, according to Chrysler. Due to the fact that we are so far out from the date of the recall and connecting rod failure hasn’t been a serious issue on newer Pentastar engines, it is pretty safe to say that the problem didn’t extend too far beyond what Chrysler claimed.
- 2011-2012 Chrysler 200
- 2011-2012 Chrysler Town & Country
- 2011-2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee
- 2011-2012 Dodge Charger
- 2011-2012 Dodge Grand Caravan
- 2011-2012 Dodge Durango
- 2011-2012 Dodge Journey
Pentastar Connecting Rod Failure Symptoms
The symptoms of a failing connecting rod are pretty standard across the board, regardless of the engine. The symptoms can vary depending on how the connecting rod failed and how long it has been damaged. The most common symptom, by far, is rod knock. That is the dreaded hollow knocking sound that comes from deep within the engine when the clearance between the connecting rod and crankshaft has changed.
In addition to rod knock, FCA outlined in their recall documentation that the debris from the casting procedure has the potential to eventually do so much damage that an affected Pentastar engine could seize. Obviously, that was only in extreme cases and I can’t find any reports of that ever actually happening on any of the 700 affected vehicles. However, FCA themselves outlined that fear.
Pentastar Connecting Rod Failure Solutions
At this point in time, all of the affected vehicles have likely been repaired by FCA following the recall announcement. Since there were only 700 that were truly impacted, this shouldn’t really be an issue for many, if any, Pentastar vehicles on the road currently. It is also important to mention that most of the affected vehicles hadn’t even been sold when the recall was announced. That made it much easier for FCA to deal with the issue.
During the time of the recall, FCA fixed all of the affected models free of charge. Instead of rebuilding any of the affected engines, FCA replaced them entirely with replacement engines that didn’t have the same issues as the first castings.
While the Pentastar has been FCA’s primary V6 powerhouse for over a decade now and has proven to be a mostly solid engine, it has certainly had its problems over the years. Despite numerous issues that have been experienced by a high number of Pentastar owners, like oil cooler/oil filter housing failure, FCA has chosen to ignore some of these significant issues without issuing a recall. If you want to learn more about some of the most common Pentastar issues that haven’t been dealt with by a recall, take a look at our 4 Most Common FCA Pentastar 3.6L Engine Problems guide.
While there are issues that haven’t been dealt with in an effective way by Chrysler, they have also addressed a couple of more important issues, leading to potential changes in the future. While cam follower failure is unquestionably the most significant and highly-reported Pentastar issue and has been acknowledged by FCA, it might take a lawsuit for them to ultimately fix the problem. The only other Pentastar issue that FCA acknowledged head-on is rod bearing failure, which only affected a small number of Pentastar-equipped vehicles anyway.
While there has been some support from Chrysler when it comes to dealing with significant engine issues, on the whole, FCA hasn’t done a very good job when it comes to helpful Pentastar engine recalls.