Hyundai Genesis 3.8 engine

4 Common Hyundai Genesis 3.8 Engine Problems

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.

The most common Hyundai Genesis 3.8 engine problems are carbon buildup, various oil leaks, timing chain rattle, and excessive valve ticking. The Hyundai Genesis 3.8 liter Lambda II RS V6 engine appears in many vehicles in the Hyundai lineup. Overall, the engine has achieved status as having above average reliability, but that doesn’t mean it’s completely free from problems. It’s also locked and loaded with some outstanding performance, making it a real machine. Let’s look at the four most common Hyundai Genesis 3.8 engine problems. 

Hyundai Genesis 3.8 engine
Hyundai Genesis 3.8 liter Engine (Credit: Motor Authority)

Hyundai Genesis 3.8 Engine Info

The Hyundai Genesis 3.8 liter Lambda II RS engine is a naturally aspirated V6 that has been in production since the 2009 model year. There are two different versions of the 3.8 Lambda II RS, the MPI and GDI versions. The MPI stands for multi-point fuel injection, while the GDI stands for direct fuel injection. Multi-point injection is an older technology OEMs introduced in the 1990s, and has been the standard for fuel injection for decades. 

Direct injection is a relatively newer and more efficient fuel injection system. Direct injection allows for better and more precise fuel delivery. This results in higher efficiency, better fuel economy, improved performance, and less emissions. The only real downside to GDI is the increased cost, as well as carbon build (which we’ll get into below). Hyundai first introduced the Lambda II RS GDI in 2012, and it started replacing the MPI engines that year. 

Depending on the vehicle and MPI or GDI version, the Genesis 3.8 V6 produces 286-348 horsepower and 264-295 lb-ft of torque. That’s more than enough to make even the 3.8 equipped SUVs feel powerful, and the Hyundai Genesis 3.8 coupe is an absolute rocket with Lambda II RS. We definitely recommend the engine for its reliability and performance, but that doesn’t mean it’s perfect. Below, we’ll look at just how reliable the 3.8 Genesis is. Then, we’ll go over the four most common Hyundai Genesis 3.8 engine problems. 

What vehicles use the Hyundai Genesis 3.8?

The following vehicles use the Lambda II RS MPI Engine:

  • 2009–2011 Hyundai Genesis
  • 2009–2015 Hyundai Genesis Coupe

The following vehicles use the Lambda II RS GDI Engine:

  • 2016–2020 Genesis G80
  • 2015+ Genesis G90
  • 2012–2015 Hyundai Equus
  • 2012–2016 Hyundai Genesis
  • 2012–2016 Hyundai Genesis Coupe
  • 2012+ Kia K9

Hyundai Genesis 3.8 Reliability

Overall, I consider the Hyundai Genesis 3.8 to be an above average motor in terms of reliability. While there are a few common Hyundai Genesis 3.8 engine problems, for the most part the engine is well built and designed. Some of the problems, like excessive carbon buildup, only affect the GDI engine. Others, like oil leaks can happen on any model Lambda II RS. 

With proper maintenance and non-abusive driving, the Hyundai 3.8 V6 should easily exceed 200,000 miles without issues. Luckily, there are no endemic problems to the engine that are catastrophic. Most of the issues listed below are relatively easy fixes. The most important things to keep in mind for maintaining a healthy engine are keeping up on maintenance, — especially oil changes — letting the car properly warm up before going full throttle, and using quality oils and fluids that are at least OEM spec or better. 

4 Most Common Hyundai Genesis Engine Problems

The 4 most common Hyundai Genesis 3.8 engine problems are:

  • Carbon Buildup on Intake valves
  • Various Oil Leaks
  • Timing Chain Rattling
  • Loud Valve Ticking

1) Genesis 3.8 Carbon Buildup

Carbon buildup on the Genesis 3.8 intake valves is one of most likely potential problems that owners can experience. As I mentioned before, carbon buildup is an unfortunate byproduct of the 3.8 Genesis’ direct injection fuel system. Direct injection systems place the fuel injector inside the cylinder head. This means the fuel does not wash over the intake valves like in a more traditional port fuel injection system. 

As a result, direct injected engines develop carbon buildup on the intake valves because there is no fuel to constantly clean them off. There is no way to stop this from happening, unless you also combine it with port fuel injection, which some OEMs are starting to do. Carbon does not build up on the exhaust valves because it gets too hot and burns off.

Lambda II RS GDI Carbon Buildup Symptoms

You likely won’t experience problems with too much carbon buildup on the intake valves until at least 150,000 miles. Often, when you look at the intake valves, they are the same at 5,000 miles as they are at 75,000 miles. Carbon buildup happens pretty much instantly, but for the most part you won’t notice anything as a driver. 

However, if there is too much carbon buildup, the intake valves can fail to open or not fully close. In addition, too much buildup can cause turbulence and inconsistent airflow into the engine, making the engine stutter and struggle. Typically, in the instance that carbon buildup does present a problem, you’re most likely to experience random misfiring, sluggish performance. The car might also struggle to idle properly or even stay running. 

Genesis 3.8 GDI Walnut Blasting

By far, the most effective way to eliminate carbon buildup on valves is to do walnut blasting. Walnut blasting essentially involves spraying the valves with walnut media shells that cleans the carbon off of them. The shells do not damage the valves or hurt the engine, but effectively remove the soot and carbon buildup.

Additionally, your driving style can help prevent carbon buildup. Typically, drivers who frequently take short trips where the engine does not get up to temperature will experience more issues. Drivers who are able to get the engine up to temperature consistently will find the carbon burns off to a much greater degree, even on the intake valves. 

Make sure to check out the video below of our expert Jake demonstrating walnut blasting on his BMW. Even though it’s not quite a Genesis 3.8 engine, it’s still largely the same process and idea and he shows us exactly what’s involved.

2) Hyundai Lambda II RS Oil Leaks

After carbon buildup, the next Hyundai Genesis 3.8 engine problem we’re looking at is oil leaks. To be fair, oil leaks are pretty common to many engines, especially those that are high mileage. Still, over the years owners have found a few common places for oil leaks on the Lambda II RS engine. The main places are at the oil filter as well as the oil pan, which are both underneath the car. 

The oil filter has been known to be leaking for many years on several different 3.8 Genesis equipped vehicles. It comes down to a poor seal between the washers and o-rings, which leads to oil dripping under the car. Many people have also complained that the oil pans, located next to the oil filter under the car, is another common spot for leaks. These are arguably worse because they can spring all around the oil pan on the bottom. This causes a decent amount of oil to leak out. Once again, the problem is a poor seal, this time from the gasket. 

Genesis 3.8 Oil Leaks Symptoms and Fixes

The most obvious signs of Genesis 3.8 oil leaks are going to be visible oil stains under the car. There may also potentially be small amounts of smoke if the oil drops onto a hot part of the engine. Due to the location of the leak, most of the oil will just drop onto the floor, so that will be the biggest indicator. 

The only fix is to replace the oil pan gasket (and potentially pan itself) with a new OEM one and hope for a better seal. The same thing goes for the oil filter and potentially oil filter housing assembly, depending on where the leak exactly is. These aren’t very expensive replacements, but they can be costly in labor due to their location. Overall, oil leaks are not a huge deal on the Genesis 3.8, but if they do pop up it’s generally the oil filter or oil pan. 

3) Genesis 3.8 Timing Chain Rattle

Hyundai Genesis 3.8 Timing Chain System (Credit: JustAnotherDude1990/Reddit)

Another common Hyundai Genesis 3.8 engine problem is timing chain rattle. The Lambda II RS uses dual timing chains to run the dual overhead camshafts, and the tensioners are known to be a weak spot. The tensioners are what keep the chain in sync and stop it from jumping timing. If the tensioners begin to fail, the timing chain will not have full tension and will begin to make a rattling sound. 

Worst case scenario, the tensioners can break and lead to the timing chain jumping timing. The Lambda II RS is an interference engine, which means if the timing chain jumps timing or breaks you can have bent valves. Obviously, that makes the problem and repair much more expensive at that point, so it’s crucial to avoid tensioner failure. 

Hyundai Lambda II RS GDI Timing Chain Rattle Fix

The only way to fix the timing chain rattle on the Lambda II RS is to replace the faulty tensioner(s) with new one(s). If they are already losing slack, they are too far gone and will need to be replaced completely to prevent future issues.

As usual, the tensioner itself is not terribly expensive at around $75-$100 for a new OEM version. However, the labor can be expensive as it is somewhat time consuming. Ultimately, it’s still important to fix your tensioners if you hear rattling. Timing chain failure will be much more costly, both for your wallet and your engine’s health. 

Here is a post from which shows how to replace the timing chain components on the Lambda II RS. As you can see, it’s a fairly involved job that probably isn’t something a novice should be attempting. Still, it’s extremely important to make sure it is done when needed, even if it’s costly.

4) Hyundai Lambda II RS GDI Valve Ticking Noise

For the final Genesis 3.8 engine problem we’re looking at is excessive and loud valve ticking. Importantly, the GDI version of the engine is known to be louder than the MPI version. This is because of the sound of the high-pressure direct injection system. This can sound like valve ticking, but it’s just the sound of the injectors working noisily. Make sure you’re not mistaking valve ticking for the fuel injectors, listening to some clips online is a good way to help tell the difference. 

Now, let’s get into the problem of actual valve ticking on the Lambda II RS. Hyundai uses solid buckets for lifters, which require valve adjustments using shims every 60,000 miles. Many people do not realize this or forget about it, leaving it to never get done. If you forget to adjust the valves, you might hear some noise until you get the service done. Many engines will be just fine without the adjustment until at least 100,000 miles, but like the timing chain it’s a good idea to get it done on schedule if you suspect any problems. 

Hyundai Genesis 3.8 Engine Problems Summary

Overall, the Hyundai Genesis Lambda II RS 3.8 liter V6 engine is a solid power plant that earns an above average score for reliability. For most drivers, if they properly maintain the engine according to the maintenance schedule and use OEM spec or better parts, the engine will easily last 150,000-200,000 without having any major issues. 

However, the engine is far from perfect, and there are a few common Hyundai Genesis 3.8 engine problems. Most significant is the buildup of carbon on the intake valves. This is due to Hyundai’s use of direct injection fueling, and it’s a common problem on all DI systems. Though it’s usually not a big deal for owners, the most effective way to get rid of it is through walnut blasting.

Additionally, many 3.8 Genesis owners experience oil leaks from the oil pan and oil filter. It’s not a huge problem, but one that creeps up, especially on higher mileage engines. Some people also experience faulty timing chain tensioners which can lead to timing chain failure, necessitating early replacement. Finally, the Lambda II RS requires the valves to be adjusted at 60,000 miles, which often gets neglected. This can lead to excessive and loud valve ticking, and eventually more serious problems if they are not replaced. 

Hyundai Genesis 3.8 Engine Problems FAQ

Is the Hyundai Genesis Coupe 3.8 V6 reliable?

Overall, the Genesis 3.8 liter V6 inside the Genesis coupe and other Hyundais is a very reliable engine that has outstanding performance. There are a few problems, including carbon buildup from the direct injection system, but overall it’s a very solid power plant and is reliable. 

Is the Lambda II RS a good engine?

Yes, the Hyundai 3.8 liter Lambda II RS V6 is a good engine. It has above average reliability and generally will last for 200,000+ miles with proper maintenance.

What are the most common Hyundai Genesis 3.8 engine problems?

The most common Hyundai Genesis 3.8 engine problems are carbon buildup on the intake valves, oil leaks, timing chain rattling, and excessive valve ticking. Most of these issues are not too bad, and the engine is still above average for reliability.

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