The 4 Most Common Toyota 1GR-FE Engine Problems
Zach is a founder of 8020 Media and TuningPro. He’s been repairing, upgrading, tuning, and writing about cars & engines for over a decade. Zach has written over 400 automotive articles and continues to be a lead writer for TuningPro. His passion, experience, and deep technical knowledge make him a go-to resource for readers looking to take their car to the next level.
The Toyota 1GR-FE is a 4.0L V6 engine introduced in 2002. It’s been through a few minor updates but still remains in production today. 1GR-FE engines make 236-270 horsepower. The power is underwhelming for a modern engine with a pretty large displacement. However, low output from the Toyota 4.0L V6 comes with benefits – longevity and reliability. It’s a solid engine all around. Though, no engine is perfect and the Toyota 4.0 V6 is no exception. In this article, we discuss a few of the most common 1GR-FE engine problems and overall reliability.
What Cars Use the Toyota 4.0L V6?
Early 4.0 V6 engine use single variable valve timing (VVT-i) on the intake cams only. In 2009, Toyota moved to a dual VVT-i setup on both the intake and exhaust cams. This lead to an increase in horsepower from 236hp to 270hp for the later engines. There were also a handful of other updates to later engines – mostly for emissions reasons.
Single VVT-i Toyota 1GR-FE
4.0L V6 Toyota engines with the single variable valve timing variant are on the following cars:
- 2002-2009 Toyota 4Runner
- 2007-2011 Toyota Land Cruiser
- 2009-pres. Toyota Land Cruiser 70
- 2004-2015 Toyota Tacoma
- 2005-2009 Toyota Tundra
- 2006-2009 Toyota FJ Cruiser
Dual VVT-i 4.0L V6
The dual VVT-i engine variant is in the following models:
- 2009-pres. Toyota 4Runner
- 2009-2017 Toyota FJ Cruiser
- 2011-2014 Toyota Tundra
- 2012-pres. Toyota Land Cruiser
- 2012-pres. Lexus GX 400
Most Common Toyota 1GR-FE Engine Problems
It’s a good time to make a few points. We’re discussing the most common issues on the Toyota 4.0 V6 engine. That doesn’t necessary mean these failures are common; they may only affect a few percent of engines. We wanted to clear that up early since the 1GR-FE is a very reliable engine. Moving on, a few of the most common problems on the Toyota 4.0 V6 include:
- Head Gasket
- Ticking Noise
- Water Pump
- Ignition Coils
We’ll discuss each of these faults throughout the rest of this article and finish it off with overall thoughts on 1GR-FE reliability.
1) Toyota 4.0L V6 Head Gasket Failure
Head gaskets seal the engine block and cylinder heads. They’re vital components in sealing the cylinders and keeping oil and coolant from leaking in. 1GR-FE head gaskets seem to fail most often around cylinder #6. They also typically fail over time rather than suddenly. If you’re experiencing misfires, white smoke from the exhaust, and coolant loss the 4.0 V6 head gasket(s) may be to blame.
Head gaskets are one of the more common failures on the 4.0L engine. Again, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re common. Plenty of 1GR-FE engines are running around at 250,000+ miles on the original gaskets. However, head gasket problems are worth the mention since they’re one of the more expensive issues.
The sooner you catch head gasket faults the better. Additional damage is pretty rare on the 1GR-FE 4.0 engine, but it can happen. As coolant enters cylinders it can wipe away oil and cause premature wear. Coolant can also cause damage to catalytic converters and other components.
Toyota 1GR-FE Head Gasket Failure Symptoms
A few potential symptoms of head gasket issues on the Toyota 4.0 V6 include:
- White smoke from exhaust
- Coolant loss
- Milky looking oil
There are a few other symptoms you may notice, too. White smoke from the exhaust may have multiple causes, but particularly pay attention if it has a sweet smell. This often means coolant is entering the 1GR-FE cylinders and burning. Coolant loss may be minor, but if you’re topping up on coolant often without any visible leaks the gasket may be to blame. Oil and coolant in the cylinders can also cause misfires and fouled spark plugs. Finally, coolant usually mixes with oil when the head gasket fails so check for milky oil on the Toyota 4.0.
4.0 V6 Head Gasket Replacement
Assuming you catch the head gasket leak quickly the chance of additional damage is very low. In this case, you can simply replace the 4.0 V6 gaskets which can be had for about $50-100. It’s also not a bad idea to replace other parts with a gasket repair kit like this. Consider other parts in the area if you’re high mileage.
While the head gaskets are cheap the labor to replace the 1GR-FE gaskets can add up. Expect to pay about $800-1200 for labor.
2) Toyota 1GR-FE Ticking Noise
One of the most complained-about aspects of the 1GR-FE is a ticking noise that is known to affect quite a few 4.0L V6 engines. The good news is that it is rarely anything to worry about. 1GR-FE engines are known to have louder than normal injectors which present a ticking noise on the passenger side of the engine. While some people worry that it is an indication that something is wrong, it is extremely common on the Toyota V6 and not a cause for alarm.
There is another ticking sound commonly reported on the driver’s side of the 1GR-FE. Like the ticking injectors, this problem is also innocuous. There is a PWM (Pulse Width Module) located on the driver’s side of the engine secured by a 1mm bolt to the plastic intake. Over time, this bolt can loosen, causing it to tick against the plastic. This issue can be solved by installing rubber washers behind the 1mm bolt to prevent contact with the intake.
The only other possible explanation for a ticking noise coming from the 1GR-FE involves the engine’s lifters. Due to the fact that the 4.0L V6 uses solid lifers, they do need periodic adjustments of valve lash. Lash tolerances are usually posted on a manufacturer’s label affixed to the underside of the hood. It is a good idea to check with a Toyota service center if you think your valves need to be adjusted. Toyota recommends having them adjusted every 5 years or 60,000 miles, whichever comes first.
3) Toyota 1GR-FE Water Pump Problems
Water pump problems on the Toyota 4.0 engine is an interesting discussion. Many hold up to 150,000+ miles and failure after that point probably isn’t fair to consider a problem. Water pumps are standard wear-and-tear items that take abuse with age and mileage. Some do run into actual Toyota 1GR-FE water pump failures.
However, it seems some replace the pump thinking it’s failing when it may actually be perfectly fine. Occasionally the pumps show coolant stains or actual coolant leaking near the drain holes. A little coolant seepage is normal and typically indicates the coolant needs changing. It may also be a sign the 4.0 V6 water pump is actually failing.
Nonetheless, it’s important to fix Toyota 1GR-FE water pumps quickly if an actual failure occurs. A lack of coolant or coolant flow can lead to overheating which can ultimately lead to head gasket problems. Again, water pumps are wear and tear parts. They might fail sooner, but failures at 150,000+ miles aren’t unusual.
Toyota 4.0L Water Pump Failure Symptoms
Look for the following symptoms that may indicate problems with the Toyota 1GR-FE water pump:
- Coolant leak
- Steam/smoke from engine
Visible leaks may point to an issue with the 4.0 V6 water pump. If the water pump completely fails the engine will lose coolant flow and quickly overheat. In this situation, shut down the 1GR-FE as soon as possible and address the issues before driving again. Finally, steam from the engine bay may be present if the coolant is leaking onto hot parts.
1GR-FE Water Pump Replacement
Toyota 4.0 V6 water pumps come in around $100. Labor will take a few hours so expect to pay another $250-500 in labor. It’s not a challenging DIY for those with a basic understanding of engines and some DIY experience.
4) 1GR-FE 4.0 V6 Ignition Coil Issues
Spark plugs and ignition coils are standard wear-and-tear items on the Toyota 1GR-FE engine. Some do experience premature ignition coil problems. However, the fact this makes the list is more a testament to the reliability of the 4.0L V6 engine. Many engines require ignition coil replacement around 150,000 miles. Sometimes ignition coils can last the life of the engine.
However, there are plenty of 1GR-FE 4.0 V6 engines making it well past 200,000 miles. Chances are the engine will outlast the effective life of the ignition coils. Anyways, some do experience premature faults with the ignition coils. It’s not too common but ignition coil failures around 100,000 miles can and do happen sometimes.
Fortunately, ignition coils are easy to replace and are pretty cheap in the grand scheme. We also come from the turbo BMW world where all 6 ignition coils require replacement every 25,000-60,000 miles. As such, a coil or two failing around 100,000 miles on the 4.0 V6 doesn’t sound bad at all to us.
Toyota 1GR-FE Ignition Coil Failure Symptoms
The following symptoms may indicate a problem with one or more ignition coils on the 4.0L V6:
- Rough idle / stumbling
- Stuttering acceleration
- Loss of power
You’ll also notice similar symptoms with faulty spark plugs. It’s a good idea to change the spark plugs every 80,000 – 100,000 miles. Spark plugs are also very cheap so if you haven’t changed them in 100,000+ miles then it’s a good starting point.
Otherwise, the above symptoms may be due to a faulty ignition coil on the Toyota 1GR-FE. If you have a code scanner you can read the fault codes to see which cylinder(s) is misfiring. Try swapping the ignition coil with another cylinder. If the misfire follows the ignition coil then you’ve found the likely culprit.
Toyota 4.0 V6 Ignition Coil Replacement
We recommend replacing all 6 coils at the same time. This is especially true if your Toyota 4.0L V6 is north of 100,000 miles. A set of 6 ignition coils is right around $90-150. It’s a very easy DIY that you can knock out in the driveway in less than an hour. The same goes for spark plugs and a set of 6 will only set you back about $50.
How Reliable Is The Toyota 1GR-FE Engine?
Toyota’s 4.0L V6 engine earns above-average remarks for reliability. It’s without question one of the most reliable engines we’ve written about. The 1GR-FE does not suffer many common problems. When failures do occur they’re usually pretty cheap and simple to fix. The only exception is the issues with 4.0 V6 head gaskets. However, the head gasket failures likely only affect a very small percentage of all 1GR-FE engines on the road.
Plenty of Toyota Tundras, Tacomas, 4Runners, and FJ Cruisers have 250,000+ miles on them. It seems most owners have positive experiences even at incredibly high mileage. Of course, maintenance and oil changes are key to ensuring a reliable experience with the 4.0 V6 engine. That holds true for any engine.
Maintain your 1GR-FE well and it will reward you. Take care of repairs if and when they pop up. The Toyota 4.0L V6 engine itself can outlive the useful life of many other wear-and-tear components like ignition coils, water pumps, etc. As such, occasional issues will pop up on high-mileage engines.
1GR-FE 4.0L V6 Common Problems Summary
The Toyota 1GR-FE is an excellent all-around engine. Power output is fairly low for a large V6 engine, however, it’s plenty of power for most needs. It also helps the 4.0L V6 engine earn exceptional remarks for reliability. There aren’t many common issues with the 1GR-FE. Also, when problems do pop up they’re typically simple, cheap repairs.
Look for potential issues with head gaskets, water pumps, and ignition coils. It seems most of these failures affect a pretty small percentage of Toyota 1GR-FE engines on the road. However, the 4.0 V6 is known to hold up well beyond 250,000 miles. Expect a few problems to pop up as these engines reach and surpass that mileage.
What’s your experience with the 1GR-FE engine? Do you have a Tundra, Tacoma, 4Runner, or FJ Cruiser?
Drop a comment and let us know!
Excellent article. Very good information for a first time owner of a 4Runner SR5 – a 2007 with 176,000 miles and running like new. Bought on 02/22/21. Thank you!
I have one in an 06 tacoma with over 400000 and has only had sparkplug and runs flawless
Mine is fitted into an Australian Hilux (similar to the Tacoma). 448,000 miles. Still going strong. Did blow a head gasket at 150,000 miles but no damage other than the gasket and a lot of labor.
Toyota Fortuner and Prado also using same Engine.
Great write up. I own a 2007 FJ Cruiser with 172000 miles on the clock and it runs like new. I took the FJ in for a wheel alignment and the mechanic attempted to start it as it was running because it is so smooth and quite. 👍🏻 Pleased with this engine for sure.
My 2005 Tacoma with 1GR-FE engine runs and sounds like new at 170.000 km, gets regular maintainance.
very good article. I just bought a 2003 prado 4.0 and I was discouraged by the experience of high fuel consumption. I knew it would be high, owing to the engine displacement and number of cylinders, and car size. I also knew that the car is generally bullet-proof and the only niggle is the fuel consumption. However upon reading the article I am pleased to note that the engine has above average reliability. The body is always robust, this being a toyota. With this silky smooth ride, ever ready 4×4 ,and gadgets; i guess I just need to control my foot, plan my trips, and service it on schedule. thanks
2010 4runner with dual vvti 1gr-fe. The engine has a ticking noise and no one can explain why. Lots of owners looking for this answer
The 1GR injectors can be a bit noisy and making a ticking sound. Exhaust manifold leaks are also a potential issue that causes ticking noises on the Toyota 1GR-FE. While there are some ticks that can’t fully be explained there shouldn’t be any major reliability or longevity concerns. We aren’t aware of any common 1GR-FE problems that cause ticking and are severe/concerning.
Also a reminder that the 1GR-FE uses solid lifters and requires periodic adjustment of valve lash. That could be a possible cause of a ticking noise. Lash tolerances are usually posted on a manufacturers label affixed to the underside of the hood. Have a 2007 Tundra with a measly 52,000 miles on it and have never had a real problem. A small oil leak at the front cover was repaired under warranty, I think the 1GR was a rarely chosen option for the Tundra.