Toyota released the 3.4 V6 5VZ-FE engine all the way back in 1993 and it remained through 2004. The engine offers a reasonable 190hp and 220 lb-ft of torque. Those numbers might sound low by modern standards, but it’s solid performance for an engine of that era. Additionally, many consider the Toyota 5VZ-FE to be among the most reliable engines. However, no engine lasts forever and that’s also true for the aging Toyota 3.4 V6. In this article, we discuss a few of the most common Toyota 5VZ-FE engine problems and reliability.
What Cars Use the Toyota 3.4 V6?
The 5vzfe engine is in the following model years:
- 1995-2004 Toyota Tacoma
- 2000-2004 Toyota Tundra
- 1995-1998 Toyota T-100
- 1996-2002 Toyota 4Runner
- 1993-2004 Toyota Land Cruiser Prado
*Note – power and torque output varies by specific model. The Toyota Tacoma receives 190 horsepower and 220 torque. On the other hand, 4Runners with the 5VZ-FE engine have 183 horsepower and 217 torque.
3 Common Toyota 5VZ-FE Engine Problems
A few of the most common issues on the Toyota 3.4 liter V6 engine include:
- Timing belt
- Oil leaks
- Head gaskets
We’ll discuss the above problems in-depth throughout the rest of this article. At the end we will also circle back to 5VZ-FE reliability. However, we have a few quick notes to add beforehand. 10 or 15 years ago it would have been nearly impossible to write about any problems on the Toyota 3.4 engine. It’s right up there with some of the most reliable car engines in the world.
That said, we’re classifying these as the MOST common issues. We never mean to signal that they’re truly common problems, and that’s especially true for the Toyota 5VZ-FE. However, we’re talking about a 17-28 year old engine here. All engines with that kind of age are prone to occasional failures. Point is – the 5VZ-FE is a highly reliable engine, but its age is a big point to consider.
1) 5VZ-FE 3.4L Timing Belt Issues
Timing chains are common on many newer engines, however timing belts were the norm during the era of the 5VZ-FE. It’s really a standard maintenance item, so maybe it’s not fair to call a problem. However, the recommended service interval for the 3.4 V6 timing belt is 90,000 miles. Most belts will actually last longer than this, but 90k miles is a good time to start looking for cracks.
Fortunately, the 5VZ-FE is a non-interference engine. This means the valves never overlap the area the piston is travelling. As such, a timing belt failure isn’t likely to cause any further damage. It’s still a good idea to replace the Toyota 5VZ-FE timing belt before any actual failures occur. Hence visually inspecting to check the health every so often after the 90,000 mile mark.
One other area worth mentioning. Some opt to replace the water pump while replacing the 3.4 V6 timing belt. Water pumps are another part that usually have a service life of about 100,000 to 150,000 miles. It’s not necessary to replace if it’s in working order, but you might consider replacing the 5VZ-FE water pump while you’re in there for the belt.
3.4 V6 Timing Belt Symptoms
The following symptoms may indicate Toyota 5VZ-FE timing belt problems:
- Ticking sounds
- Check engine light
- Rough running / idle
Ticking probably isn’t the right way to describe the sound, but when the belt is on its way out you may notice some odd sounds. If the belt fails and throws timing off you’ll notice a check engine light. When timing jumps the 5VZ-FE 3.4 engine will run very poorly all together. Misfires, rough idle, power loss, etc are all common symptoms of a timing belt failure.
5VZ-FE Timing Belt Replacement
Replacement costs for the Toyota 5VZ-FE timing belt aren’t too bad. However, it can add up a bit if you knock out some other preventative repairs. The timing belt and idlers will come in around $50-120. It’s easy to access some hoses, the water pump, and thermostat when in there for the timing belt replacement. Depending on how much you want to replace the parts can add up to $200-400.
That may save you time or repair shop labor bills down the road. However, the labor costs to access and replace the Toyota 3.4 V6 timing belt are reasonable. It’s a few hours of labor so look to spend about $200-300 in labor.
2) Toyota 5VZ-FE Oil Leak Problems
Oil leaks on the 5VZ-FE engine aren’t due to any actual flaws or design issues. However, engines use many rubber-like gaskets that are prone to degrading and cracking with age. Mileage also takes a toll, but age can be just as hard on gaskets. Oil leaks are part of the nature in owning an older car and engine.
The valve cover gaskets on the Toyota 3.4L are one of the more common areas to experience leaks. These gaskets are subject to lots of stress and heat cycles during their lives. Over time, the 5VZ-FE valve cover gaskets begin slowly cracking and leaking small amounts of oil. As those cracks expand the leak becomes worse and worse.
Toyota 5VZ-FE oil pan gaskets and main seals are a few other areas that leaks may develop. None of this stuff is truly common. However, if you plan to own this engine for the long-haul then you may run into an oil leak or two.
3.4L 5VZ-FE Valve Cover Gasket Oil Leak Symptoms
A few symptoms that may point to a valve cover gasket leak include:
- Visible leak
- Burning oil smell
- Oil loss
It’s pretty basic stuff that could point to an oil leak anywhere. The valve covers lie on top of the engine, so small leaks may not make it to the ground. Instead the oil can drip onto hot parts and burn off before hitting the ground. In this case you’ll probably notice the 5VZ-FE smells like burning oil. If the leak is bad enough you’ll probably see it on the ground before a low oil light.
Toyota Valve Cover Gasket Replacement
Valve cover gaskets (VCG) for the 5VZ-FE are dirt cheap. You’ll likely be out the door with both gaskets for less than $40. However, labor is a slightly different story. It does take some time and effort to access the VCG. Moderately experienced DIY’ers shouldn’t have a problem replacing the gaskets with a little patience. Otherwise, Toyota 3.4L V6 valve cover gaskets can run about $250-500 for labor costs.
3) Toyota 3.4L V6 Head Gasket Failure
First of all, this is an extremely rare problem on the 3.4 Toyota 5VZ-FE. There was a recall for a small batch of head gaskets back in the day. However, most head gasket failures occur north of 200,000 miles. It’s hardly fair to call that a problem since that’s beyond the service life of most engines anyways. Nonetheless, with the age of these engines a head gasket failure could be the end.
Head gasket problems aren’t cheap to fix on any engine including the Toyota 5VZ-FE. In essence, it’s not a common problem or a design flaw. However, head gasket issues aren’t unheard of with higher mileage. Considering the cost of repairs some decide it’s time to move on.
There’s not much else to say here. We’ll discuss symptoms and replacement quickly below. Head gasket problems really only make the 5VZ-FE list since there isn’t much else to discuss. We could go on and on talking about other basic maintenance and age related stuff. Although, it’s a highly reliable engine so there just aren’t many truly common issues or flaws to discuss.
Toyota 5VZ-FE Head Gasket Symptoms
Symptoms that may point to problems with the Toyota 5VZ-FE head gasket are:
- Coolant & oil mixing
- Fluid loss
- White smoke
When the head gasket fails coolant and oil are allowed to mix together. This might also allow coolant and/or oil into the combustion chamber where it burns off. You’ll notice white smoke from the exhaust alongside some fluid loss. Finally, a head gasket failure affects the engines cooling ability so the 5VZ-FE may begin overheating.
5VZ-FE 3.4L Head Gasket Replacement
We’ll be pretty quick on this. The gaskets themselves are pretty cheap as with valve cover gasket oil leaks. However, it’s a very labor intensive job to replace the 3.4 V6 Toyota head gasket(s). Repair costs can easily exceed $1,000. The 5VZ-FE offers excellent reliability so some may decide it’s worth the price. However, if you’re at 200,000+ miles it sometimes makes sense to move on.
Toyota 5VZ-FE Reliability
Well, hopefully there are no surprises here. We’ve done our best to make it very clear, if not a bit repetitive throughout this article. Toyota 5VZ-FE engines are highly reliable and some consider it among the most reliable of all time. Some engines may survive longer than the 3.4L Toyota engine. However, very few engines can last as long and experience so few failures.
10 or 15 years ago it would have been nearly impossible to write about any Toyota 5VZ-FE engine problems. However, age takes a toll on all engines and even the most reliable don’t survive forever. Gaskets, hoses, wires, etc wear down with age and mileage. If you’re planning to own the 3.4 V6 for the longer-term then it’s likely you’ll run into at least 1 or 2 minor problems.
Otherwise, maintain the 5VZ-FE well and it will likely reward you with excellent reliability. Change the fluids on time, use quality oils, and fix problems when they pop up. Do all of this and the Toyota 5VZ-FE very well may live on to see 300,000 to 400,000+ miles. It’s not hard to find examples of this on engines that ran into very few problems during that long lifespan.
What’s your experience with the 5VZ-FE? Are you considering one?
Drop a comment and let us know!