The 4 Most Common Toyota 2GR-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.
Toyota 3.5L V6 2GR-FE Engine
The Toyota 2GR-FE is a 3.5L V6 engine found in many Toyota, Lexus, and Lotus models from 2005 to present. NA versions make roughly 290 to 315 horsepower depending on the specific car. A handful of the 3.5 V6’s also use a supercharger and make up to 430 horsepower. Point is – the Toyota 2GR-FE offers respectable performance. There’s also good reason the engine has been around so long.
However, as with every engine, the Toyota 3.5L V6 is prone to a few common problems. In this article, we will discuss common failures on the 2GR-FE engine along with overall reliability. For more Toyota content, check out our popular Toyota 2GR-FKS Engine Guide and our Toyota Camry vs Corolla Comparison Article.
Toyota 2GR-FE Common Engine Problems
A few common issues on the Toyota 3.5L V6 engine include:
- VVTi Oil Leak
- Idler Pulley
- Water Pump
- Spark Plugs & Ignition Coils
This applies to a lot of the common problems we write about, but it’s a good time to add a few important notes. Simply because we’re classifying these failures as common does not mean they’re actually very common. The above Toyota 3.5 engine faults are simply a few of the most common. Overall, it’s a reliable engine. However, there are other possible issues the 3.5L V6 may run into. This is especially true as any engine ages and wear and tear components reach the end of their intended lifespan.
Throughout this article we’ll discuss each of the above issues with the Toyota 2GR-FE. At the end we’ll throw in some extra thoughts regarding the reliability of the 3.5L engine.
What Cars Use the 3.5 2GR-FE?
Before diving in let’s lay out the many Toyota, Lexus, and Lotus models that use the 2GR-FE engine. The below isn’t even a fully exhaustive list. Nonetheless, the 3.5L V6 Toyota engine is in the following cars:
- 2005–2018 Toyota Avalon (GSX30 / GSX40)
- 2006–2012 Toyota Aurion (GSV40)
- 2005–2012 Toyota RAV4 (GSA33/38)
- 2006–2017 Toyota Camry (GSV40 / GSV50)
- 2006–2018 Lexus ES 350 (GSV40 / GSV50)
- 2007–2009 Lexus RX 350 (GSU30/31/35/36)
- 2009–2015 Lexus RX 350 (GGL10/15/16)
- 2007–2016 Toyota Highlander (GSU40/45/50/55)
- 2007-2012 Toyota Blade (GRE156)
- 2008–2016 Toyota Venza (GGV10/15)
- 2009–present Lotus Evora
- 2006–2016 Toyota Sienna (GSL20/23/25/30/33/35)
- Toyota Corolla (E140/E150) (for Super GT use)
Supercharged 3.5L V6:
- 2007-2009 TRD Aurion
- 2009-present Bolwell Nagari 300
- 2011–16 Lotus Evora S
- 2012 Lotus Exige S
- 2017-present Lotus Evora 400
- 2018 Lotus Exige Cup
1) Toyota 3.5L V6 Oil Leaks
Engine oil leaks may come from several different areas. However, the most common oil leak on the 2GR-FE primarily affects models up to 2010. The variable valve timing (VVTi) system uses a rubber hose that feeds oil to it. Toyota used an iron-to-rubber design which has a tendency to cause the rubber to wear down over time. Ultimately, this leads to an oil leak from the VVTi system.
Toyota addressed the issue on the 3.5L V6 by switching to an all-metal pipe in 2010. This part is a direct fit on any year of the 2GR-FE engine. As such, it’s a good idea to ensure the rubber hose is replaced with the metal design if you run into this oil leak.
We recommend replacing this hose as preventative maintenance. If the hose develops a serious leak then it’s possible to lose oil and oil pressure quickly. This can result in complete engine failure if the engine isn’t shut down in a timely manner. Obviously, a lack of oil pressure isn’t good for an engine. Not to scare anyone, but don’t let this cheap hose cause expensive problems.
2GR-FE VVT-i Oil Leak Symptoms
A few symptoms of a leak from the VVTi rubber hose include:
- Visible leak
- Loss of oil pressure
- Low engine oil
- Smoke from engine
Most of these symptoms are pretty standard with any oil leaks. A minor leak from the 2GR-FE may leave drops of oil on the ground or produce a small amount of smoke. Bigger leaks from the VVT hose can pop up out of nowhere and lead to rapid oil loss. This may cause the 3.5L engine to lose oil pressure and produce a lot of smoke.
Toyota 3.5 VVT Oil Hose Replacement
You can find the metal oil hose online for about $20-40. It’s not a challenging DIY so it’s a pretty inexpensive job overall. Labor will likely take a few hours so expect to pay another $150-300 at a repair shop. Either way, it’s a good idea to replace the 3.5L V6 VVT oil hose sooner than later if you have the original rubber part on the car.
2) Toyota 2GR-FE Idler Pulley Problems
Idler pulleys are yet another problem that primarily affects earlier model 2GR-FE engines. Toyota eventually resolved this issue with a heavy-duty idler pulley around 2009. The problems seem to primarily affect 2005-2008 Toyota RAV4, Camry, Highlander, and Sienna models. However, any of the early Toyota 3.5L engines may run into idler pulley problems.
It’s not a serious problem in most cases and typically just produces some loud, ugly sounds from the engine. Listen for any squealing or rattling from the 3.5 V6 and chances are it’s an issue with the idler pulley. Certain models use 2 idler pulley’s and it’s a good idea to replace both while you’re in there. You may also consider replacing the belt, especially at 100,000+ miles.
Toyota 3.5 V6 Idler Pulley Symptoms
Look for the following symptoms that may indicate an issue with the Toyota 2GR-FE idler pulley(s):
These are really the only symptoms of 3.5L idler pulley issues. Over time they get a bit noisy and it’s not usually an urgent repair. However, it’s still a good idea to knock out the repair sooner than later.
2GR-FE 3.5L Idler Pulley Replacement
The heavy-duty idler pulley may be found here. They’re about $40-50 each, and Avalon, Camry, and Sienna models use two of the pulleys. The RAV4 and Highlander models use electric power steering so they only have one idler pulley.
As with the first issue we discussed, replacing the idler pulleys isn’t too challenging for an average DIY’er. Expect to spend a couple of hours fixing everything up, or labor at a shop will likely fall in the $150-300 ballpark.
3) Toyota 3.5 V6 Water Pump Failure
Well, we will give props to Toyota for recognizing and correcting weak points on the 2GR-FE engine. Water pump failures can occur on any year and model as it’s a wear and tear part. However, water pump failures seem to be the most common in early models. The pump was updated sometime around 2010. Again, water pump failures can occur in any year.
Water pumps are essential for the proper operation of the 3.5L V6 engine. If the pump fails it’s an urgent repair that should be taken care of immediately. Sometimes the water pump may simply leak coolant. However, if the pump has problems internally, the 2GR-FE engine will start to overheat pretty quickly without proper coolant flow.
2GR-FE Water Pump Failure Symptoms
A few symptoms of water pump issues on the 3.5 V6 engine include:
- Coolant leak
- Steam from engine
A visible coolant leak may indicate a problem with the water pump. If it fails the 3.5L V6 will lose coolant flow and begin to overheat pretty quickly. In this case, it’s important to shut the engine down quickly and not drive it until it’s fixed. Coolant pump failures can also cause steam from the engine bay as the coolant drips onto hot parts.
3.5L V6 Water Pump Replacement
This is the most expensive repair on the list, but it’s still not too bad in the grand scheme. A 2GR-FE water pump comes in around $80-150 depending on the specific model. Labor will also probably come in around 3-5 hours so expect to tack on another $250-400 for replacement. It’s not a challenging repair but it may take a day in the garage and a little patience.
4) 2GR-FE 3.5L V6 Spark Plugs & Ignition Coils
Spark plugs and ignition coils partially make the list since we’re out of other problems for the 3.5L V6 Toyota engine. These are really standard maintenance items, however, some engines do experience premature ignition coil failure. Anyways, it’s mostly here to finish off the list.
Spark plugs typically require replacement every 100,000 miles. Ignition coils can occasionally last the life of the 2GR-FE engine, but they are a wear-and-tear item. As such, it’s not uncommon for ignition coils to require replacement around 150,000 miles or sooner. Supercharged models of the 3.5L V6 may require replacement parts sooner, though. The boost and extra power can wear down these parts faster.
3.5 V6 Plugs & Coils Symptoms
The following symptoms may indicate a problem with the 2GR-FE ignition system:
- Rough idle
- Power loss
Over time, spark plugs and ignition coils become less effective and may cause the engine to start misfiring. This can result in the Toyota 3.5L engine stuttering on acceleration or developing a rough idle. Power loss also occurs, however, it’s likely tough to notice as it happens over time.
2GR-FE Spark Plug & Ignition Coil Repairs
If you’re over 100,000 miles it’s a good idea to replace all 6 spark plugs even if only one of them is problematic. This is probably less necessary with ignition coils, but it still might not be a bad idea to replace all of them. A set of 6 spark plugs should be less than $50 while ignition coil sets can be about $150-250. These are simple repairs that even novice DIY’ers can knock out in the driveway.
How Reliable is the Toyota 2GR-FE 3.5L V6?
The 3.5L V6 engine from Toyota earns above-average remarks for reliability. These engines come with their fair share of common problems, however, they’re pretty cheap, simple fixes in the grand scheme. We’ve also come across plenty of engines that have way more problems in general. The Toyota 2GR-FE doesn’t have many issues and they’re typically cheap to fix when they pop up. As such, it’s definitely a reliable engine.
Of course, part of it comes down to maintenance. Change the 3.5L V6’s oil on time and fix failures in a timely manner. Knocking out some preventative repairs on the earlier model engines also can’t hurt. Maintain your 2GR-FE well.
Chances are this engine will provide a mostly trouble-free, reliable experience up to 200,000 miles. Some Toyota 3.5L V6 engines even make it well past that mark, so it definitely has solid longevity.
Toyota 3.5 V6 Common Problems Summary
The 3.5L V6 Toyota engine is a stout engine all-around. It offers respectable performance on base models, and plenty more power on the supercharged variants. However, no engine is perfect and that holds true with the 2GR-FE. Early models are prone to a few extra problems that Toyota resolved down the road with stronger parts. Look out for issues with the VVT oil hose, idler pulley(s), and water pump. Ensure you’re getting the newest variants of each part as they’re typically less prone to failures.
Maintain your 3.5L 2GR-FE well and it will likely reward you with a reliable experience overall. There’s definitely a reason Toyota uses this engine in so many flagship models for such a long period. It’s a good engine with solid performance and reliability.
What’s your experience with the 3.5L V6? Are you considering one?
Drop a comment and let us know!
I recently had my 2011 RAV 4 V6 throw a rod and destroy the engine. Only 118K miles and very well maintained for the 7 years I’ve owned it. Not known yet what the source of the failure was but a used replacement engine with 88K miles is going to cost $8,000 (total for engine and install). Seems like a freak mechanical failure based on what I’ve read but still a disappointing commentary on this engine. Two years prior it had a spark plug failure in a rear cylinder, so I’m skeptical about the engine reliability.
Sorry for your problems I have 237K on this motor and outside of regular maintenance have only had to replace an o2 sensor and just recently the alternator. It’s been a marvelous engine and transmission. I should note it’s largely been used for highway driving
220k on this motor 02 sensor, alternator, new coils and spark plugs replaced, oil rubber hose. Squeaks a bit on startup, idler pulley. Runs smooth.
I have Aurion 2013 (V6 Camry) with this engine and it has been running smooth until i made an engine flush at my regular Oil change shop at 200K miles. Engine sound becomes louder and noisy. after going to the mechanic he indicted that valve lifters got impacted by that flush and it must be changed.
2011 Highlander with tow package. 170K. Just recently had oil cooler hose fail. engine damage don’t know how bad yet. If you have this hose on yours CHANGE IT. If Toyota had told me to do this PM I wouldn’t be in the fix I am now. There was a TSB in 2010 and an extended warranty issued but I received neither of these and no mention by the dealer either. This is poor customer relations Toyota.
I’m with you! I have the 2010 HL Limited with the towing package (though I was the first to put on a hitch, at 137,000 miles, after buying the car a month ago) and saw yours and similar posts/warnings — THANK YOU! All good and done at low cost in about half a day. Whoa – that could have been a close one, but thanks to you, I will never know.
Thinking of buying a used Zio ( good room for the dog . First saw the the model in NZ , plenty around looks like a good choice etc etc. Dan
Had a 2008 RAV4 with the V6. Fun vehicle to drive. The water pump went out at 120K miles. Other than that just regular maintenance. Now we have a 2013 Highlander with 90K miles on it and no issues so far. My personal experience has been quite favorable.
Water pump twice one alternator fans failed now a new radiator at a cost of $400+ dollars and only 154,000 on the clock 09 camry 3.5 V6 all these problems have really soured me to toyota not sure my next car will be a toyota I thought they were better than this but I think i’m near done with Toyota
2009 it is an old car. Part will fail with age.
216+ miles on a 2010 Sienna, replaced the water pump/drive belt around 130k and radiator around 210k, otherwise runs great. (Original spark plugs)
I have a 2017 Aurion sportivo always serviced and well maintained and only done 76 thousand K’s. One morning when starting the engine sounded like it had no oil & horrific grinding and rattles( sounded like rocks in a plastic bucket being shaken) we immediately called the RAA who told us to get it towed back to the dealer as it sounds like no oil getting to the top end. Dealer told us it has high oil pressure and we require a new or rebuilt engine! long story short dealership completely removed and stripped the engine to get to the root cause and after waiting for 4 weeks, yes that’s correct 4 weeks to get an outcome & we got told it is excessive carbon build up and this is our fault due to not letting the car warm up, short stop start driving and using poor quality fuel and as the car is out of warranty and its not a mechanical fault we need to find around $6k for them to slap some new gaskets on ( clean up the head) and hope the grinding noise goes away if not they will refund us the rebuild costs. There were no warning signs, no loss of power, no smoke no hard starts nothing on the dashboard lighting up. Carbon build up sound like gears grinding with no oil?
Thank you for the info!
I have this engine in a 2006 Toyota Avalon. I bought the car with 45k miles and it now has 460k and sounds and runs great. Hoping to get to 500k as a milestone. I do oil changes religiously. I have replaced the water pump twice and the alternator twice. Other than than that all original.
2015 Sienna broke a valve spring,4 week wait for parts. Cheaper to replace motor with a used one. This seems to be unusual but in the end $8000 installing a used engine. I don’t know about future Toyotas in my life.