3 Most Common Honda 3.5-Liter V6 Engine Problems

Honda J Series Engine

The Honda 3.5 V6, also known as the J35, was launched in 1998 and continues to feature in current models. With its long-standing presence, the engine has seen various updates and versions, but all retain the fundamental 3.5L V6 SOHC design. The J35 is known for its balanced performance, fuel efficiency, and dependability. However, like all engines, the Honda 3.5L V6 has its set of challenges. This article highlights some common issues with the J35 and assesses its overall reliability.

Personal Anecdote

A few years ago, I acquired a Honda boasting the J35 3.5L V6 engine. Initially, its performance was impeccable, aligning with Honda’s reputation for reliability. However, over time, I began detecting subtle vibrations in the engine.

After some research, I learned about potential issues with the Variable Cylinder Management (VCM) system. My trusted mechanic confirmed my suspicions, pointing out a minor oil leak near the alternator, a typical VCM gasket concern.

To address this, I invested in aftermarket solutions and adopted a routine of manually checking the oil levels. Later, as I approached the 100,000-mile mark, I recalled the significance of the timing belt for the J35. An inspection revealed wear signs, prompting me to replace both the timing belt and the water pump.

This proactive approach not only prevented potential damage but also reinforced my commitment to maintaining the engine’s longevity.


The 3.5 V6 has multiple versions, which might be explored in a detailed post later. For this overview, we’ll focus on the J35A, J35Z, and J35Y engines. Each of these categories further branches out into sub-variants like J35A1, J35A3, J35A4, and so on.

About the Honda J35A 

Introduced in 1998, the J35A was the pioneer of the series and was manufactured until 2012. This 3.5L V6 SOHC engine, equipped with Honda’s VTEC system, initially delivered 210 horsepower in the 1998-2001 Honda Odyssey models.

In contrast, Acura RL and TL models equipped with the J35 engine boasted 286 horsepower, which was impressive for its time. The J35A can be found in various Honda and Acura vehicles:

  • 1998-2010 Honda Odyssey
  • 2001-2006 Acura MDX
  • 2003-2008 Honda Pilot
  • 2004-2008 Honda Legend
  • 2005-2008 Acura RL
  • 2007-2008 Acura TL Type-S
  • 2006-2008 Honda Ridgeline

J35Z 3.5L V6 Engine

J Series V6 3.5L Engines

Honda J35Z engines – also known as the Earth Dreams 3.5L – were made from 2006-2014. Specific updates from the J35A depend on each variant within the J35Z family of engines. However, one main difference is the use of Variable Cylinder Management (VCM).

One of the J35A did use this technology, too. However, it’s much more common to find VCM on the Honda J35Z 3.5 V6 . These engines offer 244-280hp, and are found in the following years and models:

  • 2006-2008 Honda Pilot (FWD only)
  • 2009-2015 Honda Pilot
  • 2009-2014 Honda Ridgeline
  • 2008-2012 Honda Accord
  • 2013-2018 Acura RDX
  • 2010-2014 Acura TSX
  • 2009-2014 Acura TL
  • 2011-2017 Honda Odyssey

*The only engine that does NOT use VCM technology is the J35Z3 in the 2008-2012 Honda Accord 6MT Coupe.

Overview of V6

In 2013, Honda introduced the latest version of its 3.5 V6 , the J35Y. This engine, except for the manual transmission variant in the Honda Accord, comes with Variable Cylinder Management.

The majority of J35Y engines also incorporate direct fuel injection, enhancing performance, reducing emissions, and improving fuel efficiency. With a power range of 278-310 horsepower, these are the most potent engines in the J35 series. You can find the J35Y  in the following Honda and Acura vehicles:

  • 2013-2017 Honda Accord
  • 2014 and onwards Acura RLX
  • 2014 and onwards Honda Legend
  • 2014-2020 Acura MDX
  • 2015-2020 Acura TLX
  • 2016 and onwards Honda Pilot
  • 2017 and onwards Honda Ridgeline
  • 2018 and onwards Honda Odyssey
  • 2019 and onwards Honda Passport

Given the extensive history of the J35, spanning over two decades, there’s a lot to cover. Some issues are more prevalent in specific Honda 3.5 V6 variants, making it crucial to distinguish between them.

We’ll delve deeper into the intricacies of all Honda J35 engines in future discussions. For now, let’s explore some common challenges faced by the J35 3.5L V6 engines.

Most Common Challenges with the Honda 3.5 V6 

The Honda J35 3.5L V6 engine, while known for its reliability, does have a few common issues. Some of the most frequently reported problems include:

  1. Variable Cylinder Management (VCM): This system, designed to improve fuel efficiency by deactivating some cylinders under certain conditions, has been a point of concern for some users.
  2. Timing Belt: Some owners have reported issues related to the timing belt, which is crucial for synchronizing the engine’s operations.
  3. Carbon Build-up: Over time, carbon deposits can accumulate in the engine, leading to reduced performance and other potential issues.

It’s essential to clarify that while these problems are among the most commonly reported, it doesn’t imply that a significant percentage of Honda 3.5 V6 experience them. Instead, when issues arise, these areas tend to be the usual suspects.

However, on the whole, the 3.5L V6 is known for its robust reliability. Honda has a reputation for producing durable and long-lasting vehicles and engines.

We’ll revisit the topic of the Honda 3.5 V6’s reliability towards the end of this discussion. For now, let’s delve deeper into the aforementioned challenges.

1. 3.5L V6 Variable Cylinder Management (VCM) Concerns

Variable Cylinder Management System

The Honda J35 series is vast, and so are the discussions around its issues, especially concerning the Variable Cylinder Management (VCM) system.

The VCM system is designed to enhance fuel efficiency and reduce emissions by deactivating one cylinder bank (3 cylinders) when the engine is under low loads.

The idea is straightforward: if you don’t need the full power, why not turn off some cylinders to save fuel and reduce emissions? Sounds ideal, right?

However, the reality has been a bit different. Numerous reports have highlighted various problems associated with the VCM system:

  1. Oil Leaks in VCM Gaskets: The gaskets in the J35 VCM system have been identified as a weak point, prone to oil leaks. The location of the VCM unit, being close to the alternator, exacerbates the issue. Oil leaks onto the alternator can lead to more significant problems if not addressed promptly.
  2. Excessive Oil Consumption: Some Honda 3.5 V6 engines have shown higher than normal oil consumption, which was significant enough to lead to a class action lawsuit in 2013. This lawsuit targeted the 2008-2013 models, excluding the 2005-2007 J35A7 engine. However, some owners of the J35A7 have also reported similar issues.
  3. Additional VCM-Related Problems: The VCM system has been linked to other engine problems, including issues with engine mounts, torque converters, and spark plugs.

The newer J35Y engine, part of Honda’s Earth Dreams series, seems to have fewer VCM-related problems. Yet, some owners still opt for aftermarket solutions or even choose to deactivate the VCM system.

While online discussions might amplify the issue, it’s undeniable that the VCM system has had its challenges. Owners of the 3.5L V6 should be informed and vigilant about potential VCM-related problems.


The Variable Cylinder Management (VCM) system in the Honda 3.5L  can manifest a range of symptoms when malfunctioning.

Given the variety of potential problems linked to the VCM, there isn’t a single definitive sign. However, here are some common indicators:

  1. High Oil Consumption: One of the primary concerns with the VCM system is excessive oil usage. Regularly monitor the oil level manually, rather than solely relying on the vehicle’s computerized alerts.
  2. Oil Leaks: If the VCM gaskets fail, you might observe oil leaks or even smell burnt oil.
  3. Vibrations: Unusual vibrations could suggest issues with the J35  mounts, which might be deteriorating.
  4. Suboptimal Performance: While a broad symptom, any decline in the engine’s operation could be a red flag. It might hint at underlying VCM problems that need attention.


The appropriate remedy largely depends on the specific problem:

  • Aftermarket Solutions: Products like those from VCM Tuner offer potential fixes. However, their efficacy isn’t universally established, so it’s advisable to research thoroughly before opting for such solutions.
  • Disabling VCM: Some owners choose to deactivate the VCM system entirely to sidestep potential issues.
  • Sticking with OEM: Many who retain the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) setup don’t encounter any problems with the Honda 3.5 V6. It’s essential to note that while the VCM issues are discussed widely online, not every owner will face them. Some believe the extent of the problem is somewhat exaggerated in online discussions.

2. Timing Belt Concerns

Timing Belt Honda

Moving on from the VCM, let’s discuss the timing belt of the Honda 3.5 V6 engine. While not a significant reliability concern, it’s crucial to maintain and monitor the timing belt for optimal engine performance.

Maintenance and Importance: The recommended maintenance interval for the timing belt is every 8 years or 100,000 miles, though it’s always wise to consult the specific engine manual. The J35’s timing belt doesn’t have inherent flaws, but it’s a vital component.

Given that the 3.5L V6 is an interference engine, where the valves and pistons occupy overlapping spaces, a malfunctioning timing belt can lead to these parts colliding, causing significant damage.

Potential Damage: If the timing belt fails, it can result in bent valves or even more extensive engine damage. The repair costs for such damage can be substantial.


  1. Unusual Noises: Listen for ticking or slapping sounds from the engine.
  2. Misfires: The engine might misfire, indicating potential timing belt issues.
  3. Check Engine Light: The malfunction indicator light (MIL) might illuminate.
  4. Power Loss: A reduction in engine power can be a sign of a slipping timing belt.

It’s often challenging to spot these symptoms before the timing belt completely fails. Hence, periodic visual inspections are recommended, especially as the belt approaches its expected lifespan.

Replacement Recommendations

  • Cost: A timing belt and water pump kit for the Honda 3.5 V6 typically costs between $125-250. It’s advisable to replace the water pump alongside the belt, as a malfunctioning pump can also impact the timing belt.
  • DIY vs. Professional Service: For those familiar with car maintenance, replacing the timing belt can be a manageable DIY task, keeping costs low. However, if you’re relying on a service center, factor in labor charges, which can range from $150-300.

3. Carbon Build-Up Concerns

Carbon build-up in engines isn’t a new topic, but it’s particularly relevant for newer engines like the J35Y Earth Dreams variant that employs direct injection (DI).

While DI offers numerous advantages, including enhanced performance, reduced emissions, and better fuel economy, it does come with its own set of challenges.

The Carbon Build-Up Issue

Carbon Buildup

Engines naturally produce some oil blow-by, which can re-enter the intake system. In traditional port injection (PI) systems, fuel is sprayed into the intake ports, which helps clean away these oil deposits.

However, in DI engines like the J35Y, fuel is directly injected into the cylinders, leaving nothing to clean the intake valves. Over time, this results in carbon accumulation on the intake valves and ports.

Although it’s not an immediate concern, cleaning the intake valves in DI engines is a recommended maintenance step. The effects of carbon build-up typically become noticeable after 80,000 to 120,000 miles.

Symptoms of Carbon Build-Up in the 3.5L V6:

  1. Power Loss: One of the most significant impacts of carbon accumulation is a reduction in power. This happens because the carbon deposits restrict airflow into the cylinders. The gradual nature of this power loss, occurring over tens of thousands of miles, makes it subtle and hard to detect.
  2. Misfires: Carbon deposits on the intake valves can lead to misfires. While misfires can be attributed to various causes, if basic solutions like changing spark plugs don’t resolve the issue, carbon build-up might be the culprit.
  3. Rough Idle: The engine might not run smoothly when idling, indicating potential carbon accumulation.
  4. Stuttering/Hesitation: The engine might exhibit hesitation or stuttering, especially during acceleration, due to restricted airflow from carbon deposits.

Reliability Overview

Honda J35 v6


The Honda 3.5 V6, particularly the J35 variant, is generally considered to be above average in terms of reliability. While there are concerns related to the VCM system, the engine doesn’t have many inherent flaws.

Issues with camshafts have been reported, but these often stem from inadequate maintenance. The timing belt is a standard maintenance component, and the carbon build-up, though a downside, is a trade-off for the benefits of direct injection technology.

Maintenance is Key:

The longevity and performance of the Honda 3.5 V6 largely depend on regular maintenance. Using quality oils, timely fluid changes, and addressing issues promptly can significantly enhance the engine’s lifespan. While some aspects of reliability might be attributed to luck, proper care can tilt the odds in your favor.


With proper maintenance, it’s not rare for the Honda 3.5 V6 engine to surpass the 200,000-mile mark without encountering significant reliability issues.


How much horsepower does a Honda 3.5 V6 engine have?

The horsepower of the Honda 3.5 V6, also known as the J35, varies depending on the specific model and year. Generally, it ranges from 210 horsepower in earlier models to up to 310 horsepower in the latest versions.

Is there a V6 VTEC?

Yes, Honda has produced V6 equipped with the VTEC (Variable Valve Timing and Lift Electronic Control) system. The VTEC system enhances engine performance by adjusting the valve timing and lift.

How long will a Honda V6 last?

With proper maintenance, Honda V6 are known for their durability and longevity. It’s not uncommon for these engines to surpass the 200,000-mile mark without encountering significant reliability issues.

Is the 3.0 VTEC a V6?

Yes, the 3.0 VTEC is a V6 . It’s one of Honda’s earlier V6  equipped with the VTEC system, commonly found in models like the Honda Accord and Acura CL.

Which Honda engine lasts the longest?

Honda engines are generally known for their reliability. While it’s hard to pinpoint a single engine as the longest-lasting, models like the B-series, D-series, and the aforementioned V6  have a reputation for longevity, often surpassing 200,000 miles with proper care.

Where are Honda V6 made?

Honda V6 are primarily manufactured in Honda’s Anna Engine Plant in Ohio, USA. However, Honda has multiple manufacturing facilities worldwide, so the production location can vary based on the specific model and market.


In essence, the Honda 3.5 V6 stands out for its reliability, especially when maintained well. By adhering to basic maintenance routines, most Honda J35 owners can expect a long and satisfying experience with their engine.

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