5 Common Honda J35 Engine Problems & Reliability!

5 Common Honda J35 Engine Problems & Reliability!

December 29, 2023 0 By CarGuy

Are you interested in buying a Honda with the J35 engine and want to learn more about the Honda J35 engine problems? Well, if that’s correct, you are in the right place because, in this article, there will be a lot to cover.

Doing your own research on a car problem is always a good idea, you just don’t want to end up in a money pit full of problems. And when it comes to cars, there are a lot of ways that you can burn yourself and pay thousands of dollars for repairs. And that’s why we are here to help you out.

First, we will learn the J35 specs and J35 applications. Then, we will move on to the Honda J35 engine problems and see what troubles this engine the most. As well as the overall reliability of the J35. So, let’s get started.

Honda J35 Engine Specs

The J Series of engines is a Honda engine lineup that was introduced way back in 1996. This is a series of engines designed for the North American market. All J engines are assembled in Lincoln, Alabama, and Anna, Ohio.

What is interesting about the J-engine family is that these are all V6 engines, starting from 3.0L in displacement and up to 3.7L.

We are interested in the J35 engine, this engine as you would probably assume is the 3.5L version.

There are a few important engine codes that you need to be aware of: These are the J35A, J35S, J35Z, and J35Y. The Y is the latest generation of this engine.

This engine is a 60-degree V6 and is designed purely for transverse mounting. Meaning that it is only used in front-wheel-drive or AWD models. No RWD version of the J35, unfortunately.

The J35 implements VTEC, as well as VCM. VCM is the Variable Cylinder Management system that shuts off 3 of the cylinders and turns the J35 into a three-cylinder engine to save some fuel.

Never versions of the J35, such as the J35Y8, use Variable Timing Control, instead of VTEC.

This was the case since VTEC is redundant in these direct injection engines and wastes a ton of fuel.

And since we mentioned direct injection, it is worth noting that modern J35 engines also use this technology.

The newer versions also have a DOHC head. Honda ditched the SOHC design in the latest iteration of the J35 engine.

Here are the full Honda J35 engine specs:

  • Layout: V6
  • Displacement: 3.5L
  • Bore: 89 mm
  • Stroke: 93 mm
  • Head Design: SOHC on older, and DOHC on J35Y8
  • Fuel Injection: MPI on older, Direct injection on J35Y8
  • Horsepower: 210 – 310 hp
  • Torque: 229 – 275 lb-ft

Honda J35 Engine Applications

Now let’s see which models have the Honda J35 engine. This engine was included in many Honda and Acura vehicles. These are the following:

  • Honda Odyssey
  • Honda Pilot
  • Honda Ridgeline
  • Honda Inspire
  • Honda Accord
  • Honda Crosstour
  • Honda Legend
  • Honda Passport
  • Acura MDX
  • Acura RDX
  • Acura TSX
  • Acura TLX
  • Acura RLX
  • Acura RL
  • Acura TL
  • Saturn Vue

Common Honda J35 Engine Problems

Now let’s list the common Honda J35 engine problems.

  • Problems With VCM
  • Carbon Deposits
  • Timing Belt Tensioner Failure
  • Timing Belt Wear
  • Camshaft Wear

We listed the common problems with the J35 engine, now let’s move on and elaborate on all these issues.

We feel the need to further elaborate and learn more about these problems in detail. This way you will learn to know how to detect them and potentially avoid them. So, let’s get started.

1. Problem With the Variable Cylinder Management (VCM)

Problems with the VCM were the most reported issues on this 3.5 V6 engine. So, what is the VCM?

Well, this is the Variable Cylinder Management. In other words, it is the system that deactivates three of the cylinders of the J35 engine in order to save some fuel.

What is bad is that these cylinders are not actually deactivated. Pistons are still moving up and down, the difference is that you don’t have fuel and spark in these cylinders.

In the early models of this engine, the VCM system was not particularly good. It easily damaged the piston rings on the deactivated cylinders.

When these piston rings ended up damaged, it led to high oil consumption and the need for a rebuild of the engine.

In addition to this, there are gaskets that fail on this system and they can leak oil on the alternator. These leaks can foul the alternator in the process.

So, it is definitely worth being aware of these issues before you decide on one of the early J35 engines with the VCM.

Now let’s move on to the next Honda J35 engine problems.

2. Carbon Deposits

Carbon deposits are also a problem on this J35 engine. Specifically the later iterations with the direct injection system.

For those who don’t know, older J35 engines use the port injection. This is the case when fuel is injected through the intake ports.

While newer engines use direct injection. This direct injection uses a special injector that injects fuel.

So, on these newer engines, the intake ports are not washed by the fuel like in older engines.

This situation leads to oil vapors sticking to the intake valves and creating carbon crust. These deposits will start to accumulate on the valve and eventually prevent the valve from opening and closing correctly.

This will lead to engine misfires and loss of compression. In some extreme cases, the whole cylinder head will require to be refurbished. And this can cost a lot of money.

This is why it is recommended that you should walnut blast the intake ports every 60,000 miles in order to avoid such a problem from occurring.

3. Timing Belt Tensioner Failure

Another component that often fails on the Honda J35 engine is the timing belt tensioner. So, what is this tensioner, and what it does?

Well, as its name implies, this tensioner is there to keep tension on the timing belt. This is a hydraulic component. Meaning that inside there is a hydraulic fluid.

In some cases, this fluid can leak and this can lead to a timing belt tensioner failure. When this fluid leaks there will be slack in the timing belt.

The belt will get noisy and will cause the engine to misfire if the belt skips some timing. In more extreme cases, this will lead to engine failure.

This is why you should be aware of this problem and detect any abnormalities on time. Valves and pistons can come into contact and the valves can get tweaked a bit, resulting in expensive repairs.

Now let’s move on to the next Honda J35 engine problems.

4. Timing Belt Requires Replacement

Another thing we want to add is the timing belt service. Many owners do not know but this engine uses a timing belt instead of a chain.

And timing belts are less forgiving when it comes to poor maintenance. This belt has to be replaced every 100,000 miles or every 7 years.

This way you will avoid the timing belt snapping and causing engine damage. If the belt snaps, you will have serious engine damage and the cylinder heads will require complete refurbishment.

Common symptoms with a worn-out timing belt include visible cracks on the belt itself, engine misfires, and ticking noises coming from behind the timing cover.

This is why you should replace the timing belt on time in order to avoid possible repercussions.

5. Camshaft Wear

The last problem on our list of Honda J35 engine problems is the camshaft wear. Camshaft wear is a common issue on many Honda engines including the J35.

This issue is caused by two main factors. One is the lack of valve adjustment and the second is poor maintenance of the engine.

These engines do not have hydraulic lifters, so they require valve adjustment to be done every 30,000 miles in order for the valves to be functioning properly.

And the second thing is the lack of regular maintenance. Many owners do not change their oil on time and delay these changes for a really long time.

All this leads to camshaft wear. But in some cases, even if these things were taken into consideration and everything was well serviced, the camshaft simply wore on Honda engines.

So, if the engine has a lot of miles, it is highly likely that you will have to replace the camshafts at one point.

Honda J35 Engine Reliability

The overall reliability of the Honda J35 is really good. These engines are probably the best that Honda can offer right now.

The engine should easily last for more than 200,000 miles with regular maintenance.

This is why we strongly recommend it. Just make sure that you avoid some of the early VCM engines that can have problems with this system and suffer from oil consumption.

But besides this issue, the J35 is bulletproof.


In this article, we have covered the Honda J35 engine. First, we learned more about the specs of this engine and the applications in which you can find this engine.

In the second part, we focused on the common Honda J35 engine problems and learned more about the issues that trouble this engine.

Overall, the reliability of this engine is very good and we recommend it to anyone out there.