6 Common Nissan VK56DE/VD 5.6L Engine Problems (V8)

If you’re in the market for a Nissan Titan, Armada, Patrol, or a number of other Nissan or Infiniti models, then chances are you’re looking at a model with the Nissan VK56DE/VD engine. This V8 unit is considered to be highly reliable, but just like any other engine, it has its own problems.

Doing your own research before you decide to purchase a car with a certain engine is always a smart idea. You just don’t want to end up with a car that is unreliable and has a lot of issues. Sometimes these issues can drain your wallet and also your nerves rather quickly. This is why we are here to pinpoint these problems for you.

In this article, first, we are going to cover the specs of the Nissan VK56DE engine and then we are going to learn the Nissan VK56DE 5.6L engine problems. Once we clear that out of our way, we will also learn more about the applications of the VK56DE. So, without further ado, let’s dive into the article.

Basic Nissan VK56DE Engine Specs

The Nissan VK56DE engine is a V8 engine that was introduced in 2004 and is still used nowadays. The newer engine is known as the VK56VD.

Between the two engines, there are no major differences, except that the newer engine uses direct injection and variable valve lift. These refinements improved the efficiency and longevity of this engine.

When it comes to the original VK56DE, it is worth noting that this engine had a very advanced design for its time. It implements aluminum block and aluminum heads and is also chain driven.

This engine found its use in a lot of Nissan and Infiniti applications. But more on the applications, we are going to discuss later on. Now let’s take a look at the specs of the VK56DE.

  • Engine Configuration: V8
  • Displacement: 5.6L
  • Cylinder Bore: 98 mm
  • Piston Stroke: 92 mm
  • Block & Head Material: Aluminum
  • Cylinder Head Design: DOHC, 4 valves per cylinder
  • Fuel Injection: MPI on DE & Direct Injection On VD
  • Aspiration: Naturally Aspirated
  • Compression Ratio: 9.8 or 11.2
  • Horsepower: 305 – 420 hp
  • Torque Output: 385 – 417 lb-ft (522 – 565 N-m)

Common Nissan VK56DE 5.6L Engine Problems

Common Nissan VK56DE 5.6L engine problems include:

  • Bad Catalytic Converter
  • Timing Chain Problems
  • High-Pressure Fuel Pump Failure
  • Frequent Overheating
  • Cracked Exhaust Manifold
  • Oil Leaks

Now that we know the common problems of the VK56DE, it is time to further elaborate on these problems. 

Knowing how and when they appear is really important in order to learn how to detect them and even avoid these issues in the first place. Another thing to add is that both VK56DE and VK56VD share many of these problems. These issues are also present in the newer engines.

Bad Catalytic Converter

A very common problem, especially in the early engines from this series is the catalytic converter failure.

As you probably know the catalytic is an emissions device that cleans the exhaust gasses before they are released into the atmosphere.

This engine is extremely sensitive to bad fuel. And whenever you add poor-grade gas to this engine, it could destroy the catalytic converter.

Whenever this situation occurs, this will be accompanied by the production of small dust particles and bigger chunks.

These particles can go through the exhaust but they can also end up inside the engine. Destroying the engine internals in the process.

They can damage the cylinder walls in many of these cases and when this occurs, you will be left with no other option than purchasing a new engine for your car. So, be definitely aware of this issue.

Timing Chain Problems

The timing system of this engine is not one of its strong sides. Timing chains on these engines will stretch at 100,000 miles (ca. 160,934 km) and will require immediate attention.

These chains are also held by tensioners and guides. So, whenever these components wear out or fail, you will also have timing chain problems.

Usually, timing chains are relatively easy to diagnose and even a beginner can tell a car with a good chain and a car with a bad timing chain.

Whenever there is failure of these components, there will be rattling noise that will accompany the work of the engine.

And this is a good warning sign that you shouldn’t ignore. Because if you do, the chain could jump or snap. Whenever this happens, the engine valves and pistons will collide and there will be engine damage.

Replacing a timing chain can be an expensive problem to deal with. But it is needed in order for the engine to keep running well and not fail.

High-Pressure Fuel Pump Failure

High-pressure fuel pumps are also common to fail on these engines. More specifically, on the newer engines that run direct injection.

So, if you have an older VK56 engine with standard MPI injection, there is not a lot to worry about.

Whenever this high-pressure fuel pump fails, it will start to create noises. This pump is noisy in its operation but this time the noise will be even bigger.

So, it is important to detect this symptom. There can also be the check engine light, fuel leaks around the pump, and inability to start the vehicle if the pump is completely dead.

The solution to this problem is to replace this pump that is located in the engine bay with a new unit. It can be expensive. But in many cases, it is the only way around the problem.


Another very common problem with this engine is overheating. These VK56DE engines tend to overheat a lot.

Mainly because these are truck engines that are using a lot of energy. So, if the cooling system does not work well even for a small amount of time, the engine would overheat.

Not to mention that the cooling fan on these engines is not one of the most reliable ones out there. And this most often is the main culprit for overheating on this engine.

This is why we often advise that you pay close attention to the radiator fan and make sure that this fan is operating as it should.

If it doesn’t the engine will overheat and it will blow a head gasket, or even two of them. Since this engine has two banks. And this could result in some very expensive repairs, we are talking thousands of dollars here to resurface the heads and replace the gaskets.

Cracked Exhaust Manifold

Cracked exhaust manifolds are also common on the VK56DE. So, what is the exhaust manifold and why does it crack?

The exhaust manifold is an exhaust component that is directly bolted to the engine exhaust ports. It helps direct the exhaust gasses where they should go.

And on many of these engines, specifically, the ones that are used in pickup trucks, these manifolds can crack. Or the bolts can snap.

When this problem happens, you have a situation known as an exhaust leak. The solution is to replace the manifold if it’s cracked or retread the bolts if a bolt has snapped.

Oil Leaks

And the last problem on our list is the situation when you have oil leaks. Oil leaks are fairly common on these VK56DE engines.

These leaks often happen on the valve covers. The valve covers are the big plastic covers on top of each cylinder head.

There is a gasket material that tends to fail and allow oil to leak from the engine. Common symptoms are visible leaks, low oil levels, and the smell of burnt oil when you open the hood.

The repair is not urgent unless the engine is losing a serious amount of oil. And replacing these components is also not expensive, or difficult.

Which Models Have The Nissan VK56DE Engine?

Now let’s take a look at the models that have the VK56DE engine.

  • 2004 – 2015 Nissan Armada
  • 2004 – 2015 Nissan Titan
  • 2004 – 2010 Infiniti QX56
  • 2010 – 2016 Nissan Patrol
  • 2008 – 2012 Nissan Pathfinder
  • 2012 – 2016 Nissan NV2500, NV3500 HD
  • 2012 – 2016 Nissan NV Passenger
  • 2009 – 2011 Nissan GT-R GT1 (Racing)
  • 2013 – 2019 Nissan Altima (Racing)

Now let’s see which models have the Nissan VK56VD engine

  • 2017 – Present Nissan Armada
  • 2017 – Present Nissan Titan
  • 2010 – Present Nissan Patrol
  • 2011 – Present Infiniti QX80
  • 2011 – 2013 Infiniti M56
  • 2014 – 2019 Infiniti Q70
  • 2017 – Present Nissan NV2500, NV3500 HD
  • 2017 – Present Nissan NV Passenger


What Are The Common Nissan VK56DE 5.6L Engine Problems?

This engine has a few common problems. Namely, the timing chain tends to stretch and cause timing chain rattle, the catalytic converter can get damaged from bad fuel and damage the engine, oil leaks happen on valve covers, the high-pressure fuel pump can fail, and overheating issues are also very common.

Is The Nissan VK56DE Engine Reliable?

This engine is pretty reliable. It is used in a lot of heavy-duty applications like the Nissan Titan and has proven to be a very dependable engine that can be pushed to great lengths. The important thing with this engine is not to let it overheat. Because if the engine overheats, it could lead to more serious problems that will definitely cost a lot of money to fix.

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