The Kia 3.8l engine, also known as the Hyundai Lambda GDI engine, is a naturally aspirated V6 engine with direct fuel injection. The biggest and most powerful engine in the Lambda family, the 3.8-liter unit was first used in cars from Hyundai and Kia in 2005 and is remained a top choice for many of their top vehicles.

You can find the 3.8-liter engine in sedans, SUVs, and full-size minivans made by Hyundai and Kia, and in cars today, it offers about 291 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 262-pound feet of torque at 5,200 rpm. While this is a great engine, it also has some unavoidable problems. So, we will discuss the GDI’s reliability in this guide.

What Cars Feature the Kia 3.8l Engine?

The Kia 3.8 liter engine powers a wide range of cars, and not only from Kia. Kia and Hyundai are known for sharing different technologies, so it makes sense that some of their vehicles are made on the same platform. Thus, the 3.8l engine powers the following vehicles:

  • Kia Telluride 
  • Kia Quoris
  • Kia Sorento
  • Kia Carnival
  • Kia Sedona
  • Kia Borrego
  • Kia Mohave
  • Kia Opirus
  • Kia Amanti
  • Hyundai Palisade/Entourage/Equus/Centennial/Azera/Veracruz
  • Hyundai Genesis/Hyundai Genesis Coupe

2022 Telluride

Common Problems of the 3.8 Liter Engine

The Hyundai Kia 3.8 liter engine is highly reliable and only has a few problems. These problems don’t happen often, and some are caused by negligence or lack of maintenance. They are also standard with other engines in the Lambda engine family, especially the 3.3-liter engine.

Common problems include high oil consumption, carbon buildup problems, oil leaks, stuck piston rings in rare cases.

Carbon Buildup 

Carbon buildup is a typical problem most direct fuel injection engines have, and the 3.8l engine is not spared. While direct injection is a fantastic technology, producing oil blow-by while operating is unfortunate. This oil lands on the valves and ports, and as they build up, it restricts airflow and affects your driving experience.

You can notice this problem when you have poor performance, misfiring, rough idling, power loss, or a sputtering engine. But it’s also challenging to identify the problem, and the carbon can build up for tens of thousands of miles before it’s finally noticeable, all while reducing your driving experience.

The best solution to this is walnut blasting every 100,000 miles, as it is an effective way to remove the buildup from valves. You can visit a professional mechanic to get this done.

Oil Leak

Oil leaks are also a common problem on Kia 3.8 liter engines. Some Lambda engines have trouble with oil filter parts and can be easily fixed with the proper installation of new parts. The oil leaks usually become more common after using your car for 100,000 miles and can be from the oil pan gasket, valve cover gasket, or main seal.

If you see any leaks or smoke or perceive the smell of burning oil, this is a sign that you need to check for oil leaks. You can also inspect this problem whenever you’re changing the oil on your engine. 

You can take your Kia or Hyundai vehicle to the mechanic to fix the leak before it becomes worse.

Another main problem related to the Lambda 3.8 engine is high oil consumption, which usually occurs with stuck piston rings. To avoid spending a lot of money on oil, you should take your car to get checked out at a mechanic and follow a consistent oil change schedule.

2022 Carnival – 7 Passenger

Is the 3.8-liter Engine Reliable?

Yes, it is. The Kia 3.8 liter engine is highly reliable and can last for over 200,000 miles while working efficiently. This is equivalent to about ten years, depending on your vehicle usage.

But, keep in mind that the reliability level depends on how well you take care of it. Also, some problems with the engine become more pronounced after 100,000 miles, like carbon buildup. Excess oil consumption becomes very pronounced after 150,000 miles too.

So, it’s also important to regularly take your vehicle for engine servicing and inspection to prevent any sudden problems. 


As the Kia 3.8 liter engine is highly reliable and produces impressive power, it’s a good idea to go for any Kia or Hyundai car powered by it. You can enjoy using this engine for ten years with regular maintenance.

In this case, maintenance involves using high-quality oil for the engine and changing it on time, cleaning it regularly, and fixing any problems as soon as you notice them. If you notice any of the issues listed in our guide or other strange symptoms, you should immediately take your vehicle to a professional mechanic.

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Pavlo Prannyk
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