3.8L Clar­i­fi­ca­tions

Jp Magazine - - Mailbag -

The “Lowdown on Jeep Six-Shoot­ers” (Apr. ’18) ar­ti­cle is very in­ter­est­ing, thank you. I have a ’08 four-door Jeep JK Ru­bi­con. I did not re­al­ize the poor per­for­mance of the 3.8L un­til I in­stalled 35-inch tires.

I have a cou­ple of ques­tions re­gard­ing the 3.8L. You men­tioned that in­stalling any power-adding items is ask­ing for trou­ble. What power-adder items are you re­fer­ring to?

I’m very much in­ter­ested in an en­gine swap. My con­cern is meet­ing the emis­sions stan­dards for a state like Utah when in­stalling an LS or a Hemi V-8?

Thanks again for the ar­ti­cle and your in­sight. James Cox

Via email Trent McGee replies:

Thanks and I’m glad you en­joyed the ar­ti­cle! The 3.8L isn’t a bad en­gine per se, it’s just not a great one. Much like the mini­vans that they pri­mar­ily pow­ered, the 3.8L is ad­e­quate for the job but en­tirely un­re­mark­able. By power-adders, I was re­fer­ring mostly to forced in­duc­tion. Un­like the Pen­tas­tar, the bot­tom end of the 3.8L was never de­signed or in­tended for use with a tur­bocharger or su­per­charger.

There are kits that ex­ist to add that stuff to a 3.8L, but re­li­a­bil­ity suf­fers. It’s pretty well proven that 3.8L en­gines don’t deal with hard use very well, and forced in­duc­tion just places more strain on al­ready mar­ginal in­ter­nals. It’s my opin­ion, and that of many oth­ers. Try­ing to wake up the 3.8L is filled with po­ten­tial pit­falls. Things like head­ers and a cold-air in­take cer­tainly don’t hurt, but I per­son­ally haven’t no­ticed much of a gain adding that stuff as you do on some other en­gines. The bot­tom line is this: treat it nicely and main­tain it, and it’ll prob­a­bly go 200,000 miles or more. Beat on it a lot or throw a su­per­charger on it, and don’t be sur­prised if you end up with holes in the block where they don’t be­long.

As for en­gine swaps, both Hemi and LS swaps are well doc­u­mented and sup­ported. LS en­gines are phys­i­cally smaller and there­fore a bit eas­ier to place in a JK en­gine com­part­ment, but both are very vi­able op­tions and can en­dure a lot of abuse with­out much is­sue. I’m not in­ti­mately fa­mil­iar with Utah emis­sions and there­fore can’t speak in­tel­li­gently on what may or may not fly. I would

rec­om­mend talk­ing to a lo­cal shop that has done a few swaps and see what they say. If you’re in the Salt Lake area, talk to John over at Im­pulse Off Road (im­pulse­of­froad. com). He’s a good guy and could prob­a­bly help you weigh your op­tions for Utah emis­sions.

I hope this helps, and good luck with your Jeep project!

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