What Is The Most Reliable Truck Engine Ever?

I could probably just write “the Japanese make the best truck engines” and I wouldn’t be wrong. But I figured nobody would read it and it would only be funny to me. Lots of weekend warrior off-roaders are more than 30 years old.

Things always go wrong with them and fixing them can be half the fun. Tires, wheels, suspension, glass, lights, electronics, water damage, etc.

Engines hopefully aren’t one of them. They are complicated and sometimes hard to troubleshoot with limited knowledge and tools. Learning by fire is usually how most people cope. So why don’t we do a rundown of the most reliable truck engine ever?

Buying a truck with solid bones can save you lots of time and money. The good bones usually mean a straight and meaty frame, a beefy motor, and a reliable tranny. If you can get those three you’re already 3/4 on your way to the hills.

How Did We Score A Reliable Truck Engine?

For the sake of this post, I took into consideration the longevity of a motor line. The best truck engine will survive generations. Some have many sizes and add ons, but the block is mostly the same and a lot of the parts are interchangeable, hence the series of engines remains a single entity.

Some engines have multiple sub-models. If they fall into the same family the engine gets credit as it shows the use of the same technology in various sub models and it’s similar enough it doesn’t warrant a model change. Because this isn’t called “Most Reliable Truck Engine and submodel engines”.

There are many engines to choose from and lots of “information” on the interwebs. For the sake of sanity, I didn’t include any 4 cylinder engines in my search (hate me all you want they didn’t warrant a second thought except to write this excerpt).

To make this list more agreeable and less “f%$* Ford or Chevy” B.S. This list is weighed from the following factors:

  1. Number of years in production (0.25 point per decade)
  2. Recall rate for a manufacturer (recall history data for specific engines is incredibly difficult)
  3. Number of engines sold overall (0.5 points per million units sold)
  4. Antiquity. The more age and use an engine has the less reliable it will be. Restoring the engine can give negate some of that. For every decade-old, an engine is 0.1 points are taken off. This gives credence to the fact an engine from 2018  that won a reliability award shouldn’t be given the same weight as a 50-year-old engine.

Overall score = 1 ÷ 2 + 3 – 4

The recall rate score given will be based on the rank of each brand listed (# cars recalled ÷ # manufactured):

GM: 0.65 (3 points)
Toyota: 0.80 (2 points)
Ford: 0.93 (1 point)
Chrysler: 1.0 (0 points)

Here is the following top 10 list of the most reliable pickup truck engine ever:


Cummins B Cummins B Diesel

Models: Dodge Ram
Production Years: 1984-Present (36 years)
Recall Rate: 1.0 (Chrysler)
Units Produced: 5,000,000
Antiquity: 0.36

OVERALL SCORE: 3.6 x 0.25 ÷ 1.0 + 2.5 – 0.36 = 3.04

Cast iron block, inline 4/6, Torque 400-1000 ft-lb,  and weighing 1,100 lbs dry it is a heavy beast. The only diesel on this list it, fittingly, gets the highest torque.

Engines weren’t red coming from the factory. But it does match the iconic Ram (not firetruck) red.

The ’90s was a hay day for the Ram. It saw early rises in annual sales and a peak of 3 years which is often credited to the Cummins engine. It could handle more and used a tougher tranny as well. The sharp rise in already increasing sales of the truck was directly in line with the debut of this engine. The Ram also starred in the blockbuster storm chaser movie “Twister” (not available on Netflix in 2020).

Coincidence?


Ford EcoBoost V6Ford 3.5l V6 Ecoboost Engine

Models: Ford F-Series, Land Rover Discovery, Ford Explorer, Everest, Ranger, & (2021 woop!) Bronco
Production Years: 2009-Present (11 years)
Recall Rate: 0.93 (Ford)
Units Produced: 6,000,000
Antiquity: 0.11

OVERALL SCORE: 3.19

A V6 that outperforms the V8s in both horsepower, torque, and MPG is built at the Lima Ford Engine Plant in Ohio. Both models pack a twin-turbo.

The 2.7L has 325 HP putting on sox. The 3.5L has got 400HP and 400 ft/lbs of torque. They are designed to offer the power of engines twice their size while staying fuel-efficient. With direct injection they can run on regular gasoline, saving you money on MPG and octane too.

It’s won the JD Quality Award winner in the best quality for the first 90 days for basically the last 30 years. That’s saying something. The longevity of the F-series is second to none.


Toyota UR 5.7L V8

Models: Toyota Tundra, Sequoia, Land Cruiser
Production Years:
2007-Present (14 years)
Recall Rate: 0.8 (Toyota)
Units Produced: 4,500,000
Antiquity: 0.14

OVERALL SCORE: 2.55 + 1 = 3.55

Call it cheating, but I added a point to all Toyotas simply because of their dominance in awards in the last 20 years. They haven’t sold nearly as much in volume as Ford or GM but given the fact they are so reliable in every aspect, the extra point is warranted.

32-valve quad-camshaft V8, aluminum block, variable valve timing. While there isn’t a level playing ground when you are talking about decades of historical comparisons would draw with skepticism. But…

In the last decade, no other truck has been voted the most reliable truck more than two times except the Tundra, which has done it eight times. Eight times. This could be the most reliable pickup truck maybe?

Eight times. Seriously.

It doesn’t have the runway of the other trucks on this list and the overall score is quite low. But in the short term, if you buy a Tundra you’re getting one of the most reliable trucks (Engine included).


GM Vortec 4.8L V6

Models: Chevrolet Silverado, S-10, Suburban
Production Years:
1996-Present (24 years)
Recall Rate: 0.65 (GM)
Units Produced: 6,000,000
Antiquity: 0.24

OVERALL SCORE: 3.68

90 degree, iron block, and aluminum headers, and a pushrod valve train. the 4.8L pumped out up to 280 HP and 295 ft/lb of torque naturally aspirated.

The highly ranked Vortec replaced the highest-selling engine of all time the small block Chevy V6. It makes sense. It has been used on a variety of GM rides. The Silverado and Sierra 1500 lines have this bad boy under the hood.

This 4.8L V6, which is fitted in the 1500 truck lines and the S-10 and equivalents, is manufactured at St. Catharines, Ontario, and Romulus, Michigan. The 1500 and the suburban varieties are perennial JD reliability winners being the highest-rated light-duty pickup and full-size SUVs on the market.


Chevrolet Small Block 350

Models: Chevrolet Blazer, Suburban, Silverado 1500 Series
Production Years:
 1954-2003 (50 years)
Recall Rate: 0.65 (GM)
Units Produced: 100,000,000 (<5% of total)
Antiquity: 0.66

OVERALL SCORE: 3.76

The best-known small block V8 in GM’s stable, the Chevy 350 engine is considered one of the 20th century’s best truck engines.

Sought after for its durability, quiet operation, and performance, the 350 has also earned a reputation for reliability and usability in a variety of applications, including boats.

Claimed to have sold over 100 million engines it is a very popular choice for restorers. It is sold new in a crate version for builders and restorers alike. It fits in a lot of autos and parts are easy to come by.

Truck applications are minimal in comparison but it is worth noting it was used in the majority of trucks for GM for decades. 5% of a number that massive is well worth noting.


Pentastar V6

Models: Dodge Durango, Ram, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Jeep Wrangler Unlimited JL
Production Years: 2010-Present (10 years)
Recall Rate: 1.0 (Chrysler)
Units Produced: 8,000,000
Antiquity: 0.10

OVERALL SCORE: 4.15

“This engine has an aluminum block, DOHC 24 valve 60 degree V6. Testing is rigorous…

…benefitted from more than 45,000 hours of computer analysis to optimize the design…12 million customer equivalent miles were logged on the dynos…”

Cleaning is no different they use an 80 horsepower motor with a 2,500 psi pump about the size of a small diesel motor. To say they come out clean is a gross understatement.

The reliability issues Chrysler and the company have faced are great. This engine, fitted in the Ram 1500, the 3.6L E-Torque V6 is on the Wards Auto 2019 Best Engine list for 2019. The RAM has won many awards for reliability and truck of the year since the creation of the Pentastar series. The RAM has faced reliability issues but these are not coming from the engine bay.


AMC 4.0 Inline 6

Models: Jeep
Production Years
: 1952-2006 (54 years)
Recall rate: 1.0 (Chrysler)
Units Produced: 7,000,000
Antiquity: 0.68

OVERALL SCORE: 4.17

Manufactured on the Greenlee Block Line the 4.0-liter version came out in 1986, but was reworked and redesigned all through the 1990s and into the mid-2000s.

Jeep has a long history. A history that does not include reliability. They usually require a lot of TLC. But the majority of these issues stem from failures with the electronics, brakes, or suspension.

Engine quality is often overlooked. The simplicity of the historic designs may be its biggest strength. Repairs are quick and easy usually requiring nothing more than a hammer, crescent wrench, and a 6 pack.

In the 1900s the straight 6 engine design has been the most common 6 cylinder design because of its dependability and efficiency to power balance. While most engines on this list have a V shape, the inline 6 is the most common while including all automobiles.


Ford 5.0L V-8 (Windsor 302)

Models: F-Series, Explorer
Production Years
: 1969-1996 (26 years)
Recall Rate: 0.93 (Ford)
Units Produced: 8,000,000
Antiquity: 0.51

OVERALL SCORE: 4.19

The long-lived engine has been loved by many. It was simple and relatively easy to fix. Parts were commonly available and even more aftermarket parts.

Typical factory stock vehicles are still seen driving on roads today showing how tried and true these powerhouses can be.

Known as the 5 point 0, the 5-0, or the 5 liter to many. The list of cars that have used this engine is longer than a CVS receipt. It won Le Mans in the GT, also Ford made sure the production GT-40s were as close to the race car as possible. When rules limited the engine size it created the 302 to fit in the racing and production car.

It was produced in Windsor Ontario and after 1978 Cleveland, Ohio. The 16 valve iron pushrod design is iconic. It was largely unchanged after the early 70s. It progressed from carburetors, fuel injection, finally to EFI. There are many versions that have squeezed all the HP out of this engine possible, Boss, Trans-Am, GT-40, 5.0 H.O.

The history of this engine shows its durability and ingenuity. There are few that share its prestigious history.


ford ranger vulcan 3.0 l v6 engineFord Vulcan 3.0L V6

Models: Ford Ranger, 
Production Years: 1986-2008 (12 years)
Recall Rate: 0.93 (Ford)
Units Produced: 10,000,000
Antiquity: 0.34

OVERALL SCORE: 4.99

A V6 fit in the second generation Rangers it was a bulletproof 3.0L EFI trooper that always chugged along. The vehicle line didn’t survive as the Tacoma swallowed it whole but it did sell just under 8 million units from 1986-2008.

Nissan and Co. used in other applications. Even today they seem to continue performing well. Rangers are a great overall 4×4 package on a budget.

You can find them for sub $2k regularly and aftermarket parts are plentiful. It is fairly common to see the Ranger in the hills. You may see them broken down at times but it wouldn’t be the fault of what is under the hood. Evidence of this is that the engine was mostly unchanged for all 12 years because the thought was that they couldn’t find ways to improve upon the design.


Ford Modular 4.6L

Models: Ford F-Series, Explorer, Expedition
Production Years
: 1991-Present (29 years)
Recall Rate: 0.93 (Ford)
Units Produced: 9,000,000
Antiquity: 0.29

OVERALL SCORE: 5.00

It is not surprising the latest generation of Ford F-150s is one of the highest-rated truck engines. It is an iron block with aluminum cylinders and headers.

The V6 was an early claimer by manufacturers of scheduling maintenance after 100,000 miles. They designed it to be a diverse engine with many options and sizes available. SOHC, DOHC, 2-4 valve options, but all engines share the 100mm bore spacing. This engine found so much success it became the chief V8 Architecture.

This is one of the longest-running models by any manufacturer. It should have the ability to offer the best product and it does. It is the descendent of the Ford Windsor V8 (which is a bit higher on this list). Like its predecessor it also calls home to many vehicles with its shorter, but just as distinguished, history.

The Ford F-150 is the truck of trucks. It has claimed more truck awards than any other truck in history. Its overall rating comes in highest with its dependability rating coming in near the top consistently every year by J.D. Power. For some this is not only the best truck engine, it is the only one to exist for these die-hard loyalists.

READ MORE: LUCAS OIL STABILIZER TEST RESULTS: BOGUS


Which Is Your Favorite Truck Engine?

Honorable Mentions

Before we get to the highest-rated and therefore best truck engine take a look at some that missed the cut but are still great options for truck engines. I may have excluded some and don’t hate. Or do I don’t care? I guess you could always just scroll down and ruin the surprise. I would never do that. Not in a million years…

If you have personally had a great experience with a normal POS then great! I’m ecstatic you have had a great experience. But overall the reliability of an engine has to be on par with what the majority experiences not an isolated incident.

Everyone can get an orange or they can get a lemon. And when you do, make lemonade i.e. trade that sucker in and put a truck on this list!

Chrysler LA (Magnum) 318 V8

Models: Dodge Ram, Durango, Dakota
Production Years: 1981-2003 (23 years)
Recall Rate: 1.0 (Chrysler)
Units Produced: 2,500,000
Antiquity: 0.39

OVERALL SCORE: 1.44

“…easily one of the best Ram trucks from the 1990s, but also throughout history…’98 Dodge Ram 2500 is the perfect example of what a pickup should be…’95 Dodge Ram 2500 is still spectacular.

Iron block, OHV 90° V-configured, & carb fed. Like the A 318, bore & stroke 3.91″ x 3.31″ it proved tremendously successful. Superseded by the Magnum in ’91 it used hydraulic lifters and a two-barrel carburetor for most of its production. The 318 received roller lifters and a fast-burn cylinder head in 1985.

Factory-installed ’88 throttle-body electronic fuel injection. The LA engines are a family of pushrod gasoline engines. The combustion chambers are wedge-shaped, rather than the hemispherical combustion chambers in the Hemi.

Nissan VQ40 3.5L V6

Models: Frontier, Xterra, Pathfinder
Production Years
: 2005-Present (15 years)
Recall Rate: 0.71 (Nissan)
Units Produced: 1,600,000
Antiquity: 0.15

OVERALL SCORE: 1.18

It doesn’t have a lot of reviews. It’s in a crapload of Nissans. It’s a V6. It eats oil. It sips oil. The Nissan V6 made the Wards 10 Best Engines list 14 years straight from 1995 to 2008 so it has some history. It is all over the place and since its reliability is not consistent we didn’t include it on our journey to the most reliable truck engine.

But it doesn’t have enough runway or awards, or dominance like Toyota. It may be on some people’s lists as the most reliable truck engine ever. We couldn’t put it in the same class as most of the other engines on this list.

Sorry, not sorry.

And now the most reliable pickup truck engine ever is…


Toyota GR 3.5L V6

Models: Toyota Tacoma, 4Runner, Land Cruiser, Highlander
Production Years:
2002-Present (18 years)
Recall Rate: 0.8 (Toyota)
Units Produced: 9,000,000
Antiquity: 0.18

OVERALL SCORE: 4.88 + 1 = 5.88

The run of the Tacoma is as long or longer as many trucks on this list. It started in 1995 and quickly became a top-rated mid-size pickup.

Currently, we are in the GR engine series. Sporting 60° die-cast aluminum block and aluminum DOHC 24 valve cylinder heads. Toyota utilizes this engine on a slew of model lines. The Toyota V6 has 278 HP and 265 ft-lb of torque.

It’s been a dependability winner from J.D. Power for decades where it ranks highest within the first 12 months of a 3-year-old car’s ownership. The resale value on a Tacoma is one of the highest in its class. The maintenance costs are minimal.

The Toyota 3.5L engine most reliable truck engine ever! It gets the nod for having the highest score of the most reliable truck engine on the market. Ever! 


Did you enjoy the list? Did I make a serious boo boo? Let me know in the comments (but first breathe in and out and count to 10. Thanks) if your best truck engine is different than what we have listed.

Let me know if you have a comprehensive data report on the history of an engine(s) where I was blatantly wrong. I don’t enjoy the hate, but I like to learn where I was wrong so I don’t even have to be about that subject again.

Thanks for reading and stay dirty.

Written by Mud Flap

Hi Im Ryne Sweeney, or, Mud Flap. I am a dedicated truck enthusiast. I like to argue how Dodges are expensive pieces of metal. One day I will start showering daily inside the house. My nights are long and my days are muddy.

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