In late February 2017, I parked my Jeep at the dealer’s lot for the second time in three months. The tick, tick, tick of my Wrangler’s ill-fated Pentastar was back and louder than ever.
Earlier in the week, I’d felt the engine shudder and heard the faint but familiar ticking fill the cabin. The dreaded Pentastar tick was back. It’s a sound many Fiat-Chrysler owners have come to dread.
I’d had the Jeep in for the same problem back in December 2016. I’d thought the new set of valve lashes and a new rear-main seal would be the end of my trouble. I guess I was wrong.
Editor’s note: This post has been updated to include additional information and resources regarding the “Pentastar Tick”
What is the “Pentastar tick?”
The “Pentastar tick”, as it’s come to be known, refers to a loud ticking or tocking sound originating from the left side of 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 engines produced between 2011 and early 2013.
I experienced this as a loud hollow knocking sound that resonated from the left side of my engine.
The 3.6-liter Pentastar is Fiat-Chrysler’s flagship V6 and can be found under the hoods of the Chrysler 300, Dodge Challenger, Charger, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Wrangler, Ram 1500 and Promaster cargo vans.
According to Automotive News, Chrysler discovered the issue in 2012 after customers began complaining about a ticking sound accompanied by a check-engine light. Chrysler found the left cylinder heads on roughly 7,500 engines were prone to failure due to excessive wear and could result in misfires. Shortly after this discovery, a revised cylinder head was put into production.
Chrysler has also extended the warranty of 2011-2013 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 engines to cover the left-cylinder head for 10 years or 150,000 miles. All other engine components remain covered under the factory five-year, 100,000-mile warranty.
Is that ticking I hear? What to do if you suspect you have the “Pentastar tick”
If you own a 2011-2013 Fiat-Chrysler vehicle equipped with a Pentastar V6 and you suspect you may be affected, contact your local dealer to set up a service appointment.
That being said, the “Pentastar tick” described above should not be confused for the subtle, rapid-paced, ticking associated with the valve-train. The Pentastar features overhead cams, and some noise is normal and to be expected, especially during a cold start.
If you own a 2014 or later vehicle with a Pentastar engine, your vehicle should be equipped with the revised cylinder head. However, if your vehicle does exhibit loud or excessive ticking or other noises contact your local dealer to set up a service appointment.
After handing my last service record over to a very pleasant and sympathetic technician, I was given a ride to work.
By noon I had a prognosis… sort of. I got a call letting me know that Chrysler had authorized them to replace the cam-shaft bearings. Unconvinced this was the problem, I pressed further. I told the technician that I was surprised they weren’t looking at the head itself given characteristic tick and the known issue with the heads on this particular engine.
To the technician’s credit, he admitted that Chrysler likes to escalate repairs until they get resolved. He said there was a good chance they’d end up replacing the whole cylinder head if the cam-shaft bearings weren’t the culprit.
I suppose It made sense to eliminate all possible causes of the noise before jumping to the most costly option. I was provided loaner vehicle, a 2017 Cherokee Latitude, until the repairs were completed.
Update 1: (Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2017) After a week at the dealership, the tick persists. It was not the camshaft bearing as the dealership had suspected. They did, however, discover a leak in the rear main seal which was repaired.
Update 2: (Friday, Feb. 17, 2017) The dealership found the right head valve lashes and rocker arms were worn and should be replaced.
Update 3: Damage to the number four-cylinder wall was found, a new engine was put on order.
Update 4: The Jeep is back with an all-new engine.
As it turned out, the head wasn’t the only thing that would end up getting replaced. By the end of the repairs, I had a shiny new engine sitting under my hood.