3800 (3.8L) Engine Description And Operation

Engine Block

Starting at the front of the engine, the cylinders of the left bank are numbered 1-3-5 and the cylinders of the right bank are numbered 2-4-6. The crankshaft is supported in the engine block by four bearings. The crankshaft is counterbalanced by the flywheel, the crankshaft balancer, and the weights cast into the crankshaft. Additional counterbalancing is obtained from the balance shaft which rides in the engine block above the camshaft and is driven by the camshaft.

Cylinder Head

The cylinder heads are cast iron and incorporate integral valve stem guides. Right and left cylinder heads are identical and are interchangeable, but it is good practice to reinstall the cylinder heads on the side from which they are removed. The intake manifold is bolted to the inner faces of both cylinder heads so it connects with all inlet ports.


The crankshaft is a cast iron design. Crankshaft thrust is taken by the number 3 main bearing. The crank position sensor, or the reluctor wheel, is cast integrally with the crankshaft. The crankshaft is internally balanced and incorporates a two piece rear oil seal. The connecting rod journals are rolled fillet radius and incorporated on all bearing journals to improve fatigue strength.

Back To 3.8L main page

Piston and Connecting Rod Assemblies

The aluminum alloy pistons have slipper skirts and are cam turned. Four drilled holes or casted slots in the oil ring grooves permit drain back of the oil collected by the oil ring.


All 3800 engines are even-firing, the cylinders fire at equal 120 degree intervals of crankshaft rotation. The location of the crankshaft journals has been offset by 30 degrees to fire the cylinders at 120 degree intervals of crankshaft rotation. The camshaft lobes and timing also reflect the 120 degree intervals. The even firing crankshaft provides an equal interval of 120 degrees between ignition of each of the cylinders throughout the firing order. The firing order is 1-6-5-4-3-2. The camshaft is supported by four bearings in the engine block and is driven by the crankshaft through sprockets and a timing chain.

Valve Train

Each exhaust and intake valve has a valve spring to insure positive seating throughout the operating speed range. The valve rocker arms for each bank of the cylinders pivot on pedestals bolted to the cylinder head. Hydraulic roller valve lifters and tubular push rods are used to operate overhead rocker arms and valves of both banks of the cylinders from a single camshaft. This system requires no lash adjustment at the time of assembly or service. In addition to its normal function of a cam follower, each valve lifter also serves as an automatic adjuster which maintains zero lash in the valve train under all operating conditions. By eliminating all lash in the valve train and also providing a cushion of oil to absorb operating shocks, the valve lifter promotes quiet valve operation. It also eliminates the need for periodic valve adjustment to compensate for wear of parts. Oil is supplied to the valve lifter through a hole in the side of the valve lifter body which indexes with a groove and a hole in the valve lifter plunger. Oil is then metered past the oil metering valve in the valve lifter, through the push rods to the valve rocker arms. When the valve lifter begins to move up the camshaft lobe, the check ball is held against its seat in the plunger by the check ball spring which traps the oil in the base of the valve lifter body below the plunger.

Intake Manifold

The intake manifold is a plastic or aluminum depending on what series engine it is, with a removable plastic sight shield cover. The manifold is sealed to the cylinder heads with an imbedded silicone rubber gasket around the intake ports. These gaskets are are designed to last the life of the engine.