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P3481 OBD-II Trouble Code: Cylinder 11 Deactivation/Intake Valve Malfunction

check engine light

P3481 code definition

P3481 is the OBD-II trouble code for Cylinder 11 Deactivation/Intake Valve Ctrl Circuit/Open. Cylinder 11 specifies that the issue is likely taking place in engine cylinder number 11. Other codes in the P3400 series may also present when P3481 is set.

What the P3481 code means

Some vehicles with larger, more powerful engines than are typical have a feature which automatically shuts down half the cylinders, depending upon the driving conditions and load weight. This helps reduce emissions, increase fuel efficiency, and allows the engine to run more smoothly.

The engine communicates with the PCM (powertrain control module) in the form of voltage signals. When the computer receives a valve deactivation signal from cylinder 11 which falls outside of the predetermined parameters, code P3481 will set.

What causes the P3481 code?

Any of the following conditions may trigger this DTC:

  • Restricted oil pressure
  • A bad cylinder 11 deactivation solenoid connection
  • An open or short in the harness or other circuitry
  • Fuel pressure issues
  • Bad valve lifters/tappets
  • A mechanical failure in the engine

What are the symptoms of the P3481 code?

The Check Engine or Service Engine Soon light will likely come on, and you will be unable to run the vehicle in lower modes. Emissions may increase and fuel efficiency may be compromised.

How does a mechanic diagnose the P3481 code?

Your technician will follow a prescribed set of steps, which may include:

  • Connecting the vehicle to a scanner in order to record relevant data and note any other stored fault codes
  • Clearing the vehicle’s computer of any trouble codes and road testing the vehicle to see if they return
  • Diagnosing and repairing any faults which occurred prior to P3481
  • Testing the oil level and pressure
  • Testing the deactivation solenoid using a tool which activates and deactivates the solenoid
  • Checking oil passageways for buildup and sludge
  • Assessing the valve lifters
  • Inspecting the deactivation solenoid wiring and connectors

Common mistakes when diagnosing the P3481 code

Carrying out a thorough inspection of all involved components is critical to making a correct diagnosis. Restricted oil passageways are often overlooked as a cause of a fault in the cylinder 11 deactivation/intake solenoid circuit. In addition, sometimes the mass airflow sensor is to blame, particularly in diesel engines.

How serious is the P3481 code?

You may be tempted to ignore a Check Engine Light or cylinder deactivation circuit code because the vehicle will typically still run. But when the deactivation system doesn’t work as it should be, fuel economy and emissions will suffer, and the engine could be affected by being forced to constantly operate on all cylinders. It’s best to address this problem as quickly as possible in order to prevent future damage.

What repairs can fix the P3481 code?

A deactivation/intake valve malfunction may be resolved by:

  • Replacing the deactivation valve solenoid
  • Replacing the valve lifters
  • Replacing the mass airflow sensor
  • Repairing damaged wiring or fixing loose or damaged connections
  • Clearing oil passages of sludge and buildup

Additional comments for consideration regarding the P3481 code

This type of fault typically occurs in diesel vehicles with larger engines. These vehicles may require a specialized scanner which can reveal much more detailed information about the trouble code than a typical OBD-II scanner. Expensive software is also sometimes required to access the data from the scanner.

Depending upon the source of the DTC, the entire engine may need to be disassembled in order to clear oil passageways of clogs. This is a major undertaking for which most driveway mechanics are not equipped. Consulting a professional could save you a considerable amount of time and hassle in repairing DTC P3481, because they have the proper tools and expertise to work with engine problems on larger vehicles.

Need help with a P3481 code?

YourMechanic offers certified mobile mechanics who will come to your home or office to diagnose and repair your vehicle. Get a quote and book an appointment online or speak to a service advisor at 1-800-701-6230.

The statements expressed above are only for informational purposes and should be independently verified. Please see our terms of service for more details
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