GM/Chevy L96 Vortec 6.0L V8 Engine
GM’s L96 engine is a variant of the Vortec 6000 engine line. The L96 is the Gen IV version of the engine, launching in 2010 and replacing the LY6 6.0L engine. The LY6 is also a Gen IV Vortec engine, however, GM decided to upgrade the engine and add flex fuel capabilities which is the reason for the transition from the LY6 to the L96.
The L96 is the last standing Vortec engine being produced, as all other trucks have been replaced with the EcoTec3 engines. The L96 was designed to be a workhorse engine, having been used as alternatives to the Duramax engine in HD work trucks. Outside of Chevy and GMC’s work trucks, the L96 was used in the Yukon XL and cargo vans.
L96 Engine Applications
- 2010-2017 Silverado and Sierra 2500HD
- 2010-2017 Silverado and Sierra 3500HD
- 2010-2013 GMC Yukon XL 2500
- 2010-2013 Chevy Suburban 2500
- 2016-2017 Chevy Suburban 3500HD
- 2010-2017 Savana and Express 2500 & 3500 vans
GM L96 Features
The L96 is virtually the same engine as the LY6 Vortec with the exception of Flex Fuel which was added to the L96 version.
- Variable Valve Timing: alters valve lift timing to improve fuel economy, performance, and emissions. While variable valve timing is common on all newer generation engines,
- Flex Fuel Capable: the L96 is capable of fueling up with E85 ethanol fuel. In addition to being cheaper than gasoline, E85 burns cleaner and produces less emissions. Ethanol is virtually pure alcohol and is produced with corn. E85 means the fuel contains 85% pure ethanol and 15% traditional gasoline.
- High-Flow Cylinder Heads and Valvetrain: the L96 heads have a unique “cathedral” shape which allows them to draw in excess airflow. More airflow supports high performance, more power, and better low-end torque which is important for towing.
- Exhaust Manifolds: GM redesigned the exhaust manifolds to be quieter and produce less noise. Additionally, they were fitted with tri-layer heat shields to reduce heat transfer from the manifold to the engine, resulting in lower engine temperatures.
L96 Common Engine Problems
For a more detailed guide on each specific problem, check out our Vortec 6000 Common Problems guide.
Throttle Body Sensor Failure
The L96’s TPS sensor is known to get gunked or clogged up and therefore send intermittent air-flow readings to the ECU. When this happens, the air-to-fuel ratios get out of what which causes issues like rough idling, power loss, and misfires.
Knock Sensor Failure
The L96’s knock sensor that sits under the intake manifold and fails frequently. The sensor has a bad seal that lets water into the sensor, ruining it. When this happens gasoline pockets within cylinders fire unevenly which creates and knocking noise within the cylinder.
Exhaust Manifold Leaks
As covered above, the L96 has new exhaust manifolds designed to reduce exhaust and engine noise. Great system, however, the bolts are known to break clean off resulting in an exhaust leak. While this will not only make your exhaust annoyingly loud, it will also reduce performance and cause power loss as it kills all backpressure within the engine.
Water Pumps & Other General Maintenance
Water pumps don’t tend to break at low-mileage. However, this engine was built to be a work engine and because of that, they tend to get driven a lot very quickly. Water pumps tend to fail around the 150,000 mile mark which is about when you will likely need some additional normal maintenance like replacement of hoses, sensors, etc.
L96 Engine Reliability
All of the “common” problems I listed above are relatively small items that can easily be DIY fixed. The L96 is an extremely reliable engine with no catastrophic common failures. These engines were built for work trucks and the engines therefore have a very strong block and internals and are capable of taking a beating.
The L96 has a lifespan around the 300,000 mile mark. While these engine can last beyond the 350,000 mile mark, you’re likely to experience a good bit of maintenance and repairs by the time you get there. The engine itself will usually last longer than the majority of the other components of the vehicle like suspension and cooling system components.
Performance & Diesel Comparison
At 360hp and 380lb-ft. of torque, the 6.0L L96 produces a good amount of power for its purpose. Additionally, the L96 and Vortec engines are built off of GM’s LS engine which are used in the high performance Corvette’s and Camaro’s. Because of their LS roots, they have an excellent base for additional power upgrades.
Tossing on simple bolt-on items like an intake and exhaust system will free up some horsepower for those looking for an extra kick. However, those seeking more than just a few extra horses have the option of upgrading the cams, which can add over 100hp. An ECU is another common mod which can help increase power but can also effectively improve fuel economy.
The Duramax LML was the primary competition of the time. Compared to the LML’s power output of ~400hp and ~765lbft. the L96 was slightly beat out in terms of horsepower, and heavily unmatched in terms of torque. The real difference between the two is going to be fuel economy and towing capacity. The L96 was great for light work trucks with modest towing needs. The bigger difference between the two was cost, with the L96 being significantly cheaper than the Duramax.