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  1. #1
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    Automotive: Opinions on random car repair

    1994 Nissan Altima SE, 190k on a 2.4 - 4cyl. w/auto and ac.

    Typical timing chain oil leak.

    2 months ago, the wife calls me at home after the car stalls and wont start. I run on over and sure enough it turns but seems like no fuel. Gauge is at 1/4 tank so I figure maybe the gauge has died, I run and grab 5 gallon of gas, fill it up. After some patience, it starts and idles, but if you give it any type of throtle it shudders and dies instantly.

    My buddy says lets push it home since we only about 4 blocks from home, he puts his bumper against mine and begins to shove me home, all the while I have the car idling. After about a block the car coughs, shudders, dies. I signal to stop a sec, and turn it over - car fires up, idles strong and I drive to the gas station and fill it up and ad a bottle of injection cleaner to it.

    2 months go by, 0 probs, gauge is even working, I chalk it up to a sticky injector.

    Last weekend, same prob. This time across town, and just a day or two after filling it up (no injection cleaner this time) so it definitly has gas. No matter what I do, I can not get it to idle better then 400-500 rpms. It idles, but borderline, and same prob as before, any type of throttle and it shudders/dies instantly. Tow it home.

    At home I clean/gap plugs, clean distributor/rotor and pick up a new fuel filter and instal it. Plugs were fouled and not gapped correctly and cap/rotor in bad shape but useable. Car now fires up great and idles perfectly at 800-1000...but still can not give it gas or it just dies.

    So, in a weeks time I did those regular tune up type things as well as gather a lot of interent research on the subject. Seems these cars of this generation all develop the timeing chain cover oil leak and eventually all have distributor issues as well as fuel rail/injector probs at about 150k to 200k.

    I am leaning towards distributor/timing, one of the things I see pop up a lot on forums is that when the timing chain cover leaks, it gets into the distributor shaft area, messing with timing settings.

    When I removed the distributor, about a paper cup amount of engine oil drained out of the port for the shaft. It was dirty engine oil. How much oil is normal in there, anyone know? It has been awhile since I messed with a distributor, and I have never seen one this small as is in this Nissan. The whole unit, shaft and all is @ the size of a softball.

    Anyone with knowledge on these cars? Hate to write it off - or worse, throw $400 at it and there is still a prob elsewhere.
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  2. #2
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    Re: Automotive: Opinions on random car repair

    It's probably the distributor and a very common problem that the Nissan parts guys will know about and probably have a distributor in stock. They have an optical pickup and when the sealing o-ring gets old it dries out and allows oil to get into the optical pickup area which basically prevents the ecu of input needed to fire the plugs/injectors at the correct time.

    You may be able to test it by very heavily washing out the inside of the distributor with contact cleaner to wash away the oil residue in the pickup area under the rotor. I can't remember if it has a cap covering the pickup or not, been a good while since I seen one.

    Anyways I say 99% chance its the distributor optical pickup fouled out with oil.
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  3. #3
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    Re: Automotive: Opinions on random car repair

    Is your car throwing out any codes? Have you checked the MAF? Mass airflow sensor. I *believe* the symptoms your car has coincide with one of those going out. Run a search over at Maxima .org on it. The only problem is, these are very expensive parts. You might also check the 02 sensors.

    Here's a thread over at the Maxima forum I go to that details how to clean out the MAF. Maybe that would help?

    http://forums.maxima.org/showthread.php?t=563676

  4. #4
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    Re: Automotive: Opinions on random car repair

    Thx for tips guys.

    I have not run any type of diag other then shadetree type things. I will check the O2 tonight. It has come up a few times on forums as well. Like kbohip said though, its like each of these "could be" prob cost @$400-$500 to fix...I dont want to chase each one with my wallet lol.

    The deal is, wife wanted a new car. We were set to get a nice new quad cab dodge right off the lot when the gas crunch hit full force. Now, as much as my hick ol'self wants a pick'em up truck, logicly, for as little as it would be used it just wouldnt make sense. I then foudn this car for $900. So yea, went from a $25k new Dodge to a $900 used car. Mama is not so impressed with my cash savings yet.....

    If I can fix it reasonably, then I may still come out not lookin so bad....
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  5. #5
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    Re: Automotive: Opinions on random car repair

    It would be worth while to check your fuel pressure. The fuel pump could easily be on its way out. Idleing but not being able to drive is a common symptom of a bad pump. Worth checking out?
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  6. #6
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    Re: Automotive: Opinions on random car repair

    You might get someone to do a fuel pressure/fuel volume test as your symptoms could indicate a fuel pump going bad. The oil in the dist. isn't a good thing, so I'd fix that regardless. Are any check engine lights coming on? A bad maf sensor would definitely turn on a light. You can also LIGHTLY tap on the maf and see if you can replicate the symptoms. Getting someone to scan the computer isn't a bad idea either, and stores like Autozone or Advanced Auto will usually do it for free.
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  7. #7
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    Re: Automotive: Opinions on random car repair

    Quote Originally Posted by mpulliam View Post
    Thx for tips guys.

    I have not run any type of diag other then shadetree type things. I will check the O2 tonight. It has come up a few times on forums as well. Like kbohip said though, its like each of these "could be" prob cost @$400-$500 to fix...I dont want to chase each one with my wallet lol.

    The deal is, wife wanted a new car. We were set to get a nice new quad cab dodge right off the lot when the gas crunch hit full force. Now, as much as my hick ol'self wants a pick'em up truck, logicly, for as little as it would be used it just wouldnt make sense. I then foudn this car for $900. So yea, went from a $25k new Dodge to a $900 used car. Mama is not so impressed with my cash savings yet.....

    If I can fix it reasonably, then I may still come out not lookin so bad....
    Lol, that sounds exactly like what my wife and I did. A few years back she was going to get a newer used car for around $20k. This was to replace a '92 Nissan Maxima she had wrecked. My Dad happened to be down at a car dealership looking for a car himself when he came across a '91 Maxima for $3,000.00 It only had 60k original miles on it. I went down to look at it and bought it on the spot for $2,500.00! It was identical in color and looks to the one she'd wrecked. Keep in mind she wasn't even with me when I bought it, but she was really happy to get it as it meant no car payment for her.

    The car's been great too. 2-1/2 years, 35k miles and no problems at all. She's really happy to not have a car payment with gas at $4 a gallon too.

  8. #8
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    Re: Automotive: Opinions on random car repair

    Quote Originally Posted by kbohip View Post
    Is your car throwing out any codes? Have you checked the MAF? Mass airflow sensor. I *believe* the symptoms your car has coincide with one of those going out. Run a search over at Maxima .org on it. The only problem is, these are very expensive parts. You might also check the 02 sensors.

    Here's a thread over at the Maxima forum I go to that details how to clean out the MAF. Maybe that would help?

    http://forums.maxima.org/showthread.php?t=563676
    his problems sound more like the IAC than a MAF

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  9. #9
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    Re: Automotive: Opinions on random car repair

    Yeah sounds like when my fuel pump went out last. Test your fuel system pressure, then you can rule out the pump and look at air or spark.

    have you pulled the plugs after it dies? If they are wet with gas then wouldn't that indicate an ignition problem?

  10. #10
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    Re: Automotive: Opinions on random car repair

    IACV and MAF. Exact same symptoms as yours with a friend's Nissan - needed both replaced [and it was not throwing codes]. But then, 1994 did not have OBDII so I am not sure about cars that old.... with regards codes.
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  11. #11
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    Re: Automotive: Opinions on random car repair

    Quote Originally Posted by mostholycerebus View Post
    Yeah sounds like when my fuel pump went out last. Test your fuel system pressure, then you can rule out the pump and look at air or spark.

    have you pulled the plugs after it dies? If they are wet with gas then wouldn't that indicate an ignition problem?
    `are you sure your regulator didnt go bad?

    usually a fuel pump either works at 100% or doesnt work at all

    unless the sock at the end got clogged and it was straining the pump to the point when it died

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  12. #12
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    Re: Automotive: Opinions on random car repair

    Keep in mind you will probably have to check the fuel pressure with the engine running since all the fuel pump does with the ignition key is a quick prime up which will only tell you if your fuel pump can cut on for a spurt.

    In order for the fuel pump to run the ecu must know the engine is operating or the pump won't continue to run on its own.

    The engine will still run without the O2 sensors as well as with bad O2 sensors. An ecu generally doesn't even use O2 feedback until a given amount of time since an O2 sensor needs to be hot in order to give a correct reading to begin with. In general its a good idea to replace an old O2 simply from a tune up point of view as it is what is used by the ecu to tweak the air fuel ratio while cruising down the road. A bad O2 will give the ecu incorrect information about the air fuel ratio and the ecu will adjust its fuel trims based on that feedback which could make the engine run lean or rich but it will always run whether the O2 is reading correctly or not.

    If its a MAFS problem in most instances the engine won't even run at all since the ecu needs to measure the volume of incoming air into the engine in order to even have any idea how long to hold the injectors open to meter the proper amount of fuel for the air measured. Some engines will go into a limp mode in the event of a MAFS failure but usually a bad MAFS will definitely give headaches and pretty much kill the engine.

    ECU's go bad as well, just like all the mb's with the cheap caps that swell and blow up allot of older car ecu's have the same issues which can cause erratic behavior as well leak on the pcb and etch away the traces.

    If you've already done plugs, wires, cap & rotor I would seriously re-exam the distributor under the rotor and wash it out. I still have the distributor somewhere in a box that I swapped out for our secretary. It sits horizontal on the engine and when the oil seal starts weeping it causing havok with the optical pickup. Its a small wheel with like 360 small lines cut in it that tells the ecu cam position in order to time the fuel and ignition events.

    Anyways I'm no nissan expert but I have changed the distributor on one a couple years ago that exhibited similar symptoms. Nissan doesn't offer the oring that leaks by itself which is silly but you should be able to find a reman'd unit or good used take off fairly easily.
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  13. #13
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    Re: Automotive: Opinions on random car repair

    Quote Originally Posted by pimp my ride View Post
    `are you sure your regulator didnt go bad?

    usually a fuel pump either works at 100% or doesnt work at all

    unless the sock at the end got clogged and it was straining the pump to the point when it died
    A fuel pump always runs wide open in a loop to and from the tank. There is a pressure regulator on the fuel rail that maintains a set pressure which can vary based on intake manifold pressure, it maintains fuel pressure by bleeding back off excess flow to the tank. Some vehicles have a regulator in tank at the fuel pump and simply have one line going to the fuel rail but most loop back to the tank.

    EDIT: I don't know why I started rambling on above <shurg> been a long time since I've done any car chat I guess.
    Last edited by highoctane; 06-06-2008 at 12:02 AM.
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  14. #14
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    Re: Automotive: Opinions on random car repair

    Originally Posted by pimp my ride
    `are you sure your regulator didnt go bad?

    usually a fuel pump either works at 100% or doesnt work at all

    Not true. electric pumps can and go intermitent due to a variety of reasons, one being even a small amount of dirt getting by the sock over a long period of time. Running a car always without any gas can cause a pump failure too, as the pump is cooled by being immersed in fuel. A good many GM vehicles I worked on, had bad pumps with the same symptoms as his. However, the oil in the distributor could very well be the problem in his case. I'd pull the distributor, clean it out with some cleaner and dry it out. If oil is the problem, the car should run ok, until the oil leaks back in again.
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  15. #15
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    Re: Automotive: Opinions on random car repair

    I'd replace the O2 sensors regardless. But with my experience with a Saturn and Taurus, I'd also check the fuel pressure and fuel pump. Being so old the pump probably sucked up some crude in the tank and is probably clogged up because of it.

    Where is the distributor located? I'd probably check that, clean it, and also replace the valvecover gasket so as to stop any oil leaks getting into the distributor.

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