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Nissan Altima Engine Failures



  • rondholrondhol Posts: 32
    That swooshing noise is dangerous if you don't fix it ASAP. It may cause head gasket failure($1200 repair). It is easy, Park the car uphill (radiator at the higher level). When engine is COOL, Open the radiator cap (check the condition, you may need new radiator cap), Turn the heater and fan at max, Start the car and squeeze the coolant hoses to remove any the air pocket inside the coolant line. Top the coolant level up (both on the radiator and reservoir) and replace the radiator cap.

    I had that problem but it was fixed after do that steps and install new radiator cap from Autozone or dealer . My previous radiator cap was swelling caused by oil residue from the head gasket replacement.

    Your car has TIMING CHAIN (no need to be replaced until 300k miles), If the car go straight on the FLAT road and the tires have no unusual worn, you don't need alignment. You may need to replace the front struts, passenger side and rear side engine mounts if you race the car a lot and the brake pads at arround 80k miles city driving.
  • altilove89altilove89 Posts: 6
    that noise actually went away i no longer hear it, car pulls to the right ever so slightly on flat roads

    never race my car, i care about it too much to do something like that, i never go any faster then 70 mph anyways because my car would start to guzzle gas (my average mpg according to the trip comp is about 25.5 mpg)

    tires are ok, the right front tire is almost bald, the other 3 are very good, havent bought a tire due to serious lack of cash at the moment
  • rondholrondhol Posts: 32
    If your front tires are match (same brand and date installed) but only right side is worn, then you need alignment. Change the tires in pairs 2 or 4 at once. The pulls to the right effect caused by lower (worn out) right tire. You can buy good brand (Micheline, Good year, etc, NOT CHINA tires) used tires in pair for less than $35 each. but read this first:

    By the way, check your radiator cap , coolant level (both on radiator and reservoir), and the hoses after the engine is cold (if it is collapsed).
  • keilsekeilse Posts: 16
    Hi! I have a 2002 3.5 liter Altima and the problem with the cats is prevalent throughout my ownership of the vehicle. I have had 5 cats replaced, and the last time, Nissan forgot to put oil in my car and I battled with them for a year, and they replaced the engine and cats with all new Nissan factory parts. Well, the new engine has less than 10,000 miles on it, and the cats started coming apart internally just like always. I had a mechanic friend hollow out all the cats and in the process of doing so, we noticed the resonator pipe had a big crack in it, which no doubt was leaking exhaust. He removed the resonator completely, hollowed out that cat, and then welded a new pipe in place of the resonator piece. The other two cats up in the front of the car were also hollowed out. The very front one, the hardest to get to, closest to the heat shield was virtually impossible to hollow out. The core if the catalytic had hardened into a solid mass, and there was absolutely NO AIR able to get through it. The mechanic couldn't hammer it, drill it, use a saws-all on it - NOTHING was going to break it up to remove it. So my friend cut open the cat in the middle, and grinded the catalytic core material out of it, and then welded it closed and put the pipe back on. Now, the SVC engine lite (obviously) has come on, and the exhaust leaks right into the cabin of my car and it's unbearable. I don't know if there is a leak at the weld spot from my friend or what, but I need to know what to do to make this car run right and not asphyxiate me in the process. Replace the left bank cat and leave all others hollow and then tweak the 02 sensor? Please advise if you are able! I really appreciate it very much!!

    Sara Keil
  • rondholrondhol Posts: 32
    first of all, Don't bring your 02 to that Dealer again.

    3.5L VQ engines rarely have pre-cat problem. Since you have new engine and cat, may be the culprits are MAF sensor, ECU update, or EGR system. If it runs too lean/rich, your engine and cat will be bad faster. Check the sparkplugs to confirm rich/lean mixtures. Buy header instead of breaking your head finding the leak.
  • Definitely try to find another Nissan dealer, better yet look up reviews on local nissan dealers and see who has the best overall reviews and choose the dealership with the best rep.

    The 3.5 SE v6 engine is a much better build then the 2.5 S, i actually wish i had spend the extra $1100 for the 04 altima with the v6 engine then the 03 2.5 S.

    Im suprised that the V6 has this problem as well, considering most V6 altimas are virtually problem free.

    My advice to anybody buying a Nissan Altima made between 2002 and now, spend the extra money and sacrifice the gas mileage for the v6, you'll have much less issues then with the 2.5 v4.
  • keilsekeilse Posts: 16
    The 2002 3.5 is FAAAAR from problem free. Almost every single person that I have seen at the dealer, on the street, or in any forum has the same problem as me - the cats go bad, come apart internally, and the particles get sucked out the exhaust, or if not that, then you have NO POWER. The design of the entire exhaust and cats is BAD. Replacing the cats on any car more than once in a 100,000 miles is ridiculous.
  • keilsekeilse Posts: 16
    Get a lemon law lawyer and sue. If you bought it used - your screwed - but new - the law is that any car that has had the same problems 3 or more times in a row is a LEMON and the dealer can do one of the following based on whatever choice YOU make - 1. Give you a full refund for the car (original prchs price) as well as reimburse you for any and all expenses related to the repairs...including rental car bills. 2. Give you a new vehicle of equal value and reimburse you for the expenses related to repairs. I WISH I HAD DONE IT AT 40,000 miles. But the cats are warrantied for 80,000 miles so I went ahead and kept the car. I battled Nissan North America for a year and they finally gave me a brand new engine and cats plus reimbursed me for ALL my expenses related to only the catalytic problems and ALL the frigging rental cars which was over $8,000 in cash. They wanted me OUT OF THEIR FACE and once I threatened to sue them for about $80,000.00 they straight paid to have me be gone! Good luck to you!
  • brossrbrossr Posts: 2
    I have a 2002 Nissan Altima 2.5 S which I bought new. It has always has all recommended maintenance performed and all maintenance has been performed by the Nissan dealership. The other day the check service engine soon light came on soon after I started the car. A couple of times in the last few days I had noticed that when I first started the car in the mornings it ran i little rough (not much) for about 5 seconds immediately after starting but that was barely noticable and almost immediately stopped after which the engine ran perfectly. I decided to drop it by the dealership and have it serviced. The last maintenance (oil change) had been done about 3000 miles ago, so it was time for scheduled maintenance, so I was also having the oil changed and the tires rotated. After about an hour the service guy came out and told me that the code on the service engine soon was a "cylinder 2 misfire." He said my antifreeze was a little low and they were doing a compression test as it could be a head gasket problem. He said the slight roughness for a few seconds when the car was started in the mornings was probably because antifreeze had leaked into the cylinder and once it burned off (a couple of seconds) the roughness went away. Because it was going to take them a while to do the test I told them to just call me when the car was ready and I left and went on to work. Serveral hours later the service guy called and said it was a
    head gasket problem, but he really thought I needed a new engine ($5300). They had found a little coolant in the cylinder and he said my oil was 1/2 quart low and although the catalytic converter didn't show as bad, he was afraid that if I just had the head gasket replaced ($1800), the engine would still probably need to be replaced and the head gasket replacement would be for nothing. This car only has 66,300 miles on it, has always has all recommended maintenance performed by the dealership, and has never been driven "rough" as I am a very conservative driver. I have read about other problems with this engine and the catalytic converter (or pre converter) failing and resulting in engine damage requiring engine
    replacement. This has really bummed me out. I bought this car because I was told, and had read, much about Nissan's reputation for solid cars that ran a long time. Now, here I am with a car with only 66,300 miles (it should just be getting broken in good) and I'm being told that I should replace the engine. If a well-maintained, conservatively driven car has engine failure at 66,300 miles, that sure seems like a
    manufacturing defect to me. I have read that the catalytic converter is warrantied for 80K miles and if this is true, and it had anything to do with the engine problem, it seems to me that this engine should be replaced by Nissan, especially now that I have read that this is a somewhat common problem with the 2002 Altima engines.

    I picked the car up and told them I would have to decide what I wanted to do. He said when the light came back on to bring it back so they could see if it gave the same code and he wouldn't charge me for that diagnostic. He also told me to check the oil about every 3 days and if it went down, don't fill it but bring it to them and let them see how much oil was being used (oil comsumption test). It's been five days and no service engine soon light, the oil level is fine and the car runs fine; there is not even any roughness when I initially start the car in the mornings as I had noticed a couple of times previously.

    Does all of this sound right? I'm not sure what to do and the thought of having to spend over $5K on repairs has me sick.

    FYI, I went back and read all the posts on this forum and it seems as if some people have been able to get Nissan to cover the repairs and others have not. If I do have to pay for a new engine myself, would I be better off price wise trying to find a good independent mechanic to do it? If I have to pay for all of this myself, my faith in Nissan will be destroyed.
  • keilsekeilse Posts: 16
    Rough engine running is a symptom of a much larger issue...

    Why exactly did he say you need a new engine? You need a new head gasket - but why? What broke in your engine to cause the gasket to become fouled? These cars DON'T burn oil and have gaskets go bad out of the blue - and I would bet money that if you only replace the gasket - your engine will experience a catastrophic failure that can only be remedied with replacement - either of the car or the engine. I would also bet money that the gasket is f-ed up because catalytic converter material has gotten sucked back to the engine....this is an event known as "BLOW BY". (It is a physical impossibility for the 3.5 to experience blow by because of the 'Y' shaped exhaust...I called 4 Nissan dealers and asked and all of them said this.)

    I don't want to bum you out even more, but if I were you, especially given the info from Nissan, I would file suit under the lemon law (what state are you in?) and get a full refund for the car, because I can guarantee that these issues will continue. The only way that you can avoid these issues if you can't or don't want to get rid of the vehicle, would be to make some modifications to your vehicle yourself. There is a guy that has postings for the same vehicle as you that did this and I pasted his advice below...

    Well people, I think I have a handle on this oil consumption problem with the Nissan Altima 2.5S. Maybe not a solution, but at least a good understanding of what is happening and why. My daughter has a 2002 Nissan Altima 2.5S that she bought in December 2003 with 29,730 miles. It is starting to exhibit excessive oil burning at 97,000 miles. At the last oil change service, she came in with the engine oil very low, so low it would not even touch the end of the dipstick, the dipstick would pull out dry. I told her to check the oil frequently now, at least once every two weeks, and she now keeps a spare bottle of oil in the trunk. I have done all the service on this car since she has had it, so it has had excellent service. It always receives full synthetic motor oil and synthetic motor oil filter. We are monitoring it now to see what rate it is using the oil. There are no oil leaks at all, so it must be consuming the oil. I guessing right now about 1 quart in about a 1000 miles. I have a good idea of what could be causing this to happen because of several events that have happened.

    First, I heard and read about the TSB and Recall on SOME of the cars about the problem with the precatalytic converter. My daugher took her car to the dealer and asked if this precatalyst recalled applied to her car, They looked up the VIN, and of course they said no. My understanding is that "under certain conditions", material from within the precatalyst can get sucked back into the engine, and the small particles can damage the cylinders, rings and plugs while bouncing around in the engine. I always thought this was very odd, as exhaust gas is supposed to be coming OUT of the engine, and INTO the precatalyst, and then OUT the precatalyst and DOWN the exhaust pipe and OUT the tail pipe. SO, how could this material go back up into the engine when all this exhaust gas is supposed to be coming out? It would seem that there would have to be some kind of pressure or force from somewhere to push the material back through the engine exhaust ports into the engine, but from where? So I thought about this for a while, then my daughter calls and says her 2002 Alitima 2.5S is making this strange sound, like air whoosing, when she steps on the gas, and the engine had very little power. But she kept driving it for a while until she could get by my house for me to look at it. When I did look at it, it did indeed make a strange whoosing sound, like a sound of rushing air when I stepped on the gas, at idle it sounded almost normal. So I looked underneath the car and I found exhaust gas was gushing out of the point where the bottom of the exhaust manifold/precatalyst is connected to the exhaust pipe with 2 springs and a gasket. It makes kind of a flexible connection so the the engine can rock back and forth a little bit. So I said that there must be quite a bit of pressure in the exhaust pipe for it to be leaking out like that with such force. So then I went to the back of the car to see how much gas was coming out the tail pipe, and when I checked I could feel none! When she revved the engine, I could barley feel a bit of exhaust gas. The exhaust was plugged up! So I got underneath the car and found that the exhaust pipe continues under the center of the car until it gets to this 2nd Catalytic converter before the muffler, it looks like a double cone, narrow at each end and fat in the middle. I felt the temperature of the exhaust pipe, and it was hot near the exhaust manifold, but got cooler as I felt closer to the 2nd catalytic converter. When I felt the 2nd catalytic converter, it was still cold, even after the engine ran for several minutes. That means it was plugged up! I unbolted the pipe and 2nd catalytic converter and took it off and unplugged it, put it back on, and the car ran perfect again. The gasket at the flexible connection was still perfectly good. The exhaust gas had been allowed to leak out at that point due to the spring connectors, when the pressure in the pipe got high enough the springs would compress, allowing the joint to open slightly, and allow the exhaust gas to leak out. Therefore, the pressure was high in the exhaust pipe all the way from the engine exhaust ports to the 2nd catalytic converter. This section of precatalyst/exhaust manifold and exhaust pipe has a volume and acts like a pressure tank holding high pressure when the engine is running, having higher pressure when the engine runs faster. So this is what happens, the exhaust coming out the engine exhaust ports is not a constant flow, as the exhaust valves are opening and closing very fast, so the gas comes out pulsating, pushing against the already high pressure in the precatalyst. At the end of a strong pulse, the high pressure in the precatalyst can actually push some gas back up into the exhaust port, because of the high gas pressure in the precatalyst. So, the Exhaust gas is exhausting into high pressure, and some of the high pressure can push back up into the exhaust ports in between the high pressure pulses of exhaust gas coming out of the exhaust ports. Under "certain conditions" it is possible for material to blow from the precatalyst back into the engine causing engine damage.

    Continued in the next posting....
  • keilsekeilse Posts: 16
    Continued from #414...
    So, what does all this mean? I believe the problem originates with the design of the exhaust system, having the 1st catalytic converter so very close to the exhaust ports. I don't know of any other car that has the 1st catalytic converter built into the exhaust manifold so close to the exhaust ports. The problem doesn't seem to arise until there is backpressure in the system that can cause the precatalyst material to blow back into the engine.

    The date that I unplugged the cat was 09/01/2007, and it has been running fine since then. I am talking about the SECOND CAT, the one under the middle of the car, right before the muffler. The car had been running very poorly for about a month before, because the cat was clogged. No problems since then, but we are watching to see how the oil consumption goes. We did not notice it consuming any oil between oil changes until it reached 97,000 miles. I am thinking the cat could have gotten clogged from oil in the exhaust. I was still debating if the oil in the exhaust caused the cat to clog, or did the cat clog and cause the engine damage and thus the oil to burn in the engine. I tend to think that they both contribute to each other, but most likely the problem would originate with the oil consumption problem first, which would make oil in the exhaust that would clog the cat. Did your original cat clog up too, or partially clog, or what? Since you have a new cat installed, is the engine still burning oil (a quart every 1000 miles, or using more oil than that)? If it is still burning a little oil, I think the cat will eventually clog again, but I don't know how long that would take, probably depends the most on how much oil it burns. Since you say it's not burning oil right now, the cat may last quite a while yet. Most important, see how much oil it uses between oil changes. I can't endorse unclogging the cat, because it is required by law to be on there. Don't mess with yours unless it's clogged. Mine is still on there, but it is a wide open pipe now. It was easy to remove if you are good at working on cars. To remove, jack up the car and set safely on sturdy jack stands. Safety First. Spray WD-40 on all the bolts before you try to loosen them, the bolts may be rusted tight. Remove the 2 bolts with springs at the front connection to the exhaust manifold (which is also the pre catalyst converter, the FIRST CAT, which is inside the exhaust manifold). There is a donut gasket that falls off when the pipe comes off, save the doughnut gasket or put on a new one, but the pipe won't come off yet until you take the other end of the pipe loose. Go to the flanged connection between the 2nd Cat and the muffler, and find the 2 bolts and nuts that hold this connection together, spray them with WD-40 to help loosen them, they will likely be very tight and rusted. You need good wrenches and a lot of leverage to get them to loosen and come off. Once the bolts and nuts are off, the gasket comes out of the connection, mine was metal and could be reused. This section of exhaust pipe with the cat (about 5 feet long) will be loose and hanging by the robber support in the middle of the pipe. If you carefully slide the pipe hanger out of the rubber support, it will come off. Once off, you can look into the end of it and see what looks like a fine screen, with the cat material ahead of that. What I did was to take a round metal bar and a large hammer and beat the stuff out of the pipe. The stuff crumbled up easily and came out, resulting in a wide open pipe. Then I put the pipe back in, the reverse of the removal procedure.
    It is strange that you had the cracked head gasket problem, my daughters Altima seems to also have the same problem, it had some combustion gas leaking into the cooling system. I put some cooling system sealer in it, and it is fixed it for now. I don't really want to tear into the engine if I don't have to. It is most likely a leaking head gasket, but it could be a cracked head or cracked block. I read one report where a guy said his had a cracked block and had to get another engine, but that cost almost $4,000.00, too much for me. I am struggling right now just trying to get my daughter through college, and there is no money for major car repairs, so I am hoping to nurse it along with the cooling system sealer. I used the Bar's Leak Pelletized Cooling System Sealer and it seems to work well so far. If worst comes to worse, I will have to pull the head off to see where the problem lies, but small head gasket leaks are very hard to see, and I would have to send the head out and have it checked for trueness and any cracks. And I hate working on those kind of engines with all those timing chains and tensioners, the timing chains on the passenger side being hard to see and reach.
  • keilsekeilse Posts: 16
    Continued from 414...this message 3 of 3.
    I have to tell you one more thing...I am one of those peple that battled, and I do mean BATTLED, with Nissan for some compensation, or at least some fair treatment of ANY took a year, but Nissan gave me a brand new 3.5 engine and cats (on them) and reimbursed me for ALL expenses related to these problems, including rental car costs...which came to just over $8,000. Here's the thing though....the new engine has under 8,000 miles on it and already the cats have come apart internally and failed causing the vehicle to bog heavily with a lack of power. The cats need to be replaced (AS USUAL)...but this will ultimately lead to the engine being ruined for a 2nd time. I cannot afford this - no one can. The only other thing I can do is modify the vehicle's exhaust to permanently remedy the problem, and then SELL it. I have to purchase after market exhaust headers, (different pipes altogether) with after market cats, (which would place the cats in a different position), and then buy the 02 cheater mechanism so that the service engine light doesn't come on. The car will probably perform better than it ever has, and I will be able to be rid of it forever. I cannot sell it in good conscience as is to someone, knowing they will inherit these issues.. I hope you are able to glean some good information from these replies. Good luck to you - don't let Nissan suck you and your wallet into their MONEY PIT. And lastly....Try not to place too much credence in the advice you get from your Nissan dealer. I went through 5 dif Nissan dealers, and they all fed me a lot of [non-permissible content removed] and took my money all while smiling and shaking my hand. The above advice came from my 6th and final Nissan (dealer)...a Nissan technician...and he was THE ONLY HONEST ONE of all of them that pulled me aside and laid it out for me just like this...with the alternative suggestion being to get rid of the car. Hope this helps!!
    Sara Keil
  • keilsekeilse Posts: 16
    5% is 5% too many...and you wouldn't give a crap what the % is if you were one of the people that has experienced these problems and the financial hardship. I don't know of a single person that has NOT experienced these issues either in these forums or in person. Maybe you just got lucky.
  • brossrbrossr Posts: 2
    Thanks for the reply Sara. He didn't say why he thought I needed a new engine except to say that if we just replaced the head gasket he thought it would eventually still need a new engine. I believe it's the pre cat problem. I think they think that because the oil was 1/2 quart low some engine damage has already occurred and will just get worse. It's been 6 days now and the car is still running great and the oil is still full and clean and the antifreeze level doesn't seen to have dropped any and no lights have come on. In those 6 days I've only driven about 100 miles. I'm supposed to take the car back when the service engine soon light comes on again or when I detect that the oil level is down. They want to see how much oil it's using. If it is the pre cat problem, I have read that the exhaust system is warrantied for 8 yrs/80,000 miles. If this is true, repairs (including a replacement engine) should be covered under warranty. I have always had all maintenance performed at this dealership and even buy my tires from them, so I am hoping they will be on my side and help me in getting Nissan to cover this problem.
  • keilsekeilse Posts: 16
    That is true however every time that the cats have a problem, material is sucked back into your engine, and eventually, it will ruin the engine forever. Replacing the cats is a bandaid until they fail again, or the failures ultimately lead to the ruin of the engine. I would return the car under the lemon law.....because once you reach over 80,000 miles what will you do when they fail? Then you will be stuck like I am with a [non-permissible content removed] car that has the same problem over and over, only now the warranty has run out and the tab is on me....and believe me, new CATS installed from Nissan are around $1,800 - $3,000 to install. Your solution would be great, as it would've been for me as well when I did it if the poor design of the sytem wasn't a factor and the problem hadn't reoccurred. Do you know that prior to the new engine I had ALL cats replaced on my car a total of 6 times....only 4 of the times under warranty? It will kill your wallet my friend but I DO wish the best for you.
  • From what I have learned about cars in my 19.5 years on earth it is that whenever cars get major redesigns, there are always problems with the first year of that redesigned car.

    I didn't say all 3.5 SEs were problem free, I said VIRTUALLY meaning it doenst happen too often if at all. THe problems with the cats are far more common on 2.5 S engines then on 3.5 SEs but they still happen every so often
  • Yes catalytic converter by law are covered for 80k miles. I have a 2003 Altima 2.5 S which I bought with 57k miles on it, carw as driving fine but I knew something was wrong

    The Nissan dealership around the corner diagnosed the car and explained my cat was bad and the engine needed to be replaced becuase it was sucking down oil like crazy

    When an Altimas's pre cat breaks down, backflow pressure causes pieces of catalyst to get sucked into the engine, scarring the cylinder walls and wearing out the piston rings.

    My car had 61,100 miles on it when I had the motor replaced (under the catalytic converter warranty as that was the cause) all I paid was a few parts which came to $285 after tax.

    So if you have a 2002 Altima with 66k miles (shocking since most Altimas hit 100k by their third or fourth year) Take it to your Nissan dealer and chances are they will replace your motor under the cats 80k warranty, your lucky you dont drive so much and you have such low miles on a 7 yr old car (most 02 Altimas Ive seen have at least 150k on them) Go get that motor replaced for free at your nearest nissan dealer ;)
  • barb07barb07 Posts: 1
    Has there been a class suit against Nissan. I am the owner of a 2002 Altima which has just been diagnosed with engine problem. I am the original owner and have always taken the car to Nissan for the recommended servicing. My car has about 85,000 miles on it. I have been in touch with Nissan but they don't seem willing to acknowledge there are any problems with this model.
  • fedfuzzfedfuzz Posts: 3
    I have an '02 Nissan Altima with 130K miles. I've kept in well-maintained by the dealer, but I've been having some engine problems since Aug. 2008. I've taken it back to the dealer on 4 different occasions complaining of the same problem each time (sluggish when I try to accelerate and oil consumption). Each time they've charged me from $325-$1500 to fix something different. Now they are telling me that the catalytic converter failed and caused debris to be sucked into my engine and therefore scoring the inside. Is my only option to have the engine replaced? Nissan USA said that it was not their problem that they did not catch it in time...what a joke.
  • dmforcedmforce Posts: 4
    I would definitely try to deal with Nissan regarding an engine replacement. Since you have all the work documented with a dealer, Nissan just may side with you.
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