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Nissan Altima Engine Failures



  • I remembered another good reason to unplug the ECU. While the engine is all apart and all the sensor wires and plugs are loose, with the head gasket and head is bolted back on top of the engine, with the camshafts and timing chains reinstalled, you need to test the engine. Before doing all the work of installing all the manifolds and accesories back on the engine, you want to test the engine to be sure the compression is good, so do a compression check of each cylinder, which requires turning on the key and cranking the engine with the electric starter. If the ECU was still connected when you do this, the ECU would turn on and see that all the wiring was disconnected, and it would be needlessly filled with all kinds of diagnostic error codes, and could be damaged. So again I say, unplug the ECU to keep it safe. Don't plug it back in until everything is properly connected and you are ready to start the engine. It is always better to be safe than sorry.
    E.D. in Sunny Florida
  • rondholrondhol Posts: 32
    Thanks for the complete answer. I found an unplugged vacuum hose on the throttle body. After reconnected it, the pinging is almost gone 80%. Will changing the Autolite double platinum sparkplugs with the NGK Laser Platinum (OEM) help? 87 Octane (no Ethanol) runs just fine but with 10%ethanol the pinging is more pronounced. The pinging noise is not getting worse under heavier load. Just a little pinging at 1500 rpm (lean condition).

    Is there any way to clean the combustion chamber without removing the head?
  • Question - "Is there any way to clean the combustion chamber without removing the head?"

    Answer - You could try a couple of things.
    First you can use a fuel system cleaner or fuel injector cleaner additive that is added to your fuel tank. This may help a little. This should be done on a regular basis anyway, at least at every oil change
    Second, you can run a small quantity of water through the engine for a short time, while running the engine in Park at about 2000 to 3000 rpm. You can introduce the water into the engine by removing the small hose that plugs into the top of the rubber air tube that runs from the MAF to the throttle body. Place a small funnel into the hole, have a container of water ready, start the engine, have an assistant sit behind the wheel and control the throttle, keeping the rpm at 2000 to 3000 rpm in park and parking brake on, while you slowly pour a small steady stream of water into the funnel, listening to the engine. The engine should continue to run ok, if it starts to choke, stop the water until it recovers, then start again with a smaller stream of water. This may help remove some of the loose carbon that causes the pinging.
    E.D. in Sunny Florida
  • I've posted the question to We've had the same problem and I absolutely intend to pursue this. My son bought the 2002 Altima for $5250 with the money he has been saving since he was 12!!!! I'm so angry with Nissan, I could spit. Here is what I wrote to the class action forum....
    I have a significant problem. My son purchased a 2002 Nissan Altima with 98,000 miles from a Nissan Dealer off e-Bay in February 2009. Even though the car was sold to us "AS-IS", the dealer was sure to tell us what a great car it was and the only reason they were selling it on e-Bay was because they could not obtain financing for a 2002 vehicle with so many miles. Okay, I accept that. We test drove the car and it was in superior condition. The performance was excellent in every way and we bought the car for $5,250 cash (my son is 17 and had been saving for this car since he was 12).

    We drove the car home and immediately changed the oil. The honeymoon was over after two weeks when my son took his car into the local mechanic to rotate tires. A routine check of the oil showed it was 2 quarts low. Naturally, we thought the quick-lube place screwed up and we simply topped it off with more oil. After two more weeks, we checked the oil again... it was another 2 quarts low. There was no visual evidence of burning (smoke) and the car passed through NJ emissions inspection without incident... So what the heck??!!??

    Our mechanic told us that this problem could be significant, but that there was no way to tell unless the unit was put through an expensive wet-dry compression test. Anyway, we just kept putting oil in the car and assumed that would be the standard (I did it with my Rambler for years)... But the problem got worse. Smoke was beginning to billow from the exhaust. The day before the engine blew out, I took the car to a local Nissan dealer to run a full computer diagnostic evaluation... That's when I got the news that both the engine and catalytic converter needed replacement. Even though the CAT was replaced/serviced under recall from Nissan a few years ago. The cost to me would be over $7,000.00

    Here is the problem (and a simple Google of 2002 Altima Engine Problems will turn up hundreds, if not thousands of similar stories). Nissan issued a recall for a faulty sensor within the Altima's catalytic converter. Our Altima was taken by the previous owner in for service under recall shortly after it was issued. This sensor allowed for damage to the catalytic converter, which in turn damaged the piston rings in the engines causing excessive oil burning and ultimately complete engine failure. In cases where Nissan "reprogrammed" the sensor, nothing was done to address the CAT damage and what it was doing to the engine. In other cases, they replaced the CAT, but the engines were already burining oil and headed for doom. The damaged engines, in turn, damaged the new CAT... This is the situation I find myself in now after putting only 4,000 miles on the car since February. Bad CAT, shot engine and Nissan Consumer Affairs telling me "Sorry, it's out of warranty and there is nothing we can do"... The recall should have been for both CAT and engine replacement, but who in their right mind would assume Nissan to do this for tens of thousands of cars. All they did was put a quick patch on a festering wound and waited to address individual complaints as they arose, which is infinately cheaper than doing the right thing in the first place.

    My sons dream was crushed and Nissan says "tough luck, kid". The car sits dead in our driveway providing a daily reminder of what scum car manufacturers like Nissan can be.
  • It is very sad to see another very sad message about the Nissan Altima. There have been so many sad messages written in this blog, this should be complied into a book, and should be in the hands of anyone who owns an Altima, or is anticipating owning an Altima, or even anyone who owns a Nissan. Maybe the book could be titled "The Sad Saga of the Nissan Altima and the company that made it". I know for a fact that after knowing all of this, and going through all of this with a 2002 Nissan Altima 2.5S, I will NEVER own any Nissan for as long as I live, My experience with my daughters 2000 Nissan Altima has been nothing less than a horrible nightmare.
    I would recommend that each and every one of you that has been screwed by Nissan to spread the word and tell everyone that you can about this blog and encourage them to read it, This needs to be headline news. Read it from the begining, about all the people who have been so dissapointed and/or devestated by the Nissan Altima, people who wanted to destroy their Altimas or push them off a cliff, or worst. I just can't say enough about how bad these cars are, and how negligent the Nissan Company is to leave so many of their customers stranded with no hope. What they have done should be a crime, and they should pay back their customers dearly for it.
    E.D. in Sunny Florida
  • rondholrondhol Posts: 32
    In 2001, Carlos Ghosn defied Japanese business etiquette, cut thousands of Nissan jobs, shut the first of five domestic plants to help $20 billion debt. So, most of well-trained workers (Japan and Smyrna,TN.) were replaced by cheaper labor (Canton, MI, and Mexico). He is a Hero for Nissan company that has serious financial crysis like GM and Crysler but not for us.
  • kcvabkcvab Posts: 3
    Well folks I had to buy a new engine. Costs were $5200. Unbeknownst to me, they replaced my precat. I had my main cat hollowed out. By still having the main cat hollowed out, is my new engine safe from debris if the precat fails? Should I get the precat hollowed out? I do not want to ruin my new engine. There is a 12 month/12,000 warranty. I have a 2002 nissan altima 2.5.
  • achaiahachaiah Posts: 2
    Yes...and I will never buy ANOTHER Nissan, Toyota, Honda, Subaru, Mercedes, BMW etc. etc., since every manufacturer in the world has had problems with their cars at one point or another. I am already doing research on the best bicycle that I can get (hopefully I can find one that absolutely 100% population loves).
    I currently own 2002 Altima, 2007 Altima (drives like a dream) and 2008 BMW 525I and I came in here to find a solution to how to fix that damn 2002 vehicle and not all the whining about how bad Nissan is since that's ABSOLUTELY FALSE. 2009 Nissan Altima is Consumer Report's, Consumer Digest's and JD Power's TOP PICK not mentioning other Nissan/Infiniti products. Sorry to hear you had a bad experience with that car. If that was a "lemon" car there is such a thing called "Lemon Law" and you can try to get the money for your car under it's umbrella.

    P.S. I just got my money back from Sony after fighting with them for over 2 years over faulty Sony Plazma TV. No more Sony for me? I don't think so..I love them. Welcome to the real world.
  • achaiahachaiah Posts: 2
    ..Hmmm..let me erasing all this debt is bad?....saving the company that was worshipped by Japanese for decades was bad?......Let me tell you something...if the business practices currently employed within your company are outdated and bad, you have to change them!
    ...and talking about cheaper labor....if it's so true I wonder why Nissan is doing so great since Ghosn took over? All those Nissans: Versa,Rogue,Altima.....number one cars according to Consumer Reports and Consumer Digest and million other awards for Murano, Xterra,Titan, 370Z, GT-R etc. etc. And if not for all those changes tens of thousands US WORKERS employed by Nissan would be unemployed.
    HERE IS ALITTLE READ FOR YOU... In 2001 Brazilian-born Carlos Ghosn became the first non-Japanese person to head a major Japanese automobile-manufacturing corporation. As the president and chief executive officer of Nissan Motor Company, he broke the traditional Japanese business models that had stifled the automaker's growth. Within two years Ghosn had led the faltering company into a period of revival, breaking a ten-year string of losses or tiny profits. By the end of the first quarter of 2003, Nissan turned a profit of more than $4 billion. Involving himself in all aspects of the company, from designing to test driving, Ghosn made himself an icon for Japanese business culture by the middle of his second year in office.
    Within months of his arrival Ghosn had laid bare a plan that would not only revolutionize the way business was done at Nissan but challenge some of the basic assumptions that lay at the heart of Japanese business methods. By shutting down plants, laying off workers, and severing ties with underperforming suppliers, Ghosn demonstrated that radical measures could be effective in changing the conservative Japanese business system. He expected the process of making Nissan profitable to take three years; it took only two.

    Ghosn also changed the look of Nissan's line of automobiles. The leading Japanese automakers, Honda and Toyota, historically were cautious about altering the appearance of their cars. In contrast, Ghosn, according to Alex Taylor in Fortune, took risks by making over almost one-third of Nissan's product line within a couple of years. "Ghosn wants Nissan to stand for passionate innovation," said Taylor, "and insists that new products satisfy an unmet customer need" (July 21, 2003). The executive's record, the Fortune contributor concluded, seemed to forecast great things for the companies he headed
  • rondholrondhol Posts: 32
    That's totally right. He is amazing but unfortunately Nissan doesn't care about the buyers after the warranty is over. 100k miles is the average lifetime of Altima 02 instead of 200k. The number of Altima 02 engine failure caused by pre-cat and bad head gasket is so big. More than 200 just from 1 website. They should issue a recall or there will be no altima 02s on the road several years later.
  • jophishjophish Posts: 2
    I own a 02 Altima 2.5 which my daughter took to SC. Last week Nissan replaced the pre cat under warranty. After the work was done the dealer called me and said that the head gasket needed replacement. It was then that I decided to fly down from New England to see for myself. I know a fair amount about cars and he was able to justify his diagnosis. The pre cat was covered with baked on oil, plugged up the engine and turned it into a blast furnace frying the head gasket on two cylinders. This is a car that never leaked a drop of coolant. Nissan claims that the pre cat had nothing to do with the gasket failure and was not responsible for repairing it. However they would pay for half. A generous offer since they had just replaced the pre cat. From what I know and read this could be the tip of the ice berg. I feel that Nissan has a responsibility to repair any and all damage caused by the pre cat. Am I crazy?


    P.S. The service department at this family owned dealership gets an A+, a pleasure to work with.
  • jd10013jd10013 Posts: 779
    hard to say. believe it or not, head gaskets do fail. but don't go nuts after reading here. yes, when Nissan redesigned the atlima in 2002 they designed and used a new engine (QR25DE) in it. and yes, like anything else new, it had some problems. But here's the important part. Even though some people have had issues, Nissan has probably sold somewhere in the neighborhood of 3/4 of a million of those engines. may twice that if they're using them overseas. The people that have had problems with them (and I'm not denying they had problems) represent a small fraction of the QR25DE equipped vehicles Nissan has sold.

    so don't panic yet.
  • rondholrondhol Posts: 32
    Head gaskets fail after 200k miles is acceptable, but not 61k miles, just after the warranty expired.

    The 2002-2003 pre-cat failure is the biggest issue but no "REAL RECALL" has been done. Voluntary recalls like power valve screws is only good for 04-05 model because 02-03 is not under warranty anymore even they have excactly same design and some of 02-03 owner got their engine destroyed by those screws.

    Crankshaft and Camshaft Position sensor is still problematic. It turns out the design was bad (plastic shield), and now Nissan have the revised version with aluminum shield. But, you will never get the free recall twice. You have to pay to get the revised sensors after the failure of the first recall. Many of 02-03 VQ35DE engine have timing chain guide and tensioner premature failure (cost $1500) and bad MAF ($600 part # 22680-8j000). MAF from maxima and G35 with part #22680-AM600 is the best replacement that will not fail again.

    Nissan Service is Real :lemon: . After 6 years/60k miles all 02 have bad engine mount, struts, pre-cat, tie rod end, MAF (3.5L model) and may be head gasket.
  • jd10013jd10013 Posts: 779
    a head gasket can go at any time. of course the more wear on a car the more likely it is to fail.

    and no, not all 02 nissan altima's have bad engine mounts, struts, precat tie rod ends, or maf sensors.

    the most important lesson here is don't cheap out on your warranty. people who are willing to spend 20k on a car but wont invest another 1000 on a warranty to protect their investment for 10 yrs or 100k miles are asking for problems. Its a stupid way to reduce your payment by $16 or so. and one I've never understood.
  • This discussion is about Nissan Altimas, but since you brought up other brands of cars, I have a 2004 Toyota Highlander with 120,000 miles, and it runs and drives perfect, no engine, no head gasket and no Cat converter problems. I also have a 2000 Ford Explorer with V8 and 170,000 miles, that is trouble free. I have never had to replace a Cat or hollow out a Cat, on any other car that I have ever owned. Maybe not all 2002 Altima 2.5's are lemons, but it seems a lot of them are, and if it happens to you, you would be as unhappy as the rest of us who have got screwed by Nissan. My daughters 2002 Nissan Altima has been a terrible pain, you can read about it in this blog in earlier messeges, I started with messege #75. Lemon laws or warranties won't help me because the miles are too high, it had over 90,000 before I had the Cat & engine problems, and currently has over 125,000 miles. I expect a good engine and transmission given good care, to run reliably for over 200,000 miles.
  • rondholrondhol Posts: 32
    99.9999% Altima 02-06 will have bad passenger side and rear engine mounts after 60k miles. It is just bad design. The struts will fail at around 60-100k/6 years miles but we need to replace the struts every 5 years anyway.
  • jd10013jd10013 Posts: 779
    and I had a 1992 sentra with 212k miles on it, no head gasket, not cat converter, no problems at all and still running when I traded it in. I also have a 1998 200sx with 165k miles on it that has never had anything done to it but front brakes. It's still sitting in my driveway, and I usually drive it to and from work.

    every ford and chevy I've ever owned was more or less shot at about 120k.

    on the other hand, I had a VW Golf that lasted over 300k miles. But don't think your going to find a lot of mechanics that will say VW builds a good car.

    The point? there is no point. every manufacture of cars has built a lemon or two in their day. the engine sludging problems in the Camry was at least as common as the converter problems in the atlima. probably worse. ditto the transmission issues with the accord a few years back.

    Thats not to say the 3rd gen altima, actually the newly minted QR25DE engine didn't have some issues and problems. But it doesn't mean Nissan is building junk. and neither does a dozen or so people bitching on an internet message board. ;)
  • gooddeal2gooddeal2 Posts: 749
    ....But it doesn't mean Nissan is building junk. and neither does a dozen or so people bitching on an internet message board.

    I agree with you 100%. People usually don't go out and try to spread good words about you when you do something nice...but they will try to spread bad words about you every chance they have when you do something bad. :sick:
  • Well almost two months have passed since I posted on (#456) this cite regarding my Altima 2.5. and I am glad to report the outcome. Nissan has replaced the engine at no cost to me. Yes, NO COST. I read tons of information regarding this engine, the good, the bad and the ugly both here and on other cites. I have a solid but not superior auto background so I knew more than all the customer service agents I dealt with. I was polite and would not take no for an answer. I told the last agent that I would continue up the ladder until I reached the head of Nissan. Also I would file a law suit in MA where I reside and the car is registered. I pointed out that our state has treble damages and when I was successful they had to pay three times what I sought as damages. I was also going to rent a replacement car until this was settled. That seemed to get thing resolved. I worked closely with the service manager, Wesley Morris of Morris Nissan, West Ashley SC. He was very knowledgeable and his input regarding my situation was huge. I got a new engine and he got a ton of warranty work. A total win win situation. The engine is going in this week and we are also getting all the recall work that is outstanding done as well.

    I wish to thank all on this cite for their positive and helpful postings, KEEP AT IT, and for the condescending wind bag who implied that I "cheaped out" or was in the disgruntled VERY small fraction of the sample, GET A LIFE.

  • I am so happy things worked out for you. My daughter's Altima is still sitting in my yard but I am feeling a little optimistic lately because there is a law firm investigating Nissan for these exact complaints for possible class action lawsuit. I have also received an email from someone who investigate federal agencies who fail to protect consumers. Maybe this director is looking into NHTSA's failure to following up on all those consumers' complaints filed in their office about their 2002 Altima engines. If you can provide me some pointers, I will greatly appreciate it. BTW, watch out for your new engine repair. I have seen consumer complaints that they had the same problems even when they paid to get their engines replaced. Good luck.
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