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Nissan Altima Engine Failures



  • I am having the same problem. On Janurary 2, 2007 my car wouldn't start. I had it towed to Nissan they reprogrammed the ECM and replaced the headlights which was another recall. When I got my car back my car was smoking they said it is possible I have cracked heads. I had no problem until it wouldn't crank. It drove fine on the first. Now Nissan is telling me I will have to pay to get new heads.
  • patpat Posts: 10,421
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  • What engine does your Altima have? I noticed that you said "Now Nissan is telling me I will have to pay to get new heads". If you have more than one head, you must have the 3.5L V6 engine. I think the discussion here about the catalytic converter and oil buring is referring to the 2.5L I4 engines. I am not sure of how the catalytic converters are arranged on the V6 engine setup. The 2.5L engine has the pre-catalyst built into the exhaust manifold. I do not know it the V6 pre-catalyst is built or designed the same way. If someone reading here knows about this, please let us know.
    Concerning you car smoking, I assume that this smoke is coming out the tailpipe. Has this been verified to be smoke and not steam? Usually a cracked or leaking head will cause radiator coolant to leak into the engine, causing steam out the tailpipe, and cause combustion gas to leak out the radiator and also cause the radiator coolant level to go low, with the radiator coolant mysteriously disssapearing without any noticable leaks. I just had to remove and replace the head on my daughters 2002 Altima 2.5S, the head was warped and had to be milled, but no cracks in the head, just leakage past the head gasket due to the clyinder head warpage of .005". It may be possible for a cracked head to cause oil to leak into the clyinder, but it is not common for that to happen. If they pull the heads off, BE SURE that they are sent out to be checked by a reliable machine shop to check for any cracks or warpage. They can detect any cracks by doing a special pressure test and vacuum test on the head. Have Nissan VERIFY that the heads are bad BEFORE they replace them. After the heads are replaced, the cooling system must be flushed clean and new coolant added. The cooling system must be checked to be sure it is operating correctly, including the radiator, hoses, water pump, cooling fans, and cooling fan controls. On the Altima 2.3S I4 engine, the radiator fans come on when the coolant temperature reaches 203 degrees, and the radiator fans cut off when the coolant level falls to 188 degrees.
    Let us know what happens with your car.
    Good Luck,
    E.D. ISF
  • My car is the 2.5 S
  • Is your car also a 2002? Since your car is the 2.5S, then you have the 4 cylinder engine with one head. Referring back to messege 154, disregard the comments on the V6 engine, and note the comments on the 4 Cylinder engine. This engine is often referred to as the I4 engine, meaning "Inline 4 Cylinders". Before they pull the engine apart and take off the head, you should ask them how they know that the head is bad. There is a simple test that tests for the prescence of combustion gasses in the radiator. If there IS combustion gas present in the radiator, then the head or head gasket is bad. If there is steam coming out the exhaust pipe after the engine and muffler are fully warmed up, then the head or head gasket is bad. The head gasket is the most likely part to fail, and it fails for a reason, they just don't "go bad". The head gasket fails because the cylinder head has warped from getting too hot. Once the head warps a little bit, the head gasket is not held tight and it blows out or leaks. If it is determined that there IS a problem with the head or head gasket, then the head must be removed and inspected. As I said before, be sure the head is tested and proven to be bad before buying a new head. The machine shop that I went to said that it is a common problem for the Altima cylinder heads to warp. If the head is only warped, they can mill the head flat, do a valve job on the heads, that includes checking the valve guides, installing new valve seals, and resealing the valves. I had all that done for my daughters Altima 2.5S cylinder head. The cost for the head work was about $300, plus about $85 for new cylinder head bolts, plus about $100 for an engine gasket set, and $5 for a tube of gray silcone sealer. With tax the total machine shop cost was about $532, plus about another $100 for some miscellanious costs for new hoses, thermostat, new coolant, new motor oil and new motor oil filter. If it turns out that your cylinder head IS cracked, you should be able to find a rebuilt one for about $350. These prices are all cost of parts only. Add tax and add cost of Labor if done by the Dealer or a Shop. I would also suggest to use the phone and call around and get prices for the work from several sources, as there are many independent garages that can do the work as well and cheaper than the Dealer. Just check their reputation before letting them do the work. Take the car to who you are considering to do the work, and let them do a diagnosis on it to see what they say it needs. They can also do a cylinder compression test and other diagnostic procedures to find out what the problem really is.
    If you have any questions, just come back here and ask.
    Good Luck,
    E.D. in Sunny Florida
  • I am planning to buy a 2008 nissan Altima. reading all theses posts about the previous years nissans make me wonder if i Should go for a Nissan. My alternate choice is a 2008 Camry LE (basically as they have good financing specials).

    Any advice?

    Thanks in advance!
  • elishaelisha Posts: 1
    I have a 2002 Nissan Altima 2.5 S as well that is having the same problem that apparently everyone else is. I am due for an oil change, but unfortunatley my car will not start!! I would love to know how you contacted the BBB in order to have a hearing. Nissan should be held responsible for their LEMONS they call cars.
  • I suggest you reasearch it completely and understand what you might be getting into. The style and built of the auto has not changed since 2002. When you hit 75-85,000 miles is when the problems start. Look at the recall on the 2006 for the exact same engine that is in the 2002-3-4-5's. What does that tell you?? If you like the auto, can afford to possibly put a new engine in about 3 years down the road, and do not mind the hassel, go for it! If you run the recalls in the older models and then check the corrections made by automakers, you can tell what you are up against. My personal oponion, with owning 3 of these, is I am going to Toyota or Honda.
    Hope this helps
  • I own a 2004 Altima 2.5S had 74,000. The check engine light was always on. Took it to a local and had brakes replaced and the light checked. The result of the check and a pre smog inspection, was a bad C Converter. Called Nissan about the possibility of the converter being in warranty, but they were unsure untill it was inspected by an authorized dealer. Nissan also informed me there were 2 recalls on this car that had yet to be done. They were a re-program of the engine computer and a check of some sort of power valve. The recall of importance was recall NTB05-058. The power valve is located under the intake manifold and it looses it's 4 mounting screws. As I understand it the screws have no where to go but into the combustion chambers. Also the C converters were bad but also had 80K warranties.
    The results for me were a complete new engine replacement, 2 new C converters, all done at Nissans expense, because of the recalls and the 80K warranty on C converters.
    If you are having the sort of problems I have been reading here it might be a good idea to contact Nissan, give them your VIN#, and perhaps, luck out as I seem to have done.
  • I have been thinking about buying a new 4 cylinder nissan frontier. I am wondering if anyone on here knows if the same problems with altima 2.5 transfer over to the frontier with the same engine? Or have the problems been resolved by now?
  • I would suggest that you go back and look over the previous messeges to see what the problems are and and WHAT causes them. If you go back and look at messge #75 in this Forum, you will see that I wrote my theory on the cause of most of these engine failures and excessive oil consumption.

    From text near the end of that messege:
    "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.
    I have not seen anywhere, where anyone has given a practical explaination as to why this is occuring, but this is the most sensible theory that I have been able to come up with. I believe that since the Nissan exhaust system design may have caused the problems with the engine, Nissan should pay the cost of fixing these cars. So I'm ready to jump on this band wagon too."

    On the 2.5L 4 cylinder Altima engine, the Pre-Cat is built into the exhaust manifold (one piece). This puts it too close to the exhaust ports, allowing the contents of the Pre-Cat to flow back up into the engine "under certain conditions". The heat shield on the front of the engine covers the exhaust. If you remove the Heat Shield that covers the exhaust on the front of the engine (4 small bolts), you will plainly see what I am talking about. You can plainly see the top and bottom of the Pre-Cat, as there is an Oxygen Sensor at the top of the Pre-Cat, and then there is another Oxygen Sensor at the bottom of the Pre-Cat. There is a 2nd Cat with no Oxygen Sensors farther down the exhaust system under the car before the muffler. The way it SHOULD have been designed FIRST would have been to have the individual exhaust pipes (manifold), come into one common collector pipe that went down to the flexible connection near the bottom of the engine, and then put the Pre-Cat under the car, farther away from the exhaust manifold. This greater distance would insure that the contents of the Pre-Cat would no get blown back up into the engine, eliminating THAT threat to the engine. The SECOND thing that needed to be done was to make the Cat of sturdier construction, so that the contents of the Cat do not leak out. The chemical material is held in place on each end by a screen. The material escapes because the screen breaks, cracks or collapses. It seems like it happens at about 60,000 miles to 90,000 miles, on the reports that I have read, before the screens break and the chemical material is released into the engine. If the screens at each end were made stronger and better, the chemical material would be contained and not destroy the engine.

    So Mr Kamikazejoshua, I would take a long hard look at the exhaust system on the 2.5L Frontier engine to see where the Cats are. If the arrangement is like it is on the Altima, you might get the same problems. I have not seen the Frontier, and I have not been on the Frontier Forms, so please let us know what you find out.
    Good Luck,
    E.D. in Sunny Florida
  • I was able to find a picture online of the manifold with the cat. converter. It seems to be the same as the altima, that is, it is extremely close to the manifold. Thanks, for describing in detail what happens so I knew what to look for. How common is it for this to happen?
  • I have not seen any numbers or percentages to indicate how common this occurance may be. I know that it happened to my daughters 2002 Nissan Altima 2.5S at about 90,000 miles and I have read that many others have had the same complaints of the Cats failing, exhaust clogging and exessive engine oil consumption, generally ranging from about 60,000 miles to 90,000 miles. I have read of the same problems that others are having with the same car on other sites. I do not know what the percentages are, but I would like to know, but have not found a good source for information. Time will tell, we should have good information in a year or two, but it will be too late for too many by then.
    I would think the the most logical first step that the manufacturer would take is too increase the reliablity of the Converter, by using better screens on each side of the chemical in the Converter, to be sure that the chemical does not get released into the engine, or breaks loose and clogs the exhaust systems at the next component downstream. Hopefully they are doing that allready, but Nissan is remaining silent about this issue. I have been hoping that they would address this issue, but so far nothing. It seems that once it is out of warrenty, you are are on your own. I would suggest if you have not done so, to go back to the begining and read all the posts in this forum, and read all that you can find about it on the Internet.
    I expect a car to last a lot longer than the 3 year manufacturer's warrenty, and I expect the Cats to last a lot longer than the 80,000 mile federal warranty. I buy my cars with 90,000 to 100,000 miles on them and drive them to about 200,000 miles, and I still have the original exhaust system, original mufflers, original Cats, original paint, original engine and original transmission that run and shift like new. Thats what I expect, but maybe it's because I drive Ford V8 Explorers. I will buy my next car for my wife this year in a about a month or two, and will likely be a 2004 Toyota Highlander with V6. I will hate to have to sell my wifes 1997 Ford Explorer XLT 5.0L V8, because it has been such an excellent vehicle, but someone else will be enjoying it for a long time. No Nissans for us!
    Good Luck,
    E.D. in Sunny Florida
  • Enjoyed your letter. I agree with your version, that Nissan is being very quiet. If the problem is not that wide spread, you would think that Nissan would assist the complainers and not issue any recalls. But they do not even return phone calls.
    I have 3 of these and one affected so far. The other 2 will be up for sale by the end of the winter. I am also going with Toyota or Honda in the future. Glad you have good luck with Fords, I hear from body repair shops that they are slapped together. I guess it it like anything else, maybe the cheaper vechiles are the ones they are talking about. Have you heard anything on a class action filed on Nissan for the Altima's?
  • Thank you electricdesign, you have been very helpful
  • Hey E.D.,

    I appreciate the info that you've put out on this forum. It has helped me understood technically what my engine problem is. (since I know very little about car mechanics.)

    I talked to the dealership service manager recently and this is how I summarized it. The dealership is well aware of this issue with the Nissan 2002 Altima 2.5L engine problem but because Nissan corporate won't do anything about it, the dealerships are pushing cost of repairs to the customers and of course not tell customer's that this is a common problem.

    I don't what kind of system Nissan is running but it seems like everyone is on their own, the dealerships are on their own, the customers are on their own, etc. I had no luck with consumer affairs just like everyone else but to be honest, I think it would have been better if they didn't have consumer affairs because they wasted my time. I think Nissan thinks, we will only buy one car in our lifetime. Bottomline, I will never buy nissan, my family will never, my friends and so on etc.

    Anyways, I am seeking advice. I am deciding whether to fix my car or trade it in as in a few months from now I am due for new vehicle. The impression I get from your posting and other posting from other people on the internet is that even if I get the engine problem fixed, I will still run into the same problem and because it's just a design flaw with engine. Also, it seems to me that some Nissan dealerships are barely just gettting up to speed with this issue and usually fix one issue instead of fixing all the issues.

    I prefer to fix and keep the nissan but if I will run into the same or more problems down the road in the next few months, I will definitely trade it in.

    Any info will be greatly appreciated.

  • I am glad that you posted your comments, it has shown me that I need to make some important clairifications. I assume you have read all the messeges from at least #75 on to this one. If not, please be sure to do so.
    Now to clear up the misconception. I understand how this could be misunderstood by non technical people, because that is who this forum is mostly for. I've worked on cars all my life, I've worked as a line mechanic in 3 american car dealerships in the 1970's and at a national transmission repair chain, but I retired from that work and found a better way to make a living. I still do all my own work however, and maintain a well equipped garage to work in. My prescence here is to help people and give advice if I can. I have been especially angered by this Nissan Altima 2.5 engine problem because it directly involved my daughters car and has costed me time and money (but not nearly as much as most of you). I have heard of the needless problems and pain of the Nissan Altima owners, and I do deeply sympathize with you.
    Here is the misconception, many owners are thinking the engine is bad, BUT it is NOT the engine that is bad. It is the EXHAUST SYSTEM that is bad. The Cats are in the exhaust system, and when the Cat goes bad, it ruins the engine by contaminating the engine. If the Cats were made correctly and did not throw their contents into the engine, the engine would probably live a "normal" life. The REAL solution should have been for Nissan to use quality made Catalytic Converters, that would permanently contain the chemical. It may have just been a poor choice by Nissan to use that particular Cat. I don't know where they get them from, and I don't know where they are made, but I hope that they are now using better Cats in the new Altimas.
    Once the Cat messes up the engine by throwing the chemical into the engine, which causes the piston rings and clyinders to wear out, then the engine IS BAD, and usually has to be replaced.
    The solution to the problem is to NOT let the CAT eat up the engine. This is a touchy subject, because the CAT is required by law, because it reduces pollution. It also depends on where you live and if you are required to subject you car to emissions testing. What happens sometimes is that the chemicals and screens inside of the CAT breaks apart and the contents of the Cat is blown down the exhaust pipe. If the material happens to be blown out the muffler and out the tailpipe, then the material is no longer a threat to the engine, because it is gone. However, since it is gone, the oxygen sensors in the exhaust system, one before the Cat and one after the CAT, will detect that the CAT is not working and will throw the Diagnostic Trouble Code "Catalytic Converter Efficiency below threshold" or some such messege, and will cause the "service engine soon" light to come on. If the CATs get blown out, the engine will run fine, you would have to live with the "SES" light on all the time, if you can.
    Last but not least - Don't ever let your Altima engine overheat. The heat will warp the head and blow the head gasket, maybe crack the head, requiring the engine teardown for head gasket replacement and cylinder head rebuild (read messeges #103 - #113).
    About the issue of whether to fix the car or trade it in, that is a matter of money, compare the cost of repair and aggrevation against the trade in value. Unfortunately, I think you lose either way, it's just a matter of how much you lose. Only you can decide how to spend your money.
    Hope this helps,
    E.D. in Sunny Florida
  • ken75ken75 Posts: 52
    With all these lovely problems that Nissan is having, is there a web site or government program which lists all recalls or problems in the auto industry. Nissans reticence to address these problems has put something of a burr under my saddle even though I have not had a problem, and should not have a problem, with our 2008 Altima 2.5 SL. As my Dad used to say, "something smells rotton in Denmark" and Nissan had better step up to the plate before the issue really starts to effect there bottom line. America's pocket books are tightening up and any whisper of poor product performance can and has squashed a product line. Now that I have spent a bundle on this car, which I really like, it pains me to see the potential for future problems and I hope that either changes have been made in the 2008 model or Nissan will start to take care of business.
  • Any not aware of any design changes for the 2008, if fact the 2006 is now showing engine problems, the same engine that is in the 2002-3-4-5-6-7. I have 3 of these-(1) 2002 and (2) 2003 in this family, and we like the car. Only the 2002 has hit the 80,000 mile mark when all the problems surface. Nissan had not returned any of my calls, and I call routinely. The dealer has been simpathetic but "oh well the car has miles on it and these things happen". Some of the service men working for the dealership in town, it's rumored, that there are several engines being replaced at a cost to the customer of $4000.00 each. Of course, Nissan is very closed mouth about this. I think this is a crime! I reported my problems to Nissan North America, Consumer Affairs, the National investagative division for auto recalls, and the attorney general in my state. I am looking for a class action filing against Nissan on this problem. They are already in a class action for another issue. I wish you well. Enjoy the car while you can.
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