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Nissan Altima Hybrid Engine Questions



  • They were kind of vague with me. The consumer affairs guy said he did not know. The dealorship service department implied a wide-spread problem with the valves. I took from the brief conversation that they might be changing valves to some new or different type. Maybe the scope of the recall might have something to do with the fact that they would wait until February (procurring material?) before institutting the recall. Meanwhile they have been tinkering with my NAH engine under the misguidance of their national technical support team since December 15th (and here we are on January 11th). I am very unimpressed and regret trading in Camry Hybrid for an Altima Hybrid!
  • My 2009 11000-mile NAH is now starting its third week in the dealership following my complaint of rough start of the IC engine. Initial diagnosis was "carbon buildiup", which led to pulling and cleaning the head. Following that the dealer reported that the IC still ran rough and they now believed that the initial rough running had stretched the timing chain (!). They then kept the car and replaced the chain, but with no improvement. The diagnosis now is "sticky valves" so they are going to pull the head again. The technician also told me that they are expecting a recall next month, and that it would probably be to replace the head with a new design. Sure hope that that cures the problems!

  • I just hung up with Nissan USA for basically the same issues I keep reading about. I got nowhere except that they will take care of me. I have now spent hundreds and hundreds of dollars trying to resolve this issue. To me it seems the car is not warming up fast enough and bucks and continually runs in engine mode until a complete 10-15 minute warmup. As soon as I turn off auto climate it goes into battery. I spoke to my dealer and they know nothing about a recall for next month, I hope you know more then them. I loved my car for the first 2 years, but now I am thoroughly disgusted. I keep it in a heated garage and when I start in the morning after about a minute without moving it will buck as if it will stall.
  • Hello Docs Larry and lightshybrid: So they finally returned my NAH to me on January 14th still indicating that there would be a recall next month. Between December 15th 2009 and January 14th 2010, all they accomplished under the incompetent misguidance of Nissan Tech Support was to detect carbon deposits after 10 days. The rest of the time was supposed determining if the valves were damaged, cleaning them and putting it back to gradually suffer the same issues (new carbon deposits) at least up to the recall. Here are exerpts of what I received by email from the Nissan Dealorship:

    January 7th 2010: "The cylinder head of your vehicle was off as of yesterday afternoon. My tech. needed a special tool to remove the valves from the head to clean and make sure none of them are damaged. The tool is available at our other Nissan dealer and a driver is en route to pick it up this morning. I should have that here within the hour and will start to remove and inspect the valves asap. Later this afternoon I will have more information to give you and I will either call or e-mail you when I have it. Hope you have a nice day and I will be in contact as soon as I can."

    January 12th 2010: I spoke with the tech that is working on your vehicle this morning. The vehicle is in the process of being put back together. The valves, once removed, were still in very good condition and just needed to be cleaned of carbon deposits. I am hoping to have the vehicle back together by tomorrow and get a good road test on it before we release it back. If there are any delays in the process I will contact you as soon as I know. Thank you for your patience"

    January 13th 2010: In response to my questions about the delay and if I am about to received a patched engine that has merely been cleaned (also about what he thought the recall was for). His response: "I apologize for not getting back to you in a timely manner. As you know last week was my first week at this location and subsequently I was very busy getting familiar with everyone,everything etc. As far as your vehicle goes there was no "damage" to your engine or to your valves. As with any fuel injected vehicle, the engine builds up carbon deposits in the fuel system. The Altima Hybrid has had an issue with this carbon building up with very low miles though yours is only the second one that I have come accross, Nissan has started to see a problem. Unfortunately I do not have any info. as to when the recall may come out. Any info. that I have on the problem has been given to us via the "tech line" help desk. From what they say the spring for the valve is too soft which allows the carbon to build up along the valve. I just found out from my tech that what they may do is replace the valve springs so that when the valve hits it, the valve will spring back hard enough to break any debris free therefore burning off any carbon. There may also be a reprogramming for the vehicles computer to adjust the air and fuel mixture and opening and closing of the
    valves. Your vehicle has been driven 2 times and the tech will take it out once more before we release it. I am also going to have the vehicle cleaned inside and out before we call you."

    I will say that I am thoroughly annoyed with Nissan about this issue. Nissan has this Weasel from Consumer Affairs offering me as a so-called "goodwill gesture". $200 dollars worth of Nissan parts and service that has to be expended in one service visit at a Nissan or Infinity service center. This same corporate weasel has been calling and trying to talk over me and my concerns since around December 18th. I was demanding a new engine since the 24th of December to no avail.

    So I have been driving the car for 11 days since return. Same crappy mileage but the service engine warning light has not come on yet at least. I sure do miss my Camry Hybrid (I was an idiot to trade Toyota workmanship for Nissan crapmanship)! I guess my 6 years with a 6 cylinder Altima convinced me that maybe they could do a good job with a hybrid.....wrong!. LOL! COL! Crying out loud rather!

  • How many miles do you have on your Altima Hybrid. I neglected to mention that I had 9,800 on my 2008 Nissan Altima Hybrid at the time of its one month stay at the dealorship (purchased new January 15th 2009). Mine had the occasional rough start right back to the beginning (purchased with 297 miles on it ....due to drive from New Jersey which is the nearest state selling NAH to Maryland)
  • Everyone, I finally got through to them after numerous times. I think I know who you are talking about at consumer affairs. She also never calls the number I requested. Anyway, after she told me I would have to clean the injectors every 3 months I let her know this was totally unacceptable since the last cleaning did nothing. I had the regional engineer review and understood my complaints. I got my car back yesterday from the dealer after a week of repairs and parts. They replaced the entire cylinder head and all gaskets and seals. They told me it was about a $2300 repair (no charge). Without too much history since last night the car drove like brand new on the way home and back to work. I guess you have to just keep complaining til you get your point across to them. Good luck to everyone.
  • wayne8888wayne8888 Posts: 19
    Actually the weasel at Nissan Consumer Affairs that I was forced to deal with is Owen Welch. Glad that your vehicle is running well and hopes that it will continue to do so. This recall that was supposed to happen in Feb has not happened. I think that Nissan knows that there is an engine problem but probably don't want the bad pub of having a recall at this time (since it is not a potentially fatal issue unlike Toyota). I am poised to seek protection from the state of Maryland and its "Lemon Law" if they don't correct this problem. I demanded a new engine from them while it was in the shop for a month but all that they did was clean the valves.
  • I just started having problems with my 09 NAH and was surprised to find so many posts from people with similar problems. A rude awakening for me since I have owned 4 Nissans (standard IC engines) in the past with no complaints. It has less than 12K miles on it so there's no excuse for this.


    1. Like other people's cars, the IC engine seemed to be running "rough." Driving along, I can feel irregular vibrations through the gas pedal. At times, it would rattle pretty bad when idling and internittently at low speeds, especially when cold. Also, when driving in IC mode on long flat stretches or on gentle uphill slopes, the car sounds as if it has a moped motor rather than an engine. Also, the Service Engine light comes on intermittently.

    2. Shortly after the car started running "rough," the brakes began stuttering as I slowed, generally when going about 30+ mph- moreso when braking pretty hard or cornering, as one would expect. I didn't think much of this since 2 of my previous Nissans suffered the infamous 12,000-mile brake breakdown and behaved in a similar way. I really don't know if these issues are related but it is quite a coincidence.

    3. After a week or so of rough running and brake stuttering, the car stopped switching into EV mode altogether. The IC engine runs continually even at very low speeds, when coasting down hills and lately even when parked! Last night, as I was pulling into my driveway, the MPG fuel efficiency gauge starting fluttering very fast like it was having palpitations of some kind.

    Two days ago, I brought the car in to a local dealership and they were not able to detect any problems using their computer diagnostic tool. They did say that there has been some sort of recall that requires a reprogramming of some aspect of the internal computer. They didn't have much information but thought it would solve the braking problem. Unfortunately, they were not able to observe any engine problems when they test-drove it themselves and since diagnostics were negative, I had to just take it home and keep an eye on it. I had them do the reprogramming and a complete inspection and fluid change ($95.00, holy ish). Since the reprogramming, the brake stuttering has stopped (?) but unfortunately the engine problems continue.

    Today I took it back in to the dealer and took 2 service techs on a test drive with me around the block. OF COURSE, the car performed perfectly, switching into EV mode properly and idling perfectly fine. I was aghast but the guys were super nice about it even though they probably thought I was nuts. Then as we were pulling around to the service area, the Service Engine light came on again. Thank goodness (I think.)

    According to the diagnostics, cylinder # 3 is misfiring and they say it needs to be REPLACED entirely. This sounds like something more serious than blowing out some carbon deposits. They are keeping the car overnight and will do the repair tomorrow. Aside: today, the service manager confessed that they have only worked on 4-5 NAH ever in their shop. Lack of hybrid-experience seems to be endemic in Nissan service departments.

    Will update tomorrow.
  • rrodonrrodon Posts: 1
    I have a 2007 NAH, ~42000 miles, that I purchased from CarMax a year ago. Recently, I noticed that the engine would buck and vibrate when the gas motor kicked in, especially when the engine and weather were cold. Then I noticed the same shuddering while braking symptoms as have been described.

    After a couple of weeks of this, I took the car back to CarMax, where I had an extended warranty. They almost immediately shipped it to the Nissan dealership, since CarMax had no experience with the hybrid version - turns out, neither did the Nissan dealership. After keeping the car for a week, Nissan to told CarMax that there was definitely an issue, but they didn't know what it was. They were "preparing a bulletin for release next month", but it could be as long as a year until they had any kind of resolution. They recommended de-carbonizing the engine, but could not say definitively if that would resolve the issue or make it better; they'd do this for the reduced cost of $199.

    When I asked whether this was either a performance or safety issue, and whether the car would get worse if I continued to drive it, I was told "we don't know".

    And that's it. I got the car back, no charges thankfully, but no fix and no idea whether this is going to cause serious issues - and no help any time in the near future from Nissan. I've had good luck with Nissan in the past, but this is clearly not acceptable.
  • timnah08timnah08 Posts: 1
    Wife and I bought a new 2008 NAH in June 2008 and now have just under 20k miles on it. We avg about 32 mpg overall, mostly city driving. Until recently, I has been a great car with no problems.

    Recently, my wife complained of rough idle and stuttering at low speed. I took it to the dealer last Saturday and noticed the Service Engine Soon Light was on (she didn't tell me that!). They checked it out and within a few hours reported that it had carbon buildup and they would need to replace the cylinder head. :sick: I know that is highly unusual for a new car with low miles that is serviced regularly. I asked the service manager how that is possible. The response: "I don't know."

    Fortunately the dealer gave us a loaner Cube to drive while they work on the car. But they said Nissan Corporate refused to cover the cost, so the dealer was picking up the tab. (I've bought 2 Nissans in the past 23 months; the other is a 07 Frontier).
  • wayne8888wayne8888 Posts: 19
    Hi ..... My car (mentioned in an earlier post) spent one month (12/15/09-1/14/10) in the shop with the same carbon deposits. All they did was clean out deposits and claimed that there would bE a recall in a month. Feb came and went and no NAH recall occurred. Meanwhile I'm sure the deposits are building up again! It seems to be endemic to Altima hybrids. My car had the problem at 9800 miles. I am at nearly 12K now. Good luck! My opinion of Nissan Corp has plummeted!
  • popny85popny85 Posts: 15
    I'm looking for an economical way to change the oil on my 2009 Nissan Altima Hybrid, I actually bought it in April, new. I don't want to risk anything with the warranty by not doing the oil changes frequently. So I'm actually going to do the 3 month scheduled oil changes, even though I'm anticipate being nowhere close to the mileage suggestions. I normally change my own oil, so is there an oil out there that is the SAE 0W20 grade that is cheap, and will last the 3000 miles, rather than an extended amount of time, since I don't really want to waste the oil with the 3 month requirements. Thanks :D
  • hhubby1hhubby1 Posts: 9
    I find it interesting that so many of us are having the same problems. I bought my car new in May. First 2,000 miles ran like a dream. Then started to rattle. Just went through the Lemon Law return with them on a Sentra with a bad engine. TWICE. :( Thought I would have better luck with an Altima. Yeah, right!!!

    Around 2,000 miles started to rattle and the EV mode wouldn't kick in unless you turn the car on and off again, but will continue to rattle and not operate correctly. Then after a bit, like weeks, it stopped, almost like a miracle. I asked when I took it in for oil change if it had self-adjusting lifters and was told it did. Then it started to rattle again! Took it back, had the service guy listen, took it to tech, tech took ride with me, VERY uncomfortable and stared out the window the whole time telling me it was in ALL the Altima's. I said "Really?""Yes" .

    Well, guess what? Yesterday, it did a 'drag', twice' and it started running on EV mode like it is supposed to, ran like a top and is getting the best gas mileage. My take it is the computer, they KNOW it, AND they don't want to fix it. I am taking in today, asking them to listen, and when they don't hear anything, telling them EXACTLY! So NOW when I bring it back with a rattle, you will know what I am talking about!!!

    NOT thinking Nissan is honest.....
  • Stay on top of them hhubby! I guess the recall that was mentioned (back in Jan 2010) to me by the dealership doing my engine repair, has never happened. Mine has been running relatively fine since they cleaned out the carbon deposits (after a month in the shop in which all the work was done in the last 7 days due to Nissan Corporate Tech support). Six and one half months later, it goes into EV mode fairly easily and is not running rough. But winter is coming......I would not be surprised if they just clean out the carbon deposits once they get bad enough that the "Service Engine" alert lights up.
  • Did altima hybrid owners have a special owners manual for the altima hybrid or did you just get a regular altima owner's manual. I was given just a regular Altima owner's manual that does not even mention anything about the hybrd.
  • hhubby1hhubby1 Posts: 9
    No, you're supposed to have the correct manual, the Hybrid, NOT regular Altima manual. How did they get away with that????
  • Wow! That is really unethical!! The hybrid manual is night and day different from the regular manual. You should report it to Nissan and demand a valid hybrid manual. I'm sure that the pdf is available on the internet.
  • yfc1yfc1 Posts: 1
    I have a 2009NAH. A few months after I bought it, intermittently it idled very roughly when the car is cold. During the last few months, I noticed that EV was not always coming on. This week, the "Service Engine Soon" light came on. When I called the dealers service, they asked me to bring the car back asap. Diagnostics showed that the cylinders in the engine were misfiring. They said this was due to carbon build-up because the springs in the cylinder valves are too strong and this caused the valves not to close (or maybe open?) completely. They replaced all the cylinders with ones that are now re-engineered with weaker springs - apparently, Nissan is aware of this carbon build-up problem. The service mgr told me that mine is the 3rd car they had to make the repairs. After the repairs, the car runs muchmore smoothly and quieter; it used to have this high pitch whine when switching to EV. Now the whine is gone. As annoyed as I was with the problem, I was really pleased with the customer service at the dealership. They were very efficient and seemed to know of this problem. They did the repairs in 1 day and gave me a loaner car without any hassle. Car is under warranty so there were no charges. Friendly service too. Let's hope I don't have to go back again.
  • jojolopesjojolopes Posts: 7
    edited January 2008
    I just starting having the issues that many of you are having. On start-up, after about 30 seconds of smooth running, the engine would start to rattle and make a really horrible clanking/grinding noise. The hybrid system does not come on nearly as much as it should anymore. The check engine light comes on for a day or 2, then goes away, but comes back within a week (issue has been going on for 4 weeks now). Took it to Nissan dealership and they hooked up a diagnostic to it. It showed cylinder 3 was misfiring. After letting them do further tests, they came back and said I would need a "Top End Engine Decarb", for which they want to charge me $372 which is not covered even by my extended 6 year warranty! I told them that this issue seems to be known by Nissan (from reading posts here) and was worried the cylinder head might be damaged from the carbon buildup and paying all that money for a top end decarb and then finding out the part needs to be replaced anyway would not be ideal.

    Anyone have advice on how to deal with this? Is it possible to convince the dealership that this should be done under warranty? Is the cost for them to run some chemicals through the engine really $372? I live in Northern NJ, so if anyone knows a dealership that will take care of this in a better way, please let me know!
  • I can assure you that they are trying to get a way with something. I have had some issues with Nissan being honest, to say the least. I ended up calling my area representative, and then ended up dealing with Nissan corporate. I would suggest going straight to corporate. Did you see the post before yours? I says it all. I am still having issues with mine. they won't even do a diagnostic because they don't hear the rattle when I take it in after it is warmed up. I am going to have to leave it over night and go back early in the morning. Yours should be easier, I hope. good luck!
  • Thanks for the reply hhubby1. The worst is usually in the morning when it really misfires badly. I actually took a video to show them the issue (or at least let them hear the noise) before I left it overnight. The mechanic didn't look that interested in the video. When I went back after leaving it overnight, the mechanics report said that this is normal hybrid start-up noise. So, either the grinding didn't happen, or "normal start-up" includes horrendous metal on metal type noises. I called a local auto shop that has a "BG" machine and they said the most expensive carbon flush is $250. So, needless to say, even if i can't get this resolved by Nissan, at least I can do it for less than $372 + tax. I will be calling other dealership service centers and Nissan Corporate though since this looks like a known issue even though nobody will admit it.
  • No, you need to BE there when they stat it to prove what it is doing. They are not going to do anything they don't have to. I have taken mine twice. The first time, told me it is 'normal engine noise' when it was dinging all over the place. I took it again, when it was silent. I said, ""Do you hear anything? "no" I won't put what I said next. But to say the least, my car is going in and they are going to have to fix something. I don't know if it injectors or computer, I don't really care. It's under warranty and they are going to honor it. Period.
  • Hey popny85,

    how did you make out? I am at a dealership in NJ getting depantsed for $89 on an oil change. I think i need to start doing this myself.
  • Hey Gianni24,

    I've been doing them myself. I read somewhere that you could still keep your warranty if you can show receipts at the right intervals. I think it's ridiculous to change every 3 months for a synthetic oil, but I'm doing it. I usually buy the oil and filter when they're on sale, usually $29.99 for 5 quarts of Mobil 1 0W20 and a Mobil 1 filter. Sure does beat $89, you should start doing it too. I was NEVER a car person, but it's so easy to do. The first time you do it, just have someone there to let you know if you're doing something wrong, but after that, takes no more than an hour to do by yourself with the minimal amount of tools. Good luck! :D
  • I purchased a 2007 Altima Hybrid as a used car in Sep 2009 and had no problems until recently when i had similar problems as other readers with vibration/shaking on startup and braking when the hybrid did not aways kick in as it usually did. I had bought the car from a non Nissan dealer and they advised to bring to a Nissan dealer to find the problem. They found the problem as carbon buildup and it could be fixed for a price of $3300.00 plus!!!
    They advised that both the cylinder head and manifold had to be replaced. They further advised that the cheaper solution will not work and that the problem was probably caused by using regular gas instead of premium that they say is required for hybrids. They are correct in that i have been using regular, because i never knew that it needed premium since it was bought as a used car and no mention was ever made that premium was required. Is this just a very expensive lesson or do i have any recource?
  • cptcmpostcptcmpost Posts: 25
    edited January 2011
    I don't have my owners manual in front of me, but I'm 95% sure it calls for regular.

    Also, why isn't it covered under the 5 year/ 60K mile power train warranty?
  • It has 64000 miles on it and interesting if the manual calls for regular gas
  • wayne8888wayne8888 Posts: 19
    edited January 2011
    For a Nissan dealer to blame the engine problems known to occur and that have been discussed in this forum and elsewhere on use of regular gas is scandalous! The manual for my 2008 Altima Hybrid (which I purchased brand new in January 2009) states in chapter nine section three (9-3) states:"Use unleaded regular gasoline with an octane rating of at least 87 AKI (Anti-Knock Index) number (Research Octane Number 91)". The research octane number is used outside of the USA and Canada but what we see on the pump is 87 (R+M/2) which is according to this link : 87 (AKI or R+M/2) = 91-92 (RON). So just like my Camry Hybrid, my Altima Hybrid (which licenses the same hybrid synergy technology) also uses 87 (AKI).
    Please scroll back to my horrendous experience where my Altima (with only 9,600 miles on it) spent 30 days in the Nissan shop with the same carbon deposits that lead to a multiple cylinder misfire. You will see that there was talk of a recall to replace either the valve springs or even reprogram the computer controlling how the valves close to shake loose the deposits.
    Here is a large snippet from page 10 of this thread:
    As far as your vehicle goes there was no "damage" to your engine or to your valves. As with any fuel injected vehicle, the engine builds up carbon deposits in the fuel system. The Altima Hybrid has had an issue with this carbon building up with very low miles though yours is only the second one that I have come accross, Nissan has started to see a problem. Unfortunately I do not have any info. as to when the recall may come out. Any info. that I have on the problem has been given to us via the "tech line" help desk. From what they say the spring for the valve is too soft which allows the carbon to build up along the valve. I just found out from my tech that what they may do is replace the valve springs so that when the valve hits it, the valve will spring back hard enough to break any debris free therefore burning off any carbon. There may also be a reprogramming for the vehicles computer to adjust the air and fuel mixture and opening and closing of the
    valves. Your vehicle has been driven 2 times and the tech will take it out once more before we release it. I am also going to have the vehicle cleaned inside and out before we call you."

    This was after my car had spent a month in the shop (Dec. 15, 2009 through January 14th 2010 ....again I only had 9,600 miles on it). Note: I only have 18,000 now (January 2011). I still get the shaking especially when braking from time to time. Even more disturbingly, the "Service Engine" light illuminates from time to time but then turns off (unlike the constant illumination that lead to the servicing in 2009). I have the 6 year 72K mile extended service warranty (which is the only reason that they gave me a loaner for the 30 days that my car was in the shop). Needless to say the recall never occurred. I see that one person mentioned that his problems were solved by replacement of the springs. "Hymanyclan", even though you are above the 60k mile power train protection, maybe you should contact your state's consumer protection as it is clear that Nissan knew there was a problem with the 2007-2009 Nissan Altima Hybrids and even considered a recall. They should repair or replace your engine for free. Lean on Nissan! This is a customer service fiasco about which they should be embarrassed enough to make your situation right!
  • I just AGAIN took my 2010 hybrid in. It STILL has a knock, won't go into EV mode, etc., etc., etc. What is it they say about the squeaky wheel and getting the grease? You HAVE to stand up for yourself, or you will get NO WHERE with these guys.

    After they had an engineer check it AGAIN, they decided that it has an issue that needs a fix they don't have yet! I have the paper work that states this. They won't admit that they adjusted something after doing a diagnostic; after warming up, is running more efficiently at this time, but knocks until warmed up.

    My advice to anyone is get a diagnostic somewhere else. Know that the dealer is NOT your friend, and they are there to make money. After you find out what is wrong somewhere else, you DO have the option of contacting the dealer again AND Nissan main office with proof, since main office doesn't want unhappy customers. However, it still comes back to the dealer, but they are more willing to listen to what you are saying and NOT charge you for BS work to get money after you contact main office. The dealers are NOT honest. Know that going into it.

    Regular gas. BTW, I have found that the techs will tell you anything to get rid of you also. It's YOUR MONEY, so beware!
  • Hymanyclan, Here is the link to the digital 2009 manual for the Nissan Altima Hybrid: brid.pdf
    It also states that 87 Octane (using the (R+M)/2 method as we see on our pumps in USA and Canada (=RON of 91-92) is fine.
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