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Old 08-07-2007, 03:30 AM   #1
wildestkabs
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1995 Nissan Altima Stalls - Tacho needle abruptly drops to zero

Hello everyone,

Greetings to you all!. I am new to this forum which comes across as a great resource, so I thought I'd post my problem here.

I have a 1995 Nissan Altima, which has had its check engine light on for a while now. A few days back, the engine started to stall on the freeway. The vehicle was driving just fine, when the RPM needle just dropped to zero abruptly (so it was not slow or gradual), and then I was not able to start the vehicle again. It happens almost daily, but what I have noticed is that it happens generally when I drive the vehicle for longer distances. It does happen when I drive it for shorter distances, but I am generally able to start the vehicle back on. On longer distances, if it shuts off, then it wont start again, till it has been a few hours. So obviously, I face no issues starting this thing in the morning, since it has been many hours, since it was last running.

In any event, once it stops, if I am lucky, I can crank it back relatively quickly, otherwise it will not crank for a long time.

So I am thinking that the vehicle really heats up when driving for more than 20 minutes causing it to stall, which might not be the case if I am driving it for a shorter period of time.

Also, the issue happens a little less when I am driving between 45 - 50 mph, vs when I am driving, lets say 60 - 65 mph.

One last thing - when I get home from work after having driven the vehicle for 15 miles, I turn it off and turn it back on immediately and it starts just fine. However, if I wait for 15 minutes or so and then try to turn it back on, it will turn over, but not start. But then in the morning, it will start just fine.

Anybody has any idea what this might be?

PS - By the way, when the engine stalls, the horn, lights, ac etc, work just fine.
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Old 08-07-2007, 07:48 PM   #2
ateymura
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this really sounds like an electrical problem. I would first check.

1. alternator belt, wear and tension
2. battery
3. alternator itself
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Old 08-07-2007, 10:15 PM   #3
wildestkabs
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ateymura
this really sounds like an electrical problem. I would first check.

1. alternator belt, wear and tension
2. battery
3. alternator itself

I was thinking about the alternator, but then the electricals seem to work fine. However, I have to admit that I am a little uncomfortable with driving this vehicle with the lights on. But barring just once, when the lights started to dim and the vehicle turned off, I haven't had that scenario (lights dimming before vehicle turns off again). Isn't that what typically happens when it is an alternator issue?

I did some search on this forum. The one thing which came quite close was a defective crankshaft position sensor. Could this be the issue?
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Old 08-08-2007, 09:05 PM   #4
ateymura
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wildestkabs
I was thinking about the alternator, but then the electricals seem to work fine. However, I have to admit that I am a little uncomfortable with driving this vehicle with the lights on. But barring just once, when the lights started to dim and the vehicle turned off, I haven't had that scenario (lights dimming before vehicle turns off again). Isn't that what typically happens when it is an alternator issue?

I did some search on this forum. The one thing which came quite close was a defective crankshaft position sensor. Could this be the issue?

from what you are telling... to me it sounds like your battery doesn't get charged enough because your alternator belt seems to be slipping on high speeds. I doubt it has anything to do with crank shaft position sensor... I always tend to go with simpler explanation.. but that's just me... I again would suggest you check your battery, alternator, alternator belt tension/wear. it should cost you nothing to do all that at auto-zone or advanced autoparts
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Old 08-09-2007, 02:01 AM   #5
wildestkabs
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ateymura
from what you are telling... to me it sounds like your battery doesn't get charged enough because your alternator belt seems to be slipping on high speeds. I doubt it has anything to do with crank shaft position sensor... I always tend to go with simpler explanation.. but that's just me... I again would suggest you check your battery, alternator, alternator belt tension/wear. it should cost you nothing to do all that at auto-zone or advanced autoparts

Thanks ateymura. I do have a question for you, though. Is there a connection between the alternator and the check engine light?

Last edited by wildestkabs : 08-09-2007 at 02:17 AM.
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Old 08-09-2007, 03:12 PM   #6
ateymura
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if you have your check engine light on you definitely need to get your car to autozone and have them read the error codes. my guess it will come back as some malfunction with injectors.. but thats just a pure guess
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Old 08-09-2007, 07:13 PM   #7
wildestkabs
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ateymura
if you have your check engine light on you definitely need to get your car to autozone and have them read the error codes. my guess it will come back as some malfunction with injectors.. but thats just a pure guess

Checked. Pulled 2 codes, one for the knock sensor and the second for the camshaft position sensor. I still got the crankshaft position sensor but the mechanic said it will not be a good idea to replace just that as it might not solve the issue, especially if it is one of the 2 codes that is the main culprit.

Could a defective knock sensor and camshaft position sensor cause stalling issues like this (where the RPM needle drops to zero abruptly)?
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Old 08-09-2007, 09:46 PM   #8
wildestkabs
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tbaxleyjr
unfortunately, the cam shaft sensor and distributor are an integral unit

Thank you for the response.

Does this mean that if the cam shaft sensor needs to be replaced, then the distributor needs to be replaced?

Quote:
Originally Posted by tbaxleyjr
Suggest following the ignition system trouble shooting sequence before spending $300 - $400 for a distributor

Thank you. How would I do this? I did order Haynes manual. Will that help?
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Old 08-13-2007, 01:29 AM   #9
wildestkabs
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Update

When I had bought this Altima around 6 months back, it was in real bad shape, thanks to the previous owner. Anyway here is an update.

I bought a crankshaft position sensor and took it to this mechanic who said that it would not be a good idea to just throw parts at it and that they should run a diagnostic, which we did. Anyway, long story short, they changed the distributor and they cleaned and flushed the entire fuel system, changed spark plugs, fuel filter etc, did a lot of work. I got the vehicle, drove it for 2 days, it drove fine, the check engine light was gone, there was more power etc, till today...........it stalled again!! for 5 minutes before I was finally able to turn it back on and then I was able to drive it home without any problems.

The check engine light is back on again but the vehicle still drives much better than it did before. However, since I got the vehicle "repaired", I am facing some issues with the a/c, as it does not seem to be cooling as well as it used to before I took it to the mechanic. Anybody has any ideas? I am a little wary now, since I spent more than $1000, fixing the vehicle, and even though I would not call that money spent a total waste, since the vehicle did need an overhaul, fact of the matter is that the core issue is still there.

What could it be?
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Old 08-13-2007, 08:18 PM   #10
wildestkabs
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Update - So I drove my altima to the mechanic and it stalled three times. Anyway, he ran the scanner again and after some effort, it pulled up a code for the MAF sensor. He opened up the hood, shook it for a while, and boom - the check engine light disappeared. He asked me get the vehicle over when I am done for the day and he will clean it for me - apparently for free.

While I am thankful for this service, I am a little curious as well. They worked on the entire fuel system yesterday. Would the MAF sensor not have been cleaned as part of the process?
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Old 08-15-2007, 12:58 AM   #11
wildestkabs
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Before providing the latest update, I would like to answer ateymura's question. I did get the battery and the alternator checked and they were both fine.

Now, yesterday after my mechanic worked on the MAF sensor, it drove like a blast for around 50 miles or so, but then it stalled around 4 times on my way back home, with the check engine light back on. However, this time the check engine light came on before the first time it stalled.

Anyway, today I took it to the mechanic who was not able to figure out what the issue was but he still kept working on the issue and in the end told me that he needed more time with the vehicle. So I told him that he could have it for 3 days next week, since I just got a new job and won't be starting till next Thursday. Now I had bought a new crankshaft position sensor from Autozone the day I had the codes read. Anyway, I asked him to install that as well. I then started my drive back home and just a mile or so from my house, it stalled again. I was able to start it back up in less than 5 minutes.

However, the most interesting part was that this time, after I started the vehicle back up, the check engine light did NOT come on!

Could this be an ignition coil issue?

Last edited by wildestkabs : 08-15-2007 at 01:12 AM.
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Old 08-15-2007, 01:11 AM   #12
ateymura
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did you get the codes read again?
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Old 08-15-2007, 01:20 AM   #13
wildestkabs
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ateymura
did you get the codes read again?

There is no check engine light now. The earlier codes were for cam sensor and the knock sensor. I got the distributor replaced. It then pulled up a code for the MAF sensor but that was worked on as well. When the vehicle stalled today, it did not start the check engine light. So I don't know whether there are any more codes to be read or not. Man, this is so frustrating.
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Old 08-15-2007, 01:36 AM   #14
ateymura
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wildestkabs
There is no check engine light now. The earlier codes were for cam sensor and the knock sensor. I got the distributor replaced. It then pulled up a code for the MAF sensor but that was worked on as well. When the vehicle stalled today, it did not start the check engine light. So I don't know whether there are any more codes to be read or not. Man, this is so frustrating.

when you say you replaced the distributor.. did you replace everything (housing with the guts, cap and rotor) or just the housing?

Last edited by ateymura : 08-15-2007 at 01:39 AM.
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Old 08-15-2007, 01:42 AM   #15
wildestkabs
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ateymura
when you say you replaced the distributor.. did you replace everything (housing with the guts, cap and rotor) or just the housing?

I don't know what guts are. However, the distributor was a rebuilt one and I don't think the cap and the rotor were replaced. It was just the distributor.
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