, Salem, MA

July 6, 2013

Auto Scanner: 2000 Nissan Frontier misfires randomly

Auto Scanner
Larry Rubenstein

---- — Q: I have a 2000 Nissan Frontier truck. It has 40,000 miles, and I have been the only owner. It misfires randomly. It has stalled once at a stop sign. There are no check engine lights on.

I took it to my local mechanic to get it repaired. They told me that there are no computer codes or other indications shown. They checked the vacuum, fuel injectors and did a complete tune up. They checked and cleaned the injectors and replaced the upper seals that were showing signs of deterioration. The mass air flow sensor was checked. (The unit was replaced, and when no improvement was noted, the original unit was put back in.) They called and consulted with other mechanics, to no avail. They gave up and suggested I take it to a Nissan dealer. I did. Nissan had it for three days. They consulted with Nissan national service. They also gave up.

The service manager said that in his entire career, this was only the third car they could not diagnose and fix. They suggested I drive it until whatever is wrong completely fails and they get a solid computer code. I am not comfortable with this.

All who have looked at this truck verify that it misfires (5 seconds). They cannot find out why. They all seem lost because the computer is not telling them anything. I did get a check engine light once, but that only indicated that the engine was misfiring. No solid code to indicate why. Do you have any suggestions?

A: The issue here is that the problem is not consistent. I am happy to see people are not throwing parts at the truck until they happen upon the right part. A few ways to isolate the problem would be to drive the truck with a flight recorder attached. When the misfire occurs, you would press the record button.

The flight recorder, which most of your better shops have, is always monitoring your engine system and keeping around 20 seconds or more, prior to the button being pressed in memory. Once the diagnostician gets his or her flight recorder back, they will be able to download and isolate the misfiring cylinder.

Now the fun begins. Sources of misfire can be fuel, spark, compression or timing. It is going to be a very interesting problem, but a very expensive problem to diagnose.

Q: I hope you can help me. On two different occasions, a couple of months apart, I tried to start my ’98 Camry, and nothing happened. It acted like my battery was dead, but I had the different lights on the bottom of the dash, plus my electric windows worked and the horn worked. Still, when I tried to start the car with the key, nothing happened. I called AAA and waited almost an hour still trying the key start, and it finally started on its own. The second time this happened, it was the same thing. Nothing happened when I turned the key. I called AAA again and after trying to start the car for about 20 minutes, road service came and I told him the problem, then I turned the key and it started right up. Nobody can seem to identify this problem, and I’m open for suggestions as to what I can do to start the car myself instead of just waiting.

Thanks for anything you can say to help me out.

A: I took a look through the ALLDATA database. There is no one particular common problem to this car for a no-start condition. However, it has been my experience that the ’98 Camrys exhibiting this kind of problem are suspect for a starter replacement. An hour or so of testing should reveal the actual problem. Hopefully, the car has clean battery cables.

Car Care Tip: An overheating engine needs immediate attention. Once that needle goes past three-fourths, it’s time to shut it down. You can try turning on your heater to full heat and full fan as an emergency measure to bring the engine temperature down.


Larry Rubenstein is a master technician who owns a North Shore service station. His column appears every Saturday. Write to Larry at The Salem News, c/o Auto Scanner, 32 Dunham Road, Beverly, MA 01915, or send an email to