Rough idle/stalling at low speed

XGrrl

Test Drive
Location
Northwest
First post. Hope you smart people can help.

I have a 2000 Xterra XE, 6 cylinder, 155,000 miles on it. Over a year ago, the service engine light came on (code 1320), but there were no symptoms so I let it be.

A month ago, it began idling roughly, occasionally dying at stop signs, and (once) died while driving at low speed. Two mechanics (going solely by the code) said it needed a new distributor, despite the fact that mine was relatively new. Had the distributor replaced, but it didn't solve the problem and the shop un-installed it. Their only other suggestion as replacing the computer, but they were clearly guessing and no way am I going to spend $1,100 on guesswork.

I have no idea whether the current problems relate in any way to the SES light or the code. I know it's common in older cars for the SES light to on permanently.

On Tuesday I had a different mechanic:
  • Change sparkplugs and wires
  • Replace the distributor cap and rotor
  • Replace the air filter
  • Replace the fuel filter
  • Clean the mass air-flow sensor and throttle body
  • Replace the cold-start sensor (think that's the right name for it)
  • Check for vacuum leaks
At his suggestion, I also added Heet and fuel-injector cleaner to the gas tank. I still had a couple episodes of rough idling, but no stalls. Then this morning things got really bad.

I drove about four miles and all was fine. But after parking the car for half an hour, I started up it again and the idle was rough. Not rough enough to threaten to die. Just "rumbly" with the tach lightly bouncing up and down.

I put it in drive and we got rolling. And after maybe 100 yards, I felt it losing power and the tach dropped. Several seconds later the engine died and all the dash lights came on.

As usual, it started right back up. But then ... death again. Every 100 or 200 yards. Always the drop in power followed a few seconds later by the engine quietly quitting.

After that happened eight or ten times, there was a final "episode" in which the tach dropped almost -- but not quite -- to zero. This time the engine didn't die and everything was fine (except my nerves) the rest of the way home. This is far and away the worst thing it's done to date.

The mechanic who did the work earlier this week has no idea what this could be.

We had already talked about replacing the idle air control valve. My other thought, based on looking around on the 'Net, is that something might be wrong with the crankshaft position sensor.

But if you knew how little I know about auto repair, you wouldn't take my word for anything. I'm a woman who knows nothing about cars, so please go easy on me!

And thanks for whatever help you can give.
 

XGrrl

Test Drive
Location
Northwest
It sounds like the distributor but if you have replaced that.. Hmmm

Thanks drbandkgb. Yes, I had the distributor replaced about 40,000 milies ago (and it was clearly, unmistakably bad at that time). Based on the code, two mechanics thought it would be the distributor this time ... but apparently not.
 

XGrrl

Test Drive
Location
Northwest
Do you know if that truck has had the fuel sending unit recall done? Could be something along those lines

lbishop -- thank you. I bought the Xterra when it was 10 years old so don't know what might have been done before that. But I just looked up the fuel sending unit recall and it doesn't seem to apply to 2000s, only 2005s and later. Did they do one for earlier models as well?

Or is this something I should have checked out anyhow, just in case?
 
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XGrrl

Test Drive
Location
Northwest
Have someone run a diagnostic on the cam position sensor, it can give the described results.

Granitex -- Good one. I ran into references to that in my googling but even more articles said to check out the crankshaft position sensor, so I put that higher on the list. I'll now add cam position sensor to the possibles, thank you.
 

granitex

Skid Plates
Founding Member
Location
Columbus OH
There was a recall for the first gen also, any dealership can run the vin to see if it was done, or look at it to see if it is needed, There was also one for the steering shaft, have them look at it while you are at it.
 

XGrrl

Test Drive
Location
Northwest
Will do, granitex. Will also hope that if somebody is nowhere near a dealer, they'll contract with a local shop to do the recall work!
 

XGrrl

Test Drive
Location
Northwest
I have a DVD copy of the shop manual for this vehicle. I admit I don't understand it well, so again please bear with me. But if I'm properly interpreting the diagrams and instructions I'm seeing, both the camshaft position sensor and the ignition coil (two likely causes of this problem) are inside the distributor and the only way they can be replaced is by replacing the entire distributor, which has already been tried.

Is this correct? Are they inside the distributor? If so, it opens the possibility that the distributor really is the problem and perhaps the one that the shop installed (then uninstalled) was faulty.

It appears that the crankshaft position sensor, another likely culprit, is a separate item and can be replaced individually. Is this correct?
 

XGrrl

Test Drive
Location
Northwest
Looks like everybody has said all they're going to say. Here's what I'm going to do: check all wiring for possible cracks, corrosion, bad connections; replace crankshaft position sensor; replace distributor.

Yes, a shop already replaced the distributor, concluded it wasn't the problem, and put the old one back in. But when I talked at greater length with the mechanic who did that, he said the ONLY reason he decided it wasn't the distributor was that the SES light stayed on after the replacement. That seems short-sighted to me. The symptoms continue to point to distributor-related issues or electrical problems.

If the things I try don't fix the problem, I'll explore fuel-system problems next. Thanks for your help.
 

granitex

Skid Plates
Founding Member
Location
Columbus OH
was the replacement distro a nissan oem part or was it from the parts store? the reman ones have prooven to be spotty from the quality perspective.
 

BobbyJ

Test Drive
XGrrl,
Had similar problems with a Jeep i had before i got my X. I went through the same steps and it turned out to be the throttle position sensor. I actually got one from a junk yard and had no problems after that.
Even new it's cheaper than some other fixs and only one mechanic out of the 6 or 8 i consulted came up with that solution.
 

XGrrl

Test Drive
Location
Northwest
was the replacement distro a nissan oem part or was it from the parts store? the reman ones have prooven to be spotty from the quality perspective.

Sorry, I thought everybody was done with this topic. I didn't realize there were replies.

UPDATE: After a couple more failed attempts (including installing yet another distributor), a mechanic prevailed upon me to put the Xterra on a computer diagnostic machine yet again (this is three times now). Once again, the only code it threw was P1320. And granitex, this time the people who did the testing said what you seem to be saying -- that some vehicles require OEM distributors and nothing else will do.

Neither of the distributors I recently tried were OEM.

(Side note: I'm really, really shocked that reputable dealers would sell -- and charge hundreds of dollars for -- parts that won't work in the vehicles they're advertised to work for. And then they won't even accept returns. What a racket!)

Anyhow, so now I'm looking at either a $200 junkyard distributor or a nearly $400 new (or might be factory reman, but still warranteed.) Nissan OEM part. But if I go for the $200 junkyard part, how can I be sure it's really an OEM part? And how can I be sure it works? It seems safer to go with the "new" part, but I don't have a non-refundable $400 just to throw at an experiment or a wild guess. Also, I don't understand how a part can be both factory guaranteed but at the same time non-returnable.

I've already spent $650 and have nothing to show for it but headaches. I don't know what to do.

Is it actually possible that the problem really is the distributor, but that both distributors I've tried were just defective?
 

drbandkgb

Titan Swapped / SAS'd
Founding Member
I bought one from eBay a few years back with zero issues but I'm sure it was luck.. Everything I hear it sure sounds like the dizzy
 

XGrrl

Test Drive
Location
Northwest
I bought one from eBay a few years back with zero issues but I'm sure it was luck.. Everything I hear it sure sounds like the dizzy

Thanks drbandkgb and FauxFox. I'm glad at least to get confirmation that a (third!!!) distributor may indeed solve the problem.

The first one I got came from a reputable local auto parts shop, the second was a cheap Amazon job. Now I've ordered a new, factory warranteed Nissan part and crossed my fingers that third time will be the charm.

I did look for used parts, but the nearest pick-n-pull is 70 miles from here and the prices for online junkyard parts were high enough that (given the unknown quality and lack of returnability) it just made more sense to bite the bullet and buy new. Now I just keep those fingers crossed and hope to come back to update this thread with good news next week. Hope hope hope, because I don't know what I'll do if this doesn't work.
 

XGrrl

Test Drive
Location
Northwest
Well, the new Nissan factory distributor didn't solve the problem. So it's back to square one ($700 poorer from all the attempted fixes). Another question: Early on, one of the shops that failed to repair the car suggested that maybe it needed a new ECM/ECU & told me that the part was $800-something, then they'd have to re-program it, which would be another $300 or so. Since they were clearly just guessing, I didn't bite.

But now I'm desperate. Not desperate enough to spent another $1,100 on guesswork, but what about these repair & return operations?

http://www.siaelec.com/NissanXterraECU.aspx

Might that be worth a try? And is it really, truly plug & play upon return? No need to re-program or do other things that are either expensive or beyond my girly capabilities?
 

Thanks48

Bought an X
Location
Chattanooga , TN
thats exactly what mine did

[h=3] RECALL Subject : NISSAN/FUEL SENDING UNIT[/h]Report Receipt Date: MAY 24, 2004
NHTSA Campaign Number: 04V230000
Component(s): FUEL SYSTEM, GASOLINE

[h=4]All Products Associated with this Recall [/h]
[h=4]Details [/h][h=4]19 Associated Documents [/h]
Manufacturer: NISSAN NORTH AMERICA, INC.

[h=5]SUMMARY:[/h]ON CERTAIN PICKUP TRUCKS EQUIPPED WITH SIX CYLINDER ENGINES AND SPORT UTILITY VEHICLES EQUIPPED WITH FOUR OR SIX CYLINDER ENGINES, THE FUEL PUMP TERMINAL ON THE FUEL-SENDING UNIT CAN DEVELOP A CRACK IN THE PLASTIC MOLDING. THIS CAN CAUSE THE TERMINAL STRIP TO CORRODE UNDER SOME ENVIRONMENTAL CONDITIONS.[h=5]CONSEQUENCE:[/h]IF CORROSION OCCURS, THE TERMINAL STRIP COULD EVENTUALLY BREAK CAUSING THE FUEL PUMP TO STOP OPERATION. THIS WILL RESULT IN NOT BEING ABLE TO START THE ENGINE OR CAUSE THE ENGINE TO STOP RUNNING WITHOUT WARNING, WHICH CAN RESULT IN A CRASH.[h=5]REMEDY:[/h]IN THE FOLLOWING STATES, DEALERS WILL REPLACE THE FUEL-SENDING UNIT. THESE STATES ARE CONNECTICUT, DELAWARE, ILLINOIS, INDIANA, IOWA, KENTUCKY, MAINE, MARYLAND, MASSACHUSETTS, MICHIGAN, MINNESOTA, NEW HAMPSHIRE, NEW JERSEY, NEW YORK, OHIO, PENNSYLVANIA, RHODE ISLAND, TENNESSEE, VERMONT, VIRGINIA, WEST VIRGINIA, WISCONSIN, AND THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA. IN THE OTHER STATES, THE DEALER WILL INSPECT THE FUEL PUMP TERMINAL ON THE SENDING UNIT FOR CORROSION. IF CORROSION IS PRESENT, THE DEALER WILL REPLACE THE UNIT. IF THERE IS NOT CORROSION, THE DEALER WILL APPLY SEALANT TO THE TERMINAL HOUSING TO HELP PREVENT CORROSION IN THE FUTURE. OWNER NOTIFICATION BEGAN ON JUNE 28, 2004. OWNERS SHOULD CONTACT NISSAN AT 1-800-647-7261.[h=5]NOTES:[/h]CUSTOMERS CAN ALSO CONTACT THE NATIONAL HIGHWAY TRAFFIC SAFETY ADMINISTRATION'S AUTO SAFETY HOTLINE AT 1-888-DASH-2-DOT (1-888-327-4236).


 

Thanks48

Bought an X
Location
Chattanooga , TN
Also be aware that Nissan will lie so they dont have to fix recall so type in google look up recalls by VIN and look for the government website. Type in your VIN it will tell you all recalls on your vehicle and tell you if they have been fixed or not and then print it out and take it to nissan and tell them you want all of them fixed that way they can not reject you and lie. By law they have to report the VIN and Recall completed to the government. (So make sure you get all recalls fixed the first time cause Ive seen them rip people off by reporting all jobs completed) Hope that helps
 

XGrrl

Test Drive
Location
Northwest
Thank you, Thanks48. I looked up the fuel-sending unit recall when someone mentioned it earlier. I was hopeful at first that it might be the problem (and the solution!). But the symptoms don't seem to match what I'm experiencing. Am I understanding this correctly? When this problem occurs, the fuel pump simply quits working. You can't start the car again.

My car starts back up with no problem whatsoever -- on the first crank. Is it even possible that this fuel-sending problem could cause just momentary stalls like I'm getting?

Although I'd be very glad to learn that my problem is caused by a recall issue, getting to a Nissan dealer (75 miles from where I live) with a non-drivable vehicle is a major logistical problem. I'd find a way to do it, but only if I'm sure a recall issue is at fault.
 

Thanks48

Bought an X
Location
Chattanooga , TN
That's what mine started doing and it would crank right back up but then one day boom didn't crank or nothing so it's worth the drive to get it replaced either way


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 

XGrrl

Test Drive
Location
Northwest
Oh. I guess the plot thickens, then. I hadn't seriously considered a fuel-sending unit problem because I didn't think the symptoms matched.

After your last message, Thanks48, I went to the government's safercars.gov org to see whether there were any open recalls on this vehicle. I input the VIN and it came back saying there are ZERO open recalls.

I have to do more research on what that means. I've never dealt with a recall before and I don't know whether zero open recalls means there have been no recalls on this vehicle ever, or if it just means that the recall-related problem could still be there but the time to get it fixed for free by a dealer is over.

Again, thanks very much for your help.
 

XGrrl

Test Drive
Location
Northwest
Okay, I see that the zero recall message means: "Number of Open Recalls: 0 – This means that either you have no recalls associated
with your car or your car has already been fixed."

I don't know which since I didn't own the car in its first 10 years. But it seems to imply that the fuel-sending unit isn't the problem -- or if it is the problem, it's not because of the recall issue and it won't be fixed for free.
 

TheFauxFox

Titan Swapped / SAS'd
Founding Member
Location
Huntsville, AL
This may have come up already, but what is the engine timing at? I'm not trying to doubt your local shop, but has the timing been checked?
 

ddddddd

Bought an X
Location
los angeles
I had issues with my car starting really rough, then it would get better after about 30 seconds. Then it started to run rough randomly, and only for short periods of time. Then it started running VERY rough more frequently and for longer durations. Then finally it started rough and kept running rough, so that it was very difficult to drive. At this point i stopped driving it and did all the stuff you did. New distributor, new plugs, new wires, etc. Still didn't help. Then I finally gave up and brought it into a mechanic. They tore it apart and found a clogged fuel injector to be the culprit. Put a new one it and it started perfectly and I haven't had a problem since. Just my experience YMMV.
 

XGrrl

Test Drive
Location
Northwest
This may have come up already, but what is the engine timing at? I'm not trying to doubt your local shop, but has the timing been checked?


FauxFox, I apologize, but this is a place where my girliness trips me up. I know what tiiming is, but I don't understand the question "what is the engine timing at"? I can tell you that it's idling around 1300 RPM and that one of the three mechanics who worked on it did adjust the timing. Otherwise I'm too ignorant to answer your question. Off to google, I guess.

Just looked up a little information. Seems I need tools that I don't have + a helper to answer this question. I can tell you that what's going on with my car does not match what I've found as symptoms of bad timing: "Symptoms of incorrect ignition timing are poor fuel economy, sluggish acceleration, hard starting, backfiring, or "pinging" or "spark knock". Too little spark advance will cause low power, bad gas mileage, backfiring, and poor performance. Too much advance will cause hard starting and pre-ignition."

The poor fuel economy matches, but nothing else.
 
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XGrrl

Test Drive
Location
Northwest
I had issues with my car starting really rough, then it would get better after about 30 seconds. Then it started to run rough randomly, and only for short periods of time. Then it started running VERY rough more frequently and for longer durations. Then finally it started rough and kept running rough, so that it was very difficult to drive. At this point i stopped driving it and did all the stuff you did. New distributor, new plugs, new wires, etc. Still didn't help. Then I finally gave up and brought it into a mechanic. They tore it apart and found a clogged fuel injector to be the culprit. Put a new one it and it started perfectly and I haven't had a problem since. Just my experience YMMV.

Shumanchu -- Clogged fuel injector! That's something that nobody has suggested. Given that the car usually runs very smoothly and evenly -- right up to the moment where it suddenly gasps and dies -- I'm not sure about this. But it sounds like a relatively easy thing to check out. I did have the fuel injection system flushed not long ago and more recently put some SeaFoam (?) into the gas tank.
 

XGrrl

Test Drive
Location
Northwest
I'm thinking one thing I might try is to siphon the remaining fuel out of the gas tank and replace it with non-ethanol gas. This may be a long shot, but I've heard a couple of people say it solved similar problems.

The reasoning for this would be that ethanol gas tends to soak up water and the climate I live in is wet and humid. So between condensation and the properties of ethanol gas, maybe there's just too much water in the tank. (I did try putting in some Heet, which didn't help.)

OTOH, from what I've read, my Xterra's symptoms don't precisely match the typical symptoms caused to bad gas or too much water in the fuel. But this would be something cheap and easy to try.
 

Xtre

Test Drive
Location
Bend
Have someone run a diagnostic on the cam position sensor, it can give the described results.
I bought truck and found this forum LOL..Exact story and receipt s in hand as xgrrl describes!! I made it about a mile down the road after buying it yesterday. One issue was a dead battery probably had been dying for a while, so could also have a distributor going out. Found this out when I turned on the headlights and 5 blocks later she died. It revs fine in park but in drive it acts like it has a plugged cat in drive. Also it has slight oil drops from rear of driver's side valve cover and the plugged Miss hiss sound. If I take out the O2 sensor to free up back pressure to make it 2 hours home should I take out both sides?
 

Xtre

Test Drive
Location
Bend
I bought truck and found this forum LOL..Exact story and receipt s in hand as xgrrl describes!! I made it about a mile down the road after buying it yesterday. One issue was a dead battery probably had been dying for a while, so could also have a distributor going out. Found this out when I turned on the headlights and 5 blocks later she died. It revs fine in park but in drive it acts like it has a plugged cat in drive. Also it has slight oil drops from rear of driver's side valve cover and the plugged Miss hiss sound. If I take out the O2 sensor to free up back pressure to make it 2 hours home should I take out both sides?
Update well today I started her for the first time when I went to buy it it was already running I don't usually like to buy cars that the seller already has running when I get there but it seemed to rev really good and park and sound good so since it sounded like a plugged catalytic converter I chose to take her on. So she started right up there was a teeny bit of black whisp and it smelled quite fuelly so I've read some forums where the driver side Bank runs rich and still think it could be a clogged cat but also I'm going to clean the fuel injectors really good and activate the solenoids with maybe some brake cleaner or diesel. I gave up on the idea of trying to drive it home it's a long way and I was advised against it.
 

Xtre

Test Drive
Location
Bend
Could also be a bad MAF, unplug it and see if it runs any different
I did try unplugging the maf no real difference but I certainly will clean it good with maf cleaner as part of this fix. I have found that the main battery ground is corroded at the battery and has about 4 or 5 different kinds of tape on it on it's way to the Passenger side head, so I will fix this first(she still sits a couple hours away snow separating us at the moment.) I have ruled out a clogged/plugged cat because she revs so good in park. Since I smell fuel out the exhaust she is running rich and it sounds like bank 2 drivers side where I originally suspected the clogged cat, I now suspect that bank #2 O2 sensor. She is officially a 11/99 truck so she has only 2 Cats and since the O2 sensors have a big role in determining the air to fuel ratio(as well as the Maf, CPS, Map) I traced the O2 wires to the passengers side just on top of but below the large hump of the intake. (is negative white or blue?) I could ground both those there to the engine or I could make sure she still has her exhaust braided grounding straps and ground them closer to the O2 sensor, at this point I'm thinking this could come down to a sketchy ground cable and a bad battery(fingers crossed) after years of running rich the bank 2 injectors will likely need some brake cleaner and solenoid activation's.
Check your grounds first especially with strange electrical problems, cannot underestimate the importance of clean, sound electrical connections! You will notice in the video below the tech grounds the O2 sensors on the Xterra to the negative terminal but could have done better wire brushing the rusty nut and stud..IMO I also found that ground strap in the video too small for my tastes I'd probably run 2 of them.
View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yaRHqGK8nVY
 

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Xtre

Test Drive
Location
Bend
Figured out why it was running rough while testing tbank 1 injectors with a multimeter on automatic OHM. All read 11.4 11.4 11.5. Getting #1 injector connector off was a bitch took about 20 min of careful wiggling and spraying, required spraying wd40 4 times in the clasp mechanism carfully using screwdrivers and a 27" prybar(very carfully), that was a blessing because # 3 came off so easy and that made me focus on how the clasps move in and down and when they are secure they move back up and make a loud CLICK. So #3(middle on the Passenger side) was not doing that so I cleaned it with wd40 cleaned the dusty grit on the injector plastic and CLICK back to running SMOOTH!!

So smooth I decided to go for a drive(completely forgetting about the phantom stalling issue) and she stalled 4 times strangely only with the headlights on(could be a coincidence, would also only restart with the headlights off), with my scanner on live data idling when I got home I saw
FUELSYS1 CL
FUELSYS2 CL
every onece in a while I noticed CL would change to OL-FAULT but not a the same time on FUELSYS1 or 2, maybe when she stalls both go to OL-FAULT?
FUELSYS1 OL-FAULT
FUELSYS2 OL-FAULT
Also got codes
P0134
O2 sensor Circuit no activity
Detected bank 1 Sensor 1
P0154
O2 sensor Circuit no activity
Detected bank 2 Sensor 1
P0155
O2 sensor heater Circuit
Bank 2 Sensor 1
Going to order some O2 sensors any recommendations?
 
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Xtre

Test Drive
Location
Bend
Got smart today and disconnected the 4 O2 sensors so I would go full open loop(and i thought stall proof). About 4 miles from home she stalled just as I was relishing in how smart I was. I did get a new code though which points (no pun) to the distributor that was code p1320 ignition signal primary. Oxygen sensors throwing codes upon stall death were most likely masking that P1320 code coming thru on stall, glad I kept experimenting and disconnected them.


Now thinking it's the coil or the wire to the coil. Open or shorted Ignition primary circuit anyone know which color wire that is?
Also could be Condenser or a fault in the famous CPS. Going to test everything as stated in the link.
 
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