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Old 04-11-2011, 03:49 PM
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Default Coolant Problems? Head Gasket?

Ok everyone, having some problems with the car and i think they are all related. Might as well post it here and get a database going.

2003, 2.5L, 131K miles. Original owner.

Here are the problems that are happening:

1. 'Gurglin' or 'Swoosh' noise is coming from the glove box area. It seems I have air in my coolant system that won't come out. I've had the car flushed twice within the past 6 months and still have the noise. Changed the radiator cap the during the 1st flush in november. Car does not produce heat at idle, only when you accelerate.

2. Car has VERY rough starts hot or cold. It feels as if the car will turn off and the engine fluctuates between 300-1200 rpms during this rough start. After about 10-30 seconds, the car stabilizes and idle is normal. While driving, I experience no problems. When stopped at a light, I experience no problems.

3. I've noticed that when the car has rough starts, white smoke comes out of the exhaust. If I give the car gas, there is more smoke and the gurgling noise is most prevalent. I want to say the smoke smells like antifreeze. Coolant levels look to be normal.

4. A few times on really rough starts, the SES light will come on. Ran the codes several times and got P0303 most of it, which is cylinder 3 misfire. I clear the codes swapped the coils and still the same thing. Other codes that have appeared have been P0300 and P0302.

5. I've noticed that the spark plugs on cylinders 1 and 2 and their chambers have have oil on them.

6. I burn about 2 quarts of oil every oil change, which I change every 5k (I use mobil 1). Maybe head gasket or valve cover gasket?

7. No noticeable loss of power while driving. Car responds and accelerates as normal.

8. Replaced coil and spark plugs around 100K

I'm thinking this, one of my engine gaskets is ruined which is allowing air to enter my coolant system as well as allowing oil to leaking into spark plug chambers which is causing all thee above.

Thoughts/opinions?

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Old 04-11-2011, 03:53 PM
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no heat at idle is usually bad water pump or blocked radiator. sometimes its even the thermostat, but usually a water pump that the impeller is worn out and cant produce enough flow at idle to create heat or cool the engine.
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Old 04-11-2011, 06:01 PM
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Are you losing coolant?
Does the oil look contaminated?
What does plug #3 look like.

Also, engine coolant pressures are highest right after you shut down the engine when it is hot.
This could be forcing coolant into #3 cylinder.
Drive the car to get it hot and shut it off. Let it sit for about 20 minutes and then start it again.
If it is running rough shut it down immediately and pull the plugs.
Look for evidence of moisture on the plugs.
One way to know for sure is to do a compression test and a leak down test. Those will tell you for sure if there is a head gasket issue.

Having the coolant flushed is not always a sure cure for getting air out of the lines in the 3rd gen.
Try doing the radiator burp procedure in your driveway and see if you can eliminate some of the air.

If you don't have any overheating issues at all I wouldn't think that the water pump is bad mainly because the 3rd gen is notorious for getting air in the cooling system that is hard to get out.
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Old 04-18-2011, 12:32 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by carfreak67 View Post
Are you losing coolant?
I checked again over the weekend and levels look normal. It's right below the max fill line, which is was when I got it flushed about a month ago.

Quote:
Does the oil look contaminated?
How can it tell if it's contaminated? The oil looks the same. When I do the oil change, the oil is much blacker but nothing out the ordinary.

Quote:
What does plug #3 look like.

Also, engine coolant pressures are highest right after you shut down the engine when it is hot.
This could be forcing coolant into #3 cylinder.
Drive the car to get it hot and shut it off. Let it sit for about 20 minutes and then start it again.
If it is running rough shut it down immediately and pull the plugs.
Look for evidence of moisture on the plugs.
One way to know for sure is to do a compression test and a leak down test. Those will tell you for sure if there is a head gasket issue.
I haven't pulled the plugs since last fall and will try that this weekend. I might just get a compression test done anyway.

Quote:
Having the coolant flushed is not always a sure cure for getting air out of the lines in the 3rd gen.
Try doing the radiator burp procedure in your driveway and see if you can eliminate some of the air.
I have a that Lidle yellow funnel for coolant. Do I just place it on the radiator cap and let the car run, occassionally giving it gas?

Quote:
If you don't have any overheating issues at all I wouldn't think that the water pump is bad mainly because the 3rd gen is notorious for getting air in the cooling system that is hard to get out.
No overheating issues whatsoever.

Thanks for the responses
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Old 04-18-2011, 01:38 PM
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Elevate the front of the car with the radiator cap removed and run the engine until it is warm, giving it gas here and there to help drive the air out of the lines.

Better yet would be to use an old radiator cap and rig up the IV bottle setup to make sure air cannot be sucked back into the radiator.
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Old 04-18-2011, 02:28 PM
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Definitely not a head gasket.


When you have a blown head gasket, coolant and oil mix, so when you check or change your oil level, you either can see the green or yellow/orange coolant in the oil OR the oil itself has a very watery look to it, bubbly and drippy instead of the usual stickiness of oil.



Could be a thermostat, but does it happen intermittently or regularly?
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Old 04-18-2011, 04:02 PM
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^There seems to be no set pattern. The past few starts, the car started up without any hesitations or rough starts. Late last week, the car had a rough start which turned the SES light on. Over the weekend, the light turned off on its own.
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Old 04-18-2011, 04:05 PM
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Head gasket failures do not always result in oil contamination.
I've seen quite a few instances where a head gasket failed and all it did was allow fluid from a coolant passage to enter the combustion chamber.
This is why a coolant pressure test or a leak down test would answer the head gasket question for sure.
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Old 04-22-2011, 10:27 AM
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Bump for updates.
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Old 05-02-2011, 08:42 AM
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Ok fellas, had some time over the weekend to trouble shoot and try a few things.

1st thing I noticed is that I'm most definitely losing coolant. The level is well below the min fill line. I need to buy coolant this week and fill it. Do I add it directly to the radiator or to the plastic reservoir?

I also replaced coil #3 and that seemed to improve the startup. The first few starts were still rough but the yesterday's start and the one this morning started good. I'm going to clear the SES code and see what happens throughout the week.
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Old 05-02-2011, 10:30 AM
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You normally add coolant to the overflow bottle not the radiator itself but since you've been losing coolant I'd open up the radiator and make sure it is topped off as well.

Losing coolant and blowing white smoke on start up are not good signs.
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Old 05-02-2011, 11:26 AM
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My buddy works at volvo and he said they do a pressure test on my radiator to see if there is a leak somewhere. Will probably go sometime this week to do that. I'll keep you posted.
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Old 05-02-2011, 04:11 PM
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you can try this to see if youre burning coolant - pull the plugs. the one thats ashy and caked is the one burning the coolant...
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Old 05-06-2011, 08:56 AM
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Ok fellas, here's an update.

Went to my buddy's shop yesterday and they did a pressure test. Everything is fine. No leaks were found. He said he started playing around with some of the coolant lines, squeezing lines at various spots and he squeezed one line that he found soft. Once he did that, the car let out a big burp and that line hardened (pressurized). Since he's pretty much experienced with Volvos, he wasn't aware that the altimas needed that much time and care to burp. He topped off the coolant and the gurgling is now gone.

He did say that the valve cover gasket is shot (he pointed out various spots that had oil stains) and that because I have 133k, it would be a good idea to replace it. In his opinion, he thinks that the valve cover gasket is allowing a small amount of air into the system and and it could be affecting the A/F ratio and throwing off the sensors on startup. Again, he wanted to disclaim that he doesn't work on Nissans but this was his general opinion. He thinks replacing the gasket would solve most of my probems. I'm probably going to get the DIY and torque specs of the valve cover and just pay him to do it on the side. I just don't have the time to do it these days.
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Old 05-06-2011, 10:47 AM
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Great news that you don't have a bad head gasket. These days you should only lose a head gasket if you overheat the engine or it gets installed incorrectly.

Have you pulled the plugs and checked each one?
Plugs are way easy to pull on the 2.5.
A leaky valve cover is never good but I'm not so sure it would cause a lean condition in any of the cylinders.
I'd take a look at the way the 2.5 routes blow by gases back into the manifold to really answer that one.
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Old 05-06-2011, 11:37 AM
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I'm so glad it's not a head gasket. that's pretty involved and time consuming.

In the past when I've pulled the plugs, they looked fine except for #1 and #2 which have oil on them.

He said that sometimes cracked valve cover gaskets can allow air to enter or escape (depending on the design pressure of the intake system) and can throw O2 sensors. And since cars require a specific A/F ratio, the car could be sending more fuel to the engine on startup. Thinking about it now, i've flooded the engine before (those notorious quick start/stops with QR that suck!) and the current grumbling could be extra fuel in the cylinders from the balance being off. When I started with a flooded engine, the grumbling happend and white smoke appeared in the back, similar to what is happening now.
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Old 05-06-2011, 12:27 PM
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The way I understand the Nissan system to be set up is if you were sucking extra air through the valve cover that air would be entering the intake system after the MAF and your O2 sensors would most likely just read a lean condition since the ECU would not be able to figure out why it had extra air.
It would not richen the mixture since the MAF would say everything was fine.
But then again I don't have much experience with the 2.5 and its fuel controls.
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Old 06-02-2011, 02:27 PM
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Updates?
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Old 06-10-2011, 02:29 PM
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The latest is that my car is still fucked! Lol.

The past 2 days here have been scorching hot and I noticed that my car was sluggish and the AC was working sporadically. Checked the dash and saw that my temp needle was rising and dropping. NOT GOOD! Then the SES light popped on with a new code P0217 (engine overheat). It seems to happen only when the AC is on.

Checked coolant and reservior was low so I added more fluid. Didn't seem to fix the issue on the ride home yesterday. I'm hoping its simple like a bad thermostat.

Man, I need to figure out wtf is wrong with my car because overheating a car with this many miles is major trouble. I'm planning to bite the bullet and pride and take it to nissan tomorrow for them to check it out. Will cost probably $125 just to run a diagnostic. Grrrrr!
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Old 06-29-2011, 09:05 AM
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Well I still haven't taken the car in. It's hard for me to find time to leave the car.

But, have another issue to add to the list. The car is having trouble turning over. Started the car a few times and it just cranked. I stop, try it again then it runs fine. On the highway, feels like the tranny is slipping. Checked the car comp and it's throwing out a new code, P0335, which is crank position sensor. That's a pretty easy fix so I'll probably order that today and put that in sometime next weekend.
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