Cylinder misfire and head gasket blown - Nissan Forum
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#1 Old Jul 3rd, 2006, 05:38 PM
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Question Cylinder misfire and head gasket blown

I have a 2002 Nissan Altima. My car has been running great until recently. About two weeks ago I started to notice the car will shudder for a couple of seconds after the car starts and it mostly happen when the car is cold. One day the car shudder for about 10 seconds after being started and then the “Service Engine Soon” light came on.

Took the car to a Nissan dealer and got charged for 145$ for the diagnosis. They told me it is code P0303: # 3 cylinder misfire and it is caused by head gasket blown. It is very hard for me to believe I have a head gasket blown because the car just runs fine: no overheating, no extra steam out of tail-pipe, no bubble from radiator. The only symptom I can see is the car will shudder for a couple of seconds when starting. The service engine soon light doesn’t come up again.

So I took the car to a Precision Tune Auto Care, asking them to confirm if I have a head gasket blown before I spend 1800$ the dealership is asking for fixing blown head gasket. They did all the testing and nothing indicated a head gasket blown. They told me there is no hydrocarbon in the coolant, which is a good test for blown head gasket. They pulled out the spark plug for the # 3 cylinder and they did notice that spark plug is not as clean as the spark plug from other cylinders. The guy there told me that I should keep driving until I can find a more consistent symptom for a blown head gasket.

Has anyone here had similar issues with Nissan Altima? After this, I don’t think I will ever buy a Nissan car again. When I bought the car, I thought they’re supposed to have a very high-quality engine.

many thanks!
Jason
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#2 Old Jul 4th, 2006, 05:03 AM
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Yes, there have been some similiar issues with 2002 Altimas with the 2.5 engine. Unfortunately I can say with almost clear certainty that it is a blown head gasket. If you pressurize the radiator and check cylinder 3 with a boroscope, you will see coolant slowly seeping into the cylinder. It will run totally fine for awhile. As the leak gets worse it will eventually get bad enough where it will affect the engine while it idles. If you change the cylinder 3 plug, you may not even notice the cold start shudder for awhile.
I haven't seen this issue with the later Altimas tho. As a upside, all you need to do the job is a headgasket, intake plenum gasket, intake manifold gasket, exhaust gasket, gasket-maker, oil, filter, and spark plugs. Don't forget to have the head checked for warpage, and if its ok send it out for refinishing.
Also, of all the head gasket replacement jobs I have done on different cars, this Altima is one of the easier ones. The worse I had to work on was a Toyota 4runner (and they had a recall on 93 and 94 V6 4Runners and Trucks for headgasket problems). Talk about a tight fit! There are a few other vehicles that were notorious for blowing headgaskets as well, but I will go on and on, so I will stop here.
I hope this helps.
#3 Old Jul 4th, 2006, 12:54 PM
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I am not a handy person so I will have to ask dealership to do the job, which means 1,800$. How long can I drive the car before the engine gets bad enough and will it damage the engine? I am using the car for commute and it is 25 miles each way.

Thanks!
Jason
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#4 Old Jul 4th, 2006, 04:33 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chenys_jason
I have a 2002 Nissan Altima. My car has been running great until recently. About two weeks ago I started to notice the car will shudder for a couple of seconds after the car starts and it mostly happen when the car is cold. One day the car shudder for about 10 seconds after being started and then the “Service Engine Soon” light came on.

Took the car to a Nissan dealer and got charged for 145$ for the diagnosis. They told me it is code P0303: # 3 cylinder misfire and it is caused by head gasket blown. It is very hard for me to believe I have a head gasket blown because the car just runs fine: no overheating, no extra steam out of tail-pipe, no bubble from radiator. The only symptom I can see is the car will shudder for a couple of seconds when starting. The service engine soon light doesn’t come up again.

So I took the car to a Precision Tune Auto Care, asking them to confirm if I have a head gasket blown before I spend 1800$ the dealership is asking for fixing blown head gasket. They did all the testing and nothing indicated a head gasket blown. They told me there is no hydrocarbon in the coolant, which is a good test for blown head gasket. They pulled out the spark plug for the # 3 cylinder and they did notice that spark plug is not as clean as the spark plug from other cylinders. The guy there told me that I should keep driving until I can find a more consistent symptom for a blown head gasket.

Has anyone here had similar issues with Nissan Altima? After this, I don’t think I will ever buy a Nissan car again. When I bought the car, I thought they’re supposed to have a very high-quality engine.

many thanks!
Jason





Look at my post for Engine Code for '02 Altima........we have the same car, with apparently the same symptom, and two completely different diagnosis......
#5 Old Jul 5th, 2006, 02:06 PM
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Thank you! Apparently I am not as lucky as you. My car has 69000 miles and I don't have extended warranty. Have to pay out of my own pocket.
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#6 Old Jul 5th, 2006, 10:35 PM
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Well, I would suggest getting the vehicle to a reputable mechanic and having him/her properly diagnose the problem. The diagnosis I gave is from my experience with that code. I have had seen other causes but those were few and far between with that model Altima.
Another way to confirm is to check your coolant resevoir and see if it is getting low (or even empty).
If it is a headgasket problem, I would have it repaired as soon as possible since letting the problem go may eventually affect the catalytic converter and O2 sensors.
#7 Old Jul 5th, 2006, 10:45 PM
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Oh, and fxcarden, I read your post on the problem you were describing. While I have had seen that problem with cat material blowing back into the engine causing cylinder damage, there should have been other symptoms to confirm that problem. Oil consumption and shiny ceramic cat material in the engine oil. Oil consumption might not be so noticeable tho.
Also, when you pull out the spark plug it would be black instead of white. Coolant will come up white and sometimes flaky. The oil will cause it to come up more brownish black and be more heavily coated. Normal plugs will be more dark grayish, brownish with minimal coating. Ah, now I know what I forgot to mention, the spark plug!! Don't forget to check the spark plug, it will give a pretty good picture as to what's happening in the engine.
#8 Old Jul 5th, 2006, 10:52 PM
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whats up rps? you havent been on in awhile, have you?
#9 Old Jul 5th, 2006, 11:21 PM
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nope, I am a victim of occasionally working Internet connection
#10 Old Jul 6th, 2006, 01:07 AM
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I will definitely keep an eye on the coolant level. I read this post http://www.misterfixit.com/headgskt.htm and my car hasn't had any of those symptons, as confirmed by a machanic this past monday. Maybe I am still in a denial stage. But I just want to see more symptons come up. I have driven my car for about 100 more miles and the "service engine soon" light hasn't come up so far.

Quote:
Originally Posted by rps180
Well, I would suggest getting the vehicle to a reputable mechanic and having him/her properly diagnose the problem. The diagnosis I gave is from my experience with that code. I have had seen other causes but those were few and far between with that model Altima.
Another way to confirm is to check your coolant resevoir and see if it is getting low (or even empty).
If it is a headgasket problem, I would have it repaired as soon as possible since letting the problem go may eventually affect the catalytic converter and O2 sensors.
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#11 Old Jul 6th, 2006, 10:52 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rps180
Oh, and fxcarden, I read your post on the problem you were describing. While I have had seen that problem with cat material blowing back into the engine causing cylinder damage, there should have been other symptoms to confirm that problem. Oil consumption and shiny ceramic cat material in the engine oil. Oil consumption might not be so noticeable tho.
Also, when you pull out the spark plug it would be black instead of white. Coolant will come up white and sometimes flaky. The oil will cause it to come up more brownish black and be more heavily coated. Normal plugs will be more dark grayish, brownish with minimal coating. Ah, now I know what I forgot to mention, the spark plug!! Don't forget to check the spark plug, it will give a pretty good picture as to what's happening in the engine.


Thanks, RPS. I plan to take the car to my usual (20+ years) non-dealer mechanic. I am going to ask him to do a compression test, and look at the plugs. I will also stop the practice of taking the car into a 10 minute oil change place, and do the oil myself while the weather is warm. This way, I can monitor the symptoms you described.

If something comes up out of whack, I'll post back here for everyone. I think I have pretty much decided not to deal with an engine replacement and the fall out thereof, so if something is way wrong, I think I'll trade the car in.
#12 Old Jul 12th, 2006, 09:38 PM
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anybody got a how to on doing the head gasket job. I'm having the losing coolant problem and ruff start so i think this is my problem
#13 Old Jul 13th, 2006, 07:38 PM
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what year is your Altima?

I am still driving my car, keeping a close eye on my coolant level. Doesn't see sharp drop but I am not sure if it is losing coolant or not. Even if it does, it is not obvious. I check every day.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ovsims
anybody got a how to on doing the head gasket job. I'm having the losing coolant problem and ruff start so i think this is my problem
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#14 Old Jul 19th, 2006, 01:08 AM
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Ok, quick rundown as to what you need to do:
Well, let me start by saying this, get a good 10mm hex socket for a 1/2 inch drive. The Craftsman one WILL NOT do. Don't even try to use it, you will just waste time and money. Buy one from Snap-On or MacTools. trust me one this, I already tried and broke 3 Craftsman 10mm hex sockets without even getting one bolt loose.
Also, you will need to get or rent a torque wrench that will measure by angle instead of ft-lbs.

Remove engine cover
Disconnect upper harness to coils and evap purge, throttle actuator, coolant temp, cam sensor and remove bolts and push onto side
Remove intake tubing btwn throttle body and air filter housing
Disconnect battery and disconnect harness to alternator and ac compressor
Remove belt, remove coolant resevoir, unbolt IPDM/ER (fuse box) and puh to side, and remove alternator
Disconnect harness for O2 sensors and remove exhaust manifold
Let out coolant and remove upper rad hose, hoses going to throttle body, and heater hose going to the housing with the thermostat. You do not need to take off the lower rad hose and the other heater hose going to the metal tubing that goes to the front of the engine
Remove the two vacuum hoses on the back of the intake plenum, two bolts on the right side holding the wiring, and brackets on the left, then remove upper plenum.
Undo brackets (about 5 bolts) on the back of the lower intake manifold and then remove lower intake manifold from head.
On the right side of the head, remove the bolts for the cam gear cover, remove cover
Under the cover, there will be some bolts that bolt into the cam cap and the head, remove those. Remove the chain tensioner. Now, I usually mark the postioning of the cam gear to the chain with a wax pencil instead of trying to look for the timing marks for TDC. But, before you do this, clean off the oil from the cam gears so the wax pencil can make a mark. After you mark it, do NOT touch the marks so you don't rub them off.
Remove the coils and the valve cover, and the cam sensor
Now you can remove the cam cap that is between the valve cover and the cam gear loop cover (there will be a sort of loop over the cam gears that do not come off) Sorry, I do not know how else to explain this.
Unbolt the cam gears, remove them and tie strap the chain to the loop so the chain doesn't fall in. You may need to use a very good and strong air gun to remove the cam bolt on the VTC cam gear. That one tends to be very hard to remove.
Slowly remove the rest of the cam caps and do not get them mixed up! Remove the cams.
Unbolt the head using the crisscross pattern from outside to in.
You can now remove the head. If you are going to send out the head to get it refinished, don't forget to number and remove the valve shims so that they won't get mixed up.
I need to look up the torque specs for the head, so I'll post it up once I get it.
#15 Old Sep 1st, 2006, 06:06 PM
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Just a quick update on my car's issue. I have been closely monitoring my coolant level and engine oil level for past two months and have driven my car for 3,700 miles. Overall the car have run smoothly and check engine light never come up again.

During this period I had to add coolant once since the coolant went from maximum mark to almost minimum mark. I guess it is normal that cars lose coolant? Anyway the engine oil level was o.k. until this past Monday when my car shuddered again upon starting. This is actually the first time that my car shudder again for two months. I stopped the engine immediately and checked the oil level. The car didn't have any oil!!! That is exactly what happened last time when the check engine light came on. I know the oil level was above the minimum mark last I checked and that was two days before. So I guess somehow the car suddenly lost all engine oil and that might be the cause for the shuddering of the car and the engine cylinder misfire two months ago.

Anyway I am going to change my oil filter this weekend and continue to drive my car. If my car had a blown head gasket, could I have driven my car for 3,700 miles without noticing anything?
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