1998 Pathfinder almost dies at idle - Nissan Forum

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post #1 of 12 Old Mar 17th, 2017, 12:17 PM Thread Starter
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1998 Pathfinder almost dies at idle

I have a 98 pathfinder that has 120k on it. About 2 years ago the distributor completely quit so I replaced it. Everything was fine til the other day. I came out of the store and started it and it started idling really bad almost dieing. I gave it a little gas and it stuttered around until I got on highway then it seemed fine. When I got to work it was idling fine. When I left work same thing and it continued when I got home. Today it is doing it every time I start it and when driving if going really slow or barely pressing the gas. If you accelerate hard it will jump a few times but when running 50-60 it seems fine. I immediately went back to the distributor. No codes at all. I just got finished replacing the distributor again but it didnt help. If it would just throw a code I would be fine. When it is idling bad you can smell it is running rich. Any help is appreciated.

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post #2 of 12 Old Mar 18th, 2017, 09:41 AM
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You may have dirty or leaking fuel injectors; to properly diagnose them, they need to be remove and tested on a flow bench tester. You can also do a quick leak test by teeing-in a fuel pressure gauge to the output side of the fuel filter, then turn the ignition switch to the "RUN" position without starting the engine; the static pressure should be 43 psi. If the pressure drops off rapidly, one or more injectors are leaking.

With the engine idling, the readings at idle should be as follows:
- with vacuum hose connected to the fuel pressure regulator: 34 psi
- with vacuum hose disconnected from the fuel pressure regulator: 43 psi

How long have you had the old spark plugs? If they are very old, then it's time for a set of new ones. Running a rich mixture can be caused by some of the following:

Improper spark plug
Insufficient compression
Incorrect fuel pressure
Dirty fuel injectors
Intake system vacuum leak
Incorrect PCV hose connection


To check the intake system for a vacuum leak, use a vacuum gauge for good accuracy; most auto parts stores sell vacuum gauges. Attach the gauge to a full vacuum source, usually somewhere on the intake manifold. With the engine fully warmed up, the reading at idle should be 18 - 20 InHg. At 3,000 RPM, it should be around 21 InHg. If readings are under 18 InHg, check the intake manifold nuts to make sure they are tight. The gasket may have failed; spray a water mist at the gasket to see if the gauge reading changes. Also check the intake plenum bellows at the throttle body and at the MAF for cracks or loose clamps.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

The vacuum gauge makes for a very good diagnostic tool. Here are some vacuum gauge readings and their indications:

Low & steady: Late ign timing/valve timing, low compression

Very low: Vacuum leak

High & steady: Early ignition timing

Gradual drop in reading from idle to higher RPMs: Excessive back pressure in exhaust system

Intermittent fluctuation at idle: Ignition miss, sticking valve

Needle fluctuates rapidly as engine speed increases: Ignition miss, blown head gasket, leaking valve or weak valve spring


The easiest test for converter plugging is done with a vacuum gauge. Connect the gauge to a source of intake vacuum on the intake manifold, carburetor or throttle body. Note the reading at idle, then raise and hold engine speed at 2,500. The needle will drop when you first open the throttle, but should then rise and stabilize. If the vacuum reading starts to drop, pressure may be backing up in the exhaust system.

KA-T for life, yo!
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post #3 of 12 Old Mar 18th, 2017, 11:35 AM
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check the air filter and the throttle body right at the connector
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post #4 of 12 Old Mar 18th, 2017, 11:41 AM
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I assume you checked the air filter and the throttle body for a good connection. Also the throttle body if dirty will cause it to idle rough or stall. You can clean that with some rags and Q-tips. I have fixed many idle issues by just cleaning the throttle body.
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post #5 of 12 Old Mar 18th, 2017, 04:58 PM Thread Starter
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I think I may have gotten some bad fuel. I drive maybe 50 miles a week. So fuel is in it for a while and most of the time it's between a quarter and a half. I put some heet in it and drove it some. I unplugged the MAF sensor and made it throw a code. It was knock sensor and MAF code. I cleared the codes and it was running great no problems at idle or anything. I drove it to the store and put 10 gallons of non ethanol fuel in it. When I went to leave it did it in the parking lot but then stopped. I drove it on the highway for a few minutes and came home no problems at all. So I am hoping it was just bad fuel. I will find out tomorrow because I will drive it about 30 miles away to play golf. Wish me luck lol.
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post #6 of 12 Old Mar 22nd, 2017, 03:36 PM Thread Starter
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Sorry for the late post but been working. It sputtered the whole time either at idle or when barely touching the gas. When going down the highway at 60 or so it is fine and actually seems to be getting good gas mileage. About ready to junk this thing. I am off next week so I am going to pull all the plugs but if it were that it seems it would be all the time. I will never own another Pathfinder or Nissan for that matter. These things just don't want to throw codes. Came home yesterday from work and it idled fine. Turned it off and started it back and it returned to crap.
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post #7 of 12 Old Mar 26th, 2017, 07:26 PM Thread Starter
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Finally got a few minutes to mess with it again. Off all next week so I hope I can get this resolved. Basically it will rev like always will drive down the highway as long as you aren't easing around and drives normal plenty of power. If you are idling or barely touching the gas it will do it. When idling it is running extremely rich. Don't think it's a misfire I think it's just that rich. Exhaust will make a black spot on the ground. It's not the distributor I'm . I checked for a broken plug, everything is firing the way it should. Any help is appreciated.

Last edited by kbailey45us; Mar 26th, 2017 at 07:52 PM.
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post #8 of 12 Old Apr 2nd, 2017, 08:16 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks for all the help but I think this was a case of I have drank to many beers since then. I was off all week but busy decided at the last minutes to mess with it. Then it hit me. About November I was hitting an amp in and got way out of position on the firewall and drilled through a fuel line where it goes from metal to rubber back to metal right before the regulator in the passenger side fender well. Took the cover off and sure enough it was leaking. I had splice it with a metal break line which has no barbs. Only one store open so I got fuel line to replace the whole thing and I was running out of daylight. It make take a few minutes so I got a cheap filter and put it in there just to see if that was my problem. Started it up and it idled a little low but it was smooth. I may have to adjust the distributor. Drove it and it wasn't perfect but much better. No jerking around. Got back home and the filter was leaking probably not rated for the pressure. I have the line to replace it and will when I get time but I think that was it.
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post #9 of 12 Old Apr 6th, 2017, 11:06 AM Thread Starter
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Still fighting it.
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post #10 of 12 Old Apr 6th, 2017, 11:11 AM Thread Starter
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This is what my exhaust is doing. It's not like a hard skip or anything it runs like it has a big cam in it.
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post #11 of 12 Old Apr 6th, 2017, 07:15 PM Thread Starter
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I know there isnt anyone reading this anymore and I don't blame you I was frustrated and being frustrated. Lol. It's fixed now. It was the MAF sensor. Replaced it a couple years ago but bought an off brand one on eBay. Got my money's worth I guess. Bought name brand this time.
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post #12 of 12 Old Apr 7th, 2017, 07:16 PM
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Thanks for the update!
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