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Hi all,

I have an issue with a 2003 Nissan Pulsar (Auto), where lately, the power would randomly cut out. This also happened a few months ago, but then went away.

- Backstory -

In January this started happening. Driving along the car would randomly jerk, almost like tapping the brake pedal (or running low on fuel). I thought perhaps the fuel was dirty or contaminated with water, so didn't think much of it. Later on the car would stall at the lights and wouldn't start (eventually it did). Then not long after, I was driving and the car was pulling up, like pressing the brake pedal harder a few times, before driving normally again. I also noticed the RPM needle would bounce (from higher revs down to zero, then back up, then down), which led me to think the engine was attempting to seize, though the engine temperature wasn't 'Hot'. Eventually at the lights again, it would stall, but managed to start up and get home, but this time it gave me an engine warning light.

Once home, I opened the hood and noticed engine cooling empty. There appears to be a leak coming from the top plastic radiator tank, though it looks like it's coming from perhaps the seal between the tank and the radiator body (perhaps the seal has deteriorated?). A quick inspection I couldn't see any cracks/holes/damage to the tank itself, and can't see additional radiator leaks. I've noticed coolant getting lower over a period of time but never got around to fixing it, always just topped up.
Reading online I read that overheating engine can cause the car to shut off, though the temp gauge didn't go any higher than normal. I topped up the coolant, and ran the car. In the meantime, I had to manually check the engine light code and it was telling me a Crank sensor. I was planning on replacing it, but since topping up the radiator fluid, the fault hasn't been back and eventually the light went out.

- 5 months later -

Now 5months later, and the issue has come back. Looking at the radiator coolant (still leaks), it wasn't empty this time (though I topped it up anyway). I also opened the heater-core by putting on the heater and blowing the hot air while I ran the car, thinking it might displace a possible air bubble. I inspected the coolant level during this period and didn't notice a decrease. This time it also gave an error code again, which read 0335, which seems to be the Crankshaft sensor again.
The car will shut off even during night driving (winter) and after 5minutes driving. I drove to work one night (5min drive) and as I pulled into the car park, the car cut out. I had to steer it into a car spot, which was much harder than non-power steering. I also noticed applying the foot brake was near impossible, it was pretty hard.

Before going out and buying a new Crankshaft sensor, is there anything else you suggest I look at? Perhaps it's another fault that isn't related to the Crankshaft sensor, yet is causing the Crankshaft sensor error to display ??

Have you guys experienced an issue like this before?

Questions:

1. Besides the obvious, being a possible Crankshaft sensor issue (as per the error light), is there something else that could cause it to throw that error?

2. The first time, I topped up the coolant and worked fine after that. Is there a possible connection there? If not, why would the car run OK afterwards, or was that likely just a coincidence >?

3. Why was the steering and brake pretty hard to operate after the car cut out ?

4. Is there anything I can put into the cooling system to help plug any leaks? (besides buying a new radiator).

Thanks in advance,
 

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Sup Mod keeping the peace
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A common problem with random engine shutdowns is a marginal camshaft position sensor or a marginal crankshaft position sensor. Most of the time when this happens, the "check engine light" never comes on; subsequently when performing an ECU code readout, there was no fault code set. There's been many members here on the forum that have had problems similar to yours and the fix was replacing those two sensors.

The best and cheapest fix for this situation is to replace both sensors at the same time; the reason for doing this is there is no way to determine which sensor is at fault with this type of condition. You can take your vehicle to a dealer/repair shop and they'll tell you there is nothing wrong after they go through with diagnostic tests because at that time the vehicle was running OK. You could end up spending $200 or much more depending on how much time/parts are used.

When replacing sensors, always use Nissan OEM parts from a Nissan dealer; aftermarket electronic items generally are not reliable, don't last long, and many times are DOA. The sensors are not very expensive; around $75.

Here are some possible causes:
● Harness or connectors. The sensor circuit may be open or shorted.
● Defective crankshaft position sensor. Replace with OEM; not aftermarket.
● Signal plate damage. Check for chipping signal plate gear tooth.
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The slow loss of coolant could be due to a leak in the radiator, small crack in one of the coolant hoses or a blown head gasket. Try these test with the engine not running:
  • - Perform a compression test on all cylinders looking for a weak cylinder; an indication of a possible blown head gasket.
  • - Perform a pressure test of the coolant system. Pressurize to 24 psi with a tester then watch gauge to insure pressure remains steady for at least 15 to 30 minutes. If it drops off in several minutes, that's an indication of a leak somewhere in the system.
 
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