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r3dplanet

tired engine, what to do?

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Hey gang.

 

I've owned my '95 Pathfinder for a long time and it's a great buddy. It's in very good shape - no rust, runs well, and it's a fully equipped model with rear discs and all. But it has 350,000 miles and it's really burning oil now. It's just time to do something about it. Instead of selling it I'd like to replace the engine. An engine builder friend of mine says it's too expensive to rebuild, and maybe I should "just" swap it for a VG33E instead.

 

So my question is what is the least resistance path to take? I'm a gearhead with the ability to crane engines around, but lack wiring knowledge with ECUs and harnesses. A TD27 swap sounds cool but unrealistic. Where can I get a decent VG33E if that's the correct thing to do? I'm sort of at a crossroads and not sure how to proceed.

 

Thanks for listening to me think out loud.

 

 

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It has been done, many times I am sure. There are many options available, personally, id yank the engine, have the bottom end rebuilt and do a VG33 head swap, better performance with the same wiring and injection system, no mods necessary other than the head upgrade. There are affordable rebuild kits out there and with a bit of machine on the bottom end along with the cylinder head upgrade, you'll be golden.

Sent from my LG-H700 using Tapatalk

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The easiest, cheapest thing to do would be find a low mileage vg30, replace all the gaskets and seals on it, and drop it in. Next would be a vg33 swap, r50 pathfinders and first gen Xterras are easy to find. JDM motors can be had for less than $500 if you look around.

Edited by adamzan

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Depending on where you are , I have a fully operational VG30 installed in my old truck and running... swing by Montreal, QC and we can pull it out some weekend.... gift/ donation / donor to keep another WD21 running.

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I have found car-part.com to be pretty useful for finding parts. It's basically a database used by a lot of salvage yards across the US and Canada, maybe even more? Anyway, that would be a place to find a cheap VG33 for rebuild. Beyond that, searching for JDM importers in the nearest large metro near you is also a good tactic as their engines and transmissions are generally in good shape. You can likely find many of the salvage yards or JDM importers that will ship to you, but the logistics and costs can add up quickly.

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When the valves and pistons introduced themselves to each other in my original VG30, I swapped in a VG33 from an 01 Xterra. If I had the time and thought about it when I was doing the swap, I would have put the cams and lifters from my 30 into the 33 while I had them both out, for that little bit more. However, the stock 33 works fine for me. 

 

I took what I considered the simple approach. I swapped the distributor and upper intake. I then used the Frontier/Xterra alternator, steering pump and a/c brackets. Swapped the pump since my original was leaking and used the alternator out of a Quest/Villager. The brackets would have come with the engine, but it had made a short side trip into a 96 Pathfinder first. With those brackets and matching accessories (all would be right there in an Xterra/Frontier at the salvage yard) the engine was basically a drop-in. I used the injector sub harnesses from both engines to make a single harness to fit the 93 main harness and it was done. Really a simple engine swap that has been totally worth it. Just having the oil filter at the front and not between the exhaust manifold and starter makes the swap worth it to me. 

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Gentlemen,

 

Thank you all for the valuable replies. It's great information to consider. My first thought is to drive to Montreal to visit SpecialWarr, but that is two long drives from Portland, Oregon and back. I've done it before (Toronto) but it's a bit unlikely. His offer is true chivalry.

 

The key in this is that my health isn't great, and I need to keep it easy. I'll ask my engine builder friend about rebuilding the bottom end of my engine and then pricing out the heads. I'd prefer to do a whole VG33E swap but my thought is that it might be a lot of work to get all the ancillaries. I'll have to do some price comparisons and find out. Thank you for the link to car-part.com. That's good information also.

 

At this point my Pathfinder isn't my daily driver like it once was, so I'm in no hurry to take care of it. The danger is that on previous engine swap projects the scope creep can get out of control and take a looooong time to finish.

 

Thank you, everyone. I have to ask some questions and crunch some numbers.

 

Can anyone point me to a complete VG33E swap thread or site? I've read through a few, but are from too long ago or don't finish the swap.

 

Cheers,

Red

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Yeah, looking around car-part.com there's a ton of engines to choose from. If I go with a VG33E, should I get an early one like a '96 or '97? I think I read, but now can't remember, that accessories were easier to deal with.

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While this may not answer any questions on exact accessories to swap, or which years are the easiest to bolt and plug right in, it does have a lot of good information on the VG33E itself.

 

https://z31performance.com/forum/z31-performance-upgrade-forums/engine-mechanical-aa/7941-the-vg33e-information-thread

 

I've been reading through all of the VG33E swap threads and trying to find out how everyone else goes about it. It seems a lot of people recycle their old accessories which causes the problem with the harmonic balancer needing to be machined. If I find any more good links on straight forward swaps, I'll post them here for you.

 

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12 hours ago, Aegis said:

While this may not answer any questions on exact accessories to swap, or which years are the easiest to bolt and plug right in, it does have a lot of good information on the VG33E itself.

 

https://z31performance.com/forum/z31-performance-upgrade-forums/engine-mechanical-aa/7941-the-vg33e-information-thread

 

I've been reading through all of the VG33E swap threads and trying to find out how everyone else goes about it. It seems a lot of people recycle their old accessories which causes the problem with the harmonic balancer needing to be machined. If I find any more good links on straight forward swaps, I'll post them here for you.

 

Indeed. I read the whole thread today and tried to keep above the conflicting morass. I could be dead wrong, but it looks like the easiest method is:

 

1. Get a VG33E engine and strip it down to the block and heads, no ancillaries.

2. Install a VG30 crank and that's it for the bottom end.

3. Install VG30 camshafts into the VG33E heads using the matching style of cam gear

4. Install the original VG30 bits.

 

From what I infer that leaves it so everything else - pump, intake, exhaust, wiring, belts, alternator is all bolt-on stuff from the original VG30.

 

Does that sound correct?

 

Seems like I'm missing something with regards to oil filter and pump.

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Swapping cranks/pumps (the pump is crank driven, and doesn't interchange between 30/33 cranks) to keep stock accessories might make sense in a Z31, but it seems like a lot of extra work in a WD21. The X/Fronty VG33 accessory layout is supposed to fit in the WD21 engine bay. AFAIK the alt and steering pump shouldn't be all that different, though it looks like the port design on the aircon compressor might require some creativity to hook into the WD21 aircon lines. I'd much rather modify a couple of hose fittings than tear down the bottom end, especially if the crank/pump you have on hand are the ones in the engine with 350k on it. The only bottom-end work you'd have to worry about is the oil pan and possibly the oil pickup. The thread linked below says that you can use a VG30 pan and the Xterra pickup and it'll bolt right up. IIRC somebody on here used a VG33 pan and just beat it with the BFH until it cleared (don't remember which donor it was from or what it fouled on, probably the diff).

 

Then, yes, VG33 heads, VG30 cams, VG30 intake/sensors/wiring. The VG33 exhaust studs are bigger, so you'll probably need to hog out the holes in the exhaust manifolds. Make sure those fit before the engine's in the truck and you've got bugger-all room to see what you're doing.

 

Check this thread out if you haven't yet. He went all kinds of hog-wild on his, but there's good info for milder builds there, too--and because he built it for a WD21, not a Z31, there's better info about what will/won't fit. Keep in mind that he's using the throttle body injection intake, not the multiport you've got, so ignore the bit about gutting the mixture preheater that you don't have. His intake gasket recommendation should still apply. Unfortunately he quit making the special adapter he used to put the V-belt pulleys on the VG33 crank. Also unfortunately, the pictures are on Photobucket, which has for some reason decided to blur them and add a watermark so we know who to blame.

Edited by Slartibartfast
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I forgot that I swapped the oil pan, but that was a minor operation while I had the engine out. Oddly, the stock exhaust manifolds were direct bolt on the mounting holes are already large enough for the 10mm studs the 3.3 uses, makes it strange that the 3.0 used 8mm. The nice thing about using the Frontier/Xterra accessories and brackets is that the Quest/Villager alternator is a bolt-in swap. Well worth the $20 spent at the salvage yard. Upgraded from the stock 60 amp alt to a 110 amp alternator. Just upgraded the charging cable between the alternator and battery a couple years later when I noticed it was struggling to supply power when I was jump-starting a diesel pickup. As I said, power steering pump was leaking and needed replacement anyway. The a/c compressor had died a couple years before the engine and I still haven't replaced it due to having other things to spend money on. I did look into it and it was going to cost me about $60 to have a couple of custom hoses made. I prefer the flat multi rib belts since they have better grip with less tension, that leads to better life. And having the oil filter out front makes it so much easier and cleaner to do oil changes. I hated the filter location on the 3.0 so much I had a remote filter system on my truck. 

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Slarti, Mr. Reverse, Aegis, you guys rock.

 

Your contributions provide excellent information. It gets very confusing about what to disregard and what to seek. I'm putting together a plan that starts with what I hope are a complete list of changes. My plan will be to get an engine (I'm actually about the pull the trigger on one), dig all the way to the timing belt and change it, replace any pumps/accessories that look worn. My usual luck is that I do a job like this and then something like the water pumps leaks everywhere. I just want to get it prepped and secure before installation.

 

Running list of changes:

 

1. VG30E camshafts (anyone know where to buy new ones? The Nissan dealer says I'm SOL)

2. A/C hoses, check. I know a good hose guy locally.

3. Xterra oil pickup (which years?)

4. Frontier / Xterra VG33E accessories, check. (also which years?)

5. Nissan Quest / Villager alternator (years?)

6. VG30 original oil pan

7. Check for 10mm exhaust holes in the manifolds, enlarge to 10mm if necessary

 

... good list. Am I missing anything? What about wiring? ECU? Distributor? Intake? I'm just trying to be as complete as possible for both me and future readers.

 

You guys are great. I wouldn't even attempt this without all the great info you all have provided. Cheers!

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My guess for Xterra parts is the early one, 1999-2001? Or is that wrong?

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As for the accessories, there isn't a lot of difference. The power steering pump is any of the Frontier/Xterras that has the 3.3. for all I know, the 3.0 might even work with just a pulley swap. I originally had a Quest alternator on my 3.0, but I had to swap the pulley and shim it if I recall correctly and fab a new tensioner bracket to make it fit the 3.0. I wound up using the original pulley and the Frontier brackets when I changed to the 3.3. the alternator from an early to mid 90's Quest is what I used. Mercury Villager is the same critter, just picked from what I found in my local salvage yard. 

With the cams, hard to say. Only reason to swap the is the 3.3 cams are slightly milder. They won't make a huge difference, the 3.3 I have is running the stock ones. 

Nissan upgraded the injector plugs with the 3.3, and got rid of the annoying Bosch style clips. I think I just unwrapped the sub harnesses of my old engine and new one. Then I pulled the pins from the plugs that connect to the main and swapped the plugs. Then I rewrapped the harness. I believe I switched out the distributor and coil wires and plugs since the distributors are different. The 3.3 has the coil internal to the distributor while the 3.0 is external. 

If I could figure out how to post photos, I can take some pictures of my setup and share. When the hood is open, only an old Nissan guy can tell that the engine is different. The right valve cover has the extended filler neck, the belts are flat, and the oil filter is moved from the right side to the front. Other than that, it looks like any other VG30. Even says so on the intake plenum. 

 

I think the hardest part is to physically remove and install the engine in the truck. The space is tight and I believe you have to drop the front diff if you don't have a 3" body lift like I do. I have no regrets for that lift, it has made so many other things easier to do. #6 spark plug is not too bad anymore. 

Edited by Mr_Reverse
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First-gen ('99-'04) V6 Xterras should have what you're after. Not sure on the cams, I think most people re-use the cams from the VG30 they're taking out. May or may not be an option depending on the condition of yours. The stock ECU should run the 3.3 just fine. Use the 3.0 intake, it's already got your idle controls, injectors, and TPS on it. I think most guys reuse the stock wiring in its entirety (with the exception of the charge wire if you're doing the Quest alt), though having fumbled with Bosch clips on the side of the road with a pocket knife, I can see the appeal of using something else. Nissan Nut has a pretty good writeup on his website for Quest alts.
 

+1 for doing all the engine work you can with the engine out! I did a few seals on a friend's Chevy recently while we had the engine out and man was that nice compared to the usual "up to my armpits in the La Brea Tar Pits" experience of working on that pig.

 

8 hours ago, Mr_Reverse said:

I believe I switched out the distributor and coil wires and plugs since the distributors are different. The 3.3 has the coil internal to the distributor while the 3.0 is external. 

 

Was there a fitment issue with the 3.0 dizzy or did you just like the integrated coil design better?

 

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No, I put the 3.0 distributor in. My ECU is the stock unit my 93 had from the factory and it was easier to use the distributor the ECU was set up for. The 3.0 dropped into the 3.3 just fine. I simply used the best parts of both wiring harnesses to build one that worked for me. I don't know if the older style connectors would fit the injectors in the 3.3 or not, just that in my case the injector harness was in rough shape in my original 93 3.0. I left the 3.3 lower manifold and injector rails in the engine and swapped the upper. I did replace all the hoses while I had the engines out and swapping parts around. 

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Fan-TAS-tic. I have a much better idea of what I need to do. I work super slow and winter is coming, so I might do this next Spring. Maybe over the winter. Not sure yet, but it needs to get done. I might also pull the trigger on a 5-speed. The automatic is just fine, I just prefer a manual. Plus, you know, while I'm in there...

 

Amended list:

 

1. VG30E camshafts if possible

2. A/C hoses remade with correct fittings

3. Xterra oil pickup from '99-'04

4. Frontier / Xterra VG33E accessories, from '99-'04

5. Nissan Quest / Villager alternator, from '99-'03  (V41 Quest / Villager, 120 amp)

6. Nissan Quest / Villager alternator needs pulley swapped to VG30E pulley, via nissannut

7. VG30 original oil pan

8. Check for 10mm exhaust holes in the manifolds, enlarge to 10mm if necessary

9. VG30E intake manifold

10. VG30E intake manifold gasket, quoted from other thread, "The VG30 gaskets are a piece of steel sheet about 1/16" thick with neoprene seals snapped into them. [...] If you've got a VG30 intake run thick gaskets!"

11. VG30E distributor, coil

12. Change fuel injector connectors to fit VG30E harness, adapt as needed

13. Gaskets, hoses, etc.

 

 

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You only need to change the pulley if you change the VG33 to a V-belt configuration. The Quest/Villager uses a serpentine belt. If you stick with the 33 balancer and multi rib belts, the Quest pulley is fine. It has an extra rib, but that won't affect anything. 

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Don't forget motor mounts. You don't need anything special, but don't assume that your originals will be worth reusing.

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Yep, you can be pretty sure the left one will fall apart once the engine gets lifted up. 

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Right. I swapped out my motor mounts about six months ago. Well, my friend Danny did it. We had to modify the mounts to make them fit. No idea why they didn't fit out of the box but the parts guy warned us about it in advance. Ugh.

 

I gave one last look around for a TD27T engine and found a couple. But at $3K and without easy access to parts it's a gamble. And an expensive one give the lack of ancillaries, ECU, etc. I lick my chops at the thought of 23+ mpg and I always fancied a Diesel swap, but I think it's just too far afield. So a VG33E it shall be. JDM importers have them in abundance. The two I have my search narrowed to each want about a grand for a low mileage, "tested" engine. That's agreeable.

 

Big thanks to everyone who contributed to this thread. It really cleared up everything for me. Going ahead with the project will be so much less baffling. Thanks a million.

 

 

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A TD27 would be grand, but alas we can only dream.

 

Be sure to keep updates on the forum. It'll be useful for the future when you look back and can't remember if you've done something, allow you to get help if you find yourself stuck on anything, and also provides more info for others undertaking the task in the future.

 

I can't wait to read that you've got it all buttoned up and back on the roads!

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I posed this in the Diesel forum but it makes sense to update it here also.

 

I called someone at a JDM engine importer and guess what?  They have both a TD27T (68k miles) and a QD32ETI (59k miles). Both come with a 5-speed gearbox and I could have my choice for $2700 + $200 shipping to Portland. Steep but ultimately worth the cost over long term fuel savings. I have even less of an idea of what it would take to get one of those to install. Tank, ECU, fuel filler neck, and tach for sure. Clearly on my own for a harness.. but how complicated could a Diesel harness even be?

 

Just theoretically which of the two would be the easiest swap? The TD27T is a bit under powered but it seems like it would be the easiest swap since they were obviously fitted into the WD21. What says the community?  Presumably I'd need a matching ECU for either? There's a QD32ETI ECU for $99 on ebay...

 

Ugh. Why did these have to be an option once I was all set to get a VG33E? And why oh why didn't Nissan give a turbo Diesel option here in the US? For the weight of the WD21 a Diesel is a natural choice. Ah well.

 

Edited by r3dplanet

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I have a manual for the TD27 (engine only). It's mechanically injected. There's a module that controls the EGR valve, but near as I can tell, that's the only computer. That alone should make the TD a whole lot easier to work with. Ekim Naelcm on the NPORA Facebook page (formerly Nefarious on here) TD27-swapped his WD21. I think he had either a half-cut or a complete donor. I remember seeing pictures of wiring harnesses all torn apart. That's who I'd talk to if you're curious.

 

I seem to remember a thread from a while back where someone had swapped a QD32 from an R50 into a WD21. I don't remember seeing details or underhood pictures, just a couple of dark highway pull videos showing it off. I'm not even sure it was on this forum.

 

As cool as either would be, parts availability (both for the initial build and for when something goes wrong down the line) would worry me.

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