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97 Pathfinder Won't Start


Millertime
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I was wondering if somebody can give me some direction in finding out why my 97 pathfinder won't start. I've had this vehicle a little under a year, it was running decent when I purchased it. It has had a timing belt done about a year or so ago, the vehicle has over 200,000 miles. I was driving it home one day and as I was pulling in my driveway the engine died and I came to a coasting stop in my driveway where it has sat for a few months. The engine turns over, but will not start. I have changed the fuel pump, fuel filter, and spark plugs. I can smell fuel in the engine when cranking, I have verified that there is spark on all cylinders. The distributor cap and rotor are also fairly new. I have also tried starting it by spraying starting fluid in the air intake and have not had any luck as well. I'm not sure where else to go from here, if you can give me any ideas of some more troubleshooting that would be great.

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If you or someone you know has a code scanner (you can get them pretty cheap), check for codes. This might give you some idea of what you're up against, if the issue is electrical. It might just be a failed sensor or a bad connection.

 

When you try to start it, does it try to catch at all? Or does it just crank like it's out of gas?

 

Spark but no fire, even on starting fluid, is odd. Is it a strong blue spark or a weak orange one? If it's got good spark, it should kick on starting fluid, unless it's got no compression or it's timed wrong. Given the recent timing job, it shouldn't be the belt, and fire on all six tells me the distributor is still spinning. That said, if the computer doesn't have any bright ideas, I'd turn the engine to TDC (check the marks on the crank pulley, or stick a dowel or a rod down the #1 spark plug hole) and check the position of the rotor. It should point roughly at where either the #1 or #4 spark plug wire goes. If something fell into the belt (not sure what it would be), and it skipped a couple of teeth, that would screw up your timing and your compression at the same time. Hopefully it's not that.

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It cranks over but doesn't seem to sputter or anything indicating that it is going to possibly start, it just keeps cranking. I have no CEL's on the dash, but I will hook up a scanner to it to see if there is any in the computer. As far as the spark, I believe it was orange. I used the spark tester that goes in between the spark plug and plug wire. I was tempted to try and do a compression test on it, but the way the plugs are configured on the vehicle being different depths and on the back side of the engine I'm not sure how I would do that. It was hard enough to do a tune up on it, i'm not sure how I would get a compression tester threaded in. Everything is sealed up on the timing belt assembly, I wouldn't think anything would have fallen in, but you never know I guess.

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If you want to test compression to rule out the belt, you wouldn't have to test each cylinder. If the belt slipped on the crank, all cylinders would be affected equally. Check the easiest one to get at, and if it's got good squish, I'd say it's not the belt. I don't know what would've gotten in there, either; it's just the only thing I could think of that wasn't fuel or spark.

 

Orange spark makes me more suspicious of the coil. I'd start there.

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Take the cap off the distributor and if there is any brown/gold/red/bronze coloured dust in there, it is the bearing in the distributor. Extremely common on the VG33E, and it doesn't hurt to check given your mileage. Mine (Xterra, but same distributor) would give spark when you checked for it, but not enough to fire the engine. I've changed mine twice now (got a defective aftermarket one the first time, only lasted 3k).

Edited by adamzan
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  • 2 weeks later...

Been still working on getting this thing started, I checked for spark again and I'm definitely getting an orange spark to the plugs. I looked at recent receipts on the vehicle and the entire distributor and wires have been done recently under 1k miles. Is there a possibility that this distributor is defective? Is there any deeper diagnostics I can do to rule out the distributor? I also took the distributor cap off and checked inside, everything looks brand new, I don't see any dust inside. From what I've read in the service manual the coil is built in to the distributor assembly. I also put a scanner on it again and don't have any codes in the system. Will a crankshaft or camshaft position sensor cause a weak spark no start on these vehicles? Thanks for the help!

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When my cam sensor went bad it would kill the car and then have trouble starting afterwards, but I knew it was the cam sensor because it threw a code. Although it is a possibility, think if it was something like that it would probably be something you could see on an obd scanner. If it's your last resort you could try putting a new one in, it isn't super expensive and it only takes about half an hour to put in, you just have to make sure the needle is pointed exactly the same way as the old one you took out when you put the new one in.

 

Hopefully that's somewhat helpful!

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If you are getting spark, thats good, it eliminates several possible faults, smelling fuel and having fuel injector pulse are 2 different things, also not starting on starter fluid is a big deal. So as said above it could be an air thing, or that orange spark should be a hot white spark and your new dizzy is not getting the job done. I would get a spark checker and see if it arks properly, because in some instances a weak spark is the same as a no spark. Try to unplug the M.A.F. and see if it will start. If you pull the plugs again and one of them is really washed down with fuel you may have a stuck injector.

 

thats about it for me.

Edited by fixinto
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Well I finally got the truck running. So the distributor, cap, and rotor were replaced recently. I was kind of have been ruling them out. I took the cap off today and looked into it anyway. I found that the rotor almost looked discolored and the cap button was a little burned. I turned the engine over with the cap off and noticed spark there, so I ruled the distributor out. I decided to go buy a cap and rotor. When I got home, I start by taking the rotor off and the previous shop that worked on it didn't put a set screw in the rotor. I put the new rotor on with some locktite for the set screw and replaced the cap. The truck started immediately, I have definitely learned my lesson to do some more trouble shooting instead of throwing parts at it. Thanks for all of your help, I appreciate it!

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