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1993 Nissan Pathfinder Cost-Effectiveness


Albeitt
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Hi, I have a 1993 Nissan Pathfinder with the VG30E. I'm trying to figure out the cost-effectiveness of repairing an older vehicle. Here's what I know about it.

 

I bought it mid-June for $250 CAD. It has 310,000 kms on it. The frame, body, and interior are in decent condition considering the age and mileage.

 

I've put some money into the parts for minor body and interior repairs, and I'm comfortable with performing these kinds of fixes. Wiring, lights, electrical components, and whatnot are more in my "wheelhouse" than the need engine repairs, which I will go over.

 

The previous owner said he was selling it because of what he called a blown head gasket. He just wanted to move on from it and didn't want to do more work with it. The exhaust had water in it, and was letting out white, sweet-smelling, smoke/vapor. He said that it might be either an intake manifold gasket, since the VG30Es have coolant galleries in the lower intake manifold, or that it might be a blown head gasket or warped head. 

 

I got it home, and decided to run a compression test with the radiator cap off to check for bubbles. I got the following results:

 

1: 150 PSI (no bubbles in rad)

3: 100 PSI (no bubbles in rad)

5: 70 PSI (no bubbles in rad)

 

2: 175 PSI (no bubbles in rad)

4: 160 PSI (no bubbles in rad)

6: 190 PSI (rad was gushing)

 

The coolant also leaked out somewhere, but I'm not working on pavement and I couldn't find where it went.

 

If I understand correctly, this repair will require taking off the plenum, the lower intake manifold, both cylinder heads and having them machined. Then I need to buy new head gaskets, intake manifold gaskets, and head bolts. I will also need to find the coolant leak if it's leaking from elsewhere.

 

I'm worried about misdiagnosing the cause of the head gasket leak. There are so many things that could go wrong that would causing overheating, and the previous owner is difficult to contact. The timing belt job is last documented to have been done at 90,000 kms, but I'm sure it's been done since then.

 

Essentially, I'm just trying to get a feel to the cost-effectiveness of this repair. I know head gasket jobs are labor intense and are therefore pretty expensive. The parts aren't going to be cheap either, as the timing belt and water pump should probably be done as well.

 

My logic is that, since the rest of the vehicle is in decent condition, the fact that I only paid $250 for it, and that these engines have a long life expectancy should they be well taken care of, that these repairs are worth it. But, that's what I came here for. I need to confirm that it is indeed worth it to go ahead with these sort of repairs.

 

I know that it would be cheaper to do myself, but as someone with little mechanical experience (though I'm not entirely clueless), I don't want to risk doing more harm than good, or waste time and money on something that won't be worth it.

 

I'm basically just looking for advice on how to proceed, and any help diagnosing my issues would also be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

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Cylinders 3 and 5 seem to be low on compression if those are your final numbers. I would do a leak down test on those two cylinders as well as cylinder 6 to see where the blow by comes from (intake or exhaust). If you decide to go through with this project, a new thermostat, water pump, and timing belt are a must. I’d also replace the front main and cam seals while you’re in there. Good luck!


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49 minutes ago, MiltonWATech99 said:

Cylinders 3 and 5 seem to be low on compression if those are your final numbers. I would do a leak down test on those two cylinders as well as cylinder 6 to see where the blow by comes from (intake or exhaust). If you decide to go through with this project, a new thermostat, water pump, and timing belt are a must. I’d also replace the front main and cam seals while you’re in there. Good luck!


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Are these kind of repairs worth it?

 

I don't have a leakdown tester. Is there some other way to figure that out?

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Are these kind of repairs worth it?
 
I don't have a leakdown tester. Is there some other way to figure that out?

Definitely worth it in my opinion. This is all preventative maintenance. It’s like doing oil changes and tune-ups. One thing you could potentially do is feed some compressed air into the spark plug hole of each cylinder, then turn the engine over with a breaker bar to hear if any air leaks out the intake or exhaust when those valves are CLOSED. I haven’t had to do it, but I would suggest buying a leak down tester for a future investment.


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It is certainly worth it in my opinion, but - Sometimes it is hard to draw a line on where to start and where to stop when doing these repairs.

It's a 27 yo car that has years of wear and tear.

Opening an old engine can be like opening Pandora's box. Especially if you don't know it's history  and how it has been driven and maintained.

. If you're pulling it apart, you'd be silly not to do the timing belt, freshen up the heads, replace all of your hoses etc when you reassemble it. You may need a new exhaust system depending on how long it's had water accumulating in it (they rust from the inside out) Then if you're going that far, why not throw in some fresh rings and bearings? IF you're doing that, why not a full reconditioned engine? And it snow balls from there. My advice [if you're paying someone to do the work] is do as much as you can afford while it is in bits as the labour is the expensive part. 

It's kind of like my story
I have an 86 4cyl 2 door I bought 12 months ago which overheated driving it home. It started with a new waterpump and radiator, now I am putting in a reconditioned engine. I found that the previous owners had never ran corrosion inhibitor, so the inlet manifold was corroded... New intake.   While it it, I am replacing clutch, starter, alternator, carburettor, exhaust, some wiring and even decided to repaint the engine bay. It's turned into an intensive project, which is fine as I only paid a few hundred dollars for the car, and I am doing the work myself..

But I love these cars, they are starting to disappear from our roads and when I am done I know I will have a sweet truck that will serve me well for years, so a great investment for me. 
I hope you decide to repair it!  

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Before dumping a bunch of money I would take a close look at the frame over the rear axle. The frame on my '95 looked fine until I started tapping at what I thought was surface rust. Past that, "worth it" really depends on what you want from the truck and what you're prepared to spend on bringing it back. Paying for someone else's labor does make that math more difficult.

 

Given the mileage and issues with your current engine, I'd consider a VG33 swap instead of putting a bunch of money into a tired VG30.

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With the age and distance on the engine, cost of the new parts and machine work, you are better off just swapping in a good VG from another truck. With that milage(don't know what you call it when in kilometers, kiloage just doesn't sound right) you don't want to do the top end and not do the bottom as well. You will shortly have bottom end and piston issues.

I did what I consider a simple and inexpensive swap in my 93 when the key for the timing belt sprocket on the crankshaft broke and the pistons and valves had a fight over territory. I swapped a VG33 from a first gen Xterra in. I swapped the distributor and intake plenum from my original engine, parts from both subharness for the new style injectors and my older solenoids, sensors, and distributor. Was pretty simple in my opinion. I kept the 33's accessory brackets and power steering pump. I had upgraded to a Quest/Villager alternator years before and found that it fit fine on the Xterra/Frontier bracket. I just swapped back to the multirib pulley that it originally had. I don't have a/c in my truck, the compressor gave out years before the engine and I never got around to fixing that. I also swapped the exhaust manifolds from the 30 to the 33, they fit just fine. I think I changed the oil pan as well, but not sure. My engine did have a side trip in a 96 R50 for a couple years before it moved into my 93. So there was some other fiddling I wound up doing, but if I had just pulled it from a Frontier/Xterra, I would not have had to mess with. 

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On 8/7/2020 at 4:12 PM, FirstGenFreak said:

It is certainly worth it in my opinion, but - Sometimes it is hard to draw a line on where to start and where to stop when doing these repairs.

It's a 27 yo car that has years of wear and tear.

Opening an old engine can be like opening Pandora's box. Especially if you don't know it's history  and how it has been driven and maintained.

. If you're pulling it apart, you'd be silly not to do the timing belt, freshen up the heads, replace all of your hoses etc when you reassemble it. You may need a new exhaust system depending on how long it's had water accumulating in it (they rust from the inside out) Then if you're going that far, why not throw in some fresh rings and bearings? IF you're doing that, why not a full reconditioned engine? And it snow balls from there. My advice [if you're paying someone to do the work] is do as much as you can afford while it is in bits as the labour is the expensive part. 

It's kind of like my story
I have an 86 4cyl 2 door I bought 12 months ago which overheated driving it home. It started with a new waterpump and radiator, now I am putting in a reconditioned engine. I found that the previous owners had never ran corrosion inhibitor, so the inlet manifold was corroded... New intake.   While it it, I am replacing clutch, starter, alternator, carburettor, exhaust, some wiring and even decided to repaint the engine bay. It's turned into an intensive project, which is fine as I only paid a few hundred dollars for the car, and I am doing the work myself..

But I love these cars, they are starting to disappear from our roads and when I am done I know I will have a sweet truck that will serve me well for years, so a great investment for me. 
I hope you decide to repair it!  

That's the thing, the interior has very little wear and tear. It looks like new except for a few cracks in the dash and the faded fabric at the base of the windows. I'll post a few pictures. 

 

I'm going to be doing the work myself, and I paid very little for it. That's why I'm hoping it's worth it. I'll check out the rear frame soon, and the rest of it is solid as the previous owner has put a spray of some sort to protect it. 

 

I have a Pick N Pull nearby (about 100 km away) which will be my supplier for the components that don't need to be brand new. I've already picked up a few pieces (mostly cosmetic) to get it back to new-ish. 

 

The engine bay is also super clean all things considering. I mean, it's got dust and dirt and whatnot, but very little grease or damage or anything. It also doesn't look like the guy sprayed it off to make it look better, because if he did, there wouldn't be any dust, which there is. 

 

No grease where it shouldn't be, little frame rust, interior is nice, but some minor cosmetic things on the paint and body work. Scratches from trees and shrubs and stuff, but its look like it was totaled. It has powder coating along the bottom of the sides which I'm guessing is to either cover up some existing rust (which after inspection doesn't appear to be much) or to prevent rush from appearing (because I understand that that these areas are prone to rusting). Maybe it's both, I don't know. The rocker guard looks cool so I'm happy with it either way. 

 

Its got the full roof rack and sunroof, and a new stereo system. Even though the guy took the sub out when he sold it, it still sounds really good. 

 

I'm a fan of them as well, and I'm excited to get it back on the road. 

 

Its got some pretty deep repairs for the engine, but the running gear is good and solid, so I'm hoping it's worth it. 

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Sounds like you've made the call, you sound excited about it and you have bugger all money in it. 
I weighed it up like this:
I paid 400 for the car, will spend about $2500 AUD on the reco engine +upgrades (weber carb, headers, exhaust) and general roadworthy stuff. Otherwise the car is in excellent condition.
Total investment about 3k. Here in Aus you simply cannot buy a roadworthy 4wd for that money, so that justifies it - financially at least.

As long as your frame is good sounds like you have a plan! 
Hopefully all of the coatings on your rails and lower body are to protect it, not to hide problems. 
Good luck with it!

Edited by FirstGenFreak
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