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Nissan Maxima Heavy, Stuttering Idle

Q. Vincent, Sorry about not giving you full information on my first visit. Wasn't sure I would get through. Anyhow this is it. My car is a 1989 Nissan Maxima, 3.0 liter V-6, automatic transmission with about 152,000 miles. The problem is that about four months after buying it, it began with this rough idling at start-up and when at stop.

Nissan Maxima Heavy, Stuttering Idle

So I took it to a mechanic who claimed that it was the ignition. He changed the wires, plugs, distributor cap and rotor.

When I picked it up he said that I had a misfire in two cylinders for a long time and was driving car with this too long that it has carbon built up in head and the catalytic converter was burnt out. He claimed to have tried but could not get 100% power.

His suggestion was to drive it around for about one week to see if it will burn out some of the carbon then bring it back for him to check. If the carbon is still there, then an overhaul is necessary costing $1,400.00.

When I took the car from him it continued the rough idle, same as before, at start/stop/stationary position but no stuttering on driving. I got back to him and his reply was; this was happening because of the burnt-out catalytic converter.

Just then, in going back to my car, I found the idle to be normal again and this was the case for about two weeks, then suddenly when I stopped, it started the rough idle, but this soon disappeared as I drove off about two blocks.

About two weeks after that it started again, but lasted for about three days. At this time there seemed to be a faint smell of something like burnt rubber, then back to smooth idling, which it has been to this day, about 1½ weeks ago.

I am skeptical to go back to mechanic because he is claiming that this problem came about because of excessive neglect, like driving it in this state for long periods of time, but I only had the car for four months and it was checked out and running as good as new. When it started the rough idle I tried to get it fixed two days after without driving more than two miles.

Others have told me it could possibly be tuning, timing, idle sensor or engine mounts but not carbonization. Could you advise or suggest PLEASE?

Brooklyn, NY


Well, now that it comes and goes, it is a fairly safe assumption the problem is electrical and not mechanical. So we can put the converter replacement on the back burner for now.

There were a few peculiarities with this engine that caused some strange problems. The first is the air filter. If you use an aftermarket air filter, the idle will become rough. To test this, when the engine as acting up, remove the air filter. If the idle smooths out, you found the problem.

To correct this you can buy a modified air filter housing from Nissan, or just use Nissan air filters. Personally, you can buy a lot of Nissan air filters for the price of the modified air filter housing.

On some 1989 Nissan Maxima's, the branch of the EFI harness which connects to the Engine Coolant Temperature (ECT) sensor may be mis-routed, and there is a possibility that the wires may become damaged at the connector.

Nissan Maxima Heavy, Stuttering Idle

If the wires connected to the Coolant Temperature Sensor break, the engine may be difficult to start when cold. On California models, the "Check Engine" warning light may be activated. Therefore, this wire harness must be inspected, re-routed, and, if necessary, repaired.

Nissan Maxima Heavy, Stuttering Idle

The cause may be wire breakage in the engine control harness where it bends over the right rear of the engine next to the right strut tower. Wire breakage inside this harness at the bend has been a problem for these cars and a multitude of malfunctions can be attributed to it.

Now be careful here. The wire may be broken inside the insulation so the break will not be obvious. In other words it may look good but still be broken.

There was a TSB issued on this and the Nissan Dealer has a repair kit and procedure to effect repairs to the harness.

Nissan Maxima Heavy, Stuttering Idle

I think there is a good chance that one, or more, of these conditions causing your problem.

Additional Information provided courtesy of AllDATA

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