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2004 Altima won't spark Forums > > > 2004 Altima won't spark 2004 Altima won't spark
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Old 10-26-2019, 03:23 PM
sedder sedder is offline
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2004 Altima Sedan
Join Date: Oct 2019
Posts: 5
Thumbs down 2004 Altima won't spark

I have a 2004 Altima with about 106k miles. After running with an intermittently occurring P0303 error (cylinder 3 misfire), it suddenly won't start. This has not been a problem previously; even when the #2 coil was bad it would still start.

The engine does turn over but won't start. When cranking it does not feel like any of the plugs are firing. After cranking I smell unburned fuel (I assume through the exhaust pipe).

I have downloaded the big thick repair manual and worked through IGNITION SIGNAL trouble shooting section (on page 539). I believe I have tested everything and found no problems.

Plugs: None are really clean, but none look like they won't spark across the gap. Fuel smell from the cylinders. Have not visually confirmed spark yet, no assistant and I keep draining the battery, will do this tomorrow.

Ignition coils: Replaced #2 coil a couple months ago. #3 and #4 have tested flakey, but ARE with in spec today (not 0 or infinity resistances across terminals).

Ignition condensor: spec says resistance should be over 1M ohm. My multi-meter only goes up to 1K ohm, the needle does not move when testing. Also tried starting with it removed: no joy.

NO current error codes.

Recent PAST error codes:
P300 - random misfire
P303 - misfire cylinder 3
P402? - Catalyst/O2
The P402 with the 300's makes sense, unburned fuel would be dumped.
#3 Ignition coil has been flakey, but currently tests OK.

Recent repairs:
Replaced alternator 2 months ago.
Replaced #2 ignition coil 2 months ago.
Some drive train stuff (CV? wheel bearing?) last year.
Coolant leak somewhere but is topped up.
Past due for oil change.

** I currently believe the problem is related to something telling the ECU to not fire the spark.
Yes, it could be bad coils, but does not feel like anything is sparking.

Does anyone know how to check if the immobilizer is telling the ECU to not let the car start? I see no obvious lights; the one above the dash seems to blink "normally". (I ask 'cause in a video an immobilizer was causing problems with a Ferrari.)

Last edited by sedder; 10-26-2019 at 03:26 PM.
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Old 10-26-2019, 11:52 PM
smj999smj's Avatar
smj999smj smj999smj is offline
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I think you mean P0420 and not P0402, which is an EGR code and your Altima does have an EGR system. P0420 is a catalyst efficiency code and would make sense if it had a misfire and would best be ignored until the main problem is solved, codes erased and then wait to see if it re-triggers.

A lot of time with these engines, it's the crank position sensor or cam position sensor that fails and causes a no start condition and they don't always trigger codes for those particular sensors. If it were mine, I would get Sensor Kit # 23731-6N225 from Nissan, which runs about $50 and contains both sensors, and replace them. One of those sensors will have a white paint dot on it and that sensor is the crank position sensor. Most of the time it'll fix the problem, but if not, you can eliminate it from the possibilities and if you've gone through the factory service manual procedure to no avail, it's possible that the ECM is bad. I would also check for any recalls or open campaigns for your vehicle, which can be done with your VIN # at Nissan's website. There was a voluntary recall # R0606 that was issued by Nissan to reprogram the ECM. It's to fix a condition of potential stalling due to signal interruption from the crank position sensor signal due to heat variations in temperature. You can find a copy of the Recall Bulletin NTB06-051a in the "knowledge base" at this site:

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Old 10-28-2019, 07:28 AM
sedder sedder is offline
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2004 Altima Sedan
Join Date: Oct 2019
Posts: 5

Thanks for your reply. Crank and Cam sensors were next on my list to start looking at. Good to know about that Nissan sensor kit, just one sensor from a parts store was about that price.
Reading the service manual's description, it implies that the Cam sensor is used as a fail-over if the Crank sensor stops working. Which would mean that both had to fail to stop the engine from working.

But, that ended up not being the problem.

Also, Nissian shows no open recalls for my VIN.
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Old 10-28-2019, 01:27 PM
sedder sedder is offline
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2004 Altima Sedan
Join Date: Oct 2019
Posts: 5

Following up to post the resolution.

Further diagnosis found the following:
* 15A fuse for O2 sensor in IPDM fuse box was blown. (replaced)
* During cranking, engine would occasionally:
  • fire,
  • diesel (ignite) after releasing key, and
  • misfire/backfire through (I think) the intake manifold. (strange growling noise)
* Unburned gasoline could be smelled after cranking.
* Spark plugs were wet. (oil? Gasoline??)
* Spark plugs DID spark when withdrawn, connected to ignition coil, and touched to ground.
* Through the spark plug holes, stuff could be seen on top of the piston heads.
* Cylinders definitely had unburned gasoline in them.
* VERY low oil level
* Small amount of Green gunk on dip stick. (I'm sure that tells you what the problem is.)
* Oil and coolant pooled on top of transmission bell inside engine compartment.
* Low coolant level.

So, the assumption is that the head gasket is blown.

Getting the engine running:
* Replaced 15A O2 sensor fuse with one from under-dash "Blower"
* Added a quart of oil.
* Constructed a specialized tool using a 1/8th inch (2-3mm) dowel and wrapping it with a piece of paper towel (possibly held tightly with tape).
* Tool was dipped through spark plug holes and used to soak up oil, coolant, and liquid gasoline.
* Cleaned plugs.
* Reinstall plugs, ignition coils, etc.
* Engine fired right up and ran happily. (Which really impresses me about these Nissan engines, they don't seem to care how you abuse them.)

I need to mention that having a battery charger hooked up was vital to this project.

Next step: Head gasket. But that's for another post. Yikes, that's twice what I thought it would cost to have done.

Last edited by sedder; 10-28-2019 at 01:31 PM.
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