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Old 02-01-2012, 12:48 PM
bennyb53's Avatar
bennyb53 bennyb53 is offline
2002 Altima
2002 Altima
Join Date: Jan 2011
Location: Hawaii
Posts: 2,100
Default And The Results Are In.....

A little more than a week ago I changed the motor oil on my 02 Altima earlier than planned because of my concern I was losing coolant with no apparent visible leaks. In Oct. 2011 I topped off the coolant for the first time. In mid Nov. I changed out the coolant and had to top off 2x since then (that is from Min.-Max level).

Current Status: No MIL, No Misfire, No Unusual Oil Consumption. At Issue Are: Poor MPG and Slight Loss of Coolant.

Old Oil: Castrol Edge Synthetics 5w-30, first time use. Oil Filter: Fram High Mileage w/ time release oil renewal. Miles on oil: 6,210. No oil add-on and remained on Full level. I sent used oil sample for Oil Analysis.
New Oil: Mobil 1 Synthetics 10-30. Oil Filter: Bosch 99.9% particle filtration.
After changing the oil I removed and inspect the spark plugs. They were all dry and light brown in color. But when I shine light into the cylinders they are like a tale of two cities. Cylinders 1&2 are black or carbon up while cylinders 3&4 are clean and light brown in color.

Oil Analysis Results:
Contaminants: Sodium and Potassium are at a SEVERE LEVEL. This clearly shows coolant has somehow gotten mix with engine oil. The clean looking light brown color cylinders 3&4 is probably where coolant is leaking into at a very small amount this time to cause a misfire and foul up the plugs.
NissanPartsZone.com has a good price on Gasket Repair Kit including HG, lower/upper IM, EM, Valve Seals, oil pump seal, etc. but they charge $33. for UPS. They don't ship USPS. Fel Pro from autopartswarehouse.com is lower and less parts but cover the HG repair. Regardless will order this week.
Wear Metals: Iron at a MODERATE LEVEL. All other metals are good.
NITRATION: This one I spent considerable time reading up. I was aware nitration occurs in the combustion chamber. Its one of the reason we have catalytic converter is to neutralize nitrogen oxides into less harmful gases. But in engine oil?

One of the articles I've read on the subject suggests lower combustion temperature, lower engine speed, shorter drive, igntion timing, bad pcv and even coolant leak. I think cylinders 1&2 which is carbon up is where it is showing. It is possible 3&4 could have been carbon up but being cleaned with coolant leaking to it. In the past year and to the present I no longer drive my car to work due to ride arrangement at work. I only use less than 100 miles a week on shorter drive most of the time. My habit has been to idle the car about 5 minutes to reach operating temp. before driving off.

SUMMARY: I think topping off the coolant 2x in less than 3 months justifies my concern. Doing the oil anyalysis will give us a chance to see what's happening inside the engine without the need for engine tear down before it develops into a major engine failure or repair.

So HG replacement is Priority 1. Will have to drain coolant so I think I go ahead replace the T-stat, water pump and ECT sensor, they are all OE. I don't know if it will cure the servere Nitration issue. I can drive say 5 miles on 1.5 mi. trip. But I will switch to Hotter spark plugs to raise the temp in the combustion chamber.

For under $30. I recommend the Oil Analysis. In three months regardless of miles I have driven I will do the sampling again and will give an update. Here's a link if you want further reading in all sorts of topics.

Motor Oils - Fuel Economy vs. Wear

Last edited by bennyb53; 02-01-2012 at 12:52 PM.
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Old 02-01-2012, 05:59 PM
NissanTech's Avatar
NissanTech NissanTech is offline
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2004 Xterra
Join Date: Jun 2005
Location: California
Age: 48
Posts: 12,253

Thanks for the the write up very informative and good link, good information on that site, and I'm sorry to heard your Altima needs a new head gasket.
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