I have a 2002 Nissan Maxima that I've owned since 2003. I'm now on my sixth Mass Air Flow (MAF) sensor. What seems to wipe them out is hard acceleration (3/4 throttle - not so extreme as to induce torque steer) such as accelerating up a freeway on-ramp. Sometimes it's been preceded by braking, such as slowing for a bicycle in the lane, then accelerating around it when there's an opening in traffic. Based on my experience of having many (expensive) failures, I would think this would be a common problem, but I can find hardly anything on the interweb on the subject. What could possibly be causing such a high failure rate?
This is a very common failure in the Nissan's. The part number on the 2001/2002 Model Year MAF Sensor was 22680-6N200. This part has been known for a very high failure rate. It was later superceeded by part numbers 22680-6N201 and 22680-AM600. One of these two parts should be the one that you are ordering for the vehicle. If in any case these are not available, many dealers have been taking the 2003 MAF and installing them into the 2002MY vehicles. There has not been many failures with running one of the two newer part numbers or running the 2003 (only difference is the 2003MY MAF has intake temperature intergraded into it).
When replacing the MAF you should also replace the Air Filter if needed. Also, it is essential that you reset the Engine Control Module as well. If not you will run the risk of damaging the new sensor.
Also, make sure that the terminals on the connector are not corroded or damaged in any way. This will also potentially damage the sensor.
There are a number of senarios that will trigger a MAF sensor code to come up. If you had a list of trouble codes or actual values from the sensor itself it would help.