I have a manual 1997 Nissan Pathfinder which has ran great for a long, long time. The only issues I have had are with the clutch, starter and valve cover gasket. The last problem was a few months ago and that was an oil leak caused by a a bad gasket. Fixed it without incident.
A few days ago, I was driving down the road going about 25 mph. Then my car slowed down. I watched as my RPM went to 0 and she was dead! At first I thought I let the clutch slip, so while rolling, I put her in first and popped the clutch (a trick that usually works) and I got nothing.
I stopped and tried to start her once, she was cranking but wouldn't roll over. I then noticed I was low on gas, pretty close to E. I grabbed enough gas to bring me to a quarter tank, still wasn't getting anything. Not sure if it matters, but I have moved to an area that allows me to do most commutes via bike so I only drive about once a week.
Anyway, when she died, it felt kind of like what I remembered when my old car's alternator went out so I grabbed my multimeter and checked the battery, over 12 volts so I think I am safe in assuming my battery/alternator are okay. Next I pulled the hose off of the exiting end of my fuel pump and turned the key... fuel shot out. Now I know this doesn't mean that my fuel pressure is correct, but I take this as a pretty good indication that my pump/filter are working.
On to spark... it's cold and raining like crazy here so I didn't stay out for long, but I did shove a screw driver into the boot and held it close to ground. I got no spark. It was definitely a quick and not very thorough test so I will check again tomorrow. If I don't get spark out of any of the wires, I swill probably move on to checking the ignition coil. It just seems very strange that it would die in the middle of driving and not throw a code.
Any advice? I am fortunate in that I have another vehicle, but I like this one much much more and she has normally been more reliable. Any help is greatly appreciated.
Unfortunately, it is not my fuel pump. I checked spark again with a proper tester and got nothing from all 6. I pulled the distributor cap off and had my girlfriend try to start her.... The rotor didn't move one bit. My heart sank. I immediately checked to make sure my crankshaft was spinning... No problem there. To confirm my fear of a snapped timing belt, I yanked off one of the valve covers and had her start again, rockers didn't move one bit.
Now I know the problem, unless someone else has compelling evidence as to why I shouldn't continue down this path. The timing belt is tucked pretty deep and will require quite a bit of work just to confirm it is the problem, although given the symptoms, it makes sense.
The sad thing is my motor is an interference motor so after I spend all that time and money, I still might have bent a valve (in which case, hit me up for Pathfinder parts!!!). I'll get her opened up this weekend to get a better idea, but I am pretty sure I have solved this one.
It was definitely my timing belt, I don't think it has ever been changed. It looked like one tooth wore down and finally gave way. I am actually shocked that it didn't jump prior to breaking. It took me a good 12 hours to complete on the side of the road in a storm. I busted out my deep sea fishing gear and went to town on it.
To those who have an interference motor like me, don't just give up in fear of a bent valve. It's 30 bucks and a weekend's worth of work (assuming you have the proper tools). She started up just fine once I got her put back together and that was after multiple cranks before I knew it was the belt (big no no when the belt is off), so you may get lucky too.
I got up to about 30 mph on my home, I'll test it more when I wake up. For now, I would say the problem is solved, at least my original issue anyway... Now whether or not she'll hold up remains to be seen.