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Intermittent stall and no restart, to no start at all

(1996 Nissan Pathfinder)
in Somers, CT on March 01, 2011
Pathfinder would stall and not restart, but then would start and run fine. It was random both in stalling and when it would start. Used dry gas, changed fuel filter, had fuel pump checked and reads +50 psi, also pulled fuel line from rail and no problem getting fuel, cleaned MAF with MAF cleaner, new distributor installed, spark is blue at cap and spark plug. Knock sensor code was only code showing. Engine turns over but won't start now. Tried starter fluid in snorkel, engine still won't start. Any suggestions?
Displaying 2 answers & 5 comments
Popular Answer
on March 02, 2011
it sounds like a spark issue if you tried starter fluid and it did not try to start. in most cases. the distributor is a failure but if you replaced it, check it again. i am assuming you used a new one and not a used one??

on March 03, 2011
Yes, a new distributor was installed, and new wires and spark plugs. Still won't start. Is it possible for the fuel pump relay to act intermittently? And, is it possible the fuel injectors are not getting a signal to inject? If so, how would I go about checking that? Lastly, if the MAF is bad, will that prohibit the fuel injectors from working? Thanks!!!
on March 03, 2011
fuel pump relay? possible but it is the type of thing that is either good or bad.

The pcm controls the ground side to the injectors. you should have 12v all the time and the ground toggled by the pcm according to the crank sensor.

MAF?? if you unplug it and it runs, then you have an issue, but I doubt it.

Double check the timing belt that everything is the way it should be.

on March 04, 2011
Tried to start engine again before unplugging the MAF and it hinted at life with a little rumble, but didn't start. Then did it with MAF disconnected, still won't start. Injectors tested ok at a garage, but I bought my own noid light kit and tested it at home. On 2 of 6 injectors the light does not illuminate, I guess meaning there's no electric pulse going to the injectors. This makes sense since fuel to the rail and spark are good. Checked for lose and chafed wires, nothing obvious. Disconnected battery terminals to reset computer; reconnected and still no start. Any more suggestions? Is the PCM the culprit?
on July 23, 2011
On my '97, which would not start, the end of the MAF sensor has broken off in the air intake. The broken end would rotate and intermittently block the airflow to the sensor which caused the computer to shut off the gas. Fished out the broken part with duct tape. Remove MAF sensor, a good one will have plastic past the active element. Mine broke at a glue joint so others may experience this issue.

MAF sensor issues can cause no start but removing the connector will put the computer in 'limp' mode and the vehicle should start and run enough to get down the road to a repair.

Hope this helps someone.
on June 02, 2012
To answer your question: Yes, it is possible for the fuel pump relay to work sometimes and then just crap out!
My 98 Pathfinder was showing those same symptoms as you. It would just die in the middle of the road when I was driving 40 mph. It would die at a traffic light. Sometimes it wouldn't even start. Waiting several minutes and spraying starter fluid would eventually start it up again. I NEVER CHECKED THE RELAY because I had already listened a few times for my pump to pressurize before starting engine. It did. I heard it. I listened and heard it turn on a few at that point...I stopped listening for it and started exploring other options. I finally broke down (at Autozone!) and did a fuel pressure test. I had no pressure. After more troubleshooting in their parking lot I finally got the idea to stick another relay in there. It worked. For the heck of it, I stuck the old one back in there... it would clack, but the pump wouldn't activate. I tested them both several more times. I suppose the contacts simply wore out after 12 years.
on June 25, 2012
You were right, it was the fuel pump relay acting intermittently. Brought Pathfinder to Nissan dealer and they fiddled with it every day for a week until they figured out it was the relay. Fortunately, there was an maximum $85.00 diagnostic fee. Before the truck could be driven away, though, Nissan declared it un-drivable due to the left shock tower encroaching on the steering column and recalled it and shortly thereafter bought it from me.
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