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2010 Nissan Xterra Off Road
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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Hello everyone, this is my first post here but I am a long time lurker. I am also no stranger to forums, wrenching, or the Xterra. I have been trying to fix a problem with my X for a good 4 or 6 months now and have poured over countless threads on this forum in trying to find the answer. There are TONS of threads describing very similar or exact symptoms as mine but no definitive answers as I assume few people come back to post after they've solved their issue. Alright let me get to my problem:

Problem: Engine long-cranks before starting every time. Occasionally, the engine will not start at all. Weather does not seem to be a factor because this has been going on since it was 100deg outside clear through to now when its 35ish degrees outside. It does, however, seem to be worse in the morning or after the car has been sitting for a long while. When it does start, it runs 100% normal, no check-engine light, no stored codes, no loss of power, no unusual idling. This problem is particularly difficult to diagnose because the no-start condition is intermittent.

Vehicle: 2010 Nissan Xterra Off-Road, AT, 173K(ish) miles

Notes about Vehicle / Things I've tried: First thing I tried was a new battery and new terminals. I have checked the battery health and alternator performance multiple times since then and have never found any issue. Leaving the battery on a maintenance charger over night has no consistent or lasting effect on my issue.

I also changed spark plugs at the same time as the battery. Good NGK iridium plugs with proper gap.

The vehicle has a Flowmaster muffler on it that the previous owner had installed. This muffler has a small hole in it. I have been meaning to change it but I am doubtful that this is my issue as, again, I have no fault codes at all.

I am familiar with the IPDM issue; I have the newer black one; I am doubtful that this is my problem.

I have changed the crank position sensor twice (autozone part). Both times, after changing the part and resetting the ECU, the engine would start, but still long-cranked and eventually wouldn't start again. (reminder: no fault codes)

I installed a T into the plastic fuel line just before the fuel rail and used a pressure gauge to check and monitor fuel pressure during: Key-on, crank, running, and post-shutoff. The pressure behaved consistently in all conditions, but even during running never quite got up to the 51psi manufacturer specification.

At this point in time, it went a whole week without wanting to start at all. During this time, I checked for spark and was surprised to find that I had none. Immediately after that, I also disconnected a random injector and installed a Noid light to see if it was firing the injector. As soon as I cranked the engine, it started for the first time in a week but ran poorly AND the noid light WAS NOT LIGHTING UP. (WTF?!)

At this point, I was beginning to suspect some kind of electronic/communication issue. I then remembered that the previous owner had a crappy "crimestopper" remote start system poorly installed under the dash and it looks like some dealer at some point had installed a "KARR" alarm unit under the dash as well. Neither of these units were working when I bought the car and, having experience with garbage like this, I never bothered to try to make them work. I have recently removed both units in an attempt to solve this issue. I broke 3 wires in doing so and repaired them properly. After doing all of that, the engine did start up but still long-cranked... and the cranks seemed to get longer at each cold start. There are still MANY wire taps scattered all under the dash that I suppose I could investigate a little more closely but for whatever reason, I am doubtful that this is the issue.

After trying all of the above and being frustrated, I finally went with what my gut instinct had been telling me the whole time and installed a brand new Denso fuel pump unit. This yielded no change to the problem except that it does now get up to 51 psi and does not bleed off quite as quickly as it did before.

I am aware of the cam position sensors causing similar issues but it seems like everyone else gets fault codes along with that issue so I am doubtful that this is my issue. (maybe I'm wrong though, who knows)

I am at my wits end with this issue and I am hoping that one of you has had this problem and knows how to fix it. Thanks.
 

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2011 PRO-4X
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464 Posts
You really need to replace both cam and the crank sensor with either OEM or Hitachi units. You are chasing your tail using the junk aftermarket ones.
 

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08 Xterra 4x4 MT
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i agree with miki. I used Hitachi cam sensors when I had starting issues but mine threw a code. had a 06 frontier that had a bad cam sensor but threw no codes and had problems starting. I'd say replace that and if your issue is still there then it is more than likely your NATS/NVIS
 

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I know you have tested the fuel pressure - but have you tried starting fluid to see if will fire during the no start situation? Your ECM might not be sending PWM signals to the injectors - so no fuel anyway?

Have you pulled a plug right after trying to crank for a while without start - to see if its dry or wet? Any plug is fine - so pull an easy one.

Have you verified spark directly at the plug while cranking?

I would try monitoring all the time while running for pending codes - you might get lucky and one comes and goes?

Do you get a key light in the dash during no start? Even if you don't - try changing keys.



I would agree with others regarding possible cam sensors, but those will often quit while running - not just no start - so I wouldn't run off and change those just yet. However we have seen no starts here before caused with those - with no codes. I also would not blindly rule out the IPDM. There was more than one iteration of that thing once they changed them - and your model year is directly in that time period. It could even be a relay acting skittish. Unfortunately it could also be the ECM - but we won't go there yet :(.

I would try the above diagnostic tests first before throwing any more parts at it. Also if you have a code reader or app that will report all of the OBD readings - like 02 sensors, fuel trims, etc - post those up. Possible someone here will notice something unusual that will point you in the right direction.
 

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2010 Nissan Xterra Off Road
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Discussion Starter #7
I know you have tested the fuel pressure - but have you tried starting fluid to see if will fire during the no start situation? Your ECM might not be sending PWM signals to the injectors - so no fuel anyway?

Have you pulled a plug right after trying to crank for a while without start - to see if its dry or wet? Any plug is fine - so pull an easy one.

Have you verified spark directly at the plug while cranking?

I would try monitoring all the time while running for pending codes - you might get lucky and one comes and goes?

Do you get a key light in the dash during no start? Even if you don't - try changing keys.



I would agree with others regarding possible cam sensors, but those will often quit while running - not just no start - so I wouldn't run off and change those just yet. However we have seen no starts here before caused with those - with no codes. I also would not blindly rule out the IPDM. There was more than one iteration of that thing once they changed them - and your model year is directly in that time period. It could even be a relay acting skittish. Unfortunately it could also be the ECM - but we won't go there yet :(.

I would try the above diagnostic tests first before throwing any more parts at it. Also if you have a code reader or app that will report all of the OBD readings - like 02 sensors, fuel trims, etc - post those up. Possible someone here will notice something unusual that will point you in the right direction.
I know you have tested the fuel pressure - but have you tried starting fluid to see if will fire during the no start situation? Your ECM might not be sending PWM signals to the injectors - so no fuel anyway?
-I have tried starting fluid and it did not make a difference. At that point in time, I wasn't ready to rule out fuel delivery as a possibility though.

Have you pulled a plug right after trying to crank for a while without start - to see if its dry or wet? Any plug is fine - so pull an easy one.
-Actually, Saturday night, it wouldn't start and I did pull a plug again. This time, the plug was wet, and not firing while cranking.

Have you verified spark directly at the plug while cranking?
-See previous answer

I would try monitoring all the time while running for pending codes - you might get lucky and one comes and goes?
-I don't think my code reader can do that.

Do you get a key light in the dash during no start? Even if you don't - try changing keys.
-No security fault light, as far as I can tell. I have only ever had one key for the vehicle.

I appreciate your help. At this point, it's looking like my problem is electronic/communication in nature so my best leads seem to be the cam position sensors (still not very confident in that) or the IPDM. Do you happen to know if there is a bench test option for either of those parts?
 

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2010 Nissan Xterra Off Road
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Discussion Starter #8
i agree with miki. I used Hitachi cam sensors when I had starting issues but mine threw a code. had a 06 frontier that had a bad cam sensor but threw no codes and had problems starting. I'd say replace that and if your issue is still there then it is more than likely your NATS/NVIS
When you were having problems with yours, did your engine run normally when it did start? Did it ever want to die on you?
 

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I know you have tested the fuel pressure - but have you tried starting fluid to see if will fire during the no start situation? Your ECM might not be sending PWM signals to the injectors - so no fuel anyway?
-I have tried starting fluid and it did not make a difference. At that point in time, I wasn't ready to rule out fuel delivery as a possibility though.

Have you pulled a plug right after trying to crank for a while without start - to see if its dry or wet? Any plug is fine - so pull an easy one.
-Actually, Saturday night, it wouldn't start and I did pull a plug again. This time, the plug was wet, and not firing while cranking.

Have you verified spark directly at the plug while cranking?
-See previous answer

I would try monitoring all the time while running for pending codes - you might get lucky and one comes and goes?
-I don't think my code reader can do that.

Do you get a key light in the dash during no start? Even if you don't - try changing keys.
-No security fault light, as far as I can tell. I have only ever had one key for the vehicle.

I appreciate your help. At this point, it's looking like my problem is electronic/communication in nature so my best leads seem to be the cam position sensors (still not very confident in that) or the IPDM. Do you happen to know if there is a bench test option for either of those parts?
I hate to say it but it might be worth the money to pay the dealer for a diagnostic?

CAM sensors are not a bad thing to try. Hopefully that is it.

For the IPDM - the original failure mode for the white one that was corroding. Typically it would cause both stalling and no start - but that is often CAM sensor thing as well. You could pull some relays and look for corrosion? Not definitive but its a start.
 

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Discussion Starter #10 (Edited)
I hate to say it but it might be worth the money to pay the dealer for a diagnostic?

CAM sensors are not a bad thing to try. Hopefully that is it.

For the IPDM - the original failure mode for the white one that was corroding. Typically it would cause both stalling and no start - but that is often CAM sensor thing as well. You could pull some relays and look for corrosion? Not definitive but its a start.
I will buy my own top-of-the-line scan tool before I let a dealership touch my car. I despise dealerships. Thankfully, I'm not quite to that point yet.

I did some more thinking yesterday: It seems like most of the time when I disconnect the battery and leave it on a maintenance charger over night, it starts better than ever the next morning (if only for a few tries). So even though I already replaced the battery terminals, I decided to try another set, and grind the edges down on the positive side to fit the fuse block properly (I used stacked washers before to make everything fit snugly). I also cleaned up and put new terminal ends on the negative battery cable. Not so surprisingly, the engine fired up easily. Went for a drive, came home, disconnected battery again, hooked up battery charger over night. This morning, it started strong again, so I shut it off, left the battery connected, did NOT reconnect the charger, and took my other car to work. I'll try it again when I get home.

Also, this may be unrelated but the ABS, VDC, and SLIP lights were all on during all of the above. I have had these lights come on before when I've been messing with the battery connections but they typically turn themselves off after a couple miles of driving. I should also note that I have the ABS-off switch mod installed as well. I inspected the wiring for that and it all looks good so not sure. Just did some reading in other threads and it seems like these things just reset themselves at their own pace. Some say 50ft of driving, some say several days of driving... so I'll set that concern to the back burner for now. Again, this might be unrelated and unimportant but I just thought I should mention it.
 

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Discussion Starter #11 (Edited)
UPDATE: I got home last night and the engine fired up again easily. Shut it off and left it alone. A few hours later, it started easily again. This morning, started easily again, a few hours later, started easily again. As of now, I am cautiously optimistic that my starting problem has been solved. The moral of the story here is that these cars are VERY sensitive to voltage and you need to make sure your battery and battery terminals are in EXCELLENT health, not pretty good, not decent, F-ING EXCELLENT. Just because the engine cranks over fast and strong, does not mean your battery and terminals should be ruled out.

As for my ABS dash light problem, it turns out that I had disconnected the rear diff lock connector during my fuel pump job and I had forgotten to reconnect it. As soon as it was reconnected, all was well.

In the interest of helping the next poor soul out, I will report back here if the starting problem returns but if this is the last of my posts you read in this thread, the problem turned out to be faulty battery terminals.
 
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