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My 2003 Nisan Altima SE (a lemon)

Vitals:

2003 Nisan Altima SE. A 3.5-liter DOHC 24-valve V6 engine, 245/hp @5,800rpm 246/lb-ft @4,400rpm, Continuously variable valve timing control system. Variable intake manifold, and Variable capacity muffler. Drivetrain:The Drivetrain is a 5-speed manual transmission, front-wheel drive. Brakes are Power-assisted vented front disc/rear brakes. Suspension and Steering: Front: independent subframe-mounted strut-type. Rear: multi-link independent. Front and rear stabilizer bars, Sport-tuned suspension, firmer shocks and thicker rear stabilizer bar, Power-assisted engine-speed-sensitive rack-and-pinion steering. Tires: 215/55R17 (stock), now has 235/50WR17

History:
Here's my Pearl White 3.5SE that I obtained late November October 2003. Yes I know you guys that know me, knew I was looking into purchasing a Pantera. But since I commute, I wanted to get a good mix of size, performance, and style. Other contenders were the Infinity G35 Sedan, or the Audi A4 1.8T. For just under $25k, I got myself a car with 245 horsepower that propels you from 0-60 in 5.95 seconds and pulls the quarter mile in 14.46 seconds @ 98.6 mph STOCK (data derived from Motor Trend, Feb. 2003, Vol 55, No.2 Issue). Another major plus is this car has the same VQ35DE engine that also powers the new 350Z, Infinity G35, Maxima, Murano and other Nissan models. Extremely potent for future modifications. Paying $23K for a new car I think is cheaper then restoring my SHO, so I bought this new to replace it, since my SHO had 286K miles on it. I had no problems with it. I miss the torque that the SHO put out.

Since the car was new, it has been using oil. At first I thought it was still breaking in until my catalectic converter started to go bad (getting clogged). At 76K miles I started to loose power. After 80K miles the check engine light came on indicating a bad cat. I ask Nissan and they say that the cat is only covered up to 80K. I tried telling Nissan that it failed due to the excessive oil use. They argued but agreed to perform an oil use test by documenting whenever they add oil. They finally agreed that a quart per 1000 miles is little much and they still do not know where the oil is going. I told them itís going out the tail pipe and thatís why the catalectic converter failed so soon. They still disagreed. My warrantee said that they would cover the repair is the dealer finds the problem. The Nissan dealer said that they would take the engine apart and if they find the problem, I would be covered. I ask what if you donít find the problem... Well, I would had to pay for it all, so I didnít have them do anything else, knowing that I would have been screwed. See maintenance record.

Email I received: Date: Tue, 28 Aug 2007
You are not alone. So, I wanted to tell you to trade-in your car ASAP. I had the identical problem with high oil usage at 96k miles and I was ready to trade-it in for a 2006 Maxima with all the trimmings, but the dealership was closing and I had just paid $600 for a Air-conditioner part and replacement.

Well, I am at 127000 miles and my car started over-heating on a college trip. The temperature was over a hundred, so I thought maybe it was a coolant issue or lack of oil. My car temperature gauge had never moved upward the entire time I have own it. Recently I started loosing power going up both the Sunol Grade and on highway 4 going into Bay Pointe. Finally my dealership detects that my cats are completely gone and deposited in my engine. Engine could be O.K., but cats are ~ 2k to replace. If I replace them, and the engine is actually bad, it will cost another $ 7 K. With $3 K left to pay on the vehicle, I am hoping only to re-coup this cost in trade-in. I really wish the cat's were cheaper, I would try to replace, but at $500 a piece and the car has three, the cost is too much. I also need to replace my front tires 1 year after buying from Costco. I guess, I probably also have the same issue with the front suspension.

Nissan customer service is horrible and many customer issues are completely ignored. I really loved driving this car, but my expectation did not match with actual engine longevity. I was hoping it would be transportation for my daughter to drive to high school. I will try you suggestion on oil after cleaning the gunk from my engine. Let me know if you found a company with replacement catalytic converters. It turns out Nissan part has platinum in them so many people salvage and re-sell the parts so you can't find them online. Main lesson learned, do extensive search on common issues for the manufacturer and style of car you will purchase and keep up the review after purchasing if the car is a design change.

Specifications: (see Maintenance record
Modifications:
  • Changed tire size to 235/50WR17 from the stock size of 215/55R17.
Future Modifications: - Forget it, car is a lemon!
  • AEM Cold Air Intake System with BPV
  • Ractive TP703BK Alum/Black Sport Pedals
  • Greddy EVO Performance Exhaust System
 

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