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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi,
I am new to this site and new to owning a Pathfinder, so I am hoping you guys can shoot me some pointers. Well I have this issue with it making a smoke show out the exhaust when I start my 2014 Pathfinder S up lol. It has 104k miles on it. Doesn’t matter if it is cold or hot at start-up it seems either. Surprisingly, there isn’t much about all this on the interwebs for this year model that I can find. My google searches always pulls up first that poor guy’s story over on the nicoclubs forums when I am looking for my issues as they are similar. So, this is what is going on with my PF at the moment.
1. Background: I got this car off copart (sight unseen!) and externally and interior wise has no issues, it just needed a good cleanup to look good again. When I was poking around the engine bay, it was super clean surprisingly, and no leaking fluids anywhere to be found. However, I did notice a good amount of sludge in the oil cap and around where I can see into the engine from the oil fill port. It was also super low on coolant as the reservoir was dry. All these are warning signs of course, but seem fixable....

2. Work Done: Here is what I have done so far relating to the engine. I haven’t don’t anything more than listed and I don’t know the history of the car due to it being an auction car.
a. Drained/replaced the oil with synthetic 5W-30. Changed the filter too. I didn’t notice anything weird with the fluid, but I didn’t analyze it enough either before tossing it because the smoking issues weren’t really apparent by then. Also, the prior owner left an oil change receipt in the car and they did it a year prior to now, so it wasn’t a long time ago.
aa. I added Rislone Engine Treatment when I changed the oil as well. I figured it would work on the sludge until I do a proper engine flush.
b. Drained/replaced the coolant. The coolant came out a dark blue which I thought was weird, but I don’t know the history of car, so figured it was just old. I will note that there was a very very slight oily sheen in the coolant after I replaced it and drove around a couple times. That got me worried of course.
Well after all that, cue the smoke show....this is what I have done since the smoke shows started.
c. Added K-Seal Coolant Leak Repair to the coolant to go after a possible failed head gasket. It seemed like it worked for a little bit, but I can’t tell at this point, as it smokes no matter what.
d. Replaced the PCV valve and its small hose as it had a hole in it from the heat/age. That seemed to stop the smoking right after that first start, but it didn’t last when I drove around to test things out.
e. Replaced the radiator cap because...why not at this point.

3. Observations: So this what noticed with this car up to this point concerning this issue.
a. The smoke coming out the car is thick white at first and it lingers for a long time. It doesn’t smell good/sweet and does have a slight burning smell to it. Eventually it thins out but it will still smoke a little at idle no matter what.
b. The car drives fine, no check engine lights, mpgs seem good, and the engine seems to pull fine too. The CVT is starting to do what it does (very slightly), but I plan to change the fluid and the known defective valve to get ahead of that soon.
c. The car will smoke at start-up still. Cold or hot and is pretty consistent at this point. It is suuuuuuper embarrassing of course and I park far away from anywhere I frequent lol.
d. The car will smoke under hard acceleration and it can be a lot to slight at times. Sometimes leaving from a stop it will shoot some smoke out too. Again, suuuuuper embarrassing....
e. The coolant doesn’t seem to be dropping in the reservoir, but I am going to mark to make sure. The coolant does not have a slight oily sheen to it anymore or that I can tell, and it doesn’t seem to have any weird colorings at all. Also, the car hovers around 180F - 195F when I monitor it when my OBD scanner. The dash temp indicator is to the left of middle if that makes sense.
f. The engine oil looks fine, it is golden looking still. I will check it more often to see if the engine is consuming oil a lot, but I don’t think this is happening since I only changed it last week.

4. Conclusion: Thank you for getting this far lol! So, I would love to get this fixed asap. I have a road trip coming up and this smoking thing is super concerning. I am really just looking for a quick fix to be honest. Add some magical fluid to unclog, seal, or clean what ever ails this car. If it is the head gasket, which I guess is common with the VQ35DE, I need to find a new gasket sealer then and I am open to suggestions. I do not want to replace the head gasket on this car as it looks beyond my capability and time I am willing to give. Could sludge cause this? I am sure the intake manifold is all gummed up at least and maybe making the car smoke? I plan to take it off and clean it up at some point. Thank you!
 

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Smoke on startup is typically bad valve stem seals. (Regardless of make & model.) Not major, but also not anything quick-fixable, that I know of.

Sounds like you also have some serious blow-by making the problem a little worse than usual.

if the trans os also starting to show signs of slippage, I’d be back on Coparts website, shopping for a low mileage wrecked donor to source an engine & trans.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Smoke on startup is typically bad valve stem seals. (Regardless of make & model.) Not major, but also not anything quick-fixable, that I know of.

Sounds like you also have some serious blow-by making the problem a little worse than usual.

if the trans os also starting to show signs of slippage, I’d be back on Coparts website, shopping for a low mileage wrecked donor to source an engine & trans.
Thanx for the insight. I found somewhere in all my searching that the blow-by gets bad when stuff is clogged up with this engine (i can't find it again though). I think they were talking about the valve covers or something. I did change the PCV valve though already. Do you think sludge in all the right places might make blow-by worst? I am going to try to remove the valve covers and clean them out later on when i have the time.

I am going try something from Autozone to help with the leaky valve seals and see if the smoking stops. All about the quick fix for now lol.

As far as the trans goes, do you think draining the fluid and replacing the trans valve body (looks easy-ish) is going to stop the issues for awhile. it seems people go awhile before their trans tanks, but i am assuming they are not doing anything about it until it fails...
 

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I’m certainly no mechanic, but for things you can do in the short term - I agree with your approach. Do what you can to clean sludge (assume it sat for several months working it’s way through the copart system). Give the valve stem seals an additive to help them seal.

Two schools of thought on automatic transmissions (cvt not much different in this respect) - some guys swear changing the fluid can actually make problems worse because fresh fluid is more slippery. Others will argue in the other direction - I don’t know enough to have an opinion on which is more plausible. Changing valve bodies (again my knowledge is general, not specific to these vehicles yet) is a relatively easy job, so if it were me, I’d do it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I’m certainly no mechanic, but for things you can do in the short term - I agree with your approach. Do what you can to clean sludge (assume it sat for several months working it’s way through the copart system). Give the valve stem seals an additive to help them seal.

Two schools of thought on automatic transmissions (cvt not much different in this respect) - some guys swear changing the fluid can actually make problems worse because fresh fluid is more slippery. Others will argue in the other direction - I don’t know enough to have an opinion on which is more plausible. Changing valve bodies (again my knowledge is general, not specific to these vehicles yet) is a relatively easy job, so if it were me, I’d do it.
thank you. i am going to get some additive soon to see if the smoking will lessen. And my CVT issues are very minor right now too. All that juddering people talk about comes about only when i am really aggressive with the throttle. if i drive like a old lady the shifting is smooth as butter. But i want to get ahead of the issue, and i guess the older CVTs like mine have a bad valve inside them that eventually makes the CVT fail. I figure changing it now and putting fresh fluid in will delay and/or prevent that since i don't know the history of this car.
 

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Welcome to the forum !

Not much to tell you about the head gasket, never used those sealants but did recently watch a video on Youtube and the guy was talking about some that require you to remove the thermostat. So be mindful of that.

A software update came out late 2015 IIRC which allowed the computer to store a code if the valve body needed replacement. Who knows if yours has the updated software but plug an OBDII reader and see if there is anything there, remember also that not all codes trigger a CEL.
 

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I would not add any type of miracle cure in a bottle if it's indeed smoking this badly. All that is going to do is plug up internal passages you need. You could try having a compression test and a leak down test done for starters. Replacing head gaskets (if that's even what's going on) and having the heads checked and trued by a machine shop and all the labor associated with that would probably be more expensive than having a good used engine installed.

You don't hear of issues like this often with the Nissan VQ series engines. At least I haven't. What ever it's burning is going to drastically shorten the life of the catalytic converters, so you've got that happening too.
 
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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Welcome to the forum !

Not much to tell you about the head gasket, never used those sealants but did recently watch a video on Youtube and the guy was talking about some that require you to remove the thermostat. So be mindful of that.

A software update came out late 2015 IIRC which allowed the computer to store a code if the valve body needed replacement. Who knows if yours has the updated software but plug an OBDII reader and see if there is anything there, remember also that not all codes trigger a CEL.
thank you for the info on the CVT. i doubt this car got any software update in its life, but i guess i can take it by the Nissan dealership to see if they can update the software and see what's up.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
I would not add any type of miracle cure in a bottle if it's indeed smoking this badly. All that is going to do is plug up internal passages you need. You could try having a compression test and a leak down test done for starters. Replacing head gaskets (if that's even what's going on) and having the heads checked and trued by a machine shop and all the labor associated with that would probably be more expensive than having a good used engine installed.

You don't hear of issues like this often with the Nissan VQ series engines. At least I haven't. What ever it's burning is going to drastically shorten the life of the catalytic converters, so you've got that happening too.
I have found mixed response on the whole "the VQ35DE has head gasket issues" in my interweb searches. most were Z owners thrashing their engines that i found lol. but maybe this specific engine does and it was going to fail at 100K miles anyways. maybe that is a long time for a neglected engine, but i am not sure. I am trying a new head gasket sealer now and will see what is going on after that.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Smoke or steam?

Color?
it is a nice pillow white cloud stream. it is like my car is throwing mad vape clouds lol. It thins out eventually of course, but is always there at this point. in fact, i just smoked my garage out turning the car on. I have noticed the coolant level has dropped in my reservoir nice i have marked it, and driving around town smoking everyone out lol. so i am guessing it is a head gasket and a really bad failure. i am trying a new sealer now and i will see how that goes.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
So I have an update on what I have done so far for this issue....
1. I add a different brand of gasket sealer, but the same type (copper-ish based), and no difference with the smoking that I can tell after driving to work and back today. Main issue is the sick vape clouds at startup. It “seemed” to work after I put it in at first and the smoking at startup got less and less after each idling cycle I did. Basically, I added it initially, ran per instructions (bring car to operating temp then idle for 20mins-ish). Then I let the car cool down for over 2 hours, rinse and repeat 3 times. That was my “simulated” drive cycles attempts. Smoking got less and less at idle, then to nothing by the third time. However! On the fourth drive cycle around my neighborhood it still smoked while driving around at light throttle and got worst at higher RPMs/load. I will note that coolant consumption was really reduce after all that, but is still happening slightly. I am not sure if it is just air making it way through the system after the coolant drain/refill I did at the same time which will make the reservoir levels change slightly after each drive cycle until the air is completely out (I am guessing at on that), but I monitor the levels going forward.
2. Next, engage smoke screen! Soooo besides the smoke show at startup, I also noticed consistently that I am blowing smoke at higher RPMs and that smoke doesn’t look the same as the vaping at startup. But honestly that is hard to tell when it is in your rearview and you are gassing out the person behind you from the stop light lol. I checked my oil levels when I posted this issue originally and it was at the half-mark, which was odd to me, as it was at the high mark after I drained/changed the oil when I got the car. I just checked today after the engine cooled and it there was no oil on the dipstick! Ok just a dab at the tip of the dip stick, but still, that oil is gone! So, cue the real issue with this engine (possibly)....
3. State of affairs:
a. I still have a blown head gasket of course, but the gasket sealer “seems” to be managing it better, but it didn’t stop if completely of course. I don’t want to try a more serious type of sealant, as I don’t want to risk gumming up stuff and making the coolant system completely inop by chasing a leaking gasket. I might as well bite the bullet and just replace the head gasket...
b. I think the bigger issue I have is probably blown piston rings. Seems to be the thing to explain the insane oil consumption at this point and smoking under WOT/higher RPMs, and even at idle/start-and-stop situations. I also checked my PCV valve again to make sure it was ok, and I noticed some oil/fluid in it and some fluid dripping out of the rubber hose that connects to it. But get this, the hose actually felt cool to the touch after driving the car back from work today (30 miles-ish), which I though was odd for something that is supposed to cycle exhaust gases to the intake manifold. Furthermore, checking the oil dipstick while the engine is hot show oil up and down its whole length. I am not sure if that is normal, but that doesn’t seem right me. Additionally, if I WOT the smoke will clear up after a bit. Even steady highway driving the smoke will eventually disappear. But once I stop at a light for a bit or something and get going again....smoke. Finally, I got a check engine light to come on with all this smoking yesterday. It said cylinder 2 misfiring and when that happened, the car was struggling along with a bunch of smoke of course. So after thinking about everything and using Mr. Google I think I have blown piston rings that are causing huge blow-by. Which is forcing oil where it shouldn’t be, like the PCV system, and probably making me consume oil like crazy at this point. Coupled with a blown head gasket, this is that double whammy I feared I may have....
4. Way forward: dump the car lol I will say I am hitting up copart again to get rid of this car and take the hit money wise. I don’t have the desire/care to replace piston rings if that is the problem. Head gasket, sure! piston rings, no lol. But I haven’t decided that yet. This is what I am thinking.
a. Perform a compression test to make sure the piston rings are shot. I think I can rent those kits from Autozone to run this test. Has anyone done this with a kit from them or any other part store? I will say I was trying to change the spark plugs on the engine today to just....throw parts at it; don’t forget I have a road trip to make lol. But even a 14 mm deep socket can’t get in there and it looks like I need a special thin wall socket to get to them. I will take an Amazon link to one that will work if anyone has one. But yea, I foresee a problem with getting a compression tester all the way down to the spark plug hole because of all that.
b. I want to do an engine flush to reduce the sludge levels at least. But I won’t bother if the piston rings are shot, as I don’t think having sludge in there is going to matter for all that.
c. Finally, I will admit I added one more “magic” fluid to this mix. The Rislone ring sealer...yup I think that stuff burned up with the rest of the oil I had in there at this point lol but that makes me think when I first got the car. It wasn’t smoking, like at all, and I even had it pass smog and all that. The more I think about it, maybe it had just normal oil in it (it looked that way when I drained it), not the synthetic stuff I have in it now. Or maybe the rings just took a dump anyways, and it was just my dumb luck it happened while I had it....
btw, the road trip is cancelled lol
 

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Blown head gasket will usually show with the oil being a milky brown colour, mixed with your coolant, and be a cause of you blowing smoke, typically when to much water gets into the cylinder the car will $hit itself and compression for ignition will do jack all, car won't run, sounds like you are getting more oil in there than water and its burning up, so could still just be early signs of a head gasket. Unless you are comfortable doing a head gasket, just take to a local mechanic, i can't see it being that much, they probably will need to machine the head before you put the gasket back on. Call up get a few prices. Also all that crap in a can quick fix you are putting in there does more damage than good. Lots of strong chemicals in those things that will eat up your seals, or clog things that shouldn't be clogged.

Actually have a read of this, if you haven't already


Also in the link above is a link to test for blown head-gasket

 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
A quick update...Let me introduce you to my cylinder 2,4, and 6's pistons and spark plugs! And a peek into my oil fill port as well :eek:hno: Of course the other bank is facing the firewall and i am sure it will be a pain to get to so i can see inside those cylinders as well :mad: . But clearly this is where all my oil went and some coolant it seems so far lol. So IF this is JUST a super failed head gasket that needs to be replaced, is it worth desludging the engine and seafoaming the hell out of these cylinders to get things going again? Basically, i don't want to even bother if all this looks like a legit fried/blown engine to the more experienced in this forum. I still have this weird optimism about maybe it is JUST the failed head gasket that caused all the smoking, and i just need to replace it, clean everything up, and off i go. i even hope to see clean-ish cylinders on the other bank (1,3,5) to reinforce my weird optimism lol. thoughts?


 

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Id just pull the heads, have them redone or new used ones from a shop. Are you able to do a leak down test at this point? Cylinders on opposite side as well, look in there too. Jasper might have a long block rebuilt for the right price too
 

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Even if this was a failed head gasket, like I mentioned above, removing the effected head or heads on a VQ35 is not a simple task, especially with the engine in place. I dunno the details on the VQ35, but typically your chain driven DOHC setups require special tools, you have to keep tension on the chains when the heads are off, or remove all the timing gear all together. It's an expensive job if you can't DIY and the reason people typically swap out the engine instead.
 

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My experience: For a quick fix while you decide on the next line of action, try the AT-205 ATP Re-Seal Leak Stopper. You can drain what oil is remaining in the engine and put fresh oil in... you can go the cheap route with conventional oil without changing filter (since you just put a new one on). Fill oil just below the max line on the dipstick and pour about half a bottle of the AT-205 in the crankcase. Drive around for about an hour - preferably on a highway. That should help rejuvenate the worn valve stem seals and possibly the piston rings. Once you notice the smoke show has ended (mine was instant), you can drain oil and fill with high mileage synth oil. I used Valvoline High Mileage Synth. That should buy you some time. I done this on 2 cars and it worked for me.
 

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If it looks like its oil and coolant dont forget it could be from the intake to head gasket. I have had coolant external leak and engine oil into intake. seperate cars / engines. so investigate this first, its easier to do than complete head job.
 
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