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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
My wife's 2013 Pathfinder died (again) while driving yesterday. I've tried troubleshooting, I've taken it to the dealer (who found nothing wrong, but charged a boatload anyhow), and I've resorted to throwing parts at it.
I've never seen this in person, but here's how she describes it. The car starts up fine, starter spinning fast and everything sounding normal (we usually leave together, and I would notice anything abnormal). At some point, usually while accelerating, but sometimes while cruising, the CVT loses motive power, then the engine sputters and dies. The car won't restart. Battery registers 10.5-11.7V, probably dependent on how long it takes me to get to her. After charging the battery (remove, take home, charge, reinstall), the car fires back up with no problem. Battery measures 12.6V with the car off, 14-14.5V with it running, perfectly in spec. Auto shop shows both battery (out of car test) and alternator (in car test) good. This happens once every 2-3 months, sometimes shorter, sometimes longer, going on 3 years. Most of her trips are 30 minutes or less drive time.
Troubleshooting shows everything operating normally. No CEL codes stored any of the times. It looks like something is intermittently shorting to chassis ground, or a high current handling part is malfunctioning. No blown fuses, no burn marks around the starter or alternator. Grounds seem clean and secure, but I added a dab of dielectric grease long ago to be sure. Since this started, I've replaced the battery once, serpentine belt twice, alternator once. Tensioner pulley still seems to hold the belt tight, and the belt shows no glazing or burning like it would if it were slipping, and no stuttering when looking at it from below.
I'm at a loss, unless I got a bad replacement battery or alternator and the factory unit failed in the exact same way. Internet searches haven't turned up much other than a failed brake light switch or relay, which wouldn't explain the drained battery while it was being driven. Anyone else had an issue remotely like this in the past? I really want her to not be stranded, and my car back. Thanks!
 

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That's a good suggestion from jman. I'd get a Bluetooth dongle off Amazon and download incardrpro, and connect it everytime you drive it. Something this intermittent is going to be extremely hard to nail down though that's why the shops couldn't help you. Can't reproduce it or get some direction, there is nothing you can do but guess, which is usually much more expensive than troubleshooting. It sounds like classic bad alternator or battery. I've seen a few bad alternators out if the box. Definitely seen problems on some vehicles with aftermarket units, Altima specifically, but not sure about pathfinders.

If you are able to see them on the tool, I'd probably start by watching the ecm voltage and alternator duty cycle. If the voltage is dropping while driving, I'd expect to see the alt duty cycle go up, the. The voltage should go up.

Something you could try now is use a volt meter to test for voltage drop on the power wire. Set meter to bolts, put one lead on battery positive, and the other on the alternator power wire stud (if you can get to it). With the car running you should have about 0v on the meter. Definitely less than .5v. Push and pull on the harnesses and see if anything changes on the meter. If it has a min/Mac mode, that could help. It's important to be on the stud for this test.

Intermittent problems are the worst. The shop did perform work to try to figure it out, so they have to be paid. Diagnosis does not guarantee repair, It's just part of the process. It just sucks when you run out of time trying. Nobody likes that.

I'd steer away from looking at cvt, blown fuses, cripes anything else really, ha. I think this problem is charging system related. Just odd that it's intermittent.
 

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2020 Pathfinder, SL Front wheel drive, 41k miles. Dashlights came on-red battery, ps, abs, brake, collision, airbag. Then screen went out. Power steering pump stopped, limp mode, then the car died. Battery is nov, 2021. I jumped it and it started, but didn't stay runnning. A meter showed rest voltage about 12, started the car and watched the voltage drop from 12 to about 10.7. I bought a charger and charged the battery fully. The alternator test feature showed good, then bad, then good again, then bad. Continuity between neg post and frame showed good.
So, after a new alternator- no Nissan dealers in the thumb of Michigan...It is good, but on probation. Mecahnic said "oil cooler lines to the turbo are leaking. leaked on the alternator and killed it." I will have a dealer check it out. Has this happened to anyone before? Should I look at other possible causes of the symptoms?
 

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Probably best to start a different thread, but I've never seen a turbo Pathfinder. Is this a real vehicle?
No- I called the local dealer and he said- no turbo's The dipstick probably wasn't fully seated and oil bubbled out, dripped on the alternator and killed it. But, when you look at the oil filter diagrams for the pathfinder, there is a collar that send oil to a cooler. There are articles that talk about leaks at that collar, and how to replace the gaskets. So, probably a day trip to a Nissan dealer to have them look- buying an alternator every 40-50k is not in my budget.
 

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I think you're going to have to find out if there is a leak or not. The oil filter housing isn't near the alternator where it would leak on it. Since this "mechanic" thought there was a turbo, I'd question whether there was even a leak.
 

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I think you're going to have to find out if there is a leak or not. The oil filter housing isn't near the alternator where it would leak on it. Since this "mechanic" thought there was a turbo, I'd question whether there was even a leak.
I am with you. next trip is to a dealership in bay city, probably and oil change and a " hey, there is this mysterious problem I don't want to repeat....."
 

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Bob,

Were you able to determine the cause of the original problem?? This is the problem I have. 2016 Pathfinder. I have to bring this back to the mechanic today and was going to leave this note. Any other thoughts anyone??
Thank you !!!!

Problem:

Car failed after a 40 minute drive. This then was towed to a shop and they replaced the alternator. They determined that this alternator was NG so then installed Alternator #3. Then, After picking up the car and taking the first significant trip, 45 miles or so, the car exhibited the same problem as before the alternator was installed. This is that the car engine continued to run but did not have enough power to push the car into drive. Shortly thereafter the car engine shut off completely. Car was jumped and then we were able to get it home. (Another 5 miles or so)

This problem was replicated two additional times. The second attempt was after a 7-mile drive. Jumped again, and then third time it failed just after a 1-mile drive.

Change made: New Nissan battery was installed Friday 26-Aug

Additional tests and observations after battery installation:

  • Test 1 – Friday 26-Aug
  • Tested new Battery before starting engine. Reading terminal to terminal 12.4V
  • Retested terminal to terminal when starting the engine for the first time that day (cold) Rating=14.37V
  • Tested again after a 45 min drive with engine still running. Rating = 11.7V
  • Test 2 Saturday 27-Aug
  • After short 10-mile drive, when going through a drive – through window, the battery light flashed on in the dash. Car had been driven about 10 miles prior to this.
  • Test 3 – Sunday 28-Aug
  • Tested new Battery before starting engine. Reading terminal to terminal 12.4V
  • Retested terminal to terminal after starting the engine for the first time that day (cold) Rating=14.37V
  • Tested voltage again at engine idle at minute intervals below. Had to stop after 20 minutes.
Min​
0​
5​
10​
15​
20​
V​
14.37​
14.11​
14.03​
12.8​
12.5​
  • Test 4 Monday 29-Aug
  • Drove car and let it idle for about 45 minutes. (After cold start)
  • Voltage before starting drive measured across battery terminals with engine running about 14.4 V
  • Ending voltage measurement after drive + idle with engine still running = 11.3V
  • Battery measured 12.1 V after engine was shut off but then seemed to rebound a bit back to 12.4V
  • Later in the day I started the car again and it read 13.5V but quickly dropped down to below 12.4 V
My Thoughts:
  • Voltage across terminals degrades after engine is running for some time to the point where at the end of the 45 min run time (test 4) the battery terminal reading was less than voltage at start.
  • If this were a bad alternator this would mean that three alternators failed within a week’s period. Would this be likely?
  • Or is it another component of the “Power Generation Voltage Variable Control System” Which perhaps is affected by heat from a warmed engine?
  • Could it be and should you test, after engine running for some time, the:
  • ECM?
  • IPDM E/R?
  • Battery current sensor?
  • Ground connections?
 

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2020 Pathfinder FWD
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Bob,

Were you able to determine the cause of the original problem?? This is the problem I have. 2016 Pathfinder. I have to bring this back to the mechanic today and was going to leave this note. Any other thoughts anyone??
Thank you !!!!

Problem:

Car failed after a 40 minute drive. This then was towed to a shop and they replaced the alternator. They determined that this alternator was NG so then installed Alternator #3. Then, After picking up the car and taking the first significant trip, 45 miles or so, the car exhibited the same problem as before the alternator was installed. This is that the car engine continued to run but did not have enough power to push the car into drive. Shortly thereafter the car engine shut off completely. Car was jumped and then we were able to get it home. (Another 5 miles or so)

This problem was replicated two additional times. The second attempt was after a 7-mile drive. Jumped again, and then third time it failed just after a 1-mile drive.

Change made: New Nissan battery was installed Friday 26-Aug

Additional tests and observations after battery installation:

  • Test 1 – Friday 26-Aug
  • Tested new Battery before starting engine. Reading terminal to terminal 12.4V
  • Retested terminal to terminal when starting the engine for the first time that day (cold) Rating=14.37V
  • Tested again after a 45 min drive with engine still running. Rating = 11.7V
  • Test 2 Saturday 27-Aug
  • After short 10-mile drive, when going through a drive – through window, the battery light flashed on in the dash. Car had been driven about 10 miles prior to this.
  • Test 3 – Sunday 28-Aug
  • Tested new Battery before starting engine. Reading terminal to terminal 12.4V
  • Retested terminal to terminal after starting the engine for the first time that day (cold) Rating=14.37V
  • Tested voltage again at engine idle at minute intervals below. Had to stop after 20 minutes.

Min​
0​
5​
10​
15​
20​
V​
14.37​
14.11​
14.03​
12.8​
12.5​

  • Test 4 Monday 29-Aug
  • Drove car and let it idle for about 45 minutes. (After cold start)
  • Voltage before starting drive measured across battery terminals with engine running about 14.4 V
  • Ending voltage measurement after drive + idle with engine still running = 11.3V
  • Battery measured 12.1 V after engine was shut off but then seemed to rebound a bit back to 12.4V
  • Later in the day I started the car again and it read 13.5V but quickly dropped down to below 12.4 V
My Thoughts:
  • Voltage across terminals degrades after engine is running for some time to the point where at the end of the 45 min run time (test 4) the battery terminal reading was less than voltage at start.
  • If this were a bad alternator this would mean that three alternators failed within a week’s period. Would this be likely?
  • Or is it another component of the “Power Generation Voltage Variable Control System” Which perhaps is affected by heat from a warmed engine?
  • Could it be and should you test, after engine running for some time, the:
  • ECM?
  • IPDM E/R?
  • Battery current sensor?
  • Ground connections?
Hi PN, Based on the voltages, it looks like something in the charging system. My pathfinder is on probation- I have taken 20 mile trips and back- all seems okay. voltage engine off- above 12.3,12.4. Idling?-14.3,14.4. I asked for the old alternator to take a look at it and return it to the dealer- core charge, so it was given back to the auto parts store. When I am back in the city, I will take it to the dealer for a day or two drop off. Good luck on yours. I used an obd2 scanner, no codes. I bought a bluetooth obd scanner but have to get it to hook up.
For mine, the shutting off of systems-abs, collision, power steering, airbag, brakes, info screen/ on a newer battery, points to alternator. I will be so pissed if it turns out to be a critter chewed wire that causes intermittent trouble. And for you, two alternators in a week's time? That just doesn't seem right.
 
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