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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Folks I need some help here.

I'm no good with electrical work. I just suck at it. My brain just doesn't get it...but I try.

I have a 2002 Xterra 3.3L non-supercharged with right at 200k miles on the clock.

It will start, run, and drive GREAT for about two minutes...then as it's getting fully warmed up it begins choking and dies. It's as if it's only running on maybe three cylinders, then two, then dead.

It's at a friend's house who's trying to help me out (he's usually really good with this kind of thing) but he's stumped too. He says (though I have not verified) that the fuel pressure AND the ignition are BOTH failing after it warms up a bit. I bought the vehicle after a 5 minute test drive, where the owner told me it had an occasional stalling problem... but it's become a full-time stalling problem now Every Single Time it warms up a bit.

My buddy thinks it's the computer...but after all I've read, I'm worried it could be something to do with the distributor. Either way, I just plain suck at anything electrical. Yall have any words of wisdom? I'm up for trying anything yall can recommend...and happy to provide any additional info I may have left out. Thoughts?

Thanks in advance folks. :)
 

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Folks I need some help here.

I'm no good with electrical work. I just suck at it. My brain just doesn't get it...but I try.

I have a 2002 Xterra 3.3L non-supercharged with right at 200k miles on the clock.

It will start, run, and drive GREAT for about two minutes...then as it's getting fully warmed up it begins choking and dies. It's as if it's only running on maybe three cylinders, then two, then dead.

It's at a friend's house who's trying to help me out (he's usually really good with this kind of thing) but he's stumped too. He says (though I have not verified) that the fuel pressure AND the ignition are BOTH failing after it warms up a bit. I bought the vehicle after a 5 minute test drive, where the owner told me it had an occasional stalling problem... but it's become a full-time stalling problem now Every Single Time it warms up a bit.

My buddy thinks it's the computer...but after all I've read, I'm worried it could be something to do with the distributor. Either way, I just plain suck at anything electrical. Yall have any words of wisdom? I'm up for trying anything yall can recommend...and happy to provide any additional info I may have left out. Thoughts?

Thanks in advance folks. :)
Are you getting any engine codes when it dies off? I would be considering fuel pressure/delivery also. Your Gen 1 has a fuel pressure regulator on top of the engine that is vacuum controlled.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thanks much for the replies! Here's what I know:

The only current code is for the knock sensor. My buddy asked me to bring a new battery as it was beginning to get weak, so I bought a new battery and drove the Xterra home (about 4 miles) and by the time I got home it was beginning to cough again. If I'd had to drive another 4 miles, I'm 99% certain it'd have once again gotten slowly worse and worse until it died. Not certain if removing the battery cables for the few moments it took to swap the bad battery out and the good battery in would be enough time for the codes to be erased. Come to think of it, I'm not certain removing the battery cables for any amount of time would have an effect on the codes...

The previous owner suspected a fuel problem and replaced the pump and in-tank fuel filter...so this problem has been going on both before and after the fuel pump & filter replacement.

The fuel pressure regulator, however, has got my ears perked. I'm wondering if there could be a vacuum leak which only happens once things under the hood begin to heat up. Heat = expansion = minor seep becomes a considerable leak. Would the loss of vacuum cause the pressure regulator to slowly choke the engine?

Aside from the fuel pump/filter replacement, I don't have any other service history. The thing runs GREAT, has lots of power, doesn't make any undue noises, and generally sounds healthy...until it gets warmed up and then it slowly chokes and dies and won't restart for hours.
 

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It’s not a great way to test it but try tuning on the car, and while it’s running disconnect the battery. If the alternator is good then it should keep running if it dies then the alternator is not working right. Another way to test is to measure the voltage while running, it should be around 13.7-14.7V at the battery. I suggest this because you had to bring another battery to get it home. Unless the battery was on its way out all ready. But that could explain why it runs good for 2mins and then dies. If you give a decent battery enough time to regenerate then it can run your car for a little before crapping out and could explain the need for a new battery. Bad alternator.

As far as heat/vacuum/and the fuel pressure regulator, that may be lower on the possible causes. Vacuum is highest at idle. The vacuum line at the fuel regulator is opening the bypass circuit to let out some of the pressure in the fuel rail at idle then opens and closes it dependent on the engine vacuum. When the regulator fails it’s usually because the diaphragm ruptures and allows fuel to enter the intake plenum through the vacuum hose causing a rich fuel mixture because you now have un-metered fuel entering the intake and your ECU is trying to balance the air/fuel ratio by reducing the open time of your injectors. Simple check for a ruptured diaphragm is to pull the vacuum hose for the regulator where it connects to the upper intake plenum, cap the fitting so you don’t create a vacuum leak, start the car and see if any fuel comes out of the hose. If it does you need a new regulator.

best guess, based on symptoms.
Alternator
Distributor/plugs/wires/cap/rotor

i have a high mileage (219k miles) 2000 SE Xterra that was very poorly maintained by its previous owners.
 

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Warning if you do the battery disconnect test. Remove the positive side and be careful not to let it touch anything if your alternator is even partially working and that cable hits metal, the sparks will fly.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Thanks for your replies... sincerely appreciative of all the help!

While running, the alternator is (I believe) good because it's reading 14.3 volts. Everything you said about it possibly being a bad alternator makes sense, so next time I run it I'll hook up the voltmeter and watch it to see what happens as the motor begins to cough, sputter, and then die. Just in case.

I'll pull the distributor cap and get a better look at the cap and rotor, as well as check the shaft for any play in case the bearing is going bad. Will also check the plugs and wires while I'm there.

I'll also perform the test of the regulator as described above. Tomorrow is another crazy day so it'll be Friday before I can test and report back.

Sincere thanks again! :)
 

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i had the same issue. Got stuck at work and stuck at a drive in sonic. I replaced fuel filter, fuel pump, spark plugs, and tested electrical. My issue was the distributor. the little metal bearing at the bottom that goes over the rod was worn. That little bearing spins 1000rpm and gets HOT. no oil pumps through it to lubricate and to cool it off, it will split, burn up, decinagrate. there really easy to rebuild, done it once before. Just need a vice, two hands, a new bearing, and a good rubber malllet.
the bearings can be found for cheap, but don't get the cheapest ones you want it to last for awhile. I'd say check the bearing first before tackling any of the other electrical possibilities. Its very common for the bearings to go bad
easy rebuild, only difficult part is waiting for your bearings to show up at your doorstep or mailbox
hope this helps
 

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i had the same issue. Got stuck at work and stuck at a drive in sonic. I replaced fuel filter, fuel pump, spark plugs, and tested electrical. My issue was the distributor. the little metal bearing at the bottom that goes over the rod was worn. That little bearing spins 1000rpm and gets HOT. no oil pumps through it to lubricate and to cool it off, it will split, burn up, decinagrate. there really easy to rebuild, done it once before. Just need a vice, two hands, a new bearing, and a good rubber malllet.
the bearings can be found for cheap, but don't get the cheapest ones you want it to last for awhile. I'd say check the bearing first before tackling any of the other electrical possibilities. Its very common for the bearings to go bad
easy rebuild, only difficult part is waiting for your bearings to show up at your doorstep or mailbox
hope this helps
From what I see on this forum, if I had a Gen 1 Xterra, I would have a bearing on the shelf ready for the eventual rebuild.
 

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If you try to buy a used Gen1 distributor on ebay to rebuild and have for a spare...they don't exactly give them away.
i just looked up “nissan xterra” on offer up and filtered “for parts” and just bought the distributor and nothing else. junk yards ebay offer up. the factory ones, the casing is really good on those ones, after market ones ain’t bad, but they ain’t the best
 

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i just looked up “nissan xterra” on offer up and filtered “for parts” and just bought the distributor and nothing else. junk yards ebay offer up. the factory ones, the casing is really good on those ones, after market ones ain’t bad, but they ain’t the best
Good you found something.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Sincere Thanks Owen for the info and that video! Helped A LOT :)

Today we got the distributor pulled and found the main bearing to be in pieces. Working on either rebuilding or replacing the distributor, not sure which way we'll go just yet. One of the biggest concerns is this spacer / plate / thing, not sure what it's called, but it had a terrible crack and almost fell into pieces during distributor disassembly. Having a hard time naming it, and therefore a hard time finding another. Does anyone know: a) what this is, b) where to find a new one, c) can it be installed as-is (even though a portion of the plastic part is missing), and d) can it simply be deleted since it doesn't appear to hold anything into place or serve any other particular purpose (perhaps it's a shield of some sort?)
 

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Sincere Thanks Owen for the info and that video! Helped A LOT :)

Today we got the distributor pulled and found the main bearing to be in pieces. Working on either rebuilding or replacing the distributor, not sure which way we'll go just yet. One of the biggest concerns is this spacer / plate / thing, not sure what it's called, but it had a terrible crack and almost fell into pieces during distributor disassembly. Having a hard time naming it, and therefore a hard time finding another. Does anyone know: a) what this is, b) where to find a new one, c) can it be installed as-is (even though a portion of the plastic part is missing), and d) can it simply be deleted since it doesn't appear to hold anything into place or serve any other particular purpose (perhaps it's a shield of some sort?)
glad i could help!! 😄
sorry.. but i have no clue what that plastic part is called or it’s purpose. could possibly take it down to an O’rileys or autozone and ask someone there too
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Yup, I tried O'Really's here in town, will take it to another one next town over. It's run by a bunch of old timers, so I'm sure they'll either immediately know what it is, or immediately come up with a third option I'd have never dreamt of. :)
 

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Yup, I tried O'Really's here in town, will take it to another one next town over. It's run by a bunch of old timers, so I'm sure they'll either immediately know what it is, or immediately come up with a third option I'd have never dreamt of. :)
wish I had a picture of my bearing when I pulled it out 4 months ago, but there was suppose to be like, about 9 or 10 metal balls in between the metal rings, mine only had 5, so it had a lot of play in it. There was a lot of metal shaving everywhere. When your putting your distributor back in make sure your timing is the same for your distributer. Mine was a bit off when I put it back in so my rpm was a little high and my acceleration was a little lagged
 

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Sincere Thanks Owen for the info and that video! Helped A LOT :)

Today we got the distributor pulled and found the main bearing to be in pieces. Working on either rebuilding or replacing the distributor, not sure which way we'll go just yet. One of the biggest concerns is this spacer / plate / thing, not sure what it's called, but it had a terrible crack and almost fell into pieces during distributor disassembly. Having a hard time naming it, and therefore a hard time finding another. Does anyone know: a) what this is, b) where to find a new one, c) can it be installed as-is (even though a portion of the plastic part is missing), and d) can it simply be deleted since it doesn't appear to hold anything into place or serve any other particular purpose (perhaps it's a shield of some sort?)
If you look it up in the field service manual I expect they will name it there.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
If you look it up in the field service manual I expect they will name it there.
Good idea. I'm good at losing things, so I've misplaced my manual...but I'll find it sooner or later. Meanwhile, I'm about 90% sure I'll be purchasing a replacement distributor and rebuilding this old one over time, save it for a rainy day. Can't thank you folks enough!
 
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