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12 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I see that there are other threads related to this issue, but none seem to quite describe the events I just experienced, so opening a newer one for now...

2000 XE V6 Manual, battery was replaced in March 2020. No electrical problems with it up until this afternoon.

Just drove a short distance to the grocery store. When attempting to start the Xterra to return, I experienced an almost complete electrical "no power" situation. Specifically:

- Inserting the key into the ignition and turning to Accessory and On positions worked as normal, but as soon as I turned over to the Start position the entire car went dark. The starter motor never kicked in. There were no noises from the engine bay. Just a complete "black out" of all electrical components. Interior lights, dashboard, headlights, radio, key fob and red security light all went dark.

- Returning the key to the lock position and turning a few more times resulting in nothing happening and no power being observed.

- I popped the hood, got out, walked around the truck and looked in the engine bay. Then went back inside the truck and noticed the security light was flashing again. Inserted the key and experienced the exact sequence of steps as above. Everything powered up through Accessory and On positions, but instantly went dark when turned to the Start position.

- Removed the key and disconnected the battery terminals. Tried again and no luck. Looked at the fuses under the hood and nothing seemed blown, though I could be wrong on the larger fuses.

- At this point, nothing at all was powering up. The key fob was dead, the red security light was not flashing and there was no power to any instrumentation.

- Eventually, I used a portable starter pack to jump start the truck and it started right up instantly. I drove over to a gas station where we measured the battery while the truck was running (good) and after turning it off again (also good). There didn't appear to be anything suspect about the battery.

I appreciate it's hard to diagnose electrical issues, but does anyone have any ideas on where to start? This is the first time I've experienced something like this.


Could a failure in the anti-theft system produce an experience like this? I would expect power to remain but the car not to turn over. The intermittent power is odd.

Could failure in the ignition switch itself be an issue? After 21 years, the ignition and the key are quite "loose". In the past, I've accidentally pulled the key out before it's fully rotated into the lock position.

Is there a specific fuse or electrical component I should first look at? A short also seems likely somewhere, though again it's odd that it started up right away with a jump, and then started easily on its own a few minutes later at the gas station.

Appreciate any insight.

2004 xterra 6cyl 3.3L (160k miles) & 2003 xterra 6cyl 3.3L (dead engine)
164 Posts
check your alternator? or alternator connections?

2004 Xterra XE 4WD Auto 3.3L NA V6
911 Posts
^^^ This!

When you turned the key on and life was good, it took less amperage than what could pass through the poorest connection.

But as soon as you tried to use a lot to turn the starter, it failed. Classic symptoms of a bad ground because it affects the entire vehicle, not just one system.

Find all 3 major ground connections and improve them, even if they "look good":
  • Battery-to-engine
  • Battery-to-chassis
  • Chassis-to-engine
Remove each bolt, clean the cable and the part that it touches to make the connection. Expose bare metal with sand paper or a 3M Scotch-Brite(TM) pad, make the connection, then put a layer of dielectric grease on it to help prevent rust and to retard the elements from damaging the connection. That grease is available at most, if not all, auto parts stores.

The alternate method would be to establish your own new connections with larger cables. This would qualify as doing The Big Three that is common among audio buffs.
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