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Eric
07-03-2009, 07:44 AM
I posted earlier about my "new" truck - a used/2002 Nissan Frontier I bought at a Ford dealership located in a small town called Gassaway, West Virginia. I rode out there on my bike (about 180 miles away) figuring if the truck was what I wanted and the price was right I could load up my bike in the bed and drive it back home.

The truck turned out to be very nice and the price was fair, so a deal was struck and, after all the paperwork was completed I loaded up the bike, tied it down and pointed my new Frontier south and began what I thought would be my trip back home.

Very shortly thereafter, I glanced down at the instrument cluster and noticed the temp gauge was reading high; in fact it was "pegged." I did the natural thing and immediately coasted over to the shoulder and hit the hazards - with the thought, SHIT! reverberating through my head. The truck was not acting hot, though. No signs of a boil over, no smells; the "check engine" light had not come on. Still, you pay attention to the gauge.

Since I was literally no more than minutes away from the dealership where I bought the truck, I limped back and pulled into the lot. By this time (of course) it was past 4 p.m. and the service department was closing up and any chance of doing something was pretty much out the window.

The dealership was, however, extremely nice about it. Above and Beyond, actually. They offered to put me up at their expense at the local hotel and first thing in the morning, they'd have a tech look at it. A faulty thermostat was suspected. (The truck only has 58k, so water pump/radiator issues seemed not likely.)

So, morning comes and in goes the new thermostat - but the sudden High gauge reading persists. Again, no other signs of mechanical distress - a point that will be revisited shortly.

Step Two, they install a new fan clutch - again, at their cost. No change.


Step Three, the radiator is pulled and inspected/everything is flushed out. A-ok. A new water pump is installed - again, their cost.

The High reading is unchanged. We (I am hanging out with the technicians now) check for signs of a blown head gasket. None. All plugs read normal; no oily residue or bubbles in the radiator. No milky oil or white smoke coming out of the tailpipe. And, again - the truck is running fine.

Now, an analyzer is plugged into the OBD port. It says the temp is normal even though the gauge does not. We decide to take a test drive with the unit plugged in. Normal. But gauge shoots to High - again. The whole time, the truck is running perfectly. It's just the gauge that's not.

We are now homing in on the true problem. Like Mr. Spock we have used logic to consider the facts. The OBD port says the temperature is normal. The truck manifests no signs of overheating. Literally every major component of the cooling system has been replaced or checked out. For one more piece of confirmatory evidence,a hand-held infra-red temperature reader is brought out. We take the truck out, and when the gauge runs to High again, we stop, pull over and use the infra-red reader to check the temperature at the radiator, thermostat housing and elsewhere. The readings are normal, not even close to overheating.

It is the temperature sending unit for the gauge that's bad! A $20 part. Problem solved!

The tech was kicking himself for not having checked that first. Meanwhile, the dealer paid for all these parts (and labor), probably worth at least $150 (new water pump, clutch fan and thermostat, plus coolant and labor).

I got home that evening. The truck gave me no problems and is now sitting next to the Trans Am in the garage. :D

DonTom
07-03-2009, 08:37 AM
Now, an analyzer is plugged into the OBD port. It says the temp is normal even though the gauge does not. We decide to take a test drive with the unit plugged in. Normal. But gauge shoots to High - again. The whole time, the truck is running perfectly. It's just the gauge that's not.

We are now homing in on the true problem. Like Mr. Spock we have used logic to consider the facts. The OBD port says the temperature is normal.
:D


Eric,

Are you forgetting how much you hate all that OBD2 stuff?

BTW, if it were not for the OBD2, how long do you think it would have taken them to figure out the problem? They already wasted a lot of time by not checking all the most important information first, which is all on the OBD2 port!


-Don- SSF,CA

Eric
07-03-2009, 08:47 AM
Eric,

Are you forgetting how much you hate all that OBD2 stuff?

BTW, if it were not for the OBD2, how long do you think it would have taken them to figure out the problem? They already wasted a lot of time by not checking all the most important information first, which is all on the OBD2 port!


-Don- SSF,CA


Yeah, yeah... I know! :D

Quackers
07-03-2009, 08:55 PM
Congrats on the new ride. Yeah, definitely sounded like a short between the sender and receiver. Had an Olds 88 (mid 90s model) that I loved dearly. As I'm driving from Wichita back to my home in AL right after I retired from the AF, I'm in the middle of Birmingham on Friday of the Fourth of July weekend (either on Sat or Sun). Next thing I know, it's overheating. Pull into gas station to let it cool off (did I mention it was hot as H*LL?). Call AAA for the tow truck. That's another story. Took it to the Olds dealer (which by this time was closed), lock the keys in the car, put my contact info in the window and the tow truck driver takes me to the airport to pick up a rental. Drive back to the dealer and unload all of my worldly possessions (that weren't in storage in KS) and headed to my mom's. I think they changed the fuel pump, the dealership in Montgomery changed the water pump, a friend changed the thermostat, the dealership in Opelika (where I bought it) changed another part. Never did figure out what was causing it to overheat. It was fine on the interstate, just overheated during stop and go traffic. It finally pissed me off enough and I got a good enough deal on a new Century that I traded it's butt in. Wonder what really was wrong with the thing. I got tired of it overheating and leaving me twiddling my thumbs.

Eric
07-04-2009, 07:18 AM
Congrats on the new ride. Yeah, definitely sounded like a short between the sender and receiver. Had an Olds 88 (mid 90s model) that I loved dearly. As I'm driving from Wichita back to my home in AL right after I retired from the AF, I'm in the middle of Birmingham on Friday of the Fourth of July weekend (either on Sat or Sun). Next thing I know, it's overheating. Pull into gas station to let it cool off (did I mention it was hot as H*LL?). Call AAA for the tow truck. That's another story. Took it to the Olds dealer (which by this time was closed), lock the keys in the car, put my contact info in the window and the tow truck driver takes me to the airport to pick up a rental. Drive back to the dealer and unload all of my worldly possessions (that weren't in storage in KS) and headed to my mom's. I think they changed the fuel pump, the dealership in Montgomery changed the water pump, a friend changed the thermostat, the dealership in Opelika (where I bought it) changed another part. Never did figure out what was causing it to overheat. It was fine on the interstate, just overheated during stop and go traffic. It finally pissed me off enough and I got a good enough deal on a new Century that I traded it's butt in. Wonder what really was wrong with the thing. I got tired of it overheating and leaving me twiddling my thumbs.

Thanks!

The overheating only in stop and go traffic suggests the issue was with the fan/clutch. Did it have an electric fan? Might not have been coming on, which could cause the low-speed overheating (on the highway, airflow over the radiator is usually sufficient to keep it cool).

In my case, the big clue was the truck gave no other sign of overheating - which it should have if it was really overheating. No boil over/steam; no smells; no "check engine" light. Nothing. Just the gauge.

Had a similar issue happen years ago with an old Trans Am. I was driving along when the oil pressure reading suddenly dropped to zero. Of course I immediately shut off the engine and coasted over to the side of the road.

It turned out to be very simple. The connector fell off the sending unit!

grouch
07-04-2009, 10:34 AM
Eric,

Are you forgetting how much you hate all that OBD2 stuff?

BTW, if it were not for the OBD2, how long do you think it would have taken them to figure out the problem? They already wasted a lot of time by not checking all the most important information first, which is all on the OBD2 port!



-Don- SSF,CA




My dad wasn't a mechanic but in the service he was a radio man and could build a nice AM radio from stuff laying around. He even taught me how to take all the tubes out of the TV and take them to the drug store and check them. Also how to discharge the capacitor so I didn't knock the stuffing out of myself. (Imagine letting a 7 year old do that today!)

Dad's first rule was "check the simple stuff FIRST". This is also called the K.I.S.S. principle. Keep It Simple and Stupid. My first thought when reading your description was a faulty wire connection. Obviously, if it was boiling, that wouldn't be the case.

Mase
07-04-2009, 07:44 PM
Congrats on yer new ride. I sold Nissan's for a couple years a while back and got to know that they are built to last. What they did to the Frontier starting in '05 was ok for some people but those who like the smaller truck...well, there are still good used ones around, as you found.

Eric
07-04-2009, 07:49 PM
Congrats on yer new ride. I sold Nissan's for a couple years a while back and got to know that they are built to last. What they did to the Frontier starting in '05 was ok for some people but those who like the smaller truck...well, there are still good used ones around, as you found.

Thanks!

Having owned a '98 Frontier for the past 5 years, I am a believer in the sturdiness of these little trucks. I understand why Nissan up-sized this model in '05 (big was in and gas was cheap) but now if you want a new compact truck you're pretty much stuck with the Ford Ranger, which is a piece of junk compared to the Frontier.

Here are some pics I took yesterday of our new addition: