'95 Maxima is loud and shakes. Can I fix this on my own? Audio inside.
June 25, 2010 1:55 PM   Subscribe

Can I fix my '95 Nissan Maxima? It went from sounding a little noisy/gravelly to shaking intermittently. Oil is full but dirty. Must I see a mechanic? Engine sounds like this (15-second AAC), exhaust sounds like this (5-second AAC). Used to be very quiet. Can I fix this myself?

The car started making some extra engine noise a couple months ago. I drive it infrequently so I never really investigated the noise. It still drove fine.

Yesterday while idling it started shaking pretty hard. It felt very wrong and I parked it right away. Today I couldn't reproduce the shaking in my parking spot, but just like the increasing noise I suspect the shaking will progress if I continue to drive it.

Idle speed seems normal.

Is it clear what the problem is, or must I see a mechanic for diagnosis? If possible I'd like to fix it myself. What advice do you have?
posted by reeddavid to Travel & Transportation (6 answers total)
The clacking sound on the engine clip could be a timing chain with a bad tensioner. How many miles does it have and when was the last time the timing chain was replaced? That kind of clackety loudness could also be an exhaust leak -- a loose manifold, bad gasket, or possibly just a small rusted out hole in a downpipe.

Without the loud noise if the engine was just shaking hard or stumbling (especially at idle) then I'd look for vacuum leaks or a bad MAF.
posted by Rhomboid at 2:42 PM on June 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

There's a hiss in the second clip that sounds just like an exhaust leak. Get a rag and firmly block the exhaust while the car's running. You should hear the hiss amplify.

Rhomboid is on the money with the first sound. That fist clip is probably timing chain noise. Knowing Maximas, it's not uncommon for higher mileage engines to need new timing chain guides. The plastic on the guides wears out and the guides don't keep enough tension on the chain. I'd guess this 95 Maxima has at least 160,000 miles, right?
Unless you're very handy, have a Nissan manual, and a wide selection of tools, you're probably going to need the chain and guides replaced professionally.
posted by Jon-o at 2:53 PM on June 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Rhomboid, thanks for the info on the timing chain and tensioner.

Jon-o, the Maxima's odometer has been stuck at 112,000 miles for years now. I'd guess 160-200,000 miles.

I tried the rag on the exhaust pipe. The sound got louder.

I called a local shop (Seattle), they told me that an exhaust problem could run $200-1000 and that a new timing chain would cost as much as the car is worth. Ideally I could find someplace to give me a free estimate.
posted by reeddavid at 4:53 PM on June 25, 2010

I've seen a number of high mileage cars where timing chain replacement is the death knoll for the car. The majority of those cars are Saturns, but Nissan ranks up on that list too. And without knowing where the exhaust is leaking, it's hard to work up a good estimate. If the muffler pipe is cracked, it could be cheap but if the converter is leaking, the price could really kick you in the shorts.
Check out iATN.net to find some reputable and knowledgeable shops in your area.
posted by Jon-o at 5:40 PM on June 25, 2010

Response by poster: An update: I let the car sit for a few weeks before taking it to a mechanic. When I started it up, the sound was gone. I drove it 10 miles at highway speeds and couldn't reproduce the noise. The mechanic suggested it could be an oil pressure problem and suggested an oil change. Got an oil change and so far the problem remains gone. I guess it just needed an oil change really badly.
posted by reeddavid at 5:15 PM on July 27, 2010

In some designs, the timing chain tensioner works by oil pressure, and when oil hasn't been changed for a while it collects sludge and other particulate matter which can clog up the small passages that route the oil to all the various places it needs to go. That means lower oil pressure at the tensioner, which means the tensioner doesn't push as hard against the chain, which means the chain can develop slack which causes it to slap and make noise and wear out -- the pathological case is that develops enough slack to skip a tooth and then things really get interesting. I don't know if this engine is of that type design or not but if it doesn't make the noise again then you can probably just leave it alone.
posted by Rhomboid at 6:38 PM on July 27, 2010

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