96 Nissan Sentra timing chains-air bags-dash/head lights.

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  #1  
Old 05-14-08, 12:21 AM
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96 Nissan Sentra timing chains-air bags-dash/head lights.

My GF's daughter just bought this car from used dealer. When I first drove it....
1. Parked car and dash lights & headlights went out and back on while car still running. One hour later while slowing down for a stop light dash lights & headlights started to flash off and on very very fast, returned to normal when I stepped on gas, but I think that was a coincidence (?) Have not got it to repeat.. alternator?
2. There is no air bag light showing up on dash. Car fax shows two front ends minor, but no air bag deployment. I know there are ways around this. How to check light and wire to light?
3. This is a DOHC with two timing chains. It has 150,000 miles.
Also heard a minor brake squeal and a minor clunk in front end. She took it back and their mechanic talked to me over phone.
They threw brakes on the front as it was a safety prob. The clunk is coming from strut mounts and they will not fix- as not a safety prob. I was most concerned about #1 to #3 and he said....
1. Alternator is checking out fine and cannot repeat prob so will not do anything. Wont start tossing in new parts.
2. Does not have equipment to test air bags and thinks bulb burned out. Said dash has to be taken apart to check that.
3. Because its a chain does not need to be replaced yet and has a tensioner to help. (I have never heard of a tensioner on a chain??) I told him this is a interference engine and he agreed, but said in his experience the chains will last a lot longer even with the miles on it now.

They want to please their customers so they are willing to help to some degree, but I think she is stuck with this car. Any info will be much appreciated.
 
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Old 05-14-08, 07:05 AM
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Not sure if I can handle all the questions, but here goes:

1. Don't think it's going to be an alternator problem, that would more likely have given you slowly dimming lights and of course you would notice slow cranking when starting due to lower battery charge. More likely I think is going to be a loose connection or switch. Might take a fair amount of troubleshooting with a meter.
2. The airbag light does not illuminate when the key is first turned on? CarFax info notwithstanding, my first hunch would be that it did in fact have an airbag deployment and was not fully repaired. The light could either be disconnected or covered over with something from behind. Troubleshooting an airbag system is not DIY. I would take it back where it came from and insist that it gets fixed. There's a chance, how remote is anybody's guess, that some components of the airbag system may be inoperative or even missing. It is not unheard for unscrupulous auto wholesalers and retailers to "fix" an airbag deployment by disabling the light and replacing the blown airbag(s) with "ballast", i.e. a trash bag full of packing peanuts for instance.
3. Will check the timing issue in a minute and add more.
 
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Old 05-14-08, 07:13 AM
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1. Parked car and dash lights & headlights went out and back on while car still running. One hour later while slowing down for a stop light dash lights & headlights started to flash off and on very very fast, returned to normal when I stepped on gas, but I think that was a coincidence (?) Have not got it to repeat.. alternator?

i don't think it has a charging system problem as that would cause a change in intensity but not turning off and on. i'd check for poor/intermittant connections...many asian cars use fuses under the hood for headlamps, try manipulating the switch slightly while watching, etc.

2. There is no air bag light showing up on dash. Car fax shows two front ends minor, but no air bag deployment. I know there are ways around this. How to check light and wire to light?

in my state you can't sell a car with a defective safety system. if they can't check it, ask them to sublet it for diagnosis to someone who can. as far as a bad bulb...could be. bulbs are easy, they plug into the back of the instrument cluster. on most all cars, remove the bezel around the cluster to expose the screws that hold the cluster, remove those screws, slip the cluster out far enough to disconnect the wire harness and remove the cluster.

3. This is a DOHC with two timing chains. It has 150,000 miles.
Also heard a minor brake squeal and a minor clunk in front end. She took it back and their mechanic talked to me over phone.
They threw brakes on the front as it was a safety prob. The clunk is coming from strut mounts and they will not fix- as not a safety prob. I was most concerned about #1 to #3 and he said....


there is no service interval on timing chains...most of the time they outlast the engine. not always, as I have a 93 altima that swallowed the timing chain and made a mess (it got a used engine). yes, timing chains can have tensioners, many are hydraulic with pressure supplied by the oil pump.

nice of them to put pads on the front. i have a minor issue with the strut mounts being klunky...if they move around enough to clunk, how can you tell they are safe? not to mention that suspension geometry changes with movement and may lead to handling issues, abnormal tire wear. again, in my state, no movement is allowed in suspension components (other than springs and pivoting components).

i'm not picking on anyone here, but this is a really good example of caveat emptor...let the buyer beware...always, Always, ALWAYS have a used car looked at by someone that will give you an honest evaluation of condition and near future needs (like the tires pass inspection, but you'll need to replace them before winter). I applaud your willingness to help her out...I have 2 teenage daughters and it's a challenge for them AND for us...
 
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Old 05-14-08, 07:15 AM
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Okay, the Gates site doesn't list a timing belt for Sentras past about 1987, so it'll be a chain. You're probably not going to get anywhere on this issue. The reason chains don't generally have replacement intervals is that it is pretty rare for one to break, unlike a belt with is rubber and deteriorates over time and is much more likely to actually snap if it goes long enough.

On the airbag issue, frankly I would take it to an unbiased third party for an opinion. A good body shop might be a good place to start; they deal with airbags all the time and it would probably be a relatively simple matter to check that at least the vehicle does in fact have bags where they are supposed to be. By checking numbers on them I think they would be able to tell if they were original or that they were proper replacements. A burned out bulb is certainly possible, but I don't think it occurs that often. If there were no evidence of any collision history, I would be a lot more inclined to go that way. The collision incident concerns me.

Caveat emptor; let the buyer beware. Probably a good learning experience for the GF's daughter; these were things to address right after a good test drive.

Be sure to post back when the airbag issue is resolved; would be interesting to others.
 
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Old 05-14-08, 07:18 AM
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Carguy, you inside my HEAD today???
 
  #6  
Old 05-14-08, 07:23 AM
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yeah...i am... but it's really cramped in here what with all this good advice and stuff floating around!
 
  #7  
Old 05-14-08, 02:38 PM
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Found a nice site for the air bag, hope this will help someone, not me in this issue though. Go to NHTSA.GOV-- at the right click on "air bag info & FAQ" --then at the left click on "air bag VIN"--put in the VIN and if you get a gray blank screen, retry the VIN in the search on the gray screen.
Thanks for all the info. If someone has undone the air bag light someway it is very hard to prove who. ---- I still don't trust the chain issue --because the miles could be turned back also..who knows! [If only it wasn't a valve bender]
Next shot might be trying to get them to let her take a different car...yeah I know ... good luck.
I took my GF and her daughter for a test ride on a different car before and taught her tons of things to look for. She is very good, but it was to easy for someone to talk around any issues that she found. Now I feel like I blew it.
Thanks again and I will post back with info found out!
 
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Old 05-14-08, 03:53 PM
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Don't feel too bad, it happens; my sister's oldest is driving a car I'm fairly certain she paid way too much for and had issues and my younger brother's oldest bought something I KNOW he paid about twice what it was worth. Live & learn.
 
  #9  
Old 05-14-08, 06:51 PM
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I have to agree with Tow Guy and Car Guy on everything they have said.
As far as the timing chain, you will likely have noise prior to having any problems with this timing chain. 150k is not alot of miles for this car. On a side note, my wife had a 1996 Sentra and when she sold it 4 years ago it had 380k miles with the original chain. It is still going strong with well over 400k.
As for the Airbag light, I can tell you from experience that some used car lots will "blow" a troublesome light if they dont want to spend to $ to fix it or dont have the ability. But, in their defense, as I run a shop for a used car lot, it is quite possible for a 12 year old car to actually have a bad bulb.
Good Luck,
Billy
 
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