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Overheating Nissan Sentra

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Jun 20, 2009, 11:23 AM

Post #1 of 2 (4935 views)
Overheating Nissan Sentra Sign In

I have a 2004 Nissan Sentra 1.8S with an overheating problem.

Approximately 1 month ago while I was driving to work the engine lost power…it did not turn off, but it refused to go over approx. 2200 RPM. I was (barely) able to limp off to the shoulder. When I pressed the gas I would get some thrust, but as soon as the engine went over the 2200 RPM the transmission seemed to disengage and I had no thrust. After sitting with the engine off for a few minutes it started and I was able to get it too my mechanic about 40 minutes away, who diagnosed a faulty Mass Air Flow Sensor, and then replaced it.

This seemed to work. The car ran fine for about 2 weeks with my average 100 mile per day commute.

Then the “Service Engine Soon” light came on, and I noted some uneven idling when first starting the car in the morning. The engine always evened out after the engine was warm.

Twice the unevenness was accompanied by clouds of white smoke that smelled of anti-freeze coming out the tail pipe. I checked the coolant, and it was low, so I replaced it. I also checked the oil since I had the hood open, and it was also low (nearing 3000 miles since the last change) so I added about 3/4 of a quart. The uneven idle went away and the car drove normally for about a week.

Then I noted a spike in my temperature gauge inside the vehicle. The gauge would spike to hot and sit there for a few seconds and than drop back to the halfway (normal) point. It would do this a few times in a row, and then not at all for quite some time. I again checked the coolant and it was low…so it is obviously overheating. Unfortunately, I had no other vehicle so I've driven around for the last week with gallons of coolant in the car, replacing about half gallon every hour of driving.

Assuming that the car's overheating and the gauge or thermostat is screwed I've also been driving with the heat on. A few times there was no heat...just cold air…not lukewarm but seriously cold air that was condensing on the inside of my windshield.

I had to make a long trip this week…2.5 hour drive one way. With a 1.5 hour commute to the office in the morning there were no problems. With another 1.5 hour commute home there were temperature fluctuation problems. Both times I added about a half gallon of coolant before the drive. Before proceeding on my 2.5 hour trip I replaced about a quart of coolant. After about an hour the car stopped producing heat, and then exhibited the same mass air flow problem from last month. I let the car rest for about 45 minutes, added another quart of coolant, and made the rest of the trip fine with heat.

I also made the trip back fine…some temperature gauge fluctuations, and I added coolant halfway thru the trip, but nothing shut down....though the heat did go away and then comeback at one point. I've been making these last few drives at 5 mph below the speed limit to reduce heat and in the slow lane so that if I needed to get off the road I could do so quickly and safely.

Now that I’m finally home I’m looking to see what the heck might be wrong. I’m assuming I need a new thermostat at minimum which I can handle myself; however I’m concerned that it might be more problematic than that. I had a car many years ago with a cracked block that had the same white anti-freeze scented smoke coming out the tail pipe. But, that hasn't happened in weeks, and the oil shows no sign of dissipating or water in it which that other car did have.

Nothing is leaking out of the car...after a drive the pressure in the coolant system forces coolant out of the overflow tank, but nothing is leaking when the car is cooled down.

Any help after that long story is appreciated…

Tom Greenleaf
Ultimate Carjunky / Moderator
Tom Greenleaf profile image

Jun 20, 2009, 11:31 AM

Post #2 of 2 (4925 views)
Re: Overheating Nissan Sentra Sign In

After all that a head gasket is highly suspect. Takes nothing but one overheat and they are done. You are consuming coolant and said you smelled it in exhaust. Have it carefully diagnosed for that as being wrong is too costly,


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