By on June 16, 2009

walterrobin writes:

Recently we took our 2005 Murano with 75,000 miles on it into the mechanic for the 70k maintenance. It was making a bit more noise than we thought it should and the mechanic says from a cold start this morning it sound even worse. He says the oil stick did not register and he believes it is 2 qts down. We put in synthetic about 7k miles ago. He suggests while it is in ‘decent’ shape (after an oil change and oil treatment/flush) we should consider trading it in.

The feedback on Murano repair history that I’ve seen says they have the ability to drive for quite a few more miles than 75k. We had planned to keep it for at least a few more years but the mechanic says he believes we may be at risk of losing an engine in a few thousand miles.

Sajeev answers:

If I’m reading this correctly, you lost two quarts in 7000 miles. And didn’t check the oil during that period. That’s not very reassuring, and raises more questions than answers. For starters, what’s happening to the oil? Either there’s a leak or you are burning a lot of oil for a car this age. Leaks are often easy to repair, but burning is never an easy problem to fix. (Unless you have a V-10 powered BMW M-series: everyone’s cool with them drinking copious amounts of Mobil 1. But that’s neither here nor there. )

Second, are you using the correct oil?  And lastly, is it still making that noise, and if so, when?

But the question remains: keep or trade this Murano? Because the Nissan VQ series engine is well regarded in durability and performance, I’m tempted to take a wait (for a knocking sound) and see approach. But I’m conflicted.

What say you, Best and Brightest?

[Send your technical queries to mehta@ttac.com]

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32 Comments on “Piston Slap: Time to Vacate the Island of Murano?...”


  • avatar
    commando1

    Replace the oil with straight 50W plus a can of STP goo for good measure, let the engine get nice and warmed up, AND DRIVE IT STRAIGHT TO A DEALER AS A TRADE IN.

  • avatar
    jpcavanaugh

    For now, keep it. Check the oil today. Is it full? Next, check it weekly. Check the floor where you park, any oil spots that indicate a leak? Look out the rear view mirror when you start it – any smoke? Any funny noises?

    If none of the above and you only use a quart every 3000 miles, you ought to be fine.

  • avatar
    mikey

    I’m thinking any engine down two qts is gonn’a make some noise. A qt every 3000 is livable,but with only 75k? Go with commado 1s thoughts

  • avatar
    highrpm

    Also, every once in a while check to see if you have any blue smoke puffing out of your exhaust on startup. Another sign of engine trouble.

    Most likely, everything is fine. Most cars I’ve owned tend to burn a little oil when I run it much beyond 5,000 miles.

  • avatar
    BuzzDog

    It isn’t clear if the “oil treatment/flush” occurred before or after problem started, or when you switched to synthetic oil, but it’s extremely likely that one of these actions dissolved a bit of sludge that was actually providing a seal for a small leak.

    As Sajeev said, the VQ engine is damn near bulletproof; I’ve run more than a few…one of them past 175,000 miles without a single issue.

    Switch back to dino oil, change it every 3,000 miles and monitor your oil level every week or so.

    And get a new mechanic. In a well-running vehicle, the only purpose of an “oil treatment/flush” is to flush out the customer’s wallet so that the mechanic can treat himself to some sort of indulgence.

  • avatar
    DweezilSFV

    Mikey: As the owner of a 95 Saturn S Series SL1 I would love to live with oil usage of a quart every 3000 miles.The flush will probably give more problems, with all due rspect.

    Have to agree with jpcavanaugh, though: put oil in it, watch it closely and remember: the dealership would love to sell you a new car.

  • avatar
    philbailey

    Anything with a CVT in it should be dumped early on.

  • avatar
    tdoyle

    The VQ is bulletproof, but like ANY engine, it must be maintained. Is it possible that the incorrect amount of oil was put in the engine after the last LOF? This has happened more times than not both at the stealership I was a SA with and I have even mistaken underfilled my own vehicles. Always check the level after an LOF yourself, on level ground, preferably after the engine has been off for at least a few minutes.

    I would just LOF it and change it every 5K. But check it at least once a week…

  • avatar
    cdotson

    I’m with philbailey.

    The engine may be fine; the oil problem may be fixable. The CVT is bad. You can’t fix stupid.

    I have a co-worker whose Murano had a CVT take a dump (at less than 75k). He walked funny for a bit after he had to dump that thing, swearing off Nissans in the process.

  • avatar
    Shane Rimmer

    Nissan has had a few issues with pre-cats going bad. This has mostly plagued the 2.5L 4 cylinder, but it is not unheard of on the 3.5L engines. When it happens, catalytic material gets sucked back into the cylinders where it scores the cylinder walls.

  • avatar

    Shane Rimmer : Nissan has had a few issues with pre-cats going bad. This has mostly plagued the 2.5L 4 cylinder, but it is not unheard of on the 3.5L engines. When it happens, catalytic material gets sucked back into the cylinders where it scores the cylinder walls.

    That’s a big problem for certain Toyota (MR-Spyder) and Ford (Contour and derivatives) products.

    If oil consumption can be traced to that problem, DUMP THIS CAR IMMEDIATELY. I’d pull all the plugs and get a scope in there.

  • avatar
    craiggbear

    What’s with these guys and the CVT. Have you guys actually experienced (and owned) a vehicle (not just Nissans) that had a CVT that went bad. It’s always “I had a friend who told me…” or “I heard a rumor…”

    As a multi Nissan owner – one of which is a Murano – I have had nothing but excellent results. Why so much negative commentary without facts. In fact, True Delta seems to suggest the CVT is BETTER than conventional ones – right Mr. Karesh?

    I agree this problem is less about the noise and all about the oil loss itself. If it aint’ burning it, it’s leaking it. I say check oil regularly (daily) and if no further loss, carry on. An engine can be down 2 quarts and still be OK.

  • avatar
    Robstar

    I didn’t know anyone waited 7k miles between oil changes….

    I usually change every 2000-2500 for $18 or so at the local shop. Usually 2500 miles is about 6 months for me, however (90% city driving).

  • avatar
    oldowl

    OUr 2003 Murano is coming up on 90,000 miles with no oil problems.

    But…the engine sounds louder than before. Exhaust system seems OK, but I wonder what that throaty sound is about?

  • avatar
    MBella

    On an other note, never have those oil “flushes” done. The flush additive dissolves valve seals, and causes oil consumption. You are already “flushing” the oil every time you change the oil.

    As far as the Murano goes. We don’t have enough info. Has the noise gone away after the oil change? If it has, a compression check would be the only way to know the condition of the engine.

  • avatar
    Juniper

    If he never checked it in 7000 miles, did he really maintain it? I think this thing was neglected. Still, keep it full and see what happens. Skip the oil flush.

  • avatar
    Lokkii

    How about the old “Check for leaks drill” before we condemn the car to the auction block? It COULD have been a bad oil change, or a loose filter. A one time occurance doesn’t prove that the rings or seals are bad.

    1. Clean the engine down with a degreaser and a quarter operated car wash. Be careful not to overspray the electronics while you’re doing it. the object is to get the block clean, not the the CPU.

    2. Newspaper the floor of the garage under the engine.

    3. Flashlight check the engine right after it has been washed and again in a week.

    4. Have the wife start the car while you watch the exhaust next Sunday morning. Blue smoke or the smell of oil?

    5. Check the dipstick once a week for six weeks with the car parked in the same place with the engine cold (another Sunday morning drill) to see if there’s any noticable drop.

    6. Maybe have an oil analysis done to see if there is an unusual amount of combustion byproduct in the oil.

    7. Start doing the math on what your car is worth and what you’d pay for a new one. If you are willing to sell to Carmax or private party, and your credit is good, you might do pretty well on a new car right now. Used values are up and new sales are down. Check it out. Even if the car checks out OK it MAY not be that bad a deal to get a shiny new one anyhow.

  • avatar
    Johnny Canada

    I’d also research the Positive Crankcase Ventilation valve. Depending on design, a failed PCV system can contribute to burning oil.

    @oldowl
    I’d start by inspecting the plastic plumbing from the filter box to the MAF. Look for cracks or loose clamps.

  • avatar
    MikeInCanada

    Re commando1 :

    You’re absolutely correct. Now, just make sure it’s a Chrysler dealer that you are dropping off at….

  • avatar
    skor

    Most auto makers claim that 1 quart of oil consumption per thousand miles is acceptable. If it’s using more than that, dump the car.

  • avatar
    ARacer

    I’m facing a similar question with my WRX – burning 1.5 quarts every 1000 miles. No leaks. Only difference is I have 197,000 miles on the clock. I’m just going keep the oil topped off and drive it until there is a catastrophic failure. That might happen next week or next year. No way to know. But what I do know is that it isn’t worth anything on trade so it is worth the gamble to drive it until it taps out.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    I’m with MBella and Lokkii. You really don’t have enough information to make any decisions just yet.

    I would follow Lokkii’s steps to monitor for leaks/ burning, but I would add to those that (a) you need to be very careful to clean the engine properly, so as to avoid electrical problems, and (b) your first step before everything else should be to do another oil change. If you were using dino oil until the most recent oil change, then go back to the old school stuff and avoid synth oil in the future. The time to switch to synth is early on in the life of the car, not 75,000 miles into it.

  • avatar
    pauldun170

    Juniper hit the nail on the head.
    Potentially excess wear on bearings and other internal bits.

    root cause: Owner

    Nowadays it seems like most people do not even know how to pop the hood much less check the oil.

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    Before even thinking about dumping the car I would look at investing $100 in a competent mechanic doing a wet/dry compression test.

    If the engine is consuming oil it will be the result of oil entering the combustion chamber through the valve seals or past the piston rings. Bad valve seals will show no improvement in compression with the wet compression test. A valve seal seals the valve stem and prevents oil from going through the valve guide and into the combustion chamber. These seals can wear out and need replacing. In most cases this is a relatively easy job and can be done without removing the cylinder heads. The seals are only about $3.00 each, so the cost is mostly labor.

    Worn out piston rings are indicated when there is a 15-percent to 20-percent increase in compression in a wet compression test. Piston rings require an engine overhaul to correct. The pistons come out, ring lands are checked and cleaned, and the cylinder walls inspected for scoring, pitting and roundness. If all is well the cylinder walls are honed and new piston rings installed. This will correct that cause of oil burning. Clearly you’re into more money, but considerably less than the extreme hammering your cash flow will take trading it in a down market if the car is in otherwise good condition.

    A rear main crankshaft seal oil leak is common in higher mileage engines. It can be difficult to spot because it is between the engine and transmission. Oil can collect in the transmission bell housing where it is easily overlooked, but I doubt it would hold 2-quarts without showing. Most rear main seals are easily replaced, but the transmission has to come out. This shouldn’t cost more that a few hundred dollars, and you’re good to go.

  • avatar
    dolo54

    From what I’ve heard, switching to synthetic is best done at 30k and under. At 75k the dino oil probably had some buildup that was “helping” the older seals stay sealed. The synthetic oil probably cleared some of the buildup and caused the leaking. That being said, there is nothing wrong with the engine that can’t be fixed. Having the gaskets and seals replaced is doable, but not exactly cheap. I’m thinking around $1000, but really have no idea. Maybe more, definitely not much less. Still it’s better than the alternative. Losing a few thousand on a trade in. Plus when the job is done, you know what you have. A new car always brings new problems.

  • avatar
    nikita

    cgraiggbear said: “Have you guys actually experienced (and owned) a vehicle (not just Nissans) that had a CVT that went bad.”

    Yes, a Honda Civic GX (CNG), three CVT’s in 60,000 miles.

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    I know a 2005 Nissan Quest owner with the same 3.5 engine with th same issue. The oil changes were done around 4-5K intervals, the van now has 81K miles and the engine uses a quart of oil every thousand miles or so which is excessive. The engine was diagnosed as have scored cylinder walls due to catalytic converter failure and would soon need a rebuild. It just goes to show that anything can happen even with so called bullit proof engines. I would skip the engine flush and instead pour in some good quality oil with slick 50 or Lucas engine oil treatment that helps with dry starts. Tht should get the engine by for a while longer.

  • avatar
    Matt51

    The engine is probably ok. I agree with some of the others here, one quart per thousand miles is acceptable, and you only lost two (if it was filled all the way) over 7000 miles. If you go to Edmunds, and read about the CVT on the Murano in their blogs, it has been very problematical. I probably would sell the car based on possible CVT problems. Then buy another used car with a stick, the most expense you would have here is having to put in a new clutch someday, which is not all that expensive. Compared to the CVT on the Murano, which seems to cost $6,000.

  • avatar
    "scarey"

    “Trade me right-freakin’-now !” And hang up !
    “Freakin’ Chrysler plant, here I come”- Slapshot

  • avatar
    rpn453

    Whatever you decide to drive in the future, check its oil occasionally.

  • avatar
    NickR

    There’s nothing about that Murano that a nice dark night, a deserted road, and a steep embankment can’t solve.

  • avatar
    capdeblu

    NickR:

    I just about spewed wine all over myself laughing. Have you seen the movie “Sideways” where the two guys have an “accident” with the Saab?


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