By on June 26, 2013

Yaw A. writes:

Hey Sajeev,

It’s the dude whose mom had the sludged RX300 a while back. Thanks for publishing that. I have another question/update.

Someone hit mom in the RX300 about 2 weeks ago. She is fine but the car needs about $5000 in work. My dad has a 2003 M45 that has been sitting in the driveway for at least a year now that is not running (you can’t make this up). Rather than fix the M45, he bought an old Altima V6. If you are confused so far don’t worry, I am too.

I have no idea what the problem with the M45 is, but now with the RX300 basically worthless, and a cash settlement of about $5000 from the other driver’s insurance (they were at fault), I am wondering…would it make sense for my mom to take a gamble with the M45 and get it fixed, rather than put that $5000 towards a new car? The M45 is paid off and has well under 100,000 miles on it, so there is no way she could do better for $5K. I would not be surprised if it had less than 70,000 miles to be honest. KBB says the RETAIL value of the car is anywhere from $5500-7500 though, but that is assuming 10 years of normal mileage, which it definitely does not have. Even if it is the worst case scenario (an engine/transmission replacement), longblocks are going for ~$1000-1500 on Ebay, and I imagine labor would be another $1000-1500. So to me it’s kind of a no brainer.

Like I mentioned the problem is some “undisclosed mechanical issue” that makes the car stall, from what I understand. I am going to head out this weekend to investigate further. But based on what you know now, what do you think?

Thanks again, love the column.

Sajeev answers:

Based on what I know?  I know nothing! 

Perhaps there’s some stupid minor wiring problem that keeps the engine from running.  Perhaps the engine is bad, and you might as well get a complete motor from the junkyard to fix it. And maybe the tires are flat spotted. Perhaps even worse things happened while sitting around for a year (a leak in the moonroof turned the interior into a mold factory) and perhaps nobody in the house can or wants to address such problems.

As much as I find the M45 an obscurely charming machine that looks pretty frickin’ cool as a VIP tuner wagon…I have no idea what’s going on here!

So, just to CYA, I will say your parents are better off selling the M45 for scrap (or to a Craigslist last chance mechanic) and applying the $5200-$5500 to another vehicle.

 

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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29 Comments on “Piston Slap: M45 DOA…or VIP?...”


  • avatar
    Michael McDonald

    I’d say scrap it, but as an 2004 M45 owner myself, Id love to buy some of them parts! Impossible to find.

  • avatar
    DIYer

    There was a recall out on 2003 Infiniti M45 models. Check this out:

    NHTSA Campaign ID Number: 03V455000

    Recall Date: 2003-11-19

    ON CERTAIN PASSENGER VEHICLES, THE CIRCUIT BOARD FOR THE CRANK POSITION SENSOR OR CAM POSITION SENSOR MAY HAVE AN IMPROPER SOLDER JOINT DUE TO SOLDER DEFORMATION CAUSED BY HEAT STRESS ACCELERATED BY THE EXISTENCE OF FLUX RESIDUE DURING THE SOLDERING PROCESS.

    Consequences:

    THIS COULD CAUSE THE “SERVICE ENGINE SOON” WARNING LIGHT TO COME ON, CREATE A NO START CONDITION, CAUSE REDUCED ENGINE POWER, OR CAUSE THE ENGINE TO STOP RUNNING WITHOUT WARNING DURING VEHICLE OPERATION, WHICH COULD RESULT IN A CRASH.

    Remedy:

    DEALERS WILL REPLACE THE CRANK POSITION SENSORS. CAMSHAFT POSITION SENSOR(S), AND IN SOME CASES, THE VARIABLE TIMING CONTROL SENSOR(S). VEHICLES INVOLVED IN A PREVIOUS RECALL CAMPAIGN, 01V357, ARE ALSO INCLUDED IN THIS NEW CAMPAIGN. THE REPLACEMENT SENSORS USED IN THAT CAMPAIGN ARE ALSO AFFECTED. OWNER NOTIFICATION BEGAN ON DECEMBER 22, 2003. OWNERS SHOULD CONTACT NISSAN AT 1-800-647-7261 OR INFINITI AT 1-800-662-6200.

    • 0 avatar
      Detroit-Iron

      Anyone else notice that recall notices and the National Weather Service always shout?

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      I seriously think you’ve nailed it, I just struggled with a no start condition on my Volvo and the fix was a new crank position sensor.

      Call up the Nissan dealer and explain the situation, since it was a recall they may fix it for free/price of a tow.

      • 0 avatar

        This sounds like the problem as well. I have a Pathfinder and it was stalling/not starting due to bad cam shaft position sensors. There was also a recall on it for the same issue on the relays and the relay control ciruit board due to the same problem. It has been a fairly common problem with all the early to mid 2000 Nissan/Infinity cars and trucks.

        If the cam position sensors are messed you up may be getting false codes on the Cat Banks being out of spec as well (P0430). Get the cam position sensors checked as well if you are having the recall done. The sensors are about $100 a piece from Nissan.

      • 0 avatar
        patman

        I think that’s a good place to start before throwing out what might be a perfectly good car. A faulty solder joint on a crank sensor, or maybe cam sensor, could certainly cause a stall.

        The crank position sensor is one of the few sensors that will completely keep a EFI car from running. Most other sensors the ECU can work around, even multiple sensor failures, as long as it knows where the crank is and some method to guess how much air is coming in, but without that crank position sensor it’s dead in the water. Depending on the car, a faulty cam sensor will do the same thing – some will revert to firing the injectors in batch mode and fire the spark plugs on both the power & exhaust cycles (waste spark systems do that anyway) and happily keep running though, while other cars will simply throw their hands up and die.

        I resuscitated an old, given up on Volvo 740 that was a lot older and sat a lot longer in my dad’s driveway than that M45 – find out more about it before you send it to the scrap heap.

        • 0 avatar
          Lorenzo

          I had that problem on my 1995 Altima (chronic Nissan weakness?) and after two tries, the dealer replaced the entire distributor assembly as a unit and the car ran perfectly afterward.

          I also bought a car that had been sitting for over a year, “ran when parked”, needed a jump to start and a new battery/oil change/gas tank flush afterward, and the things that started going wrong in the following months are too many to list. I would stay away from ANY car that has been sitting a year or more.

          • 0 avatar
            mkirk

            I park my car to deploy pretty regularly (9-12 months). The only issues I have had were: 1. Dead battery on my Miata, 2. Gummed up carb on my KLR650. Both easily fixed.

    • 0 avatar
      JerryL

      could be as simple as a fuel gauge (no gas)… on mine it showed half full but was really empty.

      Report Date: March 13, 2012 at 10:52 AM
      NHTSA Campaign ID number: 12V088000

      Vehicle Make / Model: INFINITI / M45
      Model Year(s): 2003-2004
      Manufacturer: NISSAN NORTH AMERICA, INC.

      Mfr’s Report Date: MAR 05, 2012
      NHTSA CAMPAIGN ID Number: 12V088000
      NHTSA Action Number: PE11038

      Component: FUEL SYSTEM, GASOLINE
      Potential Number of Units Affected: 8,120

      Summary:
      NISSAN IS RECALLING CERTAIN MODEL YEAR 2003-2004 INFINITI M45 VEHICLES MANUFACTURED FROM MARCH 7, 2002, THROUGH JUNE 3, 2004. DUE TO A CIRCUIT BOARD FAILURE, THE FUEL GAUGE MAY READ A FUEL LEVEL HIGHER THAN ACTUALLY EXISTS. AS A RESULT, THE VEHICLE MAY RUN OUT OF GAS WITHOUT NOTICE.

      Consequence:
      THE VEHICLE MAY STALL WITHOUT WARNING, INCREASING THE RISK OF A CRASH.

      Remedy:
      NISSAN WILL NOTIFY OWNERS, AND DEALERS WILL MODIFY THE CIRCUIT BOARD FREE OF CHARGE. THE RECALL IS SCHEDULED TO BEGIN IN MID-APRIL 2012. OWNERS MAY CONTACT NISSAN CUSTOMER SERVICE AT 1-800-647-7261.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    After sitting that long, with the “unknown issues” I’d be afraid to get into it. That model M45 was never popular (though which M45 IS popular?), so you aren’t likely to get many interested buyers down the road (though it’s a rare JDM hardtop-style sedan. If it said SKYLINE on the back, it’d be worth $25k.)

    As Michael said above, parts are hard to find – uh what – on a 9 year old car? It can only get worse. Get rid of the RX, rid of the M, and get yourself an I35 or a different RX, etc.

    Edit: The M45 also looks very dated (saw a nice condition one yesterday), and the interior isn’t all that nice.

  • avatar
    korvetkeith

    I’ll buy it for scrap price+

  • avatar
    celebrity208

    $5000k + Big RWD Nissan = LSX Swap FTW!

  • avatar
    jberger

    Since you didn’t mention where the car is located, it’s hard to point you to a nissan/infiniti specialty shop for the fix.

    I’d head over to nicoclub.com (Nissan / Infiniti owners club) and find out who is in you area that can offer specific model support.

    It’s a recent car with a TON of common nissan parts, they aren’t at all hard to find. A good nissan tech can probably get it up and running in an afternoon.

    I’d be more concerned about why it’s been sitting without repair. Cars do require maintenance, it’s going to be proactive or reactive, but it will be required.

    Proactive is generally a LOT cheaper and saves a lot of headaches.

    I drove Q45′s for years and as long as you keep up with maintenance, they run very well. As long as it’s not drinking oil, the car has years of life remaining so fix it up and get Mom back on the road.

  • avatar
    scrubnick

    Scrap it? Are you kidding me? I can’t imagine that there’s anything that a weekend of work can’t fix, unless it’s a completely blown engine. In that case, junkyard long block will fix that. The car would be work a solid 5k at least if it’s running. Do some work and get that thing going.

    As for the LSx swap, the VK45 in the M makes 340hp/333ft-lbs and is hardly weak.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    Ahh the Japanese Crown Vic, the M45. If it were me, I’d give fixing the M45 a shot because I like those cars. To make an educated decision for your mom, I’d say get a proper diagnosis and estimate for the repairs needed on the M45. As already stated, the problem could be minor and could be fixed for little to no cost. Get a diagnosis before making a decision.

    I’d say if the M needs most of that 5g to get going, sell it. If it needs less than 2g all in, fix it and have her drive that. She should be able to get some good service out of it for minimal cost barring anything else expensive goes.

    • 0 avatar
      WaftableTorque

      I personally don’t understand all this talk of getting rid of sub-15 year old cars that still have half of its serviceable life left. It’s like buying a smart phone every 6 months: wasteful and lacking forethought. It’s not like you bought an expensive suit and now you’ve lost 50lb, which is a true lifestyle change and worthy of letting go to reflect your new circumstances.

      I’m a bit biased though, since the M45 is one of my favorite cars of the last decade. A true Forever Car for me.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        To me it just doesn’t have that “timeless” appeal in its design. It was VERY stylish, but only for 2004-2006. Now it just looks old IMO. Compare to the 94-00 LS400, which is very timeless.

    • 0 avatar
      Compaq Deskpro

      I thought the Toyota Crown was the Japanese Crown Vic. Minimally changed staple of Taxi, Limo, and police fleets.

  • avatar
    burgersandbeer

    Your dad must have at least diagnosed the M45 before deciding to buy another car, right? Leaving a car in your driveway and replacing it without at least a diagnosis is insane. There has to be a good reason why he gave up on it.

    • 0 avatar

      I’d love to see the answer to that. Somehow though, I think it happened ’cause it seemed easier, faster.

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      My parents have been stupid with money for as long as I’ve known them. Great people though, and given their background I can’t fault them. They came from poverty and came into a lot of income in their careers.

      Update on the car… it’s still sitting. It’s located in Long Island, NY. Unfortunately I am now living in NC so I can’t go mess around with it. I feel like it is that crank sensor thing though as there is def a no-start issue with it. It’s a real shame. I do think they had it towed to the Infiniti dealership nearby and they couldn’t fix it for whatever reason. Still though it’s a perfectly good car that just needs a simple fix.

  • avatar
    Crosley

    I’d fix the M45 with the $5,000, assuming it’s a reasonable repair.

    If nothing else, selling a non-running car means you get slaughtered on the resale. People buying it will (wisely) assume the worst. So it’s almost “free” to fix it and drive it for a while. Either way you’re going to pay, at least with fixing it you have a running, low mileage Infiniti.

    Tow into a reputable shop and get an estimate, and take it from there.

    FWIW, I think that generation of M45 is a good looking car and it’s doubtful that it’s a money pit lemon.

  • avatar
    Stumpaster

    This is insane with all these people telling you dump a big Infinity with a v8. I am sure if it were a Panther with 300k miles they’d be telling you to buy a rebuilt engine and enjoy the car for decades. Right.

    I think you have an awesome car that will take less than $3k to fix and will run another 100k miles. And the fix is already listed above. Maybe get new spark plugs and wires to make it totally mint.


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