Piston Slap: Choke That Maxima Edition

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta

TTAC commentator Aren Cambre writes:

I have a question about my 2002 Nissan Maxima. A while back, I had the battery disconnected for a few hours. After reconnecting, the car forgot how to maintain idle right after starting: if I don’t nudge the gas pedal for several seconds after starting, RPMs fall to 0. Internet research is conflicting. Some say it will heal on its own, others say dealer-only repair.

It’s been a few months now. How do I fix this? Is it really dealer only? If I don’t fix, will I hurt the car? (I don’t mind nudging the gas pedal–kind of like when I set the carburetor choke on my ’74 Nova.)

Sajeev answers:

So it’s been a few months? Unless you cover less than five miles per month, the computer should re-learn its operating environment (and change its evil ways) by now. So I share your disappointment. Actually, I am all choked up.

The Maxima is no different then the Nova: but today we use the term “Idle Air Control Valve” instead of “Choke.” It might be a political correctness thing: perhaps choking your car leads to road rage or other violent behavior?

Whatever. Odds are a plugged or failing IAC valve is the culprit. Sometimes it will throw an engine trouble code but I’ve never been so lucky. You can try cleaning the IAC with WD-40 (or equivalent), but this is one time where throwing a part at a problem is a safe bet. After you inspect the vacuum lines, spark plugs, replace fuel filter, etc. to ensure the car is in tip-top shape, of course.

Bonus! A Piston Slap Nugget of Wisdom:

A dealer service bay isn’t normally any better than a reputable, non-franchise shop with access to electronic data warehouses like AllData. I’d wager that the dealer is the worst place to get older models serviced: only the more senior techs know the details in the design, and you won’t be lucky enough to get them working on your car. And you don’t want to know what junior mechanics think of your clunker.

Plus if you’re lucky, there’ll be a sales jockey watching you watch daytime TV and drink shitty coffee in the customer waiting area. If they don’t roll up with a “we are in desperate need of clean trade ins” at first contact, you’ll probably get a model-appropriate brochure with a business card stapled to the cover. Been there, done that and suppressed a gag reflex: vowing to never take an old car to a new car dealership ever again.

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

Sajeev Mehta
Sajeev Mehta

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  • Jeff Puthuff Jeff Puthuff on Jun 30, 2009

    Aren, here is a tutorial on cleaning the Idle Air Control Valve (IACV) from Nissan/Infiniti Car Owners (NICO) club. If you have any questions, the Nissan Tech Forum is a good place to get support. When you restarted the car after replacing the battery, did you drive around for at least five minutes, or start it and cut it? I would reset the ECU before throwing any parts or labor at it. How to reset ECU in 5th and 6th Generation Maximas 1. Turn ignition switch on and wait about 3 seconds. Repeat the following steps (2a and 2b) procedures quickly---five times within 5 seconds. 2a. Fully depress the accelerator pedal (HARD). 2b. Fully release the accelerator pedal. 3. Wait 7 seconds, fully depress the accelerator pedal and keep it for approx. 10 seconds until the CEL starts blinking. 4. Fully release the accelerator pedal (while the CEL is still blinking) 5. Wait about 10 second. 6. Fully depress the accelerator pedal and keep it for more than 10 seconds. 7. Fully release the accelerator pedal (The CEL light will continue to blink). 8. Turn ignition switch to “OFF” position. 9. Now start the car. The CEL light should be off.

  • Aren Cambre Aren Cambre on Jun 30, 2009
    Jeff Puthuff: Thanks. Would disconnecting the battery overnight also reset the ECU? I did that a couple of weeks ago experimentally--thinking that after the first battery disconnection, something may have gone nutty and a second battery disconnect may clear everything. I drove for about 15 minutes after reconnecting the battery the latest time.
  • ToolGuy "Nothing is greater than the original. Same goes for original Ford Parts. They’re the parts we built to build your Ford. Anything else is imitation."
  • Slavuta I don't know how they calc this. My newest cars are 2017 and 2019, 40 and 45K. Both needed tires at 30K+, OEM tires are now don't last too long. This is $1000 in average (may be less). Brakes DYI, filters, oil, wipers. I would say, under $1500 under 45K miles. But with the new tires that will last 60K, new brakes, this sum could be less in the next 40K miles.
  • BeauCharles I had a 2010 Sportback GTS for 10 years. Most reliable car I ever own. Never once needed to use that super long warranty - nothing ever went wrong. Regular maintenance and tires was all I did. It's styling was great too. Even after all those years it looked better than many current models. Biggest gripe I had was the interior. Cheap (but durable) materials and no sound insulation to speak of. If Mitsubishi had addressed those items I'm sure it would have sold better.
  • Marty S I learned to drive on a Crosley. Also, I had a brand new 75 Buick Riviera and the doors were huge. Bent the inside edge of the hood when opening it while the passenger door was open. Pretty poor assembly quality.
  • 3-On-The-Tree Alan, I was an Apache pilot and after my second back surgery I was medically boarded off of flying status due to vibrations, climbing on and off aircraft, so I was given the choice of getting out or re-branching so I switched to Military Intel. Yes your right if you can’t perform your out doesn’t matter if your at 17 years. Dad always said your just a number, he was a retired command master chief 25 years.