By on July 5, 2013


Brian writes:

Hi Sajeev,

I have a 1999 Nissan Frontier. 207k miles, 2.4L four cylinder. I have a Service Engine light which comes on AFTER driving for 30 minutes, parking it and letting it sit for 30 minutes. When I come back and start the truck I get the vibration and Service Engine light. The code is a P0303, i.e. cylinder #3 misfire.

I replace the plugs, wires, distributor cap and rotor. Made no difference, still have the same problem.This repeats just exactly the same each day. Occasionally the cylinder will start functioning again as I drive and vibration will go away but the light stays on. Had the injectors flushed, no difference. Nissan seems to think it’s carbon in the intake (EGR Port).

I doubt that, but maybe the injector or the wire harness? Seem to have the problem after the engine gets warmed up and then parked for 15 to 30 minutes. Because it doesn’t do it when the engine is started cold at the first start of the day.

I haven’t tried it yet but I’ll bet at the first start of the day I could drive it indefinitely and it wouldn’t have a problem as long as I did not shut it off and let it sit, and then restart it.

Sajeev answers:

Why do you doubt what the Nissan mechanic said? Oh yeah, the completely valid, long-standing mistrust between vehicle owners and the people who work on them.

Which is fair…but after all your previous (and good) repairs…you can’t casually dismiss an EGR problem like that! It is, more than likely, the heart of your problem, even though it is hard to tell at this mileage. You probably have multiple problems and everything you’ve done so far is money well spent in my book. Sadly, obviously, the next wear item, the EGR system needs attention.

EGR systems can do some bizarre shit to your ride. Put another way, this guy on this Honda Prelude forum said, “you’d be surprised wat codes your ecu will throw all because of egr problems.”  Tru dat.

It’s time to clean or replace the EGR valve.  And clean the (intake manifold) ports that feed the EGR its precious exhaust gases.  At this mileage you could have severely coked up/blocked up EGR ports, and the valve could be well past it.  My advice is the same as the Nissan Tech, clean the valve and the ports (carb cleaner and a toothbrush, a wire brush or a screwdriver for the real bad stuff, WEAR GLOVES) and if the problem continues, replace the EGR valve.

Best of luck!


Send your queries to [email protected] 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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13 Comments on “Piston Slap: Ain’t Got No Problem with Coke!...”

  • avatar

    Make a can of ‘Seafoam’ your friend.Sold at just about all auto parts stores.Follow the directions and when the smoke clears you and your engine will be happy again,for many more miles.

  • avatar

    What this guy said, do it before every oil change. Throw some Lucas in the fuel every now and again and cruise on for another 200k. It’s not mechanic in a can but it’s the closest thing to it.

  • avatar

    I’ve had an EGR “insufficient flow” code on my car for over 5 years and it hasn’t caused any driveability problems to date.

    What’s funny is that on extended highway trips, the CEL goes away, but my daily commute will throw it, pointing to a possible need for more “Italian tuneups”.

  • avatar

    I had a similar problem on a car once, gave the same” misfire cylinder #… ” readout, turned out to be a faulty ignition coil. Brian says he changed the plugs, wires etc. but nothing about checking the coil which sits atop of each plug. When they start to go, they seem to become susceptible to humidity causing the erratic behavior, on rainy days mine was bad, on dry sunny days it ran perfect. Just another possibility

  • avatar

    I’ve experienced this issue on my daughters ’98 Accord. When she purchased from a Honda dealers sub par lot. CEL showed an issue with the EGR. I noted that it looked brand new so either the previous owner or the stealership had changed it out already. After I took the EGR off I could see that there was a lot of buildup. I took off the intake manifold and the passage was totally blocked.

    • 0 avatar

      When I worked at an Acura dealership in the early 00’s we had a TSB for a specific EGR code on the 3.0 CL. The fix was to take off the intake manifold, drill the passage slightly oversized, and then sleeve it with a stainless steel sleeve. After that a new EGR valve was put on and the car was sent on its way. Never had any come-backs after this fix, and if your daughter’s ’98 is a 6-cylinder I’m quite certain the issue lies here.

  • avatar

    I am the only one thoroughly enjoying the Scarface reference?

    *Points to the 1.0L Ecoboost*

    Say hello to my little friend…

  • avatar

    EGR is a worthy path to follow, but don’t dismiss the injectors.

    I encountered terrible misfiring on a 96 Grand Caravan 3.3 that I traced to worn out fuel injectors. Upon removal, you could see a brown stain on one side of two of them, which meant they were not shutting off completely when de-energized. This happened around 100k miles. Replacing them fixed the smoking and misfiring.

  • avatar

    wow, I’m impressed. the “miracle additive” shills showed up in the first comment.

    • 0 avatar

      While I do like Seafoam, in this case I really believe a manual cleaning and possible EGR valve replacement is worth it. Why spend $7 on that can when you’ve done over 200,000 miles of hot coking action…that money is better spent on couple cans of carb cleaner.

  • avatar

    I had a similar issue that was caused by the EGR system, but wasnt actually the EGR.

    Not sure on the 2.4 but on my Toyota inline the EGR cooked a portion of the wiring harness which caused a similar issue to that which you describe.

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