By on September 3, 2014

Image: Shutterstock user ilmarinfoto

TTAC Commentator Eiriksmal writes:

I read your plea for questions, so I’ll lob you a softball. Why has my 2005 Maxima’s TPS decided to randomly poop out on me after doing a warm start?

Specs: 2005 Nissan Maxima 6MT. 135,000 miles. Electronic throttle. Stock air intake + (new, put in the first time the TPS acted up 3K miles ago) K&N filter. The car’s now on its third owner, having spent its whole life in Evansville, IN, Lexington, KY, and now Louisville, KY. At the rust belt’s frayed fringe, I guess. No surface rust anywhere on the car, though. Electrically speaking, it’s in good shape. (Save the rear ABS sensors… a rant for another day)

Relevant codes*: Throws a P2135 for sensor voltage being out of spec whenever it acts up.

Scenario: Drive the car a while to be fully in the operating temperature range. Turn the engine off. Wait for a long train to pass/run in and renew your driver’s license/do some quick shopping, now turn on car. Car slow to start. Throttle goes into fail safe** (hold the pedal to the floor, wait a few seconds, revs rise slower than a DD15). Turn car off. Wait a second. Turn car on. Blip throttle, engine roars. You’re back in business.

Attemped fixes: The mechanic at my work suggested I clean the MAF. I did that. He suggested I check the connector and clean it. It looks good, I sprayed some of the MAF cleaner on there, too. No luck, it still acts up. His newest suggestion is to follow the harness to the firewall and look for a pinch or something. That sounds like work to me, and I’m a pretty lazy guy, so…

My question is, how does a throttle position sensor go bad? It’s way up high out of the way of muck from the road, so what’s the deal? Specs state it should be between 0.36V and 4.75V (at full throttle), so it’s not like there’s some high current load burning it up. The problem is that I can’t find an actual throttle position sensor in the Nissan parts diagrams, and I realllly don’t want to spend $615 on a new throttle body (file away this nugget: try CourtesyParts.com, they’re the best OEM retailer of Nissan parts I’ve found.).

Question 2: What’re the chances that something’s wrong with the harness? Why would it go away after a restart? (Yeah, that latter question is a crappy one)

*Other codes: Dreaded P0420 on the precats I installed 2 years/30,000 miles ago to treat the environment right and turn off the P0420. Also lit is the parking brake light, the traction control disabled light, the “your wheels are slipping/TCS engaged” light, and the ABS light. The car’s upset that I snipped two fusible links in the engine bay to kill all power to the ABS actuator. Cough. That was about three months ago and is wholly separate from the throttle control.

**From the FSM:
“The ECM controls the electric throttle control actuator in regulating the throttle opening in order for the idle position to be within +10 degrees. The ECM controls the opening speed of the throttle to be slower than the normal condition. So, the acceleration will be poor.” No, really!?

PS: How’s Sanjeev doing these days? He’s been quiet for a while.

Sanjeev answers:

It’s about time you people demanded my presence!

We know I don’t respond with garbage like “ZOMG SON U SWAP LS4-FTW lest Panther Love because I’m a big stupid jerk in my First Generation Mark VIII”…or whatever he normally says. Wait, what’s your problem again?

Sajeev answers:

While my arch nemesis with the far more common Indian name continues to disappoint, let’s talk Nissan Maxima TPS. Engine code P2135 points to a problem with the drive by wire (i.e. no throttle cable) system, which is excellently described here. Long story short, there’s a sensor on the go-pedal, another 1-2 more on the engine’s intake throttle plate, an actuator for said plate, and some wiring to make it work.

The wiring could be bad/dirty/corroded/loose at either sensor, but odds are cleaning and checking won’t cure the problem.  There’s a good chance one of these sensors went south.  That’s because anything that moves does indeed wear out: remember scratchy old records on the Hi Fi? That’s the wear a seemingly non-moving sensor endures!

And lucky you: if the sensor on the throttle body side is bad, you get to replace the throttle assembly.  Because that’s how modern drive-by-wire systems work: yeah, how fun!

Do yourself a solid, read the above hyperlink.  If the throttle body is bad and you’re broke, consider a reman part instead of the original: they’re about half the price. And since this is a 10-year-old machine, be ready for the worst…you will need a replacement throttle body. Hmm-kay? Yeeah. 

[Image: Shutterstock user ilmarinfoto]

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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44 Comments on “Piston Slap: Maximum TPS Reporting?...”


  • avatar
    jrhmobile

    Do yourself a favor and toss that K&N air filter as far as you can away from your electronically-controlled intake.

    Oiled air filters may trap dirt and be “reusable”, but the oil spray on those filters mist downstream and can gunk up delicate electronics on the intake tract.

    Go back to paper filters on electronically controlled intakes. Because the money you save with those “reusable” filters costs Big Bux when you have to replace those delicate downstream electronics …

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      This. Oiled filters are MAF killers too.

      • 0 avatar

        I still don’t understand this problem with oil spray: 16 years of re-oiling these things and I’ve never had a dirty MAF problem, or any other problem. Granted I don’t have drive by wire, but I inspected my MAF after 16 years behind and K&N and it even looks clean.

        • 0 avatar
          APaGttH

          Improperly, over oiled filters kill the MAF. Properly prepared oiled filters don’t.

        • 0 avatar
          danio3834

          I’ve seen it too many times to count. The oil can collect on the internal MAF sensor wires and cause a lean condition and rough running. Sometimes they can be cured by cleaning, other times not. Perhaps the filters were over oiled, but to me those types of filters just aren’t worth the trouble and extra expense. Maybe they work out economically for a few people if they never have any trouble associated with them but they aren’t netting the average car any other tangible benefits. Maybe those own a speed-density car with no MAF and drive it for a long time. if that works for them, fine I guess.

      • 0 avatar
        Car Ramrod

        Seems true enough. Less oil seems to be an adequate solution. This is a very common problem on my car, which has two MAFs ($$$). As far as I can tell, even the bad ones look clean.

    • 0 avatar
      Eiriksmal

      I used to believe this, until I did some research and found that comes from over-oiling them. The filter wants to be re-oiled EVERY 50,000 MILES! Some… less well-informed folks try to do it every 10,000 miles.

      We use them in our truck fleet at work. A smattering of Rangers, Tacomas, Frontiers, and various light-duty Chevy 2500s/E350s/etc. The fleet puts on about 1.5 million miles a year and the mechanic certainly wouldn’t be putting them in if it interfered with the MAFs, TPSs, or throttle bodies themselves. We go through transmissions and differentials, not throttles.

      (No, not all of those trucks use cable throttles)

    • 0 avatar
      Silent Ricochet

      Or… Just buy an AEM DryFlow filter and never have to worry about any oils. Just wash it once a year in water and Simple Green.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    Yep, electronics in the throttle body assembly took a plop, so you get to buy a new one. DBW systems use the throttle plate to control air intake at idle and start, rather than separate valves, so gunning the pedal kinda bypassed the de facto choke plate action.

    You can try to find a junkyard replacement (V6 Altimas might also be a parts source), or go the aftermarket route to save some bucks.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    “What’re the chances that something’s wrong with the harness?”

    There’s always a chance that the harness could be the problem, even if it’s more likely the component that has failed. This is why before component replacement, testing the circuitry is important as it could save you hundreds in unnecessary part replacement. This is generally where most people (and mechanics) fail, most don’t bother to test the circuitry.

    To be sure you don’t have a circuit problem, you’ll need some trusty engine wiring diagrams that detail your TPS circuitry and connectors. Disconnect the circuits at both ends (PCM and TPS) and see if they can be used to light a 5 amp or similar light bulb. If the test lamp lights bright, and all of the source voltage is dropped accross the bulb, your circuit is good. Test each TPS circuit being careful not to spread or damage the connector terminals. Small needles or pins can be used, but be careful not to ram them in there too hard (that’s what she said).

    TPSes do wear out and fail from time to time, it isn’t totally uncommon. If the circuitry checks out, put a TPS in it.

    • 0 avatar
      PandaBear

      One of my friend has a Versa that has intermittent problems all the time, and when in warranty, the dealer eventually replace the entire wiring harness in the car to fix it.

      I’d imagine the labor would be 1/2 the car’s value.

      • 0 avatar
        danio3834

        >One of my friend has a Versa that has intermittent problems all the time, and when in warranty, the dealer eventually replace the entire wiring harness in the car to fix it.

        Probably because it pays more to replace the harness (plus mark-up!) on flat rate time than to ask for diagnostic time for what probably amounted to a minor circuit issue. Dealers know the game.

  • avatar
    sirwired

    If it is the sensor in the TB, this is the sort of part that’s just begging to be pulled from a Pick-a-part for massive savings.

    • 0 avatar

      Valid. Especially if you find one that looks new or comes with a reman label.

    • 0 avatar
      redmondjp

      Where do you live, and when is the last time you went out to a pick-n-pull (or equivalent)?

      In my neck of the woods, Schnitzer Steel has bought up every darn last self-serve wrecking yard, and massive savings are something I haven’t seen out there since. They’ve jacked up the prices, added non-sensical core charges, topped off with an 8-9% “environmental fee” after the almost 10% sales tax.

      I’ve found that I can order most items online, new, for not that much more (this coming from somebody who used to spend around one Saturday a month out in the boneyards) which saves me time, gas, and from wasting the better part of a day.

      YMMV

  • avatar
    kvndoom

    To the OP, an off topic question- aside from the identical engine, how would rate the 2005/06 Maxima against the 2007-2009 Altima? I’m just plain smitten with the 2007 3.5SE Altima I recently bought, and plan to get another 7-10 year old stick shift Nissan next year.

    Thing is, I got a smoking deal on the Altima (under $7k) and I doubt I’ll get that lucky again (never know, though). 05/06 Maximas seem to be more readily available, as well as more within my price range. The quad tips look downright MEAN, even if the rear bumper reminds me of Melissa McCarthy’s butt.

    Just wondering if you’ve had any seat time in a 2007+ Altima, and how you feel about the interior quality, comfort, and ride vs your Max.

    • 0 avatar
      Eiriksmal

      Surprise, it’s me! I believe I’ve already shared all my thoughts on your recent purchase. I haven’t actually ridden in, let alone driven, a V6 Altima, so I’m unable to compare the two. RockAuto points to a disturbing similarity in suspension components. The interior quality on the ’04-’06 Max took a step back from my Japanese-built ’02, that’s for sure. It’s merely okay. Better than my wife’s ’07 Camry, comparable to the plastic-fantastic 2010-2012 Taurus interior, only with less leather. Do you like peach fuzz in your car interiors? The Maxima has this odd band of fuzzy stuff on the doors that circles the interior. The base of the windshield is very far away from you. Google Image Search to see what I mean.

      You can swap the 07-08 Maxima bumpers onto the ’04-’06 without issue. The front is ugly and Altimized, but the rear adds a black plastic lower bit that looks better, to me, than the painted section it replaces. The rear spoiler’s also a lot classier.

      The Maxima has the better steering wheel and same gauge cluster (save the big tach) as the 350Z. The vents are horrendous. They are BMW-like, I guess, and have one control to determine both flow rate and horizontal direction. Of the four vents, only one still works as intended. My wife tried to adjust one and _knocked the round wheel into the glovebox area_. I would expect that out of a 7-year-old Sentra, maybe. Maybe. To replace ’em you have to plunk down $50 a piece, but that’s the easiest part of the process.

      The stickshift doesn’t get any sort of stability control, just ABS-controlled traction control. No built-in bluetooth support until the ’07 redesign, which loses the stick.

      Just do what everyone else does and buy a G35 sedan 6MT.

      • 0 avatar
        kvndoom

        Ha! I thought it was you…

        I’m half a year or more away from getting anything, but so far the G35’s I’ve seen even remotely close to my budget either are pushing 200k or have rebuilt titles.

        At least I won’t be under pressure for a change. Stepdaughter can’t take driver’s ed this school year, so she won’t be getting her license for a while.

        • 0 avatar
          Eiriksmal

          Well, just keep your eyes out for an orange on black/orange 2004 with the stick. Then swap in an engine from a wrecked 7th generation car (2009+) and the transmission from an 05/06 Maxima or same year Sentra SE-R (if you want the limited slip).

          You’ll now have the last fake-sporty Maxima. The greatest, most unique Maxima, some might say.

          http://www.caranddriver.com/reviews/2004-nissan-maxima-35se-road-test

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Try and find an SE Lakeside Edition! I’ve seen one near my house, but can’t find any documentation on them online. They had an emblem on the c-pillar which is what caused me to take notice.

  • avatar
    TheyBeRollin

    As someone that works with sensors and firmware for a living, it sounds like all these manufacturers are using cheap pots for position sensing. No wonder they die. They’re probably not terribly consistent to begin with.

    Does anyone use something more advanced like a hall-effect sensor (cheap, but not as cheap as a pot)? Those rarely fail, are extremely accurate, and will remain more accurate over time since there is nothing to wear out. Even a cheap optical rotary encoder like the one in the knob on my 18-year-old-design base car stereo would be more reliable…

    • 0 avatar
      ExPatBrit

      There was a recent Wheeler Dealer episode featuring a Maserati 3200 GT and a TPS problem. Aftermarket fix was modify it internally to something like that.

      If you think Nissan TPS’s are $$$, try a Maserati.Saved them a bunch and they got a lifetime warranty.

      TPS do wear out, seen it on several vehicles. Very common on the VAG 1.8T motors.

  • avatar
    omer333

    You could get a Maxima with a manual transmission?

    • 0 avatar
      Eiriksmal

      They’re rarer than hen’s teeth, but they exist.

      On the 3.5L V6 Maximas (2002+), a six-speed related to the one used on the Senta SE-R, and similar (of course) to the ones used in the RWD VQ35s, was offered until 2006.

      I’ve heard the take-rate on the 5.5th generation of Maxima (’02-’03) was a little less than 10%, so you’re talking about 22,000 of them. I don’t know how many sticks were built in ’04-’06, but given their shocking rarity on the car sales sites, it must be closer to 3-5%. Given that, there are something like ~15,000 stick-shift fat Maximas rolling around.

      Keep your eyes peeled. Unlike the Accord, there’s nothing to distinguish a stick from a normal one, other than that they are all “SE” badged–but so is the vast majority of Maximas. (SL == “luxury,” SE == “sport”)

      I happen to own the rarest possible combination of Maxima: Fully-loaded 4-seater with the stick. No limited slip like they occasionally offered in Canada, though. :( I’ve only ever seen one other Maxima even equipped with the 4-sseat option.

      Edit: The 4th generation Maxima (’94 – ’99) and I30 had loads of sticks available. The 5th generation (’00-’01) had fewer, then they started phasing it out with the 5.5+ generations. I35s lost the stick completely.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      One of my friends had an MY00 Maxima stick which he took to 190K prior to selling it in barely runnable condition (after a deer). He was told it was one of 400 imported for the model year.

  • avatar
    Eiriksmal

    I asked Mr. Mehta for his thoughts. The “softball” quip was sarcasm. Electrical gremlins are the worst kind of question to ask.

    In the intervening months since asking the question, the car has since refused to act up. I’ve avoided shutting it off during long train delays out of fear of this issue, but it only went into limp mode twice after the connector cleaning.

    I thought it might be heat related, but the hottest part of the summer has been the past two weeks and the Maxima never acted up after short stops at stores.

    I thought the OBD code compiling websites were a load of SEO crap and didn’t have actual content. That guy’s thoughts are interesting, thanks for the share.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    I believe you have my stapler…

  • avatar
    RogerB34

    Mountains out of molehills.
    Replace the TPS.
    Another replace component is the idle air control valve if installed.
    Clean with electronic parts cleaner. No lubrication. When the interval gets annoying replace.

    • 0 avatar
      NeilM

      @RogerB34: Reading comprehension fail!

      It’s already been established that this TPS isn’t available as a separate part and that drive by wire systems don’t use an idle control valve.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    Possibly related: There was a recall on the pedal sensor just recently for my M, which could cause idling issues and default to failsafe mode.

    “Nissan North America, Inc. (Nissan) is recalling certain model year 2006-2010 Infiniti M35 and M45 vehicles manufactured April 4, 2004, through October 5, 2010. Over time, the accelerator pedal sensor signal may deteriorate resulting in the output of an incorrect signal causing the engine to go into fail-safe (limp home) mode.”

    They replaced the pedal assembly and reprogrammed the ECM to fix.

    • 0 avatar
      Eiriksmal

      Interesting TSB.

      That was the confusing part for me–that the ECU can’t distinguish between a bad voltage reading coming from the accelerator pedal versus one coming from the throttle body. I suppose that’s because the “correct” reading can only be determined when both signals agree, so how can you state, definitively, that one is incorrect?

      If anything, I feel that the accelerator pedal lives in a harsher environment than the throttle body. Especially in a stick-shift where it sees more action than its auto-tragic brethren. I’ve already replaced the clutch pedal because the bracket near the firewall snapped (design flaw) and led to excessive lateral motion and a horrible groaning noise every time you push it. Maybe Nissan similarly botched the accelerator pedal… $46 versus $600. Hmmm…

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