Question about 2002 Nissan Pathfinder

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Intermittent battery dead.

2003 nissan Pathfinder:
for days the battery is fine and then out of the blue the battery is dead, a jump gets me going and it will work fine for days, maybe months, then the battery will die again for no reason.
Any suggestions?

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This fix only applies to diesel engines.
I believe this is a common problem. I'm on my third alternator and third battery!
And there is NOTHING wrong with either of them.
I have just today checked if the glow plugs were turning off, and hello! they are staying on! and sucking more juice than the alternator can supply.
This can be easily checked - either with a multimeter at the glow plug rail, or multimeter or LED battery/alternator tester on the battery locate the 80amp fuse for the glow plugs and pull the fuse while the engine is running - my bet is the battery will instantly be charging normally, and show low volts when the fuse is reinserted.
On my Terrano, the fuse box is half way between the battery and the fire-wall.
The glow plug relay is between the battery and the fuse box - the relay clicks in and out with the fuse removal, which makes me suspect the glow plug controller.
I haven't located the controller yet.
The American workshop manual does not cover the diesel engine model.
The Nissan diesel engine manual does not cover the electrics (glow plugs).
If I can not locate or repair the glow plug controller, I will simply add a small electrical kit-set timer, at the fuse/relay, to turn off 15 to 30 seconds after the ignition is turned on.
Hope this gives an answer to this frustrating (and expensive) problem.

Posted on Jul 18, 2009

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  • BlackOnyx
    BlackOnyx Jul 18, 2009

    PS I forgot to mention that the glow plugs don't permanently stay on sometimes after 10 or so minutes they will turn off, sometimes sooner, sometimes later - hence sometimes the battery will be flat, sometimes it will be fine.
    I had a LED battery/alternator tester plugged into the cigarette lighter socket, so I could see what was happening.


  • BlackOnyx
    BlackOnyx Jul 21, 2009

    Hey, just an update!
    Did you hear the one about the Terrano with a charging problem?
    Just fix it by replacing the thermostat!
    Seriously - check your temperature gauge does it take ages for the needle to barely get off cold? (and is the heater useless?)
    The needle should get to just below half way in 2 or 3 minutes.
    If the thermostat is stuck open, then the engine does not get up to temperature.
    The glow plug control senses the engine temperature is cold, so the glow plugs stay on for an extended period of time (sometimes 10 to 15 minutes) - short trips particularly in winter, with more headlight driving - the alternator can't keep up with the current being drawn off and from time to time you will end up with a flat battery!
    A thermostat is cheap, and easy to replace (three bolts and about a half litre of coolant - I pumped the coolant from the top of the radiator, and didn't spill a drop when the thermostat housing was removed).
    Sure enough, as the engine temperature reached about 50C, the glow plugs turned off.

  • BlackOnyx
    BlackOnyx Sep 09, 2013

    Just had this happen on my 1996 Terrano. You will need short 14mm and 16mm ringspanners due to lack of space (cheap ones tend to be short) remove the battery cable (10mm) undo the 14mm nut to remove the cable from the starter solenoid, squeeze to unlock and unplug the small wire to the solenoid, undo the two 16mm bolts which hold the starter motor one from above, one from underneath, I also had to remove 3 12mm bolts from the inlet manifold which hold the bracket of electrical connectors, to get the starter motor up past the connectors. At the cable end of the starter motor, ther are two screws which hold the brush plate to the end cap, if you unscrew these and they just snap off because they have carborized from arcing then you have the same fault. Remove the two long screws which hold the starter motor together, remove the end cover you will likely see there has been arcing between the brush plate and the end cover, clean this up with sand paper or similar. Two brushes are connected to earth through this connection - no earth = no turnover! I turned the heads off the long screws and threaded (5mm x 12mm long) where the heads were, then screwed the short threads into the starter motor, screwing a nut down onto each of the long thread ends to go under the brush plate, then refit the brush plate winding the nuts down until the brushes are fully on the commutator, then the end plate, and two more nuts on the outside, so when tightened, ti holds the motor together, but also clamps the brush plate to the end cover, and reassemble.

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This is not an easy repair. The system has a short or draw on the battery that could be located anywhere. I would take to a good local mechanic. The time involved could be very high in excess of 4 hours just to find the problem.
So taking to a shop you can trust can save you a lot of time. I know auto zone does some basic test to check the charging system. The alternator and starting system to see if there is correct out put on the alternator and if there is a draw on the starter for free. I guess that would be a good place to start.

Good luck

Posted on Jul 16, 2009

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