Actually he told me it was an ignition problem, found the whole distributor at the junkyard in good condition. Replaced it, it drove around, but then started with its former symptoms: shuddering when it gets about 30 mph, dying, restarting and driving, then shuddering more. It's been doing this for a couple of months and before replacing the distributor it completely died and wouldn't restart.
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I am going to assume you have the 3.1 V6 engine. That engine does not use a distributor.
Instead it has a crank sensor, ignition module, and 3 coils.
The ignition module would be in the bottom of the distributor along with the crank sensor if you had a distributor.
So in your case, the module or the crank sensor could be faulty.
A mechanic would check each component with a scanner.
The ignitors (ignition module) in the distributors tended to fail in
early nissans and sometimes the best way to fix it is to replace the
whole distributor with a new remanufactured one. One thing that can
cause the ignitor and ignition coil to go bad is to crank the engine
with the distributor cap off or the spark plug wires disconnected who told you theres a distributor fuse there isnt one
This is usually called pre-ignition. If this is the case then your distributor is too advanced.. You could get a mechanic to reset your ignition timing. They can use a timing light to set the timing to factory settings. Or you can try and do it by ear by loosening the bolt at the base of the distributor and trying to turn the whole distributor till it sounds right.. Or you can go buy a timing light.. taking it to a mechanic will be easiest and its very easy for them to do it so it wont cost much
Your mechanic is right but if you can get a used one from a reputable salvage yard(yes there are some). you might save some cash. Problem is if it doesn't work you get to pay your mech. to do it again or as many times as it takes to get a good one. Are you a gambling man?
Change ignition module in distributor. If it is actually starting and stopping right away, and the fuel filter is good, it will be the MAF. Mass air flow sensor. But if it was that it probably wouldn't start even after an hour. Sounds more like the module. You can change the whole distributor if that's easier for you. If it was me, i'd get one from a wrecker.
You can replace just the cam sensor, I've done it, but it's kind of a delicate job. You have take apart the distributor to do it, it's not hard to do, you just have to have a little mechanical aptitude. If he's intimidated by this type of thing, you can always get a used one. I think I could probably buy a whole van for $1200.