1989 Nissan Sentra won't start or cuts off

Tiny
89NISSANSENTRA
  • MEMBER
  • 1989 NISSAN SENTRA
Electrical problem
1989 Nissan Sentra 4 cyl Front Wheel Drive Manual

My 89 Nissan Sentra repeatedly fails to start or cuts off while driving. When I turn the key, there is nothing but a clicking sound and it will not restart without a jump start. My mechanic noticed the headlights had dimmed w/the engine running so we replaced the original alternator. Then I replaced the 6 yr. Old battery even though Autozone diagnosed the battery as "o.K, needs a charge". Each recharge of the battery or new component (I've installed one alternator and two batteries) buys me a few days to a few weeks but then the car fails again. A jump start will only get me a short distance before the car dies again. When I idle or stop at a traffic light it dies very quickly. And every time the car is "fixed", I notice a very slight hesitation after I turn the key and beore the engine starts. Thanks in advance for any help.
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Sunday, August 23rd, 2009 AT 8:09 AM

8 Replies

Tiny
BOSMAN752
  • MEMBER
Hello! My '89 Sentra did the same thing. Most likely, it is your distributor. When it starts and as your driving, does it run fine and all of a sudden die? If so, it's your distributor. It may be your ignition switch, but I doubt it.I don't know if it can be checked. What I did is I carefully pulled the distributor out (make sure not to spin either the top or the spindle) and check the spindle on the bottom of the distributor shaft. It should spin, but if it wobbles or feels busted, that's your problem. If it don't, check your ignition coil located to the right on the fender wall behind the battery (it's square and black and has a spark plug wire that runs from the center of the dist. Cap to the left side of it. Check to see if you are getting fire from both ends. If you're not getting fire from the left side, it's your coil.I had pictures of it, but I can't find them. If you need to, I can take new pictures of the coil and distributor. Just let me know. Guy_conquest@yahoo. Com
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Tuesday, August 25th, 2009 AT 8:42 AM
Tiny
89NISSANSENTRA
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It doesn't run fine before it dies. You know it's coming because it will hesitate before you start the car. Then, about a mile before it dies you'll see the guages slowly falling to zero. Also, I don't think a bad distributor would drain the battery. And I'm on my 3rd battery and 3rd alternator. Even the Nissan dealership ($190 for 90 minutes) couldn't find anything wrong.
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Tuesday, August 25th, 2009 AT 8:54 AM
Tiny
DOCFIXIT
  • EXPERT
Check battery ground and alternator ground. Ohm it or better do a voltage drop test.
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Tuesday, August 25th, 2009 AT 9:19 AM
Tiny
89NISSANSENTRA
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Hi Docfixit, Both Autozone and my mechanic had the same idea abt. An inadequate ground possibly due to rust. So I asked the Nissan dealer to check the grounds and they're fine. Only thing the technician found was some grease/dirt on the alternator "sub harness connections". But the technician was doubtful that was the real issue.

Immediately after my mechanic put in a second replacement Autozone alternator, I drove back to AZO to get a voltage test. Their brand new diagnostic handheld tool is supposedly able to "simulate load" w/the car engine turned off. With this simulated test the alternator checked out fine. But I insisted on testing again with the engine, brights, fan, hazzards, and defrost turned on. Now the reading was "low regulator output 12.26 volts and low amps less than 30". But the diagnostic readouts on the alternator checked out fine at both Nissan and my mechanic's shop. Both my mechanic and Nissan have concluded it's yet another bad AZO alternator (intermittant alternator failure). I would be interested in your assessment.
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Tuesday, August 25th, 2009 AT 9:49 AM
Tiny
DOCFIXIT
  • EXPERT
I agree with both Tech's voltage way to low. If you have meter run engine at 1500rpms check output at B+ on alt. Must be 13-15 volt range. And with headlights, fan etc should hold if not alt faulty.
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Tuesday, August 25th, 2009 AT 10:03 AM
Tiny
89NISSANSENTRA
  • MEMBER
Docfixit, Before I buy my 3rd alternator, I wanted to run a (unlikely?) Scenario by you from my last tow truck driver who claimed specialized electrical knowledge. He said it's surely a "short" in the electrical line that carries power from the alternator to the battery. Could that explain why my batteries always drain down and why I'm only able to drive a few blocks on a "jump start" but as long as a few days on a "slow charge" of the battery before the car dies again? In other words, maybe the alternators have been outputting but the current is having difficulty reaching the battery to recharge it? I never pursued this line of thinking because the tow driver insisted that a 1989 Nissan Sentra, once started, is designed so that it no longer even needs the battery to run. So I thought if that were true, then the car should never die while running since it doesn't need the battery to run. In fact, the car does die while running and also sometimes fail to start. Thanks again!
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Tuesday, August 25th, 2009 AT 2:32 PM
Tiny
DOCFIXIT
  • EXPERT
You maybe dealing with two problems. If can repair alt issue then can move on to stalling. There are two white wires that power up alt. Both off a fuselink on left fender. Check out link and voltage at alt. The black wire is ground and white/red controls charge light and will have voltage on it with car running. Does charge light come on when key on?
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Tuesday, August 25th, 2009 AT 2:45 PM
Tiny
89NISSANSENTRA
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I just turned the key without starting the car. The charge light comes on, as it should. The very 1st time I broke down, both the charge light and the brake light came on. My mechanic advised to ignore the brake light. Instead we recharged the battery, turned on the engine and headlights, and saw the headlights dim down. He advised he's quite sure this signals a failure of the original Nissan alternator so we replaced it w/a rebuilt one from AZO. After that, the car broke down/failed to start several more times but the charge light did not light up again during these subsequent breakdowns/failures to start. Since the car is up and running now (w/a diagnosis of possible intermittant alternator failure) I plan to wait for the next breakdown and then get a cash refund on the 2nd rebuilt AZO alternator and buy and install a new Nissan Factory Built alternator from NAPA. Will ask my mechanic if he can check the fuselink.
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Tuesday, August 25th, 2009 AT 3:13 PM

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