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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hey guys, I've got a 2003 Frontier 2WD XE with the VG33E.

I am the 3rd owner of it, and my mother was the 2nd. Here recently, I've had to replace part after part on it as she loaned it to my brother who had driven into the dirt.

Its got a new Radiator, Alternator, tensioner idler pulley, and another idler pulley, with belts, etc. After today, its got NGK iridium IX spark plugs, and a premium spark plug wire set, carrier bearing, valve cover gaskets, and intake plenum gaskets.

Here comes the bad news, I pulled my valve covers off and found this


Rock solid sludge, and lots of it.

Im not sure If I should have it vatted out, rebuild the engine, or just drop a new engine in it. what do y'all recommend?
 

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Wow... thats pretty bad. If it was me, I'd put a new gasket on that baby and run it till it dies or sell it. That will at least buy some time to decide and save money for when the engine goes. You might have enough time to keep an eye out for a low mileage replacement engine.

Then again it might surprise you and keep on for another tens of thousands of miles. It is being held together with a lot of buildup... probably even retightening tolerances... :)
 

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We had a 97 Pathfinder come into the shop like that. One thing I can tell your for sure...and it happened to the Pathfinder motor as well as two, Plymouth Slant-6's I had, do not try and clean the sludge off of the head! It will start breaking apart and bits of it will end up clogging the oil pump screen. If you don't want to put much money into it, then do as suggested and install the new cover gaskets and put them back on. Drive it and continue to change the oil and filter every 3000-4000 miles until it dies or gets to the point of bad knocking or the oil light coming on. At that point you can replace the engine, if it's worth it.
Getting back to the 97 Pathfinder, after attempted cleaning, the oil light started coming on and the lifters started tapping shortly afterwards. We ended up pulling the cylinder heads and sending them out to get steam cleaned and a slight shave and installed new hydraulic lifters. Then, we removed the oil pan and washed out all of the sludge. We removed the oil pickup and washed it out with parts cleaner and thoroughly blew it out with compressed air. We reinstalled the pickup with a new gasket and reinstalled the oil pan with new end seals. While apart, we replaced the timing belt and front engine seals. We ran the engine for about 20 miles and then changed the oil and filter, again. So far, so good and that was a year ago!
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
At this point, it's definitely not worth dropping a new engine in it.

I'm likely going to sell it and buy a new truck. I love the frontier line of trucks, but I may have to wait to be able to get another one.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Well the other day the service engine light came on. So I did an oil change (last one was 3500 miles ago), I used penzoil platinum full synthetic 5/30, yet the light continues to stay on. Right now shes running great, but not sure why the light is on. Think I've got a sensor going out?
 

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Get the engine code read, that "might" help. Remember: that's only a tool to start the investigative process...
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Knock sensor is going out.

Its under the intake manifold and there is no way to take off my intake manifold off anymore...

There is a piece of a tool that it tempered hardened steel in a bolt on the intake manifold that is impossible to remove now.
 

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Wow that is some GUNK, I would drive it until you are at a finical point to trade it in or sell it. You can blame your mother or the first person. But someone didn't love/PM that poor baby at all.
 

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Knock sensor is going out.

Its under the intake manifold and there is no way to take off my intake manifold off anymore...

There is a piece of a tool that it tempered hardened steel in a bolt on the intake manifold that is impossible to remove now.
Why not just relocate it like a lot of people do?
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Well guys, she is getting ready to die.

Over the weekend, she started leaking oil, BAD. I noticed the small of gas in the oil. I had lost half the oil in the truck in a day or two, so I put a quart of oil in it, added a bottle of stuff to seal all the gaskets up, that my friend had recommended me for a temp fix, but he wasn't sure it would work.

I have noticed even though I am losing oil, that there is more and more oil in the truck. I checked today and it shows that there is 2x as much oil as there should be. I swear there is a slight green tint to it as well, but i'm not certain. I think the head gasket may have went, and is causing anti-freeze to get into the engine.

The wierd thing is, the truck is still running fairly well, but I know this isn't gonna last.

Any thoughts? I have already applied for a student loan, and should be getting it soon. Should I buy a new block and drop it in? or should I just say to hell with it and buy a new truck? I've got an old friend who's got a early 80's or late 70's Chevy Short-wide or C10, she wasn't exactly sure what it is, her grandfather left it to her when he passed. It's got a brand new motor in it that was put in right before he died, and it hasn't been driven since. She believes he put a 454 in it, and the body is straight. I'll be getting pics of it this weekend. I may jump on that, as I am quite familiar with older engines and trucks, and still getting to know these newer engines with all the electronics. He was the only owner of that truck too, and it seem's to be a very good deal if she is willing to part with it.

I have spent over $1500 on this truck at LEAST, and I have not found a decent priced engine for the truck anywhere. My friend who is a master mechanic has the cherry picker and everything he needs to drop it in, and make sure its running like new. He said he would do it for $500.

I love this truck, and If the engine goes and I get this other truck, I would just tow it to my grandmother's house thats about 90 miles from me and store it there until I can afford put some money into the truck, and not just fix it for the time being.

What are y'all's thoughts?
 

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My thoughts are, I wish I had your guy that would install a new engine for $500! I really don't know what your budget is, but I am planning on keeping my 2002 forever. There is a company, and I don't know to much about them, but its JISengines.com. They have brand new for $3500, and a remanufactured for $1700. When you consider that 200,000 mile used are going for $600-$800 online, this is probably the way I'm going, when I have to. I'm the original owner and it's been cared for, but it has it's problems (rusted oil pan, rear main seal leak) I have 150,000 on it and would like to get a few more years before I swap.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
My thoughts are, I wish I had your guy that would install a new engine for $500! I really don't know what your budget is, but I am planning on keeping my 2002 forever. There is a company, and I don't know to much about them, but its JISengines.com. They have brand new for $3500, and a remanufactured for $1700. When you consider that 200,000 mile used are going for $600-$800 online, this is probably the way I'm going, when I have to. I'm the original owner and it's been cared for, but it has it's problems (rusted oil pan, rear main seal leak) I have 150,000 on it and would like to get a few more years before I swap.
Right now it's got a power steering leak from the driver side gear box, and the body isn't as pretty as it once was. I met up with a good mechanic friend who checked out the leak and he said I am fairly lucky at the moment, as it's about a 90% chance its the rear main that is leaking. He said the stuff I added to attempt to reseal it should seal it up the more I drive it. It's what gave it the slight color that I was seeing. He wasn't sure what caused the gas to get in my oil, but with 180k miles on this engine, it could be many things.

She still has life!

I mean, with all that sludge, and the abuse my brother and cousin did to this engine, she still idle's down to 600 without a stutter. The truck still sounds great and has plenty of power to go around. These engines are some of the most durable I've ever seen.

On a side note, I ran into a guy with a 2000 frontier the other day with 350k miles on his truck, and he is the only owner. It's the original engine!
 

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My valve covers have been leaking for some time so I ordered new gaskets and happened to stumble on your post a few days before I tackled the job, and to be honest it scared the crap out of me. I am the 3rd owner of my frontier and was glad to see my valve train was spotless. Sorry not rubbing it in or anything but this is what it's supposed to look like.




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Almost identical when I did that gasket. Have you done the other side yet? The whole taking off the upper plenum is holding me back. But soon I won't be able to wait, I'm sure it's not far from leaking.
 

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Almost identical when I did that gasket. Have you done the other side yet? The whole taking off the upper plenum is holding me back. But soon I won't be able to wait, I'm sure it's not far from leaking.


I'm in the same boat, drivers side has a slow leak but fortunately the passenger side was much worse yet easier to change. I am wanting to find all the part numbers to the rubber hoses that run all over that intake and get those before I tackle drivers side gasket.

Actually I have a very small coolant leak coming from the heater hose pipe that leads into the back of the thermostat housing, the only way to get to it is to remove both the upper and lower plenums. I keep a close eye on it and my coolant level since I first noticed it so right now it's just annoying. So yeah I have that hanging over my head. All in due time.


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These are what you need, I got these from HF, and they are excellent for getting hoses unstuck. Only $2. I got mine to work on the EVAP system. They are great at getting those 1" and under hoses loose.
 

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