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1997 Nissan Maxima won't start reliably

Sometimes when I turn the ignition key in my 1997 Nissan Maxima, it starts right up. Other times, it won’t start at all. There’s no clicking sound, the engine doesn’t turn over, nothing. It’s as though the key isn’t even engaging anything. If I sit there and keep trying to start it, eventually it just fires right up, but sometimes I’ve sat there for 25 minutes trying to get the engine to turn over. The battery and spark plugs are relatively new. It starts reliably only about 25-30% of the time. Any suggestions?

If there is no clicking but lights, radio etc work you may have a bad ignition switch making intermittent contact.

Do the dash lights come on when the ignition switch is turned to the run position?


Next time this happens try shifting to neutral. If the car starts right up have the neutral safety switch replaced.

Yes, the dash lights come on.

Thanks. I will look into that.

Thanks, I’ll try starting the car with the gearshift in neutral.

Shifting to neutral is only valid for troubleshooting this problem if your car has an automatic transmission. If your car has a manual transmission it will have no neutral safety switch to replace. It will, however, have a clutch safety interlock switch if it has a manual transmission.

Does the temperature have anything to do with it? I had a cracked ignition switch in my 96 maxima and it wouldn’t start if I parked it in the sun. The heat would expand the crack and no contact could be made. Open the windows and let it cool off and the car would start right up.

I also have a 97 Maxima, and had the same problem a couple of years ago. It was the ignition switch. Once the switch was replaced, there were no more problems with starting. The car now has almost 150k miles on it; next project will be to replace a leaky valve cover gasket.

Thanks to all those who replied so far. From what the owners of the same model car say, it’s probably the ignition switch. The problem does appear to be worse when the car is hot. I tried starting the car with the gearshift in neutral but it didn’t help, so it’s not the neutral safety switch. I’m very grateful to all. If you have more suggestions or similar experiences please let me know.

Thanks all for your help. I replaced the ignition switch and the car now starts reliably.

I’m currently having the same issue with my 97 Nissan Maxima. Except it does click and all the lights come on. Please help

Before replacing the ignition switch…I’d try the simple things first.

Battery connections are the first place to begin when you have a “No Crank” situation. Even
if you have a new battery, if the connections are loose, dirty or corroded, you will not be
allowing the full flow of current to pass thru the connections. The connection may be
enough to turn on the lights, but not enough for the huge flow that is needed to operate the
starter. This is where many people say that they know the battery is good….”because the
lights come on”. This is no more a battery test than licking a 9volt battery. It only tells you that there is electricity…not how many volts or the amperage that flows from the battery.
Jump starting may have wiggled the terminal just enough to allow the current to pass and start the engine, but tomorrow you have the same problem.

First remove the cables from the battery and use a wire brush to remove any corrosion and dirt from the battery posts and the cable terminals. There is a tool with a round wire brush for this purpose, found at any auto parts store for less than $10
Before connecting the cables, apply a coating of di-electric grease to the battery posts this will keep oxygen away from the connection so that it will not corrode as fast.

It is just as important that the other end of the cables also have a clean connection. Remove the positive cable from the battery again so that you do not short anything out. Follow both cables to their far ends, remove this connection and wire brush the connection and the cable terminal clean and retighten these connections.

If there was work done recently, there may have been an “engine to body” ground that was not installed following the work. These grounds normally run from the rear of the engine to the firewall and are uninsulated and most are a braided wire. If any of these are found unattached…reattach them.
Remember….this is not a “Sherman Tank” don’t over tighten the connections.
Tight…tight………………too tight…broke!!!