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1997 Nissan Sentra GXE (Standard) won't start

Hey everyone! I live in Guam and I’ve got a 1997 Nissan Sentra GXE (Standard). Recently, my car decided to stop starting. Here are some of the symptoms:

  1. If I would go down a hill and come to a stop, or even if I was slowing down to come to a stop at a stop sign or light, my car would turn off over 50% of the time. It would usually always start back up, until last week. My car turned off as I was slowing down to turn into the mall. I was able to coast into the parking lot.
  2. When I turn the key it clicks and makes a “rrrrrr” “rrrrrrr” sound.
  3. I was able to get the car started once after I pumped the gas so I don’t think it’s a fuel pump issue.
  4. The automatic windows, lights, and radio still work so I’m ruling out a battery or alternator issue either.
  5. My car couldn’t be jumped or push-started.

I’ve heard from several people that it could be my started or my solenoid? If anyone has any suggestions it would be much appreciated!

Roxanna Miller

So when you try to re-start it, you don’t hear the starter turn the engine over, as you normally would?
If so, I’d check the battery connections. The starter making weird sounds could be a starter but a bad starter wouldn’t stop a running car so that’s not it. A bad battery connection would. Also check the other side of those connections. There are connections from the frame to various parts of the car. Check those as well.
Not sure how the part store situation* is over on Guam but perhaps get that battery checked too, if you can.

*in the US, they’ll load test your battery for free.

okay, so i put a new fuel filter in and the car started. drove it around for a bit, and it turned off coming down a hill. i checked the battery connections and they all look to be good. i think it might have something to do with the fuel line…

Yeah, sounds like you’re onto something. You could check the fuel pressure or have it checked.
Most cars, including Nissans, have a fuel rail service port on top of the engine that allows you to plug a special pressure meter into.
Some of the automotive stores (Autozone, Advance) lend or rent out tools like this to let you check it. Not sure if you can do that in Guam, though.

Perhaps you changing the filter just happened to josstle something around that now made it start. Make sure the fuse for the fuel pump is properly seated. Not sure if there’s easy access to the fuel pump connections on a sentra but often there’s a little access panel in the trunk that lets you look at the connections of the fuel pump. If a sentra has that, it could be worth checking.
Are you doing this work yourself? If so, do you have a service manual?
I’m asking because your original guess it being the fuel pump relay may very well be the cause of this issue. You will likely need a manual, just to locate the thing. More often than not, it is inconveniently hidden somewhere. I hate blindly swapping parts out without knowing they are bad but since your problem is so intermittent, FI relays do tend to act up and them usually being pretty cheap, it may not be a bad idea to swap it - if anything, ruling it out as the issue.

And, just to make sure: that “Rrrrrrrrrr” sound you describe is just the starter starting but the engine not ‘catching’ to start?