2003 nissan pathfinder issues

Hi All,

New to the forum here and this is my first post. I have a 2003 Nissan pathfinder with 150k miles on it. For the most part its been pretty reliable though. However i’m starting to have some issues and I’m wondering there’s a chance they’re related.

  1. Went into 4 wheel drive on its own and RPMs sputtered. I was headed out for a camping trip and about an hour out all of a sudden my RPMs gauge went to 0 and then quickly went up and down between about 1k-3k rpms. Then the 4 wheel drive light was on and the check engine light. Pulled over and turned the car off and on and the 4 wheel drive and check engine light were off. I kept driving and the same thing happened again. Both times i was at the top of a hill about to go down and i lifted off the gas. After the second time we turned back to go home. i did not that when driving at street speed when i would let off the gas the car would actually accelerate for a split second.

  2. starting issues. Every once in a while the car wont start and i just simply keep turning the key and eventually it starts.

  3. The fan for the ac/heater doesnt work.

Any advice on any off these issues would be greatly appreciated. Let me know if there is any more information i can provide to help explain the issues

Welcome to the forum. I believe you have the system where you turn a dial type knob to access 4H, 4L and 2H… yes?

Assuming you just said yes, this is what may have happened or is still happening. Sometimes the system does not fully switch the xfer case into the range mode you or someone else prior had selected, they may not have switched it properly…or some such issue occurs and is never sorted out. Sometimes the xfer case gets sort of stuck in between modes or the encoder does not know which mode it is in currently.

I would do this just to see where things stand and to see if it responds correctly to your inputs. That knob is not supposed to be turned until you are in Neutral…not sure if you are aware of that…but that IS the case here. So start her up, drive to a suitable spot that will allow you to move the vehicle…dirt road is actually preferrable here as you cannot engage 4L and turn the front wheels unless you are on a very slippy surface…so if on tarmac…do NOT turn your front wheels left and right at all.

Drive to a spot like an empty lot or what have you… Go into neutral and select 4H…move the vehicle forward n backward…stop… Neutral again… and try for 4L…move forward n back… then stop, Neutral and then go backward towards 2H again…by going into 4H again (using neutral each time)…and then go into 2H (neutral whenever you touch that knob remember)…and then drive around normally.

Did the xfer case do as it was told so far as you can tell? Hopefully it did…now you just need to see what happens driving in 2H without messing with the knob again. What you would have accomplished with this little test is to have walked your xfer case through all of its operational ranges in the correct way. This was not only to see if it could do it, but to also make it go from 2H…all the way through every option…and back home to 2H again 9basically trying to positively engage its home position in 2H…after being in all other modes). If the case was not fully in its home position before, hopefully it is now. See what you get and report back. I’d stay in 2WD and drive normally…hopefully it does not do what it did prior like selecting 4H or L without you asking…the way that can happen is if the case is not positively shifted or the encoder doesnt park the xfer case shifter exactly where it should be (its adjustable btw)

Turning the key and no start sometimes? Look at your dash when this is happening…do you notice a security or alarm icon illuminated? It may be doing this no start on purpose… If you have another key use the other key when it is difficult to start…or…just begin to pay attention to which key you are using at all times…and see if the no starts are only associated with one key over the other… This is to suss out any security issues with the key and its chip itself.

No ventilation fan action? I dont know if that motor is fused via the fuse panel (usually its fused by something called a fuseable link)…but you can look into that possibility…see if it is fused in the normal fuse panels and check the fuse condition (I think its fused via F-Links however). If it is not fused traditionally just move forward and unplug the blower motor. Using a digital volt meter…measure voltage at the plug when you turn the switch on, cycle thru all speeds and measure, see what you get. If you have power at the plug, then its the blower motor itself… if you do not have power it can be the motor speed switch, the fuseable links that protect the motor or the blower motor resistor (which gives you the motor speeds).

You need to do a little troubleshooting. It shouldn’t be difficult to locate and remove the blower motor…it is in the passenger side down by the foot well…usually behind the glove box…which you can open all the way to access the motor. Sometimes turning the motor by hand frees it up and makes it work again and or it lets you see the condition of the motor a bit by testing how it spins…freely or not.

That’s about it… Sorry to you and all for writing you a book here

Thank you for the detailed information. I will try the cycling of the xfer case. Yes you’re correct its the dial. I should’ve mentioned this was on the freeway doing 70 mph and i haven’t used the 4 wheel drive in a few months.

Then you should definitely cycle the xfer case through all of its modes… and hopefully it will positively engage each option…and in the end find its home position for 2H and stay there. Definitely sounds like it may have not been in its home position for whatever reason.

When the encoder on the xfer case switcher motor starts going bad or is maladjusted (some adjustable, some are not)…it does not know what position it is in essentially. In addition, when it does not stop on its designated mark for whatever reason and it is far off enough, the encoder will then try to jump to the next position, this is how it could have seemed to select 4H at random on the highway like it did. Its just the way the encoder is set up usually.

I think cycling through all of its positions in conjunction with moving the vehicle a bit forward and back…may assist the case switcher motor to find home and stay there till its asked to do otherwise. Do not forget that you need to have the engine running and the trans in Neutral, this is important for xfer case switching. Moving the vehicle further assists mode shifting of the xfer case.

Good luck and let us know how it goes.