Nissan - Major Help Please

Hi Everyone! So, I’ve never been on a car forum but this looks like a good place to ask. Unfortunately when I bought my car I was under bad circumstances and needed a quick vehicle. The guy pulled a “I found the perfect car for you” and sold me a slab of junk so I’m financing 9K for awhile.

So to start off I have a 2003 Nissan Altima 3.5SE with 120K. I need new tires all around (completely smooth on inside tread), new struts, definitely need an alignment all around just to give you an idea on what I might need.

To the best of my knowledge, this car wasn’t the best taken care of before but these are my problems. During highway driving or 50+, there is a pulsating vibration about every 3 seconds; it gets worse at a higher rate of speed. There is a hard shake as the speed gets higher as well. Pulsating and vibration are slowly getting worse.

Next, and what I’ve read up on may suggest my timing chain. I’ve read that many 2003 Altimas have had premature timing chain failures but all the mechanics I’ve trusted and asked says it’s fine. (Nissan says otherwise) but basically there is a loud ticking or popping noise essentially and as I accelerate, the ticking/popping noise gets louder and worse. It sounds like a semi truck when I’m idling in my car and it’s frustrating on long drives to work as the ticking has become very loud in traffic. This is one of the main things I’ve wanted to fix but no one has a solution other than that’s how it’s supposed to be because it’s a V6. Maybe it is just me but some clarity would help.

Something I noticed is that the engine or overall loudness of the car did seem to get better when I used Slick 50 transmission treatment but a few weeks later it gets worse then a month later it’s back to it’s old self. Should I keep using this every month or will it do more harm than good? I wanted to flush the transmission but I heard they can cause also more harm than good but what about keeping the same fluid but dropping the pan and cleaning the screen? Any suggestions?

I really hope this helps and I will provide as much information as possible. Thank you guys for taking the time to read this as this has been a very painful and frustrating time with this piece of junk.

Also, these are problems I’m still fixing or need help with. Have already put almost 2,000$ into it.

Wish I could actually hear these symptoms but here goes.

I’ve known bad REAR wheel bearings to pulsate at high speed on front wheel drive cars.

If it’s ticking while idling it’s not likely to be the transmission. You say it was poorly maintained by the previous owner. If the engine oil wasn’t changed regularly the ticking could be the hydraulic lifters being gunked up. I wouldn’t add any more Slick50 to the transmission. Also, why keep the same fluid when dropping the pan to change the filter? Change them both.

I found some people with a similar problem and it was rattling heat shields. I would drain the tranny and replace the filter. Don’t use aftermarket stuff in a working tranny. Also, get new tires and a good 4 wheel alignment. Have them check the suspension parts while they are at it.

Not trying to pile on, but how did you end up paying $9k for this car??? values it at $5,300 in clean condition, and KBB values it at $5,600 in very good condition, in my zip code (NY suburbs).

So where did the $9k figure come from??? Honest question…sorry for your troubles.

On the transmission. Dropping the pan, cleaning it, looking for unusual metal debris in the bottom of the pan, changing the filter, then refilling with the proper fluid is the preferred method for most vehicles with automatic transmissions. The other method – flushing or fluid-exchanging – has benefits too, and is less expensive; but with the number of miles on this vehicle, I think it is best to go with the more comprehensive method, even if it costs more. The shop who does this should insist to test drive the car before doing this, so they’ll know if what they did helped or hurt the situation.

Have you checked the Consumer Reports publications for what problems other drivers have reported on this make/model/year? That can give you a clue what to expect going forward.

Thank you all for your suggestions! I’m going to look into how much the comprehensive method for swapping the tranny fluid & replacing the filter would cost.

So, here’s some more information & problems I forgot to mention.

When I got the car from the crook, he replaced the front brakes/rotors because they wouldn’t have passed inspection. He replaced them with another annoying problem. Since he replaced them, there is a swishing noise everytime the tires rotate. I read that this car has problems with occasionally having the rotators overheat so they end up warped causing this. Does this sound right?

@Jes. It was purchased at 88K. Unfortunately being in major debt from school and living in a no lemon-law state, I couldn’t get him to “take” the car back. The only recourse was taking him to court about small claims forcing him to get a lawyer but it would’ve been a long, drawn out process. This 2K figure is what I have put into it already… small piece by piece.

@"MY 2 CENTS"‌ is there anyway to clean the hydrolic lifters? Like I said, the ticking noise is what is bothering me a lot.
The noise always does seem to get SLIGHTLY better with oil changes every 3K but still comes back and has been getting worse.

@knfenimore‌ Which problems are you talking about? I found out the other day that my heat shield needs to be replaced and causing a very apparent ratting during acceleration around 10-35MPH. I just wanna know what exactly this could be causing as this isn’t my biggest issue ATM.

@GeorgeSanJose‌ I’m going to look into the Consumer Reports a little more. Thanks so mc uh for that. One of the problem was the timing chains pre-failing so I was afraid this might be happening to me because I had similar symptoms. I’m not a mechanic though and everyone has told me it sounds “normal” for an older V6.

I’m going to take a video of the ticking noise for you guys to hear shortly.