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Nissan Maxima Starting Problem

Hello C&C/CarTalk/Whoever!

called a couple of times to see if I can get some help.


1995 Nissan Maxima, 185k miles.

HATES to start: turns over fine, but kicks and stumbles, sometimes enough to kill the battery. HOWEVER, roll the car, pop the clutch and it starts instantly, every time.

I have been through 3 starters already. I can change it out in 40 minutes. Several mechanics too: bad sensors (replaced knock, cam angle, crank angle (both)), loose timing chain (!?!), timing problem (!!!)… Yes the check engine light is on. Anyway, I am at wits end and would like to keep the car. Previous one went 225k miles (I had 2 identical Maximas). Once it is running it runs well - plenty of pep although you can sense some roughness during acceleration… HELP!



cell phone 617-480-3710

There may be a problem with the ignition module/igniter in the distributor.

These function in two modes. These are the start and run modes. During the start mode while turning the engine over, it allows full battery voltage to the ignition coil. This ensures there’s a hot enough spark during a cold start when the fuel mixture is the richest. Once the engine starts, and the ignition switch moves to run position, it drops the voltage to the coil because not as a hot of a spark is required to keep the engine running. And it prevents premature failure of the secondary ignition system.

So it could be that start mode of the ignition module/igniter is failing, but the run mode is still functioning. And that would explain why it runs fine when you pop the clutch. That’s because the ignition switch has to be in the run position when the clutch is popped in order for the engine to start.


Hello Tester - and Thank you!
I love your theory - sounds spot on
So I poked around some time ago thinking about ignition and timing, and found that each plug has its own coil, and I could not even find anything that looked like a distributor! Any idea where I would find this ignition module? If you solve this you will be my hero forever - have been living with this for a year and a half!
PS - I had a hunch that there might be a “start mode” and a “run mode”, and was going to play with running a separate wire to trigger the starter without using the ignition switch… Is this worth pursuing? How to do this?

Okay. With the coil-on-plug ignition system there’s a start fuse. This will be a 7.5 amp fuse #33, in the fuse panel located on the left side of the instrument panel. Check to see if this fuse has blown.


OK - will do that tonight - THANK YOU
I sure hope this also affects what appears to be the super-advanced timing/ coughing/sputtering/kick-back during start-up…!

Update: could not find fuse #33 but did find 2 7.5A fuses under “IGNITION” - both AOK. So far no change. What next?!

Since there is a check engine code, get it read at an auto parts store (free), and bring the code here. The code will be like: P0330, etc.