Nissan Sentra 1993 Intermittent Starting Problems

I own a 1993 Nissan Sentra (2 dr, SE, red:-). I’ve owned it for 17 years and has been a fantastic car…until March of this year when I had to replace the transmission at odometer reading of 121,xxx. Everything has been fine up until about a month ago when I returned to my car after working out at the gym…and it refused to start. No clicking, no hemming or hawwing, just nothing. The lights worked, the seat belt alarm worked, all dashboard lights worked. But absolutely no connection to anything. I tried moving the steering wheel, juggled the key, etc. but nothing. So I called a tow truck. Thirty minutes later, he arrived, sat down in my driver’s seat and magically, it started with no problems. It has happened again only once since that time, but I can never trust that she will start when I need to go to work, etc. I took it to a garage…they told me that they couldn’t fix it or find anything wrong unless it was “in the throes” of not working. …which is ridiculous because it could very possibly not start, have it towed, arrive at the garage, and she might start right up. Does anyone have any thoughts? I cannot afford to purchase another car, so I’m hoping to get another year’s driving out of my Sentra. Thanks so much!

If it has an automatic transmission, and the next time it won’t start, with the ignition key on step on the brake pedal and shift the transmission into neutral and then try starting the engine. If the engine starts there’s a problem with the park/neutral safety switch.


The problem with a no-crank situation is that it could be caused by half a dozen different things. @Tester’s idea above is a good place to start. I understand your concern completely. When you need your car to start, that’s what it should do. If it doesn’t, it could put you in a dangerous situation.

The reason a shop would be reluctant to work on this problem, is that from their own experience w/this type of problem it might take them 5-6 hours of shop time experimenting before they can figure it out. This makes for unhappy customers, so they want to avoid going down that path with you.

Here’s a question: Would you be willing to pay a mechanic up-front $600 for his time just to diagnose the problem? And to turn your car over to him for several days, so you’d have to drive another car or rent one in the meantime? And accept that even after paying $600, and not having your car for several days, he still may not be able to diagnose it until it finally stops working altogether? Then, even if when he does diagnose the problem, you’ll be billed as much as several hundred more dollars after that to fix it? So if you need the problem to be addressed immediately, you’re looking at loss of the car for several days or even weeks, rental car expense, $600 or more diagnostic time, and a $400 repair cost.

If that’s not workable, you’ll have to wait until the car fails to start most every time. Then you can tow it in, and it will be easy to diagnose. In fact they probably won’t charge you to diagnose it, only to fix it. The fix may be less than $100.


I’m leaning towards a failing starter. It’s old enough