Nissan Xterra 2003 engine stalls randomly

2003 NISSAN Xterra

Problem started a couple of days ago. While driving the car normally it suddenly stopped. I was able to restart it but it turned off again 60 seconds later. This has gone on with the engine running from 10 minutes to 10 seconds. The battery terminals and all cables are clean. Distributor cap and rotors have been cleaned. Fuel pump replaced last night. I still get the problem.
Error codes listed were:
P0328 - Pre Detonation (knock sensor) Bank 1 causes could be restricted fuel - over temp engine. Now this error has been coming up for five years and I’ve replaced the sensor numerous times.
P0732 - Gear 2 Incorrect Ratio
P0102 - Mass Air Flow Low Input
P1148 - Closed Loop Control Function, BANK 1
P0420 - Catalytic Convertor, BANK 1
P0134 - O2 Sensor No Activity, BANK 1

Regarding Fuel Starvation - NOPE, Engine Too Hot (it wasn’t), Second Gear Not Within Ratio (never had gear problems), Knock Sensor and most error codes have been related to bank one. Error codes on car computer were erased and engine is still hesitating slightly and stopping. Just checked Mass Airflow Sensor and it looks clean.
Any ideas? This is driving me crazy.


Forgot to mention that when driving at 35mph the RPM quickly drops from 2,000 to 1,500 and back up again repeatedly. After resetting the codes I was able to get up to 6,000 RPM in Neutral but once I turned the car off and on again it is only able to go as high as 2,000 rpm.
Not sure if this is related but there is a new smell coming from the front of the car that has a metallic character to it.


First thing I would do is head to the auto parts store for some MAF cleaner

Clean the sensor

If while driving the RPM’s jump up and down without a corresponding change in speed (MPH) then that points to a transmission problem. But none of the other codes seem to point in that direction.

Do you see a corresponding RPM change? If not, do you hear the engine speed change corresponding to the tachometer?


Thank you guys for your responses. I opened up the throttle body and it looked pretty clean to start with. I cleaned the sensor with CRC brand MAF Sensor Cleaner anyway and reinstalled - same problem. Tried a few new things out from a stopped position:
Firstly, noticed that when I accelerate hard the engine surges almost immediately. If I accelerate gradually I can get to 40mph without a problem.
Secondly, tried driving in D2 and D1 and noticed surging under both soft or hard acceleration almost immediately.
Haven’t tried a hill yet. Don’t tell me it’s the transmission, fellas. Haven’t gotten the car to go past 3,000rpm. How do I explain all of these codes?


Bill, yes the car responds to the RPM change. It’s lurching as well as surging. I can also hear the engine revving up and down corresponding to the tach.

@AvidMario It’s possible that bank 1 catalytic converter is so buggered up, that it’s preventing the truck from getting up to speed

You should have somebody perform a backpressure test. It’ll only take a few minutes

Also, if bank 1 downstream oxygen sensor is switching rapidly, at the same rate as the upstream sensor, that would imply the cat isn’t in good shape

In all honesty, it sounds like the truck has multiple problems. There’s definitely something going on with bank 1, and specifically with the upstream oxygen sensors

Thanks a lot, db4690. I like your thinking there. Believe it or not the truck has 213,000 miles on it and as far as I know ( I bought it used) has never had the catalytic changed. I’ll check on the backpressure and see about the cat. I’ll update.

Make sure you don’t have any misfires, leaking injectors, massive oil consumption, etc. before throwing a new cat at it. Those things would ensure a short life

The “incorrect ratio” would be low on my list of priorities at this point