May 5

How Reliable Is The Nissan Altima?



Mark: Hi, it’s Mark from Top Local, we’re here with Bernie Pawlik, Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver, talking cars. How’re you doing this morning Bernie?

Bernie: I’m doing very well this morning.

Mark: So we’re going to talk about the Nissan Altima. It’s been around for a couple decades, how’re these cars for reliability?

Bernie: These cars are fair, they are very popular, they’ve been around as you mentioned, since actually 1992 when they started. Most of the models that we see are somewhere in the early 2000’s and getting newer and the early models were ok, just a good sort of good basic reliable car, four cylinder engine. Once they go into the early 2000’s, they started kind of jazzing thing up a bit. They introduced a 2.5 litre engine which was mostly reliable and also offered a 3.5 litre V6 which was kind of pretty cool in smaller car, lots of power, peppy. So it was a nice option, same engine you find in a Maxima, so it’s kind of a nice blend between the large car in a slightly smaller body.

Mark: So the 2.5 litres were mostly reliable, can you talk maybe a bit more about that?

Bernie: Yeah, so mostly reliable, when I think about an engine being fully reliable you’d really not have much wrong with it other than you change spark plugs when they’re due or the timing belt if it needs to be done. But otherwise it’s, nothing much else would happen, maybe the odd little oil leak but the 2.5’s suffered a few problems. They, engine misfires on some of them would develop and that was because the head gasket would leak coolant into the combustion chamber, so that’s a pretty expensive repair. It’s a timing chain driving engine so it makes a head removal quite a job, so that’s one issue. The other sort of mid 2000 2.5’s developed a lot of oil consumption issues, for some reason around the 2005 model year, and complete engine failures that need to be rebuilt. So that’s something you’ve got to watch if you’re buying an older one, that might be, oil consumption might be an issue. Again, I don’t know how much that is attributed to bad vehicle maintenance, you know there’s certain engines that you can abuse and others you can’t and if you know and generally there’s a lot of the population that don’t do their service on time. So anyways, to make a long story short, there are some issues with the 2005’s for oil consumption.

Mark: Any other issues with these engines?

Bernie: No, they’re actually pretty good otherwise, yeah, other than that yes, no come to to of it, there’s a reason I put that question in there. Camshaft and crankshaft position sensors fail on these 2.5 litre engines a lot and we, usually when we get these vehicles towed to our shop because the customer can’t start the vehicle. It’s cranking over but the engine won’t start, it’s usually a failure of a cam or crank sensor. It’s an extremely common issue. So if you own one of these vehicle and then suddenly it wont’ start for you, that’s probably what’s going on, not 100% guaranteed but usually what’s going on. You can almost guarantee with these engines that at some point you’re going to have something, so that was the other thing.

Mark: Do Altima’s use timing belts?

Bernie: No they don’t, actually none of the engines use a timing belt, they’re all chain driven so that’s one thing you do not have to worry about with an Altima. Now actually reflecting on Nissan overall, over the decades, but Nissan, they’ve used timing belts on a few engines but for the most part, they’ve really been a timing chain, most of all their engines have been timing chains. So when things go wrong, it does cost a lot more to fix but generally chains are must more reliable. Key again, change your oil regularly.

Mark: Any issues with other areas in the car?

Bernie: Well there’s a few complaints in other areas, like in these earlier 2000, early to mid 2000 models, pretty much are the engines are the kinds of things we see issues with. But some of the newer models, around 2009, there’s issues with the steering lock jamming up and causing problems and the vehicle not starting so that’s a pretty major issue. The other really large complaint that I came across, not something we’ve seen or fixed with these cars, because these cars were still fairly new, the 2013 models a lot of transmission problems, it uses the CVT variable transmission and there’s a lot of issues with these. Nissan have a lot of issues with the CVT transmissions in a variety of different models, they’ve been a big adopter of them but they’ve had problems with them and they usually back them up with extended warranties but that’s definitely an issue with those vehicles. Other than that, pretty good car overall.

Mark: Any final thoughts on the Nissan Altima?

Bernie: Definitely a very worthwhile car to look at, again you know with any used car if you’re looking to buy it, do your research, look at what the problems are in particular model years and get an inspection done. It’s critical and if you own one, just take care of it, change the oil, change the fluids when recommended.

Mark: So there you go. If you have one of these vehicles and you like it maintained properly, the guys to see in Vancouver are Pawlik Automotive. You can reach them at 604-327-7112 or check out their website at We have years worth of videos on there, tons of information. Thanks Bernie

Bernie: Thanks Mark

About the author 

Bernie Pawlik

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