Reader Question: Nissan Quest Distributor

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Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!

Charles asks: Got a misfire code and the engine shuts off randomly while driving. I think the distributor is shorting out to the distributor housing. First video is mine. Other two are videos of the same car as mine with the problem I think I have.

My Reply: That arcing definitely suggests it – and (apparently) the coil isn’t serviceable (love these modern cars) and so the fix is to replace the distributor as a unit. This sort of thing is common, unfortunately. I had to replace the entire fuel pump “assembly” in my Nissan pick-up just to fix one bad (rusted through) fuel line. Price? $400. Well, that’s what Nissan wanted me to do!

Instead, I scrounged a good used assembly for $75.

I recommend you do the same here, just make sure the replacement distributor comes with a guarantee so that if it has the same problem, you can get your money back.

Let us know what you end up doing!

. . .

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  1. I once had a Dodge Polara 383 do this, stop the motor after a while for no reason. One NIGHT, I was trying to trace the problem. As I crawled along the top of the motor, my foot caught a wire and I saw a spark. I did have the key on. Turned out to be a loose positive wire feeding to the coil. Tightened up the bolt and never had a problem after that.

    I have not had a car with a distributor since 1992. Glad to see the distributors gone.

  2. Thanks for the hasty replies! You guys are awesome! I bought a new one with good reviews on amazon for $80. I wonder if the spark doesn’t ark with the cap on? I was thinking about buying a spark tester and seeing if im getting spark to all my cylinders. the plastic is not cracked on the old or new so I don’t think it is that. When I first got a misfire code, I replaced the spark plug wires. Having never worked on a car before I am paranoid that I somehow inam screwing up the wire installation. but they all seem to be on there good. I cant remove them now anyhow. The boots on the wires slide up the wire when I try to remove them to reinstall them, even with my spark plug wire removal pliers. When I bought the car I pulled out one spark plug and it looked brand new. I didnt check the others since they are hard to get out and I was paranoid of getting dirt and debris into the cylinder since I dont have a vaccum or air compressor to clean where spark plugs go in. I can visually see that one of my spark plug heads is rusting a bit.

  3. Changed the distributor. Same problem. Someone put a ground wire on the timing bolt so I moved it thinking it was creating some kind of circuit that was causing the electricity to ark out. That wasn’t it either. At this point I am completely lost (my first car).

    • Hi Charles,

      I am concerned this may be a defect; that the distributor design is faulty – in which case, replacing one “bad” unit with another won’t fix the problem. I have two professional mechanic friends; I will ask them whether they’ve received any TSBs from Nissan or have any advice that might be helpful… stay tuned… and, sorry you are having to deal with this…

    • Changed with a used distributor, a new one, or a reman? It is quite possible for a used or reman one to have the same fault. Check it to be sure before going looking for other problems. It also appears to be an issue do to plastic cracking with heat cycling and age. Some well placed epoxy (depending on the type of plastic used) could be a kludge fix that will work.

      Beyond the distributor, the wires and plugs of course are next to check.


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