2002 Sentra, New member, advice needed
Hey all, I'm a new member here but am not new to owning Nissan products. Been brand loyal for years now, after having owned other brands of "domestic" and non-domestic vehicles, Nissan products just work.
Here's the story. I have a 2002 Sentra that I got in 2008 from what seemed to be a reputable used car dealer. Several months after getting the car, I noticed it had been smashed up pretty badly. The front and the trunk had been pieced together and it was pretty obvious that it sat somewhere for a while because there were rusty water lines in the reverse lights. Anyways, this car has served me well since I got it, have never had a mechanical issue outside of normal wear and tear stuff.
The car has about 219,000 miles on it. 1.8L engine, automatic transmission.
Last week, I was on a mountainy highway about 2.5 hours from home. I had put about 20 miles on a full tank of gas. After going up a steep mountain, right at the crest, the car sputtered and choked like it ran out of gas. I coasted down the mountain and pulled off to safety. My first thought was that the fuel pump died. Hey, 13 years and 219,000 miles, I wasn't surprised. Panic starting to set in because I was in a different state, I checked the fuel pump fuse (it was ok). Because of traffic on the highway, I couldn't tell if the pump was running, but I thought I heard it. After about ten minutes of sitting, the car started right up. I got to my destination a few miles away, and it made the 2.5 hour trip back with no issue.
The next day, the same thing happened near my place. It sputtered and slowly choked like it was out of gas, and restarted a few minutes later. About 20 minutes later, it did the same thing. This time, while it wouldn't start, I am nearly certain I heard the fuel pump buzzing under the back seat. Then the next day, it did it one time. That was Monday.
It's been fine ever since. Now I'm no pro, but it doesn't strike me as an ignition/spark issue since it seems to run out of gas. I've talked to a few people about it, one person said it doesn't sound like the fuel pump is failing (???) but that there's a clogged line or the filter is clogged. Ok, fair enough, but I don't have the typical Nissan firewall filter, I guess all I have is the sock on the pump.
There is no decrease in performance, the acceleration and driving is still as powerful as it's always been. So I can't imagine it's a clog in a line somewhere.
I do make repairs and troubleshooting (not on cars) for a living and I know the service calls of, "well it did this a week ago but it hasn't happened since". In fact, I'm no stranger to them and it's usually hard to pinpoint an exact problem and sometimes all I can do is throw parts at it. So I'm reluctant to take it to a shop when it's running just fine. Last night, just for fun I took the fuel pump out. It's about the size of a coffee can, unlike the fuel pump in my 1994 Sentra GA16 engine. No sock that I could easily see. The bottom of the tank looked clean, too. In the tank of gas where this happened, and the prior tank, I ran some marvel mystery oil as an injector cleaner. I've used it many times before with no issues.
Here's the other issue. an hour or so ago, the airbag light began to flash as I was driving. It would not stop if I restarted the engine. In fact, if you leave the ignition on during the bulb check, it flashes. I did some research and I guess there is a diagnostic mode that can be done. I'm not even sure this car has airbags to be honest - with the bumper and front bumper mount having been smashed in (like someone hit a telephone pole) I'd figure the airbags deployed. I've never seen any sensors or yellow harnesses under the hood of this car. Figured maybe some chop shop ripped that stuff out and got the car running without airbags before it went to the lot. any thoughts?
Thanks in advance!