In this article I'll show you the basics of testing/troubleshooting a cranks but does not start condition on your Nissan 2.4L or 2.5L equipped vehicle.
Whether your specific Nissan is equipped with a distributor type ignition system or a modern coil-on-plug (COP) ignition coil system, the testing tips and suggestions will apply and help you get to the bottom of the problem.
Contents of this tutorial:
Difference Between A No Start And A No Crank Condition
I'm sure you've heard the following phrases a few times before:
- My car doesn't crank.
- My car doesn't start.
Is there a difference between the two? Yes, there's a world of a difference between a no crank and a no start condition. Here's a brief description:
Cranks But Does Not Start Condition: Means that your Nissan's starter motor is cranking the engine but the engine is not starting.
Does Not Crank Condition: Means that the engine is not cranking when you turn the key to crank the engine. In other words, the engine doesn't turn over at all. This is usually due to a bad starter motor, bad ignition switch, bad neutral safety switch, or the engine is locked up.
If this is the case in your particular situation, I recommend testing the starter motor. Here's a tutorial that'll help: How To Test The Starter Motor (Nissan 2.4L -Frontier, Xterra).
No Start Condition Basics
The most essential (and basic) thing you need to know, to find out what's causing your Nissan not to start, is that the internal combustion engine needs 3 things to start and run. These are:
It's really that simple. When your Nissan vehicle cranks but does not start, it's because one of these 3 things is missing from the mix.
So, to successfully diagnose the cause of the no start condition, you need to perform specific tests to see if spark is missing, or if fuel is missing, or if the engine doesn't have compression (‘air’).
Here are the automotive systems responsible for spark, fuel, and air:
1.) Ignition System
- The ignition system is the one responsible for creating and delivering spark. Without spark, the engine will crank but no start.
- The ignition system of the Nissan vehicles covered by this article use either a distributor type system or a COP ignition coil system.
- In my experience, the most common component failures, of the ignition system that cause a no-start no-spark condition are:
- Distributor type system:
- Ignition control module (ICM) -most commonly known as the igniter or the power transistor.
- Ignition coil.
- Distributor cap.
- Distributor rotor.
- COP ignition coil type system:
- Bad crankshaft position sensor
- Fuel fouled spark plugs.
- Distributor type system:
- All of the above ignition system components can be tested in a methodical way to find out exactly what has failed (if indeed something has).
2.) Fuel System
- The fuel system is the one responsible with supplying the engine with fuel.
- The fuel system component that causes the majority of no-start no-fuel problems:
- Main relay (this is the relay that supplies the fuel pump and fuel injection computer with power).
- Fuel pump.
- The fuel pump can be tested to make sure it has really fried.
3.) Engine Mechanical System
- The engine pistons and cylinder head valves (and all the other related components like: timing belts, etc.) are the ones responsible for the induction of the fresh air the engine needs for the combustion process.
- Although rare, internal engine mechanical problems can and do cause no-start conditions.
- Possible internal engine problems are:
- Blown head gasket.
- Blown engine.
- Broken timing belt.
OK, the list of possible things that can go wrong looks pretty long but it is rare to see (or have) two different components go bad from two separate systems at the same time.
The cool thing is, is that there is a diagnostic strategy that you can use to figure out exactly what's wrong with your particular no-start problem. Let's find out more about it in the next subheading.