"Entertainment page #11"
  March/April 2008 (10,008PH)
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Articles from "Rick's Workbench"

Tale of interest No.11
The Nissan Pulsar from Hell :

I am breaking from my usual electronic related stories to tell this horror story that shocked the editor.

This is the (still ongoing) saga of the car from hell, or as otherwise known as, "The money pit" .

It all started about September last year.
Our normally reliable 1991 Nissan Pulsar started over heating.
As it only happened while stuck at intersections, I thought that the cooling fan was the culprit.
When I got home I checked the fan but, as far as I could determine, it was working O.K.
Still convinced that there was a fault in this part of the car, I consulted the manual.

The fan is controlled by the Engine Management System, and senses when to turn on by a temperature sensor.
Of course, there was no data on the sensor (presumably an NTC thermistor).

I decided to bypass this system all together and designed and built some electronics to control the fan.
I used the temperature gauge sender (another NTC thermistor) to control this, I knew for certain this was working, as the temperature gauge was functioning.
I also noted that coolant was being lost, as there was a need to top the coolant
up frequently.
I mentally noted that there was a leak to fix somewhere.
The car still overheated sometimes and the cooling fan did not work on occasions that I thought it should.

It was time to overhaul the cooling system!
I bought a new fan and adapted it to the original mounting system.
I removed the radiator and found a small leak and repaired it with epoxy resin.
I also found that the thermostat wouldn’t open properly, so I replaced that as well.
After putting it all back together and replacing the radiator cap, I declared the job finished…
No more overheating!
All up, approximately $100 was spent.

All went well for about a day then coolant started leaking out of the back of the engine somewhere.
I couldn’t get to that area myself…
Time to call in an expert!
The local mechanic fixed it…         It was a burst pipe.
Another $38 and that should have been the end of it all.

Oh Yeah!

Towards the end of October the car started playing up…
It seemed reluctant to start!
Then one evening (on my partner’s birthday) we decided to go out to dinner.

The car had other ideas of course…

No way could I get it to start!

We stayed at home and got a pizza instead.
I tinkered with it over the next few weeks.
I made what tests I could and tried all the suggestions fed to me by relatives and friends.
This involved replacing parts associated with the fuel system and ignition system.
I guess $300 was spent all up.

Running out of things to try, I called in a mobile mechanic.
He came, he saw and he tinkered.
The beast roared into life!
He said that it was badly flooded and that the Engine Management System was probably to blame.
He warned that it would probably need replacing.
Anyway, after I paid up $70 he went on his way.

The car had been going for less than a week, when it did the same thing again.
I got it going by the same trick the mechanic used.
The cables are disconnected from the fuel injectors and, while the engine is turned over by the starter, they are gradually reconnected.
The engine then runs normally.
The ECM light stayed on indicating a fault.
I rang the mechanic and told him about it.
The car ended up at his workshop and had the Engine Management System replaced for the paltry sum of $600. (ouch - ed.)
He also advised me to get the timing belt replaced as it was very loose.

The car was now back in action.
I noted that it was still flooding after it was left for a couple of days.
I found the easiest way to start it was to put the Accelerator flat to the floor whilst turning it over.
This usually did the trick.

An appointment was made to get the local mechanic to replace the timing belt.
He charged $150 and said that the belt was what was causing the flooding. (?? - ed.)
It was still playing up however and getting rougher and harder to start.
I decided to replace the fuel injectors with a reconditioned set.
I figured that the original ones were leaking.
I also put in a brand new set of spark plugs.


It should start first time and run as smooth a baby’s bum!
Not a bit of it!                         It was just the same!
It also appeared to be running on 3 cylinders.
For want of something better to do, I decided to check the oil level.
I was greeted with a coffee coloured emulsion on the end of the dip stick.
I knew what that meant!
There was coolant mixed in with the oil!
That also meant the head gasket was blown or the head itself was cracked!

 It has now been sitting there for a month or so!
The mechanic quoted “About $1000” to fix the head!
We are saving the money up to get it done.
Then..        Just as this bad news had settled in, someone broke through the back fence and attacked the car.
They broke the small quarter window on the passenger side and opened the doors and bonnet.
They rifled through the glove box and ash tray.
There were no valuables to be stolen.
The battery was also safely inside the house but, they still managed to cause about $100 worth of damage.

To be continued……


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