Help with car problems.

theonecalledlMay 27, 2005


I am an AD military member stationed in Germany.

I have a 1987 Nissan Sunny(Sentra) Eurospec. When I had taken the car in for a check-up, they told me that there is most likely a leak in the valve cover gasket of the engine and that there's also a leak somewhere in the water pump area.

So I'm just wondering how much would it cost to fix all of this? I've been told that the people working at the Auto Hobby Shop on base will over charge you, so I didn't ask a price from them.

Also, I've noticed this burning smell coming from the engine. Ehh heh.. And now that it's summer I found out my air conditioning isn't working. I put it to blow cold air, but it'll blow I guess lukewarm air. It's rather bad since I wear BDUs. :(

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The burning smell from the engine is probably the oil that's leaking out of the valve cover gasket dripping on something hot such as the exhaust manifold. Probably no big deal.

How much oil is this car losing? If it's less than 1 quart in 1,500 km or so, I'd just leave it alone. It's 20 years old; there are going to be some leaks that crop up.

The a/c is going to be an R12 system. I don't know how hard it is to get that in Germany. Here it's available but costly. If you can get R12, I'd probably have it leak tested, any leaks repaired, and recharged with R12. I wouldn't mess with a conversion to R134A unless you plan to keep this for a long time. Considering that you'll probably sell it when you leave Germany, I doubt that's the case.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2005 at 5:39PM
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They may have mentioned the oil leak due to a safety inspection, most oversees bases require such things but maybe your area does not. Of course like many shops they may just be upselling the repair service to make money, that what shops do for a living but actually you need to do something with that leak, it could get bad enough without you knowing it until you run out of oil and kill your engine. You say the car is Euro spec so I am thinking that it was not shipped to Germany by another GI in its recent past which would make it a Japanese Domestic model. The valve cover gasket probably can just be tightened down a little, see if the nuts or bolts holding it are semi loose, do not over tighten them as a 10 mm or 12 mm nut stud or bolt will shear off easily. Buy some GUNK brand engine degreaser and clean it up afterwards but watch out for getting water into the spark plug area and in the distributor.

Your AC has a leak but how fast it will leak is debatable, its too expensive to fix here in Japan so we just reservice a couple of times a season unless the leak is visible in the engine compartment, most leaks are under the dash at the evaperator and not worth fixing here but I do not know how much the work costs there, you may be ahead by at least getting it sniffed for leaks by a shop to ID the leaking area. If you need more help on a visual inspection let me or someone on this thread assist you. With your experience that the system worked last season the leak may not be too large but it wouldnt be right for me to tell you to just top it off, that is your call depending on where the leak is once again. The law here is very lacks on freon issues, you cannot get real R12 any more, we use a substitute that is designed for use in the R12 system, to do a real retrofit is very costly as R134a will leak right through your R12 rubber AC hoses.

Based on my local prices for the valve cover gasket, possible half moon looking or round seal on the end and some rubber seal washers under the hold down bolts plus labor it would be about 75 clams to get it done here. You may not need all of these little rubber pieces which dont increase the cost much anyways. There really arent any more of these old versions left on the road in my area but parts are still available. You didnt mention which engine by engine type that you have.

I suggest you do what you can to make the car last at least as long as you are going to be stationed there then you can throw it away if you like, my theory on repairing a trusted old car is better than buying a completely unknown nice car that could turn into a lemon.

Duane in Japan

    Bookmark   May 28, 2005 at 7:44AM
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Hi, "L" VBG.

First the people that say the hobby shop people will overcharge you in all likelyhood don't know the whole picture about doing car repairs. Even as a hobby, the tools and equipment that can be required cost tens of thousands of dollars, and I'll guarantee the hobby shop does not provide all of it. So the individuals working there have to dip into their own pockets for a lot of things just to even try and be prepared to help you out. It's only fair that they should be able to get a return on the investment required.

The two leaks you describe would be two different fluids. One of course would be engine coolant, and thats a very critical one because the leak could grow quickly, and you could overheat and ruin your engine. Because of the design, it's adviseable for you to have the timing belt replaced at the same time. Typically this repair could run $400-$600 depending on a vehicles exact needs and the shop/techs cost of doing business.

The other leak would be engine oil. This is likely the one giving you odor as the oil runs down the engine and possibly drips onto the exhaust. If the leak is bad enough, and your unlucky enough the oil could ignite and you could end up with a fire, otherwise this is more of a nuisence than it is a serious mechanical problem. Replacing the valve cover gasket is really simple. You may want to research doing that yourself if you are inclined to. Thats what the "hobby shop" is all about! My first voray into a real shop was the base hobby shop (MARINE CORPS) on Camp Lejuene.

The AC is another issue all together. I would stress searching out a trained and licensed technician to do that repair. If the system is discharged, then it is leaking, and the leak will need to be found and repaired.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2005 at 10:29AM
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When I had my car inspected, the only thing the guy mentioned was the leak in the exhaust system which I had replaced. ~_~

All I know is the motor number is CA16D.

I know when I put some water in the radiator, a lot of this pink milkish looking stuff came out.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2005 at 12:27PM
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Here's a picture of the engine if that makes any difference.

I'm going to get the engine steam cleaned next week since I get paid.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2005 at 1:29PM
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I strongly suspect a blown head gasket.

This must be tested, however.

If exhaust enters the coolant, the system pressure will be great , depending on how bad the leak is.
If coolant leaks into the oil supply, then a froth of coolant and oil will result at the dipstick(brownish mayonnaise) - similar to condensation in the oil due to too many short trips and not changing the oil.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2005 at 12:10PM
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Where I visit a military hobby shop at Yokota AB, Tokyo Japan, they are more than just a hobby shop, they actually have mechanics working for an hourly rate, the second lowest price in town. AAFES is trying to get out of the car fixit business and Services Division is taking over on the bases for all of your car needs, I do not know if you have an AAFES shop on base or just the hobby shop that may also be doing work for pay. Reguardless as a hobby shop they are REQUIRED to at least guide you in your repairs if you ask, they must guide but of course they do not have to do it for you.

Is your antifreeze suppose to be purple, red or green, if it is pink it may have transmission fluid in it, your car is an automatic, yes. There is a small cooling tank in the radiator for the transmission fluid, you will see two rubber hoses going into the bottom of the radiator. They may sell this type of color antifreeze (Toyota stuff is red translucent)in your area so I do not know if this is the problem so you may be looking at a radiator change and maybe a transmision flush with possible future tranny problems due to antifreeze contamination.

Look at all the visible fitting and hose and line connections that you can see on the AC system for black dirt build up, somewhat oily and dirty. This will be a leak but of course you cannot see the entire system and that is where a trained tech will come in but they will need a freon sniffer to locate the leak.

You have a twin cam engine, each one of the red valve covers gets its own gasket and I think that you will need the rubber washer seals under each 10mm bolt that holds the red covers on. The black cover in the middle covers some of the hardware for the red covers BUT under there are your ignition coils and spark plugs, I recommend that you do this portion of a tune up while you have all the ducting removed and are practically right there to change plugs anyways. Any good shop would make this recommendation to help you save labor on going back in there in the future. I believe that you also have platinum plugs on this engine, do not use Bosch, just use original NGK or Iridiums by NGK.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2005 at 9:47AM
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Hi L

You should not need to steam clean the engine. There are a number of methods available to identify leaks, including the use of UV dyes.

I'd be a bit concerned about the pink milky fluid you found in the radiator. Is this an automatic or manual transmission? Automatics have a transmission cooler inside the radiator. Leakage of this cooler results in a 'pink milky' slime instead of coolant. Engine oil can also be forced into the coolant on some cars with overhead cam designs. That normally is a tan when it occurs. The thing is, both of these are internal cooling system leaks and not external engine/transmission/radiator issues.

The international Automotive Technician network will likely have a member somewhere near you. I advise you to seek one out and allow them to diagnose your vehicle problems. Use the member search on the home page.

Here is a link that might be useful: The international Automotive Technicians Network

    Bookmark   May 30, 2005 at 9:52AM
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Yes, the person who sold it to me bought Platinum plugs for the car. It's a manual.

The Auto Hobby Shop recommended I have it steam cleaned and then checked for leaks.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2005 at 3:31PM
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Well so much for the auto trans leaking into your radiator. The collor of your antifreeze must be this pinkish color. The foaming might be from what you originally refered to as a water pump leak drawing air into the system and airiating the system. See if the hobby shop has a radiator pressure tester, probably a hand pump type tester and see if the water pump leaks. Now you will have to test it at many different pressures, it may leak at low to mid pressures. High press is up around 20 lbs and just under that. You may drive around all day with a pressurixed system and it wont leak until it sits for a while in your driveway and is cooling down and loosing pressure AND THEN it may start to leak but you should see tell tale signs of this pinkish color running under your water pump or another place of leakage.

It sounds like you are waiting until payday to do anything so we will all wait until you do something so we can help more later. Are your plugs NGKs??? Maybe the guy before you put high performance fluids in the car, is the engine oil brown or possibly reddish like REDLINE or some other high performance higher cost brand???

    Bookmark   June 1, 2005 at 10:24AM
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    Bookmark   May 14, 2006 at 5:33PM
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