2004 nissan ti pathfinder overheating ....... need advice!

Submitted: Sunday, Oct 09, 2011 at 09:44
ThreadID: 89459 Views:5732 Replies:12 FollowUps:21
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We have just returned from our first trip away in our recently purchased used off-road Goldstream Crown camper plus used Pathfinder (100,000kms) - basically the purpose of the trip was to identify any problems with the car and/or trailer before our planned longer trip at the end of this year.

The Pathfinder was converted to gas ('emer' injection system) a few days before we left from Sydney to head down to Victoria.

Major problem outside Mittagong after towing uphill - engine boiled. NRMA mechanic couldn't identify the cause - but suggested we stay in Mittagong overnight & see the local mechanic - he felt it was a simple case of towing up the long slow hill & sent us on our way.

Unfortunately the whole trip was plagued with overheating (on petrol as well as gas) - we booked the car into a Nissan dealer in Echuca - the thermal fan & thermostat tested faulty & were replaced (more than $800) - but the problem persisted on our return trip to Sydney.

Echuca dealership now recommends to have the radiator flushed - they didn't do this since they were conscious of the cost to us ....

Our local mechanic is also suggesting we install a larger radiator - we are unsure about this - a friend has suggested we take the car to a radiator specialist ........

Pathfinder owners out there ..... what would you do in these circumstances? Our car is supposedly able to tow 2000kgs - our fully loaded trailer is approx. 1600kgs max weight, so we are not trying to pull anything too heavy.

Should we listen to our mechanic & install a larger radiator? Should we go to a radiator specialist? Have any other Pathfinder owners (similar year to ours) experienced the same problems & what have your solutions been?

Thankyou in advance for 'listening' .... hope someone is able to offer advice!


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Reply By: Roughasguts - Sunday, Oct 09, 2011 at 10:29

Sunday, Oct 09, 2011 at 10:29
Ouch !!!!!!! an after market thermal fan and thermostat would cost less than 150 bucks.

So i guess you have a blockage in the radiator or the water pump has had it! but it shouldn't cost much to get a radiator flush done.

Geeez no wonder I keep away from dealers with those prices and ordinary fault finding skills.

AnswerID: 467166

Follow Up By: Roughasguts - Sunday, Oct 09, 2011 at 10:31

Sunday, Oct 09, 2011 at 10:31
Ummm is the Nissan a Auto ? has it got a transmission cooler ? where you towing in a high gear??

FollowupID: 741269

Follow Up By: avidcamper - Sunday, Oct 09, 2011 at 11:05

Sunday, Oct 09, 2011 at 11:05
Nissan is auto. We turned overdrive off whenever we were towing uphill. It was only overheating on hills ........ We also found it was hotter on gas, so switched to petrol on hills - but was still overheating .........

Yeah - we thought the cost of fan n thermostat was high too .......... too late to do anything about it :-(

Thanks for your reply.
FollowupID: 741274

Reply By: olcoolone - Sunday, Oct 09, 2011 at 10:49

Sunday, Oct 09, 2011 at 10:49
Re you mechanic: I would find a new mechanic, obviously he doesn't know much..... if it didn't overheat before and this model vehicle is not known for overheating issues what your mechanic is suggesting is the same as putting a band aid on a cut requiring stitches and thinking that will fix it.

You have to find the route cause why it's overheating and then act on that.

First thing is start at the basics.... test coolant condition, radiator cap, check for any coolant leaks, radiator and block flush including flow test, radiator hoses.

I left out viscous fan and thermostat as you said the Nissan dealer replaced them with new.

It might even pay to check the transmission if auto as the trans fluid may be overheating and transferring the heat into the coolant.
AnswerID: 467167

Follow Up By: avidcamper - Sunday, Oct 09, 2011 at 11:14

Sunday, Oct 09, 2011 at 11:14
Radiator cap was tested by a mechanic en-route - intend to have that retested.

No coolant leaks (Nissan tested that). I'm assuming Nissan also checked hoses.

Will check transmission at your suggestion (thankyou) .......

Would be real nice if we could find something obvious!

FollowupID: 741276

Reply By: snoopyone - Sunday, Oct 09, 2011 at 11:24

Sunday, Oct 09, 2011 at 11:24
Check the brakes in the camper arent dragging.

Dont tow in O/D makes the vehicle lug and therefore overfuel and causes it to run hotter.
AnswerID: 467169

Follow Up By: avidcamper - Sunday, Oct 09, 2011 at 11:49

Sunday, Oct 09, 2011 at 11:49
Brakes were off, but we'll check as you say.

Are you suggesting to keep O/D off whilst towing at all times?

Thankyou for your help!
FollowupID: 741278

Reply By: Roughasguts - Sunday, Oct 09, 2011 at 11:39

Sunday, Oct 09, 2011 at 11:39
Hmmmm Mate at work has a similar problem with his Statesman.

After many attempts to find the cause it was his jesus box regulating the therm fan. When the motor got up to temp the thermo fan would only operate at the A/C speed around half the speed the fan had when the A/C was turned on. So when the A/C was on no cooling problems.

Still it might be you need a Auto transmission cooler!! maybe a flush and ATF fluid change won't go astray either.

AnswerID: 467171

Follow Up By: PeterInSa - Tuesday, Oct 11, 2011 at 20:57

Tuesday, Oct 11, 2011 at 20:57
Had similar problems with a statesman towing a large tandem, fitted a larger radiator and transmission cooler, it helped but still had trouble when towing on 40deg + days.

FollowupID: 741502

Reply By: Kimba10 - Sunday, Oct 09, 2011 at 11:42

Sunday, Oct 09, 2011 at 11:42
I wouldnt be putting in larger radiator, they dont normally have this issue so why put in a bigger radiator, these vehicles are tested from new hence how they get there towing limits etc testing of cooling sytem, brakes, etc. There is obviously an issue with the cooling system, putting a bigger radiator in will just mask the problem till its gets worse then you will still have the same issue. The only vehicle (4wd) that I have heard of that possibly needs a bigger radiator is the last of 4.2 turbo patrols, seemed to have issues when towing heavy loads but a few people reckon this is also a guage issue. Firstly I would be taking the vehicle up some steep hills and make it work hard with out van on and see how you go, turn the aircon on and make it work harder. You say thermal fan ?? Are you refering to the electric one in front of the radiator to assit with aircon or did they replace the viscous coupling that turns the big bladed fan behind the radiator (main cooling fan) ??? If you dont see any thing showing on the guage in the way of upward movement then maybe hook van back up again and do the same thing and when it starts to heat up, pull over pop bonnet whack in park and give it a rev, the clutch fan should be reving it nut off sucking air through the radiator. Have you got driving lights blocking the grille ?? Has the cooling system had non genuine coolant put in it causing it to gel up, is there any hot spots in the radiator,.......................Id be double checking the viscous coupling again once the radiator is flushed out........
AnswerID: 467172

Follow Up By: avidcamper - Sunday, Oct 09, 2011 at 11:53

Sunday, Oct 09, 2011 at 11:53
Viscous fan & coupling were faulty & replaced, as well as thermostat. But still hasn't solved the overheating issue ......

Genuine coolant in radiator.

Your thoughts re a larger radiator mirror my suspicion - that it will more than likely mask the 'real' problem .........

Thanks for your suggestions.
FollowupID: 741279

Follow Up By: snoopyone - Sunday, Oct 09, 2011 at 12:27

Sunday, Oct 09, 2011 at 12:27
You dont look for hot spots if overheating

YOU LOOK FOR COLD spots which are obviously blocked and have no hot water running through it
Remember to disconnect the electric fans on the back before putting hands in.

Dont try the front Thats usually the aircon condenser.

Yes I never tow in OD my vehicle ran 100deg hotter than in 4th at 90kph on a FLAT road.
Also some ( Toyota especially) temp gaugesDONT MOVE until its nearly too late.

Dont know about yours.
FollowupID: 741282

Follow Up By: mike39 - Monday, Oct 10, 2011 at 15:25

Monday, Oct 10, 2011 at 15:25
A friend destroyed the radiator in his Challenger by putting an incorrect type of coolant in.
Non compatible, and the two together formed a gel and blocked the core.
It was not a complete refil, only a topup.

I believe that with Toyota it is absolutely essential that only the genuine red Toyota coolant be used otherwise disaster.

Good luck with you endeavours.
FollowupID: 741371

Follow Up By: avidcamper - Monday, Oct 10, 2011 at 19:38

Monday, Oct 10, 2011 at 19:38

Thankyou for your follow up - we have been super careful with the coolant - only added water (emergency situation - no coolant on board!) during the loooooong trip to Echuca.

Nissan, of course, added the correct coolant.

NRMA mechanic warned us about incompatibility between differing brands - he topped up with water - they can't possibly carry all brands of coolant in their vehicles.

The only disturbing thought is that the previous owner could have used the incorrect brand ..... hopefully not!
FollowupID: 741386

Reply By: kev.h - Sunday, Oct 09, 2011 at 11:47

Sunday, Oct 09, 2011 at 11:47
Hi Avidcamper
Had same problem
Simple fix - fit external oil cooler on the transmission this takes the extra heat away from the radiator ( the radiator cooling capacity does not leave big margin for error) Have the radiator cleaned by a radiator expert that solved the problem with mine
I also fitted a new Hi-Flow thermostat (they are available about $50.00) but may not be necessary as you have a new one
Later when the radiator was damaged by a wayward stone I fitted a bigger cored brass radiator (there was no options with the aluminium/plastic tank ones other than custom made - read BIG $)
Enjoy your pathy they are a great fourby
Cheers kev
AnswerID: 467174

Follow Up By: kev.h - Sunday, Oct 09, 2011 at 11:54

Sunday, Oct 09, 2011 at 11:54
Ditto above I assumed you had the viscous coupling replaced but on re-reading your post maybe not - if the coupling is faulty that will cause the problem Cheers Kev
FollowupID: 741280

Reply By: member - mazcan - Sunday, Oct 09, 2011 at 12:58

Sunday, Oct 09, 2011 at 12:58
have you had a real good look at the radiator at the front to see if it is partly blocked with insects /grass/seeds etc it is sometimes hard to see that the rad is 30-40% blocked but is a big negative when it comes to trying to keep the engine cool while towing load
personly i would have the radiator cleaned and serviced by a specialist and also fit a trans-oil cooler both these will make a big difference under load
cheers barry
AnswerID: 467177

Reply By: Michael ( Moss Vale NSW) - Sunday, Oct 09, 2011 at 12:59

Sunday, Oct 09, 2011 at 12:59
If its a 2004 model it could have the original bottom hose, older type hoses have a spring inside them to stop the bottom hose sucking flat, modern hoses do not have this and after some years of use, they soften, so check if the bottom hose is soft.. Also a mention of the water pump above, not a problem if coolant has been in the car since new. I have seen the steel impeller rusted off to nothing in an older car that has had just plain water in the radiator all its life. The only thing that can happen is if the belt is slipping, but i guess it has a serpentine belt so should be no problem. The impeller must be OK as it would be overheating most of the time. Engine timing could be out a little... Maybe the radiator could need a tank removing and cleaned properly, a flush does not free lodgeddebris from the radiator tubes.. Hope this helps !!! Michael

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AnswerID: 467178

Follow Up By: Michael ( Moss Vale NSW) - Sunday, Oct 09, 2011 at 13:04

Sunday, Oct 09, 2011 at 13:04
Also has the vehicle had a new muffler or exhaust fitted??? A faulty muffler or partially blocked catalytic converter will have you scratching you head for years if this is the problem.. Michael

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FollowupID: 741286

Reply By: patrolmann - Monday, Oct 10, 2011 at 15:26

Monday, Oct 10, 2011 at 15:26
I would not be putting in a bigger radiator, I did that with my GQ and was just wasted money. Spend another $200 odd and get the radiator cleaned professionally. If the viscious fan and thermostat have been done then thats your next port of call. Then maybe check the water pump.
AnswerID: 467262

Reply By: avidcamper - Monday, Oct 10, 2011 at 19:46

Monday, Oct 10, 2011 at 19:46
Thankyou to all for your helpful suggestions - we have really appreciated them.

Our mechanic has also 'frightened' us with talk of the possibilty of a damaged head gasket causing this problem ......... very scary thought (think $'s) :-(

Will be making a few phone calls tomorrow - hope to get to the bottom of this asap. We won't be installing a larger radiator, we will have the radiator flushed, we will check if the auto transmission fluid is overheating ..... etc.

Will post results of all this later on in the week (hope our pockets won't develop gaping holes during this process!).


AnswerID: 467280

Follow Up By: ben_gv3 - Monday, Oct 10, 2011 at 20:37

Monday, Oct 10, 2011 at 20:37
As stated earlier I would be finding another mechanic. It seems he wants to scare you into getting more work done... some of it which may be unnecessary.
FollowupID: 741393

Follow Up By: trainslux - Tuesday, Oct 11, 2011 at 11:34

Tuesday, Oct 11, 2011 at 11:34
from what you describe, it sounds like your rad core is either internally, or externally blocked.

Works fine in most conditions, but put that bit of extra load on it, and it cant cope and exchange the heat created.

First thing to do is to make sure the air con condensor is not blocked full of grasshoppers/ leaves etc, and then check between that and your rad core, often the bit between the two can become full of debrits.
Even a garden hose to back flush from the engine side forwrads thru the core can move a bit of stuff.

If your water pump is not leaking, nor the shaft wobbly, leave it be for now.
Basic check of the rad cap will show if its allowing the system to stay correctly pressurised, thus increasing the boiling point of the system, however if the engine is creating heat, and the cooling system is not dealing with that heat, then look for the bits that exchange that heat.
I am surprised that they didnt do a basic co test of the cooling system, that will show any sign of combustion gasses entering the cooling system, but often when this happens, other symptoms occour that you have not mentioned yet.

Other things to observe are the workings of the fan viscous hub, and ensure the fan shrouds are correctly fitted, and not allowing air to be dragged in from the wrong side of the radiator, thus loosing cooling efficiency.

Its called a cooling system, as there are a few parts that make it a whole, and one or more with a fault can cause issues.

When I had my garage, with what you describe, blockage of the rad is the first thing I would have looked at, along with cap operation, and a co test.

Even a good looking radiator, if its 20 or 15% blocked internally, can cause the symptoms you describe.
Worth the coin to remove rad, and remove tanks, and do a proper cleaning job.

Hope this helps

FollowupID: 741422

Follow Up By: avidcamper - Tuesday, Oct 11, 2011 at 14:06

Tuesday, Oct 11, 2011 at 14:06
Ben & Trains,

Thankyou for your continued suggestions & helpful advice.

We have been in contact with a radiator specialist and will most likely book the car in with him to properly clean & flush the radiator (he said he would remove it to give it a thorough clean).

He also said that if the cooling system is in working order (after all this has been done), and we still have problems with overheating - the next step would be to suspect the head gasket (noooo!) - we, of course, are hoping there will be no 'next step'.

Thankyou again,

FollowupID: 741438

Reply By: Member - Bucky - Wednesday, Oct 12, 2011 at 06:36

Wednesday, Oct 12, 2011 at 06:36
Revs my friend, revs, and use the gears, do not drive your vehicle with the slightest amount of laboring. So let her rev freely, and you may find a huge difference. Your engine is generating lots more heat, as it is working harder, so circulating the coolant through the motor quicker will definately help.
I am not saying rev the bag out of your vehicle, but it is amazing what 500-800 revs and a lower gear will do for temperatures, in a radiator.
Remember also that when towing, do not use overdrive gears.
You do not have to be first there, and at 90 km/hr you are only ever 5 - 10 minutes slower getting there.

If the above advice dosen't work, then go to a radiator specialist, but a good one.
You may need to get the top and bottom tanks of the radiator removed and get the core cleaned, and then replace the coolant, and a new thermostat
Probably $250-$300, but if you can remove the rariator and do the other work yourself, it should be heaps cheaper.

AnswerID: 467399

Follow Up By: Member - Bucky - Wednesday, Oct 12, 2011 at 06:43

Wednesday, Oct 12, 2011 at 06:43
I should have mentioned the bottom rariator hose.
They usually have a wire coil inside them to stop them collapsing, when you accelerate. When you accelerate, the water pump sucks, and that in turn will collapse the hose, if the wire coil, is not up to standard.

It's also adviseable to check the radaitor cap, the water pump, and the fanbelt, in the process.
FollowupID: 741525

Follow Up By: avidcamper - Wednesday, Oct 12, 2011 at 10:45

Wednesday, Oct 12, 2011 at 10:45
Thankyou for your helpful hints Bucky.

Car is now in for more analysis on the cooliing system & repairs as necessary. We have also found the water pump is leaking, so will be replaced too.

Hopefully our woes will be over after all this .....


FollowupID: 741539

Follow Up By: trainslux - Wednesday, Oct 12, 2011 at 11:46

Wednesday, Oct 12, 2011 at 11:46
Hi AvidCamper.

Glad they found the pump leaking, I take it that it was only a slight leak.
I wouldnt expect it to cause your overheating, unless it really failed.

One thing to consider, people have been caught out with issues introduced to their cooling system by fitting an aftermarket water pump.

Most are good, and fit correctly, but some have been caught out with incorrect impeller depths, or designs not quite good enought, and have had problems.

When I did mine, I fitted a genuine water pump for this reason.

Over the years I have fitted 100's of quality aftermarket pumps and not had any problems, but after reading on here that some had problems, I chose to go genuine.

Something to consider anyway.

And a Co test should be done before they drop the coolant/ start work on your vehicle, it dosent take long, and can give an indication when tested against a freshly filled system just run/ air bled from system.

My hope is that the core will be up to 15% blocked, and possibly the external by a similar amound due to debrits between rad and condensor.
And there is nothing else

Hope im right :).


FollowupID: 741544

Reply By: avidcamper - Tuesday, Oct 25, 2011 at 09:39

Tuesday, Oct 25, 2011 at 09:39
Update on car woes ..... after many checks on our car's cooling system, advice from mechanics as well as nissan's service centre and quite a few $'s later we seem to have finally fixed the overheating issue (yay!).

We tested it out by towing the trailer up Bulli Pass on the weekend - the temperature guage didn't even budge! Wonderful feeling.

Thanks to all for your suggestions and advice in helping us to troubleshoot.


AnswerID: 468497

Follow Up By: ben_gv3 - Tuesday, Oct 25, 2011 at 09:50

Tuesday, Oct 25, 2011 at 09:50
Sorry, what was the cause of the overheating? Was it just the faulty water pump?
FollowupID: 742783

Follow Up By: avidcamper - Tuesday, Oct 25, 2011 at 13:30

Tuesday, Oct 25, 2011 at 13:30
Seemed to be a combination of things including viscous fan & coupling, thermostat, water pump. Finally also followed mechanic's advice (endorsed by Nissan) & replaced the radiator with a heavy duty one. The standard one does not give much margin, so if towing up a long, slow hill can fail to keep everthing cool enough. Also installed a lower temperature thermostat which then means the viscous fan starts doing its job sooner ....... all helps!

I am no mechanic, but I think I've gained a bit of an understanding about how all this works now!

Nissan also said if we still have problems, the next step would be to clean the aircon condenser since it could be blocking air to the radiator. Hopefully that won't be necessary - this whole exercise has been quite costly :-(

FollowupID: 742797

Follow Up By: ben_gv3 - Tuesday, Oct 25, 2011 at 17:46

Tuesday, Oct 25, 2011 at 17:46
So Nissan knowingly install a radiator which is not fit-for-purpose??? Now that's just cheap...

One would hope the engineers and bean counters spec/install components that do the job, i.e tow.

I assume the thermostat you referred to is inside the viscous fan because the normal thermostat is in the cooling system attached to the engine block so is independent of the fan. Unless how does the radiator influence the viscous fan?
FollowupID: 742811

Follow Up By: avidcamper - Tuesday, Oct 25, 2011 at 20:06

Tuesday, Oct 25, 2011 at 20:06

Now you're asking questions I don't know how to answer! I can understand when it's explained to me, but to try & pass it on to someone else is another thing entirely.

My understanding is that the lower temperature thermostat will start the viscous fan earlier which will then assist in keeping the engine cooler (?????).

I can't give a technical explanation - sorry - whilst I'm learning, I am not a mechanic ...............

FollowupID: 742823

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