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Nissan Pathfinder, SUV
#1926 of 2771 1997 Pathfinder "waddling" problem
Mar 15, 2006 (9:34 pm)
The following is a description of a problem with a 1997 Nissan Pathfinder with a total of 125,000 miles with Michelin LTX M/S, 31.0x10.5 tires, running at 40 PSI (hard).
The original front struts lasted for 71,000 miles and had to be replaced because they were leaking. Heavy duty KYB struts were installed and currently have 54,000 miles on them. They have worked great up until now.
The original rear shocks lasted for 51,000 miles and were replaced with heavy duty Gabriel shocks. In June 2005, we started a trip to Ohio and experienced a "waddle" type of instability. (As opposed to the usual "porpoising" caused by a pair of weak shocks.) The Gabriel's had 61,000 miles on them and I replaced them with a pair of heavy duty Monroe shocks. It significantly reduced the problem , but didn't completely eliminate it. By October, the Monroe's had 11,000 miles on them and the problem of "waddling" was worse than ever. It is triggered by any road unevenness and I have to apply the brakes to keep the car from oscillating (from side to side) out of control. In October I replaced the Monroe rear shocks with a heavy duty pair of KYB's and it again helped but did not eliminate the problem. The rear KYB shocks currently have 11,000 miles on them. The problem is now significant enough to be unsafe.
A "hands on" check of the front and rear stabilizer bars and their connecting rods cannot detect any looseness. The same check on the rear panhard bar feels tight also. However, this is within the context that my attempted wiggling of the bars are probably a small percentage of the tension that is normally on these bars. All the rubber connectors appear to be whole and undamaged.
The key question: Is this a strut/shock problem or a stabilizer system problem? (Or is it something else entirely?)
The "waddle" can be best described as rocking from side to side and not front to rear. It seems to be about equally severe in both the front and back. The whole car "waddles" and not just a front or rear event.
I've read other posts here that suggest this might be caused by worn rear links or lower control arms. What do you think?
#1927 of 2771 Re: 1997 Pathfinder "waddling" problem [mattausch]
Mar 16, 2006 (9:44 pm)
Definitely worn bushings in the rear suspension lower control arms. This is a known issue on 96-99 Pathfinders. The mounting position of the shocks causes the bushings to wear faster than normal, since every up/down movement of the axle translates to a forward/back force induced by the shocks.
The reason why the whole truck "waddles" is because the worn bushings allow each side of the axle to move forward or backward independently, effectively letting the rear axle "steer" the vehicle.
Don't even attempt to troubleshoot anything else until after you've replaced the lower control arms, or it'll just be a waste of time and $$.
#1928 of 2771 Re: 1997 Pathfinder "waddling" problem [xplorx4]
Mar 19, 2006 (10:18 am)
Xplorx, I may be starting to experience the same "waddling" problem on my '01 PF. It has 103K miles. I heard on the Car Doctor radio show this morning that Nissan issued a TSB on this in 1998. Is it likely I have the same problem, or was the rear suspension design changed after the '99 model year? Thanks.
#1929 of 2771 Re: 1997 Pathfinder "waddling" problem [shark715]
Mar 20, 2006 (11:52 am)
The rear suspension design was changed on 99.5+ models to reduce the premature bushing wear. This is the first time I've ever heard of an '01+ with this problem.
However, with 103K miles on your Pathy, it's possible that some of your suspension parts may need replacing.
One way to tell if your rear lower link bushings are worn is to park the vehicle on a level surface, chock the front wheels, release the parking brake and put the tranny in N. Then, grasp one of the rear wheels at 9 and 3-oclock and try to rotate it forward and back. As you do this, keep a very close eye on the stiffness/movement of the lower link relative to a fixed part on the frame, such as the gas tank skid plate, etc. Worn bushings will allow the lower link to move back and forth, instead of staying firmly positioned. You can also try to twist the link by hand. If it twists easily, the bushings could be worn.
If you've never replaced the shocks or struts, I would first have that work done before doing the rear links.
#1930 of 2771 Re: 1997 Pathfinder "waddling" problem [xplorx4]
Mar 20, 2006 (1:28 pm)
Thanks for the tip, Explorx. It's very possible I have a different, but related problem. My truck doesn't seem to "waddle" as noticeably as some others have reported with the older model years, but the handling in my truck is not nearly as stable as it used to be. How does one check struts and shocks these days? Thirty years ago we would bounce each corner of the car, and if it bounced more than once, it was indication that the shock absorber needed to be replaced. My truck is not more bouncy than it used to be, the handling is just not as stable. BTW, I do have an Airlift kit, but I've had it for 5 years. I normally keep it at 6-8 pounds of pressure (the manual says to always keep at least 5 lbs.) except when I'm towing my boat or carrying a heavier than normal load. Thanks again for your help.
#1931 of 2771 Re: 1997 Pathfinder "waddling" problem [shark715]
Mar 21, 2006 (9:34 am)
Shocks and struts- same method as 30 years ago. Also check for oil leaking around the strut and shock body.
#1932 of 2771 Vibration in seat at around 60mph?
Mar 22, 2006 (11:17 am)
Hi, I had bought a 2002 pathfinder LE a few months back and I notice there is vibration in seat at around 60(in 2WD mode). Is this normal? If not, what can be the cause? Goes away at higher/lower speeds.
I had steering vibration before this and got balancing done with a shop with hunter gsp machine and that part seems very much improved.
#1933 of 2771 Re: engine hesitates [smokey75]
Mar 22, 2006 (11:44 am)
I left my Pathfinder overnight at the dealer but they were not able to replicate the transmission slip/engine flare. The mechanic at the dealer (Woodfield Nissan) went through the TSB and said my car has the parts mentioned in the TSB. I come back home and start to work the next day and the engine flare is still there and it has been cold in Chicago the past few days and I get the problem everytime I start my pathy after resting it a few hours. The dealer did not charge me for checking it out but I had to pay for the rental car which was otherwise cover in my extended warranty.
#1934 of 2771 Flooding?-Gas + Exaust smell
Mar 22, 2006 (11:55 am)
1992 Pathfinder. It started to run rough about 10 miles from home, then proceded to run more rough and noticed smell of exaust (like a flooded engine) and high levels of smoke/exasut from the tailpipe. Now it won't start- it tries but won't catch. Before it stopped running I had to keep up the RPM's to prevent it from stalling. I replaced the fuel filter with no change.
#1935 of 2771 Re: engine hesitates [kris2]
Mar 23, 2006 (7:32 am)
You might have to take a test drive with the tech so they can't deny the flare.