1988 Pathfinder - Considering buying, need advice on engine

You gotta Love these old VG30E/i powered beasts, raw truck DNA to the core.

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Location: Empire of Alaska

1988 Pathfinder - Considering buying, need advice on engine

Postby ColonelColt » Fri Sep 10, 2010 12:05 am

Greetings. I'm currently in the market for an older vehicle and I've either come down to getting a Toyota truck or a Nissan Pathfinder. Since Toyotas are much coveted here (read: pricey even in old age) in Alaska or driven into the ground, that's not an option right now. I've discovered, on the other hand, that older Pathfinders are apparently pretty common and way more available price-wise. My intent is to get one and do a lot of mechanical overhauling on it if I keep it in the long run and turn it into an offroad vehicle once I get something less gas-guzzling to commute in.

My brother and I found this one on Craigslist and discovered it's right down the road from where he lives at out in a kind of rural area. http://anchorage.craigslist.org/cto/1905062846.html We inspected it in person last week and the thing is honestly in really great shape for its age and if I recall had around 140,000 miles on it. No visible or known damage, really good interior. It had to be jump started due to a dead battery which isn't surprising. What we know and found out about the vehicle: It's a V6 VG30i (we believe) with a five speed manual that seems to have a good clutch. The power steering in it is is either shot or needs fluid, we're told it needs a new pump. Not a big issue since my brother and I know a guy who has a parts Pathfinder sitting in his driveway and the only problem with it is a seized engine. That and I could simply buy another one that's beat up for a few hundred and get what I need off of it. During the test drive the dash indicators weren't working but were lighting up except once when I rounded a corner at some speed and they all started working properly so we think this is a loose connection.

The biggest problem is the idle. When the engine is running with no load on it, it revs up and down constantly and pretty rapidly. Now, that could just be a timing/idle issue but we're both completely unfamiliar with these engines so we're not sure. One of our concerns is when it's coming down from revving up there's a clacking sound... Not exactly like a cylinder knocking or like the timing's off but it's there and doesn't seem to do it when it's revving itself up or driving. Could be a sticking lifter or valve. It drives and runs fine with the transmission in gear. Again, we simply don't know. My brother is heading over there tomorrow with a fresh battery and oil to dump into it to see if that quietens it down at all. Maybe the steering pump being out is putting drag on the rest of the system causing the engine revving.

I can probably talk the people down to $500 for the vehicle since the house its parked at actually belongs to the owners of both who are currently in Idaho somewhere and obviously don't care that much about the vehicle if they rented the house out to the current family and said "Try to sell it for us." regarding the Pathfinder. If I end up acquiring the vehicle, we can do all of the labor ourselves and get either new or used parts to install but we're mostly worried about the revving and clacking noise. If anyone has any advice, comments, or a big checklist of "If it's doing this, do this." or the service manual, we'd really appreciate it. Next time I'm up there I can take a video of the vehicle with the engine running if that would really help diagnose the issue.

A few last questions:

Is this an interference engine?
Does it use a chain for the timing?
Is there any reason I couldn't get an engine out of an automatic to install in the manual as a straight swap?

Thanks again! - Colt

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