Frighten and depress me - car repair question

So my car’s been, like, hesitating lately. Usually just once at highway speed but today it started repetitively doing it and the check engine light came on and stayed on. I know nothing about engines but the phrase “mis-firing cylinder” came to mind, like the engine is missing “beats” for lack of a better term. 2003 Nissan Altima. Any ideas, and any idea how much fixing it might cost?

Take it to AutoZone and have them code the engine light for you, for free.
It’s going to be an emmission control issue I bet. Probably not too expensive, even a 20 dollar part can cause the car to run crappy.

The fact that your check engine light came on means the computer has some idea what the problem might be. Might be right or wrong, but that is the place to start.

Some auto parts stores will read the code for you for free. AutoZone is one that does this. Any car newer than a '98 is required to be OBD-II compliant, so they should be able to interface to your Nissan.

It could be lots of things, most of them small and easy to fix. Air filter, fuel filter, O2 sensors just to name a few. Getting the codes read is a great first step unless you want to just start replacing parts.

Per AutoZone it’s a faulty crankshaft position sensor. $20 or $80 part depending on whether it’s 4- or 6-cylinder, $150-200 to install. They don’t do the labor so I called Midas who said that it might also be something in a circuit, which they won’t know until they spend at least an hour diagnosing it at $70 per, which in independent of any other parts and labor cost.

Which is about enough to transform this GQ into a Pit-style rant about the high cost of auto repairs and the general suckiness of being born with no mechanical aptitude whatsoever. Fuck.

Otto may I suggest not going to Midas and instead going to an independent audto repair place. I believe you may have better results price wise

Look for small place that’s been in business for a lot of years.

This Wikicars (?) article mentions 3 common problems for 2003 Altimas, that sensor is one of them. They say it costs around $100 to replace:

I also found a reference to a recall for 2003s. Might be worth checking with a Nissan dealer.

You need to get a man-friend with some mechanical skills. :wink:
It may just be a loose connection. If you can find the part on the car you can check the connection yourself. If you have a set of wrenches you may even be able to replace said part. Go back to autozone and ask them to show you what part you need (the actual sensor) and they’ll may even be willing to show you where it is on your car. You could even buy the wrench or borrow one from the same store. I’m guessing it’s just threaded into the engine and a simple snap on wire harness to connect it. You could also brouse their Chiltons titles on the shelf and find out exactly how the book says to replace the thing. I would think you could do this yourself with little effort in a short amount of time.

Per Autozone’s website (they have a limited selection of repair information, this is from a 1999 Nissan Altima, we’ll assume yours is the same).

Simple, really. If I were you I’d try it myself, have the guys at Autozone actually point to the part on the car.

Some cars have pretty long warrantees on emission parts - up to 150,000 miles - this is not an extended warrantee, but something to do with certain emission systems (Ultra low emissions or PEZ come to mind). You should check your manual if you are within this limits.

Come on, everybody, the OP asks to be frightened and depressed. How about this? Last week I got a faint antifreeze smell and a whirring noise fixed so we could take the car on vacation. Which costs $700. So while it’s in the shop and we’re sharing our remaining car, we notice an antifreeze smell in this one too, and during the vacation we leave the second car in the shop. They tell me it’s gonna cost $1300. The same week we go on vacation we take a $2000 hit in unanticipated car repairs. Sweet.