Serviceability Report: Nissan QuestPosted 9/18/2005
By Craig Van Batenburg, AAM
did they get it right?
This continues our series of redesigned cars, trucks, vans and SUVs with that age-old question, "What were they thinking of when they designed this thing?" Nissan has gone through many changes in the last six years. First, let's look at the company and then, its new Quest minivan.
Carlos Ghosn (pronounced "GOhn"), chief executive officer of Nissan and Renault, was brought in from Renault when Nissan was taken over by the French company back in 1999. He has worked wonders for this company and left Nissan last April to manage both Nissan and Renault.
Nissan is on a roll but that was not always the case. In the '90s, the Quest was a small minivan that most of you also knew as the Villager from Mercury.
The Quest was a good van that sold in reasonable numbers, and most every tech alive has worked on one. It was fitted with the tried and true 3.0 V6 Nissan engine and a decent automatic transmission. The engine eventually increased in size to a 3.3 but everything else pretty much stayed the same. It had its share of small to frustrating problems, but overall, this Nissan product was well received.
In 2004 an all-new Quest was introduced that is sold and built only by Nissan. It is the comparison between the two vehicles that will tell us whether or not Nissan designed into their new products a concern for us, the techs who must service them.
The old Quest launched in 1993 had a total of 361 technical service bulletins (TSBs), along with five recalls. There were 27 TSBs on the transmission, 19 on the brakes and 12 on the engine. It was far from perfect. After nine years of production without a major redesign, many lessons were learned, recalls were announced and updates were fitted to the van. How did it improve over the years?
ACDC owns a 1993 Villager (clone to the Quest). With more than 159,000 miles, this van has been a good workhorse. Before it was put into service five years ago, the techs at Van Batenburg's Garage Inc. redid the brakes (easy) and installed new exhaust studs (difficult as some were broken), timing belt, water pump and tensioner. The techs also removed and cleaned the injectors (a known problem area), lower front control arms (worn bushings) and taillight subharnesses. One other item (remember, we are in New England): all wiring plug-in connectors were unplugged, cleaned and coated with Stabilant 22a and then packed with grease.
One area that Nissan needs to improve on is electrical connectors as there is a lack of coatings on their electrical ends. After just a few years in a corrosive environment, Nissan developed no starts, check engine lights and such.
Was the early Quest poorly designed from a technician's standpoint? Depends on what part of the van you service; mostly it was so-so. In 2002, the last year of production, there were no recalls and only 54 TSBs. That was progress.
The new 2004 Quest was released to a lot of fanfare. In 2003 Nissan didn't have a van on the market, although there were leftovers from 2002. Did the engineers get it right? As I poked around under the hood of a new Quest, I unplugged the sensors that were accessible. What did I find? No grease, just bare metal. I researched the service procedures and when the rear spark plugs were removed, it starts with "drain the coolant." I am not liking this.
To find out more about the new Nissan Quest, I interviewed Bob Keller, a technician I worked with in 1972 when it was a Datsun. He is still turning wrenches at a Nissan dealership and took time out of his busy day to help with this report. He knows Nissan as well as anyone and keeps very busy as sales are at an all-time high.
Every tech is used to pulling off parts to gain access, so my complaint is not his - it's mine. Bob takes it in stride and gets the job done.
The number of recalls stands at two and TSBs at 70. TSB number NTB04-144a is an update to the AT computer and there have been two recalls, one for the SRS system and the other for power sliding door issues.
It uses a detuned Z engine of 3.5 liters and twin overhead cams. The timing belt is gone, and a chain now does the job of moving camshafts. Will our customers change the oil enough times to keep the chain in shape? Time will tell.
Ups - Parts are easy to get. Well-documented problems. Great for business as owners like these vans and hang on to them.
Downs - Until you learn your way around, like any other van, access can be tough on some items.
Ups - Quality is better, fewer problems with the van so far.
Downs - Rear spark plug removal is now a task. If only engine designers could fix cars for a year and then redesign.
Overall rating: The quality is better but the ease of service is not. Nissan needs to continue to improve its quality to compete with Honda and Toyota. The rear spark plugs are now a major job, which is a real step backward. Were technicians thought of when this new van was designed? I would say no. It is futuristic but that future is not the one a technician dreams about. We want to have access to those parts that normally wear out, need replacement or service. As I have said so many times before, a little thought ahead of time would save techs time, customers service dollars, and warranty claims would be less expensive.
Nissans are selling well, and the company has been saved - thanks to Carlos Ghosn, but he is a manager, not a technician. I would love to see more emphasis placed on service and repair issues in today's vehicles.
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