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We all have days when we want to just take out our car and go on those long drives to clear our minds. But when you finally step into the car, your Nissan 350z just won’t start. It can be worrying, and not to mention inconvenient.
In such cases, you could either ask your local auto mechanic to come by and check it out or try to fix it yourself. Fortunately, some of the fixes for this are quite easy and can be done simply at home. Other fixes, unfortunately, might require you to take the car to the dealer. This is because some parts may be hard to access. But before we figure out how to make your car start again, let’s find out how the starter works in a 350z.
The starter system in a Nissan 350z
Cars with internal combustion engines like the 350z have a different starter system than electric vehicles. To understand why your Nissan 350z won’t start, you need to understand what the different parts of the car are taking part in this starting mechanism.
In an IC engine, a battery-operated motor (called the starter motor) turns the engine for the first few rotations. During these initial rotations, the engine sucks in air and fuel and mixes them. A very high voltage is then generated between the two electrodes of the sparkplug with the help of the battery to generate a spark. This spark helps the combustible mixture of air and fuel to catch fire. Once these initial few rotations have this process going, the engine can then keep spinning thanks to the flywheel as long as the air and fuel keep flowing.
Thus, as you can see, the three main components taking part in this starting mechanism are the battery, starter motor, and sparkplugs. Another important component that is often overlooked is the ignition coil. It increases the 12V of the battery to 12,000+V to help generate the spark. A problem with any of these components can cause the starting mechanism to fail.
Why your Nissan 350z won’t start
Before we get into the more complicated problems, one of the main things to check is if you have enough fuel on board. If your fuel indicator is well below the “E” mark, then this is probably the cause. With low fuel levels, there isn’t enough fuel delivered to the engine for sustained combustion. Thus, your car won’t start. If you are certain you have enough fuel onboard, then check the following components as they might be the root of the problem.
As mentioned above, one of the main parts of the starter system is the battery. It is responsible for supplying power to the sparkplugs and the starter motor. Thus, a depleted or malfunctioning battery may lead to your starter system not functioning. A problem with the battery might be indicated on your dashboard with the symbol displayed above.
To ensure there is nothing wrong with the battery, there are mainly two things to be checked.
You can check the battery voltage by connecting a multimeter across the terminals of the battery and measuring the voltage. Typically, this would be around 12-13V for your car. Anything below 11V and you might face a problem in starting the car.
If the battery is indeed low, try charging it by connecting it to a battery charger. There are special chargers for this that can be connected to your domestic outlets. Alternatively, you might have to jump-start the car.
Terminal Lead Corrosion
If the battery voltage is fine, check the terminals of the batteries. A coating of reddish/greenish residue might indicate that they have been corroded. This causes an inefficient flow of power and that might restrict your car from starting.
In this case, you can use a metal brush to scrape off the rust with a little bit of help from baking soda. This would help the current flow better and achieve the voltage levels required. Remember to disconnect the battery completely before attempting this.
There is also the possibility that the battery is extremely old. In this case, the battery might show a very low voltage reading, around 8-9V only. At this time, there is nothing more to do than to get your battery changed.
The second possible reason why your Nissan 350z won’t start is due to a malfunction in the spark plug. To be a bit technical about this, the working of a sparkplug depends on the distance between its electrodes. If the distance is increased too much or if the electrode is broken due to some reason, then the current can’t pass between that gap and generate the spark.
This generally happens due to the high heat inside the combustion chamber. It causes the sparkplugs’ metal electrodes to heat up and expand. After a while, the deformation is permanent and the gap between the electrodes stays increased.
The only solution at this point is to change the affected sparkplug. You might have seen in your owner’s manual that after a certain number of kilometres your car has driven, the sparkplugs need to be changed. It is for this very reason.
Remember to use the same kind of sparkplugs that are used in your car. This would be mentioned in the owner’s manual as well.
While not all sparkplugs need to be changed, you would need a very expensive measuring gauge to accurately measure the difference in the gap. So, it is best to switch all of them. Alternatively, you could ask your mechanic to change it for you since you often need a special tool for this.
The ignition coil, as mentioned before, is responsible for stepping up the 12V of your battery to a much voltage (higher than 12,000V) to help generate the spark between the electrodes of the sparkplug. Earlier, this used to be done by a complex electro-mechanical with high losses. Now, thanks to the marvels of modern science, you can just use a few coils and transistors to do this process accurately and in a fraction of a second.
The main reason for ignition coils going bad is worn-out sparkplugs. They cause the ignition coil to generate more energy for the spark to be generated.
To understand if your ignition coil is going bad, look out for the following signs –
- Difficulty in starting the car
- Rough idling
- Engine misfiring and causing “engine knocking”
- Noticeably lower performance
If you notice this problem, simply replace the ignition coils. They are even easier to replace than spark plugs since you need to take these out before you can touch the sparkplug. Just remember to buy the correct ignition coils for your car from your dealer. Like the sparkplugs, it is hard to determine which exact coil is causing the problem, so it is best to replace all of them.
The next few problems will mostly require you to go to the dealer to fix your 350z. The starter motor is operated in tandem with a solenoid that plugs into your engine when required (when you press the button or twist the key) and turns the engine.
That is why it is super important to never trigger the starter motor while the engine is on. This leads to the wear of the motor and ultimately its malfunction. To find out if it is a problem associated with the starter motor, check for the following signs –
- You hear a grinding noise when you try to turn on the engine, but the engine doesn’t start
- Often, your car doesn’t start on the first try
- You hear a clicking noise but not the noise of the starter motor spinning (this indicates a problem with the relay)
- The starter motor stays activated even after the engine starts (you will hear a harsh grinding sound)
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, then you most definitely have a problem with the starter. Unfortunately, short of tapping softly on the motor and praying to some higher power that it works, the only solution is to get the relay, or the motor replaced. Hopefully, the dealer will be able to figure it out on their end.
If you have ruled out all the above possibilities, then you might have to go back to the fuel. There might be a case where you see that the fuel indicator is well above the required amount, and even after testing for the problems listed above, your car doesn’t start.
The fuel pump is responsible for transporting fuel from the tank to the fuel injectors in your car and then mixing the fuel with the air. When there is a malfunction, the fuel doesn’t reach the engine at all. Thus, even though everything else seems to be alright, your Nissan 350z just won’t start. Like the other problems, you should be able to distinguish this by looking for the following signs –
- Sudden spikes or drops in speed/power
- Engine stalling at fuel points above the empty mark
- Frequent starting problems
- Getting a worse mileage than usual with similar driving patterns
The causes for problems with the fuel pump are many. Some of the most common ones are a clogged fuel filter and blown fuel pump fuse. There might also be an issue with the wires attached to the fuel pump. While these problems can be fixed at home, they are of a relatively higher level. Thus, the advice is to take the car to a dealer to get it serviced fully and properly.
Other Possible Causes
If you have ruled out all the problems from above, there are a few other problems that may lead to the car not working properly. For example, some owners have complained about the Cam Position Sensor (CPS) or a Crank Sensor being the problem. If this is the problem, the engine misunderstands the position of the pistons and fires the sparkplugs in the wrong order. In this case, there is no combustion and thus your Nissan 350z won’t start.
However, replacing these sensors can be tricky as it is generally a bit difficult to find these individual parts at the local dealer. Moreover, they are difficult to reach parts of the car and thus you may need to disassemble several parts for ease of access.
Having your car die on you suddenly or not start is extremely disappointing. But let’s be honest, it is never sudden as such. We all have that one “check engine” light that we have been ignoring for ages. It is time to go get your car serviced at a dealer ASAP before the problem gets even worse. They have a diagnostic machine that reads the error codes from the On-Board Diagnostics (OBD) to pinpoint problems with the car. Thus, they can easily fix the problem without using trial-and-error.
On the other hand, if you are confident in your DIY skills, you could try out the solutions mentioned in this post. You could use the same OBD device to narrow down the cause of your Nissan 350z not starting. But remember to always stay safe and be careful with the DIY fixes as these might be quite dangerous. We hope you get back on that horse again, so to speak.