Top 5 Nissan Altima Problems: 3rd Generation (2002 to 2006)

The Nissan Altima is a popular daily driver that has existed since 1992 and is currently in its 6th generation. This post reviews the top Nissan Altima problems owners have experienced with the 3rd generation, years 2002 to 2006.

Fix common 3rd gen Nissan Altima problems yourself with quality auto parts at

Top 5 Problems with the 3rd Gen Nissan Altima (2002 to 2006)

1. Stalls While Driving

Symptoms of Engine Stalling on the 3rd Gen Altima

  • Engine stalls intermittently when driving

Causes of Engine Stalling While Driving

A bad cam sensor or crank sensor causes intermittent stalling on the 2002 to 2006 Nissan Altima.

How to Fix Stalling While Driving

Nissan had a recall on some 3rd gen Altimas. To find out if your Altima is a recall item, call a local Nissan dealership with your VIN number and they’ll let you know if the car is covered.

To replace the sensors, remove the engine cover, remove the air filter box and tubing, and replace the sensor.

2. Premature Fuel Pump Failure

Symptoms of Premature Fuel Pump Failure

  • Intermittent starting or running
  • Engine stalling
  • Lack of engine power

Causes of Premature Fuel Pump Failure

The fuel pump may not give the needed pressure to operate.

How to Fix Premature Fuel Pump Failure

A sticker will be on the hood next to the A/C condenser label if Nissan replaced the fuel pump. A Nissan dealership won’t cover a fuel pump replacement, but if no sticker is present, the fuel pump has not been replaced with an updated version and it can be replaced.

3. Catalytic Convertor Failure

Symptoms of Catalytic Convertor

  • Check engine light for a cat efficiency code

Causes of Catalytic Convertor

The catalytic convertor closest to the engine block off the manifold on the 2.5L engine is known to fail. Low fuel pressure (lean condition), a rich condition, engine skipping, or a defect from the manufacturer can cause the catalytic convertor to fail.

The honeycomb inside the catalytic convertor breaks. If this problem is neglected, the cataylic convertor can break into pieces and get sucked into the valve train and cause bent valves.

How to Fix a Bad Catalytic Convertor

Replace the catalytic convertor.

4. Motor Mount Failure

Symptoms of Bad Motor Mounts

  • Banging or thumping from the front of the vehicle when putting the car in drive or reverse

Causes of Bad Motor Mounts

The right side motor mount near the passenger side fender tends to fail on the 3rd gen Nissan Altima. Located near the timing chain area, the motor mount’s rubber can deteriorate and break down, especially if soaked with engine oil.

How to Fix Bad Motor Mounts

If the motor mount is torn, replace it.

5. Cam Sensor Failure

Symptoms of a Bad Cam Sensor

  • Car does not start
  • Engine misfires

Causes of Starting Problems with the 3rd Gen Nissan Altima

If your car has a distributor and not an alternator, the cam sensor is inside the distributor. If oil leaks inside from, for example, a valve cover leak, and the cam sensor module is covered with oil, the cam sensor will be damaged and needs to be replaced. Sometimes the inner seal on the driveshaft of the distributor can also break.

How to Fix of a Bad Cam Sensor

If the cam sensor is in the distributor and damaged from leaking engine oil or an inner seal, replace the distributor and fix the valve cover leak. If the cam sensor is connected to the engine and coated with oil, inspect the wiring and the electrical connector. See if oil has cracked or deteriorated the connector or if the wires are sticking or touching each other, which means a new wiring harness need to be replaced. Replace the cam sensor and the wiring harness if needed.

Fix Your Own 3rd Gen Nissan Altima

Watch 1A Auto’s how-to videos and learn how to fix many parts on the 3rd gen Nissan Altima like the brakes, struts, and wheel hubs with steps from real mechanics.

3rd Generation Nissan Altima Model Years

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Shop 3rd Gen Nissan Altima Parts

Nissan Altima Problems - 3rd Generation (2002 to 2006) - 1A Auto
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Nissan Altima Problems - 3rd Generation (2002 to 2006) - 1A Auto
Fix common Nissan Altima problems like engine stalling and starting problems with this guide and video that covers the top 5 issues with the 3rd generation, years 2002 to 2006.
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1A Auto
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