By December 10, 2012 0 Comments Read More →

Hard To Start – Cam Sensor Problem?

Hi Austin,

First I would like to thank you for all you do.

Here’s my problem…I took my car to Nissan for a hard cold start. I had this code P0011. They said due to low oil and they topped off and the code went away, but the hard start still happened.

As it got progressively worse I took it into another Nissan dealership and it’s pulling the P0340 code. This is a brief overview of what they said… Crank angle is 17 degrees retard fed and idle and start up. This is caused by a stretched timing chain, only the chain was replaced in.

Since then I’ve replaced 3 cam and crank sensors still leading to the same path, but worst. My car was sitting for 2 weeks in November and did not start at all. It was towed and they replaced the sensor and it started but it was shaking and losing power to drive it a few blocks. The mechanic said that the cam sensor had marks on it, which I guess the chain is marking the sensor?

I can’t not get an exact answer to what problem the car has without paying to dig into the engine. A mechanic said it might be the variable valve timing control (which I didn’t tell him about).

Other than the hard start from June- Nov the car ran fine no problems starting when it was ran for a little while.

So my questions is…how can it be a timing chain and run so good for so long and what’s causing it to not start and run bad now?

What is your opinion on what the cause might be? Do you think it should be torned into to to see or can test be ran to pin point.



Hi Michelle

Hummm, this is pretty strange….I personally have not heard of this issue before.  What concerns me is it seems that you started to have this issue after the timing chain was replaced?  Why was the chain replaced, did it break, or was noisy?  Usually you do not need to replace the chain, it will last the life of the engine unless there is a rare part failure or something out of the norm.

Did the dealer replace the chain or an independent shop?
If there is a problem with the chain I would expect the engine to run bad pretty much all the time at all speeds and engine temperature, and I would expect the check engine light to pretty much always be ON.
I would want to know what the “bad” sensors look like. Is the chain touching it and banging on the sensor, and there are evident impact marks on the sensor?  if so, yes, a timing chain tensioner could be bad or the chain could have been installed incorrectly ….maybe stretched, but I doubt it. Is the sensor covered in engine oil?  There could be a engine oil seal that is leaking oil on the sensor which can cause your problem.
Since installing a new sensor seems to fix the problem for a short time, either that sensor is getting covered in engine oil due to a leaking seal inside the timing chain area or the chain is moving and damaging the sensor….which I would think would happen within a few miles of driving. A leaking oil seal will take much longer time to cover the sensor in oil.
I think I would go back to the mechanic who installed the chain and ask them some questions and see if they can double check their work. They should be able to check for “slack” in the timing chain…which would indicate a bad tensioner, faulty installation or the chain has moved or stretched. This should be fairly easy to do.
If the chain was installed incorrectly…..which I am starting to believe is what happened, the “timing marks” will be off, and the engine will basically be “out of time” which will cause the engine light, sluggishness, slow starts etc.
Unfortunately they will have to remove the front of the engine again to really double check their timing chain installation.  Something tells me there is a problem with the chain installation or there is an oil seal that is leaking. You MIGHT be able to see oil leaking in that area (from under the vehicle) without removing the timing chain cover, this might just prove the oil seal theory. Or remove the current sensor and see if there is impact damage or oil on it.
Hope this helps, keep me posted will ya!
Have a great week.
Austin Davis

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Austin Davis, consumer car repair advocate. "Hi there! I love to help people solve their car repair problems and I hope my site was helpful to you today. Thank you for stopping by."