3.5 Nissan Engine Noise – Tapping at Cold Start Up

10:34 am Consumer, Drivetrain and Noises, Nissan, Service Writer, Tech/Mechanic


© DenLorsTools.com Summary: In this article we point out a common problem with Nissan automobiles equipped with the 3.5 Liter engine that causes engine tapping noises typically on cold start up. The engine has variable timing cam sprockets, three timing chains, three tensioners and three guides. Vehicles subject to similar issues may include Nissan Altima, Maxima, Murano, 350Z, Infiniti G35, G37, EX, FX, M series and QX4.

Nissan has stated before that a slight tap on cold start up that lasts for only a second is normal and acceptable. The tapping noise the vehicle in this auto repair blog had lasted much longer than that. When the car was allowed to cool down prior to starting, a tapping noise was present as long as the car was kept at idle; when the idle was raised to 1500 RPM’s he tapping would fade away. The noise when listened to with a stethoscope seemed to be coming mainly from the right bank near the firewall. This vehicle had excessive movement in the main timing chain from wear in the chain and guides. The main timing chain tensioner is pushed out to tighten the chain by engine oil pressure. The higher the RPM’s the more oil pressure is supplied. It also ratchets out like a self adjuster (similar to an adjuster for drum brakes) to maintain adjustment as wear occurs. As the chain and guides wear over time it ratchets out further and further. Once there is so much wear that it cannot extend any more, only the oil pressure from the engine pushing the tensioner, can reduce some of the excessive chain movement. That’s why at higher RPM’s the rattling subsides. Also as the engine warms up, more oil is circulated and heat expansion can help to reduce the play somewhat. The simplest way to check for excessive timing chain wear is to remove the rear access cover that will reveal the main timing chain tensioner. If the adjustment seems to be fully extended out of it’s bore – most likely the timing chain and guides have excessive wear causing the problem.


Other Possible Causes

This is not to say that the only possible cause of a rattle upon cold start up is the main timing chain and guides. The most obvious cause of this condition would simply be low oil level. Not surprising, if there’s not enough oil circulating in the engine it will make noise! Also an engine that hasn’t had regular oil changes can become sludged and oil passages, including the one that leads to the timing chain tensioner can become restricted. Also Nissan has had some problems with variable timing sprockets making noise sometimes and some tensioners that weren’t up to par. It’s important to diagnose the particular problem at hand and not assume that this is definitely the cause, but checking for a loose main timing chain is one of the most logical places to start.

The Fix

The confirmed fix for the car in this article (2004 Maxima 101,000 miles) was the primary timing chain, guides and tensioner. The job normally calls for about 11 book hours which includes removing the exhaust, starter, AC compressor and upper oil pan. The repair was done without removing those components which saved a lot of time.

107 Responses
  1. ‘nissan g35′ on the web « lynnegirl :

    Date: September 6, 2009 @ 12:15 pm

    […] http://www.denlorstools.com/autoblog/2009/09/3-5-nissan-engine-noise-tapping-at-cold-start-up/The engine has variable timing cam sprockets, three timing chains, three tensioners and three guides. Vehicles subject to similar issues may include Nissan Altima, Maxima, Murano, 350Z, Infiniti G35, G37, EX, FX, M and QX4. […]

  2. Thomas@Los Angeles Nissan :

    Date: October 6, 2009 @ 1:11 pm

    11 book hours sounds like an enormous amount of work! What happens if you just let it be I wonder?

  3. dennisb - Auto Tool Sales :

    Date: October 6, 2009 @ 8:10 pm

    Thomas, it would continue to gradually make more and more noise. If let go until it jumps timing – bent valves would probably be the result, requiring at least new timing chains AND rebuilt cylinder heads.

  4. jose :

    Date: November 13, 2009 @ 7:07 pm

    My maxima keeps jumping time. I have changed the tensioner and guides. the chain doesnt seem to be stretched and it still jumps time. Can somebody help me?

  5. dennisb - Auto Tool Sales :

    Date: November 14, 2009 @ 8:34 am

    Jose, As long as the chains, tensioners and guides have been changed and the timing is set up properly when it is all installed; I don’t really see how it could jump very easily. The main tensioner does work from engine oil pressure, so if the oil pressure is low this could allow some slack in the chain.

  6. jose :

    Date: November 14, 2009 @ 3:52 pm

    Would I need a new oil pump if the oil pressure is low? What would cause the oil pressure to go down? Wouldnt the oil pressure light come on if it was low?

    We have put the car together two times and it only starts at the first crank, then when we turn it off and crank it again it jumps time and it wont start.

  7. dennisb - Auto Tool Sales :

    Date: November 14, 2009 @ 4:34 pm

    I can imagine how frustrating it is to have a continuing problem like you’ve described. This is a huge job to re-do.

    Oil pump pressure can be low due to a bad oil pump or excessive bearing wear. The oil light should come on if the pressure is low. The water pump is also driven by the chain – excessive movement or play can allow for the chain to possibly jump teeth.

    You may want to use our ask a question page to ask a Nissan technician for his advice. Usually at any given time there are many technicians to choose to ask – I would look for someone with dealer experience with Nissans.

  8. ryan :

    Date: December 16, 2009 @ 11:29 pm

    I am having this problem right now with my 04 maxima. Like you are saying off a cold start only. it only has 70k. Is it worth being proactive and fixing the guides and tensioner?? and is $1500 a fair price??

  9. dennisb - Auto Tool Sales :

    Date: December 17, 2009 @ 7:52 am

    Ryan, assuming the oil level is full and it is in good condition and the noise is still present, I would plan on getting the repair as soon as feasible. $1500 is probably about right – have a written estimate prepared giving you a detailed breakdown of the labor hours, shop rate, individual parts to be replaced and so forth. With this estimate in hand you can compare with other shops in your area to see if the price is in line or not. Ultimately choose the shop you trust, don’t base your decision solely on the lowest estimate.

  10. DRII :

    Date: April 21, 2010 @ 12:29 am

    My 04 Maxima (88k miles) is doing the exact same thing. Rattling sound just on cold start up for like 6 seconds or so. I took it to a Nissan dealer – they did an engine flush and synthetic oil change and said everything looked good in the engine (base inspection). 2 days later the sound is back. How long can I wait, money is kinda tight at the moment. Can this likely tensioner problem seriously damage the engine?

  11. dennisb - Auto Tool Sales :

    Date: April 21, 2010 @ 7:05 am

    DRII, the timing chain noise is an indication of loose chains. While it’s making noise, there can be rapid wear during that initial 6 seconds. I wouldn’t really have anyway of guessing how long the repair can be postponed before the chain gets loose enough and jumps a sprocket; if that happens the car could stop running.

    I’m surprised that the Nissan dealer did a flush and a synthetic oil change, unless they saw some evidence of sludge in the engine from lack of maintenance. If the engine is sludged, it may be best to consider replacing the engine with a good used one, otherwise the timing chain job should suffice. Just make sure the engine is clean inside (not sludged) before deciding to spend $1500 or so on a timing chain job. Also if getting a used motor replacement, have a valve cover removed to insure there’s no sludge build up prior to purchasing.

  12. DRII :

    Date: April 21, 2010 @ 11:09 pm

    thanks Dennisb, I was the one that suggested the engine flush. The nissan tech said the engine looked very good – I usually spoil my cars. From what I hear a used VQ V6 engine with installation is about the same price as a timing chain repair. Should I just ride this particular engine as far as I can and then replace it. I heard of some people driving with bad tensioners for over 50,000 miles before the engine had to be worked on.

    I still don’t understand why it happens only on cold starts. Makes no sense to me…

  13. dennisb :

    Date: April 22, 2010 @ 8:31 am

    That’s a gamble I can’t really help with. As far as why it only makes noise on cold start up has to do with the hydraulic tensioners and the worn chains. The chains have the most slack in them when the hydraulic tensioners are bled down after sitting. When the engine is started and the oil pressure builds up (in a few seconds) the hydraulic tensioners fill with oil pressure that in turn holds the chains tight enough to reduce/eliminate the chatter. A definite flaw… usually with a “timing chain engine” there wouldn’t be any problem until there’s well over 100,000 miles.

  14. Teeto :

    Date: May 17, 2010 @ 3:06 am

    Hey Dennisb, i have a 2004 nissan murano and im the first owner of the vehicle. it was making the same start up noise but then my tranny went on me.. i got the tranny rebuild for $2000 but the noise was still there..then i got the tensions and chains replace with a few other parts plus the oil pump but the starting noise is still there for about 3 seconds then it goes away.. i spent over $3000 already and i cant believe the noise still there, any help ? thanks for your time…

  15. dennisb - Auto Tool Sales :

    Date: May 17, 2010 @ 6:15 am

    Teeto, ouch. Obviously the transmission problem was totally unrelated. I would take it back to the shop that did the chains – they did replace the tensioners and guides hopefully. Other than that you may want to ask a Nissan dealer tech for more information about other causes on our car questions page linked at the top of the page.

  16. reginald :

    Date: June 15, 2010 @ 8:58 am

    I have a 2000 Infiniti I30 it was low on oil, ran hot due to a busted radiator un beknown to me at the time and ran hot, now that oil and the radiator has been replaced I hear a continuous tapping noise on the right side of the engine. What could this possibly be?

  17. dennisb - Auto Tool Sales :

    Date: June 15, 2010 @ 9:19 am

    Reginald, anytime overheating occurs damage can be done. A technician with a mechanics stethoscope may be able to help pinpoint the problem area.

  18. Bob :

    Date: June 28, 2010 @ 9:11 pm

    I have a 2003 3.5 with the ticking issue. Started about 85k and I’mat 112k now.

    Something to note… I’ve noticed that sometimes mine wont tick at all. But 90%of the time it will tick LOUD for 15 to 30 seconds. I also have high rpm cutout and missfire. The dealer said mu problem was VTT valve? part 13025-AE21A. Quote was 1400.00.

    I wonder if this is a good diagnosis.

  19. Bryan Ellsaesser :

    Date: July 28, 2010 @ 1:23 pm

    I have a 2005 Altima SE, 3.5 L. This tensioner problem exactly describes my experience. Cold start idle noises which fade after a few minutes of running and immediately fade at higher rpms. I choose to ignore the problem (dumb) and now my Engine just got a lot noisier and a low oil pressure condition is present. I immediately stopped driving it and took it to a mechanic.

    I’m hoping that the low oil pressure is due to a break down in the timing chain apparatus somewhere? Any likelihood of this? My mechanic wants to just replace the whole Engine but he hasn’t dropped the pan or taken off the valve cover to look at any bearings. I went to another shop for a 2nd opinion and they showed me a service bulletin to replace faulty/poor design tensioner components.

    I’m stuck gambling with a tensioner repair job being the limit of my problems or with sinking money to fix this only to find that the engine needs replacement anyway.

    Another thing I thought of. If I replace the engine, won’t the ‘new’ engine have the same defect and require the same tensioner work? Something to consider for those in this thread thinking of just replacing an engine.

  20. Pat :

    Date: October 24, 2010 @ 10:46 pm

    My 2003 v6 engine did the same thing on cold start.
    I also noticed that oil leak behind the oil filter BASE, the round thing a little bigger than the oil filter.

    But when the tapping noise stopped, the oil leak stopped also.

  21. Rmcottijr :

    Date: November 10, 2010 @ 8:48 am

    I have a 1996 3.0 Maxima and I just replaced the water pump and now I have a tapping sound. The engine sounds fine other then the tapping. could I be having the same problem?

    When I was turning the engine to make sure I did not hit any valves I did see the guide moving and clicking.

    Thanks for your help,

  22. dennisb - Auto Tool Sales :

    Date: November 10, 2010 @ 9:03 am

    Bob, sounds like a good possibility.

  23. Rmciottijr :

    Date: November 10, 2010 @ 10:34 pm

    We looked at it today and it was the hydraulic tensioner, it took time for the oil to build up pressure to apply the full tension. It is running great now.


  24. dennisb - Auto Tool Sales :

    Date: November 11, 2010 @ 7:19 am

    Bob, glad you got it resolved.

  25. BOB TOBIN :

    Date: January 30, 2011 @ 4:46 pm


  26. joel :

    Date: April 22, 2011 @ 11:26 pm

    I have the same problem when I start the car cold it does that lil noise for a couple seconds then fades away. What is the common price on this job?

  27. Marlon :

    Date: November 14, 2011 @ 2:43 pm


    Mine 05 Nissan Teana, equipped with this VQ35de engine has the same problem with only 30K miles. Whenever I let the car stands for 15 to 30 minytes I hear a rattle sound for about 1-2 seconds. I changed the oil to Mobile-1 10W-30 synthetic, still sounds. I use Nissan Ester oil, specially designed for these engines, still the same sound. I replaced the main tensioner and the chain guide, still the same sound!!!
    I spend a lot of $$$ already, still no soultion!!! Please help

  28. Norm :

    Date: November 19, 2011 @ 9:41 pm

    I have a 03 G35 with a 3.5 and have been having the same start up rattle that others have. it started @ 100k and now has 208k I did end up today replacing timing guides, tensioner and chain but only the main one. guess what still have rattle. Dealer told me the 2 other chains with tensioners do not need to be replaced. You think this is some other issue?
    I have tried other grade oil-lucas additive.
    still nothing. Love the car can anyone help?

  29. dennisb - Auto Tool Sales :

    Date: November 20, 2011 @ 7:44 am

    Norm, the article was written to help with rattle problems from timing chains on these engines that occur before regular wear would normally cause issues (i.e. 100,000 or less). Extended driving with the noise will most likely result in excessive wear on all the related components. Imagine everything flopping around for thousands of miles! I would recommend on higher mileage engines, replacing ALL the chains, tensioners and guides. And at 208,000 miles it would probably be a good idea to go through the entire engine and maybe do a complete rebuild. Good Luck.

  30. Marlon :

    Date: November 21, 2011 @ 1:02 pm

    Dennis, Any recommendation for my car? See my issue above dd 14Nov2011

  31. dennisb - Auto Tool Sales :

    Date: November 21, 2011 @ 1:36 pm

    Marlon, as stated in the article Nissan has said that 1-2 seconds tapping is acceptable upon 1st start up. However, I would have changed the ratcheting tensioner if I was the one working on it. Another cause could be lack of enough oil pressure on start up. Good Luck.

  32. Marlon :

    Date: November 22, 2011 @ 10:47 am

    Hi Dennis, Which one is the ratcheting tensioner? I noticed that my car starts very fast, and the oil light in the dash goes away immediately. Do you think that this fast starting, won’t allow the oil pressured tensioner to get enough oil to avoid the chain slack?

  33. dennisb - Auto Tool Sales :

    Date: November 22, 2011 @ 11:32 am

    The main tensioner if I remember correctly ratchets. Fast starting was never mentioned in anything that I ever read about regarding the tapping on first start up. Too bad we can’t ask the engineer’s at Nissan to find out why tapping for 1-2 seconds is acceptable. That wouldn’t make me very happy hearing that “rap’ every morning!

  34. Marlon :

    Date: November 22, 2011 @ 12:14 pm

    I love that car and engine, except for that frustrating “tapping ” for 1or 2 seconds, everytime I let the car sit down for a couple of minutes. I wish like you said, a Nissan engineer would explain this, and possibly come with a solution also!!! Cheers

  35. mark :

    Date: February 12, 2012 @ 1:47 am

    Isn’t there a cover behind the water pump to acess the hydraulic Timing Chain Tensioner. Could you just remove that and replace that one to fix the issue… and if that is possible could you describe how to do it with a pic as well.

  36. dennisb - Auto Tool Sales :

    Date: February 12, 2012 @ 8:06 am

    Mark, you may want to check a repair manual for information on trying just a tensioner for the main timing chain. Like stated in the article, there could be other contributing factors, causing looseness in the chain. Worn guides, decreased oil pressure etc. Also there are a total of three hydraulic tensioners. The tensioners for the small chains require pulling the sprockets off to change them. Good Luck.

  37. Daryl :

    Date: April 13, 2012 @ 7:58 pm

    Something to consider when buying a Nissan after 1999 is that when the French company, Renault, partnered with them, Nissan’s reliability took a tumble. Renault has a long history of building very unreliable cars with low quality, problem prone parts. Their influence rubbed off on Nissan and now Nissan’s don’t hold up like they used too. Tensioners, motor mounts, fuel pumps, air conditioners, and engines with oil consumption problems are now commonplace. And now with the Mercedes partnership, quality is expected to fall even more. I love my 1997 Maxima. They don’t make them like that anymore.

  38. dennisb - Auto Tool Sales :

    Date: April 14, 2012 @ 8:08 am

    Daryl, thanks for pointing this out. I’m not sure how much Renault partnering with Nissan has affected quality and design but I guess anything is possible. I remember when Nissan was “Datsun”. A lot has changed since then. Some good some bad… mostly good. We’ve gone from 240’s to 370’s!

    Just as it is impossible to buy a 100% American car nowadays, the same holds true for purchasing a car that is purely Japanese. My Dodge pick up truck has a Mercedes engine… my wife’s Chevy car has some parts marked “Made in China”. The automobile industry has turned into one huge melding pot!

  39. Osama :

    Date: August 29, 2012 @ 6:10 pm

    I have the same problem… when it first happened, my oil light flickered when the car stopped at a light or sign… oil changes help a little bit, but as I read somewhere else, dumping oil will just mask the problem, and you have to be careful not to put too much oil in it… I am wondering Dennis, should I change this stupid tensioner myself? People complaining about 1-2 seconds, lasts much longer, and sometimes it doesnt go away at all… there is 0 noise when you rev up the car though… the problem is only at start up and/or low RPM…

  40. dennisb - Auto Tool Sales :

    Date: August 30, 2012 @ 6:24 am

    Osama, adding too much oil can cause leaks. It depends upon an individual’s mechanical skills, if it would make sense to attempt the job. Also, it’s still a gamble because there could be sludge or other problems. Good Luck.

  41. Dancobra75 :

    Date: September 18, 2012 @ 3:21 pm

    My 06 max had the timing chain rattle, I took off the access cover and my tensioner was fully extended, so I removed it, built and extended its reach using a modified and polished socket, popped it back in and fired it up, works perfect, no rattle and that was around 40,000 miles ago;)

  42. DavidJ :

    Date: October 29, 2012 @ 6:53 pm

    @Daryl-I’m not sure if you’re assuming that Renault is a poor brand because of what was available in the US market in the 70s and 80s. Renault has a good reputation in Europe but the vehicles available to the USA during the 70s and 80s were built in partnership with AMC which is why the quality was so poor.

  43. Bob :

    Date: November 24, 2012 @ 8:11 pm


    I have a 2003 Maxima with 170,000. Although the timing chain rattles after some cold starts (less than a second before the noise stops), that’s not why I’m writing.

    Here’s why I’m writing: Sometimes, after the vehicle has cooled down, at the next start one or more intake or exhaust valves “stick” and will not close. This results in loss of compression and hard starting. When the engine does start it’s accompanied by rough running and the same sound that a vehicle with collapsed hydraulic valve lifters would make… After running for a minute or so the valve noise subsides and the engine runs smoothly again. Engine codes are not generated (e.g. random misfires). I use Mobil 1 and change the oil on a very regular basis every 7,000 to 10,000 miles. I had to replace the oil pan (it rusted and leaked) about a year ago and the engine looked extremely clean inside.

    One note: I owned a 1998 Maxima and a I30. Both engines exhibited the same problem.

    Any suggestion about what I might be able to do to stop valves from sticking at startup?

    Thanks, Bob

  44. dennisb - Auto Tool Sales :

    Date: November 25, 2012 @ 11:00 am

    Bob, could be leaky hydraulic lifters losing their charge (leaking down) when the engine is off. Good Luck.

  45. Tony :

    Date: November 26, 2012 @ 2:28 pm


    I have a similiar issue. I own a 2004 G35 coupe with 165K miles and a VQ35DE non-rev up engine. I have the rattle like sound at start up, but only when the engine is cold. It last for 2 seconds or so then goes away. If I start it again while its warm, there is no sound. If it sits for while, the rattle will come back at start up. So it only happens when the engine has completely cooled. The only thing different is that the rattle comes back around 2000-3500 rpms. Its consistent in that range. Then it goes away, and I want to say it shows up again around 5000 to 5300 rpms. Its not terribly loud though. Its noticeable, but not loud.

    At first I thought it was something in the transmission since it seems to change not not be as noticeable in higher gears. Also, it only happens under load, so if I let off on the gas, it goes away. Its only when I’m pressing on it.

    I took it in for a tune and the tuner did not want to do the tune. He did a 5 minute evaluation and said its the big end bearing going bad. So I thought it was the big end bearing. When the car is on the lift you can actually stand next to the transmission well and hear the sound.

    After that, I took it to a specialty shop in regards to doing an engine swap or engine rebuild. They wanted to hear the sound, and they believe that its not the big end or transmission at all. The car is pretty quiet at idle. Just so you know, I live the UK and the G35 is very unfamiliar here. They know the 350z engine though so that helps. Anyway, they were able to pinpoint the noise from behind the timing cover which is exactly where one of the timing sprockets is located. If I remember right, there is a TSB out for my car on this. The only issue I have, is that the TSB only referenced start up noise. Is it possible that this rattle like noise could be my timing sprocket? Could a timing sprocket make noise at startup and different rpm levels?

    There was a time I did run low on oil and I’m very disappointed in myself for listening to someone that showed me the proper way to check engine oil. I should have known better in this engine. I never check my engine unless its completely cold now. I cant get a proper reading when its warmed up. I just estimate for expansion and add oil accordingly since it does use oil a bit.

    Also, I might add, I’ve been driving with this sound for the past 25K miles or so. I’ve taken my car to Germany and pushed it to 130-155 mph for 10 to 15 min spurts on the autobahn. This leads to me and the shop that I took my car to, to beleive its not the big end bearing.

    Thank you for your help. Been trying to get help on this for some time now.


  46. dennisb - Auto Tool Sales :

    Date: November 26, 2012 @ 3:27 pm

    Tony, there may be a couple of different noises. The rattle at cold start-up may be due to the problem listed in the article. The other noise that is heard at higher RPM’s may be a main bearing noise (because the top end rattle normally goes away at higher RPM’s). I would pull the oil pan to inspect the main bearings. Another option would be to keep driving it and see if the noises get louder and therefore easier to pinpoint. Good Luck.

  47. Bob :

    Date: November 26, 2012 @ 7:17 pm


    Thank you for your response. I also thought it might be leaky hydraulic lifters, but to the best of my knowledge the Nissan V6 doesn’t use them. When the problem occurs, during cranking but prior to starting it’s very clear that one or more cylinders have little or no compression. That combined with hard starting leads me to believe that one or more intake valves are not closing. What I don’t know is whether they’re not closing because of sticking valve stems or because of an object (e.g. carbon nodules) sticking to the valve or valve seat. Although I find the problem disturbing, engine operation returns to normal after a few minutes. I just wish I had a bit more insight into the root cause of the problem….

    Thank you,


  48. dennisb - Auto Tool Sales :

    Date: November 27, 2012 @ 7:25 am

    Bob, I believe the root cause of the problem is the hydraulic tensioner like talked about in the article. Nissan’s are prone to engine oil getting gummed up as well that can cause multiple problems and noises. I found a engine parts breakdown at courtesyparts.com. The lifter is highlighted, click on the image for a larger view.

    I have not looked in a service manual, however I believe Nissan uses shims to adjust the valves. I would inspect for engine gunk on this engine before planning any type of repair. If you wanted to test your “excess carbon build up” theory, you could have a thorough fuel injection and induction service performed to see if there’s any improvement. Good Luck

  49. Bob :

    Date: November 28, 2012 @ 7:03 am


    Thank you for your advice. Because I’m quite certain that the fuel injection system and intake manifolds are clean (based on my removal of the intake collector to change spark plugs), I’m probably not going to do anything until a valve sticks and won’t unstick… And then it will be time to buy a new car.

    One other observation: Twice my 1998 Maxima suddenly started misfiring (engine codes generated), and both times I found a carbon nodule lodged in a sparkplug. Based on experience with four previous Nissan V6s I’ll bet that carbon nodules form in the heads near fuel injectors or on intake valves… My theory: Sometime, when these nodules break off they enter the cylinder they lodge in an inopportune spot like a valve seat or sparkplug…. This results in valve noise, misfiring and lots of consternation, but no real damage. Only time may tell…

    Thank you again.


  50. dennisb - Auto Tool Sales :

    Date: November 28, 2012 @ 7:12 am

    Bob, sounds reasonable to me. Thanks for the comments.

  51. dalegt500 :

    Date: January 20, 2013 @ 1:05 pm

    all the guys with the start up noise, the hyd. timing tentioner has a tention lock bar on it unless it is broken chain tention should stay where it was when engine shuts douwn, locking paw holds it in place untill oil pressure returns, if chain and guides are worn enough to let tention go beyond the last tooth in the locking mech. while oil pressure is aginst it, chain is out of spec, chain needs replaced asap,

  52. Dean :

    Date: January 31, 2013 @ 12:36 pm


    Do you know for sure if Nissan uses shims on the lifters to correct valve noise? If so where can these shims be order from?
    The reason I feel the noise is valve related is because. I just had the head on the 03 Nissan 2.5L redone and the noise is still in the top end of this engine.

  53. dennisb - Auto Tool Sales :

    Date: January 31, 2013 @ 2:50 pm

    Dean, I have no experience adjusting valves on this type of car. So I would refer to a repair manual. Good Luck.

  54. Cynthia :

    Date: March 25, 2013 @ 12:02 am

    My car makes a ticking noise to sometimes when I start it but not for long I have a 2005 Nissan Altima v6. What do you think it is? I took it to my mechanic but it didn’t make the noise so he couldn’t tell me what it is. Dob you think its my lifters?

  55. Cynthia :

    Date: March 25, 2013 @ 12:07 am

    Oh yea and the ticking sounds like its on the right side in the back I just bought the car and on the navigation it says engine oil change due but the. Guy I got it from says no he changed it but it’s close to doing oil change on the sticker on window what do you think it is? Please help me thanks.

  56. dennisb - Auto Tool Sales :

    Date: March 25, 2013 @ 6:20 am

    Cynthia, a mechanic would need to hear the noise to be able to provide you with a better opinion. Maybe you can leave it overnight with him so he can hear it on a cold start-up. Sounds like it could be from this common issue though. Good Luck.

  57. Cynthia :

    Date: March 25, 2013 @ 5:41 pm

    Thank you so much but i have another question. Sometimes it doesn’t make the noise even when i first start it up and why when i turn car off then get back in start it again its not cold it makes the noise i’m sure car is warm sorry to bother you lol have a blessed day

  58. dennisb - Auto Tool Sales :

    Date: March 25, 2013 @ 6:10 pm

    Cynthia that doesn’t sound like the problem this article is about. Best bet is to have someone check it in person. Good Luck.

  59. Cynthia :

    Date: March 25, 2013 @ 7:02 pm


  60. michael karis :

    Date: April 9, 2013 @ 2:04 pm

    what would cause a 2003 Nissan maxima to knock only when u first start it n when u cut it off please help if can

  61. dennisb - Auto Tool Sales :

    Date: April 10, 2013 @ 6:44 am

    Michael, the article provides one possibility for the noise upon start up. The knock when the engine is turned off is strange. It would take a experienced tech in person to determine what the problem might be. Good Luck.

  62. michael karis :

    Date: May 8, 2013 @ 5:14 pm

    my 2003 maxima has a knock when u first start it n when u cut it off what could cause that people tell me don’t worry abt it if it aint doin it while ur drivin can u please give me some idea what it could b thanks …

  63. michael karis :

    Date: May 8, 2013 @ 5:17 pm

    what could cause it atleast when u first start it

  64. doug :

    Date: May 27, 2013 @ 10:20 pm

    Dennis, I had the same noise on a 03 altime 3.5l that I am working on, my friend does not have a lot of money so I only replaced the chain guide and tensioner..the guide’s plastic piece was broken and slid down..I still have the noise, one thing I noticed is that the old tensioner had a rubber like seal around the area where the oil goes to the plunger part of tensioner but, the new one didn’t can that cause oil to not build pressure on tensioner? When I spun the chain the tensioner would kind of move back and forth just a bit I didn’t know if this was normal..


  65. dennisb - Auto Tool Sales :

    Date: May 28, 2013 @ 10:34 am

    Doug, it’s been several years since I’ve had one of these engines apart, but no seal would possibly allow pressure to escape. I think it’s normal for the tensioner to move a bit. Good Luck.

  66. Cynthia :

    Date: June 11, 2013 @ 12:54 am

    Dennis my car makes a clicking noise but stops after a while i have a Nissan altima 2005 v6 and i know its time for the oil change but do you think it could be my timming belt should i stop driving my car

  67. dennisb - Auto Tool Sales :

    Date: June 11, 2013 @ 6:33 am

    Cynthia, many people continue to drive their cars if the tapping at start up goes away fairly quickly. As mentioned in the article these cars have timing chains not belts; and the chains/tensioners are indirectly a common source of the tapping sound upon start up. I would make sure the oil is full and in good condition and if the engine doesn’t stop tapping quickly I would not recommend driving it. Good Luck.

  68. 350z guy :

    Date: October 3, 2013 @ 3:53 am

    dennis im having the same problem with the knoking at cold start for 3 seconds with my 350z n i thought i bought a lemon but read all the comments n questions people asked n feel relieved im not the only with te problem n now have some idea wat to do thank u

  69. lee :

    Date: January 7, 2014 @ 10:51 am

    Hello, I hv 07 nissan sentra, I just had a catalytic converter and 02 sensor replaced. Just recently during initially start up in the mornings I get one cluck sound and during acceleration a scrubbing sound. As I drive the scrubbing sound go away. Every now or then, when I slow down and accelerate I will hear the scrubbing sound but this does not happen every time. Other times after my car has warmed up the scrubbing sound is gone until cold again unless in a deep turn. My car sounds okay when accelerating in park. I wld greatly appreciate any advice.

  70. dennisb - Auto Tool Sales :

    Date: January 7, 2014 @ 11:15 am

    Lee, you shouldn’t have a 3.5 in a Sentra (either a 2.0 or a 2.5). Regardless, since you don’t have a rattle noise upon start-up and you do have the noise on sharp turns along with the fact that you just had exhaust work done; I would suspect the exhaust is rubbing. I would look for signs of the exhaust touching the car underneath. Also would take a look at the motor mounts in case that’s the reason for the exhaust maybe moving too much. Good Luck.

  71. lee :

    Date: January 7, 2014 @ 12:45 pm

    Thanks so much for your help. If it turns out this is the problem would it be something i would need to handle immediately?

  72. dennisb - Auto Tool Sales :

    Date: January 7, 2014 @ 2:03 pm

    Usually not an urgent thing. But anything left unrepaired could always cause other issues.

  73. lee :

    Date: January 7, 2014 @ 2:33 pm

    Thank you again

  74. Zerosk8er :

    Date: January 27, 2014 @ 6:05 pm

    I’ve been working on a 2005 Nissan quest with the 3.5 dohc engine. I’ve replaced all three chains along with all the tensioners. I took my time and made sure everything was to exact specification and timed perfectly, but once the engine warms up the chain will rattle between 2000 to 2500 rpm always in that range and will never rattle until at operating temp. I’ve had the engine out twice but cannot come up with an answer. If you can help I’d appreciate it.

  75. dennisb - Auto Tool Sales :

    Date: January 29, 2014 @ 10:23 am

    The problem with the chains and tensioners has to do with rattling upon first start up. I would say that lack of oiling due to a gunked (restricting oil flow through passages) engine or a restricted pick up screen for the oil pan could cause a rattle noise after the engine is fully warmed up. Good Luck.

  76. Terry :

    Date: February 22, 2014 @ 9:21 pm

    I test drove a 2004 Maxima today and was excited about buying it, until I heard a rattle at start up which lead me to this site. Lots of good info. But I must say I’m rather suprised to hear all of these problems cause my old 1998 maxima never had any of these problems and it had over 300,000+ miles. So I decided to research on Consumer Reports and found that a lot of nissans have black circles for engines, transmissions, electrical, and other areas. I’m shocked cause the older Maximas (like my 1998) had full red circles everywhere. Now I’m nervous. Should I buy this 2004 Maxima (automatic) or am I just asking for trouble? It only has 90,000 miles on it.

  77. dennisb - Auto Tool Sales :

    Date: February 23, 2014 @ 9:50 am

    Terry, a very slight rattle on start up may be OK. But, I would look at the engine oil closely and possibly have the valve cover removed to check for sludge build-up in case the oil wasn’t changed as often as it should have been. But if it rattles more than a split second I would probably look elsewhere. If you really like the car and want to get it, a good extended warranty would make great sense. Just shop around, because sometimes you pay a lot more for this type of coverage at the dealerships. Just check with your regular repair shop to make sure they accept the policy you end up with. Good Luck.

  78. RudyG :

    Date: February 27, 2014 @ 9:55 pm

    Hi Dennis, I’ve had those sounds in my 2005 3.5 190K very spirited driving Altima as well. It may have something to do with the oil and the exact weight of it. I don’t always put 5/20 and sometimes use those mystery additives etc… The noise comes and goes and only last for a few seconds anyhow.

    The issue I’m having now… As I leave off from a light and get to third gear, as I let off the gas I hear this noise ex:(as you exhale, rattle your tongue against the top of your mouth behind your front teeth). It’s like a big rig downshifting… Anyhow, it seems like the tranny or something is holding it up from downshifting smoothly… Any ideas? Thank you, Rudy.

  79. dennisb - Auto Tool Sales :

    Date: February 28, 2014 @ 7:20 am

    Rudy, that’s a little hard for me to imagine. But, if it sounds like air it’s most likely exhaust. Possibly an exhaust leak. If the catalytic converter is starting to become restricted that could aggravate the issue. Perhaps having a local technician test drive the car would be better since they can hear and experience what you’re describing. Good Luck.

  80. RudyG :

    Date: March 1, 2014 @ 5:00 am

    Definately not an air sound… I was thinking if there was a timing sensor or a heat valve of sorts that could throw the tranny off…? I recently just changed the thermostat housing & took out the injectors for a pro ultrasonic cleaning, now I have this noise and the slight shift issue. Thanks again!

  81. AndrewG :

    Date: June 12, 2014 @ 1:11 am

    Hey, I’m not sure if this is the right place to drop this question. I will be quick though ;/)
    I have 2005 Altima 3.5l. Code P0011 keeps coming up intermittently. Most of the time when engine warms up and when I push it to higher rpm. Some times it will get logged while driving and I can detect detonation knock but most of the time when come down to idle and it idles rough then. I red that most likely VVT solenoid would be a culprit and it make sense. My question is: is it possible to clean this solenoid? Is there an additional strainer before VVT solenoid that can be cleaned or replaced just in some Toyotas? I would appreciate very much your input. Thank you.

  82. dennisb - Auto Tool Sales :

    Date: June 12, 2014 @ 2:14 pm

    Nissan Altima Sentra and Maxima vehicles from around 2002 to 2012 with the fault code P0011 may have a bad or sticking intake valve timing control/solenoid valve. It’s not really possible to take this apart and clean it. Other possible causes are below.
    – Intake Valve Timing Control Solenoid Valve harness is open or shorted
    – Intake Valve Timing Control Solenoid Valve circuit poor electrical connection
    – Faulty Camshaft Position Sensor
    – Camshaft Position Sensor harness is open or shorted
    – Camshaft Position Sensor circuit poor electrical connection
    – Faulty Crankshaft Position Sensor (POS)
    Some techs say that changing the engine oil may help but that is unlikely in my opinion. However, if your oil is dark and it’s due for an oil and change you have nothing to lose by changing the oil and filter and try erasing the fault code. Good Luck.

  83. naser :

    Date: July 18, 2014 @ 1:46 am

    If I use large oil filter will that affect on hydraulic chain tensioner?

  84. dennisb - Auto Tool Sales :

    Date: July 18, 2014 @ 7:19 am

    Naser, I’m not sure that you would get anymore oil to the tensioner. It may be that the passage is clogged or the hydraulic tensioner leaks. But it’s easy enough to install a larger capacity oil filter to see what happens. Good Luck.

  85. sasha vargas :

    Date: July 19, 2014 @ 10:58 pm

    I have a nissan maxima 2005 , I keep hearing a ticking when I turn on my car, but when I run it , it goes away. What’s wrong with it? Is it expensive to fix?

  86. dennisb - Auto Tool Sales :

    Date: July 20, 2014 @ 8:14 am

    Sasha, that sounds like it could be the problem covered in the repair article. Have your mechanic read it and go from there. Good Luck.

  87. Dom :

    Date: August 11, 2014 @ 5:01 pm

    I have a 2006 Nissan maxima that had the start up ticking. it has always just been on the start up, and I’ve never had any performance issues so I ignored it. but the other day I was driving down the road and the oil light came on and the ticking noise came on as well. so I pulled over right away and turned off the car to check the oil it was full of oil and it was very clean because I just changed it 2 weeks ago. do you thinking the problem now is the oil pump?

  88. dennisb - Auto Tool Sales :

    Date: August 11, 2014 @ 5:26 pm

    Could be, but more likely a gunked engine and wear. Ticking is never good even if we can learn to live with it. Good Luck.

  89. ShaNautica :

    Date: October 13, 2014 @ 11:56 am

    I’m trying to help my fiance find a cheap but good car and i found a 2003 Nissan altima but they say the timing chain has bent the values. He has about 2000$ to work with and they want 900$ should we risk it? How much would that repair cost?

  90. dennisb - Auto Tool Sales :

    Date: October 13, 2014 @ 12:12 pm

    Too many unknowns to gamble in my opinion. You can check with a local shop for an estimate of repair. But, since you can’t run the car how do you know the transmission is good, the AC works, the wheel bearings and axles are good etc? Also, without taking the cover off how do you know that the engine has had regular oil changes and there’s no sludge build-up? If the car needs any of these other repairs or if it ends up needing a used engine installed, the budget of $2,000 is blown. I’d rather keep looking for a car that can be test driven or get the 03 Nissan for a couple of hundred bucks and take a chance. Good Luck.

  91. ShaNautica :

    Date: October 13, 2014 @ 12:42 pm

    ok thank you for your help

  92. Bryan :

    Date: October 14, 2014 @ 7:02 pm

    My 2005 Nissan altima 3.5 SE V6 is making a ticking noise. My service engine light just came on about a month ago. Sometimes when I go to crank it up it takes 3 times for it to cut on. I took it to a mechanic to check and see if my tranny was about to go out. The mechanic said his machine didn’t signal anything about my tranny being bad. But he did mention something about some type of sensor and that’s why my car won’t start right away. And as I was driving today while I’m at a red light the motor was acting like it wanted to cut off. Do you know the reason for this please help!

  93. dennisb - Auto Tool Sales :

    Date: October 15, 2014 @ 7:28 am

    Bryan, none of the symptoms you mentioned would make me think there was a problem with the transmission. The ticking could be low oil, lifters or just normal sounds coming from the fuel injectors. As far as the slow to crank issue, it could be a dirty throttle body, a bad fuel pump allowing the prime to bleed down or possibly a crankshafty position sensor starting to fail. The Service Engine Soon (SES) or sometimes called CEL (Check Engine Light) is you best clue to determining the running problem. Only your mechanic knows what code is stored, so if I were you I would take his advice. Good Luck.

  94. Dillon :

    Date: October 23, 2014 @ 10:19 pm

    Hey Dennis, thank you for the article! It’s been very informative.

    My ’04 Maxima has been experiencing the exact issue laid out in your post. Loud tapping on cold starts that eventually fades away once the car has warmed up.

    My check engine light turned on about a week ago. I continued driving when one day my power steering went out and the engine stalled. I was able to turn it back on and make it home.

    I took my car to the mechanic where they diagnosed 3 codes, both camshaft sensors and a crankshaft sensor. They want $880 to replace all 3… Is this a reasonable estimate? Could all 3 sensors go bad at the same time?

    Also, they didn’t suggest any timing chain repairs to remedy the tapping sound… They suggested trying a thicker or better oil..

    Should I take it to another shop for another diagnosis?

  95. dennisb - Auto Tool Sales :

    Date: October 24, 2014 @ 7:30 am

    Dillon, the power steering will most likely work when the engine is running again. The engine probably stalled first, disabling the P.S. (Power Steering). As far as all sensors failing at the same time… I think that’s highly unlikely. What is much more probable is that something failed to cause all of them to be out of sync at the same time. Most likely cause in my opinion could be the chain jumped a tooth or more which would cause the cam sensors to be out of synchronization. The Crank sensor shouldn’t really be affected. I’d be surprised that that code was really set. They may be suggesting that sensor as a preventative measure, since they think the cam sensors both failed. And the suggestion to use thicker oil would likely result in it taking a little longer to reach the top of the engine especially in colder weather – which would not help your situation. That could actually cause more noise and wear because of the delay in lubrication on the top end. I’d have a different technician check to see if the timing marks are aligned or not. My guess is that they are not and that’s the reason for the codes that set simultaneously. Good Luck.

  96. Lori :

    Date: November 14, 2014 @ 6:07 pm

    I have a 2000 infiniti i30, it has well over 200,000 miles on it. It just started tapping and burning oil. The tapping is almost constant and Im needing to add oil once a week. Is this the end of my car?? This has been a wonderful car to me for years!

  97. dennisb - Auto Tool Sales :

    Date: November 15, 2014 @ 4:32 pm

    Lori, sounds serious. I would consider replacing the engine rather than patching it since it has so many miles. Good Luck.

  98. sunday ese :

    Date: January 10, 2015 @ 5:09 am

    Good morning Dennisb, after changing head my Nissan Quest top head cylinder gasket the engine now developed perpetual tapping sound, please what can I do to resolve this (Nissan Quest 1999 model).

  99. dennisb - Auto Tool Sales :

    Date: January 10, 2015 @ 8:52 am

    As long as you are sure the timing is correct, it could be an oiling issue. When doing a head gasket it’s very important to clean the gasket material throughly and not clog any ports which could be for oiling and coolant. I’d try chaning the oil again. It’s also possible that a lifter is not pumping back up. Good Luck.

  100. matt c :

    Date: May 1, 2015 @ 10:19 am

    my problem is a noise when i shut dowm the engine. i have a 02 maxima with a 3.5 and 170,000 miles. new tranny last year and an alternator from courtsey.just changed out the valve covers, spark plugs and all new coils,thought that may take care of the noise.engine still not as powerful as when new but close. almost sounds like an exhaust system pinging and it only lasts a couple seconds.just started about 3 months ago. wat da think? thanks for your time matt

  101. matt c :

    Date: May 1, 2015 @ 11:37 am

    maybe you’d call it more like a rattling noise when shutting down the car. thanks again matt

  102. Nicole Coleman :

    Date: May 1, 2015 @ 12:23 pm

    after driving a car 2008 Nissan Altima 6 cylinder I hear a ticking noise once the car is off someone told me I may have sludge in my engine should I do it engine flush please help thank you

  103. Nicole Coleman :

    Date: May 1, 2015 @ 12:26 pm

    I have a 2008 Nissan Altima the six cylinder I hear noise ticking noise when I stop the car the car is off after driving I will hear a ticking noise

  104. Jonn :

    Date: May 13, 2015 @ 8:14 am

    I almost bought this car thinking it was reliable because it was a Nissan. I was aware that Renault had some influence but I dismissed it thinking it wouldn’t affect reliability. After reading through this,I’m so glad I avoided this and Nissans in general. Nissans reliability problems since Renault are no myth. Thanks for sharing your stories.

  105. dennisb - Auto Tool Sales :

    Date: May 13, 2015 @ 8:23 am

    I own two Nissan’s. A 2013 Nissan Frontier and a 2013 Infiniti G37. Neither one reminds me remotely of a Renault – quality wise or in any other capacity. Any car with over a hundred thousand miles on it is bound to have some issues and no manufacturer is perfect, they all have flaws. Purchase what you like and be prepared to do some repairs, especially if you keep the vehicle long enough.

  106. Danilea :

    Date: September 10, 2015 @ 2:32 am

    I have an 2005 Nissan altima se 3.5l and every time I start it no matter when it has a ticking/ratteling noise that comes and goes! Some days its louder and stays longer! Not only when its cold. I’ve had a couple people listen and got a couple different opinions and i don’t know what one to go with!

  107. dennisb - Auto Tool Sales :

    Date: September 10, 2015 @ 6:59 am

    Danilea, I’m at a disadvantage here, since I don’t have the benefit of hearing the engine before offering an opinion – but from your description I’d say it’s probably a lifter. Good Luck.

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