I have recently had the privilege of working on the 2000 Nissan Maxima Se 3.0V6. This is a great car, with some common issues reported from other Nissan Maxima owners. One common problem is the intermittent rough idle and the SES light coming on. There are a lot of mechanics telling tall tales about the root cause of these problems, so I thought I would investigate it further.
The first thing we will look at is the SES trouble codes. If the SES light trouble codes show “Primary Ignition Failure”, this is generally pointing to the ignition coils. The code may designate a cylinder, or it may say “Multiple Ignition Failure.” Obviously, if you are lucky enough to get a code telling which cylinder it is, replace the ignition coil for that cylinder. Pay close attention to the location of the cylinder when ordering the part, as the front and rear cylinders have different ignition coils. They are easy to replace in the front. Simply remove the plastic engine cover using the appropriate hex head screwdriver and then remove the 10mm bolt holding the coil in place. Un-clip the plug from the coil and remove it. Pop the new plug in place and clip the wiring plug back in. Now put the 10mm screw back in, and tighten it down. Replace the cover and that’s it. Experienced mechanics can get this done in less than 10 minutes. If you are a novice, prepare for a half hour.
The rear cylinders are also easy, but will require a long extension. i would recommend 6-12 inches for the extension. Locate the 10mm bolt holding it in place and remove it. Unplug the wiring plug, and replace it. Bolt it back in and that’s finished. Be careful not to drop the bolt down in the engine though.
What if you get the multiple ignition failure code? Do you replace them all? You can, but the coils run about $70.00 each. Multiply that by 6 and you have a fairly expensive bill. If you have someone else do the work, you can expect to pay over $500.00 for the coil replacements. There is a very simple way to find the bad coils. Remove the engine cover from the front of the engine. Now remove all the 10mm bolts securing the ignition coils in place. Place the ignition coil bolts and the engine cover screws in a ziplock bag and put them in the glove box. Drive the car for a few days until it starts running rough again. leave the car running, and using a pair of channel locks or large plyers (preferably ones that are insulated), pull each coil out one at a time. If the engine DOES NOT change its idle when an ignition coil is removed, you know you have found the bad coil. Replace that coil. Leave them unsecured and drive it some more. Repeat the process until the car returns to normal. In my experience, I have never replaced more than 2 coils. This will end up saving hundred of dollars in diagnostic fees, parts and service.
Good luck, and stay TUNED!