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Will a bad MAF cause hard starting?

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Old 08-12-2009, 01:23 AM   #1
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Will a bad MAF cause hard starting?

Last week during a family trip my 2002 Max began having some problems. Initially it was just very hard to start (both hot / cold): I'd crank it for 5-10 seconds and it would begin to catch but not enough to actually start, or ... I'd turn the key and it would immediately turn over once but not start. I'd have to keep trying 2-3 minutes before it eventually started. The engine then idled roughly for a few minutes, but once warmed up the car drove reasonably well. This went on for about 6 days, with no SES light.

On the day I planned to return home (beginning of a 500 mile trip) I started getting lots of hesitation / lack of power. I pulled off the interstate, the engine sputtered a bit longer, and then stalled. By now I'd had enough and so I had it towed and serviced at a local Nissan dealer. Their scan turned up three codes - P0171 / P0174 / P0300 - and they claimed the problem was a faulty fuel pump. I was a bit surprised at the diagnosis, but being far away from home I didn't have much choice but to accept it. The repair wasn't cheap, but the good news: when I picked up the car after the service it started right up, and I drove it home the entire 500 miles without a single problem.

It was two days before I had to use the car again. The bad news: the darn thing had trouble starting up again. I took it for a quick test drive and it had the same intermittent hesitation / lack of power. I checked for codes after the drive and it had P0171 / P0300 (but no SES light yet).

Today I dropped the car off at my local dealer to see if they could make sense of the problem. On my way there the SES light did come on. They did a scan and got codes P0113 / P0171 / P0300, and their diagnosis is that it needs a new mass airflow sensor - another expensive repair.

So that brings me to my question. I spent some time reading the forums and I know a bad MAF will cause hesitation / lack of power. But could it also cause very hard starting like what I described above? I vaguely remember the first dealer thinking it wasn't the MAF because the car wouldn't start. But at that time there also wasn't a stored P0113 code.
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Old 08-12-2009, 01:24 AM   #2
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One other note: the first hard start happened after I had gassed up in Virginia where they use a 10% ethanol fuel blend (we don't have it in New York). That was the only fuel available throughout the week-long trip, and the car still has half a tank left. I'm thinking it's possible this is a contributing factor.
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Old 08-12-2009, 04:43 AM   #3
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I'm just throwing this out there, but several years ago I had a similiar problem. Fuel pump went back. Replaced it. A few days/weeks later I started having the same problem.

It turned out that the return line for the fuel system was blocked and was causing an incredible vacuum on the fuel tank.

The pump had a hard time pulling against the vacuum causing all kinds of hard starting and hesitation. Eventually the vacuum was so bad that teh pump beat itself to death.

You might want to try loosening the gas cap. It will throw a code which will clear itself in a couple days, but you can see if some type of tank vacuum is the problem.
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Old 08-12-2009, 03:03 PM   #4
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Spoke with both Dave Burnette and an independent repair shop today, and given the symptoms / codes they both felt MAF replacement would be the logical next step.

I ordered the part (the AM600 version of the sensor) through Dave - $451.42 w/ shipping vs. $561.52 from my local dealer. Dave was very pleasant to speak with - highly recommended.
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Old 08-20-2009, 12:08 PM   #5
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I had a Quest that wouldn't start due to the MAF. Once it was replaced I never had that problem again.
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