Ignoring my Pathfinder’s ‘Service Engine Soon’ Light

Three years ago I swapped my trusty 1996 Dodge Grand Caravan for a 2006 Nissan Pathfinder. I thought the Pathfinder would be better suited for driving our gravel roads and rough driveway. While I have appreciated the all-wheel-drive function on several occasions, I haven’t exactly been happy with my Pathfinder.

I’ve written about my struggle to find the perfect vehicle for country life once before. What I didn’t detail then was the service issues I’ve had with my Pathfinder – all supposedly caused by the six miles of gravel I drive on each time I travel to and from my home. It seems the gravel kicks up dust that gets sucked up into the vehicle’s engine and exhaust systems.

As a result, my “Service Engine Soon” light has been on almost perpetually for two years. The light first came on just two months after we purchased the vehicle, but thankfully the Pathfinder was still under factory warranty.

Initially, the light really bugged me; I promptly took the vehicle in for diagnosis and repair. Eventually my warranty expired, and I submitted a formal complaint to Nissan. Nissan tried two more times to fix my issue even without a warranty, but the light still came back on soon after every service. The last time I tried to have the dust issue fixed about a year ago, the service light came back on before I even made it home from the shop!

For those of you who are mechanically inclined, most of the issues I’ve had that required service involved the PCV valve and the oxygen sensors. And both issues are a direct result of the dust wreaking havoc with the emissions standards established to maintain clean air.

So now I just live with the “Service Engine Soon” light on all the time. The mechanics tell me the light will blink if there is anything seriously wrong with the vehicle. That’s sort of reassuring.

While I have my oil changed regularly, I have my tires rotated, and I’ve replaced my front brake pads, I continue to ignore my engine light. Speaking as the daughter of a diesel mechanic, this seems wrong. But constantly having the light checked and attempting to have the issue repaired was obviously a waste of time and money.

If only vehicle engineers would realize that some people still live in the country and that vehicles – especially SUVs and pickups – should be built to withstand this type of driving. Perhaps I should submit a formal complaint to them, as well … There’s probably too many of them to do that; so I guess this blog post will have to do.

2 thoughts on “Ignoring my Pathfinder’s ‘Service Engine Soon’ Light

  1. As a native-born South Dakotan and graduate ME (SDSM&T), with a life-long practice of doing my own automotive maintenance, problem diagnosis and repair, it is my firm opinion that the mechanics (or “techinicians” as they now want to be called) do not have the skills/imagination necessary to really track down the problem you have been having with your Nissan Pathfinder. The excuse that dust is getting into the exhaust system to mess up the O2 sensor, or affect the PCV valve is pure bunk! It is probably one of the many possibilities, which the computer-generated fault system used by these technicians, suggests based on the symptom of the “check engine” light, or of the fault codes stored in the vehicle’s on-board computer.

    With the proliferation of wiring (and therefore connectors) and electronics used on the modern automobile, it is my opinion that the problem is much more likely an improperly inserted (or faulty) connector.

    This vehicle was designed for much more rugged conditions than those to which I am sure you subject it. The fact that the engine light came on is an indictment of a quality control problem on this vehicle, and and indictment of the inability of factory “trained” techinicians (and manufacturer-written shop manuals) to use their common sense to find and fix a very simple (and non-serious!!) problem.

    • I appreciate your input. I believe your comments are right on! I must say that I have not been at all impressed with the “technicians” who have tried to address my issue(s). They generally had to spend time on the phone with the Nissan company just to figure out what the code even means, and then they still couldn’t/didn’t fix it. So are vehicles today just too complex or are the technicians just not trained to have minds of their own? Or both?

      Country Mom

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