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Old 02-01-2016, 01:11 PM   Thread Starter #1
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Default 2004 Maxima SL smoke from underhood

Hello to all. A couple of months ago, I bought my daughter a one owner 2004 Maxima SL which had 189k miles on it and all service records. Long story short, it had some smoke coming out from the back side of the engine bay by the firewall and, after research online, it seemed the rear valve cover was the culprit. I could also visually see some oil from it onto the head where I assumed it was dripping on the exhaust manifold but also it showed some crud buildup on the front one, as well. So, I ordered new VC, intage and EGR gaskets, and plugs, then replaced them all and, of course the upper intake manifold was removed. Everything went great. I also replaced a couple of hoses that were dry rotted and basically stuck in place and had to be broken off.

But, after all was done, I still have smoke coming from the back side. You can smell it when you're sitting at a stop light/sign, etc., and can see it if the hood is popped. After I did the gaskets and plugs, I had the oil flushed and changed to make sure it was a fresh round. There is also no oil in the radiator and no loss of compression. So, where else could there be a leak from on the back side of the engine? When I did have it on the rack at the oil change place, they let me look up there and it was still quite messy back there but it was literally after I had changed the gaskets. Even that wasn't a messy job, though.

A quick history on me. I'm 49, very mechanically inclined but limited on the more indepth stuff, was in custom car audio for 30 years (fabrication, motorization, wood working, etc) and have rebuilt my share of engines and did performance parts (owned multiples of mustangs and Cobras). I'm not an idiot and if it's beyond my ability, I go to someone smarter.

What am I missing? Where do I go from here? Thanks for any input.
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Old 02-01-2016, 02:51 PM   #2
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Default Re: 2004 Maxima SL smoke from underhood

You replaced the VC gaskets, did you put any RTV/sealant where the gaskets make the 180* turns?
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Old 02-01-2016, 04:45 PM   Thread Starter #3
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Default Re: 2004 Maxima SL smoke from underhood

Originally Posted by Zillafreak View Post
You replaced the VC gaskets, did you put any RTV/sealant where the gaskets make the 180* turns?
Yep....followed that to a "T" per the service manual everyone online posts and also downloaded it. There's no visible signs of oil coming from under the valve covers and also no oil on the ground where the car is parked after being driven. Not even after a couple of days of sitting.
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Old 02-01-2016, 05:36 PM   #4
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Default Re: 2004 Maxima SL smoke from underhood

So no signs of oil but still smells. I wonder if your o-rings around the spark plug holes are bad and oil is getting in there and burning?
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Old 02-01-2016, 05:41 PM   Thread Starter #5
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Default Re: 2004 Maxima SL smoke from underhood

The o-rings still had a snug fit and were good to go. You can literally see a light line of smoke come from between the engine and the firewall right about the back exhaust manifold. But you can't pinpoint from where from the top. I may have to get underneath it again at a buddy's shop where he has a lift. At the place I had the oil changed, they let me go underneath the car and check things with a flashlight but there was still some leftover oil from when it was the valve cover leaking. I would have thought all of it burned off by now. It's driving me nuts that all went so well and no leaking at valve cover but to have this still.
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Old 02-01-2016, 05:48 PM   #6
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Default Re: 2004 Maxima SL smoke from underhood

Take the car to a car wash. Clean the engine as best as you can with the pressure washer.
This way you can make sure it is clean from oil. Drive it around and wait. If the smoke returns, look for signs where it is coming from and signs of any leaks.
Another thing would be to check oil levels and watch them. Make sure it isn't using any oil.
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Old 02-01-2016, 10:10 PM   Thread Starter #7
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Default Re: 2004 Maxima SL smoke from underhood

Yep...that's next plan. I did before I changed gaskets as it was quite dirty. The back side of the engine is definitely the hardest to see/get to/clean. I'm thinking some Purple Power on it to degrease and then rinse off as best as possible. I'll take it out to my buddy's place this coming weekend to go on the lift. He's done lots of other work for me where I couldn't do it or didn't have ability to. He changed the front passenger side CV axle for me a few weeks ago as it was "ticking" from about 30mph and faster. Boot was worn out.

Are there any coolant lines on the back side that might need some attention?
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Old 02-02-2016, 02:46 AM   #8
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Default Re: 2004 Maxima SL smoke from underhood

Funny you should post this, because I am going through the exact same thing. Replaced spark plugs, valve cover gasket, intake manifold collector upper to lower gasket. I degreased everything and and now I 'think' I've narrowed it down to the upper oil pan gasket or the rear main seal as I see oil dripping there onto the hot exhaust. The other thing I was suspecting was a power steering fluid leak - not 100% sure on that either, but I definitely saw oil dripping where you would expect upper oil pan or rms to leak.

I had this happen on my MDX (rms) and switching to Valvoline MaxLife stopped the leak totally. Might try this on Maxima at next oil change.

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Old 02-02-2016, 09:47 AM   #9
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Default Re: 2004 Maxima SL smoke from underhood

Originally Posted by Avguytx View Post
Yep...that's next plan. I did before I changed gaskets as it was quite dirty. The back side of the engine is definitely the hardest to see/get to/clean. I'm thinking some Purple Power on it to degrease and then rinse off as best as possible. I'll take it out to my buddy's place this coming weekend to go on the lift. He's done lots of other work for me where I couldn't do it or didn't have ability to. He changed the front passenger side CV axle for me a few weeks ago as it was "ticking" from about 30mph and faster. Boot was worn out.

Are there any coolant lines on the back side that might need some attention?
Yes there is a coolant line off the oil cooler. But IIRC, it is only rub for like 4" then metal. There are coolant lines and a manifold on top of the tranmission (5sp) and some of the lines run to the back.

Originally Posted by rcy View Post
Funny you should post this, because I am going through the exact same thing. Replaced spark plugs, valve cover gasket, intake manifold collector upper to lower gasket. I degreased everything and and now I 'think' I've narrowed it down to the upper oil pan gasket or the rear main seal as I see oil dripping there onto the hot exhaust. The other thing I was suspecting was a power steering fluid leak - not 100% sure on that either, but I definitely saw oil dripping where you would expect upper oil pan or rms to leak.

I had this happen on my MDX (rms) and switching to Valvoline MaxLife stopped the leak totally. Might try this on Maxima at next oil change.
Rear main seal would drip into the transmission then down out of the transmission by a sensor.
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Old 02-02-2016, 11:04 AM   Thread Starter #10
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Default Re: 2004 Maxima SL smoke from underhood

Originally Posted by rcy View Post
Funny you should post this, because I am going through the exact same thing. Replaced spark plugs, valve cover gasket, intake manifold collector upper to lower gasket. I degreased everything and and now I 'think' I've narrowed it down to the upper oil pan gasket or the rear main seal as I see oil dripping there onto the hot exhaust. The other thing I was suspecting was a power steering fluid leak - not 100% sure on that either, but I definitely saw oil dripping where you would expect upper oil pan or rms to leak.

I had this happen on my MDX (rms) and switching to Valvoline MaxLife stopped the leak totally. Might try this on Maxima at next oil change.
I recall the Tech that did the oil change was a big Nissan person and mentioned issues they have with power steering pumps and hoses. There was one he told me to keep an eye on. One thing I could see from underneath the car was a green molex plug (I believe) that was covered in what looked like oil. Maybe we'll get a better look at it this weekend. I just don't want something bad happening to it while 16 year old daughter is out driving it.
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Old 02-02-2016, 11:09 AM   #11
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Default Re: 2004 Maxima SL smoke from underhood

Worse that can happen is it blows the motor and has a massive knocking sounds and lack power. But it will still drive like this for another 20 miles lol.

I wish my old phone didn't break, I had pictures of the engine when it was out and where things were. They would have been helpful right now.
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Old 02-02-2016, 11:57 AM   Thread Starter #12
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Default Re: 2004 Maxima SL smoke from underhood

Haha... Hopefully the engine won't blow. If it does, I'll be finding a deep pond or the river.
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Old 02-02-2016, 12:02 PM   #13
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Default Re: 2004 Maxima SL smoke from underhood

The only reason I suspected it might also be power steering is that the level in my reservoirwas at max cold when hit, but I don't really remember if it had always been there. . Anyway, aside from running Maxlife next oil change I put Rislone Rear Main Seal stop leak in engine and also Rislone power steering leak seal in reservoir. The smell is greatly reduced. . I haven't had a look under for a few days. Will check tonight and take a pic of where I saw oil dripping.
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Old 02-02-2016, 12:05 PM   #14
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Default Re: 2004 Maxima SL smoke from underhood

http://rislone.ca/product/concentrat...n-seal-repair/
http://rislone.ca/product/power-steering-repair-2/
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Old 02-02-2016, 12:28 PM   #15
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Default Re: 2004 Maxima SL smoke from underhood

Originally Posted by Avguytx View Post
Haha... Hopefully the engine won't blow. If it does, I'll be finding a deep pond or the river.
I have been trying to find a pond for a while.
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Old 02-02-2016, 02:05 PM   Thread Starter #16
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Default Re: 2004 Maxima SL smoke from underhood

Here's something else I'm going to be checking over the weekend. Or maybe tonight. It's almost that much smoke exactly.

Leak Causing Smoke

And also on how to change the high pressure power steering hose on an '07.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jufnFBAgPzo

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Old 02-02-2016, 02:19 PM   Thread Starter #17
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Default Re: 2004 Maxima SL smoke from underhood

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Old 02-02-2016, 04:24 PM   #18
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Default Re: 2004 Maxima SL smoke from underhood

Originally Posted by Zillafreak View Post
Yes there is a coolant line off the oil cooler. But IIRC, it is only rub for like 4" then metal. There are coolant lines and a manifold on top of the tranmission (5sp) and some of the lines run to the back.


Rear main seal would drip into the transmission then down out of the transmission by a sensor.
No..I've seen enough RMS leaks to know that this location is where it typically drips (this picture is not my car and ignore the damage to his tranny, but that is where the RMS typically leaks and onto the hot exhaust (on the Maxima). On other cars, there is not always an exhaust pipe at this location - like my MDX, however the oil leaks down to the same place. It's usually easy to figure out, because you can see where the engine and the tranny mate to each other and this is where the oil runs down and drips.

Unfortunately, it seems that the upper oil pan gasket leaking might also end up in this area on the Maxima. Still not 100% sure about where the oil pan leaks, though.

Just to the right of the exhaust on the extreme left of the tranny you can see a thin black plate - this is the inspection plate that can be removed to see the flywheel. There is no tranny fluid where the flywheel is, so his oily stains in this picture indicate (possibly) an RMS leak or an upper oil pan gaske leak.

Click the image to open in full size.

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Old 02-02-2016, 04:49 PM   #19
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Default Re: 2004 Maxima SL smoke from underhood

Originally Posted by rcy View Post
No..I've seen enough RMS leaks to know that this location is where it typically drips (this picture is not my car and ignore the damage to his tranny, but that is where the RMS typically leaks and onto the hot exhaust (on the Maxima). On other cars, there is not always an exhaust pipe at this location - like my MDX, however the oil leaks down to the same place. It's usually easy to figure out, because you can see where the engine and the tranny mate to each other and this is where the oil runs down and drips.

Unfortunately, it seems that the upper oil pan gasket leaking might also end up in this area on the Maxima. Still not 100% sure about where the oil pan leaks, though.

Just to the right of the exhaust on the extreme left of the tranny you can see a thin black plate - this is the inspection plate that can be removed to see the flywheel. There is no tranny fluid where the flywheel is, so his oily stains in this picture indicate (possibly) an RMS leak or an upper oil pan gaske leak.

Click the image to open in full size.
That is exactly what I said. Rear mail leaks into the bell house of the tranmission. And the black cover isn't really for inspection, it is to remove flywheel from TC. The sensor (which I think is the CPS) is right there.

Click the image to open in full size.
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Old 02-02-2016, 05:07 PM   Thread Starter #20
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Default Re: 2004 Maxima SL smoke from underhood

I am seriously thinking it could be that high pressure power steering line that's, of course, right behind the upper intake manifold that's already been off. Sheesh. But, if it's on a lift, it should be easier to replace the hose if need be. Seems like they run no more than $70 on average.

Thanks to all for the responses! I'll definitely keep you posted.
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Old 02-02-2016, 05:13 PM   #21
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Default Re: 2004 Maxima SL smoke from underhood

I know my PS line is no longer attached to the manifold. I didn't put the bolt back last time.
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Old 02-02-2016, 05:42 PM   #22
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Default Re: 2004 Maxima SL smoke from underhood

Zillafreak, is that your car in the second pic? How the heck do you keep the underside of your car so clean and rust free...lol.

So..with the OE exhaust in the way, the only way to open that black cover plate to see if there's oil leaking in there, would be to remove the exhaust....brilliant.

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Old 02-02-2016, 05:45 PM   Thread Starter #23
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Default Re: 2004 Maxima SL smoke from underhood

I can't remember if I put that one back in or not, either. I know I didn't reattach the bracket that held the two molex plugs behind the intake.

On another note, I like how your wheels turned out on your Maxima. The 17" wheels on ours have the clear coat separating and I hate how it looks. I could get 4 new ones for about $400 plus shipping but it seems like stripping, repainting, and re-clear coating would do the trick. I just want the car to look good while she uses it the last 2.5 years in High School. When she heads off to college, I'll trade it for something new. Did you strip the old stuff off your wheels first? What did you use and what paint did you use?

Thanks!
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Old 02-03-2016, 03:24 AM   #24
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Default Re: 2004 Maxima SL smoke from underhood

Originally Posted by rcy View Post
Funny you should post this, because I am going through the exact same thing. Replaced spark plugs, valve cover gasket, intake manifold collector upper to lower gasket. I degreased everything and and now I 'think' I've narrowed it down to the upper oil pan gasket or the rear main seal as I see oil dripping there onto the hot exhaust. The other thing I was suspecting was a power steering fluid leak - not 100% sure on that either, but I definitely saw oil dripping where you would expect upper oil pan or rms to leak.

I had this happen on my MDX (rms) and switching to Valvoline MaxLife stopped the leak totally. Might try this on Maxima at next oil change.
Bro I think everybody that has a 6gen been through these same problems. Mine started about a month ago. When sitting in the car at a stop you can smell the oil as OP mentioned. I have the smoke coming from the back of the firewall as well. I absolutely love my max, but sometimes I just feel like giving up on her. As soon as you fix something there goes another problem popping up smdh.

Sitting Behind That Beautiful Cutoff
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Old 02-03-2016, 09:26 AM   #25
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Default Re: 2004 Maxima SL smoke from underhood

Originally Posted by rcy View Post
Zillafreak, is that your car in the second pic? How the heck do you keep the underside of your car so clean and rust free...lol.

So..with the OE exhaust in the way, the only way to open that black cover plate to see if there's oil leaking in there, would be to remove the exhaust....brilliant.
Not my car, but might is somewhat clean.

But you can reach the black cover with the exhaust in the way, but it is a lot easier without it. I know you can't remove the 6 bolts in there with the exhaust on.

But as for checking for oil, remove the CPS that is right there. It should be the lowest part in the bell house. I do know if your RMS is leaking (and not just a little drip), you will have a puddle under your car. And it is easy to see it leaking there.
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