During the year or so I owned my Maxima, I didn't find many mechanical defects. The problems that did occur, I believe may have all been because of misuse by the owner (me).
The first and by far most painful problem with the car was when I used it to take out a horse fence on a country road. I had only had the car for about 2 weeks, and was just getting good with the manual transmission, so I took the car out on a windy country road to play. I spun out in a turn and hit the corner of a horse fence. The corner post I hit (it was about as big around as a telephone pole) did a lot of damage to the right rear end of the car. All of the suspension links on that corner were damaged, and I believe the brake rotor was somehow bent.
Because of the age of the car and my limited income (I was 16 at the time) I bent all the links back into shape, and reinstalled them. Remarkably, this method held together well, but was not near as good for the fast driving I tried to use the car for.
A few months later, when again traveling above the posted speed, I slammed on the brakes and the right rear locked up, causing me to spin and hit a mailbox. This incident busted out the triangular window in the right rear door. I replaced it with a piece of plexiglass from a home improvement store for under 10 dollars.
The transaxle, which the previous owner had replaced a few years before, gave out under my harsh driving habits also. Actually, the throw out bearing broke due to repeatedly "dumping" the clutch. This only cost about 20 dollars for a new one. The procedure though, took about 2 days to completely pull and reinstall the transaxle.
Even though I ran this car as hard as it could possibly be run, I never had any trouble with it that I didn't cause. The transaxle did get pretty sloppy as far as shifting goes, but I also take credit for that, as I don't think this would have happened under normal circumstances.
I was really impressed with the power and longevity of the 14 year old motor, and would quickly buy any other Nissan product with this motor (300zx, Pathfinder, Hardbody pickup).
I would recommend this car to any teenager looking for a first car that will be relativly inexpensive to maintain, and have plenty of room for friends, and plenty of power for street racing, though it is not fun to get speeding tickets (as this car helped me do twice).