Original poster here yet again. For all the problems that others seem to have, I've finally had some of my own; however being the handy sort, I've fixed them mostly on my own with few issues.
As many have, the spark plug coils went belly up around 75k but that was replaced by the dealer under the 3 month warranty. The items that I've replaced recently (about 125k) were the mass airflow sensor (check engine light came on) which was super-easy. Took about 20 min and the part cost less than $100. Improved weak acceleration and shut off light.
Next, the check engine light came on about three months later. This time it was the front bank catalytic converter. If you go to the dealership for this one, it'll cost you well over $1000 as the part itself is close to $700 for a Nissan cat. BUT, if you keep your wits about you, you can get an aftermarket (eastern) catalytic converter for less than $200 shipped. Even if you have a muffler shop install it for you, you're still way ahead, but it's a DIY job if you don't mind some rust and have a lot of socket extensions. Not exactly easy, but doable.
Finally the muffler flange rusted off and required replacement of the entire muffler. This annoys me because the muffler was in perfect shape, but muffler shops don't actually weld anymore, they all just want to sell you a new muffler. The fellow I eventually took it to could not weld it and just replaced the whole thing. This could have been a DIY job, but I didn't have the time.
The one problem I see over and over with folks who have a bad time with their Max is that they keep going back to the dealer. This is rarely ever necessary since even the smallest independent shops have access to most of the same repair data (though not the same diagnostic equipment). Dealers can charge up to $125 an hour for their work while a perfectly reasonable independent can charge as low as $45 an hour! Going to the dealer is just not a good idea anymore, so save yourself the hassle and stop going unless you're getting warranty service!
Oh yeah, those Yokohama AS430s that I put on ended up being terrible tires. Had two sidewall blowouts in less than a year. They say that I ran over curbs or hit big potholes but one of the sidewall bulges happened while I was on vacation -- and left the car home for a week! They're all worn out now and need to be replaced anyway. It's really hard to find a decent touring tire for the 17" wheels.
Original poster here.
This car was purchased in California in 2004, and has since been relocated to Western Pennsylvania in 2006.
As for updates, have recently replace both CV joints due to torn boots, and at the same time cured some annoying suspension clunking with the replacement of the sway bar links. Still runs great, powerful and smooth. Paint still chips like it was designed to. Replaced the radiator last summer as it sprang a leak. Also replaced the alternator and associated belts. Power steering high-pressure line failed, and leaked PS fluid, which was also replaced.
Tires have finally settled down with some Kumho touring tires, which have been excellent. Good treat wear, good dry traction.
The one thing that continues to make life difficult is poor snow traction. As this car came from California, it has no heated seats, no heated side view mirrors, nor does it have traction control. It's basically a one-wheel drive car in the winter. If you are moving, it tracks well in snow and holds its path, but getting moving from a stop or up a hill is nearly impossible.
I like the car a lot; however as it has crossed the line at 10 years, it's starting to show its age. None of the repairs have been terribly expensive as I use an independent mechanic or DIY where I can. I still enjoy driving and acceleration (at about 145k) is still very strong. I have a feeling a heater core is due soon as I'm getting some oily residue on the windshield, but it comes and goes.
It still shocks me that so many people have had such a bad time with their Maxima. Perhaps after years of owning Volvos, a few repairs here and there aren't so bad compared to what I was used to.
Original poster back again.
I'm up to about 157,000 miles now with nothing horrible to report. The alternator that was replaced died this summer, so instead of buying a crummy reman from a parts store, I took it to a specialty rebuilder. They had some issues, but eventually got it rebuilt, and the alternator is back to normal again.
I've recently broken an exhaust hanger bracket by going too fast over a speed bump. This concerns me as the exhaust is entirely original (save for the muffler), and experience has taught me that nobody fixes any more, they just replace. I'm hoping I can work out some fix for the broken hanger and get the exhaust off of the rear suspension where it is resting now. If not, I presume a new cat-back exhaust will cost quite a few bucks.
On the good side of things, the Max still runs like a top; that sweet VQ 3.0 just continues to impress me year after year. It just pulls smooth and strong every time I mash the pedal to the floor.
All of the major functions of the car work as they should. The paint on the bumpers now looks borderline ghetto, as it continues to chip and flake away.
Those Kumho tires are still on and wear like iron. They stink in the snow, but no TC is more likely the culprit.
The suspension is beginning to soften noticeably, as it doesn't bite down into corners quite the way it used to.
Now at 11 years old, I'm considering a replacement before any major faults turn up. I still have a few more payments on my wife's car, but when that's finished, I'll be looking into a newer Maxima or a G37. If only the new Max had a manual transmission, it would be an easy choice!
OP back again.
Staring down 13 years and 176,000 miles, and the Max is still alive. The years of living outside has taken a toll on the body and rust has invaded the rear wheel arches. For this much cancer, there is no cure -- however, despite the shame of driving a rusty car around, it still gets me to work every day.
Also, the suspension has pretty well given up; shocks and struts have turned to mush, which makes any freeway expansion joint encountered while turning quite an adventure!
The rear brake calipers became rusted and the parking brake was no longer operational, so I replaced those. The brake master cylinder failed (on the freeway no less), which made stopping a challenge, so I replaced that as well.
The transmission is having a bit of an issue with the 1-2 upshift when it's cold out; there is significant "flare" between gears, and I presume that this may well be the last year with this car.
All of the interior appointments have continued to work as expected. The HVAC, stereo, power controls, windows, moonroof all work without issue. The leather is in reasonable shape given its age.
The Kumho tires finally wore out, and while it's not really relevant to the car itself, I am very pleased at how long they lasted. I purchased a set of Solus KH21s for my wife's Mazda, and so far, they're doing nearly as well.
She's getting tired, but still hanging in there.