1989 Nissan Sentra 2 door sedan 1.6 TBI overhead cam 12 valve from North America

Summary:

The most reliable car I have ever owned. It's been everywhere

Faults:

Still own the car; it has been well maintained. The head gasket blew at 196,000 miles. I rebuilt the engine at 211,000 miles. Needed new pistons and rings. Rebuilt the cylinder head, but did not even install new valve guides in the cylinder head, just a basic valve job using the old valves, springs, camshaft, lifters, etc.

Otherwise have installed one clutch kit, front end ball joints and tie rod ends, new brakes and brake hydraulics, replaced the radiator, and finally new shocks about 20k miles ago. Reupholstered the front seats, and have since worn out the replacement seat covers. Replaced the front axle CV boots, but still running the original axles.

Did replace the distributor because it started leaking engine oil into the distributor cap.

The 5 speed transmission has never been apart; just fluid changes. The TBI fuel injection has never been apart; replaced the fuel filter twice.

General Comments:

This has been the most reliable car I have ever owned. I have worked coast to coast, and the little Sentra has taken me everywhere, sometimes with a mattress and box spring tied to the roof. We once tied an entire apartment full of furniture on the roof and trunk, then traveled over 1000 miles in the winter.

The fuel injection starts the engine quickly, even at -30 degF, with 5w-30 engine oil. Fuel economy is actually getting better with age; maybe the TBI is starting to plug up with sediments. Typical highway MPG is 36-44 at 75 mph, and we once obtained over 50 MPG with an exceptional tank of gas.

The electronic ignition has never failed; still has the original computer and ignition coil.

The body is finally starting to rust away. Nine years of salt road winters in Kansas did not help.

The Sentra was faster than a Mustang II according to the repair shop that installed the replacement head gasket.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 4th December, 2014

1989 Nissan Sentra SE 1.6L SOHC 4 cylinder from North America

Summary:

He is reliable and efficient, but he skipped the day on comfort

Faults:

Both front CV joints were going when I bought it in 2005, and I finally replaced them in 2010 with about 160,000 miles.

Muffler 3 times and intermediate exhaust pipe once.

My front passenger side brake caliper seized up at around 100,000 miles, and my driver's side caliper is starting to go bad at about 177,000.

It does leak oil, but it isn't more than half a quart every 3,000 miles.

The seats have seen better days.

The window and door seals are currently glued on.

The passenger side rear door will no longer open, and I have no idea how that happened.

The trunk was poorly manufactured, there were two holes mirroring each other at each corner, which leaked every time it rained; it took me a while to find the source of the water. Based on the mildew smell, I finally tore all the padding out of the trunk at 160,000 miles.

My temperature and fuel gauge went out at about 90,000, and now work whenever they feel like it.

I blew an AC hose at about 80,000, got it fixed, and it stopped working at about 120,000.

General Comments:

This car gets phenomenal gas mileage. I have gotten 38 miles per gallon on the highway, but average about 33-34 and about 27 in the city. Even though it is not aerodynamic in any way (I named mine Hamilton after my toaster), it does surprisingly well in the MPG category.

It has an automatic 3 speed transmission, so it sits really easily at 55 mph, and when you travel above 65 mph, it sounds like the engine is going to jump out of the car. It doesn't have a tachometer, so I can't fathom what the RPMs are at 80 mph.

Highway travel is efficient, but this car is not comfortable. Once you sit in this car and drive it for 4 hours at a time, then sit in another car, you can absolutely notice a difference in the level of comfort. The seats are hard and there is no real lumbar support. If you have back problems, driving long distances in this car will irritate you.

Hamilton does not do a great job at reducing sound either. The road noise is something you get used to, but if are going from a newer car to this one, you will notice a difference.

Because he is so boxy and light, wind easily manipulates him while traveling. Semis really move him around when they pass, and it gets hairy sometimes if the weather is really bad.

My biggest problem with it has been the exhaust system. Probably due to poor replacement parts and bad luck, but I am on my 3rd muffler, and for a while I didn't have anything past the catalytic converter, and the car sounded like a tank. Each muffler has lasted about 20,000 miles, and you can only drive it around without a muffler for so long before you can't take the noise, or you are just straight embarrassed.

Also, I am not entirely aware of what the safety standards were in 1989, but based on its weight and its inability to reduce noise, I feel like I am driving an aluminum can, and if I get in an accident with anything other than a car, I do not believe the seat belt will help much.

Overall, this car has been great to me. I pretty much do all the maintenance (oil changes, replacing filters, rotating tires, brakes and even some body work) myself, and it is so old that I am not afraid to hurt him. Based on the fact that I have taken pretty good care of him, I anticipate that I will be driving him around for another 50k - 100k miles, and I am confident I will be behind the wheel when he reaches antique status in 2014.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 4th February, 2012

5th Feb 2012, 13:41

If this cars has sensors, see if they're dirty. Usually cleaning sensors off will fix gauge issues when they only work half the time.

6th Feb 2012, 00:08

Lack of comfort is the sacrifice you have to make for fuel economy.