RogerB HalfDork
11/27/11 12:47 p.m.

Due to an inattentive teenager in a Suburban destroying my Contour, I am having to find a cheap DD. I found a nice looking (in the pictures) Nissan 200SX SE-R on Craigslist. Are there any major things I need to look out for? Is this a good car for a DD? The A/C compressor has been bypassed and the owner said it was like that when he got it, so he doesn't know if he compressor was locked up or what. This could be a deal breaker if it's too expensive to repair. He said it needs a new valve cover gasket, but I think I can handle that repair myself. He said it smokes a little, but only if it sits at long stoplights. He thought it just needed a tune-up, but is this sign of something more serious?


integraguy SuperDork
11/27/11 1:11 p.m.

There are several good websites for the SR20 engine, that include info on Sentras/ is one, tho not sure it's active.

The problem with 200SXs is that many were bought new for kids and the rest had kids as 2nd/3rd owners. In other words, they have had, many times, marginal maintenance done. But hey, they stand up to abuse fairly well.

Nissan would like to believe they fixed the cause of the notorious 5th gear pop-out SR20-engined cars are prone to (cursed with?)...I don't believe it, but hey, it's possible. You can determine if your example is good to go by driving up to 50-55 in 5th and then easing back on the gas. In my G20, the shift lever "bounced" out of 5th gear when I eased off the gas at that speed.

Someone on here, the last time the subject came up, said that the oil pumps in SR20 engined cars MAY need replacement by the 125K to 135K mile mark. My G20 was almost at that mileage when it was "stolen" by a "friend". There are folks who say they have 200K to 300K on the original engine. I'm prone to believe it as these seem to be very stout engines.

The A/C? depending on what's bad, it will cost about as much as fixing the A/C in any Sentra or Nissan will. Mine was good on my G, and never gave problems.

As far as possible JUST needing a tune-up. I bought my G20 from a certified Honda mechanic. He had a heck of a time getting it to pass the local emissions test. The car ran okay, but if he got the level of one gas low enough to pass (not sure which of the 3 they tested for it was) one of the other ones went up. (I fortunately made the sale contingent on it's passing this test.) Eventually, he had to take it to a Nissan specialist to get it tuned correctly as the type of fuel injection is different on Hondas from what Nissan uses. 1 car company uses/used one type of sensor for fuel metering and the other one used a different one from that. (Sorry about the lack of technical terms.)

BAMF Reader
11/27/11 9:52 p.m.

I had a 1997 version. I was the 2nd owner, and sold it off to a guy a couple years younger than me who planned to put nitrous on it.

Mine did pop out of 5th once in the whole time I owned it. Scared the E36 M3 out of me. I was doing about 75 with the cruise on when all of a sudden the engine just revs up as high as it could. I put the clutch in, which killed the cruise. I then realized it was out of gear. Weird experience I never had again.

It's a great DD. Light, fun, economical. I liked the viscous coupling LSD in the winter. It actually helped on several occasions in a hilly, icy college town. The one you're looking at sounds pretty rough. I'd look for another one, or really talk the seller down.

Vigo SuperDork
11/27/11 10:20 p.m.

I drove a ~97 a few months ago and was totally underwhelmed by the motor. But i had a G20/auto for a VERY short time that exceeded my expectations. Cant explain the power discrepancy.

Do sr20s have the bad knock sensor = subtract 20 hp nissan thing going on?

GTwannaB Reader
11/28/11 2:52 p.m.

In reply to Vigo:

Those knock sensors are in a bitch of a spot to change. That's around $150 for the part. I liked my 97 SER which had a bad knock sensor. I thought it still had good power, especially after I advanced the timing. But I think that broken knock sensor killed my mileage. Put in this short shifter and it will make things much more fun:

But, my AC never, ever worked correctly. I bought it with non working AC and regretted it. I dumped in money, but that AC just never worked.

Oh yeah, I had to use one of the emissions gas additives to get that thing to pass smog in CA.

4cylndrfury SuperDork
11/28/11 3:03 p.m.

5th gear popout is a problem for many manual SR20s, but is an easy fix. The engines themselves are pretty damn bullet proof. Raced SR20s are prone to high temps due to water pump cavitation at high revs and oil pickup issues can cause oiling problems on raced models, but stop-light boy-racers going to the local cruise in arent likely to cause that kind of abuse. The high pressure power steering hose on SR20 engines is prone to failure, but a leak is pretty easy to spot. The hoses cost a premium...especially a week before race wars . They have several O2 sensors along the exhaust - more or less depending on the year (some have pre-cats in the exhaust manifold, so O2 readings come up different at different sensors). If one goes, it will trip your Check Engine Light, and can be tricky diagnosing which one is bad. This may impact your ability to register it if you live where emissions are tested. And yes, a bad knock sensor will toss the ECU into open loop mode, causing it to run pig rich and retard the timing to essentially limp the car to the service station.

The only issue my SR20 has had was my oil pressure switch went bad and was actually leaking - $35 later and a shop had a new one in and I was back in business. I cant say enough about this mill - I will probably try to find another SR equipped car when this one needs replaced.

m4ff3w UltraDork
7/30/12 7:58 p.m.
4cylndrfury wrote: 5th gear popout is a problem for many manual SR20s, but is an easy fix.

Can you tell me more about 5th gear popout and the easy fix?

Datsun310Guy UltraDork
7/30/12 8:02 p.m.

Look for awesomeness and a giant smile on your face.

pimpm3 Reader
7/30/12 9:46 p.m.

Check out and I know they have similar names but they are different and are the most active forums for these cars.

I bought a 1997 SE-R new and it was fun car, but it lacked some of the earlier SE-R's "specialness". Its hard to explain but the B13 cars just feel more nimble, and they seem faster.. After the car I bought new I went through 7 of the B13 Sentra SE-R's. I still own a caged 1994.

The motors are great and if maintained are bullet proof. My track car has 270k miles on it and it runs like it is brand new. The 5th gear popout issue is a little over blown if you ask me. Only 1 of my 9 SR20 powered cars have ever had 5th gear popout. Test drive the car and if it doesn't pop out of gear on the test drive you should be fine.

On the 200SX look on the front door pillars near where the doors attach. This area often rusts and is a pain to fix.

The A/C system in my 200SX gave me problems when it was new, so I would be weary of the non functioning A/C.

m4ff3w UltraDork
7/30/12 9:55 p.m.

There are two G20s on my local CL. I don't know if one is auto or manual, but the one that is manual said "Also sometimes slips out of 5th gear thats why selling dirt cheap"

I don't want to have to pull a trans out though. I need something reliable for back and forth to work. I can't get any work done on the projects because of issues with my daily right now.

Streetwiseguy SuperDork
7/30/12 9:55 p.m.
pimpm3 wrote: On the 200SX look on the front door pillars near where the doors attach. This area often rusts and is a pain to fix.

Yeah. This.

Vigo SuperDork
7/30/12 10:04 p.m.

Based on the link m4ff3w sent me it looks like the easy fix is take out the trans, split the case, and replace the 5th gear and shift collar with new parts which have been updated to alleviate the problem.

I worked in a trans shop for a while and have done things like that but i would not call it an easy fix. It is a fix that would intimidate the majority of car enthusiasts.

m4ff3w UltraDork
7/31/12 10:51 a.m.

$1000 is what they said they'd take. If I could get it for $800 I might consider it. The one that didn't say if it was auto or manual is auto.

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