2009 Nissan GT-R: Stranded x 2
July 27, 2009
Not everything about the San Diego Comic-Con was fun or funny. The much needed sanity break I took with the 2009 Nissan GT-R ended with a minor crisis.
I dropped Ken off at his car, parked the GT-R and bought myself a Gatorade. Not five minutes after parking the car, it wouldn't start. Not a blip, not a crank. Save for this Intelligent Key warning lamp, the dash stayed completely dark, just as it would if the intelligent key wasn't in the car with me.
It was, of course, and the transmitter worked just fine when I unlocked the doors. So I plugged the fob into the emergency receptacle that's provided for occasions such as this...
Still nothing. She's dead, Jim.
There was nothing for it but to crack open the owner's manual, which has this to say about that:
Intelligent key warning lamp
This light warns of a malfunction with the electrical steering lock system or the Intelligent Key system. If the light comes on while the engine is stopped, it may be impossible to free the steering lock or to start the engine. If the light comes on while the engine is running, you can drive the vehicle. However in these cases, contact a GT-R certified NISSAN dealer for repair as soon as possible.
Sentence number two is exactly what happened, though the Intelligent Key seemed to be functioning normally from a door lock perspective.
And the steering lock itself wasn't actually locked, as I could turn the wheel from lock to lock, albiet with difficulty because the engine and power steering were off, of course. It was as if the steering lock failed to lock, or something.
How could I manipulate the steering lock to, say, jar something loose? Desperate, I tried an old black and white TV trick: I thumped the side of it. Well, actually what I did was this, I unlocked the tilt and telescope wheel position clamps and...
What can I say? It worked on the first attempt. Sue me.
I should have driven it straight home at that point, but I was committed to a couple more days in San Diego. All went well for 4 or 5 subsequent restarts, and then I went home on Saturday afternoon.
The GT-R sat all day Sunday (hey, I was tired, and you didn't come over) and the next start attempt came this morning at 5:30 am.
I pushed the button, the dash lit up (yay!), it started to crank (yay!) but it didn't fire and the cranking quickly died into the stacatto clicking of a dead battery. A REAL dead battery. No doors were left ajar. No lights were left on. It's a puzzler.
I jump-started it with my neighbor's help and drove off to work, with no lingering after-effects.
Could problem A have led to problem B? Or did an impending problem B manifest itself as problem A? And why did the "persuasion" technique work? We've taken it to the dealer to find out.
In the meantime, consider these:
a) I'd never looked at the GT-R's battery before, but it's rather small. Maybe it is really is worn out at 26,000 miles.
b) The geniuses behind the Gran Turismo Playstation franchise helped create a true videogame dashboard with umpteen different parameters (18, actually) that you can call up on various customizable screens. Steering angle, cornering "G", torque split and brake pedal position are on the list, but simple battery voltage is not. There's nothing but an idiot light that comes on well after you already know it's not working. It came on during problem B, but not during problem A. How about a USEFUL customizable gauge? I could stand to know if the battery is running at 13.7 volts or 10 volts right about now. If I'm missing something, please clue me in.
Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 26,203 miles