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Dear Patty, HELP! I am not making this problem up. This really happens to my SUV. My 2000 Nissan Exterra has mostly been a reliable ride. For the last 2 years a very weird thing has occurred, but only sporadically. I never know when it will happen. The local Nissan mechanics haven't been able to resolve this issue. Without warning, the car will completely lose power while I am driving and begin to lurch, with a chugging sound. I feel the lack of resistance under the gas pedal as I push down. Sometimes if I just pull over the engine sounds normal again and I get back on the road. Often the odometer numbers fade away, like an Etch-a-Sketch that is shaken to make the numbers disappear. After awhile they will slowly fade back to normal visibility. Also, the speedometer completely drops from whatever speed I am traveling (anywhere from 10-60 mph)all the way to zero. The chugging and loss of power do not always happen simultaneously, sometimes it is just the speedometer that drops to zero and the car continues traveling down the freeway as normal at 60 mph or whatever speed I am traveling. I just came back from a "driving intensive" vacation. These problems did not show up during the trek to our destination. BUT... several times on our way back we lost power, heard the chugging and several times the speedometer dropped to zero and the odometer numbers faded away. (I did not tell my girlfriends about the speedometer when I saw it happen on the way there because I did not want to stress them out. You can bet I was a nervous wreck worrying if the weird thing was about to happen again!) I am embarrassed and worried about my safety as well as anyone who rides in the car with me. The mechanics I spoke to about this problem tried driving the car to make it happen, but of course it never occurs when they drive it. I kept track of the times and conditions this problem occurred. This never occurs with the same conditions twice; sometimes it is uphill, sometimes downhill. I can be going slow or fast, but more often when I travel fast. It might happen when I have traveled a long distance or a short distance. I cannot enjoy driving or traveling again until this problem is resolved. I hope you know what this weird problem is or know someone who is knowledgeable about repairs on my car. Thanks for your help! Liz

Answers from the Automotive Experts

Amy Mattinat, Owner and Author at Auto Craftsmen Ltd Hi Liz, You definitely have a weird problem. This is not a problem that can be diagnosed by telling someone about the problems you are having. It really needs to act up so the technician can duplicate the symptoms you have written about to determine what is wrong with your SUV. We sometimes have our clients leave their vehicles for a couple of days, and sometimes the techs drive them home trying to get the vehicle to act up. If you have a great relationship with your shop, you may want to try and leave it for a couple of days. Best of Luck, Amy Mattinat

Lori Johnson, Owner and Instructor at Ladies Start Your Engines Dear Liz, I did find something similar to your problem here, I don't know if it will fix your whole problem, but maybe some of it. Ask your technician about it. Maybe it's something they didn't think of. Good Luck. Lori Johnson

Suzanne Grego, Technician at City of Philadelphia Fleet Management Liz, This can be a scary problem, sorry to hear you went through all that stress. It is a great idea to write down all the conditions that exist when this happens. This will be very helpful in the diagnosis of the problem. Unfortunately for you, any good technician has a duty to verify the concern before they can begin to fix it. This is not because they don't believe you. It's because good technicians are trained to use all of their senses to diagnose problems. They may need to hear what it sounds like, feel what the vehicle is doing, notice any smells, see what all the sensors are doing (using a scan tool.)... Since this problem doesn't happen all the time, it could take a while to figure out what is going on. Ask Patty has a list of good and women friendly dealerships that you could bring your car to. If none of them are close to you, start asking your friends, neighbors and coworkers for service stations or specific mechanics they trust. You will more than likely need to leave your car overnight, and maybe even for a few days until they can recreate the problem. Speaking as a technician though, there is no problem that can't be fixed - it just may take some time. Good Luck! Suzanne

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