New Nissan owner

I’ve had many cars over the years but this is my very first Nissan. An Almera S. Very unassuming , it was cheap but my plan is to look after it so that it rewards me with something more than a cheap runabout.

Its not fast and I don’t want it to be, but I would like it to be reliable and that’s down to me.

Obviously the first thing is a fluid and filter change. I’m a home mechanic rather than a garage, so I know a little about an engine bay, having serviced my Z3 for 6 years and which has always passed an MOT. I also don’t mind getting underneath the car if necessary having changed suspension parts and polybushed various cars in my ownership. I’ve also learned how to do basic mig welding.

Any pointers on the Almera is greatly appreciated.

Thank you.

Is this an N15 (1995 to 2000) model or N16 (2000 to 2005)? I'm assuming it's a N16 since the majority of N15 cars have turned to rust probably by now.
I'm just going to ramble what I can remember off the top of my head:

Drivetrain stuff:
If 1.5 engine: Listen for gearbox noises, they have weak bearings. If it sounds and acts normal, immediately do a fluid change on the box and tilt the car so you can add a couple hundred ml more fluid than it takes when level. Downshift to 4th gear if engine speed drops below 2000 rpm when using 5th.
If 1.8 engine: watch out for oil consumption. Could be stuck piston oil rings or out of round cylinder. (Or the square little seal under the valve cover if vc gasket has been changed and its' not been replaced at the same time)

If oil consumption seems high, it has a snowball effect; first the front catalytic converter (in the exhaust manifold) clogs up, then eventually exhaust valves might burn out.
Quite typical for the front cat to clog up or break up anyway.

Applies to both engines: Cam and crank position sensors go bad, always use genuine Nissan sensors, I've heard Hella brand also works. If fault codes related to these sensors persist even after replacing them, chances are the timing chain is worn.

Keep oil change intervals to a sensible minimum, the filter and oil capacity is very small on these.

Bodywork / other miscellanous stuff:
- Rear brake calipers tend to stick, especially the handbrake portion. Might want to look into that for futureproofing.
- Fuel filter is integrated to the fuel pump unit - it is in the tank.
- Most common rust spot on these is probably the radiator support beam behind the front bumper. I've seen Phase 1 cars with quite bad rust on the rear arches / sills too. Also make sure to remove wheel arch liners and the plastic shield for the fuel filler neck for cleaning. Mud, dirt and sand tends to accumulate in these areas.
- Quite rare, but connection problems are possible with NATS wiring loom around the ignition key cylinder.

Use NGK spark plugs and Nissan for thermostats. :)
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