Nissan is the pioneer of equipping vehicles with CVT transmissions back in the early 2000s. CVT is a very popular transmission design aiming for flexible gear exchange. Even though I am not judging the intent, Nissan’s CVT venture is my least favorite one. And I am not alone. But what went wrong with Nissan CVTs?
The series of problems started with the 2003 Nissan Murano. Then, Nissan Altima(2013) and Versa(2007-2011) joined the list for transmission failures. And the 2014 Pathfinder even took Nissan to the court.
Since the launch there have been many Nissan CVT Transmission Problems years. If you are a Nissan fan, there’s no way you would want to miss it.
List Of Nissan CVT Transmission Problem Years
Are you a little short on time? Then, here’s a list of years, particular Nissan CVT Transmissions performed their worst. Have a look.
|Type Of Issue
|automatic transmission slipping when accelerating.
|Inefficient fluid management
|TCM failures without a warning
|Extremely short life of CVT transmission
The table specifies CVT transmission errors up to 2018. After 2019 to 2022, there are multiple models with CVT error complaints. So, it’s not possible to assign only one specific CVT to a particular year.
However, just to give you a heads up, Nissan Altima, Maxima, Sentra and Murano have gained the most NHTSA complaints during 2021 to 2022.
What Makes Some Nissan CVT Transmission Years Worth Avoiding?
When Nissan launched its first CVT transmission in the early 2000s, there was a lot of hype around it. For a bit, there weren’t many negative reviews as well. But things started to go downhill from 2003 to 2009.
Users kept complaining about the acceleration issue, shifting hesitation, shuddering, jerking, stalling, etc. Even though Nissan claimed to improve the design in 2009, the outcome didn’t satisfy the users.
And as expected, Nissan is currently in the midst of a class lawsuit due to the inefficiency of their CVT transmissions. Check out the most problematic Nissan CVTs throughout the years.
Nissan Versa (2007-2011)
The first generation Nissan Versa came out in 2007. The users instantly identified some problems with the vehicle. But for the first few years, the faulty airbags under the brand Takasha were blamed for the issues.
However, in 2008 Nissan Versa received almost 548 NHTSA complaints. And the majority of them were about the automatic transmission slipping when accelerating.
The transmission fluid management and scary noises stressed the users a lot. It took around $3,700 to fix the CVT transmission.
You might think Nissan would take the complaints into account. But I have encountered Nissan Versa 2014, 2018, and even 2019 with the same issues, if not worse.
One 2018 Versa user complained about how the vehicle stalled in the middle of the road even though the speed was below 40 mph. I don’t even want to think about the consequences if he was driving at more speed.
Nissan Sentra (2013)
Sentra is one of the oldest models launched by Nissan (during the 1980s). But the sixth generation Nissan Sentra released in 2013 gave the worst experience to the user.
From TCM failures and revving to stalling, there wasn’t really much to like. And, when you dig a little deeper into the issues, you only find a bad CVT transmission.
Interestingly, Nissan Sentras didn’t have CVTS prior to 2013. It’s a significant signal telling us the new type of transmission backfired the entire project.
Another thing I have found common in most Nissan Sentras between the time 2013 to 2016 is belt slipping. It technically means the serpentine transmission belt is not efficient and keeps losing its connection to the battery.
Nissan Pathfinder (2014)
In 2005, the first Nissan Pathfinder with a CVT transmission was introduced. It was targeted at the US market. But the launch was an instant fail.
Mostly because users started to perceive Nissan’s previous venture, the “Altima,” as a disaster. And those who bought the 2005 Pathfinder complained about how easily the coolant leaks into the transmission and causes damage.
After that, Nissan tried to keep their act together. The Nissan Pathfinder 2006 and 2007 were less problematic than its predecessor. But the relief wasn’t there for long.
Nissan again released their fourth generation Pathfinder in 2014, which I guess was hated by everyone. The evidence is the class lawsuit filed against Nissan Pathfinder (2014) by a group of users.
The complaint was that Nissan installed a CVT, which was not apt for driving. The vehicle kept shaking even at 15 to 30 miles per hour speed.
The 2007 Nissan Altima had the first CVT transmission in this line. I can’t say the earlier versions were better. There are records of engine failure and so on.
But it seems like the transmission design started to go downhill after 2013. In 2017, the majority of customers expressed their frustration over the short life of the CVT transmission.
The warranty coverage is only for 12,000 miles. It’s very low compared to the 60,000 miles on other models. It is now no secret that Nissan is aware of how unreliable the product is.
I was surprised to see one customer asking for a transmission repair within months of buying the Nissan Altima. Sadly, most repairs turn into transmission replacement that costs no less than $6000.
Why Do Nissan CVTs Have Such Bad Reputation?
Nissan has lost most of its customer base due to the CVT transmission problems. But they still refuse to let go of the idea of automatic transmission. Let’s see what is the root cause behind all this transmission drama.
1. No Cooling Loop
The lack of an efficient cooling system causes the transmission to overheat frequently. The liquid-to-liquid cooling system does well when the vehicle needs a cold start. But apart from that, CVTs fail to cool down extreme temperatures.
Ironically, CVTs offer smooth transitions among the gear ratios which will definitely increase the temperature. So, not having a highly functional cooling mechanism really sucks.
2. Not Adequate Instruction In the Manual
Nissan doesn’t provide adequate information regarding how to maintain their CVT transmission for a longer lifespan. The manual says you never have to change the fluid.
The transmission is able to regulate the same fluid/oil over and over. But what I have learned after lots of failures is that the CVTs do need an oil change from time to time.
You can eliminate the majority of the issues (shuddering and jerking, automatic transmission pops out of gear while driving) by maintaining a decent fluid level. Unfortunately, not everyone has this knowledge leading to so much disappointment in the transmission.
3. Easy Breakage of The Transmission Belt
The serpentine belt acts like a bridge between the transmission and the car’s battery. When it fails, the transmission can no longer charge the car battery.
That’s why having high-quality components on the belt is so important. But Nissan’s CVT Transmission fails in this department. The belt breaks down pretty early due to natural wear and tear.
Nissan actually doesn’t produce the CVTs themselves. A company called JATCO is responsible for that. Nissan just gives its brand name to the final product.
So, we can’t blame Nissan’s R&D department for that. But in my opinion, Nissan should have addressed the user complaints more seriously. For now, Nissan extended its warranty timeframe from 60,000 miles to 1,20,000 miles.
That’s how they compensate users who have expressed disappointment in the company. But I wish they would focus more on the CVT functionality than the warranty coverage.
Certification: BSc in Mechanical Engineering
Education: Mechanical engineer
Lives In: 539 W Commerce St, Dallas, TX 75208, USA
Rasel is an auto mechanic student and writer with over half a decade of experience in the automotive field. He has worked with top automotive brands such as Lexus, Quantum, and also owns two automotive blogs autocarneed.com and taxiwiz.com.