This article will provide detailed information on common Nissan transmission problems, their causes, and their symptoms. It will cover issues reported by Nissan owners, such as loss of power, jerking and shaking while driving, slipping gears, overheating, and burning smells. Additionally, it will discuss the potential causes of these problems, such as lack of proper maintenance or manufacturing defects. The article will also provide information on troubleshooting and diagnosing transmission issues and the available options for repair or replacement.
If your Nissan vehicle is experiencing transmission issues such as not shifting, showing power loss, not engaging, and not moving when the transmission is set in Drive. In that case, it is likely caused by a problem with the transmission control module or the transmission valve body. These issues can also be accompanied by the check engine light and a transmission error message displayed on the instrument cluster. Other common causes of this problem include low transmission fluid levels, faulty sensors or solenoids, and internal transmission damage. To diagnose the specific cause of these symptoms, it is important to perform a thorough diagnostic scan of the transmission control module, check the transmission fluid levels, and inspect the transmission for any visible damage or wear. In some cases, the transmission may need to be rebuilt or replaced.
A failing Nissan transmission may exhibit various symptoms such as loss of power, jerking and shaking while driving, vibration or shuddering, slipping gears, overheating of the transmission fluid, sudden slowing down of the vehicle, shuddering and shaking during acceleration, harsh downshifts, limited engine RPMs and power output, whining noises from the transmission, engine revving high without gear changes, lack of power or acceleration, and a burning smell. These symptoms can indicate various transmission problems, and it’s important to have the vehicle checked by a qualified mechanic for proper diagnosis and repair.
- Premature transmission failure: Transmission failure in Nissan cars can happen due to various factors such as accidents, lack of proper maintenance, and manufacturing defects. Transmission failure symptoms include difficulty shifting gears, slipping gears, and losing power. Causes can include improper maintenance, such as not changing the transmission fluid or damage due to an accident.
- Strange shifting noises: Nissan cars may experience strange noises such as whining, humming, or clunking. These noises could indicate internal damage or low transmission fluid levels. Causes include low fluid levels, worn or damaged gears, or a malfunctioning torque converter.
- Engine revving: Engine revving while the car is not moving can signal a slipping clutch or malfunctioning torque converter in Nissan cars. Worn or damaged parts, low fluid levels, or contamination in the transmission fluid can cause this issue.
- Delayed acceleration: Delayed acceleration can be caused by various issues in Nissan cars, such as a malfunctioning torque converter, a slipping clutch, or worn or damaged gears. This issue can lead to poor fuel economy and decreased performance.
- Transmission overheating: Overheating the transmission in Nissan cars can be caused by issues such as low fluid levels, dirty fluid, or a malfunctioning cooling system. Causes can include improper maintenance, such as not changing the transmission fluid, and damage due to an accident.
- Burning smells: Burning smells from the transmission can be caused by overheating or a fluid leak. Causes can include low fluid levels or damage to the transmission due to an accident.
- Vehicle hesitation or stalling: Nissan cars may hesitate or stall when shifting gears due to various issues, such as worn or damaged gears, a malfunctioning torque converter, or a slipping clutch. Causes can include improper maintenance, such as not changing the transmission fluid, and damage due to an accident.
- Shaking and shuddering: Shaking and shuddering while driving can indicate a problem with the transmission or drivetrain in Nissan cars. Causes can include worn or damaged gears, a malfunctioning torque converter, or a slipping clutch.
It’s important to note that these issues can happen due to other causes, and a proper diagnosis by a qualified mechanic is always recommended. Also, Nissan cars have had transmission recall campaigns; it’s always good to check if your car is in one of these campaigns.
Do all Nissans have transmission problems?
No, not all Nissans have transmission problems. However, certain models and years have been known to experience transmission issues. Some Nissan models, such as the Altima, Maxima, and Murano, have been the subject of transmission-related recalls and class-action lawsuits. Additionally, many Nissan cars have a CVT transmission, which can have specific reliability issues. It’s important to note that many transmission problems are caused by improper maintenance or accident damage. Maintaining the car regularly and checking it after an accident by a qualified mechanic is important. It’s also good to check if your car is in one of Nissan’s transmission recall campaigns.
Nissan Transmission Issues by Symptoms
1. Transmission stuck in gear (limp-home mode)
Older Nissans that use a conventional four-speed automatic transmission designated as RE4F04B can have issues that send them into limp-home mode. In a scenario like this, the transmission will remain in a single gear, and changes will not be possible. Depending on the problem, this will happen just after starting or driving the car. In both cases, this will trigger a check engine light.
Possible causes and solutions:
- Allow the transmission to cool down for at least one hour, and it may return to normal operation.
- Input or output speed sensor fault, which is giving implausible data. When the TCU detects such irregularities, it will shift the transmission to the limp-home mode as a preventive measure. There will be a P0720 code stored.
- Incorrectly connected speed sensors, which are located one next to another at the side of the gearbox. As the connectors are identical, it is not unusual for mechanics to disconnect them after doing other repairs in that area.
2. Shift flares or harsh downshifts.
Nissan Altima and Maxima that use Aisin AW55 5-speed automatic transmission have a common gear shift problem. It manifests as intermittent shift flares from 2nd to 3rd gear or harsh downshifts from 3rd to 2nd. This problem will only be present in the initial phases when cold but usually worsens with time. This will trigger a check engine light so that a corresponding trouble code will be stored.
Possible causes and solutions:
- Excessive wear inside the valve body bores because the solenoid valve material is harder than the valve body itself. Depending on the valve and the position of wear, this will cause fluid leaks that result in pressure loss or obstruct valve movement. The valve body needs to be replaced if there are any wear marks.
- Mismatched control valves, as different variants, either have or don’t have a control spring. This common mistake during transmission repairs can result in sporadic 2-3 gear shift issues.
3. Shudder while engaging higher gears
Bigger Nissan SUVs and pick-up trucks that use a RE5R05A 5-speed automatic transmission in rear-wheel-drive configuration can suffer from a strong shudder and harsh gear shifts during 4th or 5th gear engagement.
In most cases, this issue will be more noticeable when the vehicle reaches running temperatures. The problem will not affect the gear shift from 1st through 3rd gear and will not trigger a check engine light.
Possible causes and solutions:
- Excessive wear within the Torque Converter Clutch control sleeve, causing pressure losses inside the valve body. This affects the TCC engagement and makes gearchanges harsh. In more severe cases, there might be failed gear changes or TCC. There are upgraded control valve kits available on the market.
4. Rattle or judder during accelerations
Many newer Nissans use one of Jatco’s Continuously Variable Transmissions, with several typical issues in common. One of the most frequent is the whining or rattling noise from the transmission only while accelerating. In some cases, this will be accompanied by a mild judder. There will be no other symptoms or warning lights.
Possible causes and solutions:
- Bearing failure is a widespread problem among these transmissions. To pinpoint the noise source, drive at the speed that produces the strongest noise and shift to a lower ratio. If the primary pulley bearing is bad, the noise will go up. Otherwise, the problem is most likely within the secondary pulley bearing. There are aftermarket upgraded bearings available on the market.
- Faulty solenoid regulator valve, which causes low transmission fluid pressure. In addition to rattle and noise on acceleration, this can cause slippage and poor acceleration.
5. No Reverse
Models such as Xterra and Pathfinder may experience a problem where the transmission won’t go in reverse. You may ultimately lose the reverse gear or take several seconds for the reverse gear to engage.
- Nissan’s reverse problems worsen as the vehicle is warmed up. Sometimes, upgrading the transmission cooler will fix the issue.
- One possible cause is a faulty range sensor on the transmission side.
- Another problem can be a broken snap ring for the reverse clutches, or a broken reverse solenoid can also be the culprit.
If a complete transmission rebuild is needed, it can range between $2,700 to $5,500.
6. Poor acceleration and excessive engine speed
Nissans with Jatco Continuously Variable Transmissions can suffer from a particular issue where the car seems to struggle to speed up. When this happens, the engine will reach higher-than-usual speeds, and the acceleration will be slower. In some cases, engagement will be harsh and might even cause the engine to stall. Usually, this will not trigger a check engine light or cause other symptoms.
Possible causes and solutions:
- Worn or leaking Torque Converter Clutch switch valve, causing transmission fluid pressure loss. As a result of insufficient force, the TCC will fail to engage. Replacing the switch valve with an upgraded item solves the issue.
- The faulty Torque Converter regulator valve produces harsh TCC engagement or delayed release. This causes juddering and stalling, like above. Replacing the valve with an upgraded item solves the issue.
The following steps can help you troubleshoot and diagnose your Nissan transmission problem. Read every section carefully and determine if it applies to your particular problem.
1. Bad Solenoid
Shift solenoids are mounted on the valve body inside the transmission. Faulty shift solenoids can affect the four-speed and five-speed Nissan automatic transmissions.
Symptoms of a faulty shift solenoid include:
- Delay in shifting gears
- Failure to downshift or banging into gear
- Erratic shifting
- No gears or stuck in neutral
- No Reverse
The common problem with Nissan shifter solenoids is that the plunger either gets stuck due to debris in the fluid or the solenoid coil wires get damaged.
Symptoms of a bad shift solenoid include the transmission banging into gear or the engine RPMs going too high. The vehicle can’t accelerate past 40 mph.
2. Low Fluid Level or Leaks
If your Nissan or Infiniti is jolting when the transmission changes gears, there is a good chance the transmission fluid level is low. Delayed shifting is also another common symptom caused by low transmission fluid levels. Move the shifter from Park to Drive.
If it takes over four seconds for the transmission to engage, check the transmission fluid level first. Another sign that your transmission is low on fluid is that your Nissan goes into limp mode or gets stuck in gear under hard acceleration. Instructions on how to check Nissan transmission fluid levels can be found in your owner’s manual.
3. Bad Transmission Speed Sensor
The transmission speed sensor on the Nissan CVT transmission may fail. It can cause no shifting, check engine light, or a bang when you move the shifter from Park to Drive or Reverse gears.
This transmission is installed on multiple cars, including Nissan Altima, Cube, Juke, Maxima, Murano, NV Cargo, Pathfinder, and Quest.
4. Failed Radiator / Transmission Cooler
A failed transmission fluid cooler integrated into the radiator can allow the engine coolant to mix with the automatic transmission fluid. Engine coolant, therefore, enters the transmission and eventually damages the bands. You can remove a small sample of the transmission fluid and send it for testing to any lab that tests vehicle fluids.
Check the Transmission Fluid Level
Low transmission fluid level is often the cause of some transmission problems.
- Drive the vehicle for fifteen minutes to warm up the transmission fluid.
- Park the vehicle on level ground.
- Set the parking brakes and shifter in Park.
- Pull the hood release and open the hood.
- Locate the transmission dipstick.
- Remove the dipstick and clean it with a clean cloth.
- Reinsert the dipstick in the transmission. Ensure the transmission is fully inserted, then remove it.
- Look carefully at the dipstick to determine the current transmission fluid level. The level should be between MIN and MAX marks.
- If the level is low, add transmission fluid level.
If your Nissan doesn’t move when put in Drive or slips, your transmission may have little or little fluid. If that is the case, do not drive the car to warm up the fluid, or you will burn the transmission. Follow the instructions on how to check the transmission fluid level found in your owner’s manual.
Read Transmission Fault Codes (DTCs)
Nissan transmission fault codes are stored in the Transmission Control Module (TCM | TCU). That is why transmission problems are unlikely to trigger the check engine light.
- Park the vehicle and turn off the ignition—set parking brakes.
- Locate the diagnostic port under the dashboard, driver’s side.
- Plug in your OBD-II scanner, then turn on the ignition without starting the engine.
- The scanner will turn on. Allow it to communicate with the vehicle. Select Nissan, then your model.
- Select the Transmission Control Unit.
- Select Read Fault Codes from the main menu.
Preventing Nissan Transmission Problems
If you are experiencing transmission problems only when the vehicle is warmed up, the problem could be transmission fluid overheating. Typically, this is a problem on long trips, or when towing, you may notice shaking, vibration, shuddering, and lack of acceleration.
Nissan transmissions tend to run hot due to inadequate transmission fluid cooling. Overheating can cause premature transmission failure. If the transmission overheats, the transmission module detects this condition and puts the vehicle in fail-safe mode. Fail-safe mode limits engine RPMs and speed to prevent further transmission damage. Allowing the car to cool down typically enables the car to operate normally until the transmission fluid overheats again.
A possible solution is to install a larger transmission cooler. Do not continue to drive your Nissan if you experience these symptoms, as it can permanently damage the transmission.
Nissan Extended Transmission Warranty
A typical Nissan warranty is five years or 60k miles. Nissan has previously extended the warranty on their vehicle due to problems with the automatic transmission. According to Nissan USA,” 2003-2010 Vehicles equipped with a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) also have a 10-year /120,000 mile CVT limited warranty extension.”
Affected models included:
- 2007-2010 Altima (Plus Altima Coupe and Altima Hybrid)
- 2007-2010 Maxima
- 2003-2007; 2009-2010 Murano
- 2008-2010 Rogue
- 2007-2010 Sentra
- 2007-2010 Versa (1.8SL)
If you are experiencing problems with your Nissan or Infiniti transmission, call your dealer to verify if the extended warranty covers the vehicle. In 2019, Nissan extended warranties to 7 years on CVTs used in specific U.S. models. The campaign covers over 3 million vehicles sold between 2012 to 2017, including the Sentra, Versa, and Altima sedans, Karube said. If you have additional questions, contact Nissan Customer Assistance Center at 888-388-0318.
Write down your VIN located on the lower-left corner of the windshield.
Next, visit the National Highway Safety Administration website and enter your VIN. This will allow you to look up if a transmission recall is present. If a transmission recall is open for your car, take the vehicle to your closest Nissan dealer. Otherwise, continue to the next step.
Software glitches in the Nissan transmission module can affect the shifting. Your local Nissan dealer may have a software update for your vehicle to improve the shifting points. A software update can fix specific issues. It does so by programming the transmission control module to alter the shift points.
Class Action Lawsuits
Over the years, several class-action lawsuits have been brought against Nissan.
Waldo Leyva et al. vs. Nissan North America, Inc. – Lawsuit: Sentra Xtronic CVT transmission overheating Vehicles: 2012 to 2017 Nissan Sentra
Batista vs. Nissan North America, Inc. – Lawsuit: Nissan installed CVT transmissions with known defects without warning consumers. Vehicles: 2013 and 2014 Nissan Pathfinder, Infiniti QX60/JX35 Outcome: Nissan extended the warranty on the vehicle 24 months or 24,000 miles, whichever came first, and gave affected owners a transmission software update.
Nissan makes very reliable engines, but transmissions are a different story. We see a lot of Nissan vehicles that have automatic transmission problems. Especially the early Nissan cars and SUVs equipped with Continuously Variable Transmissions (CVT) had many problems. Nissan transmission problems range from delayed shifting, jerking between gears, no Drive or Reverse, or being stuck in fail-safe mode.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are Nissan CVT transmissions reliable?
The early Nissan vehicles with CVT transmissions had a high failure rate. Nissan has dramatically improved the reliability of the CVT transmission.
How much does it cost to replace a Nissan/Infinity CVT transmission?
To replace a Nissan transmission at the dealer costs anywhere from $4500 to $6000. A cheaper alternative is finding a repair shop to overhaul your existing transmission or install a rebuilt one.
How do I know if my Nissan has a CVT transmission?
You can use a VIN decoder to tell you the exact transmission installed in your car. You can also call the dealer to provide the VIN, and they will tell you if you have a CVT transmission. Or, if you know what a Nissan CVT transmission looks like, you can open the engine and identify the transfer that way.
Can I drive with a transmission problem?
If your Nissan can still drive, you might say, It’s fine; I’ll drive it until I can fix it. This is not a good idea. Get your Nissan transmission diagnosed as soon as possible.
Why does my Nissan stop accelerating on long trips?
It is common for Nissan with CVT to go into limp mode after about one hour of driving. For example, a 2015 Nissan Rouge we test-drove went into limp mode after one and a half hours of freeway driving.
This is because Nissan’s transmission cooling is inadequate. Once the trans fluid overheats, the transmission overheats. This is detected by the transmission control unit (TCU), which puts the vehicle into safe mode by reducing engine power and RPMs. If you are experiencing this problem with your Nissan, allow the car to cool down before resuming your trip. Also, consider installing an aftermarket transmission cooling system, especially if you take long trips.
We hope you find the Nissan Transmission Problems guide helpful. Check these troubleshooting and repair guides for more help on your Nissan.
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