Nissan seems to be the brand that attracts more bad press than any other. Their former CEO escaped a corporate scandal by getting smuggled out of Japan in a music crate during the dead of night. Their controversial CVT transmission has been the center of a Lemon Law case and earlier this year they reported a $6.2 billion loss for the fiscal year.
But despite all of this, they still rank in the top ten for reliability amongst automakers and consistently stay above the industry average. From our experience with servicing and repairing countless Nissan models, we see the fewest problems among Nissan pickup trucks and commercial vehicles. Even the dreaded CVT transmissions seem to have overcome their reputation for unreliability. If you own or are thinking of buying a Nissan, here are some of the common problems for each model on the current US market.
Nissan 370Z is widely known as a fun, reliable, and affordable sports car – but the early models did have their problems. One of the earliest models, the 2009 – 2011 Nissan 370Z had a problem with suddenly not starting, locking the start button in the process. Owners replaced batteries, got new key fobs, but nothing seemed to work until somebody traced the problem back to a faulty steering lock assembly – a repair that costs around $380.
The other most common issues with the Nissan 370Z are:
- Clutch overheating (2010)
- Loss of power while accelerating (2019)
- Paint peeling off (2015)
Despite being one of Nissan’s oldest models that you can still buy new, the Altima hasn’t enjoyed a good reputation for reliability until fairly recently. 2013 was the worst year to buy a new Altima due to numerous problems with the CVT transmission, an issue that has since become synonymous with the Nissan Altima. The problems are numerous and commonly manifest as stalling, hesitating under acceleration, or rough, jerky shifts. CVT transmissions are more susceptible to overheating, so if you own one, it’s imperative to have it serviced and the fluid changed annually. A CVT transmission can be serviced for around $220.
The other most common issues with the Nissan Altima are:
- Noisy power steering pump (2015)
- Air conditioner blowing hot air (2014)
- Steering wheel lock failure (2009)
The Nissan Armada has been another model that has displayed transmission problems, but this time it’s not due to Nissan’s controversial CVR transmission. The Armada uses a well-built RE5R05A transmission instead, but over time the factory transmission is prone to cracks developing in the cooler passages, allowing coolant and transmission fluid to mix as it enters the cooler at the bottom of the radiator. When this happens, usually, the transmission is replaced with a remanufactured R35905A model at a cost of around $2,500.
The other most common issues with the Nissan Versa are:
Most owners of the latest model Nissan Frontier know it as a dependable workhorse with few problems. The 2016 model has been the model we see the most issues with, namely a problem with sluggish acceleration. This is usually fixed by replaced the throttle position sensor at a cost of approximately $250.
The other most common issues with the Nissan Frontier are:
- Airbag warning light flashing (2016)
- Engine idling rough (2012)
- Coolant leaking into transmission fluid (2007)
We don’t see many problems with the Nissan Leaf – at least nowhere near the amount that Nissan sedans seem to have. The tiny Leaf has suffered from various braking issues, in part due to Nissan’s new regenerative braking system. Some Nissan Leaf owners have reported brakes that lock up, accompanied by a ‘brake warning light’ on the dashboard. In these cases, the brake control module was found to be defective and replacing it has solved the issue. This can cost around $1,500 new, but much less if the owner is prepared to get a second hand or repaired module.
The other most common issues with the Nissan Leaf are:
- Battery range diminished (2013)
- Transmission not responding to driver input (2017)
- Battery won’t charge (2012)
In 2016, the Nissan Maxima had an unusual problem which sometimes turned the car into a nightclub by making the interior light flash on and off after the car was started. It also caused issues with the navigation system and instrument cluster refusing to work at times. The problem was found to be a short in the wiring harness which can be difficult to track down if you’re unfamiliar with the problem. These can generally be repaired for around $300 as long as the wiring harness doesn’t need to be replaced.
The other most common issues with the Nissan Maxima are:
- Transmission slipping (2006)
- Wheel bearings noisy and need to be repacked (2011)
- Electronic steering lock causing power steering failure (2010)
The latest Murano seems to be free of the problems which the earlier models were susceptible to – and there were a lot. 2009 was a particularly bad year for the Nissan Murano with the SUV being prone to blowing a head gasket. Blown head gaskets are typically caused by either an engine that has overheated or pre-ignition problems. If you are driving a vehicle that may be prone to head gasket failure, such as the 2009 Nissan Murano, it’s important to have your engine coolant changed according to the manufacturer’s schedule and an annual inspection of your cooling system. A head gasket replacement in a 2009 Nissan Murano can cost as much as $2,500, so preventative maintenance can save you thousands of dollars!
The other most common issues with the Nissan Murano are:
- Brake pedal too soft/excessive travel (2009)
- Alternator not charging the battery (2009)
- Heated/cooling seats not working (2015)
The Pathfinder is a popular seller around the world, partly because of its reputation for reliability over its thirty-three-year history. It hasn’t been all smooth sailing for the popular SUV though, particularly in the 2015 Nissan Pathfinder which has seen owners complaining about an incredibly loud and annoying power steering pump. This can be caused by a low fluid level or air in the system, although it can also be indicative of a worn-out power steering pump. A replacement power steering pump can be fitted to a Nissan Pathfinder for $900 on average.
The other most common issues with the Nissan Pathfinder are:
- Transmission slipping out of gear and hesitating to shift (2017)
- Total brake failure (2014)
- Engine burning oil (2013)
The Nisan Rogue is sold as a family hauler that can go anywhere, but something that can put a damper on your trip is when the air conditioning system fails. The 2015 Nissan Rogue is prone to a leaking air conditioner compressor, even when the air conditioning system has been well maintained. Some owners have had the compressor replaced only to have the same problem happen again. The cost to replace an air conditioner compressor in a Nissan Rogue is on average $900-$1,000.
The other most common issues with the Nissan Rogue are:
- Sudden loss of acceleration (2013)
- Rod knock at startup (2015)
- Brakes suddenly when driving (2018)
Along with the Nissan Altima, the Nissan Sentra has also suffered from major problems with the CVT transmission across several models. If you are driving a car with a CVT transmission you should familiarize yourself with the early warning signs and have the transmission inspected by your trusted mechanic to ensure all is well. These include transmission slipping, shifts that are jerking or not smooth, and any unusual noises like clanging, banging, or screeching. Maintaining your CVT transmission should cost around $180 annually and can prevent a whole host of problems.
The other most common issues with the Nissan Sentra are:
- Piston slap/knocking (2010)
- Brake master cylinder leaking (2013)
- Ignition key needs reprogramming (2016)
Nissan seems to have fewer problems with their pickups than any other vehicle series they manufacture. The Titan is a good example of this, and the few problems we see haven’t been too serious. One of the most common problems occurred way back in 2011 when some Titans displayed signs of shock absorber failure. These can be replaced at a cost of around $500.
The other most common issues with the Nissan Titan are:
- Wheels keep going out of balance (2018)
- Hesitates when accelerating (2017)
- Exhaust leaking (2016)
It’s never a good time to get a flat tire, but for Nissan Versa owners it can particularly problematic. For a long time the coil springs, which make up part of the suspension, were not getting adequate anti-corrosion coating at the Nissan factory. This left them prone to rusting over time, weakening to the point where they would snap, and quite often be shot through the front tire, puncturing it in the process. If your suspension is showing abnormal signs of wear we recommend having it replaced immediately.
The other most common issues with the Nissan Versa are: