Nissans are stylish and affordable cars.
But hundreds of owners have been complaining to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and online about their transmissions slipping, since Nissan switched to "continuously variable" automatic transmissions about a decade ago. And despite a warranty extension, the complaints keep coming.
Two repairs, fails again
Christy Hall says she is frustrated with her 2008 Nissan Altima.
After two transmission replacements, she says her car now needs another, according to a dealership that recently looked it over.
"I need a third transmission," she said. "A third transmission on one car under 130,000 miles."
Hall says at first it runs fine, but after an hour or so of driving, it starts to whine and over-rev.
"If you and I were to hang out and do a bunch of errands, and we'd take the interstate and a couple of back roads, you'd hear it screaming," she said.
The CVT (used by several other automakers as well) is smoother and gets better gas mileage than a standard transmission, since there is no switching gears as you speed up. It is "continuous" (which is what the C stands for) as you hit the accelerator.
But after as little as 50,000 miles, some owners report problems.
"When you go to accelerate, it makes a screech, a whirr, and you see your RPM's go up and go back down," Hall explained.
Nissan has been generous, extending the warranty on many of these troublesome transmissions to over 120,000 miles or 10 years, which is unusual in the industry.
But the problem is if it happens again after 120,000 miles, you may be on your own.
Nissan responds to owners
We contacted Nissan, which in the past has acknowledged complaints from a "small percentage of owners" of CVT transmissions
In response to complaints and several lawsuits, it has doubled the transmission warranty to 120,000 miles on most 2007 - 2010 Altimas, Maximas, Muranos, Rogues, Sentras, and Versas. The Murano warranty goes as far back as 2003.
However, the federal government recently denied the request by owners of Nissan pickups and large SUV's for a transmission recall in in their case.
CLICK HERE for full details on the warranty extension.
Over 120,000 miles can be a problem
But Hall's Altima, at 126,000 miles, is now past the warranty extension, while her husband's Nissan Rogue is getting close to that cutoff point. It too is having transmission issues, she says.
"I don't understand why I have two vehicles, and they are both doing this," Hall said. "What are we doing wrong?"
Shortly after our interview, Hall received some good news: as a result of our involvement, Nissan spokesman Steve Yeager told us it will replace her transmission a third time, saving her what her dealer estimated to be a $3,500 repair bill. (See full statement below).
If you suspect your Nissan may be having transmission trouble, you may wish to get it fixed before 120,000 miles, when the automaker will make still the repair free. After that you are on your own, and could be facing a very expensive repair.
"The regional sales office has agreed to cover Ms. Hall’s CVT replacement in the interest of customer satisfaction. Our offer was communicated to her yesterday and we will continue to follow up with her until the replacement is completed." Steve Yeager, Nissan USA Corporate Communications