NHTSA investigating Nissan for failing transmissions in SUVs and trucks

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Nissan Xterra

The NHTSA has opened a probe into transmission failures in Nissan light trucks and SUVs. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has launched an investigation into reports of failing transmission in Nissan light trucks and SUVs. Transmission failures have been reported in Nissan Frontier pickups and Xterra and Pathfinder SUVs, due to a faulty transmission cooler.

Transmission failures in government probe

An investigation has been launched by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, according to AutoGuide, into reports of transmission failures due to a well-known defect in Nissan light pickups and SUV transmissions. The defect has to do with the transmission cooling system in 2005 to 2010 Nissan Frontier pickups and the Pathfinder and Xterra SUVs, which are based on the Frontier.

The investigation was partially prompted, according to Reuters, after the NHTSA was urged to investigate the matter by a consumer’s advocacy group in North Carolina, which petitioned the NHTSA to look into reports of transmission failures. To date, the agency has received 512 complaints from 2005 to 2012.

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The issue is already well-known, though Nissan maintains it is merely something that occurs rather than a manufacturing defect.

Partially acknowledged already

This is not the first time the problem has been acknowledged. Nissan has been aware that transmission cooler failures have been occurring since at least 2010, when the company extended its power train warranty on the transmission radiator in those vehicles, according to AutoBlog, followed by an extension of the transmission warranty the following year. The warranty covers the vehicles for 8 years or 80,000 miles, whichever comes first.

Initially, Nissan held that it was the radiator cooling tube that sent coolant to the transmission. The company believed the tubes were cracking but was later found to be the transmission radiator itself failing, leading to coolant leaking into the transmission itself.

No recall yet

Nissan owners who have reported the defect experience a transmission failure, caused by a failure in the transmission cooler. The transmission radiator fails, which allows coolant to mix with radiator fluid, according to AutoGuide, damaging transmission components leading to a total transmission failure. According to Reuters, people who report the defect typically experience no problems prior to the transmission failure but are suddenly alerted to it by a jerking of the vehicle at highway speeds.

At the moment, the defect is only being probed. It is only an investigation, which is often the first stepĀ  of three relating to recalls, with a recall being the last step. Typically, before a recall occurs, the investigation is upgraded to an engineering analysis.

Anyone driving a 2005 to 2010 Frontier, Xterra or Pathfinder should be mindful that the possibility exists, though the chance of it occurring is very small.





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