The 2009 Nissan Murano has an issue with soft and spongy brake pedals that go all the way to the floor and dangerously increase stopping distances. Owners say it happens after hitting a pothole or riding over other rough surfaces. It took years, but Nissan issued a recall for the problem in 2019.
What Causes the Soft Brake Pedals? ∞
Nissan says a chemical reaction between the valve surface coating and the DOT3 braking fluid is affecting the anti-lock braking system (ABS) actuators supplied by Contintental Automotive systems.
The reaction causes the brake fluid to gel which can either slow the actuator vavles from closing or keep them stuck open. If this happens and the ABS system is activated, it will cause the pedals to feel soft and drop further to the floor.
The reaction creates a gel that is thick to slow the closing of the valves or keep them stuck open. The gel can also harden and affect the springs that help the valves return to their closed position.
What is Nissan Doing About The Murano Brake Defect? ∞
At first, not much. It wasn't until a federal defect investigation was opened in May of 2017 that things really started to happen.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) opened the investigation because of an alarming number of complaints from Murano owners who said their pedals dropped to the floor and greatly increased stopping distances after hitting a pot hole or driving on rough roads.
Nissan's service campaign to flush the system ∞
In April of 2018, Nissan announced a "voluntary service campaign #P8305" that would flush the brake fluid system and replace the old DOT3 fluid with DOT4 fluid in 93,000 Murano SUVs.
Nissan didn't think a recall was necessary because drivers allegedly never lost "full braking performance" but in addition to the brake fluid swap:
- Dealers would inspect the ABS actuators after the fluid swap. If a defect was found the actuators would be replaced.
- Reimbursements were made available if related repairs over $1,000 could be proved.
- To indicate the swap, a new brake fluid cap that specifies the use of DOT 4 fluid and the owner's manual were updated .... presumably with a sticker?
What's the DOT difference? ∞
Nissan believed the DOT4 brake fluid wouldn't have the same negative chemical reaction with the valve surface coating.
DOT3 brake fluid is pretty standard in vehicles because it absorbs less water from the air and has a longer shelf life. DOT4 brake fluid has a higher boiling point and is usually found in performance or heavy duty cars where weight is an issue.
The investigation was upgraded ∞
Perhaps a little underwhelmed by Nissan's response, NHTSA didn't close their investigation but upgraded it to an engineering analysis, and expanded the scope by more than 100,000 vehicles.
NHTSA tested the units and confirmed the zinc coating used on the normally closed valve assemblies inside the units did react with brake fluid, forming a gelatinous material that can harden with time and prevent the valve from closing after the ABS systems have been activated.
Nissan maintained their stance that the problem only increased pedal travel by 36mm and that's not an "unreasonable risk" to driver safety. Tell that to the 14 crashes, 3 injuries, and 480 complaints NHTSA believed could be directly attributed to the problem at that time.
Finally, a recall ∞
Nissan changed their tune in February 2019 when they reclassified their service campaign into a proper recall to replace the brake fluid, test the hydraulic control units for stuck valves, and replace them if necessary.
The recall added an additional 22,230 vehicles over their service campaign and affects any 2009 Murano built between July 9, 2007 and August 29, 2009.