Coolant Leaks are Destroying Nissan Transmissions

Cracked radiators are leaking coolant into the transmissions of some 2005–2010 Nissan vehicles. When that coolant mixes with transmission fluid, it creates a toxic hell stew that is irreversible and will eventually kill the 5-speed automatic transmission.

This is a well known and trending issue.

While Nissan reluctantly offered an extended warranty as part of a class-action settlement, the way they structured it makes me want to kick my walls. And I like my walls. They’re freshly painted.

It All Starts with Cracked Radiators Tanks

These vehicles contain a defective radiator cooler tank that ruptures and forces coolant into the transmission through the cooler lines. When the coolant mixes with transmission fluid it creates a frothy liquid that eats valves, erodes seals and causes corrosion in the following vehicles:

Model Generation Worst Years
Frontier Gen 2 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010
Pathfinder Gen 3 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010
Xterra Gen 2 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010

This problem was listed as the 2nd worst problem on's "Top Vehicle Problem Trends of 2012".

What Owners are Saying

“Like so many others my Xterra had a leak from the radiator that ruined the transmission. I initially had the radiator replaced and the transmission fluid flushed. This was only a bandaid however, and did not fix the problem. I am now about 2 years post radiator replacement and my vehicle is having serious transmission problems. I have been recommended to have a transmission rebuilt but don’t want to spend the money.” – 2005 Xterra owner

“After finding this huge amount of other Pathfinder owners who have had the same thing happen to them, I am furious! $3,500+ to repair? Seriously? My car is 9 years old with over 134,000 miles! Ridiculous, greedy, lying, cheating, dishonest corporations are just plain disgusting! They will stoop to any low for a dollar!” – 2005 Pathfinder Owner

Class Action Lawsuit: A Victory! Well, Sort of…

In October 2012 a class-action lawsuit was settled in court, providing a bit of relief to some owners who have had this problem.

As part of the settlement, Nissan agreed to extend the warranty to:

  • Up to 8 years/80,000 miles, whichever comes first, extended warranty coverage applies with no customer co-pay.
  • After 8 years/80,000 miles, whichever comes first, up to 9 years/90,000 miles, whichever comes first, extended warranty coverage applies with customer co-pay in the amount of $2,500.
  • After 9 years/90,000 miles, whichever comes first, up to 10 years/100,000 miles, whichever comes first, extended warranty coverage applies with customer co-pay in the amount of $3,000.

Why The Settlement is Nothing to Get Excited About

According to data on the average mileage at which this problem occurs is 95,000 miles. So the “extended” warranty is basically useless.

With no warranty coverage the average repair bill is $3,800.

Even if you’re lucky enough to have your transmission fail within the warranty period, Nissan will pay $800 for your trouble. The other $3,000? That’s on you.

And anyway, if you somehow managed to keep your car under 80,000 miles all this time you’re out of luck anyway. The deadline to file a claim has passed.

“I always liked Nissan, and love my 2005 Pathfinder. Until coolant leaked into the transmission. I looked up online and saw all of the complaints on carcomplaints… Saw there was a class action suit which I do not qualify for since the time has passed. Called Nissan, they said since I’m over 100,000 miles I’m SOL. Cannot believe Nissan would treat loyal customers this way. Even with the warranty it only covers 800 dollars…and the other 3–4 thousand is on you. My family and I have bought 5 Nissans from the same dealer. Never again will we purchase a Nissan!!!” – 2005 Pathfinder owner

All in all, this is a raw deal for consumers. Chris Jensen covered this story in an in-depth “Wheels” New York Times article on August 24, 2011.

The Warning Signs of Transmission Failure

Some articles online claim that being aware of the proper warning signs may help prevent your Nissan from needing a rebuilt transmission. These warning signs are:

  • Heavy Vibration While Shifting
  • Heavy Vibration While Accelerating
  • Abrupt Stalling
  • Shuddering Noises
  • Car Doesn’t Warm Up When Sitting

Owners who have had their radiator crack are claiming that even if you catch it early, your transmission is still doomed trouble due to this engineering / manufacturing defect. You can read their stories over at for the three Nissan models that are showing the defect:

Perhaps even more troubling is owners who have already had their transmissions “repaired” by an authorized Nissan dealer are still reporting catastrophic transmission failure. Through no fault of their own, Nissan owners who are out of warranty are left to cover the hefty repair bill, which can be over $4,500 when all is said and done.

Avoid At All Costs

It’s no wonder that North Carolina Consumers Council (NCCC) has told owners to avoid the 2005–2010 at all costs. It’s just not worth the time or headaches.

As these cars get a bit older, more radiators are failing and taking transmissions down with them. If you see a used one for sale, you’re better off moving along to something else.

Actions You Can Take

This step is crucial, don't just complain on forums! The sites below will actively manage your complaints and turn them into useful statistics. Both and the CAS will report dangerous trends to the authorities and are often called upon by law firms for help with Class Action lawsuits. Make sure to file your complaint on all three sites, we can't stress that enough.

  1. Step 1: File Your Complaint at is a free site dedicated to uncovering problem trends and informing owners about potential issues with their cars. Major class action law firms use this data when researching cases. Add a Complaint

  2. Step 2: Notify the Center for Auto Safety

    The Center for Auto Safety (CAS) is a pro-consumer organization that researches auto safety issues & often compels the US government to do the right thing through lobbying & lawsuits. Notify the CAS

  3. Step 3: Report a Safety Concern to NHTSA

    The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is the US agency with the authority to conduct vehicle defect investigations & force recalls. Their focus is on safety-related issues. Report to NHTSA

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Nissan Consumer Affairs

P.O. Box 191 Gardena CA 90248