NHTSA Launches Defect Investigation of Nissan Pathfinder, Frontier & Xterra

Consumer Complaints Continue For 2005-2010 Model Year Vehicles Equipped with automatic transmissions

NHTSA Launches Defect Investigation of Nissan Pathfinder, Frontier & Xterra
Image: Nissan

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is investigating the 2005-2010 Nissan Pathfinder, Frontier and Xterra after reports of severe transmission failures.

NCCC Files Petition for Recall

Earlier this year, NCCC filed a defect petition with the NHTSA after receiving numerous complaints from consumers regarding total transmission failures in 2005-2010 Frontier, Pathfinder and Xterra vehicles being caused by engine coolant contamination.

Problems Seem to Happen After Warranty Expires

In many cases these Nissan transmission failures are occurring just outside of any warranty coverage, leaving affected consumers high and dry. According to the NHSTA's Office of Defects Investigation (ODI), the source of the contamination is a cracked ATF line that runs through an engine coolant chamber in the radiator.

Large number of complaints received

ODI has received a total of 512 consumer complaints from Nissan Pathfidner, Xterra and Frontier owners since August of 2005. ODI will now review the contents of the defect petition, along with other relevant data, to determine if further steps should be taken, including a potential recall of all affected Nissan vehicles.

Get The Word Out

Getting the word out may not help you with your particular issue, but you may be able to help others before they experience the same problems.

Share this article with your family, friends and colleagues. You may help them learn about the defect and keep them from becoming another statistic.

What Can NCCC Do For Me?

We regret that we are not able to offer any specific guidance for consumers experiencing this issue. The investigation is now closed (see updated information below) and the time limits for participation in all known class action lawsuits and reimbursement programs has expired. Some consumers are having success with filing small claims actions through their local courts or by hiring private attorneys.

Fixing the Problem Yourself

A number of vehicle owners have replaced the problem radiators at their own cost. We've heard total prices ranging anywhere from $80 all the way to $700 depending upon whether they chose to use an aftermarket or genuine Nissan radiator and whether they chose to do the work themselves, hire an independent shop, or use a Nissan dealership.

Some owners have even taken the unusual preemptive step of bypassing the transmission cooler itself and installing a separate transmission cooler apart from the radiator.

Check Your Transmission Fluid Regularly

If you own one of these vehicles, you should get in the habit of checking your engine coolant and transmission fluid very regularly.

Depending upon your specific vehicle, your transmission fluid should be red, though production changes or previous service may mean you have a different color fluid. As the transmission fluid ages, it will turn darker and may look more brown than the original color. This condition is normal and may be a sign that it's getting close to the time to change your transmission fluid. The fluid should be consistent in coloring.

The transmission fluid should NOT be white, streaked with white, or look like a strawberry milkshake or custard. If you notice this condition, stop driving the vehicle immediately and have your vehicle towed for service as operating the vehicle can cause further and sudden damage.

Check Your Engine Coolant Regularly

In addition to checking the transmission fluid, you should also check the condition of your engine coolant as cross contamination may present itself in the coolant before it shows in the transmission.

These vehicles all differ. If your vehicle has a radiator cap or reservoir cap, you can remove it when the engine is cold and inspect it. Do not remove any coolant system caps when the engine is hot or you can be severely burned. You can also inspect the coolant reservoir. If there is any slimy substance or the coolant appears milky or brown, you may have contamination and should have your vehicle serviced immediately.

Do Not Buy Advisory

NCCC took the unusual step of issuing a 'Do Not Buy' advisory for these vehicles owing to the presence of this defect. It has been acknowledged by both Nissan and the NHTSA. While the NHTSA findings don't support their criteria for a safety recall, the defect can set consumers back $10,000 or more depending upon which vehicle they own.

Updated Information

The safety recall investigation has been closed by NHTSA. You can read updated information regarding the investigation.

UPDATE 5/18/16: NHTSA has reached out to NCCC to confirm that this investigation is still very much on the agency's radar, and they hope to have it resolved as soon as possible.

UPDATE 10/26/16: NHTSA has closed its investigation into this issue. No further investigation will be conducted and no recall will be issued.