— Nissan Sentra automatic transmission problems have caused a lawsuit that alleges the continuously variable transmissions (CVTs) shudder, shake, jerk and do just about everything except work correctly.
Plaintiffs Michelle Falk, Indhu Jayavelu, Patricia L. Cruz, Danielle Trotter and Amanda Macri filed the proposed class-action lawsuit alleging 2013-present Nissan Sentra cars have automatic transmissions that are a safety hazard because of acceleration and deceleration problems.
According to the lawsuit, the transmissions shake, jerk, hesitate and shudder while driving and clunking noises are common, especially when shifting out of PARK or when slowing down.
Plaintiff Michelle Falk says she purchased a used 2015 Nissan Sentra for $14,000 in July 2016 when the car had 38,332 miles, but within a few weeks she noticed the engine would feel like it was failing and she would hear clanking noises when shifting out of PARK. The Sentra then lost power when driving from a stop and then shortly after that, her car would take a long time to speed up to 30 mph.
The plaintiff says her car would shake violently when going over 45 mph, lose power and speed on the freeway and almost die at stop signs. The car would allegedly hesitate and act as if it had a manual transmission instead of an automatic.
Falk says the engine light later illuminated, so she took the Sentra to a Nissan dealer in August 2016. According to the plaintiff, Nissan technicians verified her concerns and found a technical service bulletin (TSB) related to the transmission.
Technicians allegedly cleaned the inside of the throttle chamber and updated the engine control module software. However, the plaintiff claims the transmission problems continued.
Falk took her car back to the dealership and told technicians the Sentra jerked when accelerating and when shifting into gear from PARK. The technician allegedly said, “Nissan was notorious for problems with CVT. They get cars that need replacing all the time.”
When Falk asked why Nissan continues to manufacture cars equipped with CVTs, the technician allegedly said “it was trial and error. These cars needed to be driven very carefully, anything could mess it up.”
The dealership kept the Sentra for almost two weeks and allegedly found it jerked upon acceleration and when put into gear from PARK, but Nissan allegedly did not find any stored trouble codes or applicable service bulletins. The plaintiff claims Nissan recommended dropping the transmission oil pan and looking for internal damage to the CVT assembly.
Upon removing the oil pan, the technician allegedly found the transmission fluid was almost black and had a burned odor, so the CVT transaxle assembly was replaced. However, Falk says it did not correct the transmission problems.
Falk says she took the car to the dealer in October 2016 for the same problems. The lawsuit says she told Nissan the Sentra "resists and shudders" at 30 mph when driving and accelerating, but the technician said it was just the way the CVT worked.
In May 2017, Falk says she tried to merge onto the freeway but her car would not go more than 20 mph and there was a clunking noise when shifting into drive from PARK. The technician determined TSB 12-055e applied to the Sentra and applied grease to the bearing surfaces on both sides, but Falk says the problems continued.
Falk says she again brought her vehicle to Nissan in May 2017 at 50,715 miles and told technicians the car felt like it was going to stall on the freeway and that she continued to hear clunking noises when shifting out of PARK. In addition, she was now allegedly hearing noises when shifting into reverse, but the dealership couldn't replicate the problem and did no repairs.
In June 2017 at 51,131 miles, the plaintiff went back to the dealer and complained all the original problems were still occurring, but the dealer allegedly couldn't replicate the problems.
According to the lawsuit, Nissan issued a technical service bulletin in January 2013 about 2013 Sentras that could experience a small RPM decrease or stop running when braking or shifting out of PARK.
The TSB also allegedly said the engines could hesitate or stall when taking off from a stop, but to solve the problem dealers should reprogram the engine control modules and if needed, the transmission control modules.
In March 2013, another bulletin was released that informed dealers of a voluntary service campaign to reprogram the modules in 2013 Sentras. Then in June 2013, Nissan released a bulletin that talked about the same engine problems and solutions found in the March TSB.
In May 2013, Nissan told dealers the engines in 2013 Sentras continued to display intermittent RPM drops while stopped and recommended reprogramming the engine control modules if the March 2013 service campaign set forth in NTB13-022 already “has been completed.”
The plaintiffs say another TSB for 2013 Nissan Sentras was issued concerning the continued problem of engine RPMs dropping very low while stopped and the engines failing to run while coming to a complete stop.
By January 2014, Nissan expanded its TSB to include all 2013 and 2014 Nissan Sentras and recommended dealers reprogram the engine control modules.
According to the lawsuit, another TSB was issued in August 2014 that said the CVTs in 2007-2012 Sentras could reduce the speed of the cars after "high driving speed, driving in ambient temperatures of 96 degrees or higher, climbing steep or extended hills for 6 miles or more." The bulletin also said drivers could hear a whine or rattle noises when slowing down.
Nissan recommended dealers install a kit designed to cool the “transmission oil”.
In August 2015, Nissan conducted another voluntary service campaign to reprogram the CVTs in 2013-2014 Nissan Sentras because:
“the belt may slip when manually shifting from the L range to the D range due to low hydraulic pressure. Belt slippage may result in noise, vibration and poor acceleration. Left unrepaired, this condition may reduce the durability of the CVT. This is not a safety issue, and the vehicle meets or exceeds applicable safety standards.”
Then in April 2016, Nissan allegedly said 2014-2015 Nissan Sentras were experiencing a judder or shake while slowing to a stop below 15 mph. Nissan suggested technicians reprogram the transmission control modules, but the lawsuit alleges nothing has worked to truly fix the transmission problems.
The plaintiffs say Nissan has known for years about the automatic transmission problems and doubled the warranty period for the transmissions in various models of 2003-2010 vehicles equipped with CVTs, including 2007-2010 Sentras.
The automaker also settled a separate class-action lawsuit about the transmissions, although the settlement involved Pathfinder and Infiniti QX60 vehicles (Batista v. Nissan).
The Nissan Sentra automatic transmission lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California - Falk, et al., v. Nissan North America, Inc.
The plaintiffs are represented by Bronstein Gewirtz & Grossman, Whitfield, Bryson & Mason LLP, Berger & Montague P.C., Migliaccio & Rathod LLP, Kantrowitz, Goldhamer & Graifman, P.C., and Parker Waichman LLP.