Common Nissan Pathfinder Problems


From time to time, AutoGuide will wade into the internet’s deep end, including the sewers that are owner’s forums, looking for information on a particular make and model. We do this as a service to you, the reader, in hopes it will help on your quest to buy a used car or perhaps to fix the one you already have. Most of the information listed here is gathered from anecdotal evidence but, to take liberties with an old saying, where there’s a lot of smoke there’s probably some fire.

The Nissan Pathfinder was introduced way back in the 1987 model year as a body-on-frame version of the Hardbody pickup. There have been three iterations since then, oscillating back and forth between unibody and truck-based machinery.

In its current form, produced since 2012, the Nissan Pathfinder takes on the role of a three-row crossover. It rides on a platform related to the Murano and Altima. This is the version on which we will focus here. Please note that we’re going to be outlining common Nissan Pathfinder problems here, not recalls (we have a whole other story on Nissan Pathfinder recalls for that!).

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Like many other Nissan products, the 4th-generation Pathfinder employs a continuously variable transmission. This type of gearbox doesn’t actually have any gears, instead using a robust belt and a couple of pulleys (click here for more information on CVTs). Most of the initial vitriol directed towards this unit was from drivers who did not understand its operation. With a tendency to ‘hang’ at a high engine rpm (where the power lives) some folks thought the unit was slipping. This is not the case.

However, there are several reports describing actual problems with Pathfinder transmissions. Chiefly, customers have complained of a ‘shudder’ or ‘stutter’ emanating from the gearbox under acceleration. This could be due to a number of issues, including wonky computer programming. Nissan dealers should be aware of this problem, as the company has issued a technical service bulletin addressing this problem. Identification numbers for these service bulletins include NTB15-015h, NTB16-120c, and NTB16-085.

Such a bulletin is not a recall, though. A service bulletin, unlike a recall, does not command the service department to repair the problem. It simply makes the technicians aware of a potential issue and suggests a fix. Do your homework before heading to the shop.

Power Steering Noise

It is also widely reported that Pathfinders of this vintage suffer from power steering that whines more than a spoiled socialite. The description of this noise ranges from a whistle to a wail. However it is described, the issue doesn’t seem to affect the safe operation of the vehicle but, as one would expect, it is always a good idea to investigate weird noises coming from under the hood.

Most online accounts describe owners who are frustrated with the lack of a permanent fix for this problem. There seems to be a consensus that the replacement of an insulator, although details are scanty on what this part looks like. Stories abound of dealer service departments brushing off the problem as normal operation. No matter the car and no matter the issue, drivers shouldn’t take ‘they all do that’ as an acceptable answer.

ALSO SEE: Nissan Pathfinder Review

Interior Door Handles

Trim pieces on the inside of a car are often subjected to wild temperature swings, from sub-zero temperatures in the winter to lava-hot conditions in the summer heat. For this reason, they endure more abuse than one might initially think.

Pathfinder owners have been reporting the shearing of interior door handles, scuppering the plans of passengers who want to exit the car. It doesn’t seem to be restricted to one single location, with failures being reported on all four doors.

This repair should be covered under the comprehensive warranty but might be outside the scope of a powertrain repair. Make sure to know what coverage the vehicle has before you buy it. If you’re choosing an aftermarket warranty, read it carefully. Some items (such as door handles) are not covered by the plan.

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Hot Hot Heat

Reports exist of Pathfinders refusing to blow hot air even when the ventilation system is set to maximum. These seem to be isolated cases, though, with no consensus on its cause or potential fix.

Sun Visors Not Staying Up

An odd problem that appears limited to 2014 Pathfinders is one your author has never heard of or even previously considered. Apparently, the sun visors – those flaps of plastic and fabric one can lower in front of the windshield to reduce glare – have a problem staying, well, up.

We would like to say the recommended repair is a little blue pill. However, it seems the most commonly cited reason for this failure is a problem with the supplier who manufactured the sun visor’s mounting brackets and hinges. No recall has been issued, leaving owners on the hook to pay for a repair.

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Blowing Smoke

Plumages of white smoke generally indicate one of two things: there are problems deep in the bowels of an engine or a new pope has been just elected. Since the Holy See doesn’t appear to be going anywhere soon, it’s safe to assume the former.

This problem is tougher to nail down, as those who report seeing white smoke from the tail pipe are attributing it to the burning of engine oil. However, your author knows that problem is denoted by blue smoke, with the white stuff indicating problems with coolant leaking into the engine by way of a damaged head gasket.

ALSO SEE: What Does the Smoke from My Exhaust Mean?

No matter the make and model, excess smoke from the tail pipe should be a red flag, halting the sales process and giving the customer a chance to walk away from a potentially expensive mistake.

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