The Pathfinder is a perfect mix of adventure and family. It’s big and capable when off-road, but at the same time, it is the ideal family companion capable of carrying all your family’s belongings. In this blog, we are taking a deeper look into the transmission options and problems of the past three generations. Read this article for a general overview of Pathfinder problems. Here is a quick summary:
There were significant problems with the CVT unit on the 2013-2020 Pathfinder. The latest generation Pathfinder from 2021 onwards features the typically problematic ZF9HP automatic transmission that seems to be improved for the Pathfinder. The 3rd generation Pathfinder offers solid standard automatic transmissions and a great manual option.
If you are interested in the entire story, including all the relevant technical service bulletins, recalls and actual owners’ NHTSA complaints, sit tight. We will also highlight the costs of certain replacement parts and entire transmissions. Keep reading!
Common Nissan Pathfinder Transmission Problems
We will first divide this section into different generations and the transmissions offered in a particular generation of the Pathfinder. We will then list our findings and common problems of each transmission.
Fifth Generation – R53 (2021 – Present)
The 5th generation Pathfinder announced a return to the more squared looks of the 3rd generation and the use of a standard hydraulic automatic transmission that was also last used in the 3rd generation Pathfinder. This latest generation Pathfinder features the following transmission:
- 9-Speed ZF 9HP Automatic Transmission
Based on our experience with BMW and their use of ZF transmissions, we have big hopes for this generation, Pathfinder, in terms of transmission reliability. Let’s see if we are right!
9-Speed ZF 9HP Automatic Transmission
This transmission is notorious for the recall of more than 500,000 cars regarding the common problem of unexpectedly shifting into neutral while driving. This happened due to a faulty crimp in the wiring harness attached to a sensor cluster. ZF resolved the issue by providing a software update.
There are 2 NHTSA complaints by owners of a 2022 Pathfinder describing this exact issue. These same issues occurred in other cars that feature this transmission, like the Acura TLX, Jeep Cherokee, Honda Pilot, and many others.
Numerous reports also show rough shifting, gear chasing, harsh downshifts, and slipping. It is generally believed that these problems were resolved by 2019, so the 2021 Pathfinder should experience fewer of these early problems.
But before we end things, we have to mention the three transmission-related technical service bulletins that Nissan released to address specific ZF 9HP problems.
Vehicles made before May 11, 2022, were offered a reprogramming of the transmission control unit (TCU) to resolve the unnecessary 1st to 2nd upshift while driving at low speeds and while the transmission is still warming up.
A TSB reference number NTB22-030 was released in April 2022 to address the warning message stating: “Service AT Power Reduced”. This problem occurred because of an input speed sensor problem, and Nissan resolved the issue by reprogramming the TCU.
And lastly, Nissan also addressed the fault of the Stop/Start system, which occurred as a consequence of a clutch position sensor diagnostic trouble code stored in the transmission control unit. The issue was again resolved by reprogramming the TCU.
Apart from the quickly resolved issues we mentioned above, there are currently no significant problems with this transmission on the 5th-generation Pathfinder.
Fourth Generation – R52 (2013 – 2020)
The 4th generation Pathfinder was so far the first and the last to only offer a continuously variable transmission. This came in the era of Nissan’s CVT fascination, which we now know was not the best of ideas. The Pathfinder featured the following transmission:
- RE0F02H CVT Automatic Transmission
The RE0F02H CVT unit was featured in the 4th generation Pathfinder and the Infiniti QX60. It was known as the unit that was specifically suited for hybrid SUVs. Let’s see how it fared.
RE0F02H CVT Automatic Transmission
Right off the bat, we were hit by 338 power train NHTSA owners’ complaints for the 2013 model year Pathfinder alone. The majority of these complaints report significant problems with CVT transmission.
When combining all the model years of this generation, there are well over 500 owners’ complaints describing CVT problems such as slipping, shaking, juddering, vibration, loss of power, hesitation, and, most importantly, premature failure at low mileage.
An owner of a 2014 Pathfinder reports:
We have experienced a second CVT failure on the vehicle. First one was on highway driving experienced significant loss power on the highway and “CVT Judder” as it has been described to me by the dealer…NHTSA ID Number: 11482551
… Then in April 2022 second CVT failure and dealer is indicating out of warranty for repair so will be at my expense $6,000+.
Nissan never felt the need to launch a recall campaign regarding these transmission problems. However, they released several TSBs that addressed specific problems, but none offered a solution to resolve the underlying cause for all the complaints. Below are some of the most relevant TSBs we need to acknowledge.
TSB reference NTB13-086 addressed the juddering of the CVT in the 2013-2014 Pathfinder. The juddering and bumping were felt when traveling between 5 and 35 mph. As the driver accelerated, the problems disappeared.
Nissan first tried to reprogram the TCU, but if that did not help resolve, another diagnostic flow chart is provided in this TSB. Nissan then replaced the torque converter or the whole CVT unit if needed.
In 2021, Nissan released the TSB NTB17-039M, which addressed the juddering, shaking, vibration, and bumping of the CVT in combination with the P17F0 and P17F1 diagnostic trouble codes.
This 116-page TSB provided instructions for a complete breakdown and inspection of the CVT to improve the process of diagnosing these issues. Based on this process, the owners would receive a new valve body, sub-assembly, CVT belt, or even a new CVT unit.
Furthermore, Nissan also released the TSB NTB16-109b to provide instructions on which “weird” noises are acceptable in the operation of the CVT. They also released the TSB NTB15-013e, which issued instructions on how and when to flush the CVT transmission cooler to prevent overheating due to radiator blockages.
Other TSBs mainly provided instruction to the service technicians and were not issues to tackle specific problems like the ones we mentioned above.
Because of all the problems and Nissan’s lack of addressing these problems, a class action lawsuit was issued and won against Nissan. Based on the lawsuit, Nissan offered to extend the CVT warranty on the 2015-2018 model year Nissan Pathfinder vehicles. Learn more here!
Third Generation – R51 (2005 – 2012)
This Pathfinder is for you if you love a more classic, blocky SUV look. Not only did the 3rd generation Pathfinder offer significantly improved looks, but it also featured more than one transmission. Here are your choices:
- 5-speed RE5R05A Automatic Transmission
- 7-speed RE7R01B Automatic Transmission (V9X only)
- 6-speed FS6R31A Manual Transmission
Both of the automatic transmissions are well-proven units that are known to last. However, that does not mean they come with 0 problems. Here is what you need to know.
5-speed RE5R05A Automatic Transmission
The most common problem was, and we say “was” because it is now widely known and fixed, mixing the engine coolant and the transmission fluid.
An owner of a 2005 Pathfinder reports:
Complete loss of power and transmission problems shop, the diagnosis was a failed transmission fluid cooler integrated into the radiator that allowed engine coolant to mix with and contaminate the automatic transmission fluid. The vehicle did not report any warning signs before the failures other than a sudden loss of ability to move the vehicle.NHTSA ID Number: 11189952
Due to a design fault of the integrated transmission cooler in the engine radiator, mixing the cooler (glycol) with the transmission fluid leads to symptoms like shuddering and torque convert clutch slipping.
The issue was usually recognized when the owners came in for regular fluid replacement maintenance. Due to the mixing of the said fluid, the transmission fluid appeared reddish, and there were often clear signs of oxidation in the oil pan.
If the issue was not resolved, the engine coolant would eventually cause havoc on the electronic components of the transmission, leading to a complete failure and high repair costs.
Other issues of this transmission include valve body wear, solenoid failures, and torque converter problems at higher mileage. These issues can be prevented by regularly replacing the transmission fluid. Certain transmission specialists even recommend shortening the fluid replacement interval if the vehicle is used for hauling or off-roading.
7-speed RE7R01B Automatic Transmission (V9X only)
The RE7R01B transmission improves on the RE7R01A transmission. The RE7R01B is built on a solid platform and can handle greater torque and power. Seeing that the Pathfinder is not the strongest of cars paired with this transmission, it should provide better long-term reliability.
The transmission’s main issues appear to be delayed engagement, hesitation, and erratic shifting with wildly fluctuating engine RPMs and speed changes. However, none of these issues seem to be wildly reported or common.
This transmission has proven to be a reliable unit throughout the years. Like with the Nissan Murano, the problems and how long the Murano is expected to last depends on the year/generation of car that you buy. If you are in the market for a Pathfinder with this transmission, make sure you take it for a test drive and observe the operation of the transmission as you accelerate and come to a stop.
Make sure it received regular fluid and filter replacements!
6-speed FS6R31A Manual Transmission
This same transmission was used in no other than the Nissan 350Z. This transmission had problems with the synchro on the 3rd gear, which meant the whole transmission needed replacing once it started “grinding”.
However, that problem seems to be resolved since 2004, which would mean that the 2005 model year and newer Pathfinders should have no issues with this transmission. Remember that even manual transmissions can benefit from a transmission fluid replacement once every 60,000 miles.
Other Problems Related To The Powertrain
The latest, 5th generation Pathfinder’s only powertrain-related problem is the front or rear axle clicking noise during take-off/acceleration. There are no other reported problems so far. The same issue also plagued the 4th generation Pathfinder.
There are also reports of weird noises, vibration, and juddering coming from the rear differential on the 2013-2020 AWD Pathfinder. Certain owners also report fluid leaks caused by the transfer assembly’s right-side drive shaft seal. Both issues were addressed by TSBs.
Third-generation Pathfinder experienced fewer complaints in regard to its powertrain.
How Long Does A Nissan Pathfinder Transmission Last?
We want to first touch upon the latest, 5th generation Pathfinder and its ZF 9HP automatic transmission. Because these cars barely hit the roads, there are fewer reports on which we could base our lifespan estimates.
However, this transmission has been around for some time, and apart from some early issues that ZF addressed, we see no reason why these transmissions could not last at least 180,000 miles or more with regular maintenance.
The same cannot be said for the CVT transmission in the 4th generation Pathfinder. There are 100s of owners’ reports of premature failure at 80,000 – 100,000 miles. As we have shown, some owners even experienced complete failures twice. We don’t see these transmissions lasting any more than 100,000 miles without significant problems.
Both the automatic and the manual transmission in the 3rd generation Pathfinder are built to last. Despite the known problems of the automatic transmissions in this iteration of the Pathfinder, there is no reason why they would not make it past 200,000 miles.
How Much Does A Nissan Pathfinder Transmission Cost?
- RE0F02H CVT transmission, new, dealership price: 5000$ – 6000$
- RE0F02H CVT valve body, eBay: 160$ – 400$
- ZF9HP48, valve body, 5th generation, eBay: 400$
- Complete pre-owned transmissions, 3rd generation: 1200$ – 2500$
- New complete transmissions (applies to all types of transmission of the 3rd generation Pathfinder): 3500$ – 5500$
He is the founder and owner of LifeOnFour.co, where he focuses on transmission-related articles. Furthermore, he finished a 4-year program to be an auto mechanic at the Technical Education Centre of Ljubljana, Slovenia, and worked for six years as a floor manager of a transmission specialist repair shop in Nova Gorica, Slovenia.