The Nissan Altima is everything you would expect from a family sedan. It’s filled with innovative features, it’s safe, and it also looks good. What could you want? We know, reliability. That’s why we are here. In this blog, we look at the reliability of the Altima’s transmission in the past three generations. Here is a quick summary if you’re in a rush:
The last three generations of the Altima all suffer from severe CVT transmission problems. Many owners report slipping, grinding, whining noises, hesitation, and even premature failure, and high repair costs. Nissan did very little to address these issues, which is the reason behind many class action lawsuits against Nissan.
The article contains detailed information from Nissan’s technical service bulletins, owner’s forums, and NHTSA’s owners’ complaints. We also analyze the repair costs and assess the general reliability based on our research. If you are in the market for an Altima, make sure you sit tight and keep reading. If you want to know more about general problems of the Nissan Altima, click that link!
Common Nissan Altima Transmission Problems
We decided to focus on the last three generations of the Altima. We will first list all the available transmissions in each generation and continue by describing their common problems and possible solutions.
Sixth Generation – L34 (2019 – present)
The current 6th generation Nissan Altima started production in August 2018 and hit the North American market with the 2019 model year. It features the following transmission:
- Jatco CVT8 Xtronic CVT
Based on Nissan’s history with the CVT transmission, we expect that reliability is no longer an issue in present-day CVTs. Here is what we found.
Jatco CVT8 Xtronic CVT Transmission Problems
To this day, only 4 NHTSA owners’ complaints have been filed in relation to the transmission in the sixth-generation Nissan Altima. However, 3 out of those complaints report a complete transmission failure. While these could be isolated cases of bad luck, we think it is necessary to mention them.
A Nissan dealership reported this experience from an owner of a 2020 Altima:
…The contact stated while driving from a complete stop, the vehicle would hesitate and shudder. There were no warning lights illuminated… ….Additionally, the contact stated while the vehicle was parked, she shifted into drive(D) and depressed the accelerator pedal however, the vehicle failed to respond. The vehicle was towed to the dealer where it was diagnosed that the transmission had failed.NHTSA ID Number: 11463946
Because the lack of NHTSA transmission-related reports seemed odd, it only took a quick Google search to see that many more owners of the 2019 and 2020 Altima are experiencing problems like delayed engagement, shaking, lunging, and juddering.
In fact, because of these problems and the lack of response from Nissan, a group of owners launched a class-action lawsuit. Class action lawsuits seemed effective in the past, especially with Nissan’s poor answer to CVT transmission problems of the last decade.
Nissan seems to have taken a more relaxed approach to these problems. They released the NTB19-116a technical service bulletin offering a transmission control unit (TCM) reprogramming for the owners of the 2020 Altima with the PR25DD engine.
These owners were eligible for the reprogramming if the warning light was on and the diagnostic trouble codes P0742 or P187E were stored in the TCM. This action did help certain owners; however, it is not the answer for all other reported problems.
Fifth Generation – L33 (2013 – 2018)
The 2013 model year of the Altima marked the beginning of the fifth generation. At the same time, it was also the first generation of the Altima only to feature a CVT transmission. Nissan decided to use the following transmission:
- RE0F10D Jatco CVT8 Xtronic CVT Automatic
There is one thing we can say for sure, many owners of the 5th-generation Altima would sure love to have another transmission option. Want to know why? Keep reading!
RE0F10D Jatco CVT8 Xtronic CVT Automatic Transmission Problems
We started our research by going through NHTSA complaints. This action alone quickly revealed the story behind this generation’s CVT transmission. More than 150 complaints relating to CVT problems for the 2014 model year alone exist.
An owner of a 2014 Altima complained:
Transmission failure. Car will not move/accelerate/change gears. This unexpected defect can take a driver by surprise and cause them to lose control or be hit by other moving vehicles. Inspection will have to be done at the car site.NHTSA ID Number: 11482278
Owners experience hesitation during acceleration, delayed engagement, shaking, juddering, slipping, transmission fluid leaks, and even complete failure. These problems sparked outrage as many of these transmissions failed after passing the warranty requirements.
This led owners to file numerous lawsuits, the result of which you can see on altimacvtsettlement.com.
Owners forced Nissan to extend the warranty on the 2013-2016 model year Altimas from 60 months / 60,000 miles to 84 months / 84,000 miles (whichever comes first). There were also other ways owners could get a reimbursement for expensive repairs.
Nissan never issued any recalls for these transmissions; however, they did release several technical service bulletins (TSB). Some of these TSBs did address the pressing matters reported by problems, while others instructed service technicians with diagnostic guidance. Below are some of the key TSBs:
This TSB addressed the juddering of the transmission in the 2013-2014 Altima. Owners who experience juddering in combination with the P17F0 and P17F1 diagnostics trouble codes (DTC) are eligible for a new valve body or a new CVT assembly.
- NTB15-085c (applies to the 2013-2015 Altima with the 4-cylinder engine)
Owners who experience delayed engagement and have no diagnostic trouble codes stored in the ECM/TCM are eligible for a new CVT assembly if there is evidence of belt slipping or a new valve body if there is no slipping of the CVT belt.
- NTB15-086h (applies to the 2013-2014 Altima (L33) with a 4-cylinder engine only)
Vehicles with the confirmed DTC P0776 are either fixed with a new valve body or a new CVT assembly if the CVT belt is slipping.
- NTB15-102A (applies to the 2013-2015 Altima (L33) with a 4-cylinder engine only)
This TSB addressed the whining/grinding noise present at highway speeds. Based on the complicated repair flow chart, the service technicians are more likely to repair this illustrious issue.
- Other relevant TSBs
NTB15-013E, NTB19-076a, NPSB/20-590
These three technical service bulletins provide technicians with instructions for correctly diagnosing the abovementioned problems. This can save money for the vehicle owner if the diagnosis is more focused on exact internal parts.
If you are in the market for a 2013-2018 Nissan Altima, make sure that the CVT transmission is shifting without hiccups or weird noises. This unit can be a nightmare to repair, and there is no guarantee that the problems won’t appear again.
Fourth Generation – L32 (2007–2012 sedan, 2008–2013 coupe)
We are sure that you can’t be overly excited to own a CVT version of the Nissan Altima by now. If you want a genuinely reliable transmission option in an Altima, the 4th generation is the way to go. Here are your transmission options in the L32 Altima:
- 6-speed manual transmission
- RE0F09B CVT Automatic
If you want to trade comfort and effortless shifting for reliability, this generation offers that option. Compared to CVT, the manual transmission is much more reliable. Here is more information.
RE0F09B CVT Automatic Transmission Problems
Based on the numerous NHTSA owners’ complaints, there are severe problems with this CVT unit. There are many reports of erratic operation of the transmission and even more reports of complete failure, whining noises, slipping, and delayed engagement.
An owner of a 2008 Altima complaint:
At 120,000 miles the transmission failed on this 2.5 l engine. we paid $3,000 to have that repaired 10 months ago…NHTSA ID Number: 11113992
Again, Nissan seemed to turn a blind eye to these reports. They have not released any recalls; however, they did try to mitigate the situation with a warranty extension on all CVT-equipped cars made between 2003-2010.
The warranty was extended from 5 years/60,000 miles to 10 years/120,000 miles, whichever comes first. While this was a welcoming reaction to many buyers, it serves no purpose for the buyers today. Not to mention that they did not take any action to repair the root cause of these problems.
Owners who received a new valve body or a new CVT assembly were free from problems for a certain amount of time, but the issues were bound to repeat due to poor construction. And they were not cheap to repair once these cars came out of warranty.
Nissan also released a series of TSBs (some are not available online anymore due to age), but they are mostly similar or exactly the same as the one we listed above (refer to the 5th generation).
Most of the TSBs do not offer a real solution. What they do is instruct service technicians with additional guidance for diagnosis. After all, it is still cheaper to replace just the valve body than the entire CVT assembly.
As time passed, the only real solution to these problems was found in the hands of aftermarket service and parts providers. A company that specializes in Nissan CVTs called Street Smart Transmission offers a rebuild of this unit for just 1320.50$, which is significantly cheaper than a dealership’s price.
6-Speed Manual Transmission Problems
These transmissions are generally problem free. In fact, one of the more popular questions asked on Google is, “Can I swap Nissan Altima CVT with a manual?”. While we are sure it can be done, no mechanic publicly offers this service.
The problem we found in connection to this transmission is the clutch. An owner of a 2008 Altima best describes the issue:
I have been have trouble with my 2006 Altima SE-R since buying it at 52k miles. It’s like everyone else; the clutch gets real floppy and looses pressure until it sinks to the floor and wont return. This has happened to me about 30 or 40 times since buying the car in October 2009, but I can’t replicate for the dealer.Source
As of now, it seems as though these are isolated issues. Nissan has not publicly addressed these problems, nor did we find a universal solution that we could share.
Other Problems Related To The Powertrain
While going through powertrain-related NHTSA owners’ complaints, we detected several problems related to the AWD system. Altima’s that come with all-wheel-drive have additional components (like the electric AWD coupling) that are prone to failure if not maintained right.
If you are in the market for an AWD Altima, ensure no weird noises or vibrations are coming from the car’s rear. Repairing or replacing AWD components can be expensive.
How Long Does A Nissan Altima Transmission Last?
Based on our research, we have no true confidence in any of the CVT transmissions used in the past three generations of the Nissan Altima. As you can read above, all generations experience serious transmission problems.
We estimate that the average lifespan of the CVT unit in the Altima is approx. 100,000 – 150,000 miles or less. There are many reports of earlier failures and some reports of failures slightly above the 150,000-mile mark.
The manual transmission on the fourth-generation Altima seems to be without significant problems that would cause premature failure. It will easily last the lifetime of the car.
How Much Does A Nissan Altima Transmission Cost?
- Rebuilt Jatco CVT8 Xtronic CVT: 1140$ (Street Smart Transmission)
- New CVT units from Nissan: 2800$ – 3500$
- RE0F10D Jatco CVT8 Xtronic CVT Automatic: 1168.50$ (Street Smart Transmission)
- RE0F09B CVT Automatic: 1149.50$ (Street Smart Transmission)
Did you know that Nissan Altima have also had problems with the radio and infotainment system? Click on the link to read a detailed article about that problem.
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.