If there was ever a car that went through an amazing design transformation, it is the Nissan Maxima. The Maxima went from an awkward sedan to one of the best-looking sports sedans on the market today. But we’re not here for looks; in this blog, we are looking at all the transmission problems of the Maxima throughout the years. Here’s a quick summary:
Before 2019, Nissan Maxima’s experienced a number of problems with the CVT gearbox units. Owners report numerous cases of complete premature failure, shaking, unresponsiveness and vibration. There are also many problems with the 2004-2006 standard automatic transmission.
If you want the entire story, sit still. As we continue, we list which transmissions were used in which generation of the Maxima and what its exact problems are. We do this by analyzing hundreds of NHTSA owners’ complaints, recall campaigns, and Nissan’s technical service bulletins. We did the work, you get the crucial information served fresh. Sounds good? Keep reading!
Common Nissan Maxima Transmission Problems
We will break down the common transmission problems of the Maxima by first listing which transmissions were available in certain generations and then present the problems of each transmission type. We are kicking things off with the latest, eighth-generation Maxima.
Eighth Generation – A36 (2016-2023)
The latest, 8th generation Maxima, dubbed the A36, only comes with one transmission option: The CVT.
2016 Maxima A36 CVT Problems
We like to start our research by first analyzing the owner’s NHTSA complaints. This provides us with a realistic picture of day-to-day problems that actual owners are experiencing.
Right off the bat, we have detected a number of reports of CVT transmission problems. The scope of these problems includes everything from juddering, shaking, unresponsiveness, and even complete premature failure.
An owner of a 2016 Maxima reports:
“My 2016 Maxima SL has a faulty CVT transmission. It shakes, stutters and has no power on acceleration. It is a safety concern because I could easily pull out into traffic and my car will not accelerate…”NHTSA ID Number: 11433951
There are many more reports like this, and even some which describe complete transmission failures in the 50.000 – 80.000 mile range.
Despite these issues, Nissan has not issued a single recall for Maxima’s CVT or even offered a warranty extension as they did with some other models. They did, however, release a few technical service bulletins to help ease the situation.
The NTB17-039k technical service bulletin addressed the juddering, shaking, bumps, and vibrations reports that were filed by the owners of the 2016-2019 Maxima. However, this bulletin only addresses these issues if these symptoms are paired with the V6 engine and the P17F0 and P17F1 diagnostic trouble codes.
Furthermore, the same bulletin then provides the diagnosis and repair guidelines for service technicians. It provides the framework that encloses, in which case a new valve body, TCM reprogramming, or a new sub-assembly is needed.
While this service bulletin did help to resolve the issue for some owners, it was not a universal solution. Many owners still found themselves with failed transmissions and costs of up to 5000$ for a new CVT unit.
Another CVT-related bulletin, reference NTB19-072, addressed the issues with the transmission range switch. The transmission range switch is an electronic component of the CVT gearbox that informs other car components of the current gear (park, neutral, reverse). If this switch failed, the Maxima could be turned off in drive or even neutral, which could cause the car to roll away.
This service bulletin announced that the transmission range switch is now available as a separate service part, and it provided the technicians with a manual for replacement.
We want to end things on a positive note. There have been no recalls, technical service bulletins or owner complaints after the 2019 model year of Maxima. By introducing a new version of the CVT, Nissan seemingly resolved the serious CVT problems.
Seventh Generation – A35 (2009-2015)
Just like the 8th generation, the A35 or the 7th generation of the Maxima only came with a single transmission option: the Xtronic CVT.
7th Generation Nissan Maxima Xtronic CVT Problems
Named the A35 generation by the factory, the 2009 model year Maxima hit the roads with a refreshed Xtronic CVT transmission. Seeing how that was the only transmission option, it seemed as though Nissan had complete trust in its CVT technology.
The CVT in the 7th generation Maxima is controversial, to say the least. Despite there not being ANY recalls or technical service bulletins addressing the numerous issues of this CVT unit, there certainly were problems.
A quick glance at the NHTSA owner’s complaints paints a completely different picture. More than 100 owners across all model years report serious CVT problems. These problems include everything from shaking, unresponsiveness, and even complete failure.
Here is the rather lengthy report from an owner of a 2013 Maxima:
Car does not respond to accelerator. Dropped from 75 mph to 0 mph in matter of seconds. Very scary experience. Stuck on side of the freeway until tow truck arrived. Had a panic attack. No warning signs. Tow to a mechanic, my transmission is shot.
At 106k miles and a 2013 model, I did not expect this. Owe tons of money still on the car. Have to pay $5000 to fix the cvt transmission and replace with a “new” cvt transmission. Same crappy, defective transmission for $5k. And nissan only warranties those for 12 to 18 months or 12 or 18k miles.NHTSA ID Number: 11131481
We included this complaint because it perfectly encapsulates the situation. Many owners were faced with sudden transmission failure. Not only is this dangerous, it is also a major financial burden. To make things even worse, Nissan continued to install the same problematic transmissions.
We then researched if Nissan has offered any other forms of relief to Maxima owners with these issues. The only thing we were able to find is a quote from Nissan on a Maxima owner’s forum (the original Nissan announcement is not available anymore).
In this quote, it is apparent that a warranty extension was issued to all 2003-2010 model-year Nissan CVT-equipped vehicles. This would also include the first two model years of the 7th generation Maxima. Nissan has extended the Warranty for the CVT transmission to 10 years/120,000 miles (whichever occurred first).
While this did somehow help, it means nothing today or for the owner whom we quoted above.
Sixth Generation – A34 (2004-2008)
If you are after a more diverse transmission palette, the older 6th-generation Maxima could be a better choice. The A34 generation Maxima offered the following transmissions:
- 6-speed manual
- 4/5-speed automatic RE5F22A – Aisin Warner
- 2007-2008 model years also offer a CVT gearbox from Jatco
If there is one thing to say about this transmission lineup, it is this: pick the manual option. Let us explain. There were no issues with the manual transmission. However, the same cannot be said for the other options.
4/5-speed automatic RE5F22A – Aisin Warner Transmission Problems
While this is a classic, hydraulic automatic transmission, which is usually less troublesome with regular maintenance, it is definitely not a thing we can say here.
There are 941 power train complaints from the owners of the 2004 Nissan Maxima alone. The majority of those 941 complaints are related to either this automatic transmission or the CVT transmission. We have never seen such an amount of complaints against a single component of a car.
The RE5F22A automatic transmission is known for slipping, delayed engagement, hard shifting, and “banging” when shifting out of park. After all these years, it is now known that most of these issues come as a consequence of valve body problems.
The boost valve that should be directing and pushing the transmission fluid to areas where it is needed is known to fail. This keeps the transmission struggling and delayed. Because the transmission is basically deprived of fresh fluids, it eventually leads to a complete failure of the transmission.
If you want to learn more and how to fix this problem with aftermarket kits, visit this page on the Maxima owners’ forums. Nissan has not issued any recalls or technical service bulletins regarding this issue.
If you are in the market for a 2004-2006 Maxima with an automatic transmission, beware. Make sure that the transmission has been regularly maintained or even replaced/rebuilt. These are extremely problematic transmissions.
CVT gearbox problems on the 6th generation Maxima
The CVT gearbox came as a novelty for the refreshed 2007 and 2008 model year Maxima. And while everyone hoped that the CVT would improve the horrendous reliability problems of the previous standard automatic, reality soon kicked in.
The first-ever CVT on the Maxima was a big disappointment. After reading numerous NHTSA owners’ complaints, it is evident that these transmissions were prone to early failure. Owners report of slipping, hesitation, excessive vibration and thumping, and eventually complete failure.
Nissan did very little to help the owners with this transmission, there were no technical service bulletins or recalls. The only thing they did was the before-mentioned warranty extension to 10 years/120,000 miles (whichever occurred first).
Many of the owners faced complete failure right after missing the warranty requirements. Coincidence? We will never know. Our advice would be to avoid this transmission altogether.
How Long Does A Nissan Maxima Transmission Last?
The CVT transmission fitted to the pre-2019 model year Nissan Maxima’s all have a bad reliability reputation. By skimming through more than 1000 NHTSA owners’ complaints, we can say that the failure point seems to be at the 80,000 – 130,000 mile mark. Some failed even earlier.
The same goes for the 4/5 speed standard automatic transmission on the 2004-2006 Maxima. The 2019 and newer model year Maxima with CVTs are currently problem-free, and a much greater lifespan is to be expected.
How Much Does A Nissan Maxima Transmission Cost?
The prices listed below are sourced from either eBay averages or owners’ reports on NHTSA. Getting realistic figures for a completely new Nissan transmission unit is kept private and only disclosed when negotiating with Nissan upon failure. Here are our estimates:
- 2007-2008 CVT gearbox, pre-owned: 1300$ (eBay)
- CVT valve bodies, refurbished, all model years: approx. 250$ (eBay)
- Complete transmission rebuilds, all types, all model years: 2500$ – 3500$
- New CVT transmission, all model years: approx. 3500$ – 5000$ with labour
- Pre-owned, higher-mileage CVT transmissions, all model years: 300$ – 700$
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.