Competing against a Honda Civic is not an easy task, but if there is one car that has been doing it successfully throughout the years, it is the Nissan Sentra.
In this article, we are dissecting the transmission types and problems of the Nissan Sentra throughout the years. Here is a quick summary of our research:
Nissan Sentra is plagued with CVT transmission problems. There are numerous reports of juddering, shaking, overheating, and complete failures. Avoid the CVT transmission in models made between 2007-2019. Nissan did very little to resolve these issues.
If you want to learn more, don’t go anywhere. As we continue, we look at all the transmission problems on the Sentra since its sixth generation in 2006. We explain each of the problems by citing technical service bulletins, recalls, and NHTSA owners’ complaints. Keep reading!
Common Nissan Sentra Transmission problems
We are going to break up the transmission problems by generation and type of transmission. If you are not sure what transmission you have or plan on buying, refer to your owner’s manual or the seller of the car. Let’s get into the problems.
Eighth Generation B18 (2020 – Present)
The current eighth generation of the Sentra is available with three transmission options:
- 6-speed manual transmission
- Xtronic CVT transmission
- Single speed constant ratio (e-Power)
Because the eighth generation of the Sentra is fairly new, there are not a lot of problems yet reported or discovered. According to the Car Guide, Nissan has resolved the CVT transmission issues that were plaguing the older generation Sentra.
During our research, we have not detected a single consumer complaint or forum thread directly related to transmission problems of the 2020 and newer model year Sentra. There were also no recalls or technical service bulletins.
Seventh Generation B17 (2013-2019)
The seventh-generation Nissan Sentra was highly controversial, you will soon learn why. But before we get into that, here are the transmissions that were available in the B17 Sentra:
- 5-speed manual
- 6-speed manual
- 5-speed automatic
- 6-speed automatic
- CVT automatic (RE0F11A)
Most of the controversy around the seventh-generation Sentra was due to the numerous CVT transmission problems. Manual and standard hydraulic automatic transmissions were generally problem free, but we cannot say the same for the CVT unit. Let’s get into it.
RE0F11A – CVT Transmission Problems
This is perhaps one of the most controversial transmissions of the past decade. This title comes as a consequence of the numerous reports of juddering, shaking, hesitation, vibration, bumpy operation, and eventually complete failure.
There were multiple class action lawsuits filed against Nissan for selling vehicles with defective and downright dangerous CVT transmissions.
A class action lawsuit from Canada has already reached a settlement between the owners and Nissan, however, multiple other parties in various countries are still in court for the same problems. We have observed more than 300 NHTSA complaints describing serious CVT issues or even failure; here are two examples:
An owner of a 2016 Sentra complaints:
Had the Sentra in the dealership three different times for transmission slipping while under warranty. Each time they came back saying there was nothing wrong and couldn’t duplicate any issues. Now out of warranty the transmission failed. Contacted Nissan corporate and their response was nothing we can do.NHTSA ID Number: 11466270
Similarly, an owner of a 2014 Sentra was quoted 4000$ for a new CVT unit, just out of warranty:
There are thousands of complaints online and at dealers. My warranty has expired last August 2021 and I only have 53354 milage. The dealer quoted me 4k to fix the CVT. I called Nissan Corporate and they said they would cover half of cost. This car is not safe to drive it changes speeds without notice and doesn’t accelerate. It goes from 65mph to 45mph.NHTSA ID Number: 11465284
The biggest problem here is the fact that Nissan has never seen this as a problem worthy of a recall. What they did instead extended the warranty on the 2013-2017 Nissan Sentra from the original 60 months/60,000 miles to 84 months/84,000 miles (whichever occurs first).
Additionally, Nissan has also released several technical service bulletins which do two things: order the technicians to reprogramme the transmission control unit and provide technicians with diagnostic logic to better deal with numerous failures.
Nissan also instructed the dealerships to replace only certain transmission components to save money both on Nissan’s side and the side of owners who already surpassed their warranty requirements. After all, having to replace just the belt and pulley mechanics is still much more affordable than replacing an entire CVT unit.
This problem has stuck with the 7th generation Nissan Sentra throughout the entire time of production. Avoid this transmission at all costs.
Other Transmission Problems On The B17 Sentra
After reviewing more than 300 power train NHTSA owners’ complaints, we can safely say that other types of transmissions on the Nissan Sentra have very little to no transmission problems. This includes both the manual transmission options and the standard hydraulic transmission.
We have only observed isolated cases of transmission problems on the standard hydraulic automatic transmissions and no complaints whatsoever with the manual transmissions.
With regular maintenance, these transmissions should be problem free.
Sixth Generation B16 (2007-2012)
The Nissan Sentra is considered an early adopter of the CVT automatic transmission technology. This generation featured the following two transmissions:
- 6-speed manual transmission
- CVT automatic transmission
Being an early adopter of a new transmission technology can pose a risk. While it can seem that the company is technologically advanced, it can also present some issues. Let’s find out how the CVT in the B16 Sentra fared.
CVT Automatic Transmission Problems
A quick search through the NHTSA owners’ complaints quickly reveals the ugly truth behind the first-generation CVT transmission in the 6th-generation Sentra. Several owners report unresponsiveness of the transmission, overheating, weird noises, and even common complete failures.
Let us first address the weird noises. This is something that is most commonly reported. From whining to low-frequency booming and rattling, owners with CVT Sentra’s reported them all.
To handle these reports, Nissan released the NTB16-109B technical service bulletin, which addressed all the weird sounds and noises along with their explanation. They explained what kind of noise and when those noises are considered normal, and when they are considered a reason for concern.
To finish things off, this technical service bulletin also dictates that all wrongfully replaced CVTs may be requested for return and charged back to the dealerships. This made it much harder to receive a new CVT unit just based on “weird” noises.
The second common problem that Nissan addressed was overheating. As the CVT unit overheated, it triggers a failsafe, which reduces engine power. The reduction of power can be dangerous, however, it is necessary to prevent further transmission damage.
The Nissan NTB13-095d technical service bulletin provides the guidelines for diagnosing and installing the external CVT fluid cooler kit, which in many cases, resolved the issue. It also explains the conditions in which the CVT unit might overheat. There were cases where constant overheating did contribute to a complete failure of the CVT.
Furthermore, the technical service bulletin NTB12-057c also addresses the fail-safe mode in relation to overheating. Many owners reported experiencing the fail-safe mode activation as a transmission problem. This bulletin provides the framework for technicians to analyze the reasons behind the triggers for the fail-safe mode activation.
If you do decide on buying an older CVT-equipped generation Sentra, we recommend you thoroughly inspect the functioning of the transmission and the maintenance history. These transmissions were far from perfect.
6-Speed Manual Transmission
If you are after reliability, the 6-speed manual transmission is your friend. While it is not as elegant and smooth, it will never let you down.
We have not detected a single complaint, technical service bulletin, or other reports about this transmission.
How Long Does A Nissan Sentra Transmission Last?
When it comes to standard hydraulic automatic transmissions and manual transmissions, there is no doubt in mind that with regular maintenance, these transmissions should last 200.000 – 300.000 miles.
However, we do have our doubts about the longevity of the CVT transmission fitted to the 6th and 7th generation Sentra. Based on our research, most of the CVT units experienced premature failure at 100.000 – 150.000 miles. Some even earlier.
If you do decide to choose a car with a CVT gearbox, make sure all the technical service bulletins have been taken care of.
How Much Does A Nissan Sentra Transmission Cost?
- Pre-owned CVT units for the 6th and 7th generation Nissan Sentra: 1500-2500$ (eBay)
- New CVT transmission: 2800 – 3800$ (Nissan)
- New CVT belt and pulley assemblies: 600-700$ (eBay)
- New CVT torque converter: 400$ (eBay)
- Standard automatic transmission for the 6th and 7th generation Nissan Sentra: 400-600$ (eBay – pre-owned)
- Standard automatic transmission rebuild: 1500-2200$ (Repair Smith)
Hi! My name is Stefan; I’m the owner and lead writer at TheDriverAdviser.com.
I’m an active writer on this blog myself, as well as a novice car mechanic. For the really technical stuff, I find writers with experience as a mechanic or who have studied mechanical engineering.
Read more about our fantastic team on our about page!