The name says it all: Versa – Versatile. It is the best way to describe the affordable, good-looking, and practical sedan that is the Nissan Versa. However, it´s certainly had its fair share of problems. This blog looks at all the transmission problems that plagued the Versa in recent years. Here is a quick summary:
Major CVT transmission problems caused problems for all three generations of the Nissan Versa. The symptoms range from juddering, shaking, hesitation, jerking, and complete failure. The CVT transmission is improved in the 3rd generation Versa.
If you are unsatisfied with short summaries, we highly advise you to stay with us. As we continue, we outline all the common transmission problems of each generation of the Versa and more. This includes owners’ complaints, technical service bulletins, and recalls! Stay with us!
Common Nissan Versa Transmission Problems
To keep things clear and organized, we will now dissect the most common transmission problems of each generation of Nissan Versa. We will also list the model years that mark each generation, so you know which generation you’re buying or owning.
Third Generation – N18 (2020 – Present)
The third generation Nissan Versa (factory codename N18), introduced in 2019, offers two transmissions:
- 5-speed Nissan RS5F91R manual
- Jatco CVT7 WR JF020E Xtronic
If you have ever heard about Nissan and its CVT transmission problems, you know where this is heading. Don’t worry, we have all the information you will need on potential transmission problems.
Jatco CVT7 WR JF020E (also known as “Xtronic CVT”)
We want to kick things off with the CVT transmission. There are several technical service bulletins regarding these transmissions. Let’s break it down!
A technical service bulletin reference NTB19-040d, released in August 2020, addressed the issues with reduced power and hesitation. This applied to the 2020 Versa Sedan with several Diagnostic Trouble Codes stored in the OBD system of the car. You can see these codes and more information here.
This service bulletin provided a repair flow chart that defines whether qualified technicians replace the entire CVT assembly or the control valve only and the transaxle. It also instructs the technicians to inspect the CVT belt for slippage and damage.
Several owners were faced with these issues. Reduced power or hesitating power delivery can be incredibly annoying and dangerous.
In late October 2019, Nissan also released the NTB18-059A technical service bulletin, which addressed the inappropriate diagnosis of CVT fluid leaks. These transmissions experienced common CVT fluid leaks, which led the service technicians to replace the oil pan gaskets and axle seals.
With this service bulletin, Nissan determined that the fluid leak might be coming from the base of the CVT fluid charging pipe. The part at fault is the O-ring seal at the base of this CVT fluid charging pipe. Replacing it resolved the leak.
We want to end this section by showcasing some real-life complaints by actual owners.
An owner of a 2020 Versa reports:
CVT shudders, jolts and grinds on stop and go traffic to the point where it feels like it’s going to destroy itself. The symptom occurs at very random occasions and the cars onboard diagnostics has failed to detect a problem with the vehicle. Vehicle had also turned off once suddenly when pressing accelerator from a complete stop(Has not happened ever since).NHTSA ID Number: 11479242
We have observed four similar reports of serious transmission problems
5-speed Nissan RS5F91R Manual Transmission
We have not detected any recalls, technical service bulletins, or owner’s complaints regarding the 5-speed manual transmission. Good job, Nissan!
Second Generation – N17 (2013 – 2019)
The second generation had quite a long run. However, the transmission options were minimal and not too good, to say the least. The N17 Versa generation featured the following options:
- 4-speed RE4F03C automatic
- 5-speed RS5F91R manual
- RE0F11A Xtronic CVT
RE0F11A Xtronic CVT Transmission Problems
Let’s dive straight into the most problematic of them all, the RE0F11A Xtronic CVT transmission. This transmission was a part of many class action lawsuits, some of which are still ongoing and others where Nissan has settled and admitted its problems.
Not only are these transmissions prone to failure, but they are also downright dangerous, according to some owners, and the common symptoms of failure. Owners of a 2016 and 2014 Nissan Versa complaints:
The transmission completely went on my vehicle at 87,015 miles. I regularly drive on a major highway and had this happened while on the highway it could have been catastrophic as speeds generally exceed 70MPH on this road. The problem has been confirmed by my dealer. Nissan will not back the repair as I am 3,015 miles out of warranty. There were no warning lights prior to the failure.NHTSA ID Number: 11438215
Faulty Transmission. Replaced twice in 2 years. Nissan doesn’t want to be responsible for 2nd Transmission. It cost $3,700 a Transmission replacement.NHTSA ID Number: 11430227
And complaints like this one are not rare; we have counted more than 200 similar stories of complete CVT failure or extreme symptoms that make the car downright un-driveable.
According to Lemonlawexperts and various owners’ reports, these transmissions are prone to jerking, shuddering, hesitation, overheating, and complete failure. Nissan has failed to address this issue with a recall. However, they did offer warranty extensions and several technical service bulletins to regain some of the lost trust.
In May 2020, Nissan launched a quality action that offered CVT warranty extensions to the owners of the 2012-2017 Versa Sedan and the 2014-2017 Versa Note. The warranty extension prolonged the original duration of 60 months or 60,000 miles to 84 months or 84,000 miles (whichever occurs first).
However, as it turned out, many vehicles experienced failure just a: fter crossing those mileages and age. To make things financially easier on owners, Nissan offered those who passed the warranty requirements to only replace the belt and pulley system instead of the entire CVT assembly.
If you want to learn more about how Nissan tried to handle these issues, please refer to the following relevant technical service bulletins:
- NTB15-069A: Nissan offered a reprogramming of the transmission control module (TCM), which can improve the transmission’s behavior.
- NTB17-034H: Several reports described the transmission judder (shake, shudder, single or multiple bumps or vibrations), hesitation on acceleration, lack of power, or RPM flare. This TSB served as a guide to technicians to decide when a new CVT unit is needed or only the sub-assembly and valve body of the transmission.
- NTB18-058E: This TSB provides the technicians with an option of incorporating a diagnostics monitor, which would observe and record the behavior of the CVT. This improved the diagnostics process.
- NTB18-059A: The contents of this TSB provided information on diagnosing and detecting CVT fluid leaks. Fluid leaks were a common problem in this transmission.
RE4F03C Automatic Transmission
We got through the worst. The 4-speed RE4F03C “standard” hydraulic transmission is much less prone to problems and failure. Apart from some isolated reports of jerking and hesitation, there is no technical service bulletins or recalls regarding this transmission.
While it is true that a CVT transmission is more modern, this transmission, if maintained regularly, is the better option in this case.
5-speed RS5F91R Manual Transmission
We have not detected any complaints or problems with the standard 5-speed manual transmissions.
First Generation – C11 (2006-2012)
If you are after a first-generation Nissan Versa, your transmission options are as follows:
- 5-speed manual
- 6-speed manual
- 4-speed “standard” automatic
- CVT Transmission
CVT transmission problems
CVT transmissions have been fitted to production cars for about 65 years. However, they found their place in modern cars in the 2000s. The fact that the first generation Nissan Versa featured a CVT transmission is still considered early.
While we do not like being negative, we have to stay real. These CVT transmissions were far from perfect. Many owners faced juddering, hesitation to start, jerky operations, and even complete failures.
Nissan admitted their mistakes but has never launched any recall campaigns. What they did instead was offer a warranty extension for the CVT transmission to 10 years or 120,000 miles. Many owners felt this was irresponsible, seeing how many of the problems posed a severe safety hazard.
An owner of a 2008 C11 Nissan Versa complaints:
CVT transmission is making a metal rubbing noise when in drive and idling. Nissan dealer confirmed the transmission must be replaced and eventually the car will no longer accelerate due to cvt failure.NHTSA ID Number: 10544300
And he was not the only one… An owner of a 2009 Versa reports a similar story:
Jatco CVT transmission failed at 70,200 miles. Bearings burned out, engine roaring, then sudden deceleration and acceleration.NHTSA ID Number: 11430711
And these reports are not isolated; there are more than 50+ similar complaints. If you can, avoid these early CVT transmissions.
Manual transmissions on the first-generation Versa are essentially problem free. There are no recalls or technical service bulletins in connection to the manual transmission. The same goes for the 4-speed standard automatic transmission.
We have seen just 1 NHTSA owner complaint stating that the clutch pedal linkage connecting the clutch pedal to the actual clutch mechanism is made of plastic and, therefore, prone to breaking. However, as this is an isolated report, we would not consider this a widespread issue.
How Long Does A Nissan Versa Transmission Last?
We want to break this answer down into multiple sections. Different generations of the Versa come with different transmissions. Based on our research, we can give you the following estimates:
1st and 2nd generation Nissan Versa CVT transmission
We have observed that most of the significant problems with these transmissions start before the end of the warranty period (60,000 – 80,000 miles or even earlier).
Many of the owners who had their CVTs replaced experienced the same issues again. Which why we believe that a CVT on these generation Versa’s does not last longer than 100,000 to 130,000 miles at best.
3rd generation Nissan Versa CVT
As years went by, Nissan improved their CVTs with better technical assistance and design. While they are still not problem-free, they seem more durable based on the fewer complaints from owners.
Most of the failures on these transmissions happened at the 150,000 – 180,000 mile mark. With regular maintenance and correct driving, this transmission should have no problems reaching those figures.
Standard automatic transmissions and manual transmissions
Hey, no problems here. With regular maintenance and care, these transmissions should have no problems lasting the car’s entire lifetime.
How Much Does A Nissan Versa Transmission Cost?
Having your transmission fail can be a significant financial burden. If you want to replace it, here are some general prices we have found online to provide you with an estimate.
- 5-speed Nissan RS5F91R manual: (400$ eBay)
- Jatco CVT7 WR JF020E Xtronic: rebuild cost 2700-3500$, new 3500-4500$, used on eBay 2000$)
- 4-speed RE4F03C automatic: 2000$ rebuild
- 5-speed RS5F91R manual: 200$ eBay
- RE0F11A Xtronic CVT: rebuild cost 2700-3500$, new 3500-4500$, rarely available used)
- 1st Gen. Versa CVT: rebuild cost 2500-3500$, new 3500-4500$, used on eBay 600-2000$)
Rebuild costs for CVT assemblies are sourced on Repairsmith.com.
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.