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Here Are The Nissan Pathfinder Years To Avoid

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White Nissan Pathfinder

Nissan Pathfinder by EurovisionNim — CC BY-SA 4.0

The Nissan Pathfinder started as an SUV back in 1986 and is being manufactured today in its fourth generation as a crossover/SUV. As with most Nissan vehicles, the Pathfinder is a pretty dependable SUV to shop for new or used, but anything that has been around for 30+ years will have some years with its share of problems. Here are the Nissan Pathfinder years to avoid. 

Stay Away From 2005-2007 Nissan Pathfinders

These Pathfinders had a severe issue with coolant leaking into the transmission. This problem, commonly referred to as the “Strawberry Milkshake,” causes transmission and radiator issues. If you want to be safe, it would be wise to expand from 2005 to 2010.

A defective part within the coolant system would erupt, causing coolant to mix with the transmission fluid. Neither fluid should ever mix during normal vehicle operations. When the eruption occurs, the slow process of screwing up the transmission and how the coolant system works will start.

Although Nissan was well aware of the situation, they used the same parts, only claiming to have fixed the problem for the next year and the next after that. In fact, these problems persisted throughout the whole third generation just at less frequency as each year passed. The problem was never thoroughly fixed until a new platform came with the fourth-generation Nissan Pathfinders.


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Fourth Generation Nissan Pathfinder Years to Avoid

Most vehicles have their problems at the start of a new generation; this Nissan Pathfinder was no different. The 2013 Nissan Pathfinder has shown numerous complaints of transmission problems. But unlike the previous generation, these transmission problems had nothing to do with leaking radiator fluid.

The transmission problems that were most common on the 2013 Pathfinder models were jerking and shaking during acceleration between 15 mph and 30 mph. These were followed by a non-engaging transmission, shifter stuck in Park, transmission slippage, and the transmission slips out of Park. The most common solution to the problem was the CVT transmission just tended to act up. Even if the transmission were repaired or replaced, the Pathfinder would still exhibit the same issues after a certain amount of miles. 

By the time 2014 Pathfinder years rolled around, the transmission problems had seemed to be fixed as the only complaints for 2014 years were very minimal and minor. 


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Second Generation Nissan Pathfinder Years to Avoid

The second-generation Nissan Pathfinder spans the years 1996-2004. The biggest problem with these Pathfinders is rust and paint problems, but 1999 year models seem to have the most complaints of severe rust. This is typical for a vehicle of this age. If you are thinking about possibly shopping for a Pathfinder in this generation, you should be less worried about the rust because it will have some and more worries about how bad the rust is. 

Rust will eventually erode a whole vehicle, but how well maintained the vehicle will determine how long a vehicle has until it is completely rotted out. There are vehicles from the ’50s with rust on them that are still solid as can be, and there are vehicles from the late 2000s that just shutting the door on them runs the risk of the whole car falling apart.

If you can tell the difference between surface rust and rust that is corroding the whole vehicle, you should be able to make a good selection for a used second-generation Pathfinder. If you don’t know the difference, it is highly recommended that you take someone with you when shopping for your next used vehicle.


So you’re in the market for a used vehicle?  We’ve gone ahead and prepped some essential questions to ask when buying a used car.

First Generation Nissan Pathfinder Years to Avoid: 

The first-generation Nissan Pathfinder starts off the Pathfinder’s life span starting in 1987. The last year for the first generation Pathfinder was 1995 and had the most received complaints about the SUV. Outside of many great comments about the 3.0-liter V6, there are also a lot of complaints about the engine. Loss of power and bucking during acceleration are the most common complaints about the engine, although those complaints are frequently indicative of transmission problems. Most likely, these vehicles will have a lot of miles on them by now, so sometimes a tune-up is all the 3.0-liter needs. 

Common Nissan Pathfinder Problems

The Nissan Pathfinder has above-average ratings. According to RepairPal, the Pathfinder has a reliability score of 3.5 out of 5.0, ranking 17th out of 26 midsize SUVs. With proper maintenance, the Pathfinder can last you a long while. However, it’s not without its problems.

  • Faulty fuel level sensor - This issue has affected over 16 different Pathfinder model years from 1994 to 2016. According to the complaints, the Pathfinder’s fuel level sensor can fail to result in erratic or inaccurate gauge readings. The usual fix is to replace the fuel pump, which may cost $673-$833.
  • Navigation system problems - According to several owners of the 2017 Pathfinder, their SUV has issues with the navigation display. These include the navigation controls freezing, the backup camera getting stuck, and the malfunctioning reverse assist display.
  • Transmission issues - Common in the 2005-2010 model years, Pathfinders with automatic transmissions may fail at around 90,000 miles. Apparently, the oil cooler tube is prone to cracks, causing the coolant to leak into the transmission system.
  • Climate system failure - A/C and heating system issues are a common pain point for many 2015 Pathfinder owners. Many reports stated that the climate system simply refuses to work, which is a massive problem during extreme temperatures.
  • CVT issues - Nissan’s CVT issues were so widespread that it deserves its own mention for this section. Nissan owners claimed that the Pathfinder’s CVT transmission system was slow to respond, overheats easily, and shutters while accelerating. One of the main trouble spots of Nissan’s CVT is that it’s slow to accelerate, which can be a significant safety risk when you’re trying to merge on a busy highway. Plus, it can sometimes run too hot which is why many owners have experienced constant stuttering.
  • Timing chain issues - Pathfinder owners have reported that the pieces that are holding the timing chain in place were prone to failure. As you may know, a loose timing chain may cause rattling or acceleration issues, and even engine failure. These issues were reportedly affecting the guides, shoes, and chain tensioners. Once again, Nissan received another class-action lawsuit which led to settlements.
  • Exploding sunroof - Owners of 2013-2014 Pathfinder models have complained about their sunroof exploding for seemingly no reason. Experts speculate that these “random” sunroof cracks and shatters were due to Nissan’s decision to use thinner glass for this premium feature. 


We walk you through the recent generations of this three-row SUV and determine which is the most reliable year of the Nissan Pathfinder and which model years are worth skipping.

What Are the Best Nissan Pathfinder Years to Shop For?

The 2017 Nissan Pathfinder is an excellent choice for a newer model. The revision of the 2017 Pathfinder brought about a little bit sharper look on the outside and inside. Technology has caught back up with its competitors, and we think it is your best-used Pathfinder choice for the price.

The SUV still comes with off-road capabilities while offering plenty of everyday-driving comforts. Complaints are very minimal for the 2017 Pathfinder, making it an excellent buy for someone who does not want to spend time with their vehicle at the dealership.

Is a Nissan Pathfinder Worth Buying? 

The start of the fourth-generation Pathfinder had some glitches, but you will find heading into that generation, the Pathfinder has become a very well-rounded and sophisticated vehicle. Even Pathfinders from the first and second generation can offer you a little less luxury but a lot of ruggedness and tough SUV years if that’s what you’re looking for.

If you stay away from the third-generation Pathfinder years, you should find some peace in knowing that most other generations are known to last for a long time and give consumers miles of loyalty.


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Finding a Used Pathfinder in Your Area

When shopping for a Pathfinder in your area, look for well-maintained Pathfinders. Low miles if possible, but high miles should not scare you off, for if the SUV was maintained well, it could still give you plenty of good years. Also, you want to look out for serious rust problems for older versions. You have to be realistic here; if an SUV has been on the road for 20+ years, it will have some rust. You want to make sure it’s not rusted out. If you can’t tell the difference, you should bring along someone who does because rust repair costs a lot of money.

Here are the Nissan Pathfinder years to avoid: 2005-2007 or all third-generation and 2013 fourth-generation Pathfinder. The problems with these Pathfinders are mentioned above.

Frequently Asked Questions: Nissan Pathfinder Years To Avoid

Q: Which Nissan Pathfinders should I avoid due to the “Strawberry Milkshake” issue?

A: It’s best to steer clear of 2005-2007 Nissan Pathfinders, as they had a severe problem with coolant leaking into the transmission, causing what’s known as the “Strawberry Milkshake” issue. To be safe, consider avoiding Pathfinders from 2005 to 2010.

Q: What caused the “Strawberry Milkshake” problem in specific Nissan Pathfinder model years?

A: The “Strawberry Milkshake” issue was caused by a defect within the coolant system that would rupture, allowing coolant to mix with the transmission fluid. This mixture should never occur during normal vehicle operation and can lead to severe transmission and radiator problems.

Q: Are there any first-generation Nissan Pathfinder years to avoid?

A: The 1995 model year, the last year of the first-generation Pathfinder, received the most complaints. While the 3.0-liter V6 engine was generally well-regarded, there were numerous reports of engine problems, such as loss of power and bucking during acceleration.

Q: What are some of the best Nissan Pathfinder model years to consider when shopping for a used vehicle?

A: The 2017 Nissan Pathfinder is an excellent choice for a newer model, as it features a sharper design, updated technology, and minimal complaints. Well-maintained Pathfinders with low mileage are generally a good option for older generations.

Are Nissan Pathfinders typically reliable?

Nissan has offered the Pathfinder SUV in the U.S. for almost 40 years. And while the oldest examples may not be the most dependable vehicles, many 21st-century Pathfinder offer rugged and reliable transportation. That means separating the good years from the bad ones.

How much does a used Nissan Pathfinder typically cost?

The Nissan Pathfinder can be a smart buy over more popular SUVs. Pricing depends on age, mileage, condition, and more. According to CoPilot Price Pulse, a 2010 Nissan Pathfinder has an average asking price of $9,845, which reflects a 9% premium due to current market conditions. A 2020 edition costs $27,682, 16% higher than in normal times.

Is the Nissan Pathfinder a good car to purchase?

Choosing a Pathfinder that’s from this century is a good starting point. But not every model from the last 20 years or so is worthwhile. Discover the most reliable Nissan Pathfinder years before plunking down your money. And always have a mechanic inspect any used vehicle under consideration.

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