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Nissan Sentra Transmission Problems

in Reliability
White 2020 Nissan Sentra

2020 Nissan Sentra SV by Kevauto — CC BY-SA 4.0

For many years, the Sentra has been Nissan’s flagship compact car in North America. This tried-and-true vehicle was classified as a subcompact car when it began production in 1982 and was reclassified as compact in 2000.

Sentras have served as reliable rides for nearly 40 years, but some models have technical problems that you should be fully aware of before buying. Thankfully, CoPilot is here to guide you through everything to look out for in a Nissan Sentra.

The Most Common Problems with Nissan Sentra & Costs to Fix

These are the most common problems reported by owners on platforms such as carproblems.com, carcomplaints.com, and Car Talk Community. 

  1. CVT transmission failure: Cost to fix: $3,800
  2. Blown head gasket at 76,000 miles. Cost to fix: $1,310
  3. Revving and jerking suddenly: Cost to fix: $3,400

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Problem #1: CVT Transmission Failure

Cost to fix: $3,800

A transmission failure is a serious business. Until your transmission is repaired, your vehicle will be unable to move. When this happens, your engine’s rotation will not be transferred to the wheels like it should, so the wheels will cease to rotate, and you will not be able to accelerate in either drive or reverse. The Nissan Sentra has an infamous reputation for expensive CVT transmission failures that could ruin your driving experience.

To avoid finding yourself stranded somewhere, it’s best to keep a close eye on potential transmission failure symptoms so you can stay on top of the situation. There are several telltale signs of a soon-to-fail transmission.

One is that your transmission is suddenly slipping unintentionally. You’ll be able to tell because your car will shift into different gears without warning, which is an immediate indication that your transmission is malfunctioning and needs to be fixed right away.

Rough or hard shifting is a similar symptom, so if you have any difficulties with shifting at all, you’ll want to get that transmission inspected. Another sign is leaking transmission fluid. Check underneath your car every once in a while and look for pools of dark red liquid.

An excellent way to tell if the leak is active is to place some material in the spot where the leak is and see if it gets wet. If you experience strange, loud noises in your car like clunking or whining, that’s another indication. And, of course, your check engine light is a surefire way to know that something is awry in your Nissan Sentra. 

The only real fix for this problem is a total transmission replacement. This is one of the most critical parts of the car, and you must get a complete working unit. Because transmissions are integral to a vehicle’s operation, it will likely run you about $3,800 for replacement.

Problem #2: Blown Head Gasket

Cost to fix: $1,310

Head gaskets are a vital part of a vehicle’s engine, acting as the middleman between the engine’s cylinder block and cylinder head so that everything runs smoothly. The most common problem in Nissan Sentras is a blown head gasket, which causes coolant to enter the cylinders, leading to a slew of issues. Your car will become unsafe to drive, and your engine may lose power entirely, so knowing the signals that this is happening is essential. 

Many of the symptoms have to do with strange occurrences in your oil or coolant, including sudden coolant loss, bubbling in the reservoir where the coolant is held, or discolored oil that appears white. However, these aren’t the only ways to determine that your head gasket is blown.

Because the head gasket works to regulate heat, an overheated engine is a major sign that something is wrong. White smoke coming out of your tailpipe behind your car is also a key indicator. If any of these happen with your vehicle, get it checked out right away.

It’s best to keep your coolant at the proper level and watch the temperature gauge every so often to make sure your car isn’t running hot, as this will help prevent this issue from occurring. In the occurrence of a blown head gasket, though, you will need to get it replaced at a shop. Most often, this repair will cost around $1,310.

Problem #3: Revving and Jerking

Cost to fix: $3,400

Another issue people experience with Sentras is the sudden revving and jerking. This has been reported in various situations, including driving uphill and sitting in traffic. Revving and jerking can stem from several causes, including poor spark plugs, a mishap in the combustion process, a faulty fuel intake, or a clogged catalytic converter.

Due to many issues that may cause jerking during acceleration, we recommend a mechanic to determine the right course of action. On average, fixing this problem costs $3,400.


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How to Avoid Buying an Unreliable Used Nissan Sentra

We want to make sure that you wind up with the right used Nissan Sentra for you, not one that will cause a massive headache. You can do a few things during a test drive to make sure the Sentra you’re looking at doesn’t have the transmission and engine problems we’ve talked about.

As you drive, listen to the sounds the car makes. Look out for any strange noises, such as a whining sound, and make sure to check the transmission for any fluid leakage. Notice how the car drives and whether the gears shift smoothly. Even if all of this looks good, you should always have a local mechanic check a used vehicle before you purchase it and get a pre-purchase inspection as well.

Quick Care Tips for Your Nissan Sentra Transmission

Below are some quick tips to help ensure that your transmission is up and running:

  • Schedule regular maintenance - Always keep your Sentra on a consistent maintenance schedule. This is a general tip that will save you lots of money down the line.
  • Periodically check your transmission fluid - Like other vehicles, checking your Sentra’s transmission fluid is as simple as checking the fluid color using a dipstick. If the liquid is murky, dark-colored, and smells terrible, you may want to take it to a transmission repair technician.
  • Service your engine’s cooling system - Aside from preventing the engine from overheating, the cooling system also ensures that the fluid pumping into the gearbox is cooled. Ensure the cooling system is functioning correctly by getting it serviced once in a while.
  • Avoid changing gears while the car is moving - Changing gears while the vehicle is in motion puts too much strain on the transmission system. Only change gears when your vehicle is at a complete stop.
  • Warm-up your car before driving - This is especially true during colder months. Warming up your car before driving is a best-practice tip that all car owners can benefit from.

THE BEST USED SUVS UNDER $10,000

We looked into price, reliability, features, and more to create this list of the best used SUVs under $10k on the market today. Take a look - some of the best used SUVs have gone mostly overlooked or forgotten. 


The Easiest Way to Find Reliable Nissan Sentras In Your Area

For the easiest way to find reliable Nissan Sentras in your area, download the free CoPIlot car shopping app. We’ll search every dealership in your area for the compact car you’re looking for and make a list, personal to you, of the best purchases near you.

CoPilot is built using the same technology that car dealerships use to buy and sell their inventory, making it the smartest and easiest way to buy a used Nissan Sentra.

Try CoPilot Compare, the search engine for nearly-new cars if you’re interested in newer, off-lease cars. We’ll only show you models that are 5 years or newer with low mileage, most with CPO availability, and break down how much you save buying used with the best nearly-new listings in your area.

The best part? CoPilot doesn’t work with dealerships, so there are no ‘promoted’ or ‘sponsored’ listings - just the best cars in your area. Learn more about how CoPilot works on our About Us page.