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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

The Sentra has been Nissan’s flagship compact car in North America for many years. 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 trustworthy 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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Nissan Sentra: CVT Transmission Failure

Cost to fix: $3,800

The Nissan Sentra has an infamous reputation for expensive CVT transmission failures that could ruin your driving experience. A transmission failure is serious business. 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. Until your transmission is repaired, your vehicle will be unable to move.

In order to avoid finding yourself stranded somewhere waiting for help to arrive, it’s best to keep a close eye on potential symptoms of transmission failure 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 difficult 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.

A good 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 important parts of the car and it’s essential that you get a completely working unit. Because transmissions are so integral to a vehicle’s operation, it will likely run you about $3,800 for replacement.

Problem two: 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 which can lead to a slew of issues. Your car will become unsafe to drive and your engine may lose power completely, 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 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 car, 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.

Another common problem with Nissan Sentra: Revving and Jerking

Cost to fix: $3,400

Another one of the issues people experience the most with Nissan Sentras are sudden revving and jerking. This has been reported in a variety of situations, including driving uphill and sitting in traffic. Revving and jerking can stem from a number of causes, including poor spark plugs, a mishap in the combustion process, a faulty fuel intake, or a clogged catalytic converter.

Due to the large amount of issues that can be causing your car to jerk when you accelerate, we recommend going to 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, and not one that will cause a massive headache. There are a few things you can do 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.


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.