Whether it is manual or automatic, the transmission is what makes the drive wheels go round and round on any vehicle. The vast majority of private passenger vehicles use automatic transmissions.
Modern automatic transmissions generally are very reliable. Most will last for about 200,000 miles when maintained properly. Unfortunately, the following 10 makes and models have especially troublesome transmissions.
Chevrolet Traverse (2017)
The nine-speed automatic transmission in the 2017 Traverse often suffered from a bad torque converter, defective transmission band, or low fluid. The effect often causes delayed shifts and jerking and shaking when shifting during accelerations.
The first sign of trouble often is leaking fluid that accompanies delays in gear shifting. The fix might require a new transmission, which could cost about $6,000 if a manufacturer’s warranty does not fix the problem.
Ford Fiesta (2011 – 2015)
Ford introduced its six-speed PowerShift automatic transmission with the redesigned Ford Fiesta in 2011. A defective main clutch housing causes the six-speed automatic in the Ford Fiesta to shudder, buck, shake, and accelerate suddenly. It also sometimes creates delays when downshifting, which causes problems with downshifting.
Ford addressed the problem by extending its manufacturer warranty to 10 years or 150,000 miles. Unfortunately, the fix is slow to come, and Ford has new clutches for the PowerShift transmissions on backorder to correct the problem. So there is no effective fix for the problem other than to buy a different vehicle.
Ford Focus (2011 – 2015)
The Ford Focus also was plagued with the PowerShift automatic transmission and shared the same problems as its Fiesta stablemate. Sadly, the fix is just as elusive and, ultimately, requires buying a different vehicle to get rid of the PowerShift transmission.
Honda Civic (2014 – 2015)
The Honda Civic is one of the world’s most popular and most reliable vehicles and has enjoyed a very long production life. Unfortunately, the transmission has been a persistent issue throughout its production run.
The 2014 and 2015 model years in particular had problems with leaking transmission fluid that sometimes caused the early demise of its automatic transmission. Any signs of a transmission fluid leak require an immediate diagnosis to prevent catastrophic damage and possibly a new transmission.
Jeep Wrangler (2018 – 2019)
The incredibly fun and popular Wrangler suffered from notorious transmission issues in the 2018 and 2019 model years. A problem with bad seals sometimes allows transmission fluid to leak, which leads to internal damage. Some owners say the eight-speed automatic transmission of
Kia Forte (2019 – 2021)
The Kia Forte debuted in 2019 and brought a problematic seven-speed, dual-clutch automatic transmission with it. Many buyers reported complete transmission failures while others complained of a slipping transmission.
The problem sometimes occurs with less than 5,000 miles on the odometer. A manufacturer’s warranty could cover the installation of a new unit to fix the problem.
Nissan Altima (2016)
Nearly half of the issues that owners report to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration involve problems with the Altima’s CVT transmission. It often has failed at about the 50,000-mile mark and sometimes sooner.
The CVT transmission uses belts and pulleys instead of metal gears to send power to the drive wheel. Replacing the defective transmission is the most common cure, and Nissan recalled the 2016 model due to transmission problems.
Nissan Pathfinder (2013 – 2014)
The Pathfinder is a popular Nissan SUV that suffers from an unreliable CVT transmission. Many owners complained of belt slippage that caused the transmission to slip, too. When the belt slips, the Pathfinder shudders shakes and hesitates.
The problem is especially noticeable when accelerating from a stop or from a relatively slow speed. Merging into traffic could be especially dangerous, and many owners recently filed a class action lawsuit over the problem.
Nissan Sentra (2012 – 2016)
Nissan CVT transmission problems also plagued the Sentra and especially the 2012 through 2016 model years. The problem is the same as with the other problematic transmissions in Nissan models of the same era. The only real fix is to replace the transmission or replace the Nissan.
Infiniti QX60 (2013 – 2016)
Yet another example of a CVT transmission causing problems is the 2013 through 2016 Infiniti QX60. The QX60 shared the same CVT transmission as the Nissans of the same model year. That means more problems with belt slips, struggles with acceleration, and complete transmission failures. A new CVT transmission is the only real cure.
Limited Options for Transmission Problems
When a transmission does go bad, a manufacturer’s warranty that might be in effect just might cover most or all of the cost to fix or replace it. Otherwise, owners have two costly options. Those are to spend thousands of dollars to replace the transmission or buy another vehicle.
So it pays to learn which model years are notorious for transmission problems if you are considering buying a used car.
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