Case Study: 2006 Nissan Frontier 4wd, RE5RO5A, Transmission Problems

  Case Study 2006 Nissan Frontier Transmission Problems | Nissan Frontier RE5RO5A Transmission Repair
  Dave Riccio, Owner/Technician

By Dave Riccio, ASE Certified Technician, Owner of Tri-City Transmission & Auto Repair, Co-host of Bumper to Bumper Radio

CASE STUDY: 2006 Nissan Frontier 4wd 116,742 miles RE5RO5A

Customer Saves Money and Triples the Dealer Warranty


This customer vehicle was very well maintained and been in his family since new. So, he was surprised to break down on the side of I-17 with what inevitably seamed like a failed transmission. He called his regular mechanic who he knew for years and he gave him two recommendations for a transmission shop – one in the north valley and Tri-City Transmission. With the two choices, he went to the one closest to where he was broken down since the car had to be towed. That shop called him back and let him know he needed a transmission in excess of $4,000 and he wasn't sure or real comfortable with what he was hearing. He was surprised that he had a well-maintained Nissan and it needed a transmission at 116,742 miles.

With his uncertainty, he picked up the phone and called us. He explained what happened and what the other shop had told him. We let him know the price sounded fair as long as they were addressing the coolant concern and he was getting a 100,000 mile warranty. He said "coolant concern, what's that?"

We briefly explained to him the pattern failure of Nissan transmissions as a result of a transmission cooler inside the radiator failing. We let him know that his transmission was a great transmission, with the exception of the radiator issue. We explained how we handled it, about our 3 year warranty, with a grace period up to 5 years and that it had been our understanding that even the dealer was only giving a 12 month, 12,000 mile warranty. He verified all of the facts we presented and shortly after he had the car towed to us, Tri-City Transmission.

Five working days later, he drove away with a customer remanufactured transmission with a 100,000 mile warranty. We coordinated all the repairs with his regular automotive generalist so that they were in the loop in regards to how we were handling the radiator and transmission cooling. In the end, he was facing an expensive repair and if he had to spend the money, he wanted to be confident it would be done right. We were thankful for the work and glad we could deliver.

Transmission Background Information:

Case Study 2006 Nissan Frontier Transmission Problems | Nissan Frontier RE5RO5A Transmission Repair

This transmission replaced its predecessor, RE4RO1A. It utilizes the transmission control module inside the transmission. Hardly does the transmission itself fail on its own. It really only fails when the transmission cooler in the radiator fails. The way this happens. Your engine is cooled through engine coolant which is mostly comprised of water. That coolant is kept cooled through the radiator at the front of the vehicle. The transmission is cooled by pumping transmission fluid up to the radiator and then back to the transmission. The radiator is mostly comprised of engine coolant with the exception of a small cavity where the transmission fluid is cooled. The two different fluids, engine coolant and transmission fluid are separated by a thin wall. When that thin wall fails, transmission fluid crosses over into the engine coolant and engine coolant crosses over into the transmission fluid -- a cross contamination.

Transmission don't survive very well when they have coolant/water contamination. This is for two reasons. With the computer and electronics in the transmission they corrode and short out. These electronics were designed to deal with transmission fluid, not water. Additionally, in an over simplified way, transmission clutches are made of a fiber much like paper. That paper is glued to steal discs. When clutches are applied, there is a tremendous amount of heat created in the clutch. If there is water in the transmission, then you have steam. If you remember how we took off wall paper when the 80's were over, we utilized steam to delaminate the glue. That's what happens to the clutches in your transmission -- they become old wall paper.

Nissan Transmission Failure Prevention

It is not a matter of if, but rather a matter of when. Rear wheel drive Nissan from about 2005 on up fail of coolant poisoning. When Nissan customer come into us for regular service, we alert them to this possibility. We perform a glycol test on there transmission fluid. If we catch it soon enough, we bypass the transmission cooler in the radiator eliminating transmission failure. We do this with a special transmission cooler that we have found to mount well and work well. This insures you not to have to buy a transmission -- because otherwise, they are a great transmission.

Nissan is not the only car manufacturer to have this problem. There are a couple repeat offenders such as Volvo and Nissan. But we see this with Fords, Mercedes and a few others. We regularly perform glycol chemical test on transmission fluid as part of our normal diagnostic process. Many shops miss this and repeat transmission failures are immanent. In many cases, you cannot spot the coolant in the transmission fluid with the naked eye. In many instances it is only through a chemical test for glycol or a crackle test that you find it. Most transmission warranties exclude glycol contamination, so you want to be sure you are working with a shop that performs fluid tests to prevent repeat failures that someone can later use to skip warranty.

The model transmission is found in the Nissan Frontier, Nissan Xterra, Nissan Armada and Nissan Titan. Nissan somehow has avoided class action lawsuit on this one. They original did have to cover the radiators up to 80,000 miles but not the transmission in a wimpy lawsuit, really not much help for the customers.

The Advantage of Our Custom Transmission Remanufacturing Process.

At Tri-City Transmission and Auto Repair, we have been providing custom rebuilt, custom repaired and custom remanufactured transmission services for over 45 years. With that experience, we know how, why and what the patterns of failure are of each transmission. This allows us not to replace transmission when they are not needed. When transmissions fail, you need to identify what failed and then why it failed. This is a huge problem for novices installing what we call "Box Transmissions". When there is no biopsy of the old transmission, repeat failures are almost certain to happen. Transmissions fail all the time as a result of problems with the vehicle -- and some of the examples we regularly see are when we are fixing repeat failures from other shops.

Bad brake switches, bad mass air flow sensors, bad engine controls, bad power train computers is a very common issue and in this case, bad radiators. These misses cost consumers thousands of extra dollars and time with unnecessary break downs and some of the most inopportune times. Fundamentally box units, -- aka remanufactured transmissions done in factories -- even when purchased from a dealer aren't new and better. The have more opportunity for failure. They are just remanufactured in sweat shop, many times where there is a break up between installer and transmission builder.

While this customer wasn't so fortunate and needed his transmission customer remanufactured by us, in lots of cases, because of our custom repair process, we are regularly able to save customers thousands of dollars on unnecessary replacements of transmissions. In general repair terms, we equivalate many of these misdiagnosed and replaced transmissions to replacing an engine when all you needed was a spark plug. Unfortunately, transmissions are such a black box to most of the industry and the fact that people "don't know what they don't know", thousands of dollars and natural resources are wasted unnecessarily replacing transmissions.  

Repair Order #1031869 | 11/21/18

Google review from Ryan D.

“Dave was very easy to do business with as you can tell he is both knowledgeable and friendly. He took the time to explain my situation and what the best course of action is to prevent another visit to his shop. I have a 3-year warranty on his work and don't think I'll ever need it but it's good to know that they back there work up far better then the manufacturer. Can't say enough good things about them.”

Case Study 2006 Nissan Frontier Transmission Problems | Nissan Frontier RE5RO5A Transmission Repair