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2008 Frontier Radiator Leak?

1364 Views 4 Replies 2 Participants Last post by  Coachkwj
I recently received a recall notice from Nissan and called and it happened to be for my wife's Rogue. I did some research and it seems that on this model year and others, the radiator can develop a leak and contaminate the transmission fluid, ruining the transmission. Has anyone had this issue and if so, how did you handle it? I want to get ahead of this as my Frontier has low miles and is in like new condition.
Thank you.
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Are you sure it was a "recall" and not a notice of "warranty extension?" People who own 2005-2010 Pathfinders/Frontiers/Xterras have been pushing to get the NHTSA to force Nissan to recall the radiators for years to no avail. Nissan did extend the warranty and then extended it further after they lost a civil action lawsuit in NY state over the issue. Basically, the radiator and subsequent damage caused by it's cooler failing is covered 100% to 8-years/80,000 miles and then has repair cost limit levels of $2500 up to 90,000 miles and $3500 up to 100,000 miles. After that, you are on your own.
What happens is that the factory-installed, Calsonic radiator has the potential to develop a leak in the transmission cooler inside the lower radiator tank. If it fails, cross-contamination occurs between the engine coolant and the automatic transmission fluid, which can cause the transmission to start jerking and eventually fail. Signs of cross-contamination would be white streaks or a pink custard showing up on your automatic transmission dipstick or oil inside your coolant reservoir. Repair at a dealer usually results in replacement of the transmission and radiator at a cost around $7500, give or take.
So, if you are out of the warranty period, what do you do? You could do nothing and take your chances; not all of the radiators fail, but some do and it's a costly repair that can be prevented if you want to take some preventative measures. There are basically two methods: bypass vs. replacement. The bypass method involves bypassing the radiator's internal trans cooler and utilizing the already-installed from the factory, auxiliary transmission cooler located in front of the A/C condenser. On a 2008, it will be on the driver's side. All you need is a couple of miniature hose clamps, 2-5/16" vacuum caps and a short-length (2-feet will give you plenty and you will need to cut that down some) of 5/16" inch transmission hose and some plastic tie-straps. There should be some YouTube vids on the procedure, which doesn't take long once you get the skid plate out of the way. The benefits of the bypass method is that it's cheap, quick, absolutely prevents any chance of cross-contamination. The con is you do eliminate some cooling potential (which hasn't been an issue for most, so far) and you also eliminate the radiator's ability to warm the transmission fluid quick and help maintain it in the optimal 175-200 degree F. range. ATF should be operated at no lower than 150 degrees F. and those that have monitored trans temps after the bypass method and using only the auxiliary cooler have reported temp readings around 160-165 degrees F.
The other method is to replace the factory-installed radiator. The cooler problem has not been an issue on aftermarket and updated Nissan radiators. Nissan has a standard replacement for around $450 and a Value-line option for $350. For the same $350, Stillen offers a CSF brand, all-aluminum radiator. In the range of $75-$150 are a number of aftermarket, plastic-tank (like the original) radiators. Most of these are made in China and seem to be okay; I've been running one I picked up on Ebay for five years without issues. The most popular is the one made by Spectra Premium, which runs in the $110 range, +/-. The benefit of this method is that you are still retaining the radiator's integral cooler. The con is that it is more costly and the radiator in these vehicles isn't the easiest one to replace.
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Yeah, the Rogue recall has nothing to do with the radiators on the Pathfinders/Frontiers/Xterras. As far as what it will cost for you to have it done, it's going to vary depending on which radiator you have installed (genuine Nissan...aftermarket....or Stillen all-aluminum) and the labor rate of the shop, if you choose not to do it yourself. The book labor time is 3.0 hours. So, to that you would add cost of the radiator and maybe a quart of ATF plus 2-gallons of coolant mix. Then there would be tax and the shop will probably have a hazardous material charge. Your best bet would be to call several reputable shops in your area. For a general estimate, try this site:
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