Nissan Pathfinder 2013-2020: problems, engine, fuel economy, pros and cons

Updated: August 07, 2021
The 2013-2020 Pathfinder is a comfortable, roomy seven-seat SUV with a responsive engine and a variety of available features. It comes with front- or all-wheel drive. There is a hybrid version, but it is rare. Unlike the previous truck-based Pathfinder, this fourth generation, known as R52, is built on a car-based platform. This change allowed for more space, improved ride quality and better fuel economy.
Nissan Pathfinder 2015 interior 2015 Nissan Pathfinder interior.
The 2015-2020 4WD Pathfinder is rated at 19/26 mpg, which is pretty good for a vehicle of this size. With second- and third-row seats folded, the Pathfinder offers 79.8 cubic feet of cargo space.

The Pathfinder drives like a large car; the ride is comfortable and quiet. For an SUV of this size, the Pathfinder is also surprisingly maneuverable, offering a 38.7-ft turning circle. One of our favorite features is an around-view monitor that shows a view of the vehicle and surrounding space from above on the center display. The system works by combining views from 4 cameras into one composite view. Around View Monitor is available in 2015+ SL, standard in Platinum.

Is Nissan Pathfinder reliable? What problems do Pathfinder owners report? Which model year had more problems? We test-drove the 2015 Pathfinder and did our research.
Nissan Pathfinder reported problems: Several owners mentioned issues with sun visors not staying in an upright position. The driver's sunvisor was listed for $115 on Amazon. Check out some YouTube videos on how to fix it. Besides that, many owners mentioned various trim pieces falling apart.

A bad wheel bearing can cause a humming noise that is more noticeable at higher speed and gets louder or quieter when changing directions. Replacing a wheel bearing costs $80-$180 for part and $200-$350 labor.
Nissan Pathfinder second row seats The second row floor is flat. Nissan Pathfinder 2015 seats folded The Pathfinder offers 79.8 cu. ft. cargo space. Nissan Pathfinder 2015 storage behind the third-row seat Under-floor storage.

In 2013-2015 Pathfinder, several owners reported that the air conditioner compressor has failed and the A/C stopped working. The A/C compressor had to be replaced and the system recharged. The OEM A/C compressor is expensive, but we found plenty of aftermarket options for $350-$560.

An inner door handle can break and stop working. The part is not very expensive and the repair is fairly simple. We found several videos describing the repair.

The engine cooling fan (radiator fan) can become noisy and might need to be replaced. The noise sounds like a card in spokes or clacking and is fairly loud, coming from the front of the engine. We found these videos describing the noise and repair. An aftermarket part (cooling fan assembly) costs from $170 to $450.

According to the bulletin NTB10-029e, vibration or judder feeling from the rear of the vehicle in 4WD Pathfinder when making slow turns on dry roads could be caused by a problem with the Electric Controlled Coupling for the rear final drive. The bulletin advises to follow the diagnostic steps and, if confirmed, to replace the coupling and perform "Unit Characteristics Writing." The part is quite expensive if out of warranty.
Advertisement

The CVT transmission in the 2013-2014 Pathfinder received a number of complaints. Owners describe intermittent lack of power and jerking/shaking or "judder" as Nissan refers to it. Nissan has issued several bulletins on the issue. Solutions included reprogramming the TCM (updating the CVT software), replacing the control valve assembly (part of the CVT transmission), or replacing the CVT transmission. On the plus side, according to the NissanAssist.com Nissan has extended Non-Hybrid CVT warranty coverage on the 2013-2014 Pathfinder to 7 years/84,000 miles, whichever comes first. We also found many positive owner reviews that mention no CVT problems at all. We extensively drove the 2015 Pathfinder and took a quick drive of the 2016 Pathfinder, both with AWD. Neither exhibited any symptoms.

Nissan has issued several recalls for some Pathfinder models that you can check at the NHTSA website with the VIN number of your vehicle. It's also a good idea to check the NissanAssist.com website. If you are having a problem with your Nissan, especially safety-related, and your warranty has recently expired, check with your dealer if they can help; we do know of a few cases where Nissan approved certain after-warranty repairs.

Engine: Except for hybrid models, the Pathfinder is powered by a well-known 3.5L V6 VQ engine (VQ35DE) that has been used in many Nissan and Infiniti vehicles. It's a proven strong and reliable DOHC motor that can last for well over 200K with good maintenance.

Timing belt or chain: The 3.5L V6 VQ engine has a maintenance-free timing chain; there is no timing belt. A timing chain only needs to be replaced if there is a problem with it, for example, when it's noisy.

Fuel Economy: The 2015-2020 4WD Pathfinder is rated at 19/26 mpg. This means that, on a long trip, you can travel up to 485 miles (780 km) on a 19.5-gallon (74-liter) fuel tank. It's better than most mid-size and large SUVs.

Pros: Strong engine, third-row seats, good acceleration, comfortable ride, reasonable fuel economy, roomy interior, family-friendly features, available Around View monitor.

Cons: Troublesome CVT in early models, questionable long-term reliability, the CVT transmission might not be strong enough for towing.

Overall: The Pathfinder is a comfortable family hauler with a solid engine. However, as of August 2021, Consumer Reports rates the 2013-2015 and 2017-2018 Pathfinder 'worse than average' for overall reliability.
2015 Nissan Pathfinder 2015 Nissan Pathfinder R52.

We also researched complaints at the NHTSA website: as of August 2021, the 2013 Pathfinder had 752 complaints (including 324 complaints related to the powertrain), while the 2016 Pathfinder had only 75.

Of course, some of the problems have already been repaired under warranty. Still, if you are buying a used Nissan Pathfinder, it might be a good idea to get an extended warranty with good coverage and look for 2015+ models.

When checking out a used Nissan Pathfinder, test drive for as long as possible. Watch out for hesitation, slipping or shuddering during acceleration. Some owners describe a problem with the CVT where it engages hard when accelerating slightly after coasting for a while. If you can arrange for a pre-purchase inspection, ask a mechanic to check for leaks from the transfer case and from the transmission cooler lines, we found a few reports of these problems. It's a good idea to check with a Nissan dealer whether all the recalls have been done. Read more: How to inspect a used car - illustrated guide.

Mechanical: The Pathfinder has MacPherson struts in the front suspension and a multi-link setup in the rear. The steering is hydraulically-assisted. The engine is transversely-mounted. The only transmission choice is a continuously variable transmission or CVT. Read more: Pros and cons of buying a car with a CVT transmission. The Pathfinder 4WD system can be manually switched to 2WD, Auto or 4WD Lock modes using the switch on the center console.

Related reviews:
Toyota Highlander 2008-2013 review
Honda Pilot 2009-2015 review
Mazda CX-9 2007-2015 review
Nissan Murano 2009-2014
Ford Edge 2007-2014 review
Toyota Venza 2009-2015 review

Engine oil: We checked the owner's manuals for the U.S. 2013-2018 Nissan Pathfinder (you can access it here. According to these manuals, Nissan recommends using SAE 5W-30 oil for the 2013-2014 V6 VQ35DE engine.
The manuals for the 2015-2018 Pathfinder list SAE 0W-20 as the recommended oil viscosity.
Approximate drain and refill engine oil capacity (with oil filter change) for the 3.5L V6 is listed at 5-1/8 US qt or 4.8 liters.