Nissan Sentra Problems: 5 Common Issues (Explained)

The Nissan Sentra is a very reliable and economical compact car that has been around since 1982.

The Sentra is one of Nissan’s first popular models to help cement to Japanese automaker as a very formidable global carmaker.

We’ve looked at how long the Nissan Sentra lasts and now we’ll dive into which problems people face with the Sentras.

Forty years after its introduction, it remains a popular model for anyone who wants a car that gets great gas mileage and is affordable to maintain.

While the Sentra is a generally excellent vehicle, it does have commonly occurring issues that could affect many model years.

1. Brakes that Weaken and Make the Brake Pedal Feel Spongy

Bad brakes could make a vehicle dangerous to drive. Some owners of the Nissan Sentra have had issues with a spongy brake pedal.

If you press on the brake pedal and it does not give you firm feedback, that could indicate a fault with the braking system.

If the brake pedal slowly travels to the floor and the brakes are weak, the Sentra needs brake service done right away.

But the following could help you to prevent that from happening.

You can see here exactly which years of Nissan Sentra that were problematic.

Possible Causes and Solutions

A spongy brake pedal indicates a problem with the hydraulic system that makes the brakes work.

It might be something as simple as bleeding the brake lines to remove any air, water, or other contaminants that get into the system.

Brake fluid has the unique ability to remove moisture from the air. Bleeding the brake lines will remove air, water, and other contaminants that affect braking power.

You also can change the brake fluid to ensure the Sentra has fresh, clean fluid with all of its viscosity intact.

Another possible problem might be that a brake line also might have degraded and needs to be replaced.

You can check the brake lines for signs of cracking, dry rot, or general damage that might cause it to leak. Any sign of fluid on the brake line could indicate it is leaking slowly and taking on air.

Replacing a faulty brake line and putting new brake fluid into the system can help to restore full braking power.

But the likeliest culprit is a faulty master cylinder. If the brake pedal is spongy, the master cylinder often winds up being the cause.

The master cylinder might have worn parts, is leaking fluid, or otherwise is enabling air to get into the hydraulic lines.

A new master cylinder can cure those problems.

2. Fast-Fading Paint and Trim

You need a good-looking exterior that has quality paint and trim for your Sentra to hold its value. But more recent editions of the popular compact have had issues with the paint, clearcoat, and trim fading quickly.

A fast-fading clearcoat and paint can lead to rapid deterioration of the metal surfaces underneath.

If you live in a snowy area or near the ocean, your Sentra could develop surface rust due to a badly deteriorated paint job.

And the trim can dry, crack, and peel. Those who live in the Desert Southwest might experience that more rapidly than other owners of the Nissan Sentra.

But the effects ultimately are the same. Your formerly good-looking car no longer is nearly as appealing as it was when you bought it.

No one likes to drive an eyesore. And the Sentra is not an eyesore – unless the paint and trim deteriorate rapidly.

Possible Causes and Solutions

The paint quality on some Sentra models lacks the formulation that is needed to produce high-quality paint.

Nissan’s paint supplier did no favors to the company or its customers with substandard paint that is prone to rapid degradation.

Some prevention can help to preserve the paint. You should thoroughly wash the exterior and apply wax and sealant to prevent damage from the sun’s UV rays.,

A protective layer of wax and sealant are the best bets for thwarting premature wear and tear on the paint.

If the problem persists, you might need to repaint your car.

Choosing a paint that is more durable and can hold up better to the elements could help to maintain your Sentra’s value while making it look a whole lot better.

3. Thumping Suspension System Makes Driving Unsettling

The suspension system on the Nissan Sentra at times will create thumping noises that make drivers understandably worry about a problem with the suspension.

The issue might be accompanied by vibration or minor shaking while turning or going over relatively rough road surfaces.

Owners of the 2017 Nissan Sentra are especially prone to issues with the suspension.

Low-speed travel in cooler weather makes the problem worse.

Possible Causes and Solutions

A worn strut assembly might be the culprit if you hear thumping or other noises coming from the suspension.

You could give the struts a visual check to see if anything obvious is wrong. A broken coil spring or a damaged strut assembly could be obvious and easy to spot.

But some issues might require you to pay an experienced Nissan technician to look over the problem and determine its cause.

Replacing one or more worn struts might be the solution to fix the problem.

4. CVT Transmission that is Failure-Prone

The CVT transmission in the Sentra is apt to lose power and cause shaking and vibration that make the ride downright unnerving.

The 2013 through 2017 model years are especially prone to CVT transmission issues, which could include a complete failure.

The 2014 model year is considered to be the worst for CVT problems and failures.

Possible Causes and Solutions

In worst-case scenarios, a new or rebuilt CVT transmission might be the only solution to fix the problem. And that could be costly.

The CVT transmission does not have gears like a traditional automatic. But it does need fluid and regular maintenance to stay in top running condition.

Any clunkiness, vibration, or noise coming from the CVT transmission could be signs that it is due for a transmission service.

Having certified technicians change the fluid and check the seals and other parts can help to ensure your Sentra’s transmission works as well as possible.

Some Sentra models have 17-inch and even 18-inch wheels that help to give them a very cool look.

But the large wheels also degrade ride quality and can make it harder for the CVT transmission to deliver a more comfortable ride.

Switching to more pedestrian 15- and 16-inch wheels can help to smooth out the ride.

5. Bad Wheels Make it Harder to Keep on Turning

The wheels on some Sentra models have proven to be more problematic than others.

Owners of the 2008 model in particular say the wheels often trigger warning lights to check the air pressures.

But the air pressures are just fine.

The problem can be very aggravating and add a level of discomfort to what otherwise is a good drive and ride.

Some basic precautions and a possible fix might solve the matter altogether.

Possible Causes and Solutions

If a warning light is especially bothersome, you could have the tire sensors replaced with newer ones that are less prone to error.

But the best way to protect against the faulty tire monitors is to manually check the tire air pressures a couple of times per week.

Unless you have a truly bad tire or valve stem, the tires should hold air just fine. A road hazard might damage one or more tires and trigger a legitimate tire pressure warning light.

But when the tires are in good shape and properly inflated, a bad sensor usually is the problem.

If a warning light does come on while you are driving, you should check the tires as soon as possible with an air pressure gauge and visual inspection of the tire for any signs of damage.

General Pros and Cons for the Nissan Sentra

The Nissan Sentra looks great and runs reliably well while getting excellent fuel economy.

The Sentra is packed with active safety features that help to make the compact sedan very safe to drive.

Ownership costs are low, and it is a simple car to maintain. It comes in front-wheel-drive only and does not offer a manual as it had in the past.

Its four-cylinder engine is long on fuel economy but short on performance.

While the Sentra has many solid qualities, it does have some negatives that might annoy some prospective buyers. Those include:

  • Cramped back seat.
  • Sluggish performance.
  • Lots of road noise.
  • Steering is a bit stiff.

What Do the Reviews Say?

The compact Nissan Sentra is a great-looking car that works especially well for daily driving.

The front seats are roomy and comfortable, and the Sentra delivers excellent fuel economy from its four-cylinder engine.

The Sentra is ideal for single adults and married couples with either small children or none as the rear seating is generally cramped.

Car and Driver says the Sentra is

“comfortable and compliant for daily commutes and weekend trips” and has an impressive braking system.”

As a whole, the Sentra is a quality vehicle for daily driving and can go far on the freeway with a tank of gas and excellent fuel economy.

What’s the Resale Value on a Nissan Sentra

Year Mileage Price
2001 200,000 $700
2008 150,000 $2,000
2012 100,000 $3,800
2015 70,000 $7,500
2020 30,000 $18,900
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ⓘ  The information in this article is based on data from National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recall reports, consumer complaints submitted to the NHTSA, reliability ratings from J.D. Power, auto review and rating sites such as Edmunds, specialist forums, etc. We analyzed this data to provide insights into the best and worst years for these vehicle models.