Nissan Sentra, class leading lemon of 2011

the car:

  • 2011 Nissan Sentra SL (including leather package)
  • manufactured 03/2011, purchased 05/2011
  • currently has 16,500 miles
  • 35 miles one way for work each day (70 miles total)
  • Live in Kansas, Wichita area. mostly highway driving 60-75MPH

the history of the nightmare:

  • Barely two weeks after I bought the car the passenger front brake line failed and leaked fluid. The dealer told me the line was incorrectly or cross threaded which caused the failure and leakage. Took the dealer over a month to get the part and repair it. (side note during this time had three separate Nissan rental cars of the 2010 or newer lines. Two were Sentras and one was a Rogue.)
  • After having the car back I noticed within the first month that my traction control was not working or at least not anyway similar to how it did originally. I took it into the dealer and they told me their were no error codes. They said they took it out and had tested it while driving and did not produce any error codes. They literally told me without an error code nothing was wrong with my car’s traction control. (side note I live on a dirt road which is about 1.5 miles of my drive to and from work.) After pressing further he told me that the car would have to be slipping sideways for it to engage. That day I turned sharper and a bit faster then normal onto my dirt road which is more then enough to cause the traction control to engage in my car as well as all 3 of the rentals I had. The traction control system did not engage despite the indicator light saying it was.
  • Took it back into the dealer and told them the test I had done. Even told them how it would do it on all the rentals and in this car before it was in for the brake repair. They again told me that without an error code nothing was wrong with my car. Despite the fact I know the system is not working because when the traction control system engages it hard decelerates. Currently the car does nothing but flash the light when it supposedly engages. I even called and spoke to the Nissan reps who only repeated what the dealer said that nothing was wrong with my car because it does not have an error code.
  • After the last check I had taken it in for the regular oil change and tire rotation. I ended up having to pull over and tighten my tire lugs because of the vibration from them not being tighten properly (couple were almost not at all). When I got home I ended up having to jack the car up and reseat/re-tighten all 4 tires properly. After that I have had issues with vibration related to the tires and balancing. Ended up paying to have the front two tires replaced which helped greatly with the ride issues. Traction control still not working though.

current status of nightmare:

  • Recently within the last few weeks the vibration has started to return. This time it feels slightly different then it had before. I watched the back tires while driving and eliminated them as being possible off balance or having suspension issues. They moved smoothly and did not bounce all over with bumps in the road at speeds above 70MPH. Have not been able to take it out on a parallel drive to observe the front tires yet. Today it was raining and wet on my drive to work. the vibration was gone and the car was stable. The strangest thing is that for the first time my traction control system actually worked once. I was driving down my dirt road and thought I had hit some odd patch of deep sand or something till I looked down and my traction control light was blinking. This being the normal expected feel of the Nissan traction control system.

the question:

  • With all that in mind and coming on having this car almost 1 year I am not sure whats truly wrong with it or what I can do to get this lemon fixed. There are other odd issues that come and go like metallic rumbles from the engine (happens completely inconsistently and no known way to get it to happen on demand), power drains and flickers my stereo’s LCD display, hiccups or surges in engine power for no apparent reason when cruising at a consistent speed (most often 60-75MPH). The vibration issues seem to always be most noticeable at about 50MPH and get progressively worse till about 65MPH where it feels the same even up to around 75-80MPH.

Thank you in advance for any help or advice anyone can provide.

Your traction control acts exactly like mine, I don’t see a problem there…It has nothing to do with cornering ability, it just tries to prevent wheel-spin on snow and ice…

The vibration sounds like a tire/wheel balance problem or a defective tire. A good tire shop should be able to figure it out…

When you buy an entry-level econobox, that’s what you get…(including leather package)

I don’t see an issue with the car as much as I see an issue with your dealer. The brake like is odd, but it was fixed. The traction control issue I don’t think is te card issue, I think it’s the dealer for not even checking it out. The vibration is most likley damage done to the wheel when they did not tighten the lugs. Again not the cars fault but a bad dealer.

I understand and agree with what both of you have said. Especially about having a bad dealer. Ever since they didn’t tighten the lugs correctly I have paid to have my reliable independent mechanic do all the service/maintenance on my car which has kept things running smoother. As far as the traction control system I would agree that it sounds normal in a way because my Ford focus (2010) that I had before the Sentra behaved that way. Thing is with my Nissan and all 3 of the rentals I had (each having at least 3000 miles on them) the system behaved in a consistent “Nissan” way. I could repeat it easily making it engage and how it responded was consistent. Its not difficult to cause enough slip to make it engage when turning off the paved road onto my dirt road. Before the brake repair and with all 3 rental Nissans it would engage and cause that throw you forward feeling as it rapidly decelerated. Thats why the change of it not working stood out so much to me. We had some snow and ice this last winter that provided me even a chance to truly test the traction control. despite the light blinking to say it was active and working it was not actually doing anything in the slightest to reduce wheel slip. All this in mind is why when the traction control actually worked once this morning it caught my attention.

Sounds like a bad dealer is the bigger problem than the car.

Noticing how listing that my car has the leather package might sound. Please let me explain my simple logic. The leather package for the 2011 Sentra included not only frilly junk but more importantly it added heated seats and I think a few other features. I thought possibly that might be a helpful clue since they are uncommon add-ons to the base car. Much like the fancy bass equipped sound system you can get in the them could also have an effect.

Trust me when I say that leather is not a bonus to any car… it chills to the bone in the winter and simulated 3rd degree burns in the summer sun. I just wanted the heated seats, rims instead of hubcaps, and hands free blue tooth with decent stereo which caused me to purchase the SL including leather package. This is my last hope before I trade it in at a loss for something cheap, economical, and well praised for being reliable (suggestions very very appreciated).

Again it does not sound like you car is unreliable. It has never left you stranded, and starts every day. It sounds like you lost faith in it, but that is completely different. There is no cure for that.

To finalize this since I had issues getting back on here (busy busy busy). I finally got the traction control issue fixed when I took it into Firestone service center for an oil change and they did a multipoint inspection/check on the car. They said they didn’t do anything special to it but the traction system started working like it was suppose to. Funny how Firestone fixed an issue Nissan said didn’t exist and could resolve. Not to long after I replaced all 4 tires on the car (nail absorbing soft tires were on it from the factory) I traded it in for a brand new 2013 Ford Fusion with the 1.6L Ecoboost. I now get 3-5 mpg better mileage for daily driving and 5+mpg better highway for road trips. Not to mention the Fusion is bigger, heavier, and has more performance power then the Sentra. So to say the least Nissan lost at least one customer and I’m sticking with Ford. I had a Focus before the Sentra that was a great car and now my Fusion. Bad dealer or one off shotty car, either way I was not treated like a valued customer by Nissan.

I hate to tell you this, but you have traction control and stability control completely mixed up in your head.

Traction control only activates when you apply power to the drive tires, and they slip under acceleration. Depending on the system, the car will either reduce power to the tires, or apply the brake on the spinning tire to slow it down/transfer power to the tire that is not spinning.

Stability control activates when you are on a slippery surface, and one or more tires loses traction, possibly sending you into a skid. In this instance, the car activates the brakes on various points of the car in order to put the car back on it’s original trajectory. In an example, you are going around a curve to the right completely covered in soggy wet leaves at 45 mph. Your back tires start slipping on the leaves, and kicks out towards the double yellow lines. The stability control system will activate the right rear brake to try and bring the back end under control (activating the left rear brake might make it much, much worse). It will then alternate in front left and front right brakes to even out the car, and bring the car back into shape, and scrub off a bit more speed until the tires are all at the same speed again.

What you described in your posts are stability control issues, not traction control issues.

And if Firestone says that they didn’t do anything, then they mean it, they didn’t do anything. Unless you paid them to replace a failing sensor, or install new tires that have better traction than the original tires that were on the car, nothing they did fixed anything.

Good luck with your new Ford.


Did your dealer provide the rental cars for you gratis during the time when the brake part was on order? If so, that’s a good thing anyway. Don’t Nissan Sentras sell a pretty good volume? I wonder why the brake part was so difficult to obtain? Did this occur during that tidal wave problem they had in Japan a while back? Certain parts became scarce there for a while. If that was the cause, I can’t see blaming Nissan for that.

Regarding your traction/stability control problem: Are the current tires the same exact size that originally came with the car new? If not, I’d be suspicious they may be part of the cause.