Short in Tail Light Causing Jerking?


I own a Nissan Versa, 2012, SV model. 175,000 miles.

Heres my issue: when I am driving, it randomly jerks. It feels like it shifts fine, no grinding. There is no specific speed that it does so, it is random. Put cleaner in it, believing it was bad gas. Still it jerked.

First mechanic checked the computer. Engine looked fine. He made the engine misfire to ensure the computer read it, it did. It doesn’t seem to be the engine - computer did not read an issue with it. He assumed it was the transmission. So my wife and I thought our car was totaled.

Heres where it gets a little weird. As a last ditch effort, I took it to the Nissan dealership for a diagnostic test. They checked the engine and transmission. They said they both look fine. The reason for the jerking? The tail lights.

The car had been in a small accident and the tail lights both had cracks in them, causing moisture to build up in the tail light. This, they said, was causing a short and it was setting off a chain reaction which made the car jerk. They said that if the tail lights were replaced, the issue would go away.

And finally, here’s my problem: we replaced the tail lights. We lucked out and found the exact match, basically unused at a junkyard down the road. They work perfectly. We cleaned the connectors that attach to the tail lights with electrical spray cleaner. Everything is dry and clean - by the looks of it. Everything looks good. No evidence of burned cables. But, you guessed it, it still jerks. Just as bad if not worse.

If the transmission looks good, the engine looks good, and the tail lights were replaced, what could it be? I would greatly appreciate any of your insights and thank you so much for your time!


The dealer was grasping at straws. They have no clue and neither do I.

I can suggest how I’d go about finding it… I’d drive around with a scanner taking data off the car trying to capture the problem as it happens when it happens.

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Jerks, as in the brakes are being applied, transmission engaging hard, engine miss firing ?

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The Versa CVT transmission is well known to have problems. If yours made it to 175,000 miles you are very fortunate. I’d take it to a different dealer for a better diagnosis.

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Blaming the taillights for the jerking? That is really wacko.

I would place the fuel pump as my first suspect in this case since other things don’t show signs of trouble.


That sounds like a great idea! Thank you!

That’s the thing - it’s random. Transmission shifts fine (to my knowledge) it brakes fine, it accelerates fine. But it happens especially when I turn, oddly enough.

Thank you for that advice.

Does it happen if you come to a stop while in neutral?

I will try that. It really doesn’t happen at all when I stop and it doesn’t seem to happen while in low gear either. But the dealership specifically said the transmission was okay, which has me curious.

Hmm, I will look into that.

Did you buy new tail lights from the auto salvage yard or used?

They were used, but barely. They were off a car with low miles I assume. No separation, no condensation inside, the connector was clean - it looked untouched.