2020 Nissan Pathfinder Problems and Top Complaints – Is Your Car A Lemon?

Our analysis found issues with the electrical system, engine, and brake issues based on owner reported data.

Updated on Author: Brian Jones | Reviewer: Sergei Lemberg

The Nissan Pathfinder continues to be one of the automaker’s most popular SUV models. The automaker promises that the 2020 Nissan Pathfinder will offer today’s families a “legendary adventure.” But when engines, electrics, or brakes malfunction, any adventure will turn sour and stall out.

Click on other model year to view more problems: 2019   2022   2023

What We Found

While there are relatively few complaints to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) about the 2020 Pathfinder, the complaints on file show issues that are remarkably varied. This makes it difficult for owners to foresee potential problems. It also makes it difficult to identify the source of many of these problems.

In terms of numbers, the engine displays most problems, followed by the electrical system, service brakes, fuel/propulsion system, and powertrain. All the fuel-related problems are linked to either the engine or brakes, so we won’t deal with these separately. Powertrain issues are particularly varied: SUVs accelerating without pressing the gas pedal, SUVs failing to accelerate properly, and transmissions slipping.

Other components and systems mentioned in complaints include backover prevention, exterior lighting, vehicle speed control, visibility/wiper, and latches, locks, and linkages. There are also complaints identified as being “unknown or other” problems. These include several that report exploding sunroofs.

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2020 Nissan Pathfinder Complaint Summary

Complaint CategoryNumber of Complaints
Engine
8
8
Electrical System
6
6
Service Brakes
4
4
Unknown Or Other
4
4
Fuel/propulsion System
3
3
Power Train
3
3
Back Over Prevention: Warnings
2
2
Back Over Prevention: Camera System
1
1
Back Over Prevention: Rearview System Braking
1
1
Exterior Lighting
1
1

Engine

The engine is the heart of a vehicle. It’s the powerhouse that converts fuel into energy to make the car move, just like the heart pumps blood to keep all your body’s parts functioning. A car wouldn’t go anywhere without a functioning engine. But too many 2020 Nissan Pathfinder engines malfunction.

Engine problems range from a loss of power when accelerating to SUVs shutting down, and complete engine failure while driving. Some complaints identify knocking noises and oil-related problems.

Engine Failure

An owner from Georgia experienced complete engine failure while driving. It seemed to be a result of abnormal oil consumption. Having checked the oil level a day before the failure, the owner was more than surprised when the “oil level dropped without warning and any warning lights from the vehicle.”

The complaint from an owner from Wisconsin describes the engine misfiring on the left side due to faulty timing chains. At times, the car would not start and the engine light would flash. “Safety was at risk due to (the) engine being unreliable, misfiring, and we were advised it could possibly stall or cut out while driving.” The problem was confirmed by an independent service center, but the dealership “would not diagnose (the problem) without taking (the) engine apart at our expense. They recommended replacing the whole engine, and the car is only 3 years old. There is a known issue with the timing chains on this model of vehicle, yet they did nothing to resolve the problem.”

Engine Noises and Loss of Power

In a complaint listed as both an engine and fuel/propulsion system problem, an owner from Florida describes a loss of power when accelerating. Additionally, the engine makes “an odd noise during startup and occasionally a knocking noise when driven longer than 10 mins.” According to the dealership, “There’s metal in the oil pan. I saw an article today that said only Nissan three- and four-cylinder vehicles have these issues, but my Pathfinder has the same problems.”

Also listed as being an engine and fuel problem, an owner from Massachusetts describes engine “pinging” and “knocking” noises as well as engine hesitation and surging. The complaint states that this is “most obvious in second gear steady throttle around 2k rpm.” It doesn’t matter what gas is used. While the engine hesitation and pinging/knocking is getting worse, “Nissan states it’s normal operation.”

An owner from Missouri describes “jerking, shuddering, (and) shaking while accelerating.” In 2022, the SUV suddenly stopped and wouldn’t allow the driver to accelerate, turn, or brake. This happened just after she had collected her young kids from elementary school, but she managed to pull over and shut off the car. The dealership replaced the engine control module (ECM), mostly covered by warranty. But, less than a year later, in 2023, the low oil pressure light started coming on. When it went off, the engine light would come on. “And while the lights are coming on and going off the car would shake and shudder.” After an oil change, it stopped. A couple of months later, the engine and low oil pressure lights stayed on constantly. It would also shudder and make a clunking noise when accelerating. “It’s so unsafe to travel with all 5 of my kids because the vehicle is so unpredictable.”

Electrical System

In today’s modern vehicles, the electrical system is responsible for running just about everything. When something fails in a vehicle, it can cause complex safety issues and increase the risk of failures and crashes.

The most common problems reported by owners relate to the backup camera in the 2020 Pathfinder. There are also issues with moisture getting into headlights and faulty defrosters that won’t de-fog windows, as well as a lack of air conditioning and heating.

One particularly disturbing complaint tells how an electrical fault affected the door locks. This ended up with the police being called to assist. The owner from Michigan states that the doors were “inadvertently locked” when the Pathfinder was parked in the driveway with the key fob in the cupholder. He went to unlock the vehicle but couldn’t, so they called the police to help. Once open, he took the Pathfinder to the dealer who replaced the battery and key fob. But, the failure recurred when the key fob was inside the owner’s wife’s purse, which was on the passenger seat. His daughter was inside the vehicle at the time but was unable to open the doors. This time, Nissan wasn’t able to diagnose the problem.

Backup Camera

An owner from Arizona states that the backup camera hardly ever works. An owner from Alaska is more specific. “Periodically the backup camera shorts out and you are no longer able to use it.”

Someone from Oregon who rented a 2020 Pathfinder for two weeks also experienced problems. “On two separate occasions, the backup camera went blank and the rear parking sensors quit working. I stopped the vehicle and shifted from reverse to drive and back, but the rearview camera and sensors did not come back on. After I shut down and restarted the vehicle, they started working again.”

Brake System

One of the most basic systems of any vehicle is the brakes. But, there is a lot that can go wrong – especially when trying to stop.

Several owners state that extra force is sometimes needed to slow the Pathfinder down.  An owner from Massachusetts states that when braking when traveling between 50 mph to 25 mph, the RPMs increase. The “engine and transmission (are) still pushing (the) vehicle until (the) torque converter disengages at 20 mph. If you need to slow down quickly it requires extra braking force until the car reaches 20 mph. If you put the car in neutral it will slow down much faster because (the) transmission and engine aren’t still pushing the truck. This got much worse after Nissan changed the transmission program a few months ago.”

An owner from North Carolina identifies a different reason for having to push the brake harder. “On multiple occasions now, but not consistently, you go to start the vehicle and the lights turn on, radio comes on, (the) seat moves into position, AC blows cold, everything (is) fine, except the car doesn’t start. The brake is harder to push when this does occur, and most times (after) a 2nd or 3rd try, it finally turns the car on.”

An owner from Georgia had the opposite experience when the brakes of a six-week-old Pathfinder applied themselves without human input. At the time the vehicle was traveling at about 20 mph on a local street.

Then there’s an owner from Florida who heard a very high-pitched noise while driving in a parking lot. “The sound was very concerning especially because I have less than 3k miles on my car.” The dealership wasn’t sure why it was making the noise… but they said the car was leaking brake fluid!

Use Your Rights

Does your 2020 Nissan Pathfinder have major problems? Are they serious enough to make you think you might have bought a lemon? If the answers to these two questions are yes, call the Lemberg Law Helpline or fill out a contact form. We will assess your problems free of charge, and if we think you’ve got a lemon, we’ll help you get compensation from Nissan.

Every year, auto manufacturers buy back, replace, or pay cash settlements to thousands of lemon vehicle owners. The law makes Nissan pay the fees for lemon law cases, which is why we won’t charge you for our services.

Brian Jones

About the Author:

Brian Jones spent more than 30 years working as an ASE Certified Master Tech and Parts Specialist at multiple dealerships. Brian has become an authority in the industry, traveling across the country to consult for car dealerships and contributing his expertise as a writer for several major automotive publications. In his spare time, Brian enjoys working on pickup trucks, muscle cars, Jeeps and anything related to motorsports.

See more posts from Brian Jones
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