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By Russ Finley on Feb 20, 2012 with 20 responses

Nissan Leaf Maintenance Issues — Or Lack Thereof

Tags: nissan leaf

A new Nissan Leaf comes with a free one-year subscription to Carwings, which is a Nissan system available in several of their models that connects your car to the internet so you can do things like get traffic updates, and in the case of the Leaf, check on battery charge and start the car’s defroster, from your computer, while still in your pajamas.

Mine stopped working last week. The Leaf is in many ways analogous to a giant laptop on wheels. Some owners have found a way to reboot the car to reset annoying problems like a non-functional Carwings by temporarily disconnecting the car’s small lead-acid battery.

I fixed my problem with an internet search that showed me which 20 amp fuse to remove for thirty seconds. Personally, I could have done without all of the bells and whistles because I know they are going to come back to bite me in the wallet some day.

The car’s left front quarter panel was sideswiped while parked on the street a few weeks ago. The damage was minor and repaired with some buffing and professionally applied semi-transparent clear coatings. I noted from the odometer reading that some test drives had been done, possibly to make sure the paint didn’t affect handling.

I’m curious to see how long these cars will go between brake jobs. Thanks to the powerful regenerative braking the discs are not getting much action.

If these cars catch on they are going to radically alter the existing car maintenance infrastructure. There are going to be a lot fewer maintenance repair shops, auto parts stores, and dealerships. A lot of money will be left in the hands of consumers to save, or spend on other things, like tattoos or the latest Apple gadget.

I’m also excited to see what aftermarket inventions will be spawned by this new car technology. I’m in the market for an AC to DC inverter to power my home’s gas furnace blower motor (and maybe a few lights and a laptop) from the Leaf during ice storm induced power outages. My guess is that chargers will eventually be designed that will also integrate these cars into home solar panel systems as well as serve as emergency power inverters.

  1. By OD on February 20, 2012 at 1:14 pm

    If these cars catch on they are going to radically alter the existing car maintenance infrastructure. There are going to be a lot fewer maintenance repair shops, auto parts stores, and dealerships.

    That is something I think about a lot. I live in a smallish town <40k, yet we have a ton of auto repair shops. I’m not sure what these people will do if EV’s force them to massively scale down, due to lost business. It’s part of the bigger picture on why I remain more on the pessimistic side of peak oil. We, in theory, should have a lot of fat to cut out of consumption in the US, but that fat is likely someone’s job. 

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    • By Harryhammer on February 20, 2012 at 9:51 pm

      Maybe you should pass around a collection plate?

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  2. By doggydogworld on February 20, 2012 at 3:07 pm

    Honestly, almost every car-related problem I’ve had in the past ten years has been electrical or collision. The only exception was a failed transmission at 57k on a Chrysler minivan (notorious failure point). Modern cars go 100k miles without tuneups or any engine-related maintenance beyond $20 oil changes. My new Toyota minivan’s transmission is sealed, not even a dipstick to check the fluid level. Just drain and replace at 100k miles.

    Maintenance and repair costs today (in rough order of expense):
    1. Collision damage
    2. Tires
    3. Electrical
    4. Brakes
    5. Suspension
    6. Transmission
    7. Cooling
    8. Emissions (O2 sensors, cats, etc.)
    etc.

    EVs have more electrical failure modes. I bet cumulative Prius battery, inverter and motor/generator failure cost has exceeded engine/exhaust failure cost. Once EVs are commonplace and the bugs are worked out they might save enough on reduced brake, transmission and emission repair costs to offset the higher electrical repair costs, but it’s not a slam dunk.

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    • By Harryhammer on February 20, 2012 at 9:54 pm

      You forgot belts and pulleys that you practically have to pull the motor to get to.

      Also, fuel lines, filters, oil lines, water pumps, and computers.

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    • By Nate (Seattle, WA) on April 14, 2012 at 3:38 am

      Ever heard of a timing belt?  They have to be replaced on almost all cars, and on many, you can’t even wait until they break to fix them.   The last one I did cost $900, and no, that wasn’t a bad price for the car.

      You’re also ignoring all the things you have to proactively maintain to avoid repair bills (air filters, fuel filters, oil filters, gaskets, oxygen sensors, etc.), and the value of your time you spend on those jobs.  And, sorry, but oil changes don’t cost $20 any more.   A five quart container of modern oil now goes for more than that by itself.

      EVs will be cheaper to maintain than ICEs (after, as you note, the initial bugs get worked out).  Motors and big batteries may be new to cars, but they’re not new in the realm of mechanical engineering.  They’re higher reliability than an internal combusion engine, fundamentally. 

      Slam dunk.

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  3. By mac on February 20, 2012 at 4:13 pm

    Doggy said:”

    Number 7……… Cooling

    ——————————————————————————————————-

    Yup . Mr. Doggy,  one of a number of arguments for the EV often mentions the fact that EVs don’t need a radiator,

    Unfortunately, they do, in order to cool the battery packs as in TESLA products.

    mac

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  4. By mac on February 20, 2012 at 5:52 pm

    Ben said:

    Diesel from methane poses plenty of options and good ole biogas
    introduces options that have made sense in rural economies for a long
    time even as they might backstop iinovative distributive networks
    that are increasingly attractive at sustained $100 oil let alone
    anything approaching twice that value.

    ——————————————————————————————————
    Well, I would think that as crude oil might approach  $200  a barrel , 
    we would find other alternatives such as LNG refueling networks for the
    trucking industry

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  5. By mac on February 20, 2012 at 6:29 pm

    Russ,

    Since you are a LEAF owner, I assume you  are well-aware of the fact that the Nissan Opama plant has a production capacity for only about  40,000 vehicles,  The plant last year only operated at half capacity,  True enough…..

    Demand for electric cars will grow,  But this is at present, the only manufacturing facility for the Leaf.  Supply or demand ?  That;s why Nissan is going to build  a Leaf plant in Smyrna, Ternesssee and one for the Euro market in Sunderland, U,K,

    The LEAF ?  It’s atready the best single model electric car of all time and it’s just getting off the ground.

    It’s truly, the beginning of the end for :”Oil Only”

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    • By Harryhammer on February 20, 2012 at 9:57 pm

      I’m sure you are aware that they were crushing electric cars 15+ years ago that had a range of over 200 miles on a charge.

      I’m sure you are also aware of Cobasys.

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      • By Russ Finley on February 20, 2012 at 11:01 pm

        Harryhammer said:

        “I’m sure you are aware that they were crushing electric cars 15+ years ago that had a range of over 200 miles on a charge.”

        The original EV1 had lead-acid batteries and a range of about 80 miles. The NiMh version’s range was roughly 120 miles.

        Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General_Motors_EV1

        Keep mind, it was a  two-seat roadster that cost a lot more (in today’s dollars) than a Leaf does.The Leaf is a full five-person hatchback with more passenger space than the midsized Prius.

        I once calculated that If the Leaf were to use NiMh batteries it would weigh about 300 more pounds, equivalent to carrying around two passengers in addition to the driver.

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        • By Nate (Seattle, WA) on April 14, 2012 at 4:00 am

          I don’t think your calculation is correct.   The energy density of lithium ion batteries is more than twice that of NiMH:

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy_density

          The LEAF’s battery pack (Li-ion) weighs more than 600 lbs.  So, an extra 300 lbs wouldn’t get you the same capacity.

           

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  6. By Russ Finley on February 20, 2012 at 9:44 pm

    MAC said:

    Unfortunately, they [electric cars] do [need a radiator], in order to cool the battery packs as in TESLA products.

    The Leaf designers went with passively (air) cooled batteries, although there is a tiny radiator for the controller.

    OD said:

    “I’m not sure what these people [auto repair shops] will do if EV’s force them to massively scale down, due to lost business.”

    The transition to more electric cars will happen slowly enough not to cause widespread economic disruption. Cars that require less maintenance create more disposable income, which will spawn new businesses of one kind or another. Who knows, repair shops may be replaced by electric car conversion shops once somebody starts marking affordable conversion kits that include battery, charger, controller, motor and assorted special fittings.

    Buggy and saddle makers all found jobs when the car came along.

    DOGGYDOGWORLD said:

    “Modern cars go 100k miles without tuneups or any engine-related maintenance beyond $20 oil changes”

    That is a really good point. It’s amazing how reliable modern cars have become so electric cars will not be the quantum leap they might have been a few decades ago. On the other hand, considering that these are the first mass produced modern electric cars, the fact that they are having few problems bodes well for next gen models.

    The electric motors should be nearly bullet proof. That leaves the chargers, controllers, and battery to create electrical problems. But the battery consists of bags of powder. They are not at all like conventional liquid electrolyte lead-acids. The charger is a simple thing (except the ones like mine that connect to a router to send data to the DOE) and that leaves the controller, which is solid state. Time will tell.

    “I bet cumulative Prius battery, inverter and motor/generator failure cost has exceeded engine/exhaust failure cost.”

    Read this Consumer Reports article about the reliability of the Prius:

    http://news.consumerreports.org/cars/2011/02/200000-mile-toyota-prius-still-performs.html

    “Based on data from over 36,000 Toyota Prius hybrids in our annual survey, we find that the Prius has outstanding reliability and low ownership costs”

    I was leery of the Prius at first because I assumed the complexity of the hybrid drive train would reduce reliability.

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    • By Euroflycars on February 21, 2012 at 2:51 pm

      Buggy and saddle makers all found jobs when the car came along.”

      Flash-back on 2012 from around mid-century:

      Auto repairers all found jobs when the ultra-light electric tilt-rotor aircraft with a separable, roadable cockpit came along…

      Nothing to do, however, with the famous fixed-wing flying car leaving its airframe behind to drive into town — the reason why this one didn’t take on was the severely restricted number of airfields and parking lots thereon.

      A vertical-take-off-and-landing airframe can be left behind anywhere at the urban periphery — even docked to a lofty platform at the top of a mast (like a bird) — with the roadable cockpit (driven by the same battery and electric motor as the rotors) lowered to the ground by a built-in hoist.

      “… repair shops may be replaced by electric car conversion shops once somebody starts marking affordable conversion kits…”

      Mass-produced electric conversion kits will trigger the widespread use of these kits in personal electric aircraft, much the same as the VW Beetle 4-cylinder boxer engine was used by numerous amateur aircraft builders because of its air-cooled cylinders.

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  7. By mac on February 21, 2012 at 12:21 am

    Russ.

    Why the seemingly slow roll-out for electric cars ??

    Here are a couple of thoughts,,,,,,,,

    Number one is that pure electric cars don’t  use any gas.

    The second is that hybrids use less gas.
    ;
    Neither one of these scenarios is particularly appealimg to the gas megopoly that wants ( International “Western ” oil companies and the NOCs that wants us to remain perpetually strung out on heroin (Ooops….. I really meant gasoline)

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    • By Robert Rapier on February 21, 2012 at 12:04 pm

      Why the seemingly slow roll-out for electric cars ??


      If you look back at the roll-out for hybrids, though, it was even slower in the first year. The Leaf outsold first year sales of the Prius and Insight.

      RR
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  8. By mac on February 21, 2012 at 2:06 am

    Russ,

    I predict that within 3 to 5 years the Oil Only Age will start to  unravel and begin  to come to an end in earnest,

    No, it will not happen suddenly ……so write me back in three or four years.

    There is too much money (and too many prostitutions dependent on fossil fuel money ) to allow this to happen over-night, 

    Nevertheless, Oil Only is a dead duck.

    mac

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  9. By Leaf Owner on February 21, 2012 at 2:08 am

    The “lack of maintenance” is amazing…I just took my leaf in for its 7,500 “service” and the shop rotated the tires…nothing else to do…

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  10. By Optimist on February 22, 2012 at 5:35 pm

    There never was an Oil Only Age. There was is an Oil Cheapest Age. As long as that is true reports of the End of Oil are greatly overstated…
    Sorry, Mac, no dark conspiracy theory required. Perhaps time we discussed UFOs…

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  11. By mac on February 23, 2012 at 9:27 am

    There never was an Oil Only Age. There was is an Oil Cheapest Age. As long as that is true reports of the End of Oil are greatly overstated…
    Sorry, Mac, no dark conspiracy theory required. Perhaps time we discussed UFOs…

    —————————————————————————————————
    .
    Natural gas is cheaper by the mile than oil and has been that way for some time. That’s why there are three different investment groups in North America working on building out an LNG refueling infra structure, 

    In Canada, it’s Shell Canada with plans to build LNG refueling stops in and around Montreal and from there to Toronto with plans to eventually go all the way to Vancouver BC.  Last year Shell in Canada produced more natural gas than oil,

    In the American Southwest, it’s CNTC group in association with United Parcel planing to go from Salt Lake City through Nevada into CA and up and down I-5 and from there over to Phoenix and Tucson,  UPS runs a lot of their trucks on natural gas. 

    The most ambitious plan is BP investment group, along with Navistar the truck building firm who plan to build two trans-continental LNG refueling networks, one along I-10 from (I think) Bakersfield, CA to Florida and another along I-40 from Barstow to Wilmington NC.  Also along I-5 from San Diego to Medford, OR., etc.

    So, Optimist, if you are driving along I-10 some day and see lights in the sky — it’s not a UFO —-  It’s just the lights from the LNG truck stop reflecting into the night air.

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  12. By Edward Rice on January 23, 2013 at 9:52 pm

    Local shop strong-armed me into having the cabin air micro-filter replaced and the brake fluid replaced — at 7,500 miles on the odometer. This was pretty strange, but they insisted. Anybody else running into overambitious shop efforts, or is this really necessary at just 7,500 miles and 14 months on a LEAF?

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