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There’s nothing worse than buying a new vehicle, and discovering that it’s loaded with expensive problems that’s going to make your wallet squeal. Usually, automakers try to sweep it quietly under the rug while they work on new models that don’t have this issue.

Nissan not only tried to hide the issue, but also continued to use the same parts that were causing the problem from 2005 to 2010. The Nissan Pathfinder had issues with the coolant system that Nissan Problems lovingly called ‘the strawberry milkshake of death.’ 

The Nissan Pathfinder and the strawberry milkshake of death (SMOD)

With a name like that, you just know there has to be a backstory, and there is. Sort of. The problem with the Nissan Pathfinders coolant system starts when the radiator ruptures.

Coolant leaks out, and forces coolant fluid into the transmission. You don’t have to be a mechanic to know that’s bad. When the coolant fluid and the transmission fluid mix, you get what is known as the strawberry milkshake of death. 

The name comes from the fact that the toxic mixture looks like a strawberry milkshake, with that trademark pink color. That major difference, besides the fact that it probably doesn’t taste good, is that the strawberry milkshake of death begins to eat away valves, speeds up corrosion, and erodes seals. Once that happens, the chances of you simply being able to repair the transmission or radiator are slim. 

Nissan’s mediocre solution for the Pathfinder’s problem

It’s not exactly new that an automaker denies that there is a problem, but Nissan took it to a whole new level. The North Carolina Consumers Council received a huge influx of complaints about the radiator and transmission. They requested that the NHTSA open an investigation when Nissan repeatedly denied that there was an issue. 

Nissan did admit that the problem stems from a defective part in the radiator that happened at assembly, but did little more. In 2007, Nissan did add an extended warranty that was supposed to cover the transmission oil cooler/radiator assembly for these vehicles up to 8 years, or 80000 miles. However, many dealerships refused to honor the warranty.

They did offer to replace the transmission at a discount as a ‘courtesy measure.’ Needless to say many consumers didn’t feel like Nissan was being very courteous. 

The lawsuit against Nissan

With a problem this big, consumers are not going to keep quiet. They’re also not going to sit back and take it when there is the option of suing the automaker.

Car Complaints reports that there are over 2,000 reports on the 2005 Nissan Pathfinder alone, and 424 of those revolve around the radiator. The average repair cost is around $3,910, although some consumers report that it cost them over $6,000 to fix the problem.

The North Carolina Consumers Council reports,

“A class action lawsuit was filed in 2010 by Mendelsohn and Mazie Slater Katz & Freeman on behalf of clients relating Nissan transmission failures. Nissan asserted that no defect existed that causes transmission failure. A settlement was reached in 2013 and qualified consumers for discounted repairs and reimbursements.”

It may not have been the solution everyone wanted, but Nissan was at least forced to finally take some responsibility. This may be while the Japanese automaker willingly recalled 1.36 million vehicles in 2018 and 2019 due to a reverse camera malfunction. 

How do you know if SMOD is in your Nissan Pathfinder

If you have a Nissan Pathfinder or are thinking of buying one, you may be wondering if it has SMOD. As it turns out, finding out for yourself is actually very simple. According to A Grade Tools, all you need to do is check the radiator fluid. If it’s a really cool looking neon green, you’re good to go. If it’s a Pepto Bismol pink and is thick like a milkshake, then you’ve got SMOD. 

Of course, you can always avoid the problem by staying far away from the Nissan Pathfinder from 2005 to 2010. Not unless you have a lot of money to shell out in repairs, of course.