BREAKING: 2011 Nissan Leaf Start Failure - What You Need to Know

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2011 Nissan Leaf

2011 Nissan Leaf

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A few days ago, we started hearing mumblings on the electric car grapevine which suggested that all was not well again with the 2011 Leaf, Nissan’s first ever all-electric production hatchback.

It all began at the end of last month, when a 2011 Nissan Leaf owner reported that his car stopped working just three days after picking it up

Initially seeming to be just another random occurrence, the story has become a major headache, leaving the Japanese automaker trying desperately to find out what exactly is leaving drivers of its $32,780 electric car stranded. 

Here’s what we know so far about the issue, and what you can do to rectify it. 

What Exactly Happens

2011 Nissan LEAF iPhone App

2011 Nissan LEAF iPhone App

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According to owners talking on, the symptoms are easy to spot. 

After using the car’s on-board air conditioning to pre-cool a car before driving it, or to cool the car during use, an affected Leaf displays three yellow warning lights--vehicle, power steering, and battery--while it is being used. 

At this point, the car still operates normally, despite the lights. But as we all know, warning lights normally indicate something is wrong.  

What would most people do at this point? Pull over, and power-cycle the car. 

But this is apparently exactly what you shouldn’t do, according to the recently created LeafWiki. 

In fact, restarting the Leaf renders it completely inoperable. The car will apparently refuse to engage its Ready mode, temporarily turning it into a very expensive paperweight which has to be recovered and returned to the dealer. 

The Cause

At the moment, Nissan has remained quiet on the issue, except to say that it is aware of the problem and working on a solution. 

A few theories have surfaced, most of which revolve around the car’s air conditioning system. 

One early theory cites over-charging of the Leaf’s air conditioning system at the factory.  Several owners with the problems have had their Leaf air conditioning system recharged after dealers cited this as the problem. They have not had the same fault repeat itself. 

A second theory cites a problem with the car’s current-leak detection software. That system activates a fault code if too much current is drawn by the air conditioning system or a current leak is sensed between the high voltage electronics and the car body. 

2011 Nissan Leaf

2011 Nissan Leaf

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The Fix

Some owners of affected cars are reporting that their local dealers have either upgraded or downgraded their Leaf’s operating system, but thus far these actions just seem to be part of the dealer’s diagnostic attempts.

Officially, there’s no fix yet, although Nissan spokesman Toshitake Inoshita told Reuters earlier today that Nissan was aware of the problem affecting cars in both the U.S. and Japan, and said it was still trying to find the exact cause and solution for the problem. 

Once Nissan is confident that it knows the cause of the problem, it will take appropriate steps to repair affected cars. At present, no recall is planned since the system does not pose a direct safety risk to either car or occupants.

We have to disagree, however, after hearing of several Leaf owners stranded at stop lights after rebooting their car in an attempt to reset the error lights. 

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Comments (14)
  1. Ouch! wiykdn't wish this onmy worst enemy. good luck Leaf owners. Volt #1756

  2. Oww - a glitch already. Well, better to get it taken car of before there are any cars on the road, and there are still almost none on the road yet. Only a couple hundred after 4 months. Pitiful sales. But better that it happens now, don't want Nissan to have even 1% of the problem Toyota had with its World record breaking number of recalls for safety defects. Of course Nissan wouldn't have the gall to do what Toyota did, sit on the information and ignore it for 6 years, until they couldn't ignore it any more, and then lie, and keep lying. Nissan is a decent company that makes good cars. Toyota -- well, wake up, people.

  3. No glitch here... I have almost 1,000 worry free (and gas free) miles already!

  4. I remember an early problem with the Mini E where it would pop out of gear, but power cycling fixed it.
    They will fix this quickly I bet.
    But what is that about not towing with front wheels on the ground. No recharge by regen allowed?

  5. For general towing, it is not recommended to tow with the front wheels on the ground, however in the service manual there is a procedure that can be done to facilitate towing with the front wheels on the ground.

  6. "ctrl + alt + delete" and closing the rogue trojan will fix it. If not, run the full McAfee scan and you're back in the business :-)

  7. An interesting problem: I'm sure they will be able to fix it. And, you can bet it won't be the last one; just not a easy one.
    These cars are just like new ICEs where the fuel control is firmware based and testing changes is a difficult task because you cannot test all the conditions. Sometimes these problems only show up under widespread use. However, a general reset process needs to be made proven and made available.

  8. A brand new design with brand new software...something like this is not unexpected in the slightest. Still looking forward to getting mine this week...but there's a reason I'm leasing rather than buying...

  9. @ Chris: Same for me, 900 miles and not a care in the world.....totally gas free and lovin' it! :)

  10. "We have to disagree, however, after hearing of several Leaf owners stranded at stop lights after rebooting their car in an attempt to reset the error lights."
    Which users were left stranded at stop lights ?

  11. Part-1 of 2
    I disagree with some of the technical assessments made by this article and comments. The DTCs being reported by the affected Leaf owners are for "loss of isolation". Anyone working with or on hybrids or electric vehicles should be very familiar with these types of faults/failures. Essentially it indicates that select vehicle module/s have detected the presence of high-voltage (~300VDC of either + or - polarity)exists on the vehicle ground plane.
    The threshold for these DTCs to "set" is somewhat variable but generally trigger when isolation is detected as being lass than 100-250K ohms. The high-voltage positive and negative circuits must remain isolated from the chassis and bodywork of a vehicle to both prevent damage to negative grounded compo entry AND maintain general electric vehicle safety.
    This safety system then prevents the various components on the car from becoming "live" by actively disconnecting the energy storage system from its cabling to the rest of the car.
    The air-conditioning system is always suspect with isolation DTCs are present due to the fact that the A/C compressor will often operate at high-voltages on many hybrids and EVs. Contamination, excessive moisture and/or air or the use of incorrect refrigerant oils (generally polyolefin ester based) can often trigger these DTCs. So in this case, one would think the use of the A/C compressor is merely the triggering mechanism, not necessarily the root cause.

  12. Part 2 0f 2
    Altering the software to lower the LOI detection levels to rectify this issue isn’t really a viable option UNLESS it is proven that there really isnt an LOI issue that exists and the threshold used by Nissan is abnormally high.
    At this point I'm certain Nissan's efforts are focused on determining if there is truly an LOI issue present (and YES if so the safest thing to do is SHUT DOWN the high-voltage source via the contactor system)OR if an anomaly truly exists in their self-diagnostic routines for loss-of isolation.
    Until such determination can be ascertained, it would not be advisable for owners of these cars to do anything but get these cars to their Nissan dealers where trained technicians can properly and safely assess if any risk exists.
    No attempt to “clear” the DTCs or otherwise bypass these detected safety concerns should be made without full understanding of the risks involved.

  13. 2300 Miles on my Leaf without any issues. This problem is going to be fixed soon by Nissan and hopefully the EV haters will let it go. Noel Park, your post is good comedy but not productive. We all want to see EV's succeed as a whole, Volts, Leafs, Focus EV's, etc. Your immature post, loaded with spelling and grammar errors just makes you look dumb.

  14. 2700 miles on my LEAF and zero issues. The car is absolutely amazing to drive and to own. However, if I ever do get a major warning indicator, there's no way I would turn it off in traffic. I would drive it to a Nissan dealership. They are loaded into my NAV becuase the have L2 charging available.

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