Recalls, whether mandated by law or entered into voluntarily by an automaker are part of modern day car buying. 

Often car owners ignore the advice of the automaker for non-safety related recalls and updates such as the recent 2011 Nissan Leaf software update to rectify a software fault which could lead to potential start failure, choosing instead to operate on the assumption that if it isn’t broken, there’s no need to fix it.  

However, here’s five reasons why you’ll want to listen to Nissan and send your Leaf in for what we think is an essential upgrade. 

Not applying the update tempts fate

Anecdotal evidence from owners over at suggests that the initial software problem which caused many Leafs to be stranded is still manifesting itself in cars which have not yet been updated. 

While we’ve heard from several owners who haven’t bothered to have their cars upgraded and say there’s no issue, we think tempting fate isn’t always the best way to go. After all, would you carry on using a gasoline car which had a similar fault which caused the engine to stop? We think not. 

2011 Nissan Leaf at dealership after software upgrade, May 2011, photo by George Parrott

2011 Nissan Leaf at dealership after software upgrade, May 2011, photo by George Parrott

The update is free

If you’ve just spent $32,750 on your brand new Nissan Leaf then getting something for free which improves your car reliability is a no-brainer, right?  

And in our experience the update has improved car reliability. In addition to fixing the potential start failure problem, the update also applies new code to the car’s state of charge meter, improving reliability and hopefully reducing the chance you’ll get stranded.

Improved range calculations

As anyone who has driven a 2011 Nissan Leaf on a long-distance trek will tell you, the car’s on-board range calculation system isn’t the most accurate way of figuring out just how far you can go before needing a recharge. 

2011 Nissan Leaf Software Update

2011 Nissan Leaf Software Update

Before the update, our 2011 Nissan Leaf erred on the side of youthful optimism. Even when down to our last few bars or charge, the miles-till-empty display would sometimes tell us we had as many as 20 miles left at the first low-battery warning. 

Unfortunately, as we found out on a few occasions, those final 20 indicated miles disappeared more quickly than the odometer could roll over, one of the primary reasons why early adopters did find themselves stranded after over-relying on the range estimation software. 

Post update, our car proved it could provide realistic range estimates on a 72-mile journey, allowing us to drive further than the now pessimistic range algorithm said we could. 

2011 Nissan Leaf Software Update

2011 Nissan Leaf Software Update

A true ‘reserve’ tank

One of the reasons many Leaf owners have declined the update so far is that after the update the Leaf’s state-of-charge bars disappear more quickly than before the update was applied.

Many owners cried foul at this news, claiming that Nissan had reduced the available capacity of the Leaf battery pack.

In reality however, Nissan has re-engineered the ‘fuel gauge’ to better mimic a gasoline car, giving a true reserve capacity. 

What do we mean? Well, with traditional gasoline cars there is usual a few gallons available after reaching the low-fuel warning to enable a driver to get to the gas station. 

In the original Leaf software, reaching the last bar on the 12-segment display heralded the urgent need for a recharge. Drive past the last bar, and you risked pushing your car home. 

2011 Nissan Leaf Software Update

2011 Nissan Leaf Software Update

The new update has essentially added a 13th ‘hidden’ segment, meaning that drivers can drive into the final two ‘red bars’ on the display. Push into the last red bar, and the first low battery warning sounds. Push beyond that, and anecdotal evidence suggests that Nissan has engineered as many as five miles grace to allow you to find an appropriate charging spot after the car reaches the ‘0 miles remaining’ mark.

Push much beyond the 0 miles remaining warning and very low battery warning and you’ll find yourself in the same quandary as before: stranded.  (Our advice? Use the on-board range estimation as a best-case scenario for range prediction and you shouldn’t run out of charge.)

It makes driving the Leaf easier

What all of the above reasons add up to is a car which is easier to drive, and less stressful.  Instead of worrying about breaking down or running out of charge, the new update allows you to concentrate on driving and enjoying your 2011 Nissan Leaf. 

2011 Nissan Leaf Software Update

2011 Nissan Leaf Software Update

The update is free, so contact your local Nissan dealer and make sure that you aren’t left stranded

There is one caveat however. The update will not delete but switch off your charge timers. When you get it back from the garage, remember to reactivate your charge timers or you may end with an uncharged car or a car which charges on daytime, not nighttime electricity rates.