No, it is not that strawberry milkshake you love to drink. It is a defect known to affect some select Nissan vehicles, particularly the 2005-2010 Nissan Xterra, 2005-2010 Nissan Frontier, and the 2005-2010 Pathfinder models. The term Strawberry Milkshake of Death (or SMOD for short) stems from the milkshake-like color observed during your vehicle coolant inspection. Not a good sign, as it means your vehicle coolant and automatic transmission fluid is mixing within the radiator.
The Problem: How Bad Can It Be?
Reports have shown that certain 2005-2010 Nissan SUVs, in particular, Xterras, Frontiers, and Pathfinders, were fitted with defective radiators from the factory. These radiators perform a dual function of cooling both the engine coolant and the transmission fluid, with the transmission fluid passing through an oil cooler tube that acts as a separating medium for both fluids. The oil cooler tube prevents direct contact of both fluids within the radiator. Over time the oil cooler deteriorates and ruptures, causing these fluids to mix and form a milkshake-like liquid within the radiator.
This liquid goes into the engine coolant and the transmission passages of your vehicle, causing crud formation, destruction of automatic transmission internals like solenoid valves, eroding seals, and causing corrosion. These in turn cause engine overheating, transmission shifting problems, and finally irreversible transmission failure.
What You Can Do
This problem is known to occur from around 110,000 miles, but some happen as early as 60,000 miles. Nissan has offered warranties to address the issue but replacing the radiator won’t solve the problem due to design defects in the radiator used in these models. The replacement radiator may fail again, leading to transmission damage, which costs as high as $5,000 to fix.
The key to avoiding this problem is catching it early. Even if your radiator looks fine and no milkshake-like liquid is present, it is safe that you bypass the oil cooler in the radiator and install a stand-alone transmission cooler. Doing this should give you peace of mind. At Reliant Auto Repair, we ensure that this is done professionally by offering you world-class services. We will ensure that your Nissan is diagnosed with the best tools and highly skilled mechanics. Give us a call and be guaranteed your well-deserved blissful automotive experience.