Nissan LEAF one year battery check

by Ernie Hernandez on April 18, 2012

It's Electric photo

Our LEAF goes in for its annual checkup

As with most other things in life, we were late getting our LEAF in for its first annual battery checkup.

We took delivery of our LEAF on March 25 of last year, and in that time have managed to rack up a total of only 6,400 miles. Our total is less than many Southern Californian’s as my wife telecommutes and I use a company supplied car for my day job. So for us, the LEAF takes the kids to school, goes to the grocery store, and generally runs errands around town during the week. On the weekends it usually gets a longer workout when we use it to see family or friends in the greater San Diego area.

When I called to make the service appointment, one point surfaced immediately upon connecting with the appointment center. We had not taken the car in for any kind of service in the first year of ownership. Talk about low cost of ownership. Being generally of the “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” school, we never took our LEAF in for the recommended reprogramming of the vehicle control module (VCM). About a year or so ago, some individuals were finding that their LEAF would not restart after stopping. Nissan developed an update to resolve the issue. Since we never had the issue, we never saw a need to take it in. So when they checked out our battery, they also performed the necessary reprogramming. From what we understand, it will change the range remaining indicator to provide a more accurate indication. Since we don’t use this guide anyway, it really will not impact our day-to-day use.

Speaking of the range remaining indicator, our suggestion is that you simply ignore it. We disagree with Nissan’s decision to make it a focal point of the instrument cluster. Most individuals do not drive around focused on the Distance Until Empty selection found in many vehicles’ trip computers. We don’t see why the LEAF should be any different. Look at the 12 bar battery indicator, and use that as a rough guide to your remaining range. Your right foot operation will impact it as much as anything else. Much as it will in a traditional gasoline powered vehicle.

LEAF dash displayWhile we were in for service, we asked our service writer what the highest mileage was that he had seen on a LEAF in for its annual checkup so far. He said that one local customer has accumulated about 21,000 miles on his car. He has about a 70 mile one way commute to work. His employer has installed several 240-volt charging docks for employees to use so he just plugs in when he gets to work, and at the end of the day, has a full charge to drive back home again. When he gets home, he plugs in at night and is ready to go in the morning. When more employers realize the advantage of offering this service to employees, we see this becoming more and more common over time. With the advent of increased solar panel usage, there also will be no additional strain on the power grid. This kind of an arrangement can truly be a win-win for the employer, the employee, and everyone that benefits by the cleaner environment.

By the way, the cost of our initial maintenance was – zero. Battery checked out fine, VCM got reprogrammed, tires were checked for proper inflation and Nissan performed a multi-point inspection (whatever that might mean). Cost of first year maintenance – $0.00.

{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

Tom K April 19, 2012 at 11:04 am

Congrats on your first year. I’m 3 weeks away. I estimate I’ll have 18,000 miles then. What can I say? In my opinion, Nissan got it right….

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Ernie Hernandez (LEAFguy) April 20, 2012 at 8:13 pm

Tom, that’s only three times more than we’ve done… 😉 Glad to see it.

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Sasparilla April 20, 2012 at 8:37 pm

Ernie I’m flagging this here cause I know you’d be interested.

“The Japanese automaker, which sold just under 9,700 Leafs last year, may more than double sales to 22,000 units this year and may surpass the 60,000-vehicle mark in 2013, according to Al Castignetti, a Nissan vice president and general manager. ”

Now to reasonably expect to do this (60k Leafs in the U.S. in 2013 / 5k a month) they would have to be aiming for a monstrous price decrease for the 2013 Smyrna’s. To really get there I’d guess $29,999 for the base Leaf or less. This will be huge if this pans out.

http://green.autoblog.com/2012/04/20/nissan-predicts-leaf-sales-jump-says-diesels-are-unlikely/#aol-comments

Nissan would have set up all the other automakers who might have worried about them (if the Leaf was introduced at these prices) thinking the Leaf was just a little less expensive than a Volt or Focus Electric while Nissan worked out the bugs for 2 years and then wham. Nissan will own the EV market if they can do get the prices down there.

It will also scare all the other automakers to death – as they’ll know they just lost. Nissan is about to pull a Toyota hybrid scoop on them and everyone else is 4-5 years behind. God Ghosn is such a shark if he does this.

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Ernie Hernandez (LEAFguy) April 21, 2012 at 11:19 am

Interesting. Thanks for the link, which I ultimately followed to Car & Driver, which was the original source. This is the first time that I’ve seen a Nissan exec go on record with a prediction for 2013. I don’t see the LEAF getting under the $30k price point that you mention unless they remove the navigation system, which I suppose is a possibility. Even then, that doesn’t account for that much. The base LEAF is now $35,200. Taking $5k out of a $35k car is one huge challenge. I mentioned in a recent post the advantage of local sourcing and removing foreign currency exchange, but even then I don’t see the price coming down more than $2-3k, if that. I guess we’ll find out together.

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Sasparilla April 22, 2012 at 7:40 pm

Ghosn, in a recent interview (on video that I watched, believe it was from the NY car show on CNBC) said they’d reduce costs by 30% by going to scale in the U.S. (that scaling production to ICE levels solved the cost problem for the most part). I brushed it asside at the time not thinking much of the comment (like it must have been a mistake), but with everything taken into consideration (the public statements, the massive capital spending for the factories on different continents etc.) I think they are going to corner the market on EV’s this fall – and nobody else will close for years (takes a really long time to plan, build those factories especially the battery factories).

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IndyFlick April 22, 2012 at 9:32 am

Ernie, you should get your tires rotated ASAP. If you let it go too long and there is more than 1/16 inch difference front to back, the tire shops won’t rotate them. By the way, Discount Tires will rotate for free even if you didn’t purchase your tires from them.

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John P April 25, 2012 at 3:42 pm

Ernie,
I am a week away from my one year anniversary. So far, I love the Leaf. Just made the appointment for the service and although I only have 6,000 miles on the car (I have been out on sick leave for a few months otherwise I would have more like 12,000) the dealership says they treat the visit as if the car has 15,000 miles and the service will take half a day. Seems strange to me. I did get the tires rotated at the 6 month service and there was no cost. Wonder what the 15k service is going to cost.

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Ernie Hernandez (LEAFguy) April 25, 2012 at 6:36 pm

John, here is the info for the 12 month/15,000 mile service (whichever comes first) from the 2011 LEAF Service and Maintenance Guide which you can find online at Nissanusa.com (my choice) or in your vehicle :

SCHEDULE 1 (MORE SEVERE)
❑ Replace brake fluid
❑ Replace in-cabin microfilter
❑ Rotate tires
❑ Inspect the following:
__ Axle & suspension parts
__ Brake lines & cables
__ Brake pads & rotors
__ Charging port
__ Drive shaft boots
__
__ Front suspension ball joints
__ Reduction gear oil
__ Steering gear and linkage
__ Steering linkage ball joints

SCHEDULE 2 (LESS SEVERE)
❑ Replace in-cabin microfilter
❑ Rotate tires
❑ Inspect the following:
__ Brake lines & cables
__ Brake pads & rotors
__ Charging port
__ Drive shaft boots
__
__ Reduction gear oil

SCHEDULE 1 (more severe operating conditions)
Use Schedule 1 if you primarily operate your electric vehicle under any
of these conditions:
● Repeated short trips of less than 5 miles in normal temperatures or
less than 10 miles in freezing temperatures
● Stop-and-go traffic in hot weather or low speed driving for long distances
● Driving in dusty conditions or on rough, muddy, or salt-spread roads
● Using a car-top carrier

SCHEDULE 2 (less severe operating conditions)
Schedule 2 features 7,500-mile service intervals; with Schedule 2
fewer maintenance items are regularly checked or replaced than with
Schedule 1.
Generally, Schedule 2 applies only to highway driving in temperate
conditions. Use Schedule 2 only if you primarily operate your electric
vehicle under conditions other than those listed in Schedule 1.

Unless you primarily drive on salt covered winter roads or live in a high-dust environment you more than likely can use Schedule 2 service. If you do need Schedule 1, the only additional items are brake fluid replacement and a few more inspections. Good luck!

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John P April 29, 2012 at 5:25 pm

Thanks Ernie. I live in San Jose, CA and when I do drive, the one way trip to work is 22 miles. Since I got the 6 month inspection in December 2011 (later than my 6 month anniversary) I think I’ll wait until I get more miles on the car before bringing it in for the “15k” service.

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Ken Fry January 23, 2013 at 2:05 pm

Good observation almost a year ago by Sasparilla!

He quotes a price of about $29,999 being required to increase sales volume, and Nissan has announced $28,800.

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Ernie Hernandez (LEAFguy) January 23, 2013 at 7:11 pm

Ken – good catch! I don’t always get an opportunity to revisit older comments, but you’re right. He called that one pretty well. Now we’ll see how it pans out.

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Bumblbee February 2, 2013 at 11:12 am

I’m ready for my first service @7750 miles in about nine months. My 2011 was leased so that Nissan would take the tax credit and I wouldn’t have to take the credit over the next three years. It cost about $250 to excersize the purchase option, If at the end of my 39 month lease my car is worth more than the residual payments, I can pay it off or sell it. If it is worth less than the residual payment or a better model with better battery technology is available, I can hand them back the keys.

I’m not sure that the roughly $1000 maintenance agreement is worth the cost. I have heard that the first two annual battery checks are covered under the standard factory warranty, so what does my $1000 buy me, one battery check and a few tire rotations with cabin filters? I will press the dealer during my first service as to where I can get the full maintenance scedule for my nissan leaf. I haven’t been able to find it on-line as of late. If I can get it I will post it. Consumer reports mentions that the brake fluid is due changing every 15000 miles on the Nissan Leaf, but that does seem excessive. If that is the case, then the maintence agreement is well worth the cost.

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Ernie Hernandez (LEAFguy) February 2, 2013 at 11:36 am

Bumblbee – Welcome to Living LEAF. We are not generally in favor of spending the extra money on the maintenance agreements as there is so little maintenance required for the LEAF. All Nissan owner’s manuals and service manuals can be found online here. Select your model and year and you will be taken to a list of all manuals available. The hard copies are also included in the owner’s manual packet that you received with your car. Nissan has two maintenance schedules for the LEAF – Schedule 1 (more severe) and Schedule 2 (less severe). Most owners will fall into the Schedule 2 category. Schedule 1 requires replacing the brake fluid at 15,000 miles or 12 months, whichever comes first. Schedule 2 calls for it at the 30,000 mile point, or 24 months whichever comes first. We hope this will prove helpful to you.

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debi in ramona March 20, 2013 at 11:17 am

Ok the first three battery mainenence is free how much will the fourth service cost? Oh i live in a hilly aeea it really sucks up the power on your milage. Is it also hard on battery longivity?

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Ernie Hernandez (LEAFguy) March 20, 2013 at 9:13 pm

Debi – Welcome to Living LEAF. First, only the first two battery maintenance checks are provided at no charge according to the Service & Maintenance Guide (found here). Each dealer sets their own price for maintenance (for any vehicle). I suggest that you call dealers that you are willing to use for service and ask them what they would charge for the battery check. Finally, living in a hilly area will not really impact the battery life. From a dynamic perspective, hard acceleration and repeatedly running the battery to the Very Low Battery warning status would impact the battery life more than driving in hilly terrain.

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JB June 11, 2013 at 3:49 pm

Thanks for a very informative site. I’ve leased a 2012 Leaf SL since 12-22-12 as my primary vehicle (2 driver family; my spouse has an ICE) for use in the S.F. bay area. Most charging is at home via L2 largely powered by PV panels. I agree with your recommendations everywhere on your site. I read & took notes on the vehicle owner manual and navigation system manual. Your site inspired me to again try the 80% charge, after abdandoning it due to range anxiety.

Safety 1st: I let Nissan know by email and survey responses that they should restrict more of the navigation system functions while the vehicle is moving, since they are a distraction. We’d all be better off if the buttons on the right of the screen didn’t work when the car was moving. I’ve wandered over a lane line while interacting with the screen, so now I pull over before taking my eyes off the road. Also, page 106 shows a forward facing child restraint connected with flexible lower anchorage connectors (what people think of as LATCH) through the rear-facing belt path of the seat. I also see this serious misuse graphic in all of the other Nissan manuals (not just Leaf) that I encounter while serving as a car seat technician. (Hot tip from a car seat tech: we read the vehicle manual and car seat instructions, then contact manufacturers for guidance as needed.) No reply from Nissan in over 4 months.
Aside from these concerns and the marketing of 100% charge range while recommending only 80% charge, I love the car and it works for my regular 59 mile commute (including errands at each end). I prefer headlights on automatically even when it’s light out, so I put a double layer of non-slip shelf liner over the sensor on the right dash. This goes against the manual, but keeps my headlights on 95% of the time and turns them off for me when I park (then shut a door).

PROS
Fun to drive, very responsive (I use ECO 99% of the time, except when I forget), nobody died for my fuel and I’ve driven it across several counties in all directions many times. Even with lots of EVs in my area, I’ve always found parking/charging, even in San Francisco, Berkeley, Marin and other congested places.

CONS
Front tires break traction occassionally when accelerating from a stop or slow to a turn. While I appreciate the torque, this seems inconsistent with my usual driving like an old lady routine. Tires are still like new, with only 4600 miles in about 5.5 months of having the car. Even before I got an EV, I’ve always been the guy in the slow lane going the speed limit or a hair less.

Even when I manually update stations (why would I have to do this when I always “accept”?), the nav system doesn’t show all public stations, especially newer Blink network stations.

Charging timer fails to start charging on weekends when Timer 1 is set for 6p to noon weekday charge and various Timer 2 plans are set for weekends. I work irregular shifts that cause me to be ready to charge equally any day of the week, generally in the late morning. Any suggestions?

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Ernie Hernandez (LEAFguy) June 11, 2013 at 9:36 pm

JB – Welcome to Living LEAF – and thank you for your kind comments.

The LEAF navigation system is not the best way to stay up to date on charging facilities. Nissan still has not managed to develop a good comprehensive approach to managing station updates. My current site of choice is plugshare.com (accessible via smartphone also), which is basically crowd sourced thus offering input independent of networks, and it also provides comments when stations are malfunctioning. Too, charging sites can be filtered by type which can be very useful.

I’m not sure that I totally understand your charge timer question. Both Timer 1 and Timer 2 have a separate start and end time capability. Personally we just set the end timer for 5:00AM every morning (our super off peak rates run from midnight to 5:00AM). If we plan on driving a greater distance on the weekend, we will top up before we go. I think I might see an issue now upon re-reading your comment. If your Friday night schedule is 6:00PM to noon, that would be noon on Saturday. Perhaps you are trying to program a Schedule 2 time that conflicts with that. Also, remember that you can override your timer settings with a button on the lower left portion of the dash to charge immediately upon plug-in. I hope that helps. If not, email me at the address below with more specific information, and I’ll be glad to try to help.

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Yi August 5, 2013 at 3:00 pm

I just leased (24Month) a SL leaf, and the dealer financial guy tried very hard to sell me the maintenance parkage 4 times for two years for $679. I am doing the studies and please help me on this issue.
thanks you all for the great information.
MZ

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Ernie Hernandez (LEAFguy) August 5, 2013 at 6:19 pm

Yi – Welcome to Living LEAF. The LEAF has very few maintenance requirements, which can all be met for less than the price of the maintenance package that you reference. Especially with a 24 month lease, maintenance is minimal. You can find the maintenance schedule in your glove compartment (typically), along with all of your other manuals. It can also be found online at the Nissan consumer website – nissanusa.com. In the Owner’s Portal look for manuals. Good luck with your new LEAF!

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Mike December 22, 2014 at 11:16 am

I have had my leaf for a year and 7000 miles. There is really no maintenance BUT
Nissan would like you to change the brake fluid at 1 year or 15k miles (for $129 here in Chicago.) But on most cars you only change the brake fluid every 60k miles. I have yet to hear a really good reason why you need to do this on a car that barely uses the brakes?

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Ernie Hernandez December 29, 2014 at 3:10 pm

Mike – Welcome to Living LEAF. I apologize for the delayed response, but it’s been hectic with the holidays. First – if you look at your Service and Maintenance Guide (S&MG), you will see that it only recommends brake fluid replacement at 15,000 or 12 months using Schedule 1 (More severe) conditions. In the 2014 LEAF S&MG on page 8 it defines these conditions. If less severe conditions, Schedule 2 recommends replacing brake fluid at 30,000 miles or 24 months. Your question got me wondering what other makes recommend, so I pulled up maintenance schedules for Toyota Camry and Honda Accord – two of the best selling vehicles in the United States currently. Interestingly, neither gives a mileage requirement for replacement, but instead provide a variation of “inspect and adjust” at every standard maintenance interval – including the first. The inspection would include an evaluation of the condition of the brake fluid.

Brake fluid is hygroscopic – it tends to absorb moisture over time. The problem with this is that water has a lower boiling point than brake fluid which reduces the effectiveness of the brake system as a whole, but especially in severe operating conditions (think driving down an extremely long mountain grade). So even though the LEAF does not tax the mechanical components of the brake system, the fluid itself is still susceptible to absorbing moisture over time. Your local technician can’t really tell anything by looking at the fluid, but they can measure the moisture absorption and tell you if you need new brake fluid. I would think that you could ask to see the readings for yourself if they tell you that you need new fluid. Generally it’s good practice to change your brake fluid every couple of years at least, because of this. I hope that helps.

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JOSEPH September 14, 2015 at 7:46 am

I just had my 1 year service on my 2015 leaf 13,706 miles while I ask them to check the brake fluid they did tell me the results and since I viewed a you tube on flushing a leaf. I have flush several cars in the past so I decided to flush the leaf and if the first wheel looked clean to stop there well it didn’t it was hazy and a little dark in fact it looked like 2 or 3 year old fluid. I normally flush my brake fluid on my other cars in 2 to 3 year.

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