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Nissan’s Variable-Compression Engine Failures Are Under Federal Investigation

The tech that everyone got so excited for may be to blame for knocking sounds and sudden power loss.

Nissan made a lot of noise when its variable-compression turbo engines hit the market a few years back, snagging awards and headlines left and right. However, those two power plants—the 1.5-liter three-cylinder and 2.0-liter four-cylinder—are now under scrutiny by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The federal entity is opening an investigation involving over 450,000 Nissan Rogue, Nissan Altima, and Infiniti QX50 models, which use those two engines. According to the NHTSA, owners are reporting knocking sounds, loss of power, metal bits in their oil pans, and even total failures. Nissan has made changes to the engines’ main bearings and L-links since they’ve been on sale to address potential engine damage; however, a recall hasn’t been issued yet.

Instead, the NHTSA is opening an investigation to see what the issue could be. While no direct signs are pointing to Nissan’s variable compression technology that can vary the piston’s top-dead-center and bottom-dead-center positions to maximize both power and efficiency, those are the only two engines to use the tech.

If the VC-Turbo tech does indeed turn out to be the culprit, it would be a cruel twist of irony for Nissan. Both of those engines made Wards’ 10 Best Engines list specifically because of their variable compression abilities. I hate to make a blanket statement that complexity equals problems, but sometimes, it does. Trust me, a guy who’s dealt with several BMW Vanos systems in the past.

The NHTSA will continue to look into this issue and, if necessary, there could be a recall in the future.

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