Is The Nissan Leaf Dealer ‘Annual Battery Check’ Really Needed?

The Nissan Leaf is among the best-known and most popular EVs on the market today. As an arguably more affordable model than, say, a Tesla, it is a top choice particularly among city-dwellers who don’t necessarily worry about the car’s shorter range when compared to aforementioned Teslas. It’s reliable, comes packed with great technology, and contributes to better air and overall quality of life in the city.

The Annual Battery Check is genuinely important for a Nissan Leaf, not just for preserving your warranty but also protecting your Leaf’s overall health – since the battery is a key part of an EV.

What is the Nissan Leaf Annual Battery Check?

HONOLULU - MARCH 14, 2015: 100% Electric Nissan Leaf car on display at the Motor Show exhibition - 2015 First Hawaiian International Auto Show at the Convention Center in Oahu, Hawaii. March 14, 2015.
Nissan Leaf charging up at the Motor Show exhibition

Every 12 months, Nissan Leaf owners take their car for a checkup, most likely at the dealership they bought it from. During this check, the mechanics will plug the car’s main battery into a diagnostic machine to produce a report. It’s a fairly simple procedure, but many Leaf owners are wondering why they have to endure this additional cost (more on cost below) for something that seems to benefit Nissan a lot more than the driver.

The annual check is part of the standard Nissan Leaf warranty, and involves mileage and capacity checks, which are put into a simple report. Your standard 96-month or 100,000-mile warranty (check PDF page 12) coverage provides cover against:

“capacity loss below nine segments as shown on the vehicle’s battery capacity level gauge.”

Nissan Leaf USA Warranty information

The warranty allows either for the existing battery components to be repaired, or for the lithium-ion battery to be replaced should repairs prove impossible or impractical. There are 12 segments in the battery indicator, meaning that if capacity drops below 9 within the warranty period, then you’d be entitled to repairs or a new one.

Is the Annual Battery Check Necessary?

The word “necessary” in that question seems to depend on a lot of differing factors. If you don’t care about maintaining your warranty, then there’s nothing compelling you to perform these annual battery checks. If your Nissan Leaf’s battery has a problem, then it is more-than likely that it will manifest in some visible or otherwise noticeable way while you are driving, thus making these capacity inspections unnecessary.

If, on the other hand, maintaining the warranty coverage is a dealbreaker for you, then performing these annual battery checks is essential. The terms of the warranty spell out this requirement in black and white. It also stipulates that you have to:

“take the vehicle to an authorized Nissan LEAF certified dealer in the United States or Canada during regular business hours at your expense,”

Nissan Leaf warranty information.

if you want to keep your warranty going. Luckily, though, the battery check is something you can shop around for, since the warranty allows for this to be performed “by any qualified repair shop facility.”

The warranty also clearly says that should any damage or failure resulting from not getting your battery checked (or any other required check) occur, then it won’t be covered by the warranty.

Costs of Nissan Leaf Annual Battery Check

The good news is that the check is free for years 1 and 2. This means that a quarter of your warranty time is assured and it won’t cost you any extra to get that check. After that, however, you will have to pay for these checks yourself. The cost seems to vary according to reports from different Nissan Leaf users across the United States.

Some have reported that it was a low as $40 – though some owners still claim this is too much – and others have reported as high as $120. There’s no reason to disbelieve these reports, and therefore it seems clear that the price likely varies due to geographical location and operating costs of particular dealerships.

Is There a Benefit to the Nissan Leaf Driver?

The main benefit, as we touched on above, is the ability to maintain the 8-year (96-month) or 100,000-mile warranty that comes with every Nissan Leaf battery. The overall expected lifespan of a Nissan Leaf battery is actually about 10 years, so there’s a good chance that the battery will outlive the warranty. If you’ve bought a used Leaf, your warranty will be shorter, likely 5 years or 60,000 miles, which is a commonly available option.

EVGO Charging Station charging a Nissan Leaf to the right, from Wikipedia.org
EVGO Charging Station charging a Nissan Leaf to the right, from Wikipedia.org

For the majority of drivers, maintaining that warranty is in your best interest, even if it costs you several hundred dollars over the years to get your battery check report. Let’s say you spent $50 per year from the third year to the final year of an 8-year warranty, then you’d spend $300 total during your warranty period. Let’s compare that to what you’d spend if your warranty was voided and you had to suddenly replace the battery.

According to Nissan, a new Leaf battery will set you back $5,499 plus installation costs. If you drive an older Leaf from 2011 or 2012, then there’s going to be an additional $225 on top of that to retrofit the new Leaf battery to your older Leaf model. A new engine on a gasoline car would likely be somewhere between $3,000 and $4,000 for an older car, and $4,000-6000 on a newer car. The difference, however, is that total engine failure, especially on newer cars, is extremely unlikely. Battery degradation, on the other hand, is a fact of life. How fast it happens seems to be much more of a dangerous lottery than with conventional engines.

Therefore, it is clearly to the driver’s advantage to maintain the warranty on their Nissan Leaf battery for the entire duration, even if it costs a few hundred dollars to do so. It’s a great investment when it could potentially save you thousands down the line.

Is the Annual Leaf Battery Check Just a Ruse to Allow the Company to Gather Data?

This is another important question that Nissan Leaf drivers are asking. Yet another requirement made by the Nissan Leaf Warranty is that users must “provide consent to give Nissan access to data stored on vehicle systems for the purpose of vehicle diagnosis and repair.” While this isn’t a 100-percent dealbreaker, it does remind us that a failure to do so will “likely result in denial of warranty coverage.” This is the key thing, and in our view helps to explain just why it is Nissan really wants to emphasize the importance of these battery inspections. It’s a running research project!

Perhaps the word “ruse” is unfair. It should be obvious that a company like Nissan doesn’t broadcast the fact that they make demands of their customers in order to satisfy research. That wouldn’t play well in PR circles.

On the other hand, the data that Nissan collects is very likely going to benefit us in the near future. Based on the information on Nissan Leaf battery usage, the company can spot problems early and cut down or even eliminate the need for mass recalls in the future. This is a benefit for which we imagine most Nissan Leaf drivers would be happy to allow access to that usage data.

Nissan Leaf Annual Battery Check – Should You Get It?

In conclusion, it seems that unless money is no object in your life and your reaction to a voided warranty is “what warranty?”, then getting the annual battery check remains a good idea. The warranty does allow for you to shop around, so you don’t have to settle for the dealership price if you think it’s too high a price to pay. The rates under $50 seem fairly reasonable as a price to maintain an effective warranty. But in any world, and no matter how much money you have, the relative simplicity of the battery check procedure means that higher prices are unwarranted, especially those over $100.

Look around your neighborhood at other qualified providers to see who can do the best rate for you, but do continue to get those reports from year 3 when the charges kick in. A battery replacement bill approaching $6,000 is a lot of money, even for a fairly affluent middle-class family. That $6,000 could be a downpayment on a brand-new gasoline car, or a big chunk of annual in-state college tuition.

Finally, the battery is the heart of your Nissan Leaf’s operation. Checking on its health, capacity and function based on your mileage is always going to have long-term benefits for you and the wider EV community.

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