Here’s Why a Used Nissan Leaf Should Always Have an SD Card

When you’re buying a used Nissan Leaf, it’s easy to get so distracted by the “big questions” of an EV like that, such as current battery capacity, range, the state of the interior and exterior, that you miss other more subtle yet crucial things.

On your Nissan Leaf, there is an absolutely critical spot that’s well hidden and very small. If this little nook is not properly equipped as it should be, it will utterly disrupt the good running of your Nissan Leaf. We are, of course, talking about the SD card slots, of which there are two in fact. If the right-hand one is empty, then you have a serious problem on your hands.

Where is the Nissan Leaf SD Card Slot?

The SD card slots are cleverly and elegantly placed out of sight behind the Nissan Leaf’s central infotainment and navigation screen. In the bottom right corner of the screen frame there is a button labeled “Open/Tilt.”:

The open tilt area of the Nissan Leaf infotainment system
The open tilt area of the Nissan Leaf infotainment system

When you push it, the bottom of the screen will start moving forward and the top tilting downward until the whole screen is lying flat, screen facing up.

Behind the screen you’ll see two SD card slots placed next to each other. The right-hand one should already have a card in it. When you’re looking at the used Nissan Leaf, you can open the screen using the “Open/Tilt” button and take a look yourself. If there is no card there, you should start asking questions to the seller, namely:

“Where the heck is the all-important and totally essential SD card?”

A well informed Nissan Leaf purchaser..!

Why is the Nissan Leaf SD Card So Important?

A used SD card on my desk
A used SD card on my desk

In many of your personal electronic devices, an SD is often an optional extra. If you are a user of an Android smartphone, you’ve probably lorded it over your Apple/iOS friends with their fixed memory storage capacity whereas you can mull over whether or not you want to expand your memory with an SD card. It’s typically an optional extra. This is not the case with the Nissan Leaf SD Card.

First of all, take the card out of its stealthy slot and look carefully at the surface. The first thing you see is not one of the top brands like SanDisk or Kingston, but actually Nissan. This is an SD card made by Nissan for Nissan. It is encrypted to the specific model’s VIN number, which means that you cannot switch it casually with even another Nissan Leaf SD card.

So, this SD card is important because it’s specifically made for this Leaf model. Secondly, it’s also important because of all the systems within the car that it controls. Your Nissan Leaf SD card provides:

  • Map data
  • Navigation
  • Range information
  • Radio
  • Air conditioning

With no SD card in place, the most heavily hit system is your maps and navigation, because the card has all that data on there. Things like the radio may technically still work and you can tune in and save radio stations, but they’ll all be forgotten again as soon as you switch off the car. That means programming the radio every single time you get in the car. Are you prepared for that? Without the SD card, your central screen reverts to a rather menacing blue screen with the stark message “No SD Card.”

Finally, you may at first be glad to learn that even if you somehow are duped into buying a used Nissan Leaf that comes without that all-important SD card, then all is not lost.

Can You Replace the Nissan Leaf SD Card?

If it happens that you don’t have the card, don’t panic. You can still drive the Leaf, but there will just be a lot of missing important content from your infotainment screen. You may not even know the correct time unless you have a smartphone or watch handy because even that won’t be set right without the SD card in place.

More importantly, you can drive the car to the nearest Nissan dealer and have a new SD card encrypted for your specific vehicle and VIN and have it installed to restore your Leaf back to its rightful glory. The one snag here is that replacing your Nissan Leaf SD card is not going to be cheap. They can cost upwards of $250-300.

Alternative Solutions – Is Aftermarket an Option?

There are some aftermarket solutions marketed online. One of the things you can do is to replace the entire screen and infotainment system with that of another Nissan Leaf. The main stumbling block is that even swapping out the entire system isn’t a simple plug-and-play matter. The new system has to come from not just a Nissan Leaf, but from the same trim and hopefully the same model year, too. It’s almost like matching an organ donor! Every detail has to be the same as the one you are replacing.

If you can’t match the equipment with the model exactly, then it’s unlikely to work as a solution. It’s for this reason that you can’t install aftermarket systems either, because there are always some issues with missing features if the hardware doesn’t match the specific model, year and trim of Nissan Leaf in question.

Conclusion: No SD Card, No Deal

The Nissan Leaf cabin infotainment nav touch screen area
The Nissan Leaf cabin infotainment nav touch screen area

In the end, you can’t compromise on the SD card in a Nissan Leaf. You might be able to do without the navigation features, as many people do. Built-in navigation has become increasingly unnecessary as people just use the tried-and-tested software on their smartphones like Google Maps and iOS Maps, both of which now connect seamlessly with cars thanks to Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Even if they don’t support those platforms, the phone itself is easily mounted to the dash for quick navigation help.

Having said that, ask yourself if you want your infotainment screen to just constantly show “No SD Card” all the time. It’ll just be sitting there taking up valuable dash real estate. The best policy is still to have the working card even if not all the features are ones you need. It’s an integral part of the system and does much more than navigation, as we explained further above.

If you are buying from a private seller, make the original Nissan encrypted SD card a deal breaker issue. Dealerships are very unlikely (if at all) to sell a Nissan Leaf without the SD card. If it is missing in a dealership model, it was likely an oversight and they’ll send it along.

In any event, your mantra should always be: “No SD Card, No Deal.”

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