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Dacia Duster – Common Gearbox Problems

  • 12 min read
A white renault duster parked on a cobblestone street.

Featured image: Thomas doerfer, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Dacia Duster is a family SUV that has been manufactured in two generations since 2010. Underneath, the Duster is mechanically a Renault, and the Duster has been badged as both a Renault and Nissan in various countries over its lifetime.

While not necessarily being prone to gearbox problems, it’s not uncommon for Dacia Duster owners to report experiencing problems with their transmissions. Whether you have a manual or automatic transmission, gearbox problems can be costly to repair, so it’s important to understand exactly what might be wrong with your Dacia Duster gearbox before committing to a repair.

In this article we’re going to go through some of the common gearbox problems reported by Dacia Duster owners and what you might be able to do to fix them. As ever, if you’re unsure what you’re doing, you should check your car into a local, trusted garage for your Dacia Duster to be repaired.

Table of Contents

Manual or automatic

Depending on the region you live in, your Dacia Duster could have any number of different gearbox options. Most common are the 5 and 6 speed manual transmissions, and the 6 speed Renault EDC dual clutch automatic transmission. However, the Duster has also been manufactured with a CVT transmission since the first generation in some markets, and a variety of other gearboxes including a 4-speed automatic and a 6-speed automated manual.

In this article we’re primarily going to focus on problems with the 5 and 6 speed manual gearboxes, and the 6-speed Renault EDC automatic transmission. All of these are reliable, proven units, having been fitted to many Renault, Dacia and Nissan vehicles over the past 20 years. 

Common problems with Dacia Duster Manual Gearboxes

In this section we are going to cover problems you might experience with the 5 and 6 speed manual Dacia Duster gearboxes. Be aware that this is not an exhaustive list of problems you might experience – just a list of commonly reported problems by Dacia Duster owners.

Stiff when going into gear

This could be down to a couple of different things. The easiest thing to check is the gearbox oil level, as a low gearbox oil level will make it difficult to shift gears and will make moving between certain gears much harder. If you’ve had this checked, move onto the clutch assembly – if the clutch is not disengaging properly, you may find it difficult to shift gears.

Other things that can cause a stiff gear shift are worn synchroniser rings – this is worth investigating if it’s only one or two gears that you’re experiencing stiffness. This is an internal gearbox strip down job, so you’ll want to get your car booked into a local garage you trust.

Not going into gear

Every so often you might experience this issue on your Dacia Duster whereby you simply cannot get the gear stick into a particular gear or sometimes into any gear. You may notice clunky or noisy shifting before this happens. 

Generally this problem starts with the clutch – so the first thing you should do is release the clutch fully, make sure the car is in neutral and try to put the car into gear again. If this doesn’t solve the problem your clutch is likely defective in some way – probably that the clutch isn’t disengaging properly and it’s not allowing you to shift gears.

Vauxford, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

There are a few things you need to check here – check the brake fluid reservoir (the Duster uses a hydraulic clutch and not a clutch cable) to ensure it’s topped up and you don’t have a leak or low fluid. If this isn’t the issue you possibly have a seal failed somewhere, or possibly the clutch release bearing has worn. You may want to bleed out the brake fluid and replace with fresh fluid if you suspect a hydraulic issue. 

Unfortunately after doing this, any subsequent issue you might find isn’t something you can really check yourself without removing the gearbox. Don’t force the car into gear as you will cause damage to your transmission. Check your car into a local garage you trust and ask them to inspect the clutch – you may find that some part of the clutch mechanism has become faulty.

Clunking noise when shifting gears

This is probably gearbox or engine mounts. When you let off the gas, or when you engage the clutch after shifting gears and your mounts are worn, the gearbox or engine can move and cause a clunking noise – which is possibly the cause of your clunk when shifting gears.

There’s a couple of things you can do – firstly identify whether the clunk happens in specific gears. Take your car out somewhere quiet and do a shift from first to second, and keep the clutch in – don’t engage it. Test when the clunk actually sounds – is it when you dip the clutch, when you actually shift gears, or when you engage the clutch again? 

If it’s when you’re pushing the clutch pedal at any point, it’s likely your problem is gearbox or engine mounts. This is a relatively quick and simple repair and can be done by nearly any garage.

If the clunk happens when you physically move the gear stick, there’s a few things this might be – check for low gearbox oil and check that the gear change cables are properly attached and not worn. Failing this, your gearbox will need inspection by a mechanic.

Jumping out of gear

If your Duster is jumping out of gear this can be a few different things – this can also be due to worn gearbox mounts (if the gearbox is moving it can move the gear linkage and cause the car to pop out of gear), or it could be to a loose and stretchy gear linkage. 

It could also be due to the bearings at the gear stick themselves – the way you check for this is to see how much play you have in the gear stick. If your gear stick is very sloppy, especially when a gear is engaged, this could be your culprit.

If you’ve checked all of these things and not found your problem it’s possible that the shift fork assembly or one of the synchronisers is faulty. This is an internal gearbox issue and one that’ll need to be checked into by a garage.

Gearbox whine

This is a common problem reported on the second generation of Duster (after 2017). From around 55-60mph to 70-75mph in either fourth, fifth or sixth gear, a noticeable whine can be heard coming from the transmission. This is due to the design in the internals of the gearbox, and is an issue also reported on many other Renault and Dacia cars such as the Logan and Sandero.

It appears through some research online that Dacia is actually aware of this issue and have reported that it does not affect reliability – although in most vehicles a whining gearbox is indicative of some kind of problem. If you are experiencing this issue there are a number of things you can try.

Firstly, you should test whether this whine occurs in specific gears and not in others, and perhaps more importantly, whether it occurs in 2WD or AWD mode – as if it occurs in AWD mode but not in 2WD mode it is likely that the whine is coming from the rear differential. If this doesn’t make a difference, find out which gears the whine is occuring in. 

If your Duster is relatively new or is still under warranty, it would be worth taking the car back to your local Dacia dealer and asking them to test drive the car – as if a Dacia technician can hear the whine, it’s possible that they will have heard it before and will be familiar with possible fixes. You may, however, just be told that the whine is due to the normal operation of the gearbox and isn’t likely to affect reliablility.

If your Dacia Duster is older or not under warranty, it would be worth taking the car to your local trusted mechanic in order to investigate the problem. Be aware, however, that there are reports online of people who have had gearboxes replaced more than once at significant expense, and are still experiencing this whine – so it is possible that a whiny gearbox is due to normal operation and you may just have to put up with it. You might want to look at a transmission oil change as a quick fix – if you are low on oil this could be causing the gearbox to whine.

Common problems with Dacia Duster Automatic Gearboxes

As we mentioned, the Duster uses the Renault EDC dual clutch automatic transmission. This is a reliable and proven unit fitted to many Renault cars. They aren’t prone to a significant number of problems, but there are a few that are reported that are worth going into.

Delay in shifting up

For those used to a traditional torque converter automatic, this may come as a bit of a surprise in various situations where it seems as though the gearbox is slow to shift up. In many cases this is actually normal operation of the gearbox – and the reason for this is because this is a dual clutch automatic.

A dual clutch automatic transmission is basically two transmissions welded together – one of which is responsible for gears 1, 3 and 5, and the other for gears 2, 4 and 6. When you select first gear, the gearbox anticipates that the next gear you will need will be second gear. Therefore, the other side of the gearbox will prepare second gear for you, and at the moment you need the higher gear, the power shifts from the first side of the gearbox to the other side, resulting in an instantaneous, smooth gear change. The side of the gearbox responsible for first gear will then prepare third gear for you in the background, and will switch back when you need the higher gear.

However, sometimes this can cause problems. Say you’re driving up to a set of red traffic lights. You may be in second gear. Because you’re slowing down, the gearbox will prepare first gear (as it thinks you will be slowing to a stop.) However if the lights then change, and you put your foot down, the gearbox has prepared first gear but you actually need third gear – meaning the gearbox preparing your next gear has to deselect first gear and engage third gear ready for when you need it. This can result in delays shifting up to the next gear in certain circumstances.

If you’re experiencing delays shifting up in other, more normal circumstances, however, it may be time to get your gearbox checked out by a Dacia technician.

“Check auto gearbox” light

This is a common fault and one that will usually throw up a code. If you have an OBD II reader, this would be the best thing to check – do a code read and see what it comes up with. On the Dacia Duster, the OBD port is inside the glove box. 

The “check auto gearbox” message is usually accompanied by some symptoms – you may notice that your car isn’t driving properly. Common faults that have been reported is an inability to move out of first gear, a very jerky and lunging gear change or clunking when changing gear. There’s not much that can be said here other than get the car read with an OBD reader and see what comes up. You can then fault-find from there. 

The “check auto gearbox” message is wide ranging and comes up for a large number of faults, from something as simple as a dying battery throwing up weird errors to solenoids and servos failing within the gearbox itself which requires a transmission rebuild to rectify.. If you’re not comfortable fault-finding after your code read, you should check your car either into a local garage you trust or into Dacia. 

Low transmission fluid

This is a fault that manifests itself in a number of different ways. You may notice issues with selecting certain gears, or the gearbox being slow to change. Transmission fluid keeps the internals of the gearbox lubricated and working optimally, and if the gearbox is leaking you may find that it operates poorly. 

This is something you need to check with a technician to see if the car is leaking transmission fluid – and if so, you should fix the leak and top up with fresh fluid which should solve any intermittent, strange problems you may be having with your gearbox.

Check out some more of our transmission related articles!

About the author

Marcus Brown is editor-in-chief of The FatMech and is a mechanic with ten years' experience based in London, UK. Having worked for major dealerships for many years, Marcus now works for a local independent garage and has experience working on nearly every make and model of car. Marcus also has a passion for writing and teaching, which is where the idea for The FatMech came from. In his spare time, Marcus enjoys playing golf, doing home renovations and gardening. He lives just outside London with his wife and son.

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