Nissan Leaf Won’t Go Into Drive – Top 3 Reasons

You’re about to leave for work or school, but your Nissan Leaf won’t shift to Drive. Don’t panic! You’re in the right place; we’ll have you driving shortly.

The top 3 reasons your Nissan Leaf won’t go into Drive include:

  1. Starting sequence incorrect
  2. The Key Fob battery is dead
  3. 12V battery soft or flat

In this article, we’ll show you how to diagnose the problem and how you can fix it.

Nissan Leaf
Infographic - Leaf won't go into drive

Starting Sequence Incorrect

The most common reason that your Leaf won’t go into Drive is your starting sequence is incorrect. There is a very specific order that you must follow to start your car and drive.

  • Press Brake fully
  • Seat Belt fastened
  • Press Power button
  • Select Drive

If you don’t do a start-up in this order, then Neutral and Park are the only gears available.

If you don’t press the brake, the car will start in Accessory Mode. This allows you to turn the radio on etc., without the engine running.

If you feel you did the sequence correctly, it could be you did one of the following:

  • You did the sequence too quickly
  • You didn’t press the brake hard enough
  • You were holding the steering wheel too tightly

Startup done too quickly

The sequence has to be done one item at a time, with a little space between each. This gives the onboard computer enough time to react.

We’re all in a hurry to be somewhere, and you know the sequence so well that you have done it too quickly for the car, and it has gone to Accessory Mode. To clear this, turn the power off and back on again. A little slower this time.

Didn’t press the Brake hard enough

If you didn’t press the brake hard enough, the car would once again start in Accessory Mode with only Neutral and Park available. This sometimes happens if someone new is driving the car and are unsure of the amount of pressure required.

Or if you have different shoes on than normal. I know I have a pair of trainers that have a thick sole, and it’s sometimes hard to judge the pressure.

Holding the Steering Wheel too tightly

When you start the car, as I say, the onboard computers do a quick check that everything is as it should be. One of these checks is the steering wheel. It gives a jiggling movement. If you hold the steering wheel too tightly, this check fails, and only Neutral is available. The car thinks there is a possible power steering issue and won’t allow full start-up.

For any of these issues, turn the power off, wait a few seconds, and start the sequence again. If you continue to have a problem, read on.

Key Fob Battery Dead

Your Nissan Leaf has a keyless entry or passive entry. This is great if your hands are full and you can’t get to your fob. It just has to be on your person, and you need to be in the range of the car.

However, if the battery in your fob is low or dead, then the car won’t automatically open or start.

All is not lost. Your fob has an integrated mechanical key. This allows you to unlock the door and get into your car. If you flip your fob over, there’s a small catch on the reverse. Release this, and the mechanical key will slide out.

You’re now in the car, but the dashboard notification is flashing that the key is missing. There is a workaround. Even though your key is flat, you can still start the car.

Your fob has a chip that can still be read even though it’s flat.

If you press the Brake and Hold the fob beside the Power Button as you press it, the car will start and drive. Amazing!

Unless the fob is directly beside the Power Button when you start the car, it won’t work, and you won’t be able to select Drive.

A little quirky, but good to know. Your next stop is a store to buy a replacement battery. You can turn the power off and back on again with no battery in the fob, but it’s not a good idea long term.

12V Battery Soft or Dead

Your Nissan Leaf has a standard 12V battery that you find in all cars, including ICE. It’s usually one of the first things to give trouble, and unfortunately, the original batteries that were used in the Nissan Leafs are not of the highest quality.

If your 12V is flat, then you won’t be able to start your car. Although the Nissan Leaf is fully electric, it still needs a 12V to run auxiliaries, such as locking, unlocking, radio and alarm.

Thankfully the latch for the hood is mechanical and not electrical. The release is located towards the floor on the left-hand side (driver’s door). Pull the lever and exit the car. The latch is in the center of the hood, just above the Nissan logo. Release and prop in place.

Test your battery if you have a voltmeter. It has to be more than 12V to run your car. If it’s below 12V, you will need to charge it or jump it.

It can take 8-12 hours to reach full charge with a battery charger.

You can jump your car from another or use a boost pack. This is unusual for an EV as most EV car brands advise against jumping your car to avoid damaging any of the computers.

Nissan is happy for you to jump your car.

Put the jumpers on in the correct order – Red to Red (Flat Leaf to the charged car) and Black to Black (Charged car to Flat Leaf).

Start your Leaf and remove the jumpers in the reverse order. Your car should now read more than 12V and drive as normal.

You will have to think about replacing your 12V. This may have been a once-off flat battery. Did you leave the radio on or a door open, and the interior light was on that drained the battery? If you have the car on in Accessory Mode, over time, this will drain your battery.

If it’s happening regularly, a replacement 12V is the answer.

I’ve covered a few other common Nissan Leaf issues which you hopefully won’t experience, but if you do, we have you covered with these posts:

You may find Is Leaf charger waterproof? helpful also.

John Cunningham

John Cunningham is a technical writer here at He's a Red Seal qualified Auto Service Technician with over twenty-five years experience working on Classic and Modern Cars. He's worked for GM, Jaguar, Land Rover, Volvo, Audi, and VW main dealers.

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