Are you planning on purchasing a used Nissan Xterra and you are looking for the Nissan Xterra years to avoid? If this is the case and you want to learn what model years should be avoided, then you are at the right place because there will be a lot to cover on this topic.
Doing the proper research before you go out there and buy stuff is always important and quite an essential thing to do. I’m saying this because when you purchase a car you are stuck with it and its possible problems. That’s why you need to focus on the possible problems and get the least problematic one.
Not to mention the amount of money that goes into purchasing a vehicle. You are basically throwing your life savings into some of these cars. And it’s better for them to work. If else you will get frustrated why you have purchased such an unreliable vehicle that is breaking down all of the time and your ownership experience has been absolutely terrible. You don’t want that, you want a good and reliable machine that will just work and do its job really well. And we are going to help you out with that.
First, we are going to learn what is the Nissan Xterra, then we will cover both of the generations of this model in depth, we will learn their specs, fuel economy, problems, and the Nissan Xterra years to avoid. Then we will give our reliability score on these specific models and whether or not you should get them. So, if you want to learn more, follow along.
What Is The Nissan Xterra?
So, before we delve into the Nissan Xterra years to avoid, let’s first discuss more about this model and what are its main characteristics. This will be quite a useful chapter for those who want to familiarize themselves with this model and learn more about its basics. So, if you are already familiar with the Xterra you can jump on the specs and problems. If not keep up with us.
The Xterra is an SUV manufactured by Nissan from 1999 up until 2015 when this SUV was discontinued. Meaning that the model is no longer produced and available as a new vehicle. So, you are stuck with the offer on the second-hand market because the Xterra can only be found on the second-hand market.
This model was based on the Frontier. As we all know, the Nissan Frontier is a mid-size pickup truck by Nissan that sells really well in the US. The Xterra is sharing a platform with the Frontier. Everything is in the front end of the car until the A-pillar is a Frontier design. All of their mechanical components are almost interchangeable between the two models.
What is different though is the rear, the Xterra is an SUV, meaning that it is designed to carry people and not haul stuff like the Frontier. Meaning that you are lacking that rear bed.
The Xterra is a licensed name by Nissan and this model was christened as the XTERRA off-roading triathlon. So, as you can see, Nissan tried to market this model as a capable SUV that could go off-road and tackle terrains. But what are the Nissan Xterra years to avoid? We will get to them in a bit.
Nissan Xterra First Generation 1999 – 2004 Specifications
Before we dive into the Nissan Xterra years to avoid. Let’s first discuss the specifications of the Xterra and learn more about the configurations this vehicle is available in.
This model was fully developed and designed by Nissan Design America in California. Meaning that this model was the first Nissan model that was built by Americans for the American people. From the inception, development, and manufacturing. Everything is done here in the states.
The idea for this model was to be an affordable and rugged piece of machinery that will be utilitarian and most important extremely durable and able to withstand the harsh off-road courses. As the designers said, it looks better dirty than it looks when it’s clean. And this model was also praised by car enthusiasts and people who wanted something really capable for the off-road job.
This model came in two trim levels, the XE and the SE. Nissan wanted to keep it simple and not add thousand trim levels for this model.
In this model, there was a mid-life refresh in 2004 where the model was quite improved in the looks department with new headlights and front fascia. Making it look more like a car from the 2000s than a car from the ’90s. There were also improvements when it comes to performance. But more on that in the following chapters. And after that, we will cover the Nissan Xterra years to avoid.
Engines & Transmissions
Now before we learn the Nissan Xterra years to avoid, let’s cover the engines and transmissions that were used in the first generation of the Xterra.
There were basically two engines, the standard engine was the KA24DE. This engine was a straight-4 2.4L engine that produced about 143hp in total. A really reliable engine. This engine was combined with a 5-speed manual transmission.
The second option was a 3.3L V6 engine that produced 170hp. This engine came with the same 5-speed manual or with a 4-speed automatic transmission.
In 2002 this V6 engine was bumped to 180hp. There was also a supercharged version of it. Producing 210hp. This is the model that you want if you are looking for a performance upgrade in comparison to the standard 2.4L engine. But what are the Nissan Xterra years to avoid? We will get to that in a bit.
Now before we cover the Nissan Xterra years to avoid, let’s cover the fuel economy of this model. Since this is an important aspect when it comes to purchasing a vehicle.
The 2.4L produced a slightly better fuel economy than the V6. The 2.4L engine delivered 17 mpg in the city, 23 mpg on the highway, and 19 mpg combined fuel economy.
The V6 performed slightly worse. It only got 15 mpg in the city, 19 mpg on the highway, and 17 mpg combined. This is expected since this engine is more powerful. But what are the Nissan Xterra years to avoid? We will get to that in a bit. Let’s first cover the safety.
Safety Of The Nissan Xterra
Before we learn the problems and the Nissan Xterra years to avoid. Let’s first discuss the safety of this model. The safety of the Xterra of this generation is somewhat mediocre.
Much like the other models, the Xterra implemented some 90’s safety features that are not on par with the modern standards. According to the NHTSA, it got 4 stars on the crash tests in 2004. Which is good. But not something that is something special for the 2020s.
Nissan Xterra Problems
Now before we discuss the Nissan Xterra years to avoid, let’s discuss the problems this model has. Knowing them is of huge importance for you as a future owner. But what is important is that this model does not have some major problems. But we will list the most complained things based on what owners say.
In the early models, there were some reports of power windows stop working all of a sudden. Especially if you one the trunk, all of the windows are locking automatically as one owner reported. Which is not an ideal thing. Some owners reported problems that their power windows failed completely and the repair is expensive.
Problem with blown head gaskets is also present on the first-generation model. More precisely on the V6 engine. They love to go through head gaskets. But what is unfortunate is that these head gaskets are expensive to replace since the head needs to be resurfaced and the engine could overheat when this problem happens.
Other minor issues were coolant leaks onto the alternator causing the alternator to fail. Headliner sagging, paint flaking off, throttle body position sensor, knock sensor, and other minor problems. But what are the Nissan Xterra years to avoid? That we will cover next.
Nissan Xterra Years To Avoid
So, what are the Nissan Xterra years to avoid from the first generation Xterra? When it comes to this generation, it is best to avoid the 1999 year. This is the year when this model was introduced and this model has some more issues than the other model years.
So, when it comes to buying an Xterra from this generation, the best thing for you would be to get the refreshed model from 2002 up to 2004. These models include a number of improvements in comparison to the early model and they really are a lot better from the reliability perspective. We learned what are the Nissan Xterra years to avoid. Now let’s see what is the overall reliability of this model.
Nissan Xterra Overall Reliability Score
As we mentioned above, we learned the Nissan Xterra years to avoid, now let’s learn the overall reliability score of this first-generation Xterra.
And the answer is pretty straightforward, the first generation of this model is a very reliable car. It easily gets 4.5 out of 5 stars when it comes to reliability and overall buying experience. There are a lot of satisfied buyers from this model.
But is this the case with the second generation? Well, that’s what we are going to cover next.
Nissan Xterra Second Generation 2005 – 2015 Specifications
We have covered the first generation of the Xterra and the Nissan Xterra years to avoid. Now let’s do the same thing for the second generation of this model as well. And let me tell you a secret, there will be a lot to cover on this model because there are a ton of problems. This generation is everything but smooth sailing.
This model of the Xterra debuted in 2004 for the 2005 model year. This model unlike the previous model is ditching the platform and the boring 90’s design for something more modern and provocative. Something that turns heads. And they nailed it when it came to the looks.
This model was based on the Nissan F-Alpha platform that was shared with the newer model of the Frontier and basically, the Xterra resembled a Frontier from the front. There were three different models, the X, S, and the PRO-4X trim level which was the most potent out of the few.
What was different with this model was that it implemented a ton more safety features and technology that revolutionized cars in general. But what are the Nissan Xterra years to avoid? We will get to that after we cover the engines and transmissions that were used in this model.
Engines & Transmissions
Before we discuss the Nissan Xterra years to avoid, let’s discuss the engines and transmissions that were used in this model. This is very important for people who want to get the most out of their cars.
And the Xterra was all about power. It came equipped with a powerful V6 engine that was a great improvement in comparison to the old engine used in the previous generation. This new V6 was 4.0L in capacity and produced 256hp. Which was plenty for this model. This was the only engine though.
When it came to transmissions, there were two options, a 5-speed manual and a 6-speed automatic. And this automatic was really problematic. But more on that later when we will discuss the Nissan Xterra years to avoid. Now, let’s focus on the fuel economy of this model.
Now before we discuss the Nissan Xterra years to avoid, let’s cover the fuel economy of this model. As you know, this model implements only one engine so fuel economy is pretty much the same on all of the cars.
The numbers are 16 mpg in the city, 22 mpg on the highway, and 17 mpg combined. Overall, poor figures but that is understandable since you purchase this model mostly for the off-roading capability and not as a commuter car. But what about Nissan Xterra years to avoid? We will get to that in a bit.
Safety Of The Nissan Xterra
Now before we learn the Nissan Xterra years to avoid, let’s first focus on the safety aspect of this model. Since a lot of buyers are getting this model for the safety aspect, SUVs are often put in the same line as safe vehicles. But is this the case with the Xterra? Let’s see.
The Xterra performed similarly to the previous generation of this model. Getting 4-star ratings on most of the tests performed by the NHTSA with an overall score of 4-stars.
A major redesign of the curtain airbags and the side thorax airbags was implemented and this slightly improved the safety of this model in general. So, whenever you want to purchase an Xterra for the safety aspect. It is best to look for a later model, preferably after 2013. These are much better suited for this. But what about the Nissan Xterra years to avoid? We will get to that in a bit. Let’s first cover the problems this model has. And frankly, there is a lot to cover.
Nissan Xterra Problems
Now before we dive into the Nissan Xterra years to avoid, let’s first discuss the problems this model has. Knowing the problems will help you out if you are on the market for a used model and by doing this you will know how to stay away from potentially dangerous models that could have some problems that are really expensive to fix. So, what are the problems with this model? Let’s elaborate.
The first year of production which is the 2005 year has the most complaints. Most of these complaints are connected to the transmission of the model. This is caused by a problem with the transmission that makes the transmission fail. All of the transmissions that fail are automatics.
This problem is pretty strange but how it happens on this model is that the coolant from the radiator is leaking and it can mix with the red transmission fluid that is entering through the radiator lines. Then the fluid is contaminated and the transmission is working with contaminated fluid. Whenever this happens the transmission will fail completely. The average cost to sort this problem is $3,500. And this problem is affecting vehicles from 2005 to 2008.
Timing chain tensioners also tend to fail on these early models as well. These are plastic components that put tension on the chain itself. So, when they break, there are rattles inside of the engine. Also, it is expensive to fix, costing about $2,000 to replace the chain and the tensioner.
There were also reports with the electricals in this model. Most common issues with the fuel gauges on the cluster failing because of a faulty sensor, the radio stopped working, and other electrical gremlins. Another problem is the paint peeling off.
Nissan Xterra Years To Avoid
Now we came to the important bit and that is the Nissan Xterra years to avoid. What are the years to avoid in this generation of the Nissan Xterra?
Well, the answer is simple, avoid the years between 2005 and 2008. These are some troublesome years that you don’t want, to be honest.
The problem with the coolant mixing with transmission fluid and destroying the transmission was not sorted until late 2007 and also the second problem with the timing chain tensioner is a serious issue. These timing chain tensioners are known to fail and cause rattling and can even make the chain jump. And when the chain jumps, there is carnage inside of the engine because the valves and the pistons collide and you don’t want that to happen to your car.
So, when it comes to the Nissan Xterra years to avoid, avoid the first three years of production. Get a car that was sorted out and loved during its life. Stay away from vehicles that were poorly maintained and not loved by their owners.
Before purchase make sure that you get a Carfax report and see the overall history of the vehicle. Also, a pre-purchase inspection is essential if you don’t want to end up with a troubling vehicle that will make you regret that you purchased it. Enough on the Nissan Xterra years to avoid, now let’s discuss more on the reliability score of this model.
Nissan Xterra Overall Reliability Score
We covered the Nissan Xterra years to avoid, now let’s give the Xterra a reliability score. And frankly, to be honest, the Xterra is not a bad performer after all. It easily gets a 4.5 out of 5 in terms of performance similar to the previous model.
The only drawback of this model are the early years. These as we noted as the Nissan Xterra years to avoid. You just don’t want these early models because they are so prone to transmission and timing chain problems.
If you still like to purchase one of them, you should opt for the manual transmission option. This will be a somewhat guarantee that you don’t end up in a money pit. Also, make sure that the timing chain is sorted out and replaced if you don’t want to replace it.
As we noted above, finding a good example with a clear history should be your best bet when it comes to this model and that will somewhat guarantee that you don’t end up with a basket case. But overall, like a car, the Xterra is a good vehicle, and there is not a doubt about that.
Nissan Xterra – Facts to Know Before Buying Used
- Nissan Xterra is a discontinued SUV known for outstanding off-roading capabilities and solid reliability.
- Since it’s discontinued, reliability is critical when shopping for a used Nissan Xterra.
- The Nissan Xterra has a reliability rating of 4.0 out of 5.0, and in terms of reliability, it’s hard to go wrong with the defunct SUV line.
- The least reliable Nissan Xterra years to avoid are 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2008.
- The 2005 Xterra appears to be the most problematic year, with over 400 complaints and six recalls.
- The primary issue that plagued the 2007 Xterra is the rogue coolant leaking into the transmission system known as the “strawberry milkshake of death” (SMOD) – you can learn more in our guide on the milky transmission fluid.
- The Xterra has several major reliability issues, such as a defective fuel level sensor, leaky radiator, transmission failure, and fuel injector failure.
- The 2013 Xterra is an excellent pick with two complaints and no recalls, making it a reliable vehicle.
- The 2015 Xterra is considered the quintessential Xterra experience with high marks for reliability, a powerful engine, posh and spacious interior, but poor fuel economy.
- The 2004 Xterra has a few issues worth looking into, including the cracked radiator that leaks fluid into the transmission system, and it has less-than-perfect crash test ratings, which may be an issue if you value safety.
Conclusion To Nissan Xterra Years To Avoid
And we came to the last part which is the conclusion, let’s sum things up real quick and give our final thoughts. In this long article, we learned what is the Nissan Xterra and we covered both of the generations in depth in all aspects. We learned the specs, engines, fuel economy, safety, and also problems. We noted the biggest issues that these models have.
The first model is pretty much bulletproof while the second is more prone to problems than the first generation. But it is still a good performer. The Nissan Xterra years to avoid are the years between 2005 and 2008. These are the worst and most problematic. We finally gave our honest score on our reliability chart from 1 to 5. Both models scored well. Overall, thanks for reading and we hope you enjoyed it.