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Nissan Xterra Reliability and Common Problems

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If you’re looking for a superb off-road-ready SUV, you can never go wrong with a Nissan Xterra. The automaker halted its production in 2015, but the SUV continues to be a top choice among used vehicles thanks to its affordable pricing, heavy-duty off-road suspension, and innovative cargo features. The Xterra’s resale value is also great, with its 2015 model only depreciating 32% after five years.

Are Nissan Xterras Reliable?

The Nissan Xterra enjoys above-average scores on major reliability ratings. RepairPal gave it a 3.9 out of 5.0, while Consumer Reports gave the SUV a 3 out of 5. The 2015 Nissan Xterra received an above-average rating for dependability and resale value from J.D. Power. It also scored well in driveability ratings, which made it a top contender in its segment when it was first rolled out.

Top Nissan Xterra Common Problems

While the Nissan Xterra is undoubtedly one of the most reliable SUVs you can find, this doesn’t mean that it won’t develop issues as it racks up mileage. Here are the most common Nissan Xterra problems across model years:

Faulty Fuel Level Sensor

Many Xterra owners have reported noticing inaccurate fuel gauge readings (e.g., the gauge reading shows that the tank is half full when it’s running on empty) due to a failing fuel level sensor. This typically leads to engine stalling, which increases the risk of road accidents.

This issue is common among many 2001-2011 Nissan Xterra vehicles. The automaker has recalled specific 2006-2008 Xterra units to resolve this fuel gauge problem.

Radiator Leaks

Radiator leaks have been reported by owners of many 2005 Nissan Xterras. According to the drivers of affected vehicles, the leaks may persist even after screwing on their SUV’s radiator cap tightly.

If this problem is detected early, you may only need to repair the lower intake manifold to solve the issue. However, radiator leaks that aren’t addressed immediately may cause engine overheating and eventually lead to transmission failure.

Transmission Failure

Transmission failure is another top problem for many units belonging to the 2005 model year. This is usually a result of a radiator leak. When engine coolant mixes with the transmission fluid, it creates a milkshake-like discolored mixture. The combined fluids speed up corrosion in the transmission, causing it to slip or overheat.

Replacing your transmission is complex and costly, so it’s best to keep an eye out for radiator leaks to avoid this issue. Nissan didn’t issue any recalls related to this problem, but the automaker extended the warranty of the model’s radiator. Unfortunately, many owners weren’t able to take advantage of the extended warranty since most transmission issues appeared much later than 75,000 miles.

Timing Chain Problems

The long list of 2005 Nissan Xterra common problems won’t be complete without discussing the timing chain issues that affect some units of this model year. Drivers of the affected vehicles have reported noticing whining noise coming from the engine before the component stopped working.

If not addressed, issues involving the Xterra’s timing chain tensioners, guides, and shoes can cause engine rattling and acceleration problems. In the worst cases, they may even contribute to engine failure.

This problem was so common that a class-action lawsuit was filed against the automaker. Nissan agreed to cover $450 of the total repair cost for this issue. However, this only covered Xterra’s with less than 100,00 miles.

Depending on the extent of the damage, you may have to replace your timing chain or the whole engine to solve the issue. Repairs can cost you over $2,000 on parts and labor.

Fuel Injector Failure

Drivability issues due to faulty fuel injectors are also common across several Nissan Xterra model years. Bad fuel injectors may cause engine misfires. You may notice a decrease in your engine’s performance, hesitation when accelerating, and excessive vibrations when one of your ride’s fuel injectors starts failing.

nissan xterra off road
Drivability issues due to faulty fuel injectors have been reported by owners of several Nissan Xterra model years.

In most cases, the check engine light activates once it detects issues caused by a bad fuel injector. However, it may not illuminate if a corroded or clogged connector within the fuel injector caused the problem.

Fuel injector failure affected many units belonging to the 2000-2004 Nissan model years. Replacing the faulty part solved the issue on most affected vehicles.

Clogged EGR Valve

Several 2000 and 2002 Nissan Xterra owners have also complained about engine misfires due to a clogged exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) valve. The affected valves were usually clogged with carbon, which caused moderate to severe engine misfires when speeding up. Cleaning the EGR valve and valve passages usually solved the issue.

As long as you’re aware of the potential problems you may encounter with your Xterra, buying one should come with a little risk. If you’d like to know if the model you want to buy is part of any recall, you can check out our guide or visit the NHTSA site for more information.

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Vehicle Reliability

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