When Will My Xterra Die?
June 8, 2010 12:34 PM   Subscribe

I have a 2004 Nissan Xterra. It has 91,000 miles on it. When should I expect it to die/produce a major mechanical problem?

This vehicle has been very reliable and has produced absolutely zero mechanical problems on it throughout the 6 years I've had it (bought it brand new). It's no longer my primary vehicle but does get use when we buy big things or have to pull something large or go camping, etc. I'm trying to balance how long i should keep this vehicle vs selling it before something major goes wrong to get out of it as much as I can. It's paid off.

Is there something on the web that tracks other people's problems with specific vehicle models? Does this type of information transcend vehicle model (as in, 'you should expect tranny problems any time after 140k miles for most SUVs, 115k+ for most sedans' etc). Is the whole thing a wait & pray situation?

Are there specific things I should do now to extend the life of the vehicle? I've been pretty good about routine maintenance (oil changes, fluid flush, brakes) but haven't done anything major (nor has anything been recommended).
posted by shew to Travel & Transportation (9 answers total)
Timing belt? Usually that's around 90k.

(Yes, I realize that this is my stock answer for "dude, what should I do to my car?".)
posted by Madamina at 12:50 PM on June 8, 2010

It's paid off.
The smartest thing to do is keep it. It'd be amazing to find that your repair bills over the course of a year exceed the cost of a years worth of car payments.

That aside, most of what's going to go wrong will be unpredictable. Around now, stuff like knock sensors and oxygen sensors are reaching their age limits. I see a lot of knock sensor problems on V6 Nissans. The sedans are easier to fix, because the front wheel drive configuraton gives me a little more access to the sensor, but the SUVs require a few hours of labor. Nissan burries the knock sensor under the intake manifold.
Generally, there'll be physical deterioration issues. On any car over 100k, exhaust will start to rot, front-end components are going to get creakier and weaker, and air conditioning seals are going to start to crap out. Nothing predictible. Just little stuff here and there.
But, aside from that, nothing jumps out at me as a big epidemic problem that all Nissan Xterras seem to have. I can't really say,"Oh yeah, at 95,000 miles, every Nissan seems to do XYZ."
posted by Jon-o at 12:51 PM on June 8, 2010

Your Xterra engine has a timing chain, so that won't require changing.
Frankly, Nissans are pretty sturdy vehicles, as long as you do regular maintenance. Change the oil and filters at regular intervals. You're probably due for new plugs.

We've had two Nissans (Maximas) and they both were running great after 300k miles.
posted by Thorzdad at 12:58 PM on June 8, 2010

Your Xterra engine has a timing chain, so that won't require changing.

Timing chains have a service life too. They are not, by any means, 'fit and forget' components. They may last longer than belts, but they will need replacing at some point - check your maintenance schedule for more details.

If you have a fully paid off car and can afford to do the manufacturer recommended service (including things like timing chains and internal elements like that) then, as Jon-o says, you are very likely to be saving money compared to new car payments. An inherently reliable car plus good preventative maintenance is a very good place to be in, in terms of car ownership costs and convenience.
posted by Brockles at 1:11 PM on June 8, 2010

You obviously know your vehicle well. If you want to learn from a bunch of other Xterra owners who know their vehicles well and get the benefit of the Xterra hive mind, join a Nissan Xterra Forum or two. You probably have some good info to share with them as well.
posted by Doohickie at 1:13 PM on June 8, 2010

I have a 2001 XTerra with about 110K miles. I had to replace the radiator about 5000 miles ago, and the shocks & struts need replacing when I have the cash for it, but other than that it has been a tremendously reliable vehicle. My car guy says that I'll be able to drive it as long as I want if we keep on top of suggested maintenance.
posted by catlet at 1:30 PM on June 8, 2010

Your Xterra engine has a timing chain, so that won't require changing.

Actually, that's only in the rarer 4-cyl version. The V6 has a belt, and it needs changing.

Otherwise, what Jon-O said -- slap some new shocks on 'er and get ready to spend a little bit of dough on annoying things like sensors and window regulators. On the whole, this car will most likely happily run to more than 200k as long as you stick with the service intervals, and it'll be a whole lot cheaper and less worrisome than car payments.

Lots of people sell cars they bought new at the 70-90k point, and they're usually purchased by cheap bastards like me who don't really mind the annoyances of a car in the second half of its life.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 3:24 PM on June 8, 2010

you should really get rid of that p.o.s. now. memail me.
posted by yesster at 8:12 PM on June 8, 2010

Once you reach a certain point, the maintenance history of the vehicle is way more important than the actual mileage. A well maintained 200K mile old vehicle is better than one that's seen poor preventative maintenance at 125K. My car has had a pretty cushy life, and at 230K miles it's still rock solid and I'd expect it to hit 300K without much trouble.

The benefit of older cars is the number of 'em in junkyards and being parted out by folks on the 'net. Even major components can be had relatively cheaply. My 20 year old BMW may very well need an engine at some point, but a low-mile used one will be something like $750, as opposed to $3K on my wife's newer Volkswagen. If it's already in good shape, it's always cheaper to keep an old car than to buy a newer one, especially if you factor in the insurance costs.
posted by pjaust at 4:26 PM on June 9, 2010

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