Some Nissan fans may remember the Xterra SUV, which was released by the automaker in 1999. The vehicle was generally well-liked for its powerful V6 engine and plentiful off-roading upgrades. Some even considered it a competitor for the Jeep Wrangler.
However, the SUV was eventually discontinued in 2015. The Xterra could not comply with higher emissions regulations at the time. Nissan did not want to upgrade the Xterra to make this possible. However, a new Xterra could be coming for the 2021 model year. In the meantime, you can purchase a used Nissan Xterra, but you should probably avoid the model from 2005.
The Nissan Xterra suffered from radiator leaks
According to Car Complaints, the Nissan Xterra from 2005 gave its drivers many expensive problems. The most common issue was a radiator that would leak fluid into the transmission system. Drivers on RepairPal also reported that this problem occurred even when the radiator cap was screwed on tight.
The issue seems to be most common once the car has 100,000-130,000 miles on the odometer. Some drivers reported the problem much earlier at 75,000 miles. For drivers who managed to catch the problem in time, only the lower intake manifold needed to be fixed. These usually cost around $400-$600 to repair.
Like the Nissan Pathfinder, the Nissan Xterra was a victim of the “strawberry milkshake” problem. This refers to the color combination of the coolant and transmission fluid when leaks occurred. This mixture can speed up corrosion and cause the transmission to slip or overheat.
The majority of Xterra drivers experienced radiator leaks so severe that the car’s entire transmission was shot. Transmission problems are some of the most expensive car problems to fix. If you bought your car used, a new transmission may even end up costing more than the actual car.
The usual cost for a new transmission is around $3,890. However, many drivers also had to have the radiator replaced along with the transmission. Even worse, some drivers found that the radiator leaks were a reoccurring issue.
One driver reported that they paid over $10,000 trying to fix their Xterra. No recalls were issued by Nissan, but it did extend the radiator’s warranty. However, since the warranty expired after 75,000 miles, many drivers were not compensated for repair costs.
While not as common as the leaking radiator, you may also experience engine problems in a 2005 Nissan Xterra. The most severe problem was a faulty timing chain. Drivers reported hearing a whining noise from the engine before the belt stopped working.
Like the leaking radiator, this issue is most common once the Xterra reaches the 130,000-mile mark. Drivers reported paying almost $3,000 to have the timing chain replaced. Nissan did not offer to cover the repairs, leading some drivers to think that the automaker knew about the Xterra’s potential failures.
A class-action lawsuit over the defective timing chain was settled in February. However, under the terms of the settlement, vehicles with over 120,000 miles were not eligible for recompensated repairs. If the car had below 100,000 miles, Nissan only offered to cover $450 of the SUV’s total repair cost.
Things didn’t improve for the Xterra in the 2006 and 2007 model years. Drivers still reported leaking coolant and transmission failures, though it was a little less common. By 2009, there were barely any complaints about leaky radiators.
Which Nissan Xterra should you buy?
We’d recommend any used Xterra from 2009 or later. Models from 2013 only have minor complaints about the car’s paint quality and a squeaky suspension. These models usually cost double the price of a $5,000 Xterra from 2005. Still, you most likely won’t have to buy a new $3,000 transmission for it.