2012 Nissan Xterra

Update your progress on your various car projects.

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GMJohnny
Posts: 852
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Location: Auburn Twp, Oh

Re: 2012 Nissan Xterra

Postby GMJohnny » Sun Jan 21, 2018 6:58 am

I hope your wiring for your trailer lights is as easy as you think. I had struggles with both the Saab and
the new Regal. Basically, there are five wires that need to go into four and the unit that does that requires
12v power to the back of the vehicle. It was a 12 gauge wire also. It was worse on the Regal because the
cabin area was sealed so well. I'm not sure that your application requires that, but I'm sure you'll let us
know. While you're waiting for parts to come in, you should make a point of it to roll under the truck two
to three times a day to get in better shape.

GM

AKROVER
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Location: Anchorage, Alaska

Re: 2012 Nissan Xterra

Postby AKROVER » Sun Jan 28, 2018 4:49 pm

The rest of the parts arrived and of course the temperature dropped for the bulk of the work. It at least warmed back up for the finishing touches. The remaining wiring was also stupid easy. There were three connectors to simply snap in, although all were in complicated locations.

The project wasn’t without challenges, though. The biggest was my lifelong frustration with setting up a vehicle for towing, where to put the plug on the vehicle. This one was particularly annoying as the hitch already ate up a ton of my departure angle and the normal location that the ‘professional’ installers use is below the hitch. Sorry, on an off-road capable vehicle the lowest clearance point should never be electrical. The hitch can take a hit or two, but a plastic electrical plug is doomed. I decided to drill the bumper.

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I wanted to put the plug more toward the center, next to the license plate, but the plug was too big to fit above the license plate light so I was forced to put it on the flat part further out. A two inch hole saw made quick work of the old-school metal bumper, but left me with major concerns for rust prevention in salty Buffalo. I used a halogen work lamp as a heat lamp to heat up the bumper prior to spraying some Rustoleum on my new holes, but it probably will need revisited in the spring. I will also be looking for some black hardware as those bright screws look bad on the black plug. I was a little tired when I went to Home Depot so I just grabbed something to make it work.

I figured I should test everything. The first attempt was a disaster. It turns out that you shouldn’t believe everything you find on the internet. Someone had the pins all wrong in their diagram. I found a more trustworthy source of information and my testing then went smoothly except for the one issue known going into this. Some Nissans had two wires reversed in the factory wiring and mine turned out to be one of them. The fix was relatively easy, reversing two pins in a connector, but some idiot popped the pins out before noting which was where to begin with. With a 50-50 chance actually going my way, the wiring all checks out except for the brake controller, which I can’t completely test on my own. The minimal testing implies that things are good there. Hopefully there will be no troubleshooting to be done when picking up the trailer.

I also bought a wireless hitch camera. The camera has a magnetic base and runs on a 9 volt battery. It communicates wirelessly to the small display that hangs on a flexible arm from the cigarette lighter in the vehicle. By sticking the camera to the tailgate and pointing down at the hitch, I should be able to hook up without any assistance. The specifications imply that it also works as a backup camera when stuck on the rear bumper of my trailer. The wireless communication has trouble with aluminum trailers, but is supposed to work fine with fiberglass trailers like mine. I thought about installing some permanent cameras, including some lane change assistant cameras, but the trailer is much shorter than my old one so I really shouldn’t need that. A temporary camera for hitching and for backing into camp sites should be all I need to limit the stress on my marriage.

AKROVER
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Location: Anchorage, Alaska

Re: 2012 Nissan Xterra

Postby AKROVER » Wed Feb 07, 2018 11:51 am

Last week was my journey to Dayton to pick up our new trailer.

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The Nissan was mostly a pleasant surprise as a tow vehicle. The Nissan drivetrain handles this trailer much better than my van handled my old trailer and I was loving having a manual for towing, again (I always towed the Mustang with a manual). The 4.0L V-6 is good enough to climb hills at 2500 rpm at 65 mph in fifth gear. Sixth gear is mostly useless, but I can drop the rpm while going down long hills and I rarely need any engine braking with the trailer acting like a parachute. Fifth is a 1:1 ratio with a rear axle ratio of about 3.70. Sixth jumps to 0.769:1, just too steep for this load.

Gas mileage was easily 20% better than my previous travel trailer experience, a little over 11 mpg for the first two tanks, but running well over 12 by the numbers on the trip computer during the last leg as I was driving slower speeds. This trailer does have about 14% less frontal area than the old one and the total rig weight is about 30% less so better mileage was to be expected, but it was still good enough to make me quite happy. The Nissan fuel tank isn’t very large, but stopping for fuel every three hours isn’t a bad thing when trailering.

Stability was well controlled by the weight distributing hitch and the dual axles on the trailer, but I can really feel crosswinds. My return trip was over two days with a halfway stop at GM’s trailer-backing practice facility and guest house. The first day had me running a max of about 65 mph due to the moderate crosswinds. The second day was nearly a disaster as crosswind gusts were terrible through Ohio and then peaked at 47 mph as I passed through Erie. Oddly, the rig didn’t seem to move much in the lane, but I felt like I was getting hammered with every change in wind velocity. I think I was feeling some sideways movement in the squishy sidewalls of the Nissan’s tires along with quite a bit of body roll allowed by the Nissan’s soft suspension. I will definitely put on stiffer tires when I replace them and I could add cheap air bags to stiffen the springs for towing if this continues to be an annoyance. It was not exactly a fair test, though. Conditions were so bad that someone else lost their travel trailer into the median, rolled and totaled. It appeared to be a commercial driver rather than an individual owner. Most travel trailers are delivered to the dealerships by people with big pickups working as contractors and right now is not exactly camping season, but it is delivery season. Seeing someone else lose a brand new trailer in the wind ended my white-knuckle drive as I immediately got off the freeway and took the low speed roads home from there, dealing just with drifted over roads rather than the exposure to gusts on the often-elevated interstate while trying to maintain a non-hazardous speed. The slow road was actually drama free, once I calmed down. Overall, I am pretty excited by the Nissan as a tow vehicle, but I never want to be in crosswinds like that again.

The narrow Nissan didn’t provide much of a view out the back. I remembered being able to see more of the traffic behind me in the van. That was wider vehicle, but with a wider trailer. A quick search on side view mirror requirements reminded me that most states require having the view from both sides converge at 200 feet behind the trailer. I pretty much had parallel views down the sides that probably never converged. I needed wider mirrors just to be legal. I hate the strap-on extension mirrors so I did a quick search for something more custom for the Nissan. I was shocked to find that someone made replacement towing mirrors that fit the Xterra. The likely explanation is that it shares much of its sheet metal with the Frontier pickup which has a higher towing rating so the mirrors are probably primarily sold for the pickup. These are larger mirrors mounted on dual posts that can be extended outward when towing or slid inward for normal use. There is a separate blind-spot convex mirror across the bottom. They came with both black and chrome covers, but the Xterra is more of a black plastic kind of vehicle than a fancy chrome one. The mirrors were expensive at $260, but they even connect directly to the existing wiring retaining the ability to adjust the direction of the mirror from the control on the dash. The extension is completely manual, but that is much easier than putting on a goofy looking mirror attachment. The installation was perfectly simple. The old days of aftermarket customization with generic fitting equipment seem so archaic when compared to direct and precise fit like this. The only annoying part of the installation was that the electrical connection was hidden behind the door skin and the removal of the door skin involves several plastic clip in pieces that always sound like they are breaking as you take them apart. A couple of them did stress crack, but not enough to preclude going back together reasonably tight, this time anyway. The mirror, itself, only required removing a simple plastic panel to access the three nuts holding it on. The entire process would have taken only about an hour, but the first door skin took a bit longer to figure out (I was being too gentle). I am really excited about this upgrade so I think that makes me a real geek. The image below cycles through three frames showing the original mirror, the new mirror, and the new mirror in the extended position.

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GMJohnny
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Re: 2012 Nissan Xterra

Postby GMJohnny » Wed Feb 07, 2018 2:47 pm

Your mirrors are a nice upgrade. I like how they look like a stock mirror. If you didn't
mention that you put them on, nobody but a Nissan expert would know. You'll like the
larger size mirror and they definitely will give you a better view while hauling. Plus,
you actually got to work on a vehicle again. That's how addictions start. What's the next
upgrade??

GM

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Basement Paul
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Re: 2012 Nissan Xterra

Postby Basement Paul » Wed Feb 07, 2018 8:02 pm

The winter tires on my Ram have a much higher load rating (they're for a 1 ton pickup) and although the ride is noticeably firmer, most likely due to the significantly higher pressure ratings, when I'm hauling a heavy load there's a big difference in the amount of sway from the rear. Normally I'll haul steel scrap for work, which is typically 1200-1800 lbs and it gets put almost completely to the back of the bed to make it easier to unload. That heavier ply tire will help with the sway a lot. I also have helper air bags in the back. They're inexpensive, and will fix the sag in the back of your Nissan when it's loaded without messing up the ride when it's not. A bit of caution though, the heavier ply tire will mess up your ride and hurt your mileage because the tires themselves are sooo much heavier than the standard tire.

Love the mirrors.

-BP

AKROVER
Posts: 126
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Re: 2012 Nissan Xterra

Postby AKROVER » Sat Feb 24, 2018 11:02 am

Last week’s progress was just some overdue wiring cleanup. I installed an add-on 12 volt outlet with 2 USB charging outlets under the dash and plugged my phone and my GPS in there. This freed up both the factory outlets, one on the dash and one in the center console, while hiding some annoying wires. The hard part of the project was disassembling the dash far enough to find a circuit to supply the power, but the dash actually comes apart relatively easily.

This week was tire week. It was good to finally get MostMint’s voice out of my head; “those tires are six years old”. Every time I got in the car, there he was, right inside my head. The old tires were actually old and abused and with a cross-country towing trip coming up and a new cut on a sidewall showing up, it was time to spend the money to replace tires that had only 14,000 miles and a lot of tread left. Tire research is extremely painful. It is rare to find actual data and if you read enough user reviews, you will find complaints about all tires for all conditions. Luckily I had forced myself to narrow down my choices to a few when I stumbled on an article with actual test data that included most of the tires on my short list. They picked the cheapest tire on my list and then so did I, the Cooper AT3 in LT265/75R16 load range E. They weigh 48 pounds per tire versus the 40 pounds of my original tires. I must be somewhat insensitive as I haven’t noticed much difference in how they ride, although wet grip seems phenomenal as I really couldn’t spin them in the rain yesterday (well, maybe the tires are just too heavy for me to spin them now). So far I have only driven them at the same tire pressure as the originals, a mere 35 psi. At that pressure, they did reduce sidewall flex by almost a third, according to my improvised garage testing. Yesterday I bought a small air compressor and so I aired them up to 44 psi, my rough guess of where I will want to be for towing. When I ran my rocking test again to measure sidewall flex at the higher pressure, I found something strange. The higher pressure actually reduced body roll and so I couldn’t run the test to the same level of body roll. Even shaking the vehicle violently didn’t achieve the same amount of body roll, but I did create more sidewall flex under those efforts. I had assumed that all the body roll was in the springs, but apparently a good portion of it was in the tire. That actually implies that the tire upgrade will help my sense of stability more than I anticipated. I am still contemplating air bags, but I don’t really want the hassles of maintaining pressures if I don’t need them.

Oh, I almost forgot and I know you fashion-conscious readers were going to ask, black lettering this time.

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MostMint
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Re: 2012 Nissan Xterra

Postby MostMint » Sat Feb 24, 2018 11:05 pm

Sidewall construction have a huge affect on how the vehicle handles. At work I had the chance to drive the same car with two different style of tire. The difference was amazing. A performance tire immediately improved feedback from the road and responsiveness.

I can’t tell you the best way to get this kind of information other than if u can find a good tire dealer.
[quote="Basement Paul"]Is that a mint rocketship on the hood?? :shock:
-BP[/quote]

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GMJohnny
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Re: 2012 Nissan Xterra

Postby GMJohnny » Sun Feb 25, 2018 5:38 am

Most of my experience with body roll and stability comes in big trucks. I can tell you
that we purchased a single rear axle truck ( it looks like a truck that you see hauling a beer trailer )
that has an air bag system on it. It's wonderful. The loads that truck hauls are, of course, way
bigger than you would be dealing with, but the outcome should be the same. The bags totally
stabilize the whole back of the truck. Our old version of this truck, with the same trailer had
a 12" stack of leaf springs on it and could be squished down in the back when put under a load
that was not completely centered over the axle of the trailer. It made for an uncomfortable feel
that has gone away completely with the bags. It is impossible with that system on the new truck
to load the trailer in a way that makes the back of the vehicle lower than the front. In my mind,
bags are a no brainer for your vehicle. I wouldn't be so concerned if you had a truck with a long
wheelbase, but the squatty look it has with the trailer on it would make me want bags. Our truck
has auto-level, which is great when working, but might be a failure potential in the future. I think
that just blowing them up when you need to hit the road would be pretty easy. A 12v cigarette lighter
compressor could blow them up I'm sure.

GM

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MostMint
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Re: 2012 Nissan Xterra

Postby MostMint » Sun Feb 25, 2018 5:37 pm

Not sure if Firestone Ride-Rite is available for your Nissan but we do make those systems
[quote="Basement Paul"]Is that a mint rocketship on the hood?? :shock:
-BP[/quote]

AKROVER
Posts: 126
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Location: Anchorage, Alaska

Re: 2012 Nissan Xterra

Postby AKROVER » Sun Feb 25, 2018 6:30 pm

There are two systems available for the Xterra. The Firestone (actually called the Sport Rite, probably because it has less weight handling than the bigger truck systems) is the better one because they used the existing bolts for the travel stop and because they cover the full range of stock suspension travel. The competitor requires a drill into the frame and then might pop if you put the vehicle on a lift and the axle goes to full droop. I am seriously considering the Firestones. They seem to be about $270 so not horribly expensive. I keep hovering over the buy button.

AKROVER
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Joined: Thu Sep 01, 2005 2:49 am
Location: Anchorage, Alaska

Re: 2012 Nissan Xterra

Postby AKROVER » Fri Mar 16, 2018 8:44 pm

The Xterra now has air helper springs. I bought the Firestone kit. The installation was relatively easy, but I did break a bolt in the process (common problem on Xterra forum). I was able to drill the weld on the welded nut and pop it off. I then replaced it with a conventional bolt. The nut is actually pretty easy to access, as long as I remove the wheel.

The air bags have been a bit of a frustration. The driver’s side was leaking down slowly and whenever I put a gauge on to check, I always seemed to let out enough air to lower the pressure even further. I really want a permanent gauge in the system, but I haven’t figured out a good way of doing that yet. After keeping them as separate circuits for a week, I decided it was unnecessary and risked having one leak down and not the other which could be really bad while towing. There are some recommendations to keep them separate as it theoretically reduces body roll, but the rate at which air moves from one side to the other when only one side is compressed has to be pretty slow through that ¼” tubing. Perhaps on an extended curve, I might see more body roll develop late in the curve as air moves from one side to the other, but that really isn’t much of a concern with the way I drive. I am more concerned about quick movements caused by wind gusts and the air isn’t going to move that fast so the pressure will resist much better than the stock suspension and probably not meaningfully different than keeping the two air bags separate. So I put in a tee which gives the added benefit of doubling the volume of the system which makes it easier to dial the pressure up or down as it doesn’t change so quickly. It also diminishes the effect of air lost putting a gauge on, but I also picked up a cheap tiny gauge that doesn’t use much air so that helped, too. The problem, of course, is that every new connection is a potential leak point. I could hear one of the leaks right after installing the tee and fixed that. Oddly that was not in the tee, but moving the air lines around caused another fitting to leak and of course that required removing a wheel to access it. Something was still leaking after that fix. I crawled back underneath yesterday morning with some soapy water and found it, one of the branches on the new tee. The bubble test was showing no further leaks, but the pressure did drop a few pounds overnight, although that was from an elevated pressure I would likely never run. I dropped the pressure to a reasonable range this morning and it appears to be holding reasonably well. Actually, pressure went up over the course of the day according to my readings, but it could be temperature and it could be the 30 lbs of stuff I through in the back since setting the pressure. I think it will be something to monitor over a longer period of time. I really need to figure out a place to mount a permanent gauge, but that will require adding another tee and several more potential leak points, something I am not thrilled with taking on right now.

I can’t really tell yet if the air springs made a meaningful difference to me. I inflated to about 30 psi when I towed the trailer to get its New York state inspection and everything seemed to sit pretty level and normal at that pressure, but that was a short trip. I need to get some better measurements (it was a snowy day when I got the inspection done so I didn’t spend too much time with it). Without the trailer, the rear lifts a little over an inch at 30 psi. I haven’t really noticed any harshness with the pressure up, but I probably need to experiment more with high and low pressures in both the tires and the air bags to really understand the effects on ride quality. For towing, the new tires and the air springs should feel a lot less loose, but I think I still have some experimenting to do to dial everything in. Even the weight distributing hitch is now in question as it was originally set without the air springs and the now higher rear ride height will reduce the load on the spring bars and therefore lighten up the front end of the truck. I did get a feeling that the front end was a little light when I went to the inspection, but the proper method is to measure sag/lift. Without the weight distributing hitch, the front end will actually lift with the trailer attached (the tongue weight is applied far behind the rear axle so it acts like a lever). The spring bars are supposed to at least return the front end to a neutral height.
While I was in the garage yesterday, I fabricated a light duty shelf for the cargo area. A piece of wire shelving easily hung from four hooks in the ceiling. I had a similar shelf in the van that was always useful for small things. I wish I would have done this earlier as it is a good place to put ski gloves and scarves to keep them from sitting on the wet cargo area floor with the skis. The primary long-term use will likely be fishing rods. The open wire shelving is always great because small bungee cords have infinite ways of hooking to secure things. The shelf is easily removable – two carabiner clips at the rear and then tip to unhook the front. It took a couple iterations of hangers to get something that will be silent over rough roads, but I think I actually have a pretty slick solution.

AKROVER
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Location: Anchorage, Alaska

Re: 2012 Nissan Xterra

Postby AKROVER » Thu May 31, 2018 11:28 am

The Nissan now has over 20K miles. The big chunk in its life is our recent trip out to South Dakota. I towed just over 3000 miles and then drove around the Black Hills at least another thousand looking for real estate (we bought land to build a retirement home on). Life was pretty busy prior to the trip so it looks like I have some catching up to do.

I think I have the towing situation pretty well dialed in now. It was an iterative process. Adding the air suspension took the weight off the weight distributing bars on the hitch. Adjusting the weight distributing bars was a pain and it then took weight off the rear suspension, causing a need to adjust the air suspension pressure. A little instability one day had me bumping up both the air springs and the rear tires, an adjustment that seemed worthwhile. I am now running 25 psi in the air springs and 60 psi in the rear tires (50 up front). The higher tire pressure is helping with fuel economy, too, and I am not sensing any unevenness in the wear. Harshness doesn’t seem to be a problem as the suspension is still pretty friendly, even with the air bags pressurized. With the trailer, the Nissan sits perfectly by all metrics, but the trailer is running up hill slightly. If I had another hole in the hitch to adjust height, I probably would, but I am not going to buy the longer piece ($100) as I don’t think it is technically out of specification (I still need to check measurements a few more times on level ground but truly level ground seems hard to find).

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The rig is still a pain in cross winds and we had some real challenging conditions on the trip. We had gale warnings as we left home and then South Dakota delivered wicked winds across the plains, but only on our way out. I don’t recall having such bad luck in two years on the road with the other trailer, but I suspect this rig is just so light and has such short wheelbases that it makes the winds more noticeable. I thought I was developing an alignment problem as I found myself looking at a cocked steering wheel while going down the road straight. It was particularly odd since the wheel was cocked in the same direction as the wind, rather than into it. The next day, the winds were across the other way and the steering wheel was once again cocked with the wind. I realized that the trailer is being dragged sideways by the wind and pulling the back of the truck with it, requiring me to counter steer quite noticeably (picture below is going straight down the road with steady wind from the right). Of course fuel economy is horrendous in this situation.

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With steady, light, or no cross wind, the rig is actually more stable than my old rig. I even set cruise control at 73 mph one day. I never had my previous trailer beyond 71. I really could have gone faster in this rig as it felt perfectly stable at 73, but the gas gauge was clearly moving too fast. The aerodynamics of the trailer are terrible so speed just kills my fuel economy. When I stay below 60, I have seen fuel economy up to 14 mpg for meaningful time periods. Through Chicago’s lower speed limits and traffic, I even saw better than 12 mpg for an entire tank, but at 70 mph, even under favorable winds, I am down below 10 mpg. In high speed crab mode, with cross winds cocking the steering wheel, I had a hard time even getting to 9 mpg. If I pump 17 gallons of fuel, it is because I was sucking fumes, so I typically was only pumping 14 on a fuel stop which does mean that fuel stops come frequently and then require advance planning in states like SD where fuel stops can be 40 miles apart.

This week, I installed an oil pressure gauge on the air line to the air suspension. It was a GMJohnny reject so the price was better than what I passed on at Carlisle, but it is a 0-100 psi which isn’t the best range for maintaining the required minimum of 10 or even my maximum for towing of 25. It does have a white face just like my factory gauges so it almost looks like it belongs in the truck. I wasn’t sure where to install it, but for something that only needs to be checked prior to driving, it was more about keeping it out of the way than finding a clean installation. I would have mounted it to the side of the driver’s seat base if the subwoofer hadn’t precluded that, but tearing apart the center console revealed adequate depth to just mount it under the parking brake handle. It is an odd spot for a gauge, but it is so much nicer knowing that my air shocks have air (they still slowly leak down and need recharged about once a week). This would also give me an easy installation of a small compressor for charging the shocks from the driver’s seat as a potential later upgrade. I did not yet power the light on the gauge so that is another potential future upgrade. The gauge installation was a painful project as we seem to have gone instantly from a garage that is painfully cold to one that is painfully hot. South Dakota’s dusty roads put a nice layer of stuff to drop into my eyes as I routed the lines and attached the fittings underneath the truck. Working alone gave me plenty of exercise as I still seem to be clueless about what tools I will need when I get under there and always seem to be climbing back out repeatedly. I am enjoying doing small projects again, but I might be too old to actually have a car that needs real work.

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As an appearance change, I removed the front mudflaps and the rear plastic trim/mudflap that sits in front of the rear wheel openings. The Xterra does look a little cartoonish with all its bulges and various plasticky trim pieces in various shades of gray so it looks maybe a little less cartoonish. With some muddy roads on our trip, I wasn’t impressed with the coverage of the front flaps so I don’t think it really risks the sheet metal by removing them. There are reports of those fronts catching on things while off road and being stiff plastic, actually bending the sheet metal that they are attached to, but I have done a lot of offroading and only ever hit the rears which are staying on to protect the trailer. I am less worried about the rears as they attach to plastic body parts, rather than metal. The fronts were actually vibrating a little and creating some scratches in the paint so perhaps I have headed off a problem there. Both the fronts and those trim pieces on the rear were loaded up with dirt which can’t be good for the long term rust prevention of the metal they attach to, particularly while residing in a heavy road salt part of the world. The first picture was taken in our future SD front yard. That mud flap thingy in front of the rear wheel almost looks like it concentrates dirt more than deflects it. The second picture shows the flaps removed.


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