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2012 Nissan Xterra

Posted: Fri Nov 18, 2016 4:37 am
I never started a thread for this vehicle because I never intended to do anything with it. My plan when I bought it was to take it to Africa and then sell it there. Well, the political situation was beginning to get unstable as we left Africa and the rich people were not spending money. It even turned a little bloody since then so it was a good time to leave. Most of the people who left at that time ended up taking their vehicles with them as the market was a little unusual. I wasn’t too upset because I really like this truck.

Since I am now living in Australia and the vehicle is not legal here, the US Government has it in storage for me in Belgium. When we leave here next year for a two or three year assignment in Buffalo, New York (my wife will be a customer service manager at a passport agency there), I will be reunited with the vehicle.

There is an argument to just sell it. It sounds like a gem, a 2012 with less than 9,000 miles on it, but it isn’t like low mileage is going to make a Nissan Xterra worth a lot and it really should be a good vehicle for Buffalo winters. There are some problems and since I have been thinking about it, I thought I would start a list of things that need to be done so that when I get it back, I won’t forget anything. If you think of things that you would check on a vehicle that has seen nothing but harsh service and then been put in storage for two years, please feel free to give me some suggestions.

I will need to register the vehicle. It had South Dakota plates for the six months I used it in DC and it still has a SD title. We will eventually need to put NY plates on it, but we can’t do that until we have an address. I will probably just get SD plates as the registration fee isn’t that high and that will allow me to use it during our vacation between assignments and up to the point that we find a permanent place to live and can establish NY state residence.

The top of the tailgate was damaged in shipment to Africa. Someone tried to back my 75” tall truck under a 70” high obstacle and gave it a couple of ugly marks. I never filed a claim or had it fixed because there is no such thing as a body shop in Brazzaville. You should have seen some of the body work we had done for the embassy fleet. It looked like the kind of stuff we all did on our first cars, maybe even worse as the paint quality was simply horrible there. At any rate, these marks will need a little touchup before winter salt service. There are a few other minor dents from: contact with a stationary pickup (my fault, but the pickup got the worst of that and it only cost me $100), contact with a tree (I suppose my fault but I was yanking a friend out of some deep sand hours from the nearest real road), contact with one of the green third-world-version Toyota Corolla taxis that were 90% of the vehicles on the road(stupid taxi driver’s fault and all I managed to do about it was make a scene by being the white guy who got out of his vehicle in bumper to bumper traffic – not an effective strategy), and contact with a mango (no one’s fault, although I wasn’t happy about having my only parking space at home be under a mango tree).

The vehicle needs detailed. It hasn’t been waxed. It spent the entire two years in Africa parked outdoors. Nasty soot from the garbage burning in the streets turned the white roof very dark gray. My gardener (yes, I had hired help for next to nothing) never washed the roof of the vehicle because he was too short, but he washed the rest of the vehicle twice a week with rags that were probably not kept clean enough. In spite of all that, I think the paint is in good shape, but it will need checked out.

The rear suspension squeaks. My short drive to the embassy each day was essentially in offroad conditions and I used to just have fun with it. I don’t know if something is broken under there. I might need a tiresmoker to jump on the bumper while I crawl underneath to find the source of the squeak. I think the Bilstein shocks are still good, but they deserve a good inspection/test, too, as they have seen a lot of cycles.

The tires will need a careful inspection. They have been bounced over curbs countless times. Parking was often on the sidewalks. My favorite parking place at the ironically named grocery store, Park-n-Shop, was a sidewalk too tall for most vehicles so it was always available and never double parked. Sometimes driving was on the sidewalks, too, as cars just seemed to stop in the middle of the street so there was only one way around. Sometimes there were potholes so deep that other vehicles got stuck in them or at least bottomed out with a sickening scraping crunch sound. I spent two years in a horrible place. I know the tread is still good, but that might not be enough.

It will need an oil change. The last oil change was a disaster. I had the embassy mechanics do the oil change for me while I went to lunch one day. When I got back, the head mechanic was revving my engine fiercely for no apparent reason which I put to an immediate stop with my stumbling French language skills. Then I discovered that the mechanic who actually did the work assumed that the two giant bottles of oil that I provided was the right amount of oil for an oil change. The correct amount was actually one bottle and only about a quart out of the second. Since this was my last oil change in Congo, I did not have any more oil in my personal supplies and the oil that they just put in the vehicle would have cost over a hundred dollars locally. There was no pump for removing oil so I laughed as the head mechanic paid a high price for revving my engine until hot because he had to burn his fingers while trying to drain the oil back down to the correct level through the drain plug. Rather than risk going low, I stopped him when the level was still showing just a little high on the stick. I drove it that way for a month and then it went to storage. Did I mention that I spent two years in a horrible place? Or that these were the guys maintaining a fleet of 40 US Government vehicles?

The wipers will need inspected. I had a spare set with me but I never installed them as the original ones were still working well. It was quite hot in Brazzaville at just four degrees below the equator, but it was always a little overcast so I don’t think the u/v was all that bad. I figured the wipers would have rotted off in the first year, but they were still working great in the last rainy season as we left.

The neutral safety switch needs fixed. The rubber piece that activates the switch disintegrated, probably due to the interior of the vehicle often being over 100 degrees. It currently has a duct tape solution in place. I can’t tell you how disturbing it is to come out of a restaurant and find your truck won’t start in a country with no tow trucks, mechanics like the ones described above, and no local supply of Nissan parts. I had to fight through panic to diagnose this simple problem.

Everything underneath needs inspection and lubrication. The roads flooded frequently. One flood event was so bad that I drove through over a quarter mile of water only guessing where the road was and only knowing that the water wasn’t too deep because some idiot in front of me volunteered to be a dipstick. There were at least a half dozen shorter vehicles flooded and stalled in that flood. The water did reach the door seals that time, but did not find its way in. A friend and I also routinely competed in mud spraying of the walls along the roads behind the embassy but he never cleared the wall like I did one day; I hope no one was on the other side. I suspect there is dirt everywhere underneath and I hope water didn’t get into the differentials.

The brakes should be inspected. They haven’t seen much mileage, but the assertive nature of driving in the third world does have even a manual transmission vehicle going from throttle to brake repetitively and heavily. The 4.0L V6 really was one of the hottest things in Brazzaville, other than a few Range Rovers that corrupt government officials drove. I was always able to beat those lawn mower engine Toyota taxis off the line when I needed to cut them off, but that usually meant having to brake heavily when running up on the next vehicle in front of me. Throw in all the mud and sand and the brakes might be prematurely worn or damaged.

The cabin microfilter needs to be replaced. I didn’t take one with me. I didn’t even realize there was one until reading the specs on my vehicle recently. That filter is probably really gross and possibly dangerous. Luckily, ebola and malaria can’t be transferred that way. Did I mention that I spent a night in a village that was twice infected with ebola? Did I mention that upon leaving Africa I was given a drug treatment to kill anything I might have picked up and it felt like it was killing me for about a month? To those of you who saw me during that time period, I apologize if I seemed rude.

The air filter will need inspected. It was replaced late in the time in Africa, but it was a filthy dirty dusty place. If the air filter needs replaced again, I probably should start shopping for some new lungs for me.

The fuel filter might need replaced and it might make sense to run some additives through the system. I am a little concerned about the fuel quality that was available in Africa. Luckily I never had to fill up at a local station as we were able to buy our fuel at the embassy and I always kept my adventures under one tank – sometimes barely. The embassy bought fuel in bulk and there weren’t any issues with any of the fleet vehicles, but I don’t think we were getting Chevron’s first world additive package for fuel injected engines. Other people reported a diminishing performance in their engines, but I did not sense any issues.

Anyway, if you read this far, you are having a slow day, but hopefully you found some amusement in my adventures in the third world. Let me know if you have other concerns about my abused low-mileage vehicle. This thread really will be my checklist for returning my vehicle to service which is still about six months away. In reality, it is a low mileage and very capable vehicle that is still in very nice condition. And while I don’t highly value sentimentality in my vehicles, this one really has served me well in vividly memorable ways. It is my Afri-car.

Re: 2012 Nissan Xterra

Posted: Fri Nov 18, 2016 6:29 am
by GMJohnny
My thoughts are:
1) The truck, although it has had a harsh start to life, still has plenty of
engineered integrity and will easily go back into service. If it starts and
moves enough to get it to a place to work on it, you have a wonderful
head start!
2) Fuel.... I'd just run out the first tank and then see what happens. You
might have to drain out the gas because it has gone stale, but I'd be surprised.
3) If you can get it to my garage, we can do all of the inspections you have talked
about with in a couple of beers time. ( Assuming you can get it here ) Otherwise,
a Nissan dealer should be able to do a complete inspection to give you piece of
4) The only really scary thing in my opinion is that you drove it through so much
mud and water. Things like brakes, axle seals and fluids would be my greatest


Re: 2012 Nissan Xterra

Posted: Fri Nov 18, 2016 7:40 am
by MostMint
I don't like driving on tires more than five years old. The rubber starts getting harder which will cost you grip. Find the date code stamped on the tire to determine their age. Check all four tires. It is reasonable to assume thy were manufactured close to the same time but you never know. Also depending on how long the supply chain is, inventory mgt practices at the OE tire maker, and how long the completed vehicle sat before selling these tires could be from 2011.

Re: 2012 Nissan Xterra

Posted: Mon Nov 21, 2016 8:52 am
by wxo
What a great adventure narrative, Tim! You said that your Xterra has very little value, but you are wrong. As they say in the classic car world, this truck has "provenance"!! 8)

Re: 2012 Nissan Xterra

Posted: Tue Nov 22, 2016 7:33 pm
by Basement Paul
This really is a cool and unique experience. I enjoyed reading some of your adventures there, and I'm sure compared to what you wrote, there's a hundred other stories not told. Me, I wouldn't be afraid to just do an oil change, differential fluid changes, and maybe a tranny service. Filters noted above and fresh fuel, and until you see an obvious problem, I wouldn't sweat it. Even five year old tires on this vehicle IMO wouldn't be a big deal as long as there's no signs of cracking or curb damage. If there was some corner carving involved, maybe it would be more of an issue, but this is not a speedster, so you'll probably be OK. Even in Buffalo during a Lake Effect Event, with 4WD, you've seen worse where you were.

I'm guessing you'll be looking forward to being in a little more relaxed environment as provided by Home soil.

Looking forward to seeing you next year.


Re: 2012 Nissan Xterra

Posted: Sat Nov 26, 2016 9:44 pm
GM, I agree one hundred percent with all four points. And after four years living abroad doing constant conversions on units of measurement and currency, I also really appreciated the use of the universal metric for garage time, beers. Even the Australians would understand that. The Congolese would technically have to convert since their beers are almost twice as big as ours, but then the garage time easily doubles due to incompetency so the conversion washes out in the end.

MostMint, you are reliably an advocate for tire age, a meaningful advocacy to someone like me who has run some pretty scary old tires in the past. I have changed my ways. I do think five years is a reasonable limit for certain uses, although those uses would make it very hard to ever come close to that limit. Luckily you did not go so far as to directly recommend that a Nissan Xterra be limited to five year old tires as I would have had to reclassify your advocacy as zealotry :lol: . The age of the tires will help me if I am at all uncertain about the physical condition, but it won’t be the primary factor in a decision of that financial magnitude. Those tires are expensive.

WXO, thanks for the kind words. I am still trying to come to grips with what that life experience really meant to me as I get the whole range of emotions when I think back on it. Luckily, most of my memories related to the Xterra involve laughing hysterically at the absurdity around me. If my anger were associated with the truck, you could end up finding it wrapped around a tree in Buffalo. If a certain dictator ever stepped in front of the truck, though, well, no telling what might happen :evil: .

BP, thanks for some good thoughts. I hadn’t really planned on differential fluid changes, but that might be the cheap easy reassurance on potential water intrusion issues. I don’t think any tranny service is needed as it is a manual (or am I missing something?). And you are right that being Home is something we are looking forward to. The only thing I didn’t like in your post is that you hurt my feelings by calling my truck “not a speedster” and implying that there is no “corner carving” involved. Why do you denigrate my truck like that? We will discuss this issue further in person.

Re: 2012 Nissan Xterra

Posted: Sun Nov 27, 2016 1:09 am
by MostMint
AKROVER wrote:MostMint, you are reliably an advocate for tire age, a meaningful advocacy to someone like me who has run some pretty scary old tires in the past. I have changed my ways. I do think five years is a reasonable limit for certain uses, although those uses would make it very hard to ever come close to that limit. Luckily you did not go so far as to directly recommend that a Nissan Xterra be limited to five year old tires as I would have had to reclassify your advocacy as zealotry :lol: . The age of the tires will help me if I am at all uncertain about the physical condition, but it won’t be the primary factor in a decision of that financial magnitude. Those tires are expensive.

Actually pretty close to a zealot here.

If you look at the physics of driving your entire cars handling is through those four little contact patches. Rubber starts to harden over time and you will have reduced grip for braking and handling, even if there is little or no wear on the tires. This is a fact and my employer has the test results to support it. Most people completely downplay the significance of this (like they say its too expensive :wink: ). If you are driving down the road and nothing is in your way you can probably run old tires down to the cords. It's that rare time when you need the grip that this will pay off. Physics doesn't care if you are driving an Exterra or a Fiesta, and distracted drivers are not checking your tire age before pulling in front of you.

At the end of the day everyone has to make their own decision about tires. I do my best to ensure that none of the vehicles around here are on old tires.

The other two tire things I harp on are correct tire pressure and getting snow tires for the winter. All season tires are a compromise and will not do as well in the snow. You can clearly see this in the ratings on TireRack. I tell people this but few listen. It is usually a cost or space issue when it comes to snow tires.

Re: 2012 Nissan Xterra

Posted: Thu Jan 26, 2017 3:53 pm
We found the license plates so that should allow us to renew the registration online from here. We are still waiting for official orders for our relocation to Buffalo. Until we get those, the truck sits in Belgium. Our arrival date in Buffalo has been pushed way up. We were expecting July and now Kris has her first day of work scheduled for May 31. Hopefully we will get the truck on a boat in the next couple of weeks as it takes about a month for transport. We are still hoping that we will have the truck for our vacation between assignments which should start in mid-April. We will need a second car in Buffalo, anyway, so we can just buy a car when we get back to the States if the Nissan isn't back yet. We have a lot of driving planned for our vacation so we really don't want to have to pay for a rental. Moving internationally is a pain and it is even worse when you have to navigate the federal bureaucracy to make it happen.

Re: 2012 Nissan Xterra

Posted: Thu Jan 26, 2017 10:28 pm
by GMJohnny
Send the truck to Cleveland -- NOW!... Worry about the feds later.


Re: 2012 Nissan Xterra

Posted: Fri Feb 17, 2017 4:52 pm
Moving is a pain. Everything will be harder than it should be. My vehicle was inactive in the online system so I could not just renew the plates. After an email chain finished a complete lap of the old runaround, they finally realized it was a pretty simple matter that was resolved with a 3 minute phone call. At least everyone was remarkably nice and trying to be helpful through the process. They didn't even charge me postage because my mail forwarding service in South Dakota is right across the street from the DMV. The DMV supervisor said she would just carry the plates across the street for me. That really only happens in small towns like Madison SD. Finally a checkmark on the long list of things to do.

Still no orders, but we at least took two steps forward in the process of getting orders. The truck is still sitting in Belgium, at least I hope so. We have temporary housing reserved in Buffalo now, but we will need a permanent address before switching our state of residence to New York. My new truck plates will expire at the end of June so if we don't switch things by then, I will have to renew the South Dakota plates and pay for another year. I really can't worry about problems that cost only about $100, but it is still somewhat annoying as I doubt that we can find a place that quickly. Maybe New York will issue me a temporary tag.

Heads up, GM. We will probably have our mail forwarding service in South Dakota just mail our new plates to you.

Re: 2012 Nissan Xterra

Posted: Sat Feb 18, 2017 6:23 am
by GMJohnny
We've prepared ourselves mentally to be a receiving dock in the next
few months. We're ready!


Re: 2012 Nissan Xterra

Posted: Tue Mar 07, 2017 3:11 am
Orders are cut, things are moving. Belgium is looking for a ship to put the Nissan on. It should be to Cleveland around the same time we arrive.

I called the insurance company and my international insurance that covered storage is good through shipment. Once it lands, I will have to activate normal full coverage. As a South Dakota resident, they quoted me 480 a half for both the Nissan and our new Mazda. That will probably double once we get to New York.

Re: 2012 Nissan Xterra

Posted: Wed Apr 05, 2017 8:49 pm
by GMJohnny
So I got a call today from a Washington phone number. I never answer if I don't recognize
the number, but the person left a voicemail.... The Nissan is on the way. It just showed up
about an hour ago. The driver was a nice guy from Virginia, and had two more cars to drop
and another to pick up before he was done for the day. That'll be a long day for him, as it's
8:45 pm now. Anyhow, the truck started and ran and is now in the barn waiting for the
owner's to reunite with it.

Re: 2012 Nissan Xterra

Posted: Wed Apr 05, 2017 11:06 pm
Here's a couple more pictures that came across the wire. That vehicle has now traveled further by sea, air, and flatbed then it has under its own power. Hey, GM, did you happen to check the odometer? It should be under 7900.


Re: 2012 Nissan Xterra

Posted: Thu Apr 06, 2017 6:19 am
by GMJohnny
I didn't check the odometer when it landed. I didn't really do much other than
figure out how to turn the lights on and get the shift pattern correct. I'll check
the mileage tonight and let you know!