The Nissan Xterra is a front-engine, 2-wheel drive, or 4-wheel drive, five-door, five-passenger, compact SUV that is manufactured and produced by Nissan Motors, a Japanese multinational automobile manufacturer that is headquartered in Yokohama. Produced from the 1999-2015 model years across two different generations, the first generation shared a platform with the Nissan Frontier, while the second generation shared the platform with the more modern Frontier.
Although both Xterra generations varied significantly, both were focused on affordability and the off-road capabilities over luxury and comfort. Both generations used a c-pillar mounted rear door handles, a tailgate bump out, and a two-tiered roof enabling stadium seating.
Worst Complaints About The Nissan Xterra
Nissan Xterra owners have the most trouble with certain categories over various models and generations of production. The biggest problem categories involve the transmission at 6%, the engine at 11%, and the interior at 5%.
Loss of Engine Power
The third highest complaint of the Nissan Xterra involves the sudden loss of power on the freeway, occurring at around 28,000 miles in the 2011 Nissan Xterra. There are frequent complaints of the car not being able to start and the engine stalling during use, along with noise coming from the front of the engine.
The second highest problem includes the coolant leaking into the transmission, occurring at around 112,000 miles in the 2007 Nissan Xterra. This involves the coolant outlet on the lower intake manifold potentially leaking and the fuel injectors possibly failing, causing driveability concerns.
The highest complaint regarding the Nissan Xterra focuses on the radiator leaking and causing transmission failure, with the problem occurring at around 106,000 miles in the 2005 Nissan Xterra. In addition, the check engine light can turn on due to a faulty fuel sensor and the pink coolant in the radiator can cause the transmission problems.
In addition, the 2005 Nissan Xterra had various expensive problems, with the most common issue being the radiator leaking fluid into the transmission system, and the problem occurring once the car has reached between 100,000-130,000 miles on the odometer. The Nissan Xterra also has transmission failure issues, with the corrosion occurring and causing the transmission to slip and overheat.
2005 Nissan Xterra Problems
The 2005 Nissan Xterra was potentially the worst model year, with the 2005-2007 Xterra having a widespread defect with the transmission, causing the transmission failure at an average of around 90,000 miles. The repair costs are generally around $3,500, with the same defect existing in the Pathfinder and the Frontier.
The main categories of concern regarding the 2005 Nissan Xterra involve the transmission and the engine for the users, and the drivetrain and the fuel system for the NHTSA concerns. Users state that with the transmission system there are radiator leaks and transmission failure, the car jerking while driving, the vehicle shuddering while accelerating, the transmission failing, the car not being able to go into low gear, and sludge the transmission fluid. The transmission failure costs around $3,890 to repair, with the most common solution being replacing the radiator and the transmission.
The top engine concerns have the users stating that there was timing chain failure, the engine whining noise, the engine stalling and shutting down while driving, and the service engine soon light coming on. The typical repair cost for the timing chain failure comes in at around $2,320, with the most common solution being to replace the timing chain and the tensioner at around 114,000 miles.
The top category of NHTSA complaints involve the drivetrain, with the 2005 Xterra having issues with the powertrain, the driveline, the differential unit, and the axle shaft. Regarding the powertrain, these issues have resulted in 2 fires, 1 injury, occurring at around 103,000 miles, with users stating that the transmission can fail and the transmission fluid can get dirty.
2006 Nissan Xterra Problems
The 2006 Xterra had the main issues with the transmission and the engine, and the NHTSA complaints regarding the fuel system. The main issues with the transmission deal with the coolant leaking into the transmission, the transmission failing, and the car not being able to go into gear. To remedy the coolant leaking, the typical repair cost is around $3,950 and the most common solution is to replace the radiator and the transmission at around 112,000 miles.
The second category of user complaints deal with the engine, with users stating that the timing chains and the tensioner is faulty, the check engine light turns on, the serpentine belt makes loud noises, and the engine runs rough while accelerating. The typical repair cost comes out to around $1,800, with the most common solution being to replace the chain and the tensioners at around 103,000 miles.
The NHTSA concerns focus on the gasoline, the fuel and propulsion system, the auxiliary tank, the fuel gauge system, and the fuel delivery. These problems have resulted in problems occurring at around 47,000 miles, withusers stating that the fuel gauge never goes below ¼ tank, the car would go empty after filling the tank, the vehicle would stall during use, and the car can stall during driving.
2007 Nissan Xterra Problems
The main category of concern regarding the Nissan Xterra also focuses on the transmission, with the most NHTSA complaints dealing with the fuel system. The top user complaints about the transmission focus on the coolant leaking into the transmission, the car sputtering and vibrating, and the ECM fuse blowing when turning the key. The typical repair cost comes out to around $4,210, with the most common solution being to replace the transmission and the radiator at around 113,000 miles.
The NHTSA lodged the most complaints with the fuel system, the gasoline, the propulsion system, the fuel gauge, the auxiliary tank, and the diesel fuel system. The fuel system issues have occurred at an average of around 55,000 miles, with users stating that the gas meter was not reading correctly, the car running out of gas, the fuel gauge indicating incorrectly, and the fuel sensor showing an incorrect amount of fuel.
2008 Nissan Xterra Problems
The main categories of concern regarding the 2008 Nissan Xterra focus on the transmission and the engine, although there were much fewer complaints than the previous years, with this model year having much fewer issues than the 2005-2007 model years. The 2008 had fewer reports of the coolant leaking into the transmission and hurting the mechanism, but still had many reports of killing the transmission.
The main user reports of the transmission issues deal with the coolant leaking into the transmission, with the typical repair cost coming out to around $5,100 and occurring at around 110,000 miles, with the most common solution being to replace the radiator, the transmission, and the transmission cooler.
2009-2012 Nissan Xterra Problems
The following years of the Nissan Xterra deal with much fewer issues than the 2005-2008 model years, with the 2009-2012 models having very few complaints from both users and the NHTSA. The main categories of concern in the 2009 dealt with the AC and heater, while the 2010 had minor complaints of the interior accessories. The 2011 complaints were also minor, with the main category of complaints focusing on the interior accessories and the 2012 model having issues with the engine.
The 2009 Nissan Xterra user complaints dealt with hygiene smell in the car and the heater blowing cold air during idle, with the engine smell having an average mileage of around 82,000 miles. The 2010 Nissan Xterra problems dealt with the interior accessories, with users stating that all lights on the dashboard turn on at one time.
Regarding the 2011 Nissan Xterra, the interior accessories’ problems continued with the main issue being the iPod connector does not work and the radio can malfunction, while the 2012 engine issues deal with the engine stalling, the engine not being able to turn over, and the engine having a loss of acceleration.
2015 Nissan Xterra Reliability Rating
The 2015 Nissan Xterra earned the #2 spot in the 2015 Affordable Compact SUVs category, earned the #19 spot in the 2015 Affordable SUVs with 2 Rows category, and did not fare as well for two other categories. The 2015 Nissan Xterra earned a #99 spot in the Used SUVs with 2 Rows Under $15K category and a #101 spot in the USed Compact SUVs under $15 K category.
The 2015 Nissan Xterra is a capable off-roader with plenty of room for gear on overnight or extended trips, but it still falls in the bottom half of the rankings in various categories. Unlike other top competitors in the various classes, it has clumsy and awkward handling, a firm and not smooth ride, uncomfortable and unsupportive seats, and an interior that is not luxurious and cheaply made.
The pros of the 2015 Nissan Xterra involve the capable off-roading performance and the ample interior storage space. The cons of the Nissan Xterra involve the poor handling and the stiff ride quality, the lack of support in the seats, and the cheap interior. The miles per gallon is not great for the car either, with the car earning 15-16 miles per gallon in the city and 20-22 miles per gallon on the highway.
The 2015 Nissan Xterra earned a total of 7.5 out of 10 on the US News Scorecard, with the critics’ rating earning a 7.6, the performance being a 7.3, the interior earning a 6.6 out of 10, the total cost of ownership being 8.5, and the safety earning a 9,2 out of 10. The JD Power Reliability score earned a 3 out of 5 stars.
Nissan Xterra vs. Jeep Wrangler
When putting the Nissan Xterra to the direct competition, the iconic Jeep Wrangler is a stiff competitor. It is arguably one of the best off-roading vehicles on the market and has substantial performance for off-roading. It comes with standard four-wheel drive and has the option for higher trims to get more terrain qualities. The Nissan Xterra actually is better suited for everyday life, combining on road driving and off-road driving, and is more comfortable than the cramped seats of the Wrangler, the minimal cargo space, and the less standard features. Although the Nissan Xterra problems involve a lack of handling and firm ride, it fares better than the Wrangler in terms of all-day comfort.
Nissan Xterra vs Toyota 4Runner
If you want an off-roader that contains plenty of space for extra passengers and storage space, it is hard to beat the Toyota 4Runner. Unlike the similar Nissan Xterra, the 4Runner has a rear view camera, more cargo space, and a third row for kid’s seating. However, the Nissan Xterra has better acceleration and a better infotainment system that is easy to use, despite the Nissan Xterra problems with the lack of smooth handling.
Nissan Xterra Recalls
The Nissan Xterra had a total of 27 recalls for the vehicle, with one of the first recalls dealing with the trailer hitches. Certain receiver trailer hitches can break while in use due to insufficient wield strength and could possibly break and result in a vehicle crash.
Another recall one year later dealt with the exterior lighting, with some combination lamps that are not equipped with amber side reflectors failing to conform to the vehicle safety standard, with the vehicle being poorly illuminated and possibly resulting in a vehicle crash.
In 2010, there were many more recalls, with some focusing on the airbags in the sensor control module and the control arm and the lower arm bushings. The air sensor control module potentially affected vehicles, with the fasteners securing the passenger front airbag module and the steering maybe not being tightened to the proper torque specifications.
The same year the lower control arm had a recall, with the recall focusing on certain model years of the 2005-2010 Xterra, with the lower control link assembly having two cylindrical collars potentially failing due to an improper welding process.