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rpt50

Improving the hauling/towing capability of the 2nd generation Xterra

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My wife decided she wanted something new, so I decided to take over her 2010 Xterra (150K on the clock) for bike hauling and boat towing duty.   In stock form, it's got a great power train, but the suspension is much more suited for soccer mom duty than actually towing a boat (ours is about 3700 lbs) or trailer, or hauling a bike on a hitch carrier. For relatively small change, I've made a dramatic improvement in the towing/hauling capability, and I thought I would share if someone is looking to improve their own. I believe this would apply directly to the Nissan Frontier as well due to the common chassis. Steps:

1. Goggle the online factory service manual for your vehicle to get the ride height specs for your particular year. Mine was within spec, but apparently Xterras are notorious for sagging leaf springs. You want to get this sorted first. Lots of sources for leaf springs if you need them. The manual also gives free spring length specs for the coils in the front, but apparently they hold up much better than the leaf springs and are not usually a problem.

2. For the rear I added the Timbren SES rubber supplemental springs. Probably the best $200 I've ever spent on a vehicle. They don't really affect the unladen ride as far as I can tell, but they result in an immediate and dramatic improvement in towing/hauling stability. I use a hitch hauler for my motorcycles now and that really puts a lot of weight way out behind the axle. Now the Xterra can handle the load even bouncing down a dirt road. The Timbrens also really help when you hit rough expansion joints or potholes towing a boat at highway speeds.

The above is probably all you need if your shocks/struts are good. If not...

3. For rear dampers I went with the KYB gas adjust shocks that are supposed to have extra damping for towing and hauling. The appear to work as advertised, with VERY well controlled rebound when towing. They are a definite improvement over the worn out stock units. The cost was about $100 total for both shocks.

4. There aren't really any good choices for pre-assembled struts for the 2wd Xterra (lots of cheap no-name stuff), so I went with Bilstein 4600s with the stock springs. You will definitely want to get the KYB strut mount kit which gives you new bushings and rubber spring insulators. Mine were really worn. Total cost for both shocks and KYB mount kits was about $185. You will need a standard strut spring compressor, but nothing specialized as far as tools (but a good impact gun sure makes things easier).

Obviously the Xterra will never be a great tow vehicle due to the short wheel base, but it's got a great motor/drive train, and with some suspension work like above it will easily handle boats/trailers up to it's rated capacity (5k lbs) without any major sag or weird/scary handling. And it also handles the hitch carrier now with out any sag or crazy bouncing when you hit rough expansion joints or bumps at highway speeds.

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I was considering doing something similar to my 2012 Xterra (2" lift) but ended up getting a trailer for a couple reasons: first, I was concerned about a hitch carrier with the short wheelbase and I couldn't find any reports before this one; secondly I foresee my wife getting a dirt bike in the future so I really needed the ability to take multiple bikes.

BTW, the Xterra has been great. I'm at 125k miles and it has needed nothing other than oil changes.

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4 hours ago, correcaminostx said:

I was considering doing something similar to my 2012 Xterra (2" lift) but ended up getting a trailer for a couple reasons: first, I was concerned about a hitch carrier with the short wheelbase and I couldn't find any reports before this one; secondly I foresee my wife getting a dirt bike in the future so I really needed the ability to take multiple bikes.

BTW, the Xterra has been great. I'm at 125k miles and it has needed nothing other than oil changes.

Trailers do have a lot of advantages.  I have a 5x8 utility trailer that I welded up some removable wheel chocks and optimal tie down points for three bikes that I sometimes use to haul the bike.  I used it a lot more when my son was racing and we were hauling multiple bikes,  but now I find the hitch carrier set-up a lot more maneuverable on some of the tight woods roads where we park.   If at some point in the future you decide to go with a hitch carrier, I would definitely do the Timbren suspension system I mentioned above, as it makes a huge improvement.  I don't know what type of bike you are hauling, but even my YZ 125 puts a lot of leverage on the rear when it's on the carrier.   I remember that the Timbren system came with a spacer that was not needed for the stock height suspension, but since you have a lift you would need it.  

Yes, the Xterra is dead reliable.  Ours is now nearing 160K and has not so much as hiccuped mechanically.  In fact, the only thing I can ever remember was a recall for the air bags.  I have found the following Xterra forum very helpful for maintenance and general information:

https://www.thenewx.org/

Edited by rpt50

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