Xploring In Our Nissan Xterra

The Pups & I go on a ton of adventures. A lot of those adventures take us off the main highways & down some pretty bumpy back roads. Some think you need 4-wheel drive if you are going to be doing any off-road expeditions, but I have found that just isn’t so! Our 2002 Nissan Xterra has been more than enough for us. It’s only a two-wheel drive but it clambers over & through many obstacles that your everyday two-wheel drive would not be able to. It’s not brand new, but that’s ok! Nissan’s are known to go for miles & miles & the lack of fancy gizmos & gadgets in this model mean less things to malfunction and/or repair. I have wanted an Xterra since 2007 & finally became the proud owner of one, 2 years ago.

Proud Xterra Owner! This was a day or two after we bought it.

We bought the Xterra around March 2015 after a long search for the right vehicle for our family. Between the kids & the dogs, we knew we needed cargo space & seats for at least four. We also wanted something with good crash test ratings alongside decent MPG’s & a high ground clearance. After looking at a couple Toyota 4Runners, Toyota Highlanders, & even a couple Chevrolet SUV’s, we found this gem at a small dealership in Phoenix. The truck was in excellent condition for having 149,000 miles. After a thorough test drive & look over by my fiance, Ryan, he told me if I wanted it, I should buy it because it was in excellent condition & passed his stamp of mechanic approval. We walked out the door spending exactly what I wanted for this bad boy, only $5100. It wasn’t long after that when we went on our first adventure.

Our first adventure with the Xterra was a long 5 hour drive to Big Springs Cabins which is 30 miles from Fredonia, Arizona & an hour from the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. The only road in to the cabins is a winding dirt road that changes landscape several times. Probably the thing I remember most about this trip, aside from the dozens of rabbits that continually tried to commit suicide by running out in front of us on the road, was the drive we took to get to this view above. We went up & down hills, across a plain, over rocks & through huge divots in the ground. By the time we got to this view at the end of the “road” I was in awe of my new vehicle. It handled all the obstacles like a champ & because of it we were sitting here looking at this beautiful sight. We took many more back roads on our 3 day, 2 night stay in Northern Arizona. It’s tires even crossed the Arizona-Utah border when we drove into Kanab one evening.

The Xterra’s Maiden Adventure…Near the North East Rim of the Grand Canyon. Desert Above. Pines Below! The change in landscape just miles apart was interesting!


Since then, the Xterra has taken me to many new trail heads. Some in Sedona, Cottonwood, Prescott, Flagstaff, Payson, Tucson, Superior & Fish Creek Canyon, just to name a few. With all that added mileage I’m sure you’re wondering, “What problems have you had with the vehicle?” . The most common issue we have had with the Xterra is overheating. On our way up to Flagstaff one day, the temperature gauge shot up. We did not know why, but decided to pull over & let it cool off for a bit. Since that day, we have had this same incident happen about a dozen times. Each time when we would drive for long periods of time with high elevations where our RPM’s would be above 2500. Ryan has dealt with rebuilding & repairing cars since he was in his teens so he fixed all he thought it could be (air in the lines, thermostat, new radiator cap, etc.). He then tried a richer coolant mix that was about 70% coolant & 30% water. We took a drive up to Payson shortly after that & not only did the engine temperature stay cooler, but the coolant did not spew out of the overflow tank & into the engine compartment. We had been told by a veteran clerk at Auto Zone that some vehicles in Arizona need that richer coolant mixture & her vehicle had been overheating like that until she mixed the coolant 70/30. Knock on wood, the truck hasn’t had any overheating problems since. It is burning oil a bit but at 15 years old, that is a small concern compared to all the other things that could have gone wrong. In the 2 years that we have had the Xterra, other than regular maintenance, we have only had to replace the following: alternator, thermostat, radiator cap, drivers side window regulator, front ball joints, one headlight, windshield wipers, brake booster & spark plugs/wires.

Unfortunately, Nissan discontinued the Xterra after 2015 due to regulatory issues. Nissan would have had to invest a decent amount of money into safety & emissions improvements for the 2016 models & apparently the Xterra audience was not large enough to make a decent profit for the company after those expenses. With that being said, once the Xterra’s are gone, they’re gone, unless Nissan decides to bring them back. We all know companies can do this from time to time. So I am keeping my fingers crossed! I know my vehicle cannot live forever, & one day I would love to get a newer model. So what makes the Xterra my favorite SUV?

Yep, that’s THREE dogs we can fit in the back of the Xterra!

2002 Nissan Xterra XE Specs (3.3L V6)

  • MPG: 16 city/20 hwy
  • Horsepower: 170hp @ 4,800 rpm
  • Towing Capacity: 5,000 lbs
  • Cargo Space: 44.5 cubic ft with seats up, 65.6 cubic ft with back seats down
  • Ground Clearance: 9.3 inches (Rates 7th on the SUV ground clearance scale)
  • Seats: 5
  • Rear Wheel Drive

With almost a foot of ground clearance, its no wonder the Xterra can make it over/through challenging obstacles. Our family of 4 fits comfortably in it & when Chappie, Hope & I go on our adventures, they have all that lovely cargo space to themselves. I love the fact that it scores high on all aspects of the NHTSA crash test rating scale. Rollover ratings aren’t that great (2 out of 5 stars) but most SUV’s have a higher roll over rate than other vehicles. We can honestly say that we feel safe in our Xterra & hope it takes us many more miles & to many new destinations. As with any vehicle, if it is well taken care of, reaching that goal should not be a problem. Make sure to follow us on our adventures as we have a 4 day, 3 night car camping adventure coming up next month & we’ll be sure to share how the Xterra performed.

What type of vehicle do you drive & why do you love it? Share with us in the comments below!

On the road to adventure!




One Comment Add yours

  1. JessicaRhaeW says:

    I looked at the Xterra before I bought my first 4Runner. I was definitely a second choice next to one. Glad you are happy with yours. I love 4WD but it’s a good reminder that it’s probably overkill for a lot of people.


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