Meet Yeti - 2013 Nissan Xterra Pro-4X

Mike

Adventurist
Founding Member
I figured I should start up a thread on our newest purchase. April this year (2023) I had a total need replacement. Once I was healed up enough to start driving again, I found with our 1999 Cherokee, the pedals are offset a little to the left and the trans tunnel has a outward slope to it. With the new knee, I was finding my knee/leg would hurt after about 20 minutes of driving. I gave it a couple months but no improvement. I didn't have this issue with any other of our vehicles. Since not being able to drive the Cherokee comfortably, it was time to sort out what I would replace it with. I narrowed it down to a very short list. A Wrangler JKU, 4Runner or Xterra. Test drove a Wrangler and found it had a similar issue as our Cherokee. Not as bad but still not comfortable. We sat in a couple 4Runners but found with the sunroof (seems to be a common option) my wife's head almost touch the headliner. Also prices are CRAZY and out of our range. We sat in an Xterra and it seemed like it could work out.

In my research, I found I only wanted a 2013-2015 Pro-4X model and something under 100K mileage. That seems to be rare in SoCal area and expanded our search to NorCal, AZ and NV. We almost had a deal on one in NV and would have flown out and driven back, if we bought it. That fell through. Then I found this one on CarMax site but it was in NoCal. Trying to plan to fly up was an option but they could ship it down to San Diego for $200. Well that's cheaper than 2 of us flying up and driving back, plus saves a lot of time. We decided to take the chance and had it shipped down.

It arrive a few days later and we took a look at it. Very clean and good shape but missing a few things like the floor mats, Xterra specific first aid kit for the rear hatch and the roof light covers. It had just over 65K miles and drove great. We checked things over and made the deal, which included them getting the missing items. I think my only real complaint was with the tires. In pics they looked great but in person, they were at 4/32's tread depth. I questioned that but their policy is they don't replace tires at 4/32's or greater. Annoying but I can put on the tires I want. Having driven it a lot in the last few weeks, it is very comfortable to drive. Way more power than our Cherokee. Bonus, the wife likes driving the X, where she didn't like driving the Cherokee. We will miss the Jeep as it's been a great rig but I think the X will be a great replacement. I did own a 2004 Xterra SE Supercharged I bought new. It was a fun rig but that one sucked for gas mileage.

Without further ado, meet Yeti (my wife named it, since it's big, white and likes to explore in the wilderness). I'll use this thread to document my build.

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With the Cherokee (make the Jeep look small), which will be for sale

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For history, this was my 2004 X

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Just a few items added this weekend. I had picked up a factory Nissian trailer hitch and all the wiring from an auto recycler. One common thing I had read about is where Nissan put the bracket for the trailer plug. It was prone to getting snagged by rocks when offroading. I decided to cut the bracket off, modify it and weld it closer to the center of the hitch. Seems like a safer place but time will tell if I am right. I also found these grab handles that mount to the headrest of the front seats. Should help people getting into the back as there is no really great place to grab. It was funny to watch my S-I-L try to get in the first time. :) Also highly recommended by many, I did the rear axle breather relocation mod. I bought my own stuff instead of a kit. I used silicon hose instead of the normal rubber hose, as it should hold up longer. Seems like the quality of rubber had gone done over the years. I also installed some LED reverse lights but forgot to get pics. :(

Grab handles
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Modding and install of hitch. You can see where the original plug bracket was and where I relocated it. I added a "No Step" sticker so folks won't use it for a step.

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Parts for the breather relocation. The first pic is of the original breather that is on the axle. I tends to get full of crud and stops venting. This leads to blowing out the axle seals and leak.

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Optical Illusion, it is not anywhere close to the exhaust nor rubbing anything

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Vent up behind tail light.

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Well... Crisis adverted. Went to get new tires on the Xterra. At some point prior, someone screwed up one of the lugs on the pass front. When they tried to remove it, the whole stud just spun. Not good. Didn't get the tires installed.

After watching a few videos and finding out there is a specialty tool to do this, I was happy... until I saw the price. $250! If I did this a lot, it would be worth it. Putting my thinking cap on, I figured I could replicate something similar. After checking a 21mm, 1/2" drive, deep socket, there is a round hole in it that a 15/32” drill bit fits. Okay time to get a sacrificial socket at Harbor Freight. Pick up a new bit at hardware store. I have $25 in parts.

Okay, tried to clamp socket in vice grips but kept rotating out. Time to weld a handle to it. Using my 36v drill on low speed and some cutting fluid, less than 15 minutes and it's out. No damage to the wheel. Now I can get the tires installed and then deal with getting a new stud in.

Very happy with the outcome.

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Okay, time to finish up the wheel stud issue and get tires installed. Stud came out easy but the splines on the new one weren't much bigger than the original one. Since the grooves in the hub are somewhat rounded out due to the stud spinning, I decided to add some JB Weld metal epoxy to the splines and pull it in. Used a cool little tool that is a bearing with a tapered seat, that is designed to pull the stud into the hub. Much easier to use when you cannot pull hub off to use a press. With that done, went up and got the new tires installed. Toyo Open Country A/T III. Had them on the Cherokee and liked them.

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With that done, then I turned my attention to installing some bits I have bought. After hearing how so many Xterra owners said they wish they would have done this sooner, a set of hood struts to replace the prop rod. Easy 15 minute job and it is so much better. Not only is the hood opened higher, now when working on the driver side, I am not dealing with the hood prop being in the way. Well worth it.

Next up was to upgrade the headlight bulbs. Having had factory LED lights in our RAV4 and putting JW Speaker LED headlights into the Cherokee, the stock Xterra lights felt like a couple of candles stuck to the front. Having researched LED bulbs for the last couple years (was looking to do our Dodge Ram) it seemed after 2 years, the best on the market were the GTR Ultra 2 bulbs. I figured I would take a chance and put a set in. Got to drive them in the dark and yes, these are SO much better than factory and give the same light pattern. No issues with blinding others. Not as good as the JW Speaker headlights but on par with our RAV4. Happy with these.

Next up with new cabin filters. OMG the old ones were dirty! Then it was on to installing the rear diff lock bypass harness. This plugs into the factory wiring and controller to allow the rear diff lock to work anytime. From the factory, it would only limit you to 4WD Lo. There are many times I would like to be able to have the locker engaged in 2WD or 4WD Hi. This was an easy 5 minute job. It can always be removed if needed. Sure this take away all of the Nissan "safety functions" but if you're not an idiot and know how and when to use it, it's going to be a great option.

Last item for now, Nissan used a plastic adapter fitting in the heater hose assembly. These are prone to heat cycling and becoming brittle. They will break randomly and if not caught, you can run out of coolant and overheat the engine. Since I did not want this to be a failure point out on the trail, this was done as preventative measure. There is another one in a different heater hose but it looks like that was already replaced with the aftermarket all metal one. Happy to know these will not be an issue.

Okay, one last thing, since we named the rig Yeti, I wanted to play around with this theme. The factory roof light covers look so blah and look like there are no lights installed versus when the covers are off. I had a friend make me some Yeti stickers (Bumble from Rudolf Christmas TV show). With the white area, it looks much more like lights are installed but with a twist of a Yeti starring back at you. Something fun!

On to the pics!

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Okay, got a plan together and parts finally arrived. Going to do a uni-strut crossbars on the factory rack rails. My plan it to hold a awning on the pass. side, a privy on the driver side, a Pelican box mounted to the uni-strut, to hold the folding toilet seat, Wag bags and toilet paper. Also mounts to hold a set of MaxTraxs. I think this will work out well and solve the one issue my wife had when we would go out for extended exploring, not having a bathroom available. Started mocking up things to see what I am going to need to modify to get things to fit. Hopefully this all comes out they way I have it in my head.

Lots of parts

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Pulling the old crossbars off and test fitting uni-strut and awning bracket

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More to come...
 
Today has been a productive Xterra project day. Overall things went smoothly and about how I planned them.

First up was installing the cargo box on the top. Lots of measuring and drilling 4 holes in the box and piece of aluminum (to spread the load) and bam, box is mounted. Filled it up with the potty items for the one enclosure.

Next up was mounting the enclosure to be used for potty stops (or changing). I bought awning mounts, cut the mounting legs shorter and opened the holes to 3/8". Bolted that to the unistrut. Installed just as I planned and it's so easy to setup. Less then a minute to setup and a couple minutes to put away. This will be a very nice addition.

I need different hardware (bolt sizes were different) for the full awning and some mounting lugs for the MaxTrax boards, so they are waiting to be done.

Okay, pics....

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Last up was to setup my Ram ball mounts on the dash, so I can mount my Overlander GPS and InReach satellite message system. Used a piece of aluminum as a backer to the mount, so spread the load. Worked out as I hoped and when in the seat, it doesn't block the radio or view out the front. Yay! (FYI, the rail is offset to driver side, so I can get the Tee nut ball mounts in and out of the track)

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Picked up the hardware I needed to complete the install of the awning. Very simple since I already had the mounting brackets installed. Happy with how it sets up and works.

Now I am waiting for my MaxTrax mounts to come in, so I can complete that part and the roof rack project will be done.

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Finished up the last roof rack project. Built my mounts for the MaxTrax boards. Commercially available mounting plates were too expensive for what they were, so I picked up some 1/4" aluminum plate and built my own. Happy how they turned out. Can't even see the boards from the front or side.

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Next upgrade I wanted to do is the factory fog lights. These are fairly useless and after the new LED headlight bulbs, you really didn't see any difference with them on. I decided on upgrading them to Diode Dynamics SS3 Pro fog light kit. Install went fairly okay, once I could figure out how to get the old housing out. New one bolted in fairly simply. I am NOT a big fan of the fact you cannot adjust them without unscrewing the mounts and pulling them back. Dumb design in that regards. I didn't take any nighttime shots yet but WOW are they bright! For road use with other cars, it's almost too bright. Dark roads, dirt roads with no traffics, these will be great! Another reason I went with DD lights is, if I decide to change to an aftermarket bumper, I can buy the front surrounds and mounting brackets and use them as standard "cube" lights.

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Mid Oct we finally got our for our first trip. We drove from San Diego to Hurricane, UT to meet up with some friends for a few days on the road exploring. Sadly I ended up getting sick halfway through the trip and we had to cut it short but we got out on the first day to Toquerville Falls. This was our first time in the dirt and the initial part of the trail is a fairly good climb up with a lot of ledges/steps. The Xterra did great and I loved the diff lock bypass that allowed me to use the locker in 2WD and 4HI. I wish we could have gotten some pics of the climb in but I only got a pic at the falls. They were really cool and love that you can drive across the top of it. I took this with my drone.

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Well, as it is well known about Xterras and crappy factory rear springs, adding the weight on top and the stuff under the back floor, I have been finding it much easier to bottom out the rear end. Factory bump stops are very firm so it's a hard jolt when it happens. Not wanting to add any lift to the rig, there really are not any options for heavier duty, stock height springs. In researching, it seems a lot of people have had good luck with Timbren SES bump stops. Figured I would give them a try.

Installation was simple, remove old stops (two bolt each) and install these. After installing, took a test drive through some dips and speed bumps. Definitely much nicer as they are more progressive to limit travel without the jarring jolt. More time will tell how I end up liking them.

Installation (pics are showing with rear end extended down, there is not that much space between the stops and axle)

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Just a quick update. After adding some gear and the roof items, even though the measurements showed the rear was at stock ride height, when driving I could feel the back bottom out on the new Timbern SES stops. The SES stops are longer than stock (as they are designed to engage when you put enough weight on the back, i.e. a trailer). I could tell the stock Bilstein 4600 series shocks didn't have enough compression valving to stop this. The 5100 series have a stiffer valving so I decided I would put a set on the rear and see if that helped. So far, they have made a huge improvement, on both resisting bottoming out and in ride comfort. I'll know more as I get some more miles on them. So far, happy with the results.

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Got out for a little day trip to do a little exploring and get shots with my drone. Happy with how the X is riding with the rear 5100's installed.

Here's the video

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Got my Christmas gift installed, new vent visors. Liked them on my old Cherokee and wanted them for the X.

Without and installed.
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Not much to update but I did swap out the fog lights. I installed the Diode Dynamics SS3 Pro fog lights but found they were way too bright for normal driving use. Back roads with no other traffic, they were awesome but daily, around town/traffic use, they were just blinding. Decided to swap them out with a set of their Elite lights. These are much more like a standard fog light, with a good cutoff and appropriate output for daily use. The swap was really easy, since there are only 3 screw holding in the light brackets and the same wire adapters are used between the SS3 Pro's I have.

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Finally made it to Durango, CO for a week long vacation. Such an amazing place. The whole area is awesome and beautiful. Drove almost 2500 miles during the week trip. Lowest MPG was 16 and the highest was 24 (and I had a number of tanks at 20+ mpg), which amazed me. Did some offroading in the area but not as much as hoped. We had a lot of things planned, so we were limited on offroad time. Definitely will be back. The X did great and was so comfortable and nice to travel in. Very happy with the move from the Cherokee we replaced it with.

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