Nissan Xterra Problems: 9 Common Issues (Explained)

Versatility and abundant cargo space have made SUVs a popular car choice ever since they came out on the market, and the Xterra is one such SUV that people have been snatching up since it first debuted.

Xterra SUVs are a very popular vehicle, but just like any other car, they can have some issues that owners need to be aware of.

We’ve already touched on how long the Nissan Xterra last and now we’ll turn to some of the most typical issues for owners.

Below, we’ll talk about the most common Nissan Xterra problems and issues that people report.

Faulty Fuel Level Sensor

Some Xterra owners have observed inaccurate fuel gauge readings in their vehicle, which can obviously be a big problem.

This is typically caused by a failing fuel level sensor, and it can lead to your car’s engine stalling or the car running out of gas.

While this may not seem like a huge issue at first, it can actually be quite dangerous if you’re driving on the highway or in some other type of traffic where you could get rear-ended.

This issue has been reported in some XTerra vehicles produced between 2001 and 2011, particularly in the 2006–2008 models, which were recalled for this particular issue. However, Nissan has addressed the issue in newer models, so drivers can hit the road in peace!

Common Causes of Faulty Fuel Level Sensors in Cars

There are a number of different factors that can lead to faulty fuel level sensors in cars, including:

  • Exposure to extreme heat or cold:
    Conditions that are too hot or too cold can cause the sensor to become damaged and lose its accuracy. This is especially common in areas where temperature fluctuations are more extreme, such as desert environments or in the Arctic.
  • Exposure to corrosion:
    Fuel is often highly corrosive, and it can slowly degrade the components of a fuel level sensor overtime if they are not properly protected. This can lead to inaccurate readings over time, and eventually cause the sensor to fail completely.
  • Improper installation:
    If the fuel level sensor is not installed properly, it may not work correctly. This is usually due to a problem with the wiring or connection, but it could also be due to damage sustained during installation.
  • Electrical problems:
    A fuel level sensor relies on electrical signals to function, so any issues with the electrical system can cause problems. This includes things like voltage spikes or surges, or electrical shorts.

Radiator Leaks

In addition to faulty Fuel Level Sensors, some owners of 2005 Nissan Xterras have reported leaks in their radiators.

These leaks generally persist even upon tightening the caps to the radiator fluid container, and owners have had to repair or replace their lower intake manifold to fix the problem.

Fortunately, if the problem is caught early on, owners only need to repair that system to solve the issue. However, when undetected, radiator leaks can lead to engine overheating and even transmission failure.

What Happens When Your Radiator Leaks?

Radiator leaks can cause a number of different problems for your car, from overheating to engine damage. Some of the most common issues include:

  • Inaccurate fuel readings:
    As coolant begins to leak out, it will mix with your vehicle’s fuel system. This can lead to incorrect fuel readings on your dashboard, which may not be immediately obvious, but can cause issues for drivers down the road.
  • Overheating:
    The radiator is responsible for keeping the engine cool by circulating water and antifreeze throughout the system. As less coolant flows through the system, it can overheat and cause serious engine damage if left unchecked.
  • Damage to other components:
    Depending on where the leak occurs in the radiator and how severe it is, there may be other components that are damaged as a result. For example, if coolant leaks onto the belts or hoses, it can cause them to degrade and fail prematurely.

Transmission Failure

Transmission failure is another problem experienced by some owners of the 2005 Nissan Xterra, commonly caused by unchecked radiator leaks in the lower intake manifold.

When engine coolant mixes with the transmission fluid, it produces a discolored mixture that won’t be able to do its job correctly. Corrosion in the transmission is accelerated by the combined fluids, causing it to slip or overheat.

Fortunately, owners who keep an eye on their radiator’s fluid levels are often able to avoid this issue, as it can be costly.

Signs of Transmission Failure

There are a number of warning signs that can indicate potential transmission failure in a Nissan Xterra. Some of the most common include:

  • Slipping or jerky shifts between gears
  • Delayed engagement when changing gears, especially at higher speeds
  • Excessive noise or grinding during gear changes, even when the vehicle is moving slowly
  • Burning smell or visible fluid leaks near the transmission area
  • Erratic or unexplained engine behavior, including loss of power, sudden acceleration, stalling, or difficulty starting the engine

If you notice any of these symptoms in your car, it’s important to have your vehicle inspected as soon as possible to prevent further damage and potentially costly repairs.

Timing Chain Problems

Some units of the 2005 Nissan XTerra also faced timing chain issues that caused drivers to notice whining noises coming from the engine, followed by the component ceasing to work.

Problems with the Xterra’s timing chain tensioners, guides, and shoes can result in engine rumbling and acceleration issues if left unchecked. They may even contribute to engine failure in the worst situations.

Signs of Timing Chain Problems

If you notice any of the following symptoms in your Xterra, it’s important to have your vehicle inspected as soon as possible to prevent further damage and potentially costly repairs.

  • Whining or grinding noises coming from the engine
  • Difficulty starting or reduced acceleration
  • Reduced power output or unexpected vibrations
  • Smells like burnt rubber, oil, or fuel when accelerating

Though this issue was widespread in the 2005 model of the Nissan XTerra, the company has corrected the problem in newer models, and it’s no longer considered to be a common problem for this SUV.

Fuel Injector Failure

Some model years for the Nissan XTerra also struggle with drivability issues caused by faulty fuel injectors.

This issue can cause engine misfires that cause a decrease in engine performance, hesitation when accelerating, and excessive shaking.

Symptoms of Fuel Injector Failure

There are a few different symptoms that may indicate a Nissan Xterra has fuel injector failure.

  • Decreased fuel economy
  • Rough idling
  • Engine misfires
  • Poor acceleration
  • Excessive shaking or vibration while driving
  • Hesitation when accelerating

Although these symptoms may seem minor, they can have a significant impact on your vehicle’s performance and fuel economy. If ignored, the problem could get worse over time and lead to more serious issues like engine damage.

Clogged EGR Valve

Some early 2000 and 2002 Nissan XTerra models also had issues with clogged Exhaust Gas Recirculation (EGR) valves. A buildup of carbon would cause misfires while the car was speeding up, but fortunately, cleaning the EGR valve and valve passages proved an easy fix for this issue.

Despite these flaws, the Nissan XTerra is widely regarded as a reliable and popular SUV model, and the team at Nissan made every effort to improve this car year over year.

As long as you’re aware of the potential problems you may encounter with your Xterra, buying one — even used — should come with a little risk.

General Pros and Cons for the Nissan Xterra

The Nissan Xterra is a sport utility vehicle (SUV) that was produced by Nissan Motors from 2000 to 2015. Throughout the course of its life, the XTerra was lauded as a reliable, attractive vehicle that consistently performed well in safety and performance rankings.


  • Rock solid reliability:
    The Nissan Xterra is known for its reliability, which makes it a great choice for those who don’t want to worry about unexpected issues or repairs.
  • Functional design:
    The Xterra is packed with functional features that make getting around town easy, no matter what kind of adventure you’re going on.
  • Great off-road performance:
    If you love hitting the trails and exploring the outdoors, the Xterra provides the perfect combination of ruggedness and comfort to make your trips even more fun.
  • Strong safety features:
    The Xterra comes standard with a host of safety features, including airbags and stability control, to help keep you and your passengers safe on the road. Despite being an older car, this SUV has safety features that help it stand up to modern cars even today.
  • Attractive design:
    The Xterra has a stylish, rugged design that’s sure to turn heads when you’re driving down the street. Whether you’re parked at the trailhead or at the office, this SUV always looks good.


  • Faulty Fuel Level Sensor
  • Radiator Leaks
  • Transmission Failure
  • Timing Chain Problems
  • Fuel Injector Failure
  • Clogged EGR Valve

What Do the Reviews Say?

Owners of the Nissan XTerra can’t speak highly enough about this vehicle, even after its discontinuation.

“I have almost 200k on my Xterra and I’ve only had about $100 in repairs. Maybe I’m lucky, but it’s been the most reliable vehicle I’ve ever owned. Practically everything is still original on the truck.”


While repairs can be costly when they do come up, many drivers feel that if you stay on top of maintenance, the car will never fail to serve you well.

“[The] 2005 Nissan Xterra has been seriously one of the best decisions we’ve made. GREAT vehicle. Yes, it does drive/ride more like a truck, but I actually wanted that. It’s got the BEST ground clearance around. We take it camping and on dirt roads frequently in the summer and the ride and storage on it is great.”


This SUV knows how to adapt to any situation, whether you want to drive it on the road or take it out camping. No matter what adventure you want, the XTerra is sure to rise to the challenge.

What’s the Resale Value On the Nissan Xterra?

Nissan Xterra Off-Road 2008 170,358 $5,995
Nissan Xterra S 2014 152,415 14,985
Nissan Xterra PRO-4X 2011 19,087 $12,466
Nissan Xterra X 2014 63,585 $17,995
Nissan Xterra S 2015 155,612 12,995

Final Thoughts

Overall, the Nissan XTerra is a great vehicle that offers many benefits and features.

Despite some common issues with this SUV, such as radiator leaks and increased timing chain problems, it is still a popular choice among drivers who are looking for an all-terrain vehicle that can take them anywhere.

Whether you’re out on the road or exploring rugged terrain, the XTerra has you covered. So if you’re looking for versatility and performance in one package, the Nissan XTerra may be just what you need.

GO BACK: Problems for all Nissans.

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ⓘ  The information in this article is based on data from National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recall reports, consumer complaints submitted to the NHTSA, reliability ratings from J.D. Power, auto review and rating sites such as Edmunds, specialist forums, etc. We analyzed this data to provide insights into the best and worst years for these vehicle models.