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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
The 2013 Pro4X is for sale by owner #2 with 95K miles and appears to be in good shape. Owner #1 on Carfax report shows 1st oil change after 4K miles, second oil change after 3.5K miles and 3rd oil change at 65K miles. Carfax obviously doesn't catch every service from every shop or oil changes done in the driveway. The first two low mile oil changes tell me Owner #1 knew what he was doing, taking great care of the car for the long term but then it's a mystery about those next 4 years with no records. The other "unusual" record is 40K miles were put on the car in a 10 month period during the 7 years of ownership. My concern is the possibility of many missed oil changes due to time interval or mileage interval that have planted the seeds for future valve and ring issues resulting in premature engine failure in the next 50K miles and I want at least 100K to 150K miles from this vehicle before the engine needs to be replaced. At the moment there are no obvious signs of oil getting past the rings. Are there any reliable methods to find out if this engine has major problems that are in the early stages that have not yet shown any symptoms? Is bore scoping or oil analysis worth doing or should I just move on and wait for the rig to be listed that has all the records, either hard copies or all on Carfax?
 

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Carfax records are, as you know, only as good as the shop entering them. Rather than worry over the oil change regiment I would analyze the over all condition. If the X looks well loved it would be a reasonable conclusion to assume that PM was maintained. If however, it looks neglected and abused it probably hasn’t benefitted from regular oil changes.
 

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For what its worth.

I've changed the oil in my Xterra regularly with Royal Purple Synthetic of Pennzoil Platinum Synthetic and a Mobil1 filter since I purchased this vehicle five plus years ago. However, a Carfax report would show my vehicle has not been serviced or maintained for over 30,000 miles.
 

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Ask owner #2 if he can document oil changes. If not, I'd pass. Too big of a risk.
If he's driving 1,000 miles a week, odds are better-than-not he had very little time to change oil.
If you don't maintain records and receipts, you lose when it comes time to sell, as it should be.
DIY is no excuse for not keeping records. The burden is on him to prove anything was done.

The first noticeable failure from lack of clean oil is not the rings or valve guides, it's the oil seals. At 95K, both front and rear main seals should be dry as a bone. If the bottom of the engine is freshly washed, look out.

EDIT...
Even looking back at owner #1 , who knows why there is no record. He may have died and the survivors never maintained it. Same if he lost it in a divorce. This truck has 80K miles with no maintenance records.
It's a very expensive mistake to assume that "no records" indicates the owner did timely DIY maintenance . Or any maintenance at all.
 

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Ask Owner #2 if he will allow you to take the X to an auto shop for a complete mechanical and safety check on your dime. Should cost less than US$200.

The best auto shop might be a Nissan dealership.
 
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I would size up the shape of the truck to see if it's been taken care of. I wouldn't dismiss it out of hand though.

Aside: What would you guys think of a 2 owner truck that has no records on Carfax but owner 2 has had it since 7500 miles and has a spreadsheet of all work done to the truck (listing mileage, dates, and costs). But no (or few) receipts. Asking for a friend! ;) This friend has no intent of ever selling it but who knows what's in store?
 

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Aside: What would you guys think of a 2 owner truck that has no records on Carfax but owner 2 has had it since 7500 miles and has a spreadsheet of all work done to the truck (listing mileage, dates, and costs). But no (or few) receipts. Asking for a friend! ;) This friend has no intent of ever selling it but who knows what's in store?
I would ask that person for the name of his mechanic, and then ask the mechanic how often/regularly the vehicle was serviced. Now if this "friend of yours" does his own work, then I want a look at his garage/shop and tools to see how neat and clean he keeps them. A guy that takes care of his tools and has a clean work area also takes care of his vehicles, or at least I do.
 

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I drove my X 50,000 miles per year several years in a row for work (its how I got to 382,000). I changed my oil every 3750 miles like the manual said, even though it was all highway and I didn't need to. I work with many people that drive this many miles as well and they take OCD level care of their vehicle because they need it and if it doesn't work there hosed. Not saying everyone does, but I would say its more likely that someone spending that many hours in their rig takes better care of it than most people that commute and think of their vehicle as one more thing they forget to take care of until it breaks.

If they will let you, pull the drivers valve cover and have a look. If its nice and clean, then the oil was changed.
 

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I would size up the shape of the truck to see if it's been taken care of. I wouldn't dismiss it out of hand though.

Aside: What would you guys think of a 2 owner truck that has no records on Carfax but owner 2 has had it since 7500 miles and has a spreadsheet of all work done to the truck (listing mileage, dates, and costs). But no (or few) receipts. Asking for a friend! ;) This friend has no intent of ever selling it but who knows what's in store?
Well, since that’s essentially what I do I’d have no issues. Mines in a journal I keep in my glove box (just like my Grandad used to do!).
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Thanks all who have replied for your input, I'll comment to each of you and may have a follow up question.

Some additional information first. I have not seen or driven this P4X yet, it's in another state and I'll have fly to see it and test drive it and bring to mechanic all on same day and decide to drive it home or pass on it and fly back home. Current owner seems to be honest and forthcoming with info but not 100% accurate or consistent on some things as I dig a little deeper. I don't think he is intentionally misrepresenting anything. Owner #2 said he was OCD about maintenance, changed oil every 5k to 7.5K miles "per his mechanics advice" (would a mechanic advise that or would a mechanic say every 5K or less for an oil change on this vehicle?) He has owned the P4X for about 2-1/2 yrs and the oil was changed by selling dealer when he bought it. Owner 2 did first oil change at 4,500 miles and 6 months, then the second and last oil change 8K miles later and 8 months and it has now been 13 months and 5K miles since the last oil change was done. Owner #2 says it's ok to bring to mechanic and gave me name of his mechanic which looks like a decent shop. Would you guys advise I NOT go to his mechanic and find another one? I can see arguments for both sides of that. The P4X has been on Craigslist for over a month, Owner 2 says has had only 3 people look at it and all low-balled him.

Zanethan - per pictures, it looks to be in very good condition

Just a Hunter - Agreed. Carfax does not show oil changes that you do yourself and can miss oil change reporting from retail establishments.

Ram Test - 1. owner #2 has documented oil changes but per my opening paragraph above, they are not stellar. 2. Is the reason for main seal leakage due to missed oil changes because of built up and concentrated contaminants eating up the seals? I don't know much about this so I'm interested in understanding it if you can explain...thanks. Pics of the undercarriage look completely dry but stock radiator skid and aftermarket skid plates on rest of vehicle obstruct any direct views per the pictures. I think I'd ask the mechanic to drop the front aftermarket plate to get a good look. 3. Agreed, assuming that a lack of service records is a good thing is risky business.

Westslope - yes, a one hour mechanic inspection for $200 is something I'd insist on and pay for. Seller (owner 2) has one locally that appears to be a good Independent shop based on a little research. Not sure if it's a good idea to use the owner's mechanic or find one that has never seen the owner or the vehicle? Will a Nissan Dealer even do this type of inspection? I'll have to coordinate the Mechanic/Dlr inspection with my flights to go see the vehicle for the first time. The buying process is definitely more difficult when the seller is in a different state and is making me think maybe I should just pass on this one.

Campisi - yes, overall condition can correlate with the kind of maintenance it got.

Lowcountry idn - 1. agreed, nothing bad about lot's of miles in a short time (40 - 50K miles in a year) since highway miles are much easier on the engine. I'd prefer a rig with more highway miles than city miles. 2. Is the drivers side valve cover easier to pull? How long does it take to pull it and reinstall it? Is there a picture I can reference to see what it should look like at this mileage with regular maintenance and another picture of what might be the beginning of problems as opposed to an extreme example of build up? Do you agree on the main seals weeping also being an indicator of missed oil changes?
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This is a subjective question and perhaps a silly one but here goes. In your mind, what is the approximate financial penalty for the additional risk when buying this vehicle. Assume it's priced reasonably right now for a 2013 P4X with 95K miles that "was believed to be well maintained" by owner #1 and just "ok" if not so great maintenance by owner #2 over last 13 months re: oil change, but it looks fine, drives fine and no evidence of burning oil or seals leaking and mechanic gives it the ok. Is it a $1k penalty or a $5k penalty off the "reasonable price" taking on the extra risk of not knowing much of it's maintenance history?
 

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How much does the owner want for said vehicle, and has it ever been titled in a state that uses road salt.

Your asking way too many theoreticals where the answer is "it depends". Sometimes only you can answer those questions. Buying any used vehicle is a risk.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
You're right lowcountry, after writing all of this out I realize I just need more information than I can get on this vehicle before moving forward so I'll wait for a deal where the maintenance is well documented and I can drive less than 2 or 3 hours to check it out, take my time and bring to a more local mechanic. I just moved to the Phoenix area so I'll have an excellent chance of finding an X that lived in AZ (but it is a trick where lots of rust belt cars come down here to be sold hoping the buyer won't bother looking under the vehicle seeing the rust or the "new paint job" on the frame or they won't bother buying a Carfax to see the annual registration history). If I had a mechanic pop off a valve cover, would he know what is "clean" and what is not "clean" when checking out the camshafts? Is the test for "not clean" any particulate matter or buildup on the surfaces underneath the valve cover or just the contact points on the lobes of the cams? Is that a 1 - 2 hr job with just a new gasket required? Is the driver side valve cover the easier one to get off? thanks for your info.
 

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It’s a used car and not local. Not much more you can do than have a shop or dealer check it out and go off their word. Checking the oil, preferably under the valve cover, and transmission fluid are probably the most important along with looking for rust.

At 95k it’s about due for other maintenance items like plugs, multiple fluid changes (diffs, tc, trans) but I would always recommend doing all fluids anyway when buying a used car at any mileage.

If you’re willing to deal with having to fly out to handle all the inspection stuff and potentially waste a trip if the shop finds issues I’d say go for it. I’d probably have the seller at least agree verbally to a price you are willing to pay so you don’t get to that last and still end up going home empty handed.
 

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Not having documentation for oil changes doesn't mean anything. I've done my own oil changes for 20+ years and don't have any documentation for even one of them, and I maintain my vehicles pretty well.

With any used vehicle out there, you can get a pretty good idea as to how it was maintained by just inspecting it, inside and out. If the interior is trashed - that's the #1 indicator that the previous owner didn't really care about it. I've owned rigs that had 200k on them and were in excellent condition and maintained very well, and I've owned some with barely over 100k that were at the end of their life. Things like a newer battery, recently replaced tensioners, new belts, new radiator hoses, a fairly clean engine bay, etc...things like that will let you know how well it was taken care of.

But short of inspecting the cylinder walls, sending the oil in for testing and doing compression tests, there's no guarantees with anything. But VQ engines and transmissions are stout, and can take a lot of neglect. I say it all the time, almost 2 years ago a bought a non-running 2006 that had questionable maintenance history and 176k miles, and after getting it running (which was easy) it's been super reliable and runs nearly perfect (I'm delaying replacing the cats).

Also, I previously had an 07 that I beat on relentlessly. I ran synthetic oil in it and repeatedly stretched oil changes out to 8-9k miles all the time. After 155k miles I sent in an oil sample for testing and it came back that the motor was still in near new condition, and that I could easily expect another 100k miles out of it. These things are sturdy, not a BMW that will grenade itself if you go 3 miles past on an oil change.

I'm not saying that you should ignore any red flags, but skipping on a good, clean Xterra because it doesn't have documentation for every oil change is silly. But considering who made that statement, I'm not surprised at such a statement.
 

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If the rest of the car looks well cared for then I think you have to assume he did the oil changes. If the interior looks kinda trashed then don't bother. I feel like you can tell a lot by looking at him, his house, etc, I dunno... I would be more worried about rust.
 

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Some additional information first. I have not seen or driven this P4X yet, it's in another state and I'll have fly to see it and test drive it and bring to mechanic all on same day and decide to drive it home or pass on it and fly back home.


This is a subjective question and perhaps a silly one but here goes. In your mind, what is the approximate financial penalty for the additional risk when buying this vehicle. Assume it's priced reasonably right now for a 2013 P4X with 95K miles that "was believed to be well maintained" by owner #1 and just "ok" if not so great maintenance by owner #2 over last 13 months re: oil change, but it looks fine, drives fine and no evidence of burning oil or seals leaking and mechanic gives it the ok. Is it a $1k penalty or a $5k penalty off the "reasonable price" taking on the extra risk of not knowing much of it's maintenance history?
The fact that it’s not local is kind of important so IMO that maybe should be included in the original post. Sorry if I missed it.

I did the fly buy and drive to get my 2009. But only because it was such a phenomenal deal and seller. One very meticulous owner, excellent price and condition and tastefully modified pretty much exactly as I would have. I was glad to spend around $1000 for flights, fuel and lodging to get that one.

I would do it again for the right vehicle but it’d have to be pretty special to compel me to spend the time, money and risk of buying this way. Is there anything that really stands out about this one? Or should you just keep looking locally for another clean, rust free example? From what I’ve seen lately prices have been softening and inventory rising as fuel costs continue to stay higher.
 

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There is a 10 year 100,000 miles gap in records on my Xterra. The only reason there is even a recent record is I finally got the airbag recall taken care of. Do it all myself.

At this point it could have maintence records, and be an abused pile of crap. Or it can have zero paper trail and maintained at home and be in perfect condition. The condition of the vehicle will tell the tale better than paperwork.
 
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Is the reason for main seal leakage due to missed oil changes because of built up and concentrated contaminants eating up the seals? ...thanks.
Yes. Oil filters have a pressure relief valve inside them, that open when the inlet vs outlet pressure varies by more than 8-13psi. That is caused when insufficient oil can pass through the filter membrane. It happens at high rpm, but it happens much more frequently when the filter media is blocked from failure to change the filter. When that pressure valve opens, unfiltered oil is pumped through the engine. Eventually the oil isn't filtered at all, and the grit suspended in the oil chews up the rubber oil seals first along with metal engine parts, chain guides, etc.

Most vehicles are NOT maintained properly, not by a long shot. Use google maps to zoom into any interstate. The black line down the center of every lane is engine oil which has leaked, and has not yet been washed away by rain or evaporated. That's a lot of leaking.
You'll find the same staining at your local stoplight.

If you're dropping $5K then sure, records or no records, grab it. But when you're dropping $20K, it's a risk you don't need to take.
 
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Discussion Starter · #19 · (Edited)
Ram Test - Does one end of the oil pan (that has a U-shaped gasket) mount directly under the rear main seal and will a leak from the U-shaped oil pan gasket show a oil leak pattern the same as a Rear Main seal leak would? see 12:32 time mark on this video -

And yes, the P4X I was interested in was a little over $20k so for me it's too much risk when considering all the factors and variables in this buying scenario. The same vehicle for a different person with different skills and experience will have a different risk factor. Since my mechanic skills are weak I can only reduce risk with a combination of buying local and having a mechanic look it plus buying from original owner, with good service records, waiting for a later model in great condition and pay the premium for that combination.
 
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