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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
I'll try to keep this short and can add info later as needed (at work right now).

We bought our first new Xterra back in March 2006. S model, automatic. I've always done services as required or sooner, including having the trans services 3 years ago before coming to this forum.

Back in May, my wife told me she thought the truck didn't feel like it has as much power as it used to and didn't seem to want to get going but just thought it could be due to running AC all the time.

As she's a teacher, the car pretty much sits most of the summer in the garage. A few weeks ago we were going out to dinner and she accelerated normally from a stop, then just before it was shifting from 1st to 2nd she let off the gas a little bit (turning in intersection) and it shifted really hard into gear, but she said this wasn't the first time it did this. Being familiar with SMOD, I had her take it to the dealership and have them look at it.

A tech rode with her and felt it also (she drove since she new the conditions that would likely cause it). They were unable to find any codes, and didn't flash the TCM (not even sure if it's something they can do or would do in this case). I told her about Nissan's ongoing issue, she asked them about replacing/repairing, and short answer is Nissan doesn't cover any work unless there is a failure of transmission or radiator.

I've since done the bypass (don't know why I didn't a couple years ago when first reading about it here) and drained and filled 3 gallons of new ATF (yes, Matic S) that same day as the bypass, then a week later I drained and filled another gallon. The first 2 gallons looked like chocolate milk with a hint of red, then the next two gallons looked better, but the fluid still had a little debris in it, even in the last drain and fill I did.

The car is an early MY 2006, 4x4, automatic, just under 94k miles. Until now it's been a great vehicle for her and she's loved it. We're now in the process of looking at new Xterras, but my questions are a) should we get out of it now while the trans is still ok, b) should we wait until the transmission fails and get ready for a rental and new trans and radiator?

I hate to give up on this car since it's been paid off for a couple years now, and I hate to have spent money on new trans fluid just to trade so soon, but I also don't want my wife to be afraid to drive her car. Fortunately, she only drives about 16 miles per day, but there are lots of shifts due to the commute and if there are issues now, it could very likely get worse once she starts going back to work. It does still act up, and even shifted violently Friday night, which is what prompted us to look at new ones this weekend.

We've been offered from $8k to $8250 for her car right now, and they both drove it and didn't report anything wrong. Any ideas are welcome. Thanks for reading this post, though it turned out longer than I meant it to be.

-Mike
 

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Doesn't sound like SMOD if the fluid came out dark brown. Sure it was shifting hard and not a Cv/ u joint clunk?
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Yeah, it was definitely a shift. It slammed really hard into gear. And I should've been more clear about the fluid, it wasn't like dark chocolate, but more like a strawberry/chocolate milkshake. It was really cloudy, almost foamy, not like typical used transmission fluid. The shifting seems to happen if you let off the gas a little bit before it shifts from 1st and slams really hard into gear (feels like someone just rear ended you). It also revs much higher RPMs before shifting from low gears, didn't do that before either.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
We don't want to get rid of it, but if the trans doesn't fail until 100k or later, we cover it 100% (IIRC), and if it happens between now and then we still are responsible for $3k of it, plus however long it'll be down. We're really considering trading now, especially since the two dealers we've looked at are offering us $8k right now.
 

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Typically the fluid gets dark when it gets burned. That's what happens when transmission gets some serious heat. To me it sounds like your tranny may have over heated and burned the fluid and maybe coolant just started to contaminate your tranny? Have you taken the drain pan off and taken a look down there? Also did you change the filter and gasket? Filter could be clogged.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
No, we haven't had the pan off yet. I had the dealer service the trans 3 summer ago and they said it was in good shape then. I don't know how the tech decided the fluid looked okay, I'm assuming he just checked the dipstick. The fluid is 3 years old and wasn't dark at all, but it's like I poured out a glass of half chocolate milk and half strawberry milk (think Nesquick), with a nice slightly foamy head.

The car's never been off road (almost defeats the purpose of this vehicle) and has never been used in what would be considered extreme service condition. I wish I took pictures of the fluid as I drained it to better explain.
 

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No, we haven't had the pan off yet. I had the dealer service the trans 3 summer ago and they said it was in good shape then. I don't know how the tech decided the fluid looked okay, I'm assuming he just checked the dipstick. The fluid is 3 years old and wasn't dark at all, but it's like I poured out a glass of half chocolate milk and half strawberry milk (think Nesquick), with a nice slightly foamy head.

The car's never been off road (almost defeats the purpose of this vehicle) and has never been used in what would be considered extreme service condition. I wish I took pictures of the fluid as I drained it to better explain.
Sounds like SMOD. That's a bummer. Shoulda done the bypass you knew about for years... Just saying.
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Half strawberry half chocolate. Sounds like smod. Maybe the chocolate color came after smod because now tranny is heating up. Weigh the cost of the trade and fix. Good luck and that really sucks.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
LOL, thanks for the reassurance on that, Surf... Yeah, I'm kicking myself for not doing it last year or whenever I first read about it. I've been a 'member' here for just over 2 years, but with only 15 posts you can tell I don't frequently visit. The good news is I feel we're being offered a decent amount for our trade, I'm familiar with the platform (maintenance and fluid changes) and it's a car my wife won't have to adjust to if we do buy a new one. The only real downside is the payment. We can afford it no problem, but after having hers paid off for over 2 years, we just don't want the payment, but sometimes that's how it goes.

FYI, we're looking to upgrade from her S to a Pro-4x. It's a really nice vehicle, and I can't believe Nissan finally added more creature comforts.
 

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No, we haven't had the pan off yet. I had the dealer service the trans 3 summer ago and they said it was in good shape then. I don't know how the tech decided the fluid looked okay, I'm assuming he just checked the dipstick. The fluid is 3 years old and wasn't dark at all, but it's like I poured out a glass of half chocolate milk and half strawberry milk (think Nesquick), with a nice slightly foamy head.

The car's never been off road (almost defeats the purpose of this vehicle) and has never been used in what would be considered extreme service condition. I wish I took pictures of the fluid as I drained it to better explain.
The words 'Strawberry Milk' and 'Foam' are what leads me to believe this is early SMOD. After all its called SMOD (Strawberry Milkshake of Death).

Hard shifts, rubble strip like vibrations, runs better with O/D off, etc are typical signs of SMOD. The fact that your transmission was serviced 3 years ago and it was fine has likely little bearing. Do you know if they switched you to Matic S then? Either way, transmission fluid, not matter how new it is, once contaminated with coolant is worthless.

If you are getting milkshake like coolant, likely your radiator has failed. The good news is it seems like you caught it pretty early on. You've by-passed and begun replacing the fluid. Ideally it won't get any worse. Realistically you should change the radiator as well. The bad news is, you've caught it early enough that the Nissan dealer isn't agreeing this is SMOD.

Here's what I see your options are...
1) While still under warranty try to get Nissan to agree this is SMOD. Get a second opinion from another dealership. FYI, over 80k you start to pay deductibles. So even now, at 90k you'll be paying around $2k for the repair work. (80k to 90k = $1k ded, 90k to 100k = $2k ded, over 100k = not covered) <- IIRC

2) If you can't get Nissan to cover it - I would look at how much you do / do not want the Xterra. It's paid off and the WORST case repair is a new transmission and radiator, which at full cost ranges between $4k and $6k.

The Nissan transmission is actually quite robust, its the cooling design that was flawed on early models. Many folks have saved their transmissions. Check out the SMOD hitlist thread: http://www.thenewx.org/forum/showthread.php?t=62655

If caught early enough there's not much damage done to the transmission and new coolant + new radiator can save the day. It would also be a reasonable repair cost.

I think you and your wife need to establish a threshold for when or if you give up on this X. $2k for Nissan to do the work, or ~$2k or less for a new rad and transmission service with no car payments would certainly be worth it to me. Hell, even $5k for an entirely new transmission would be worth it to me as long as I still liked my X and everything else was in good condition. If you look at it this way, spending that much money on repairs, as long as it reasonable to think your Xterra will last over 'N number of months' where 'N = repair cost / monthly new car payment' then you've done OK.
 

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I would undo the bypass mod and then do one (or both) of two options:

1) Buy an Extended warranty (about $2k) NOW that is at least 3/36,000
2) Pour some radiator coolant into the Transmission to "normalize" the transmission fluid to the way it was before

I would buy the Extended Warranty because you already know it's going to fail soon. Also, buy normalizing the system back to the way it was before (per Nissan Specification), it may completely fail before the Nissan warranty period.

I see spending $2000 for a reputable extended warranty better than spending $5k++ for a replacment radiator and transmission, and better than acquiring car payments. $8k for the Xterra...they can do better. If you are going to buy a new car, let me know, as I have a LOT of recent experience buying new cars, and I certainly get you the VERY best possible deal that can be had, based on your credit and trade-in, etc. BTW, I'm not a car salesman (I work in a NOC), but I just about sold my Xterra and found out how far a dealership will go to sell new cars (because the interest on a new car is between 5%-10% a MONTH on their cost). End of the Month is definitely the best time of the month to buy one.

Sn0
 

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Discussion Starter #13
The dealer we went to yesterday offered us only like $7200, but eventually came up to $8250, and the sales manager said she may be able to "stretch that a bit" more if that's what it'll take to "earn" our business. I think the new X is $33k, they've "discounted" a bit to something like maybe $3k off (give or take a couple hundred). I know they can do better; they claim there isn't much room to negotiate on these things. Sounds like a them problem to me. If they want our business so bad, they'll come down a bit more.
 

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If the car or truck has been on lot for a bit they will make deep cuts to move it, it has been costing them $$ to sit there, this is especially true near the end of the month.
 

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Discussion Starter #18 (Edited)
Well, we just got back from dinner after doing the deed. She decided she wanted the new one after all and didn't want to deal with potential transmission issues down the road. We got a new Cayenne Red Pro-4x with more equipment than she will ever need or use. I'm still going to have to work on my Passat's valve body soon, but at least she's happy, right? LOL. Thanks for everyone's opinions and insight. It was all considered, but she felt she got a good deal and is more than pleased now that she's had two nights to sleep on it. They came up to just under $9k for her car (immaculate condition thanks to my OCD with maintenance and car care). Hell, then engine bay alone was probably cleaner than most new cars they have on the lot. At least now she doesn't have to worry about any transmission issues that we know of. The only issue I have is I have to let them change the oil and transmission fluid at the prescribed times in order for their lifetime warranty to be valid. I'm so OCD, I'd prefer to do it all at home and skip the warranty. Oh well, can't have it all.

I took this shot tonight just before we left the dealer. New and old together:

 

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Just to clarify about buying the new car and waiting until the end of the month. Some of what yall said is true, some is not (yes I'm a salesman, nissans). $7,000 off sticker price is pretty damn good. That's not going to happen this time of year or maybe even for another 2 years...atleast not on the east coast. Most of what that discount was is strictly rebates. In Feb, the rebates on the 2012's at my lot went up by $2,000....in rebates alone. That was an automatic $5500 off sticker with all rebates combined. The amount the dealer can discount the car on top of that isn't going to change month by month because in the end, they still paid X amount for it. Right now theres only 500 rebate on xterras. Probably because of the new way they equiped it. The only way to get it cheaper is to wait for bigger rebates. Now...as far as waiting until the end of the month. Nissan uses what they call retro programs. BASICALLY, you hit a certain volume tier and nissan will give you X amount back for each car you sold. They usually do like 3 different tiers. My dealer gives cars away to chase that # sometimes. For example, if we are 10 cars away from hitting that next tier up with 1 1/2 days in the month, its in our best interest to LOSE $2-$3k on some deals so that we get back $ XX, XXX from the manufacturer. If your dealer isn't close to hitting that #, no point in them losing money. That's why we are a volume dealership/not paid on commission.

So in the end, waiting until the end of the month can hurt/help. For people that bought a X the last couple days of the month, they missed out on an additional $2000. We don't know what the programs are until the morning of the 1st each month.

Hope that helps some!

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