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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Hello all,

I am about to move from Denver CO to Brownsville Texas, ~1100 miles in a couple months. And I am going to need to tow some stuff down in a u-haul and have never towed anything before, so I need some general advice.

My Rig: 2002 Xterra SE S/C 4x4 Automatic (With Factory Tow Hardware) 145k miles
The truck is in great shape, transmission is a little rough shifting out of first in the cold but super smooth once warmed up. Engine is great, no engines codes or anything except G sensor. Is original engine and trans and everything.
I bought it at 135k, it had detailed maintenance history always done at shops up until I bought it. Even paid for a new knock sensor install (which failed again on me, did the resistor bypass).
Everything is stock, no lift or anything like that. Bad drivers side ball joint I will fix hopefully.

My questions are:
1. Online it says this thing can tow up to 5000lbs. How much would you actually want to tow given my vehicle's condition/age/miles.
2. I do not have any connecting hardware, just the OEM brace on the back with the square adapter, what is a good brand of hitch/ball I should throw on this thing.
3. What important maintenance should I do before this trip. Thinking coolant and transfer case fluid and oil. (everything else has been changed since I bought it).
4. How do I actually calculate how much weight I can put in the trailer given a trailer's weight. The car will be packed with stuff probably as well as towing.
5. What do I not even know that I need to know? Trailer braking, sway control? How do I know if a uhaul trailer has these?
 

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2000 Xterra 2WD Gold
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Online it says this thing can tow up to 5000lbs. How much would you actually want to tow given my vehicle's condition/age/miles.
Without a separate trans cooler, I woudn't risk beyond 3500, that's 70% of your capacity.

What important maintenance should I do before this trip. Thinking coolant and transfer case fluid and oil. (everything else has been changed since I bought it).
Transmission fluid, filter, and install an oil cooler (bypass the radiator lines). Change oil, check your plugs and wires. Brakes must be in top shape.

How do I actually calculate how much weight I can put in the trailer given a trailer's weight. The car will be packed with stuff probably as well as towing.
Your trailer will have a net weight (empty), a gross weight (maximum INCLUDING the trailer) and load ratings of your tires (you should pack spares for it,which will add weight.

What do I not even know that I need to know? Trailer braking, sway control? How do I know if a uhaul trailer has these?
Unless your truck is wired for trailer brakes, you won't have them. Mine is, but I don't know if that's stock.

GO SLOW Do not do 70MPH. Do not try to keep pace with traffic. Right/center lane, go the speed limit at most.

I trailered in a 1994 Silverado from Carson City NV to Richmond VA. Max speed was 60 the entire way with a 7,000lb trailer. Center lane all the way (Right lane was dangerous inside cities due to the constant need to yield to mergers. You'll find opinions on this, but center lane travel was the safest for me.
 

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2004 Xterra XE 4WD Auto 3.3L NA V6
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Undo the KS bypass. The SC engine needs it to keep from grenading itself, and it requires Premium fuel. Lower octane has a greater chance of pinging sooner, which is what the KS is supposed to act on by reducing the boost and/or retarding the ignition. No KS is a risk. No KS while towing is too much risk, if you ask me.

I agree with not bypassing the radiator, and with adding an extra trans cooler. Only the 2005-2009 suffered with the SMOD issue, so unless your rad is bad, use it. It's also twice the capacity of the non-SC rad!

I also agree with keeping a check on your speed. For whatever you load into the trailer, but the heavy stuff at the front, not the back. Too much weight behind the trailer's axle can/will cause loss of control as it tris to steer your Xterra from the rear, eventually resulting in a death whip. Lots of pics on the internet of poorly-loaded trailers being pulled at speeds that were too high! Slow down and get there, even if it's a little later. Better than not getting there for sure!

If you rent a trailer, see if you can get one with automatic brakes. I'm not sure if they're still available, but I've used them in the past and they are great!
 

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don’t bypass the radiator. This is almost always terrible advice. Adding an auxiliary cooler is helpful.
Neither of us are Nissan engineers, but my personal understanding is that the purpose of the sharing of radiator space is to allow the transmission to warm up better in cold climates. The OP is moving to a much warmer area. My concern is that nearly every automatic vehicle I've seen eventually has the cores corrode out and then water gets in your ATF... with little warning.

That said, you are a dealer mech,so I'm curious if you see that kind of failure often. I have a manual, and my auto cars doesn't have in-radiator coolers.
Undo the KS bypass. The SC engine needs it to keep from grenading itself, and it requires Premium fuel. Lower octane has a greater chance of pinging sooner, which is what the KS is supposed to act on by reducing the boost and/or retarding the ignition. No KS is a risk. No KS while towing is too much risk, if you ask me.
Agreed, I passed over that because I was tired. Don't tow with a knock sensor bypass.
I agree with not bypassing the radiator, and with adding an extra trans cooler. Only the 2005-2009 suffered with the SMOD issue, so unless your rad is bad, use it. It's also twice the capacity of the non-SC rad!
The mixing issue is a risk unless the two cores are completely isolated. Is that risk the same across all cars? No. But there's other ways of moderating radiator temperature, such as:


I also agree with keeping a check on your speed. For whatever you load into the trailer, but the heavy stuff at the front, not the back. Too much weight behind the trailer's axle can/will cause loss of control as it tris to steer your Xterra from the rear, eventually resulting in a death whip. Lots of pics on the internet of poorly-loaded trailers being pulled at speeds that were too high! Slow down and get there, even if it's a little later. Better than not getting there for sure!

If you rent a trailer, see if you can get one with automatic brakes. I'm not sure if they're still available, but I've used them in the past and they are great!
Not sure, but if OP has no outboard trailer brake wiring I can show off what my truck has, no idea if it's stock but it could very well be.
 

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2004 Xterra XE 4WD Auto 3.3L NA V6
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The core inside the rad is considered to be for cooling the transmission since most of the time that the trans is being used, it generates heat. Only in very cold climates will it serve to warm the trans fluid, and that will take some time since the engine has to first come to operating temp to warm the coolant in the rad before it can warm the trans fluid.

Unless there's some kind of extreme case, such as operating in the Arctic, I've never had an automatic fail to shift or work properly, even at temps below zero.

That said, if warming the fluid helps the trans, then it helps. Nobody told the "cooler" that it was not allowed to heat the fluid as well. Looking at it objectively, it is a device to transfer heat from something that's hotter to something that's colder. Whether heat leaves or enters the trans fluid is up to the temperature differential, not the name given to the device.

It's interesting that you linked that DeRale fluid control valve. That is the exact model that I installed on my rig last year. I added a temperature switch to turn the 7" fan on/off as well.
 

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Only in very cold climates will it serve to warm the trans fluid, and that will take some time since the engine has to first come to operating temp to warm the coolant in the rad before it can warm the trans fluid.
many of our newer automatics and CVT transmissions have fluid warmers(and coolers). The main difference between a warmer and a cooler(because to some degree they both do both) is the cooler puts oil to water on the radiator side of the circuit where as the warmer puts the oil to the water on the cylinder head side of the circuit. The cylinder head/heater core side is all pre-thermostat so the water heats much more rapidly. When on the radiator side you have to wait until the engine is at full operating temp before warm water starts circulating.

As far as the fluid thermostat goes, some vehicles(such as pathfinder 2013-current)use this from the factory. The warmer is bolted to the transmission itself, then it uses a cooler in the radiator, then the fluid thermostat controls fluid flow to the auxiliary cooler.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Thanks for all the replies.

So for the transmission oil cooler, would the cooler just be in-line with the ATF fluid lines after the radiator and back to the transmission? Would an engine oil cooler be a good idea too?

And in regards to the KS bypass, I do not think I am going to undo it, considering the very low compression ratio/boost these engines are running, I believe knock is an incredibly unlikely event. I always run at least 91 octane in it, but maybe a compromise for towing could be adding octane booster the whole way?

Thanks to everyone for the other info!
 

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There are 2 lines going to the bottom of the radiator for the trans fluid. One goes IN, one goes OUT. The recommendation from trans cooler companies is to have the fluid go to the radiator first, then to the new external cooler(s), then to the transmission.

So, find the line that pumps fluid to the IN port and reattach it. Take the fluid from the OUT port and go to the new cooler, then run a hose from from the new cooler to the stock trans fluid line.

Make sure that you protect the hoses from chafing, and make sure the new cooler is in the airflow, either by mounting it in front of the radiator or by providing it its own fan, which is what I did.

It is not necessary to use the thermostatically-controlled valve that @JianTao linked, but it won't hurt. Pay attention to the little arrows molded into the housing. I'm using one on my rig.

 

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Expect your gas mileage to be really bad. That's just the nature of towing with a first gen Xterra. I towed a Ford Escape on a tow dolly for about 70 miles with my 01 non-SC Xterra. Granted, not near as far as you'll be going, but my experience was it took forever to get up to highway speed, but once at highway speed it did better than I thought it would maintaining the speed on level ground. This is obviously in tow mode. When I say highway speed, I mean 65 max. I think I was between 55 and 60 most of the time. Like the others have said, take your time and enjoy the scenery..Correctly balancing the load in the trailer is very important.

If you're going from Denver to Texas it's downhill most of the way so there is that, lol.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
There are 2 lines going to the bottom of the radiator for the trans fluid. One goes IN, one goes OUT. The recommendation from trans cooler companies is to have the fluid go to the radiator first, then to the new external cooler(s), then to the transmission.

So, find the line that pumps fluid to the IN port and reattach it. Take the fluid from the OUT port and go to the new cooler, then run a hose from from the new cooler to the stock trans fluid line.

Make sure that you protect the hoses from chafing, and make sure the new cooler is in the airflow, either by mounting it in front of the radiator or by providing it its own fan, which is what I did.

It is not necessary to use the thermostatically-controlled valve that @JianTao linked, but it won't hurt. Pay attention to the little arrows molded into the housing. I'm using one on my rig.
View attachment 80835
View attachment 80836
Thanks for the info! So to clarify, when you say to “reattach the IN port” you mean just don’t detach it from the radiator? Would you put the thermo-valve before the radiator?
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 · (Edited)
Expect your gas mileage to be really bad. That's just the nature of towing with a first gen Xterra. I towed a Ford Escape on a tow dolly for about 70 miles with my 01 non-SC Xterra. Granted, not near as far as you'll be going, but my experience was it took forever to get up to highway speed, but once at highway speed it did better than I thought it would maintaining the speed on level ground. This is obviously in tow mode. When I say highway speed, I mean 65 max. I think I was between 55 and 60 most of the time. Like the others have said, take your time and enjoy the scenery..Correctly balancing the load in the trailer is very important.

If you're going from Denver to Texas it's downhill most of the way so there is that, lol.
Thanks for the info. Yeah I definitely would rather make it to Texas than crash trying to go 5mph faster. You mentioned you were in “tow mode.” Do these trucks have a tow mode? I did not think they did.
 

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And in regards to the KS bypass, I do not think I am going to undo it, considering the very low compression ratio/boost these engines are running, I believe knock is an incredibly unlikely event.
I helped a guy in Aurora, CO diagnose his engine problem. He had caused internal damage by running no knock sensor. He was using 85 octane but don’t be fooled. Operating at 5000+ feet helps prevent knock. You’re dropping in elevation and towing a trailer. Your engine is going to be experiencing more load than it’s probably ever seen. If you’re stuck on not installing a knock sensor than I would AT MINIMUM remove the resistor while you’re towing.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
I helped a guy in Aurora, CO diagnose his engine problem. He had caused internal damage by running no knock sensor. He was using 85 octane but don’t be fooled. Operating at 5000+ feet helps prevent knock. You’re dropping in elevation and towing a trailer. Your engine is going to be experiencing more load than it’s probably ever seen. If you’re stuck on not installing a knock sensor than I would AT MINIMUM remove the resistor while you’re towing.
A convincing argument… I definitely would cry if I ruined my car. Do you think there would be any side-effects of running under high towing load with adjusted timing?
 

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@ab1!, not a mechanic and certainly not as knowledgeable as Blackberry but in your position if you're not gonna bypass the knock sensor, do the following things:

Set your timing between 6-8 degrees -- I think stock is 10. I have mine set at about 12 and I have no issues.

Run the highest test gas you can for the drive down, and put a can of octane booster in there. If the octane booster is too much, consider getting PURE toluene, which is Octane 104. It's obtainable at paint stores:


Gen 1 Xterras have metal intakes so diluted properly this will not be a problem, AFAICT. I am not responsible for motor damage.

But, more seriously, do a proper knock sensor. At least locate it somewhere on the back of the block or extend the wiring to the front of the block. Just don't bypass with a damn resistor... That's asking for trouble and if you run 85/87 while towing, even with retarded timing, kiss that motor goodbye.
 

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So that thermostat allows atf to access the transcooler once it has warmed up enough to lock in the torque converter?

Pretty neat little setup!
It allows 10% to pass through at all times, and gradually increases that as the temp rises. I can get the TC to lock immediately while it is still cold. The freeway is only 1 mile from my place, with only 3 traffic lights and 2 stop signs in between, so I don't think it warms up enough to consider it as being at normal operating temp in the trans. And for sure the engine doesn't warm up fast!
Thanks for the info! So to clarify, when you say to “reattach the IN port” you mean just don’t detach it from the radiator? Would you put the thermo-valve before the radiator?
You have a 50-50 chance of removing 1 line and it being the OUT port. If you remove both to see 1 pumping out and the other trying to suck fluid in, then the one pumping goes to the IN port (they're not actually labeled, but I'm referring to them to keep the lines identified). If you didn't take it off, then yes, it stays put.

Then you take the fluid from the OUT port to the other cooler, and then to the remaining trans fluid line that used to be on the OUT port.

Stock:
From trans IN --- Rad --- OUT to trans

Extra cooler:
From trans IN --- Rad --- OUT to extra cooler --- to trans

Extra cooler with thermo valve:
From trans IN --- Rad --- OUT to thermo valve --- to extra cooler --- to thermo valve --- to trans

The thermo valve unit has 4 ports. It comes in one port and the thermo valve allows 10% to go to the new cooler, while 90% makes a u-turn back to the transmission. The other 2 ports go to the extra cooler and are controlled by the thermo valve. When the temp rises, less makes the u-turn to the trans and goes to the new cooler.

I would not recommend placing it before the radiator, since the system is designed with it going to and from the rad with no re-routing. However, I also don't see it as hurting anything, but I'll let others weigh in on that.
 

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I would pack a extra distributer, and bring a OBD2 reader, and be prepared for something to break, as long trips can be rough on a vehicle, look the vehicle over, monitor tire pressures, and check fluids religiously for the duration of the trip.

That Supercharger is going to handy for the extra load.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
It allows 10% to pass through at all times, and gradually increases that as the temp rises. I can get the TC to lock immediately while it is still cold. The freeway is only 1 mile from my place, with only 3 traffic lights and 2 stop signs in between, so I don't think it warms up enough to consider it as being at normal operating temp in the trans. And for sure the engine doesn't warm up fast!

You have a 50-50 chance of removing 1 line and it being the OUT port. If you remove both to see 1 pumping out and the other trying to suck fluid in, then the one pumping goes to the IN port (they're not actually labeled, but I'm referring to them to keep the lines identified). If you didn't take it off, then yes, it stays put.

Then you take the fluid from the OUT port to the other cooler, and then to the remaining trans fluid line that used to be on the OUT port.

Stock:
From trans IN --- Rad --- OUT to trans

Extra cooler:
From trans IN --- Rad --- OUT to extra cooler --- to trans

Extra cooler with thermo valve:
From trans IN --- Rad --- OUT to thermo valve --- to extra cooler --- to thermo valve --- to trans

The thermo valve unit has 4 ports. It comes in one port and the thermo valve allows 10% to go to the new cooler, while 90% makes a u-turn back to the transmission. The other 2 ports go to the extra cooler and are controlled by the thermo valve. When the temp rises, less makes the u-turn to the trans and goes to the new cooler.

I would not recommend placing it before the radiator, since the system is designed with it going to and from the rad with no re-routing. However, I also don't see it as hurting anything, but I'll let others weigh in on that.
Ah okay perfect, thank you. That is very clear so I think I will try this out. Probably not going to go with a valve because… Brownsville is crazy south, but if I end up back in Colorado i think that’d be a fun mod.
 
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