What to look for when purchasing a used Xterra

Just a Hunter

Bought an X
Location
Georgia
Net Friends.

I often have family, friends and coworkers ask what they should look for when purchasing a used vehicle. With this in mind, I thought some of you may get some use from my general checklist.

Surely, this information can be used in checking most all vehicles ( including Xterras) which you may consider purchasing

1. When possible, resolve yourself to looking at a Carfax or an Autocheck report prior to viewing a vehicle. Note: this advice is so important you will see it posted once again towards the end of this list.

2. Walk around the car and check paint color. Check for any discolor from one panel to the next.

3. Bring a metric ruler which should be used to check the gaps between your body, door, trunk and hood panels. Basically, your checking for any sort of body repair.

4. Run your finger along the gaps of each panel on the vehicle body. A rough or sticky texture is often left over from tape residue which may share the vehicle has been repainted.

5. Stand at each corner of the vehicle and look along the length of it. This is an excellent way to identify any waviness in the paint . Signs of waviness in the paint is a definitely a clue that a vehicle has been repaired.

6. Check your tires are wearing evenly. If not, check the air pressure for a clue as to why their not wearing properly.

7.Look under the vehicle for any signs of oil , transmission fluid and or coolant leakage.

8. Check the rear and or front axle for any identifiable leaks which also includes grease and or oil at the axle ends.

9. Check the boots around your CV joints for any wear, cracks or signs of grease which may be slung about .

10. Open the hood and check the bolts and brackets which hold the bumper in place. There will likely be marks around these items if the bumper or brackets have been replaced.

11. Check the rear bumper for the same.

12. Look under the vehicle and check for any black marks on your exhaust. Black marks on your exhaust is a sign of an exhaust leak.

13. Check the engine bay for oil leaks, corrosion, stains and odd smells.

14. Check the engines belts, hoses and clamps to make sure everything appears proper and without wear, cracks or bulges.
Check the fluid in the brake reservoir, it should be full and clear.
Check the fluid in the power steering reservoir, it should be full and not smell burned.

15. Remove the oil filler cap and pray everything looks like ...oil. You should visually inspect the bottom of the oil filler cap along with an inspection of what you see inside the valve cover opening. What you dont wish to see is a milky yellow residue which is a sign the engine is leaking coolant into the engines oil. Pull the engine dipstick and check to see if the oil is clear of any milkyness. In addition make sure to check the dipstick for any burned or caked on residue. To be clear, the oil should not smell burned in any manner.

16. Check the cars radiator hoses for pressure, if there is no pressure in the hoses, remove the radiator cap and check the fluid. It should be red, blue, yellow, pink or green depending on the vehicle your wishing to purchase. What's important is it should be clear, not milky, foamy or the consistency of a milkshake. This is a good time to become familiar with SMOD and what to look for.

17. Check the overflow tank for the radiator. You need to check for the same attributes as you would the radiator.

18. Pull the dipstick from the transmission and evakuate the appearance of the transmission fluid. Dark red fluid is normal for a car needing a fluid change and a brownish tint is a fluid which may never have been changed. Bright red notes transmission fluid which was just recently changed. As a side note, I would rather see dark red than bright red. Most people dont change their trans fluid prior to selling their vehicles unless they are having a problem. After a visual inspection of the fluid color, take a moment to smell the fluid. What you dont wish to smell is something which smells like burned oil.

19. Check the interior for any flaws, smells or an abundance of scent which may be used to cover up something offensive.

20. Crank the car and look for any white smoke which may exit the exhaust. Viewing puffs of smoke is a sign the vehicle is using oil.

21.Turn on the ac, check every function of the ac re: dash blow, feet blow, defrost , recirculate, blower speeds etc etc etc.
Is the ac cooling the vehicle?

22. Take the vehicle for a drive and check:
Brakes, smooth non pulsing, squeal free brakes is what you want.
Acceleration
Transmission Shifts
General handling.
Does the vehicle pull towards one side of the road or the other.
Pulsing in the steering wheel when braking and without using the brakes.
How does the vehicle feel at 20mph, 40mph, 60mph and " highway speed limit"mph
Check the heater works appropriately
If the vehicle is a 4wd, check that it shifts in and out of 4wd and functions correctly with a short drive off of a paved road

23. Park the vehicle on flat ground and check for sag in one side of the vehicle or the other, including front, back and side to side.

24. Use a handheld code checker to see if there are any hidden problems which can be found. If you dont have such a device, stop by a local parts store and ask them to check for you. This is typically a free service most auto parts stores will offer. Check for any warning lights which may not work on your dash when the key is initially inserted. Check the gauges in the vehicle to make sure they are all working appropriately.


25. Now that the vehicle has been driven somewhat, its a good time to use an infrared temperature checker and run a check on your catalytic converters.
check.


26. Finally as a reminder , purchase a Carfax or an Autocheck report of the vehicle your interested in. If your purchasing from a dealership, ask them to provide one of these reports for you. ( IMO Carfax is more detailed, but is also noticably more expensive)

Keep a record of every issue you find and either have the owner/dealer repair these issues or negotiate a reduction in the purchase price to cover this cost.

Make a checklist before going shopping and you can run through all these checks rather quickly
 

westslope

First Fill-Up (of many)
Wow. Going to have bookmark or print a PDF copy of that post Just a Hunter made for future reference. To think, over 10 years ago I would not have understand 1/3 of the items. -hehe-

If I may add to the list:

If you buy used from a Nissan dealership, the mechanical and safety check performed by the Nissan shop should be helpful. Just read it carefully and hold the dealership to the list. But if the used vehicle comes from a private owner or a small used car lot, I would insist on taking the vehicle for a 3rd party independent safety and mechanical check. Especially if you lack the extensive experience of Just a Hunter and others and do not own a lift which I suspect applies to most of us.

+ Crawl under the vehicle and look at the general condition. The best? No scratches, just city-driven.

+ The other thing to look for under the vehicle is caked dust and dirt which indicates whether the vehicle has been regularly washed with a high pressure hose. That may not be a deal breaker but I would look very hard at the chassis and other components if it looks like the vehicle was not well maintained.

+ Bounce the shocks front and back. Realize when depressing the vehicle in the back, that saggy leaf springs will influence what you feel and observe. None of this is a deal breaker per se but should help form a more realistic budget of maintenance items to take care of once the vehicle is purchased.

I am told that saggy shocks on the front end can contribute a faster wearing of various front end parts (in addition to less control and longer stopping times in an emergency situation). Think of it as an invitation to look harder at the items listed by Just a Hunter.

+ Before shopping think about compiling a list of common repairs that the Xterra usually requires after passing mileage threshold, x, y, z. I have never done this in the past but would certainly do so in the future. Such a list would help with the inspection process and might help in shaving a few dollars off the price.

In hindsight I should have done this before buying the 2006 X in December 2012. It would have saved me more than a few dollars. The dealer might know all the weaknesses but the sales folks are not sharing unless you bring them up.


+ Colour. If for whatever reason you care about being noticed or not, this could be important. I loved my 1993 bright red Nissan Pathfinder but folks could see it from a long distance. I do not particularly like the Knight Armour finish on the X but it blends in with the bush and is very difficult to spot from a distance. That feature I like. No need to advertise where I am fishing, for example.
 
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georgiee33

Test Drive
Location
Santa Rosa, CA
Ask the seller if the radiator has been replaced (ask for receipts for proof), models 05-2010 has a problem with a trans cooler failure (in the radiator) to which it would fail causing the fluids to mix and transmission failure soon after (About $6-7K to replace an automatic transmission), this is not a problem with the manual trans. Also, there are some second gen engines that have premature wear to the timing chain tensioning shoes, check on the internet for the years. Note, the same year Frontier’s, auto trans, could have the same problem(s) since they share the same drivetrain, just in case you were considering a Frontier. There's my 2 cents. Good luck!
 

ffxcores

[fully disclosed]
Supporting Member
Location
Virginia
+ The other thing to look for under the vehicle is caked dust and dirt which indicates whether the vehicle has been regularly washed with a high pressure hose. That may not be a deal breaker but I would look very hard at the chassis and other components if it looks like the vehicle was not well maintained.

dd0.png

I even go to the coin operated super high pressure places and still find caked mud in various spots. It’s omnipresent.
 

ffxcores

[fully disclosed]
Supporting Member
Location
Virginia
I’ll actually add helpful stuff:
+ Do a Google image search for the license plate. If they’ve ever posted pics online on a forum like this without obscuring the plate, it’s likely indexed with OCR text of the plate.

+ If you find forum posts or other usernames, look at their post history to see what problems they’ve had, and search the same usernames on Google to find other forums they might use to help give you a picture of your vehicle’s past.

+ If you’re buying private party and they claim “garage kept” or you just want to know, check Google Maps imagery and street view to see if you can spot where the vehicle is parked. There’s a button in the top left of street view that lets you see images from prior years as well. Bing Maps and Apple Maps also have different imagery and their own versions of street view for many localities

+ Use one of the many free “license plate to vin” sites to get the VIN of the vehicle and see past sales history an in some cases accident and service history. (Or as mentioned above, get a CarFax.)
 

ffxcores

[fully disclosed]
Supporting Member
Location
Virginia
Yes I know that.

But thanks for the ridicule man!

I was going to quibble with some of your recommendations but no worries. Between you and prime, you guys know everything!
That was in no way intended to ridicule. I was poking fun at myself for being guilty of not washing my truck well enough. Hopefully I’ve not come across as thinking I know everything because I sure don’t. I’m a frequent guest in the ‘dumb question’ thread and most of the stuff I do know about the truck is only because I’ve learned it here from other people.

I agree with your recommendation, and again was just making the point that I don’t wash my truck well enough.
 

westslope

First Fill-Up (of many)
That was in no way intended to ridicule. I was poking fun at myself for being guilty of not washing my truck well enough. Hopefully I’ve not come across as thinking I know everything because I sure don’t. I’m a frequent guest in the ‘dumb question’ thread and most of the stuff I do know about the truck is only because I’ve learned it here from other people.

I agree with your recommendation, and again was just making the point that I don’t wash my truck well enough.
Fair enough.

I over reacted. Can I go back to my room now?
 
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