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Discussion Starter #1
Hey, Pathfinder peeps! I normally hang out on the X-Trail Forum, and we are now planning to replace our 2006 Exxie (which is fast approaching 436K) with something else. Previous to that, we had a '99 RAV4. So we are used to smaller engines with good gas mileage, and therefore were planning to get something similar, either another RAV4 or X-Trail, or a Mitsubishi, Subaru or Honda CR-V. I have a friend who used to work at a Calgary Nissan dealership, and he once owned a 2003 Pathfinder, and his advice was never to buy another Nissan! I have heard from some others, and read on the internet, about gas mileage issues, etc. So, yesterday, I find a beautiful, fully loaded 2006 Pathfinder LE with 220K, in our very modest price range. I read about that model a bit, and many reviews are quite positive. The seller needs the cash ( as many sadly do, right now) and appears willing to wait for us to get there this weekend to look at it, as my Exxie needs a new wheel bearing which is going in tomorrow!
So, who owns one of these? We do not do any of our own mechanical work, so anything we buy has to either have a full maintenance history or get inspected. The seller says it gets good gas mileage, although I do not know how good yet. What can we expect for mileage? Apparently, this thing is great for mountain roads with low range gears, etc. and since we live near the Rockies, that would be maybe a cool thing to have. I am also hoping for something that is very good in winter, and won't get blown off the road with the bad winds we have here. For once, I wouldn't mind driving a really nice looking, fancy rig, but we have to be sensible too.
Thanks!! :unsure: :geek:
 

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NF Mod/Nissan Master Tech
2006 Pathfinder LE, 2003 Frontier SVE
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9,767 Posts
Well, as it just so happens, I have a 2006 LE! I purchased it with 84,000 miles on it and now it has 210,000 miles on it. I'm also an Admin at TheNissanPath.com and a former Nissan Master Tech, so I'm real familiar with the pros and cons! You should check out the site if you get a chance as they have a lot of R51 owners over there, including a few from Canada.
The LE is the top trip and they came either with or without navigation. They were the only trim in 2006 that had the AUTO-mode transfer case, which works similar to the ol' GM SmartTrak II system. You can put it in 2WD, 4-LO or 4-HI and it will work like a typical part-time, 4WD system. In AUTO mode, it will run in 2WD and will engage 4WD when it detects or anticipates a slip condition and can do this proportionally via a wet clutch in the transfer case. You can leave it in AUTO all the time as I do, if you wish. I never noticed any difference in gas mileage with it on or in 2WD. The LE also comes standard with the LE 6-spoke wheels, Driver's seat memory, faux wood grain trim, leather seats, Bose audio with subwoofer, front and rear auto climate control, roof rails and step rails, fog lamps and other options. For gas mileage, expect around 17 MPG combined. Around town with stop and go traffic, expect around 14 MPG. On a long, highway/interstate trip, I can see 21.5 MPG @ 75-85 MPH.

PROS: Plenty of power and torque from the VQ40DE engine, although they tend to idle a little rough. 5-speed automatic transmission is really solid and shifts smoothly. Good interior space and comfortable seats, but 3-rd row is a little tight, like most SUV's. 6,000 lb. towing capacity. Bose system sounds good. People have mixed opinions about the climate control system but mine works great. Water pump is timing chain driven, so you can drive the vehicle for as long as you want if the drive belt breaks (assuming you are strong enough to steer it) without worrying about damaging the engine. Controls are in good position. I really like mine!

CONS: Rear suspension is weak and can sag when towing; this can be corrected by either replacing the rear coils springs with Moog units and/or installing Airlift 1000 air bags (as I did). Replacing the rear shocks with Bilstein 4600's also helps improve the ride. The ride is best described as "unsettled" over large bumps and potholes, but that's not uncommon with body-on-frame chassis. The HVAC system is kinda noisy at full blast. Brakes feel a bit spongy; I fixed mine by replacing the front calipers, pads and rotors with parts for a 2008 V8 Pathfinder, which has 1" larger diameter front rotors. Headlights could be better.

Things to look out for: Rust, of course, as with any vehicle. If you research this vehicles, you'll hear about the radiator problems. The original, Calsonic radiator from the factory was prone to trans cooler seal leakage inside the lower tank which resulted in contaminating the transmission fluid with engine coolant. A lot of transmissions were ruined because of this. 05-06 Pathfinders had the most failures, but they continued through 2010 model year and even a few in 2011. If you have the original factory radiator, you will see a Calsonic sticker on the top radiator tank in plain view. It will likely have a 21460-EA215 or 21460-EA265 part number on it. If you have this, replace the radiator with an aftermarket unit, which run $100 or less at Rockauto.com. If you have an aftermarket replacement, which wouldn't be a surprise to me, there will be no sticker on the top tank. Fuel sending unit were a common failure, but were under recall for 2006 models (only). Another issue to be aware of is the upper timing chain issue; on some 2005-2010 models, the links of the upper timing chain were stamped with worn tooling, causing them to have a sharp edge that cut through the plastic, upper tensioner face over the miles. When it did this, it would cause a "whining" noise that would increase/decrease with engine RPM. This would go on for a while and if not serviced, could lead to the timing chain jumping and causing engine damage. There is no specific mileage when this would happen, "if" it happens, because it would all depend on if and how much wear was on the tooling.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Thanks for all that information! I guess I was dazzled by the photos, as my hubby is way more practical and we cannot afford a big increase in fuel costs. We get about 33-35 mpg on our Exxie, still, after all the kms and with it using a bit of oil! There are quite a few Pathfinders for sale here (I live in Alberta), from 1999 to almost new. I have heard good and bad about many models...You obviously know a lot about them. Is there a model older than the 2006 that is good? The newer body style does seem a lot bigger, and therefore I assume heavier, needing bigger tires, etc. Then of course, there are OTHER Nissan models, like the Rogue and Murano, but they don't appeal to me that much (too swoopy and hard to see out the back)...
 

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NF Mod/Nissan Master Tech
2006 Pathfinder LE, 2003 Frontier SVE
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9,767 Posts
The best years for the R51, IMO, would be 2011 and 2012. Nissan pretty had all of the main problems worked out of it by then, except for the soft rear springs. The R52 Pathfinder started in 2013 and is built on a unibody chasses; it is more of a crossover SUV. Ride will be more comfortable and they are big inside, but they had a lot of problems in the first few years, especially with the CVT transmission and squeak/rattle issues. Later years got a little better, but a lot of people, including me, do not like the CVT transmission. While they look good on paper, providing infinite gear ratios with less weight for better fuel efficiency, Nissan has had a lot of problems with them failing from when they first started using them in 2003 up to at least 2016. The Rogue also has the CVT transmission. It really all depends what you are looking for in a vehicle. If you are looking for something bigger than what you have, something good for towing or for some off-roading and good in all types of weather, the R51 Pathfinder is a good choice as is the 2005+ Xterra. The Xterra is very close to the Pathfinder except it doesn't have a third row seat and it has a straight rear axle rather than independent rear suspension like the Pathfinder. If you are looking for something smaller and better on gas, the Rogue isn't a bad vehicle, but there are better options, like the Subaru Forester and Outback, Toyota Rav4 or Mazda CX-5.
 

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Discussion Starter #5 (Edited)
Ya, we probably need something smaller that is decent on gas. I always liked the xTerra design, but have read too many reports of problems and as it is so high, it can be a bit "tippy". I'll check out the 2011-2012 Pathfinders available, for fun. OK...just found several for sale and they are all $11-16K, so too much for me! :geek:
 
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