Notes: The 2003 Nissan Xterra doesn't seem to have any problem trends. The only thing prospective owners should be aware of are the less-than-perfect (but acceptable) crash test ratings.

There are a very few transmission complaints, but nothing like the huge defect that shows up starting in with the 2005 model year.


pretty bad
Typical Repair Cost:
Average Mileage:
99,750 miles
Total Complaints:
2 complaints

Most Common Solutions:

  1. not sure (1 reports)
  2. replace head gasket (1 reports)
2003 Nissan Xterra engine problems

engine problem

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2003 Nissan Xterra Owner Comments

problem #2

Jun 122013

Xterra 3.3L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 132,500 miles


I've been running the Xterra for more than 10 years already and the head gasket blew. Not really a big deal because It lasted over 130k which I guess is perfectly normal for most cars that are above 100k. The problem occurred while I was driving and the temperature on the coolant meter was a little high. After driving about 5 minutes on the road, I smelled burnt coolant through the a/c vents and stopped by autozone to fill up the coolant in the reservoir which went empty. So the next day, I had a mechanic check it out and he removed the radiator and drive belts and exposed coolant dripping from the engine block. I'm knowledgeable about this stuff and I already knew what he was going to tell me. That's right, the head gasket needed to be replaced. So yeah, the mechanic replaced not only the gasket, but the timing belt, drive belts, and water pump too for a grand total of $1900 parts and labor. Yes, I know you can do the job yourself and I should've called other auto shops for a lesser quote. So, if your the d-i-y type of person, you can either purchase the engine manual (head gasket specific) from the dealership or the Haynes manual online. The head gasket can also be purchased online for cheap. But if your like me and lazy, then you can get this done for around $800-$2000 and maybe even cheaper depending on the mechanics themselves of course.

- , San Jose, CA, USA

problem #1

Sep 272008

Xterra SE 3.2L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 67,000 miles

Please include me on your Nissan Xterra blown head list and it's not okay, acceptable, etc. 86,000 miles on the Xterra. Routinely maintained. No serious problems (but it isn't the car that my 1998 Nissan Pathfinder was. THAT was a great SUV. 240 miles with absolutely no problems. 4 speed manual transmission and the clutch lasted 157,000 miles.) The Xterra gasket will cost $2500 for repairs . . . however, before paying, I will see about coverage under the warranty as this is absolutely NOT acceptable. I've had any number of cars over the past 35 years and never ran into this type of problem for a car. Because of my success with the Pathfinder. I stuck with Nissan. Now I may be sorry . . . I hope the warranty covers this. It should! And I like the Xterra. But I HATE maintenance problems on cars.

- , Sausalito, CA, USA

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