NISSAN PATHFINDER 2006 R51 / 3.G Towing Guide
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2006 Nissan Towing Guide 10
BREAK-IN AND MAINTENANCE SCHEDULE
Nissan recommends that you allow a sufficient “break-in” (500 miles) of both the engine
and drivetrain before towing with your new Nissan vehicle. For the first 500 miles that you
tow a trailer, do not drive over 50 mph.
Keep in mind, too, that towing places higher demands and added loads on vehicle
components, so more frequent maintenance is called for. Your service maintenance guide
provides the accelerated maintenance schedule for towing purposes. Engine oil, filter,
transmission oil, and possibly other fluids should be changed more frequently when towing.
MEASURING VEHICLE WEIGHT
The key to safe, efficient towing has to do with weight. Your vehicle — SUV, truck, Minivan,
or passenger car — is capable of carrying and towing only a certain amount of weight. You
must compare your vehicle’s tow-weight ratings with the combined weight of the vehicle,
trailer, and their contents. This will help ensure that the total weight does not exceed any of
your vehicle’s tow weight ratings. There are four weights to consider when towing:
Š Gross Vehicle Weight
Š Gross Axle Weight (Front and Rear)
Š Gross Combined Weight
Š Trailer Tongue/King Pin Load
These ratings are based upon normal highway driving and may be reduced if operating in
reduced-traction situations, e.g., slippery boat ramps.
NOTE – Attempting to tow loads greater than the GVWR, GAWR, GCWR, and the trailer
tongue/king pin load specified could adversely affect vehicle handling, braking, and
performance. Damage to your vehicle resulting from overloading may not be covered by
your vehicle warranty.
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2006 Nissan Towing Guide 11
GROSS VEHICLE WEIGHT (GVW)
The Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW) is the total weight of the vehicle, plus passengers,
cargo, fuel, hitch, trailer tongue/king pin load, and any optional equipment.
The best way to determine the GVW is by having the vehicle — loaded and ready to
tow — weighed at a public scale. To that figure, add the combined weight of all
passengers. Then, add the trailer tongue/king pin load to determine the approximate GVW.
The GVW you come up with must not
exceed the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating
(GVWR) for your vehicle. On all Nissan vehicles,
the GVWR is shown on the Federal Motor
Vehicle Safety Standard (F.M.V.S.S.) certification
label located in the driver’s-side door area.
To avoid overloading the vehicle, be sure
to include the trailer tongue/king pin load as a
part of the cargo when determining how much
weight can be safely carried inside the vehicle.
The weight of the roof rack cargo should also be
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2006 Nissan Towing Guide 12
GROSS AXLE WEIGHT (GAW)
The Gross Axle Weight (GAW) is the maximum weight each axle (front and rear) is
designed to safely carry.
To determine the GAW, load the vehicle as you would for towing and attach the loaded
trailer. At a public scale, with the loaded trailer attached, place only the tow vehicle front
wheels on the scale to determine the actual front axle GAW. To obtain the rear axle GAW,
place all four tow vehicle wheels on the scale. From that figure, subtract the front GAW
and you’ve got the rear GAW amount.
The GAW you come up with must not exceed the Gross Axle Weight Rating
(GAWR) for your vehicle. On Nissan vehicles, the GAWR for both axles is listed on the
F.M.V.S.S. certification label.
GROSS COMBINED WEIGHT (GCW)
The Gross Combined Weight (GCW) is the total weight of the tow vehicle with all
passengers, cargo, and fuel, plus the total weight of the trailer and all its cargo.
To determine the GCW, simply weigh your vehicle when fully loaded and ready to tow,
and add in the weight of the loaded trailer.
The GCW you come up with must not exceed the Gross Combined Weight Rating
(GCWR) for your vehicle. See the SPECIFICATIONS section of this guide, or refer to
your owner’s manual to view the GCWR listed for your vehicle.
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2006 Nissan Towing Guide 13 TRAILER TONGUE/KING PIN LOAD
The amount of weight pressing down on the tow vehicle hitch is called trailer tongue load
(conventional trailer) or king pin load (5th wheel or gooseneck trailers). To measure trailer
tongue/king pin load, place the tongue of the trailer on a scale when the trailer is not
attached to the vehicle. A separate vehicle jack — not the trailer jack — should be used, as
the location of the trailer jack
is rearward of the trailer
tongue and will not give you
an accurate measurement of
the true tongue/king pin load.
Make sure the vehicle jack is
placed directly under the
trailer tongue coupler, and the
tongue is set at the
height/level of the tow vehicle
For proper handling, keep conventional trailer tongue load between 10-15% of the
actual trailer weight, within the limits of the maximum trailer tongue load allowable. For
example, to determine the proper trailer tongue load for a 1,500-lb. trailer, multiply the
weight of 1,500 lbs. by 10% to arrive at a figure of 150 lbs.
5th wheel and gooseneck trailer king pin load should be kept between 15-25% of the
actual trailer weight.
See the SPECIFICATIONS section of this guide, or refer to your vehicle owner’s manual
to view the maximum conventional trailer tongue load listed for your vehicle.
NOTE – Conventional trailer tongue load must be more than 10% but not over 15% of the
total trailer weight. King pin load must be more than 15% but not over 25% of the total
trailer weight. The vehicle weight ratings (GVWR, GAWR, GCWR, etc.) must not be
exceeded, regardless of trailer or hitch type.
HITCH HEIGHT/TRAILER HEIGHT
It is important that your trailer floor and
tongue ride as level as possible. This will help
prevent over-angling, bottoming-out, and
improper load transfer. Therefore, the hitch or
trailer tongue should be adjusted during the
initial vehicle/trailer fit-up to ensure a level
ride. Ball mounts are available in different
configurations to change the hitch ball height.
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2006 Nissan Towing Guide 14 TIRE PRESSURE
When towing a trailer, increase tow vehicle tire pressures to the recommended cold
specifications. You’ll find these figures in the owner’s manual and on the tire pressure chart
located in the vehicle. Trailer tire condition, size, load rating, and inflation pressure should
be in accordance with the trailer and tire manufacturer’s specifications.
Towing can dramatically alter the handling and performance characteristics of your vehicle.
Plus, it puts increased strain on the engine and drivetrain. Therefore, it is always a good
idea to approach towing from the standpoint of safety — whether you’re purchasing
equipment or actually pulling the trailer.
Always make sure your vehicle’s towing capacity is adequate for the trailer you intend to
tow. Buy or lease only quality equipment, and have it installed only by professionals.
In addition, be certain that you have all of the equipment needed for safe towing,
including safety chains/cables, electric trailer brakes, electric trailer brake controller,
breakaway switch, extended rear view mirrors, and so on. All of these items have been
discussed in a previous section of this guide.
With regard to vehicle maintenance, you should follow a more frequent schedule, and
check fluid levels, pressures, tire condition, etc., more often when on the road. See your
owner’s manual for details.
LOADING YOUR TRAILER
Taking the time to load and balance your trailer properly will improve overall handling and
minimize the strain on your tow vehicle. Incorrectly loaded trailers tend to sway or swing
from side to side, upsetting vehicle handling. Careful loading and balancing can help
eliminate these problems.
As mentioned earlier, conventional trailer tongue load should fall between 10-15% of
the total trailer weight, and king pin load — if using a 5th wheel or gooseneck trailer —
should be between 15-25% of the total trailer weight. Excessive tongue/king pin load can
actually push the vehicle down in back, lifting the front wheels to a point where traction,
steering response, and braking are severely reduced. Insufficient tongue/king pin load can
cause instability, which may lead to “tail wagging” or jackknifing.
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2006 Nissan Towing Guide 15 With this in mind, proper loading is
extremely important. When loading a trailer,
60% of the total cargo weight should be
positioned in the front portion of the trailer
and 40% in the back. Then, the load should
be adjusted until the proper tongue/king pin
load ratio is achieved.
The trailer load should be balanced
equally from side-to-side. Unequal side-to-
side loading can negatively affect handling
and braking. Once in place, all cargo should
be firmly secured to prevent shifting. If the
load should shift abruptly during braking or
cornering, it could quickly affect the
handling of your vehicle and cause a very
Finally, do not carry flammable materials,
such as gasoline, in your trailer. In the event
of an accident, an explosion or fire could
ENSURING VEHICLE/TRAILER STABILITY
Improper loading, excessive or insufficient trailer tongue/king pin load, overloading,
excessive trailer weight, poorly designed trailer suspensions, crosswinds, and poor
maintenance are all things that can affect the stability of your vehicle/trailer combination.
If swaying does occur, check the cargo load for proper balance and distribution to
ensure proper trailer tongue/king pin load. In addition, check the condition of the
suspension and shocks, as well as the tires, tire pressures, and wheel bearings on both the
tow vehicle and the trailer. If swaying occurs because of high winds or poor weather
conditions, wait until these conditions improve before resuming your trip.
If the swaying continues and you feel your trailer is suitably balanced and within the
towing capacity limits of your vehicle, discontinue towing and consult your Nissan dealer or
trailer manufacturer to determine the problem. Most important, do not tow until the problem
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2006 Nissan Towing Guide 16 VEHICLE SPEED
Some states have specific regulations and speed limits for vehicles that are towing trailers.
Always obey these ordinances. Remember to reduce your speed in unsafe or less-than-
ideal road conditions or weather. When towing a trailer, braking distances increase while
handling agility decreases. Always leave yourself an extra margin of distance to respond to
Never allow passengers to ride inside a trailer while it is being towed. Not only is this
unlawful in most areas, passengers could be seriously injured during sudden trailer
movement or in an accident. In addition, trailers may allow fumes from the tow vehicle to
leak inside. This could result in carbon monoxide poisoning from the engine exhaust.
Vehicle modifications — beyond those required for proper hitch installation, wiring hook-up,
and necessary cooling system upgrading — are not recommended for any Nissan vehicle
being used for towing purposes. Changes to the drivetrain, suspension, exhaust systems,
frame structure/unibody, or other vehicle components are not necessary for towing within
the limits described in this guide. These changes may diminish the reliability and longevity
of your vehicle and possibly void warranty coverage as well.
It is always a good idea to travel with a special tool kit when towing. In addition to tools, it
should contain flares, a flashlight, emergency reflectors, jumper cables, extra fuses, extra
radiator coolant, oil, and easily replaced spare parts such as taillight bulbs. You should also
carry spare tires for your tow vehicle and trailer, as well as a jack suitable for use on the
trailer. Be aware that not all automotive jacks can be used safely on a trailer.
BEFORE STARTING OUT
Before starting out on a trip, make one last inspection of the tow vehicle and the trailer. Are
the tire pressures correct? Are the safety chains/cables securely in place? Is the cargo tied
down securely? Do all the lights work? Is the coupler properly attached over the hitch ball
and secured using a locking pin? Is the breakaway switch hooked up and functioning
properly? Are vehicle and electric trailer brakes working properly?
Make a checklist of key items to be inspected, and don’t forget the basics. When
towing, vehicle engine oil, transmission oil, and coolant should always be checked before
starting out. Finding a potential problem while in your driveway is better than discovering it
miles from home.
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2006 Nissan Towing Guide 17
If you’ve never towed a trailer before, be aware that it does take getting used to. To begin
with, towing noticeably affects your vehicle’s performance:
Š It will not accelerate as quickly — an important point to keep in mind when merging onto
Š It will not stop as quickly. Leave more room than usual between you and the traffic
ahead, and brake sooner when coming to a stop.
Š Abrupt maneuvering can unbalance the load and reduce the handling stability of your
tow vehicle. Plan ahead and make lane changes and turns smoothly.
If possible, before you actually hit the open road, practice towing in a large, uncrowded
area such as a stadium or shopping center parking lot. Become especially familiar with
backing up a trailer — the maneuver many people find most difficult.
Drive your vehicle at a moderate speed, and remember to reduce your speed in unsafe or
less-than-ideal road conditions or weather. The tendency for a trailer to sway increases
with speed, and such swaying can result in a loss of control.
The combination of your tow vehicle and trailer obviously requires a greater distance to
stop. A good rule of thumb to remember is that for each 10 mph of speed, allow yourself
one tow vehicle and trailer length of distance between the front of your vehicle and the
When braking, use firm but gradual pressure on the pedal rather than panic braking.
Applying the brakes abruptly or with too much force can cause the trailer to skid or
jackknife at its point of attachment with the vehicle. This, in turn, can throw the tow vehicle
out of control.
If equipped with an electric trailer brake controller, follow the recommended operational
As mentioned in the introduction to this section, because of the added weight of the trailer,
acceleration capability is reduced and you’ll require a longer distance to pass another
vehicle. Be certain you have sufficient time and space to pass safely. Obviously, never
attempt passing on hills or when going around curves.
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2006 Nissan Towing Guide 18 CORNER MORE SLOWLY
Know your vehicle and trailer capabilities. Entering a sharp corner too quickly or abruptly
can “crack the whip,” whereby the trailer can actually pull the tow vehicle off the road.
Therefore, when approaching a relatively sharp corner, begin braking sooner than you
would when not towing. Do your braking in a straight line prior to the corner, and turn
smoothly into it. In addition, remember to make a wider turn than normal to ensure that the
trailer safely clears the inside of the turn.
When towing a 5th wheel or gooseneck trailer, do not make sharp turns while driving or
backing as the trailer may contact the vehicle and cause damage to both the trailer and
vehicle. A special extended 5th wheel pin box or sliding hitch may be required to provide
additional trailer-to-truck clearance for tight maneuvering.
BACK UP WITH CAUTION
Backing up with a trailer is a difficult maneuver; however, there is a “trick” that can simplify
the procedure considerably. Simply steer with one hand at the bottom of the steering
wheel. To turn the trailer to the left, first move the steering wheel to the left. To turn the
trailer to the right, move the wheel to the right. All movements of the wheel should be done
in small increments. Of course, backing up should be done only at very slow speeds. For
large trailers that obstruct your rearward vision, have someone outside the vehicle act as a
“spotter” to guide you along.
A tow vehicle and trailer can be an unwieldy combination in a small area, so always try to
park where you will have a relatively easy time maneuvering. Once parked, always block the
wheels on both the tow vehicle and the trailer.
Parking on a slope is not recommended. If, however, you must park on a slope, and your
vehicle is equipped with an automatic transmission, there are some precautions you should
Š Have someone block the wheels once the tow vehicle and trailer are in position and
being held by the vehicle’s brake.
Š Next, apply the parking brake, and only then move the gear lever into PARK. If you move
the lever into PARK before blocking the wheels and applying the parking brake,
transmission damage may occur.
An engine will lose about 4% of its performance for every 1,000 feet above sea level that
you travel. If you will be towing in high altitudes, it’s a good idea to allow more time than
usual due to the engine’s reduced performance.
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2006 Nissan Towing Guide 19 AUTOMATIC CRUISE CONTROL
Do not use cruise control while towing a trailer.
TOW MODE (IF EQUIPPED)
Tow Mode should be used when the vehicle and trailer weight is at least 75% of the
vehicle GCWR. This mode is most useful when towing a heavy trailer or hauling a heavy
load, particularly when stop-and-go traffic, rolling terrain, or a busy parking lot is involved.
Driving the vehicle in Tow Mode with minimal trailer load will not cause any damage;
however, fuel economy may be reduced, and transmission/engine driving characteristics
may feel different.
HILLS – UPGRADES
As the incline increases, shift down to a lower gear to maintain speed and prevent the
engine from lugging. However, for long and steep grades, do not stay in first gear when
driving above 35 mph or in second gear above 58 mph.* The added weight of a trailer
places an increased load on the engine and cooling system, so monitor your coolant
temperature gauge and automatic transmission fluid temperature gauge (if equipped) very
carefully. At the first sign of overheating, pull to the side of the road. See IF YOUR ENGINE
OVERHEATS later in this section for more information.
HILLS – DOWNGRADES
While going downhill, the weight of the trailer pushing on the tow vehicle may decrease
overall stability. Therefore, to maintain adequate control, reduce your speed and shift
to a lower gear.
When descending a hill, also avoid long or repeated use of the brakes as this reduces
their effectiveness and could cause overheating. Shifting to a lower gear instead provides
“engine braking” and reduces the need to brake as frequently.
IF YOUR ENGINE OVERHEATS
A moderate increase in engine operating temperature is normal when towing a trailer. If,
however, the coolant temperature gauge reading is abnormally high, or if you are
experiencing a significant loss of power, or if you hear unusual engine noises,** the engine
may be overheating and you should immediately take the following steps:
1. Pull your vehicle safely over to the side of the road, out of traffic. Apply the parking
brake, and move the gearshift lever to NEUTRAL (manual) or PARK (automatic). DO
NOT STOP THE ENGINE.
*For Murano, see your owner’s manual for information applicable to your vehicle.
**See your owner’s manual for additional indications that your vehicle may be overheating.