NISSAN XTERRA 2012 N50 / 2.G Owners Manual
Page 321 of 341
The GCWR equals the combined weight of the
towing vehicle (including passengers and cargo)
plus the total trailer load. Towing loads greater
than these or using improper towing equipment
could adversely affect vehicle handling, braking
The ability of your vehicle to tow a trailer is not
only related to the maximum trailer loads, but also
the places you plan to tow. Tow weights appro-
priate for level highway driving may have to be
reduced for low traction situations (for example,
on slippery boat ramps) .Temperature conditions can also affect towing.
For example, towing a heavy trailer in high outside
temperatures on graded roads can affect engine
performance and cause overheating. The engine
protection mode, which helps reduce the chance
of engine damage, could activate and automati-
cally decrease engine power. Vehicle speed may
decrease under high load. Plan your trip carefully
to account for trailer and vehicle load, weather
and road conditions.
Overheating can result in reduced engine
power and vehicle speed. The reduced
speed may be lower than other traffic,
which could increase the chance of a col-
lision. Be especially careful when driving.
If the vehicle cannot maintain a safe driv-
ing speed, pull to the side of the road in a
safe area. Allow the engine to cool and
return to normal operation. See “If your
vehicle overheats” in the “In case of emer-
gency” section of this manual.
Vehicle damage resulting from improper
towing procedures is not covered by
When using a weight carrying or a weight distrib-
uting hitch, keep the tongue load between 10 -
15 percent of the total trailer load or use the
trailer tongue load specified by the trailer manu-
facturer. The tongue load must be within the
maximum tongue load limits shown in the follow-
ing “Towing Load/Specification” chart. If the
tongue load becomes excessive, rearrange cargo
to allow for proper tongue load.
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Maximum Gross Vehicle Weight
(GVW)/maximum Gross Axle Weight
The GVW of the towing vehicle must not exceed
the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR)
shown on the F.M.V.S.S./C.M.V.S.S. certification
label. The GVW equals the combined weight of
the unloaded vehicle, passengers, luggage,
hitch, trailer tongue load and any other optional
equipment. In addition, front or rear GAW must
not exceed the Gross Axle Weight Rating
(GAWR) shown on the F.M.V.S.S./C.M.V.S.S.
certification label.Towing capacities are calculated assuming a
base vehicle with driver and any options required
to achieve the rating. Additional passengers,
cargo and/or optional equipment, such as the
trailer hitch, will add weight to the vehicle and
reduce your vehicle’s maximum towing capacity
and trailer tongue load.
The vehicle and trailer need to be weighed to
confirm the vehicle is within the GVWR, Front
GAWR, Rear GAWR, Gross Combined Weight
Rating (GCWR) and Towing capacity.
All vehicle and trailer weights can be measured
using platform type scales commonly found at
truck stops, highway weigh stations, building
supply centers or salvage yards.
To determine the available payload capacity for
tongue load, use the following procedure.
1. Locate the GVWR on the F.M.V.S.S./C.M.V.S.S. certification label.
2. Weigh your vehicle on the scale with all of the passengers and cargo that are normally
in the vehicle when towing a trailer.
3. Subtract the actual vehicle weight from the GVWR. The remaining amount is the avail-
able maximum tongue load.
To determine the available towing capacity, use
the following procedure. 1. Find the GCWR for your vehicle on the
“Towing Load/Specification” chart found
later in this section.
2. Subtract the actual vehicle weight from the GCWR. The remaining amount is the avail-
able maximum towing capacity.
To determine the Gross Trailer Weight, weigh
your trailer on a scale with all equipment and
cargo, that are normally in the trailer when it is
towed. Make sure the Gross trailer weight is not
more than the Gross Trailer Weight Rating shown
on the trailer and is not more than the calculated
available maximum towing capacity.
Also weigh the front and rear axles on the scale to
make sure the Front Gross Axle Weight and Rear
Gross Axle Weight are not more than Front Gross
Axle Weight and Rear Gross Axle Weight on the
F.M.V.S.S./C.M.V.S.S. certification label. The
cargo in the trailer and vehicle may need to be
moved or removed to meet the specified ratings.
Example: ● Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW) as weighed
on a scale - including passengers, cargo and
hitch - 4,900 lb. (2,222 kg) .
● Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) from
F.M.V.S.S./C.M.V.S.S. certification label -
5,400 lb. (2,449 kg) .
Technical and consumer information9-21
Page 323 of 341
●Gross Combined Weight Rating (GCWR)
from “Towing Load/Specification” chart -
9,658 lb. (4,380 kg) .
● Maximum Trailer towing capacity from “Tow-
ing Load/Specification” chart - 5,000 lb.
(2,268 kg) .
5,400 lb. (2,449 kg) GVWR
– 4,900 lb. (2,222 kg) GVW
= 500 lb. (226 kg) Available for tongue weight
9,658 lb. (4,380 kg) GCWR
– 4,900 lb. (2,222 kg) GVW
= 4,758 lb. (2,158 kg) Capacity available for towing
500 lb. (226 kg) Available tongue weight
/ 4,758 lb. (2,158 kg) Available capacity
= 10 % tongue weight
The available towing capacity may be less than
the maximum towing capacity due to the passen-
ger and cargo load in the vehicle.
Remember to keep trailer tongue weight be-
tween 10 - 15% of the trailer weight or within the trailer tongue load specification recommended
by the trailer manufacturer. If the tongue load
becomes excessive, rearrange the cargo to ob-
tain the proper tongue load. Do not exceed the
maximum tongue weight specification shown in
the “Towing load/specification” chart even if the
calculated available tongue weight is greater
than 15%. If the calculated tongue weight is less
than 10% , reduce the total trailer weight to
match the available tongue weight.
Always verify that available capacities are within
the required ratings.
Trailer frontal area
Exceeding the maximum trailer frontal
area specification may exceed the towing
capacity of the vehicle. This may affect the
towing performance and lead to vehicle
The trailer frontal area affects the towing load of a
trailer. The frontal area is the total area of the
vehicle and trailer that is affected by air resis-
tance while towing. Do not exceed the maximum
trailer frontal area specification shown in the
Towing Load/Specification” chart. The frontal
area can be determined by multiplying the width
of the trailer by the height of the trailer. For example, a trailer that is 8 feet wide by 6 feet tall
has a trailer frontal area of 48 square feet.
US & CAN
Maximum Towing Capacity*1, *2 5,000 lb.
Maximum Tongue Load 500 lb.
Maximum Gross Com- bined Weight Rating 9,658 lb.
Maximum trailer frontal area 60 sq ft (5.52 sq me-
*1: The towing capacity values are calculated
assuming a base vehicle with driver and any
options required to achieve the rating. Additional
passengers, cargo and/or optional equipment
will add weight to the vehicle and reduce your
vehicle’s maximum towing capacity.
*2: Use of a weight-distributing hitch system is
recommended when towing over 5,000 lb (2,268
9-22Technical and consumer information
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Your vehicle may be equipped with an optional
trailer tow package. The trailer tow package in-
cludes a receiver-type frame mounted hitch. This
hitch is rated for the maximum towing capacity of
this vehicle when the proper towing equipment is
used. Choose a proper ball mount and hitch ball
that is rated for the trailer to be towed. Genuine
NISSAN ball mounts and hitch balls are available
from your NISSAN dealer.
If your vehicle is not equipped with the optional
trailer tow package, check the towing capacity of
your bumper hitch or receiver-type frame
mounted hitch. Choose a proper hitch for your
vehicle and trailer. A genuine NISSAN trailer
hitch is available from your NISSAN dealer. Make
sure the trailer hitch is securely attached to the
vehicle to help avoid personal injury or property
damage due to sway caused by crosswinds,
rough road surfaces or passing trucks.
Trailer hitch components have specific
weight ratings. Your vehicle may be ca-
pable of towing a trailer heavier than the
weight rating of the hitch components.
Never exceed the weight rating of the
hitch components. Doing so can cause
serious personal injury or property
Choose a hitch ball of the proper size and weight
rating for your trailer:● The required hitch ball size is stamped on
most trailer couplers. Most hitch balls also
have the size printed on the top of the ball.
● Choose the proper class hitch ball based on
the trailer weight.
● The diameter of the threaded shank of the
hitch ball must be matched to the ball mount
hole diameter. The hitch ball shank should
be no more than 1/16” smaller than the hole
in the ball mount. ●
The threaded shank of the hitch ball must be
long enough to be properly secured to the
ball mount. There should be at least 2
threads showing beyond the lock washer
The hitch ball is attached to the ball mount and
the ball mount is inserted into the hitch receiver.
Choose a proper class ball mount based on the
trailer weight. Additionally, the ball mount should
be chosen to keep the trailer tongue level with the
Weight carrying hitches
A weight carrying or “dead weight” ball mount is
one that is designed to carry the whole amount of
tongue weight and gross weight directly on the
ball mount and on the receiver.
Weight distribution hitch
This type of hitch is also called a “load-leveling” or
“equalizing” hitch. A set of bars attach to the ball
mount and to the trailer to distribute the tongue
weight (hitch weight) of your trailer. Many ve-
hicles can’t carry the full tongue weight of a given
trailer, and need some of the tongue weight
transferred through the frame and pushing down
on the front wheels. This gives stability to the tow
Technical and consumer information9-23
Page 325 of 341
A weight-distributing hitch system (Class IV) is
recommended if you plan to tow trailers with a
maximum weight over 5,000 lbs (2,268 kg) .
Check with the trailer and towing equipment
manufacturers to determine if they recommend
the use of a weight-distributing hitch system.
A weight-distributing hitch system may af-
fect the operation of trailer surge brakes. If
you are considering use of a weight-
distributing hitch system with a surge
brake-equipped trailer, check with the
surge brake, hitch or trailer manufacturer
to determine if and how this can be done.
Follow the instructions provided by the manufac-
turer for installing and using the weight-
distributing hitch system.
General set-up instructions are as follows:1. Park unloaded vehicle on a level surface. With the ignition on and the doors closed,
allow the vehicle to stand for several minutes
so that it can level.
2. Measure the height of a reference point on the front and rear bumpers at the center of
3. Attach the trailer to the vehicle and adjust the hitch equalizers so that the front bumper height is within0-.5inches (0 – 13 mm) of
the reference height measured in step 2. The
rear bumper should be no higher than the
reference height measured in step 2.
Properly adjust the weight distributing
hitch so the rear of the bumper is no
higher than the measured reference
height when the trailer is attached. If the
rear bumper is higher than the measured
reference height when loaded, the vehicle
may handle unpredictably which could
cause a loss of vehicle control and cause
serious personal injury or property
Sway control device
Sudden maneuvers, wind gusts, and buffeting
caused by other vehicles can affect trailer han-
dling. Sway control devices may be used to help
control these affects. If you choose to use one,
contact a reputable trailer hitch supplier to make
sure the sway control device will work with the
vehicle, hitch, trailer and the trailer’s brake sys-
tem. Follow the instructions provided by the
manufacturer for installing and using the sway
Class I hitch
Class I trailer hitch equipment (receiver, ball
mount and hitch ball) can be used to tow trailers
of a maximum weight of 2,000 lb (907 kg) .
Class II hitch
Class II trailer hitch equipment (receiver, ball
mount and hitch ball) can be used to tow trailers
of a maximum weight of 3,500 lb (1,587 kg) .
Class III hitch
Class III trailer hitch equipment (receiver, ball
mount and hitch ball) can be used to tow trailers
of a maximum weight of 5,000 lb (2,268 kg) .
● Special hitches which include frame re-
inforcements are required for towing
above 2,000 lb (907 kg) . Suitable genu-
ine NISSAN hitches, ball mounts and
hitch balls for pickup trucks and sport
utility vehicles are available at a
● The hitch should not be attached to or
affect the operation of the impact-
● Do not use axle-mounted hitches.
9-24Technical and consumer information
Page 326 of 341
●Do not modify the vehicle exhaust sys-
tem, brake system, etc. to install a
● To reduce the possibility of additional
damage if your vehicle is struck from
the rear, where practical, remove the
receiver when not in use.
● After the hitch is removed, seal the bolt
holes to prevent exhaust fumes, water
or dust from entering the passenger
● Regularly check that all trailer hitch
mounting bolts are securely mounted.
● When towing a trailer, inflate the ve-
hicle tires to the recommended cold
tire pressure indicated on the Tire
and Loading Information label.
● Trailer tire condition, size, load rating
and proper inflation pressure should
be in accordance with the trailer and
tire manufacturer’s specifications.
Always use suitable safety chains between your
vehicle and the trailer. The safety chains should
be crossed and should be attached to the hitch,
not to the vehicle bumper or axle. Be sure to leave
enough slack in the chains to permit turning
When splicing into the vehicle electrical
system, a commercially available power-
type module/converter must be used to
provide power for all trailer lighting. This
unit uses the vehicle battery as a direct
power source for all trailer lights while
using the vehicle tail light, stoplight and
turn signal circuits as a signal source. The
module/converter must draw no more
that 15 milliamps from the stop and tail
lamp circuits. Using a module/converter
that exceeds these power requirements
may damage the vehicle’s electrical sys-
tem. See a reputable trailer dealer to ob-
tain the proper equipment and to have it
installed. Trailer lights should comply with federal and/or
local regulations. For assistance in hooking up
trailer lights, contact a NISSAN dealer or repu-
table trailer dealer. Vehicles equipped with the
optional trailer tow package are equipped with a
7-pin trailer harness connector. A NISSAN 7–pin
tow harness kit is available from your dealer. If
your trailer is equipped with a flat 4-pin connec-
tor, an adapter will be needed to connect the
trailer lights to the vehicle. Adapters are available
at auto parts stores and hitch retailers.Trailer brakes
When towing a trailer load of 3,500 lbs.
(1,587 kg) or more, trailers with a brake
system MUST be used.
However, most states
require a separate braking system on trailers with
a loaded weight above a specific amount. Make
sure the trailer meets the local regulations and
the regulations where you plan to tow.
Several types of braking systems are available.
Surge Brakes - The surge brake actuator is
mounted on the trailer tongue with a hydraulic line
running to each trailer wheel. Surge brakes are
activated by the trailer pushing against the hitch
ball when the tow vehicle is braking. Hydraulic
surge brakes are common on rental trailers and
some boat trailers. In this type of system, there is
no hydraulic or electric connection for brake op-
eration between the tow vehicle and the trailer.
Technical and consumer information9-25
Page 327 of 341
Electric Trailer Brakes -Electric braking sys-
tems are activated by an electronic signal sent
from a trailer brake controller (special brake-
sensing module) . If electric trailer brakes are
used, see “Electric trailer brake controller” in this
Have a professional supplier of towing equip-
ment make sure the trailer brakes are properly
installed and demonstrate proper brake function
Never connect a trailer brake system di-
rectly to the vehicle brake system.
Electric trailer brake controller
Trailers equipped with electric brakes may re-
quire the installation of an aftermarket trailer
A Genuine NISSAN jumper harness is available
that is specifically designed to be used when
installing an aftermarket brake controller.
Install the aftermarket electric trailer brake con-
troller according to the manufacturer’s instruc-
● Be certain your vehicle maintains a level
position when a loaded and/or unloaded
trailer is hitched. Do not drive the vehicle if it
has an abnormal nose-up or nose-down
condition; check for improper tongue load,
overload, worn suspension or other possible
causes of either condition.
● Always secure items in the trailer to prevent
load shift while driving.
● Keep the cargo load as low as possible in
the trailer to keep the trailer center of gravity
● Load the trailer so approximately 60% of the
trailer load is in the front half and 40% is in
the back half. Also make sure the load is
balanced side to side.
● Check your hitch, trailer tire pressure, ve-
hicle tire pressure, trailer light operation, and
trailer wheel lug nuts every time you attach a
trailer to the vehicle.
● Be certain your rearview mirrors conform to
all federal, state or local regulations. If not,
install any mirrors required for towing before
driving the vehicle. ●
Determine the overall height of the vehicle
and trailer so the required clearance is
Trailer towing tips
In order to gain skill and an understanding of the
vehicle’s behavior, you should practice turning,
stopping and backing up in an area which is free
from traffic. Steering stability and braking perfor-
mance will be somewhat different than under
normal driving conditions.
● Always secure items in the trailer to prevent
load shift while driving.
● Lock the trailer hitch coupler with a pin or
lock to prevent the coupler from inadver-
tently becoming unlatched.
● Avoid abrupt starts, acceleration or stops.
● Avoid sharp turns or lane changes.
● Always drive your vehicle at a moderate
● When backing up, hold the bottom of the
steering wheel with one hand. Move your
hand in the direction in which you want the
trailer to go. Make small corrections and
back up slowly. If possible, have someone
guide you when you are backing up.
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Always block the wheels on both vehicle and
trailer when parking. Parking on a slope is not
recommended; however, if you must do so:
If you move the shift selector to the P
(Park) position before blocking the
wheels and applying the parking brake,
transmission damage could occur.1. Apply and hold the brake pedal.
2. Have someone place blocks on the downhill side of the vehicle and trailer wheels.
3. After the wheel blocks are in place, slowly release the brake pedal until the blocks ab-
sorb the vehicle load.
4. Apply the parking brake.
5. Shift the transmission into P (Park) .
6. Make sure the
indicator light (if so
equipped) indicates the transfer case is in
4H, 4L, or 2H and that the ATP light is off. If
indicator light is flashing, or the
ATP light is ON, make sure the transmission
is in P (Park) (A/T) and turn the 4WD switch
to 2WD or 4H. See “Automatic transmission
park warning light” in the “Instruments and controls” section and “Using four wheel
drive (4WD)” in the “Starting and driving”
7. Turn off the engine.
To drive away: 1. Start the vehicle.
2. Apply and hold the brake pedal.
3. Shift the transmission into gear.
4. Release the parking brake.
5. Drive slowly until the vehicle and trailer are clear from the blocks.
6. Apply and hold the brake pedal.
7. Have someone retrieve and store the blocks. ● While going downhill, the weight of the
trailer pushing on the tow vehicle may de-
crease overall stability. Therefore, to main-
tain adequate control, reduce your speed
and shift to a lower gear. Avoid long or
repeated use of the brakes when descend-
ing a hill, as this reduces their effectiveness
and could cause overheating. Shifting to a
lower gear instead provides “engine brak-
ing” and reduces the need to brake as fre-
If the engine coolant temperature rises to a
high temperature, refer to “If your vehicle
overheats” in the “In case of emergency”
section of this owner’s manual.
● Trailer towing requires more fuel than normal
● Avoid towing a trailer for your vehicle’s first
500 miles (805 km) .
● For the first 500 miles (805 km) that you do
tow, do not drive over 50 MPH (80 km/h) .
● Have your vehicle serviced more often than
at intervals specified in the recommended
Maintenance Schedule in the “NISSAN Ser-
vice and Maintenance Guide”.
● When making a turn, your trailer wheels will
be closer to the inside of the turn than your
vehicle wheels. To compensate for this,
make a larger than normal turning radius
during the turn.
● Crosswinds and rough roads will adversely
affect vehicle/trailer handling, possibly caus-
ing vehicle sway. When being passed by
larger vehicles, be prepared for possible
changes in crosswinds that could affect ve-
Technical and consumer information9-27
Page 329 of 341
Do the following if the trailer begins to sway:1.
Take your foot off the accelerator pedal to
allow the vehicle to coast and steer as straight
ahead as the road conditions allow. This com-
bination will help stabilize the vehicle
– Do not correct trailer sway by steering or applying the brakes.
2. When the trailer sway stops, gently apply the brakes and pull to the side of the road in a
3. Try to rearrange the trailer load so it is bal- anced as described earlier in this section.
● Be careful when passing other vehicles.
Passing while towing a trailer requires con-
siderably more distance than normal pass-
ing. Remember, the length of the trailer must
also pass the other vehicle before you can
safely change lanes.
● Use the Tow Mode or downshift the trans-
mission to a lower gear for engine braking
when driving down steep or long hills. This
will help slow the vehicle without applying
● Avoid holding the brake pedal down too long
or too frequently. This could cause the
brakes to overheat, resulting in reduced
braking efficiency. ●
Increase your following distance to allow for
greater stopping distances while towing a
trailer. Anticipate stops and brake gradually.
● NISSAN recommends that the cruise con-
trol not be used while towing a trailer.
● Some states or provinces have specific
regulations and speed limits for vehicles that
are towing trailers. Obey the local speed
● Check your hitch, trailer wiring harness con-
nections, and trailer wheel lug nuts after 50
miles (80 km) of travel and at every break.
● When launching a boat, don’t allow the wa-
ter level to go over the exhaust tail pipe or
● Make sure you disconnect the trailer lights
before backing the trailer into the water or
the trailer lights may burn out.
When towing a trailer, final drive gear oil
should be replaced and transmission
oil/fluid should be changed more fre-
quently. For additional information, see the
“Maintenance and do-it-yourself” section
earlier in this manual.
Towing your vehicle with all four wheels on the
ground is sometimes called flat towing. This
method is sometimes used when towing a vehicle
behind a recreational vehicle, such as a motor
● Failure to follow these guidelines can
result in severe transmission damage.
● Whenever flat towing your vehicle, al-
ways tow forward, never backward.
● DO NOT tow any automatic transmis-
sion vehicle with all four wheels on the
ground (flat towing) . Doing so WILL
DAMAGE internal transmission parts
due to lack of transmission lubrication.
● For emergency towing procedures refer
to “Towing recommended by NISSAN”
in the “In case of emergency” section of
9-28Technical and consumer information
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Manual Transmission (if so equipped)
●Always tow with the manual transmission in
● On 4-wheel drive vehicles, place the transfer
case in the 2H range. Failure to do so will
cause the powertrain to bind up.
● After towing 500 miles (805 km) , start and
idle the engine with the transmission in Neu-
tral for two minutes. Failure to idle the engine
after every 500 miles (805 km) of towing
may cause damage to internal transmission
Automatic Transmission (if so
To tow a vehicle equipped with an automatic
transmission, an appropriate vehicle dolly MUST
be placed under the towed vehicle’s drive
wheels. Always follow the dolly manufacturer’s
recommendations when using their product. DOT (Department of Transportation) Quality
Grades: All passenger car tires must conform to
federal safety requirements in addition to these
Quality grades can be found where applicable on
the tire sidewall between tread shoulder and
maximum section width. For example:
Treadwear 200 Traction AA Temperature A
The treadwear grade is a comparative rating
based on the wear rate of the tire when tested
under controlled conditions on a specified gov-
ernment test course. For example, a tire graded
150 would wear one and one-half (1 1/2) times
as well on the government course as a tire graded
100. The relative performance of tires depends
upon the actual conditions of their use, however,
and may depart significantly from the norm due to
variations in driving habits, service practices and
differences in road characteristics and climate.
Traction AA, A, B and C
The traction grades, from highest to lowest, are
AA, A, B, and C. Those grades represent the
tire’s ability to stop on wet pavement as mea-
sured under controlled conditions on specified
government test surfaces of asphalt and con-
crete. A tire marked C may have poor traction
The traction grade assigned to this tire is
based on straight-ahead braking traction
tests, and does not include acceleration,
cornering, hydroplaning, or peak traction
Temperature A, B and C
The temperature grades are A (the highest) , B, and
C, representing the tire’s resistance to the genera-
tion of heat, and its ability to dissipate heat when
tested under controlled conditions on a specified
indoor laboratory test wheel. Sustained high tem-
perature can cause the material of the tire to de-
generate and reduce tire life, and excessive tem-
perature can lead to sudden tire failure. The grade
C corresponds to a level of performance which all
passenger car tires must meet under the Federal
Motor Safety Standard No. 109. Grades B and A
represent higher levels of performance on the labo-
ratory test wheel than the minimum required by law.
The temperature grade for this tire is estab-
lished for a tire that is properly inflated and
not overloaded. Excessive speed, under-
inflation, or excessive loading, either sepa-
rately or in combination, can cause heat
build-up and possible tire failure.
UNIFORM TIRE QUALITY GRADING
Technical and consumer information9-29