towing NISSAN XTERRA 2015 N50 / 2.G Towing Guide
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NISSAN TOWING GUIDE
Table of Contents
What Is Right for You
Preparing Your Vehicle
The 2015 NISSAN Towing Guide provides information for currently available 2015
NISSAN vehicles. This publication will be amended as new vehicles are introduced.
For important safety warnings, please read and follow your vehicle owner’s manual.
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2015 NISSAN Towing Guide 1
SAFETY IS PRIORITY ONE
Obviously, your first concern should be safety. Your vehicle was designed to be used primarily
to carry passengers and cargo. Always remember that towing a trailer places additional loads
on your vehicle’s engine, drivetrain, suspension, steering, braking, and other systems.
Therefore, be certain that your vehicle can meet the demands of the towing application you
have in mind.
Rent or purchase towing equipment that complies with established industry standards and
state and federal safety regulations. Reinforced tow hitches designed especially for certain
NISSAN vehicles are available from your NISSAN dealer. Hitches for other NISSAN models –
If Nissan recommends towing with that vehicle - should be bought from and installed by a
professional supplier of towing equipment. Carefully review all information and literature
provided with any hitch you purchase for safety and proper use information.
Finally, it is important to follow the towing capacity limit set for your specific vehicle, and to
ensure that your vehicle is in top mechanical condition, especially the tires, brakes,
suspension, and engine cooling system. See your vehicle owner’s manual for details.
NEVER EXCEED THE ESTABLISHED TOWING CAPACITY
Towing capacities vary from vehicle to vehicle. See the towing information in your vehicle
owner’s manual to confirm whether your NISSAN vehicle can be used to tow and if so, what
its towing capacity rating is. Use this data to help select the proper NISSAN vehicle to meet
your anticipated towing needs, and refer to it when renting a trailer or other piece of towing
EQUIP YOUR NISSAN FOR TOWING
The frequency and type of towing dictate the manner in which you equip your vehicle. If you
plan to tow often, for either recreation or work, select the engine size, transmission type,
suspension, and towing capacity that are best suited to your requirements. This guide can
help you select that equipment.
If, on the other hand, your towing will be infrequent, choose the NISSAN vehicle and
equipment that best meets your day-to-day needs. Be careful not to exceed the towing
capacity on those few occasions when you do tow.
READ THIS GUIDE BEFORE YOU TOW
This guide was designed to provide an overview of safe towing practices. Here, you will find
information on towing equipment, safety, proper loading and driving techniques, towing tips,
and much more.
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It is also a good idea to discuss your towing requirements with either your NISSAN dealer or a
professional supplier of towing equipment before you equip your NISSAN vehicle for towing.
Finally, there are state and local laws on towing that you should review to ensure compliance
with all regulations.
CAUTION- Do not use your new vehicle to tow a trailer or haul a heavy load for
the first 500 miles (800 km) of use. Your engine, axle or other parts could be
damaged. For the first 500 miles that you tow a trailer, do not drive over 50 mph
and do not make starts at full throttle. This helps your engine and other parts of
your vehicle wear in at heavier loads.
The first thing to keep in mind when renting any type of tow equipment, trailer, or tow dolly, is
to rent only from professional companies that specialize in towing and towing equipment.
More than likely, specialized companies hire professional staff that can assist you in selecting
and installing the proper towing equipment for your NISSAN vehicle.
When renting, make sure you have your vehicle owner’s manual on hand so that you can
reference the towing capacities for your specific vehicle. Make certain that the tow equipment
and components you rent does not exceed your vehicles maximum towing capacity. Make sure
that any related towing equipment you rent has the proper weight class rating for your
maximum intended towed load weight, and do not exceed the maximum Gross Combined
While you are there, ask questions. How much does the empty trailer weigh? How much
weight will the trailer hold? What is the trailer’s tongue load? What type of brakes is it
equipped with (if any)? All of these factors have an effect on whether your NISSAN vehicle is
capable of safely pulling that type of trailer, dolly, or tow equipment.
Make certain that the trailer stoplights, taillights, turn signals, and brakes (if equipped) are
connected and operating correctly, and all safety equipment is properly installed. Check the
safety chains/cables, tie-downs, etc.
For safer operation, carefully inspect the condition of the trailer and towing equipment.
Specifically, check to make sure the tires are not worn excessively and are properly inflated.
Make sure there are not any broken welds, missing bolts, and that the hitch components are
not damaged. Towing safety should be a high priority when choosing and renting towing
equipment, including hitches.
WARNING: NEVER RENT A CLAMP-ON-TYPE HITCH. The hitch should not be
attached to or affect the operation of the impact-absorbing bumper. Use only a permanent-
type hitch properly attached to the vehicle to help avoid personal injury or property damage.
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If you are buying a travel or boat trailer, be sure that your NISSAN vehicle has the towing
capacity to pull it. Refer to your vehicle owner’s manual for detailed information regarding the
towing capacity of your specific vehicle. Your vehicle owner’s manual should ALWAYS be
referenced before making any towing decisions.
Naturally, you will want to select the towing and safety equipment that adheres to your
state’s and federal safety regulations. Moreover, if you plan to tow often, consider
convenience. Quick-disconnect trailer light connectors and ratchet-type tie-downs, for
example, make the job go faster and easier and are usually worth the extra small investment.
Purchase towing items such as hitches and hitch balls only from your NISSAN dealer or a
professional supplier of towing equipment.
If you are intending to use your vehicle to tow a trailer you already own, you must ensure
that your loaded trailer remains well within your vehicle's towing capacity as specified in the
vehicle owner's manual. In addition, you should purchase the right type, style, and class* of
hitch and towing equipment to properly adapt the trailer to your vehicle.
RIGHT FOR YOU
TYPES OF EQUIPMENT
Towing requires a variety of equipment, and, depending upon the application, there can be
several types or styles of each piece of equipment. Working with your NISSAN dealer or a
professional supplier of towing equipment, it should be relatively simple to determine the
proper type of equipment for your specific vehicle given the intended application. This section
explains the most common pieces of towing equipment available.
Whichever type of hitch you use, it should be firmly bolted to your vehicle, and should be of
the appropriate weight class for the trailer, tow dollies, or towing equipment you intend to tow.
In addition, keep the following in mind:
WARNING -Never modify the vehicle’s brake or exhaust systems or its body
structure/frame when installing the hitch. Modifying the exhaust system structure on a vehicle
could result in improper vehicle operation not covered by the vehicle’s warranty. It may also
lead to carbon monoxide leaking into the passenger compartment. Altering the brake system
can adversely affect vehicle handling, braking and performance and could increase the
likelihood of an accident or personal injury.
* Refer to your owner’s manual for the equipment class information specific to your vehicle.
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● Installing an aftermarket hitch may affect the rear crash performance of your vehicle.
Changing the crash performance of a vehicle could lead to more severe vehicle damage,
personal injury or death in a crash. Be sure that the hitch does not interfere in any way with
the vehicle’s impact-absorbing bumper.
● Never attach a hitch or towing device to the vehicle bumper. This may affect the
operation of the impact-absorbing bumper. Use only a permanent-type hitch properly
attached to the vehicle to help avoid personal injury or property damage.
● Regularly check to see that all hitch-mounting bolts are securely fastened to ensure
the hitch will not come loose, and remains properly attached to the vehicle to help
avoid personal injury or property damage.
CAUTION -For receiver-type hitches using a ball mount, the ball mount should be
removed when not towing, or by protecting it with a special cover, this will help protect it from
damage, and prevent rust from forming on it.
● If you install a hitch yourself, remember that it must be securely attached to the frame or
underbody, according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Never attach a hitch or towing
device to the vehicle axle housing. This may damage the housing, wheel bearings,
wheels, or tires.
Bumper Hitch – This is a special reinforced
bumper designed to accommodate a hitch
ball. The bumper must support the trailer
Tongue weight all by itself. Fixed ball mount
hitches are normally used for light-to-medium-
Receiver Hitch – A receiver hitch is bolted
directly to the vehicle structure for added
strength and durability. NISSAN bolt-on
receiver hitches are designed for use with
NISSAN vehicles, and include the
necessary reinforcements, with ample
clearance around bumpers, and frame
members, etc. These hitches allow for the
removal of the ball mount when not towing.
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Weight-Distributing Hitch System – This
type of system uses a “load-leveling” or
“equalizing” hitch. The weight-distributing
feature helps shift trailer tongue weight to
all axles of the tow vehicle and all trailer
For Armada, Frontier, Pathfinder, Titan,
and Nissan NV vehicles, a weight-
distributing hitch ball mount (Class IV) is
recommended if you plan to tow trailers with a maximum weight over 5,000 lbs. This ball
mount includes a 2
5/16” hitch ball and is available through your NISSAN dealer.
NOTE – A weight-distributing hitch system may affect 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 equipment manufacturer for installing
and using the weight-distributing hitch system.
Clamp-On Bumper Hitch – This temporary
hitch clamps onto the bumper assembly.
WARNING-DO NOT USE a clamp-on
bumper hitch on any NISSAN vehicle
because using it may result in the trailer
separating from the towing vehicle. If the
trailer separates from the vehicle, it could
cause a crash, resulting in property damage
and personal injury, or death. Use of this type
of hitch can also damage the towing vehicle.
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5th Wheel or Gooseneck Hitch – Mounted in the bed of a pick-up and designed for heavy-
duty applications, these types of hitches
are not available from NISSAN but can be
purchased from a professional supplier of
towing equipment. At this time, Titan is
the only NISSAN vehicle approved for 5th
wheel and gooseneck trailer towing
A 5th wheel or gooseneck hitch is
usually installed and adjusted to meet the
requirements of a particular trailer, but two
basic rules hold true in every case. First,
the hitch should be mounted a minimum
2 inches forward of the rear axle
centerline. Second, it should be securely
attached directly to the truck frame. Only,
professionals should do this installation.
WARNING- It is very important to
mount the hitch correctly to distribute the
king pin load for the proper load carrying
and to control sway. If the trailer sway is
not controlled, it could result in unsafe
vehicle handling which could cause an
accident, property damage, personal injury,
A ball mount (also known as a drawbar) is a bar that holds a hitch ball and is then inserted into
a receiver-type hitch. Ball mounts come in a number of weight capacities (3,500 lbs., 5,000
lbs., etc.) and sizes (1
1/4”, 2”, etc.), and can be
weight distributing or non-weight-distributing.
Choose a proper class ball mount based on
the trailer weight.
A hitch ball is bolted through a ball mount or
hitch hole in the tow vehicle’s rear bumper.
The coupler on the trailer tongue attaches
over the hitch ball. Like ball mounts, hitch
balls are available in a number of weight capacities and sizes. Most hitch balls have the size
5th Wheel Hitch
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2015 NISSAN Towing Guide 7 stamped on the top of the ball. The required hitch ball size is stamped on most trailer
couplers. Always make sure the hitch ball selected has the proper shank diameter and weight
rating for the ball mount as well as the coupler on your trailer. Using a 1
7/8” hitch ball in a 2”
coupler, for example, could result in the trailer separating from the tow vehicle.
The diameter of the hitch ball shank must be matched to the ball mount hole diameter. The
shank should be no more than
1/16” smaller than the hole.
To keep the hitch ball in top condition, a simple maintenance routine is recommended.
Coating it with light grease will minimize wear of both the coupler and hitch ball. In addition,
removing the hitch ball when not towing, or protecting it with a special cover will help prevent
rust from forming on it.
The tongue is the part of the trailer that extends forward to meet the tow vehicle, and it carries
the coupler assembly. Knowledge of the trailer minimum and maximum tongue load
(conventional trailers) and king pin load (5th wheel and gooseneck trailers) is critical as it can
have a significant effect on the handling and capacity of the tow vehicle. Refer to your vehicle
owner’s manual to view the maximum conventional trailer tongue load listed for your vehicle.
Trailer tongue weight is the amount of downward pressure exerted onto the hitch ball. Keep
the tongue load between 10-15% of the total trailer weight. DO NOT exceed the maximum
tongue load specification. If the tongue weight is below the recommended amount, you must
move some of the load forward or add weight to the front frame of the trailer.
Always use suitable safety chains/cables
between the tow vehicle and the trailer. If
the hitch should break or become
disengaged while towing, these
chains/cables will help provide an
emergency connection between the vehicle
and the trailer.
When installed properly the chains/cables
should be crossed under the trailer tongue,
and attached to the hitch or vehicle frame.
Crossing the chains/cables under the tongue
will help prevent the tongue from hitting the
ground should the trailer become
disconnected. Be sure to leave enough slack
in the chains/cables to turn corners without
binding; however, note that excessive slack
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will allow the chains/cables to drag on the ground.
WARNING- Do not use S-hooks for attaching the safety chains as they may become un-
hooked while towing. If the emergency chains/cables are detached and the tow hitch breaks
or becomes disengaged, it will allow the trailer to completely break away causing property
damage and possibly personal injury or death. The use of S-hooks is illegal in many states.
CAUTION- To avoid damage to the bumper and chains/cables when making a sharp turn,
do not attach the chains/cables too close to the coupler. Consult your trailer manufacturer for
the proper location of the chain/cable attachment to the trailer.
REAR VIEW MIRRORS
WARNING- In many cases, a trailer can block your rear vision when you are using only the
standard NISSAN rear view and outside mirrors. Be careful when changing lanes or turning.
Using only these mirrors could cause an accident as they were not designed for towing.
Trailer tow mirrors specifically designed for trailer towing can be adjusted for better visibility
when your rearward vision is obstructed while towing a trailer. Trailer Tow Mirrors are available
as an accessory for certain Nissan vehicles. Before using these mirrors, make certain that
they comply with state and local regulations. Contact your NISSAN dealer for details.
On a trailer with electric brakes, a breakaway switch can automatically activate the trailer
brake system if the trailer becomes separated from the tow vehicle. Should the trailer become
detached, a breakaway switch may help prevent the trailer from wandering into another lane.
WARNING-A breakaway switch relies on the power of a trailer battery, so make sure to
maintain the battery’s charge. Never use the breakaway switch to “park” the trailer on a
grade. The battery would eventually discharge and release the brake, allowing the trailer to
roll, which may cause property damage, serious injury or death. Be sure to leave enough
slack in the tether on the breakaway switch to turn corners without binding. If you do not, the
electric trailer brakes will lock-up and not release. See your trailer manufacturer for proper
installation of a breakaway switch that is compatible with your trailer braking system.
Trailer lights should comply with all applicable federal, state, and local regulations, and should
be in proper working order at all times. A trailer’s taillights, stoplights, and turn signal lights
must be wired into the tow vehicle’s electrical system.*
Most trailers operate on a four-wire system in which the stoplights and turn signal lights
utilize the same wire. Most all NISSAN vehicles have separate wires for the stoplights and turn
signal lights, therefore a device called a “converter” is needed.** Specifically, a “powered
* Vehicles equipped with LED taillights require that wiring be connected at a specific location. For
assistance in hooking up trailer lights, contact your NISSAN dealer or a professional supplier of towing equipment.
** Armada, Frontier, Pathfinder, and Titan, vehicles are pre-wired for trailer lighting and do not require a converter.
If your trailer is equipped with a 4-pin connector, an adapter will be needed to connect the trailer lights to the
vehicle. 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
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converter” must be used to provide power for all trailer lighting. This type of converter
creates only minimal additional electrical demand (draw) on the vehicle lighting circuits, which
provides protection for the vehicle’s sensitive electronics. Always check for correct operation
of the taillights, stoplights, and turn signal lights every time you connect a trailer for towing.
Never replace vehicle fuses with fuses of a higher amperage rating than the original.
CAUTION – Improperly installed or poor quality trailer harness wiring may adversely affect
your vehicle’s electrical system. Use only a NISSAN approved wiring harness, or, consult your
dealer or a professional supplier of towing equipment to obtain the proper equipment and to
have it installed.
As with hitches, several types of braking systems are available. Most states require a separate
braking system on trailers with a loaded weight above a specific amount, therefore you should
check to ensure you comply with all regulations and laws. Have a professional supplier of
towing equipment demonstrate proper brake function testing.
Never connect a trailer brake system directly to the vehicle brake system. Most states
require a separate braking system on trailers with a loaded weight of 1,500 lbs. (680 kg)
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 operation between the tow vehicle and the trailer.
Electric Trailer Brakes – Electric braking systems are activated by an electronic signal sent
from a trailer brake controller (special brake-sensing module). If electric trailer brakes are
used, NISSAN recommends the installation of an aftermarket trailer brake controller. For
adjustment specifications, refer to the manufacturer’s instructions of the brake controller being
installed. For your convenience, Armada, Frontier, Pathfinder, Titan, and NV vehicles are pre-
wired to accommodate most popular electric trailer brake controllers. A wiring harness* is
either included with your vehicle or available from your NISSAN dealer. This harness provides
electric trailer brake controller input and output connections to the vehicle wiring. See a
professional supplier of towing equipment for electric trailer brake controller availability.
Contact a NISSAN dealer or a professional supplier of towing equipment for information on trailers
equipped with electric brakes and for Genuine NISSAN jumper harness availability for your specific vehicle.