I have to admit that I am fairly new to the off-road world. I’ve spent most of my life, and cash, on making humble hatchbacks a bit faster at my local racing circuit instead of chewing up my frame rails and axles on trails. Up until recently, I’ve left the dirt roads and obstacles to my two wheel machines. This year though I’ve had a change of heart and decided that access was my new goal. Being able to explore and go places that others would shy away from became a fascination that quickly became an addiction.
I started searching craigslist for a rough-around-the-edges truck that would allow me to tow, take friends to my local crag, and be fairly capable off-road. After searching all my local areas I decided on a 2006 Nissan Xterra. It had 4WD and a manual transmission, which kept me away from a plagued automatic, and was the right price. It had a little wear and tear with signs of use (and a few combinations of body damage that lead me to believe its spent some amount of time on its side), but otherwise it was clean. It had been a Colorado vehicle and showed little to no rust, a huge plus given vehicles in Ohio rot quickly over the winter.
Before my trip around the US and to Moab I did very little to prep. Basic maintenance items were completed, fluids were replaced, and I gave the vehicle a good once over. Over the course of both trips I had to do little more than add a bit of oil now and then. From here on out though my focus is now on capability. For 95% of the dirt roads I’ve encountered, the X-Terra was more than capable, but it was that last 5% where things got a little rough. I was mainly caught off guard by the famous Alpine Loop near Ouray, CO where a lack of mods left me with a few battle scars, on what I will for now on be calling, the Xterra-ble.
I’m no rock crawler, and I don’t normally do trails, but this seemed like a good goal. If I can conquer this trail with ease, little will stand in my way of getting to a good campground. So over the next few months (years? idk, I’m still figuring out how money works) I will be slowly upgrading the Xterra-ble with some basic mods along with how-to’s (hopefully) leading up to some trip reports/testing.
I will focus on 3 main points Clearance, Protection, and Recovery. My first step will likely be tires as the Milestar Patagonias, although cheap and durable, do not cut it for size and grip. I will be looking to upgrade to the biggest tire I can fit without a lift, approximately a 33 inch tire. Next I will look into a small lift, mainly to replace worn suspension parts and then later moving to protection in the form of some beefier skid plates, rock sliders, and some recovery gear. Having recently moved to Michigan I will hopefully be able to test the mods at some local trails and some upper peninsula trips before going back to Colorado to deal with some unfinished business