Nissan Pathfinder 3rd Generation R51 2005-2012 Review

Everything You Need To Know Before Buying A Used Pathfinder 3rd Gen

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3rd Gen Nissan Pathfinder What Owners Say

  • The Nissan Pathfinder has more than sufficient cabin space as it offers a generous amount of headroom and cargo space; it will also seat seven passengers in reasonable comfort
  • Not only are the engines fairly dependent if well-maintained, but they also offer impressive performance
  • The list of standard features for all trims of the Nissan Pathfinder is generous and, importantly, all models benefit from high safety specifications
  • The automatic transmission and coolant problem appears to be a hassle for many owners and considering this is the only transmission choice, it will be difficult to avoid; avoiding issues will require more preventative maintenance
  • While the engine options are satisfactory, the area where they fall short is gas consumption and the Pathfinder's high mass and automatic transmission don't help

Third Generation Nissan Pathfinder Facelift

The updated third-generation Nissan Pathfinder R51's update was reasonably extensive as it included an all-new V8 option together with interior and exterior cosmetic alterations. A plethora of new standard and optional features were also introduced to add more of a premium feel.

2008-2012 Pathfinder R51 Facelift Front Changes CarBuzz
2008-2012 Pathfinder R51 Facelift Front Changes

Giving the front of the updated Nissan Pathfinder a more youthful look are new headlights1, a wider V-motion chrome grille2, and a redesigned front bumper3 featuring a new scuff plate and larger central air dam4. The front redesign is completed with a new set of door mirrors5 and a roof-mounted antenna6.

2008-2012 Pathfinder R51 Facelift Rear Changes CarBuzz
2008-2012 Pathfinder R51 Facelift Rear Changes

Changes to the rear of the facelifted Pathfinder are a bit less extensive, with notable changes consisting of new taillights1, a wider license-plate holder with new chrome accents, and a revised scuff plate for the base of the trunk2. The entire tailgate has also been reshaped to fit more flushly around the taillights and base of the trunk3.

2008-2012 Pathfinder R51 Facelift Side Changes CarBuzz
2008-2012 Pathfinder R51 Facelift Side Changes

Changes made to the side of the updated Pathfinder are marginal, as the only noteworthy adjustments are the lower door trims1, door mirrors2, and redesigned alloy-wheel options3. From this angle, you can also notice the redesigned lights.

2008-2012 Pathfinder R51 Facelift Interior Changes CarBuzz
2008-2012 Pathfinder R51 Facelift Interior Changes

Interior revisions consist of a completely new upper dashboard and center console design including revised audio and HVAC controls1. The automatic gear selector has also been revised together with the wood surface and center console storage cover2. Satin silver and chrome trimmings have also been scattered across the interior together with new symbols for the multifunction steering wheel3. The instrument cluster and cup holders are also revised.

Engine, Transmission and Drivetrain

The 3rd-gen Pathfinder was sold with the VQ40DE 4.0-liter V6 and VK56DE 5.6-liter V8. Both are available exclusively with the RE5R05A five-speed automatic transmission and can be had with rear-wheel drive and four-wheel drive with a two-speed transfer case and limited-slip differentials.

4.0L V6 Gas VQ40DE
270/266 hp | 291/288 lb-ft
270/266 hp
291/288 lb-ft
Five-speed automatic

The VQ40DE 4.0-liter V6 is part of Nissan's tried-and tested-naturally aspirated six-cylinder VQ engine family used in a multitude of vehicles. In the third-generation Pathfinder, it starts off with a power output of 270 horsepower and 291 lb-ft of torque but the figures were re-rated to 266 hp and 288 lb-ft in 2007 due to the new SAE standard for measuring power output. There was no actual power difference. The VQ40DE is an impressively resilient engine but it can struggle with timing-chain failure, low oil pressure, and oil leaks.

5.6L V8 Gas VK56DE (2008-2012)
310 hp | 388 lb-ft
310 hp
388 lb-ft
Five-speed automatic

The VK56DE 5.6-liter V8 was introduced to the Pathfinder range with the arrival of the facelift as a flagship engine with an output of 310 hp and 388 lb-ft. It is available with the same transmission and drive systems as the V6. Common problems you can expect with this engine include timing-chain failure, exhaust manifold issues, and oil leaks.

2005-2012 Nissan Pathfinder 3rd Generation Real MPG

There aren't many drivetrain variations of the 3rd-gen Nissan Pathfinder and unfortunately none of them can be considered frugal if the EPA's fuel consumption estimates are anything to go by. The lightest of the lot is the rear-wheel drive V6 with its 14/20/16 mpg city/highway/combined estimates. The heaviest is the four-wheel-drive V8 with 13/18/15 mpg estimates. The Pathfinder's biggest rivals in this segment are the Toyota 4Runner and Jeep Grand Cherokee. In the V6 segment, the Nissan is outdone by both of these options which feature combined consumption figures of 19 mpg. In the V8 category, the Pathfinder is rivaled by the all-wheel-drive Ford Expedition with its 5.4-liter V8 which bears identical EPA mpg estimates. Looking at the real-world combined figures, it appears that the EPA's estimates can be considered fairly realistic. Bear in mind that these results are sourced from drivers who are not monitored by the EPA with varying driving styles and conditions.

EPA mpg (city/highway/combined)Real-world combined mpg*
4.0 V6 five-speed automatic RWD15/22/1717.4-20
4.0 V6 five-speed automatic 4WD14/20/1615.1-20.3
5.6 V8 five-speed automatic RWD (2008-2009)13/19/1515.6
5.6 V8 five-speed automatic 4WD (2008-2012)13/18/1516.8

* Real-world mpg and MPGe figures are provided by the EPA. Once a car has been on sale for a significant period of time, the EPA gets real-world figures directly from the customer base. These figures are then provided on the EPA website. Real-world figures are not available for certain models due to a lack of sales, or not enough people partaking in this after-sales survey.


The Nissan Pathfinder 3rd-generation range was only tested for the rollover section in which it achieved a three-star rating with a rollover risk of 23.7%. Nissan constructed every Pathfinder with its Zone Body crumple zones coupled with high-steel pillar and roof reinforcements, side-impact door beams, and a dual-stage airbag system that covers the driver and passenger. Side and curtain airbags were optionally available but are standard on all facelifted models. Additionally, Nissan's anti-theft system with an immobilizer, lower anchors, and tethers for child seats are standard. Hill-descent control and hill-start assist are included on all 4WD models. ABS with electronic brake-force distribution and traction and stability control are standard on all models.

US NHTSA Crash Test Result

4x2 and 4x4

Rollover Rating:

3rd Generation Nissan Pathfinder Trims

The Nissan Pathfinder third generation is available in three main trims which change slightly over the course of its lifespan. There are also a few limited models to add value to the range. The XE acts as the base trim. Above this is the SE, which can also be mated with an off-road package, while the LE sits at the top of the range as the flagship. With the facelift, the first two trims are renamed to the S and SV, respectively. In between these, you will find the Silver Edition, which was made available for the last two years of the Pathfinder's production.

4.0-liter naturally aspirated V6
5-Speed Automatic

While the XE and S are the base trims, they still come with a respectable number of comfort and convenience features, including 16-inch alloy wheels, a roof rack, mudguards, black electrically adjustable and heated door mirrors, rear privacy glass, an audio system with AM/FM radio and CD player connected to six speakers, air-conditioning, power door locks and windows with auto up and down for the driver, remote keyless entry, cruise control, intermittent windshield wipers, dual-visor vanity mirrors, and a manually tilt-adjustable steering column. Cloth upholstery for the seats is standard. An aux input was added in 2007.

4.0-liter naturally aspirated V6 or 5.6-liter naturally aspirated V8
Five-speed automatic

The SE and SV inherit everything from the base trim as well as foglights, cross bars for the roof rack, running boards, a front tow hook, dual-zone air-conditioning with vents for the rear bench, an electrochromatic rearview mirror, electrically adjustable pedals, an electrically adjustable driver's seat with manual lumbar controls, a forward-folding front passenger seat, and leather on the steering wheel and gear shifter. For added value, owners can also opt for the SE Premium, Off-Road, or Off-Road Leather packages for a more comprehensive ownership experience. Furthermore, a DVD entertainment system can also be fitted, which includes a seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system.

Silver Edition
2011 - 2012
4.0-liter naturally aspirated V6 or 5.6-liter naturally aspirated V8
Five-speed automatic

The Silver Edition was made available for the last two years of the third-generation Nissan Pathfinder's life and included everything from the SV as well as bespoke 17-inch alloy wheels, color-coded door mirrors, a manual sunroof, the Bose audio system, intelligent keyless entry, Bluetooth connectivity, electrically adjustable passenger seat, and leather upholstery. An electrically operational sunroof is optionally available as a package.

2005 - 2012
4.0-liter naturally aspirated V6 or 5.6-liter naturally aspirated V8
Five-speed automatic

The LE is the flagship of the range and includes everything from the SE and SV together with 17-inch alloy wheels, color-coded door mirrors, automatic headlights, a sunroof, a multifunction steering wheel with audio controls, a four-way electrically adjustable passenger seat, and the Digital Bose audio system with a six-disc CD changer, nine speakers, RDS with speed-sensitive volume, and MP3 compatibility. You also get the HomeLink garage door opener, wood cabin trimmings, a memory package for the seats, mirrors, and pedals, heated front seats, and leather upholstery. Navigation was optional until the final production year. Smart keyless entry with push-button ignition and Bluetooth connectivity are included as standard on the facelift.

Third Generation Nissan Pathfinder Features

SV/SESilver EditionLEXE/S
Auxiliary Audio InputSSON/A
Back-Up CameraSSSN/A
Bluetooth ConnectionN/ASON/A
Climate ControlSSON/A
Cruise ControlSSSS
Driver Air BagSSSS
Entertainment SystemN/AOON/A
Front Head Air BagSSSO
Front Side Air BagSSSO
Hard Disk Drive Media StorageN/AN/AON/A
Heated Front Seat(s)N/ASSN/A
Heated Steering WheelN/AN/ASN/A
Keyless EntrySSOS
Keyless StartN/ASON/A
MP3 PlayerSSON/A
Multi-Zone A/CSSON/A
Navigation SystemN/AN/AON/A
Passenger Air BagSSSS
Power Driver SeatSSSN/A
Power Mirror(s)SSSS
Power Passenger SeatN/ASSN/A
Premium Sound SystemN/ASON/A
Rear Head Air BagSSSO
Remote Trunk ReleaseSSSS
Satellite RadioN/ASON/A
Seat MemoryN/AN/ASN/A
Stability ControlSSSS
Steering Wheel Audio ControlsSSSN/A
Tire Pressure MonitorSSOS
Traction ControlSSSS
Universal Garage Door OpenerSSSN/A

Interior, Trim And Practicality

Nissan Pathfinder 3rd Gen Interior Overview Nissan
2008-2012 Pathfinder R51 Facelift Interior View

The R51 Pathfinder is a fairly large SUV so interior space is quite generous. Without the sunroof fitted, the front row offers 40 inches of headroom and 42.4 inches of legroom, which is enough space even for those taller than 6' 4". The second row offers 39 inches of headroom and 34.2 inches of legroom while the third bench measures 36.7 inches of headroom and 28.1 inches of legroom, which is suitable only for smaller children. The easy-clean cargo area offers 16.5 cubic feet of usable space if all three rows are in use. With the third row folded, this increases to 49.2 cubic feet. You have access to 79.2 cubic feet if both rear rows are folded.

All trims feature a 40/20/40-split and flat-folding second-row bench seat with tip-up easy entry for the third row, which uses a 50/50 split. They also host an array of storage compartments such as eight cupholders, under-floor storage in the trunk, and an overhead center console with storage bins. Standard cloth upholstery options consist of Graphite and Desert cloth. Leather trims are finished in the same shades.

Overall cabin quality of well-maintained cars appears to be fairly resilient as per owner reviews but there have been some complaints regarding flimsy plastic switches and knobs that don't appear to stand the test of time with frequent use.

SV/SESilver EditionLEXE/S
Bucket SeatsSSSS
Cloth SeatsSN/AN/AS
Leather SeatsN/ASSN/A
Leather Steering WheelSSSN/A
Premium Synthetic SeatsN/AN/AN/AN/A
Vinyl SeatsN/AN/AN/AN/A
Woodgrain Interior TrimN/AN/ASN/A
Graphite, Seat trimSSSS
Cafe Latte, Seat trimSSSS
Blue/Graphite, Seat trimN/AN/AN/AN/A

2005-2012 Nissan Pathfinder 3rd Gen Maintenance and Cost

All second-generation Nissan Pathfinder models follow the same maintenance schedule. An oil and filter service must be conducted every 7,500 miles. At 15,000 miles, you will need to replace the cabin air filter ($19). The 30,000-mile service is when the brake fluid and engine air filter ($30) should be changed. A 30,000-mile service should cost $480 at a private workshop and $710 at the dealer for the V6. The V8 will cost $500 at a shop and $730 at the dealer. Furthermore, it is advised that the automatic transmission fluid, differential oil, engine drive belts, and transfer-case oil should be replaced at 30,000 miles as well, as this is the specified interval for those who opted for the Premium Service package. New spark plugs ($150 to $200) should be fitted every 105,000 miles, together with a coolant flush and refill.

Third Gen Nissan Pathfinder Basic Service

A lubrication service for the V6 Nissan Pathfinder will cost $120 at a private shop and $200 at the dealer. The V8 is likely to cost $135 at a workshop and $230 at the dealer. If you opt to do your oil change at home, you'll have to buy 5.4 quarts of synthetic motor oil which will cost $75 with the filter. The V8 uses the same oil type but has an oil capacity of 6.9 quarts, which will result in a cost of $95 including the filter.

3rd Generation Nissan Pathfinder Tires

Tire Size:
Wheel Size:
16" x 7.0"
Spare Tire:
Tire Size:
Wheel Size:
17" x 7.5"
Spare Tire:
Tire Size:
Wheel Size:
17" x 7.5"
Spare Tire:
Silver Edition
Tire Size:
Wheel Size:
17" x 7.5"
Spare Tire:

Check Before You Buy

The third-generation Nissan Pathfinder has a solid reputation for reliability behind it, but that doesn't mean that it isn't susceptible to some annoying common problems which include evaporative emission control system (EVAP) system clogging, coolant leaks, and untrustworthy sunroofs. Engine problems with the Nissan Pathfinder include timing-chain defects are also worth looking out for.

Recalls for the 2005 to 2012 Nissan Pathfinder are as follows:

  • All Nissan Pathfinder models assembled in 2005 and 2006 were recalled for an engine control module that could result in the engine spontaneously stalling.
  • There were two airbag-related recalls:
    • 2005-2009 Nissan Pathfinders were recalled for an airbag front crash-zone sensor at risk of being damaged by road salt, affecting the car's ability to deploy the airbags in the event of a crash.
    • A handful of 2010 Nissan Pathfinder models had to be recalled for an airbag and steering-column fastener problem that could alter the trajectory of the airbag after a collision.
  • A handful of 2005 Nissan Pathfinder models had to be recalled for a faulty trailer-brake controller connection harness.
  • 2006 and 2008 Nissan Pathfinder units were recalled for molded fuel tank shells that may deform over time, resulting in fuel leaks and the engine stalling.
  • 2010 Nissan Pathfinders were subject to a lower control link assembly recall relating to a collar weld that could separate and result in impaired handling.
  • 2011 and 2012 Nissan Pathfinders were recalled for an engine oil cooler connector bolt that was not manufactured to the correct specifications and led to oil leaks.
  • Some 2012 Nissan Pathfinder units were recalled for wheel hubs that could crack due to insufficient hardness.

No recalls were issued for the Nissan Pathfinder's intelligent power distribution module (IPDM), transmission, catalytic converter, or radiator.

OBD2 codes that you may encounter in the 2005 to 2012 Nissan Pathfinder include the following:

  • Camshaft position sensor-related faults are covered by the P0011, P0020, P0021, P0022, and P0345 codes. You'll see the P1057 fault code when there is a camshaft adjustment problem. If there is a problem with the intake valve timing control solenoid valve, you'll be greeted by the P1111 fault code.
  • Nissan Pathfinder's crankshaft-position sensor problems may include the P0335, P0335b, and P0340 codes.
  • Oxygen sensor faults will bring up the P0031, P0037, P0057, P1031, P1051, P1148, and P1168 codes. P0133, P0171, P0172, and P0174 mean that there is an issue with your air-fuel ratio mixture. Air-fuel sensor fault codes include P1272, P1274, P1282, and P1283. P0161 is what you'll see when the oxygen sensor heating circuit is faulty.
  • P0101 and P2103 mean there are MAF - or mass air flow - sensor problems with the Nissan Pathfinder.
  • Intake air temperature (IAT) sensor faults are signified by the P0113 fault code.
  • If there is a problem with the engine coolant's temperature (ECT) sensor or thermostat, you'll see the P0117, P0118, or P0128 fault code.
  • Fuel temperature sensor faults are signaled by the P0181, P0182, and P0183 fault codes.
  • P0375 and P1421 mean that there is a problem with your engine's timing.
  • Any problems with the exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) system will highlight the P0401, P0402, P0405, and P0407 fault codes.
  • Vehicle speed sensor (VSS) fault codes include P0500.
  • P0505 and P0507 refer to idle control system malfunctions.
  • Faults with the power steering might reveal the P0550 fault code.
  • P0557 refers to an issue with the brake booster.
  • P0603, P0605, P0643, P1000, and P1130 refer to issues with the engine control unit (ECU).
  • P1065 and P1122 mean there is an error with the throttle position sensor (TPS) communication. The P1705 code refers to a bad TPS.
  • P1138 points to an issue with the target opening angle of the swirl control valve.
  • If the ABS or traction control is disconnected, you'll see the P1212 or P1832 code.
  • P1263 means the fuel injector on bank three has gone bad.
  • A bad battery current sensor is signaled by the P1550 fault code.
  • P1564 means there is an error with the automatic speed control device steering switch.
  • If the security system is malfunctioning, you'll see the P1610 fault code.

Nissan Pathfinder 3rd Generation R51 Common Problems

Exploding Sunroofs

Nissan Pathfinder models fitted with the glass sunroof appear to struggle with it spontaneously exploding due to a bad tempering process. This was such a widespread problem that it resulted in a class-action lawsuit being filed against the brand in 2017. Nissan's panoramic sunroof design, which is not available on the Pathfinder, is most known to suffer from this problem but there have been reports of the SUV suffering from this issue too. If the glass surface is exposed to heat for an extended period, this will increase the likelihood of this happening. Unfortunately, there is no way to permanently prevent this from happening other than having the part replaced, which comes at a fairly hefty cost. Shielding the panel from the sun includes applying a resilient tint and ensuring that the car is not parked in the sun for extended periods. If you don't have access to a garage or shaded cover, consider investing in a fairly thick car cover.

Mileage: Considering that exploding sunroofs are due to heat from the sun, no mileage can be attached to this problem.

Cost: An OEM glass sunroof panel with uprated tempering that can withstand the heat will cost $700, excluding the cost of fitment, which can be close to $300.

How to spot: Unfortunately there is no way of spotting when a sunroof will explode but when it occurs, you can be sure that a loud bang will accompany it.

EVAP Canister Clogging

The third-generation Nissan Pathfinder is not excluded from the brand's well-known EVAP canister clogging problems. This problem was so severe, Nissan extended the warranty on the part to 15 years or 150,000 miles. It is understood that the problematic part of the system is the vapor tube, which is located between the tank and the EVAP canister. Once this gets clogged, the car's ECU will trigger the Check Engine light. Due to this blockage, you can expect gas spills when refueling your car. You might also see the P0440, P0441, P0442, P0443, P0445, P0447, P0448, P0452, P0455, P0456, and P1446 fault codes. For cars that are no longer covered by the warranty, a new vapor tube will need to be fitted but we recommend that you have a new canister installed as well.

Mileage: EVAP canister vapor tubes will likely start to clog after 80,000 miles.

Cost: Having a new EVAP canister and vapor tube fitted will cost in the region of $350.

How to spot: Clogged EVAP canisters will lead to an illuminated Check Engine light, failure of the emissions test, and gas spilling out of the filler when refueling.

Coolant Woes And Transmission Problems

The third-generation Nissan Pathfinder range struggles with a nasty radiator and automatic transmission problem. After some use, the Pathfinder's radiator cooler lines will leak coolant into the transmission. This not only inhibits the cooling of the transmission but also leads to problems with the Nissan Pathfinder's transmission/gearbox components such as the valve and seals suffering from rapid corrosion. Nissan reacted to this problem by extending the radiator assembly warranty to eight years or 80,000 miles, thus no recall was ever initiated. If this starts to occur in your Nissan Pathfinder, you'll notice vibration problems when accelerating or shifting. There will also be random stalling, and the car will not warm up when it is idling. If you notice the radiator cooler lines are leaking fluid, they can be replaced at an affordable rate. Any irregularities with the transmission may be signified by the P0705, P0720, P0731, P0734, P0735, P0744, P0745, P0850, P1715, P1716, P1720, P1731, P1754, P1557, P1764, P1769, P1772, P1774, P1800, P1807, P1815, P1819, P1827, and P1831 OBD II fault codes. If you conduct a transmission oil change and notice that the fluid is a strawberry milkshake color, it means that this is occurring. If damage to the transmission is too far advanced, the whole transmission will have to be refurbished or replaced, which will come at a hefty cost.

Mileage: Coolant and related transmission problems can occur as soon as 60,000 miles.

Cost: You'll only spend about $300 to replace the cooling lines, but a transmission refurbishing will set you back $2,000. An all-new transmission will cost $3,500, excluding the cost of fitment.

How to spot: If your transmission is experiencing harsh vibrations when shifting or its fluid looks like a strawberry milkshake, it means that your coolant is mixing with the transmission oil.

VQ40DE Common Problems

The VQ40DE is a naturally aspirated 4.0-liter V6 unit introduced by the Xterra and Pathfinder models in 2005. It features an aluminum block and head with dual-overhead cams managing a continuously variable valve timing and intake system and multi-point fuel injection. Overall, this is a generally sound unit if well-maintained and routinely serviced but you do need to be on the lookout for issues with low oil pressure and oil leaks. The Nissan Pathfinder also struggles with timing chain problems.

The VQ40DE's BorgWarner-supplied upper or secondary timing chain is susceptible to cutting through the tensioner. The part at fault is the plastic tensioner itself which is weak against the chain's sharp surface. Once the chain sets its teeth into the tensioner, the part will have to be replaced, which comes at a high cost. We highly recommend that you opt for an aftermarket aluminum part, which has proven to last for a longer time. If your tensioner is on its way out, you can expect problems such as a whining or buzzing sound that becomes more apparent at higher revs, a rough engine idle, and overall poor engine performance as the timing is thrown off, also resulting in the engine misfiring, which will bring up the P0300, P0301, P0302, P0303, P0304, P0305, and P0306 fault codes.

Oil leaks from the VQ40DE are caused by bad gaskets, seals, and rubbers that lose their integrity with time. The most common one to fade is the valve cover gaskets, as this part deals with a lot of heat. Once this or any other gasket wear occurs, you will notice spots of oil on the floor and some of the engine components. If it lands on parts that get hot as the engine runs, you'll notice burning-oil smells and even some smoke.

Another point of concern for the VQ40DE is the rear timing cover gasket which may leak oil against the engine block. This will result in some of the oil getting stuck instead of recirculating through the system and will lead to a low oil pressure problem with the Nissan Pathfinder, which will signal the low oil pressure warning light, translate into a noticeable engine noise, and lead to overheating problems for the 2005 to 2012 Nissan Pathfinder, which will show the P1217 fault code. The best way to resolve this is by having the rear timing cover replaced, which is a fairly costly job. Ideally, this is a job that should be done together with the timing chain's replacement.

There is also a catalytic converter problem with the Nissan Pathfinder's V6 engine. Increased gas and oil consumption can also occur with time as the catalytic converter starts to get clogged. The ceramic powder will settle at the bottom of the catalytic converter and eventually get sucked into the engine during the exhaust-valve overlap phase, where it starts wearing away the cylinder walls. This lowers the car's compression and increases gas and oil consumption. It will also lead to misfiring, a rough idle and start, and frequent engine stalling. It is advised that you replace the standard upper catalytic converter with a high-flow system. This will have a negative impact on its emissions, so check first if this is legal in your state. It will eliminate the problem altogether. Catalytic converter fault codes include P0420 and P0430.

Mileage: Timing chain-related problems can occur as soon as 80,000 miles. Valve-cover gaskets start leaking from 120,000 to 160,000 miles, depending on driving conditions and use. A clogged catalytic converter may occur after 120,000 miles.

Cost: Having the timing chain replaced and the aluminum tensioner fitted is likely to cost $900 including parts and labor. The cost of replacing gaskets ranges from $400 to $1,200 depending on which part needs to be repaired. Having a high-flow catalytic converter fitted will cost close to $1,900 for parts and labor.

How to spot: A worn timing-chain tensioner will result in whining or buzzing sounds, misfiring, a rough engine idle, and poor performance. Bad gaskets letting out oil will lead to visible oil leaks, burning-oil smells, and visible smoke. A clogged cat will lead to an increase in oil and gas consumption together with misfiring, a rough idle and start, and engine stalling.

VK56DE Common Problems

The VK56DE naturally aspirated 5.6-liter V8 has a fairly similar construction to the VQ with its aluminum block and heads featuring molybdenum-coated pistons and a dual overhead cam controlling its continuously variable valve-timing system on the intake valves. The camshafts are micro-finished while the cylinder liners are ductile iron to increase durability. In the Pathfinder, fuel is delivered to the system via a multi-point injection system. The VK56DE is known to struggle with its timing chain, exhaust manifolds, and valve-cover gasket oil leaks.

The VK56DE's timing-chain problem is due to extensive elongation, which can also strain the tensioners. Nissan addressed this problem in 2012 with a new chain and tensioner kit but the cost of replacement is hefty. Once your chain starts to wear, you'll notice squeaking and rattling noises, an illuminated Check Engine light, a loss of power, and poor engine performance.

The VK56DE also struggles with cracking exhaust manifolds. The frequent heating and cooling will result in the metal fatigue setting in over time, leading to cracks. This will then lead to leaking exhaust gasses. Once this occurs, you'll notice ticking noises, a raw exhaust smell from the engine bay, and an illuminated Check Engine light. The only way to resolve this is by having new manifolds fitted, which is a very expensive and labor-intensive job.

Oil leaks on the VK56DE are a result of gaskets that wear with age and use. Like the VQ40DE, the valve-cover gaskets appear to be the most problematic but all gaskets and rubbers will develop cracks with age and lead to visible oil leaks. If oil leaks onto hot engine components, you'll also notice burning-oil smells and puffs of smoke from the engine bay. The only way to resolve this is by replacing the affected gaskets.

When given bad-quality gas, the VK56DE can also struggle with a blocked catalytic converter, which will send cat fragments into the engine via the exhaust valves, rapidly wearing the cylinder walls and internals, and increasing oil and gas consumption. Once this occurs, you'll notice misfiring, a rough idle, hard starting, and frequent stalling. It is advised that you replace the standard upper catalytic converter with a high-flow part, which might be illegal in some states because it will increase the engine's emissions and may cause it to fail emissions tests; however, it will put an end to the problem.

Mileage: Timing-chain problems on the VK56DE may occur after 100,000 miles. Exhaust manifolds may start to crack from 120,000-160,000 miles. Gaskets and seals may start to wear after 100,000 miles. Clogging of the catalytic converter can occur after 60,000 miles.

Cost: A new timing chain and tensioner kit is likely to cost $3,500 for parts and labor. A new exhaust manifold fitment may cost $3,000 for parts and labor. Gasket replacements may range from $200 to $1,400 depending on which one needs to be exchanged. A high-flow catalytic converter will cost $1,900 for parts and labor.

How to spot: A bad timing chain will lead to squeaking and rattling noises, a loss of power, and poor engine performance. Ticking noises, raw exhaust smells, and an illuminated Check Engine light point to a cracked exhaust manifold. Leaking gaskets and seals will lead to visible oil leaks, a burning-oil smell, and a smoking engine bay. Catalytic converter problems will result in an increase in oil and gas consumption, misfiring, a rough idle, hard starting, and stalling.

Less Common Problems And Problem-Free Areas

Other uncommon problems that you may encounter in the third-generation Nissan Pathfinder include a falling starter relay resulting in the P0615 fault code, and a high idle after having the throttle body cleaned. A faulty fuel-level sensor is also possible and will bring up the P0462 and P0463 fault codes.

You are unlikely to suffer from any of the following problems in the 2005 to 2012 Nissan Pathfinder:

  • Problems with starting are not well-documented in the Nissan Pathfinder.
  • The Nissan Pathfinder's shift lock appears to be problem-free.
  • There are no problems with the Nissan Pathfinder's radio and CD player.
  • Owners have not complained about power-window problems with the Nissan Pathfinder's passenger window, driver's main control panel, or rear power windows.
  • While the fuel-level sensor may play up, there doesn't appear to be a problem with the Nissan Pathfinder's fuel pump or EVAP system.
  • Problems with the Nissan Pathfinder's fan clutch or cooling system are not extensively documented, save for that potential issue of coolant leaking into the transmission mentioned earlier.
  • The Nissan Pathfinder is not known to struggle with electrical problems, including the battery and alternator; hard starting is more likely going to be due to timing issues, or chain or cat problems.
  • You shouldn't have any problems with the Nissan Pathfinder's climate control or air-conditioning/AC.

Which One To Avoid

There is no particular trim or engine option to avoid when it comes to the third-generation Nissan Pathfinder. Both the VQ40DE and VK56DE have their fair share of problems but they're only likely to be headaches if they are not properly maintained. There's also no specific trim or drivetrain that we'd advise you to steer clear from. Given the coolant and transmission problem, we highly recommend that you stay away from cars that do not have a complete maintenance history, especially the 30,000-mile transmission oil change.

Which One To Buy

There is no standout model when it comes to the third-generation Nissan Pathfinder as the different engine, drivetrain, and trim options cater to consumers with varying wants and needs. All trims are well-equipped and, most importantly, they all feature the same level of standard features. Only look at cars that have an impeccable service history.

3rd Gen Nissan Pathfinder R51 Verdict

The third-generation Nissan Pathfinder took the fight to the mid-size SUV segment where the likes of the Toyota 4Runner and Jeep Grand Cherokee dominate with some authority. There is not much choice when it comes to engine and drivetrain options, but if well-maintained the V6 and V8 should prove to be dependable powertrains at the cost of frugality.

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