Allof75's 02 R50 Pathfinder Build- Still Alive!


Hi All,

I hope this finds all of you well given the remarkably difficult circumstances of the past several years. I took some time away from the forums to focus on school (happy to report I graduated from UC Davis in March of 2020), and work (I've started my own glass cleaning company, and worked simultaneously in the mortgage industry since then). I browse this and NPORA and certainly think of many of your inspirational builds when in the valley of the many projects required to keep the Pathy on the road now that it's 20 years old.

The Pathfinder is still running well overall! I am happy to report it has 160k miles on the clock with the original motor, transmission and drivetrain. It has however thrown me several curve balls I will detail further in this thread, but I want to start on a positive note. :)

This November marks my 10th year of ownership, and while I've made many sacrifices to keep it I have zero plans to sell it! Regardless of sentimentality, nothing else on the market will give me its capability, long-distance comfort, and naturally aspirated VQ engagement for less than the amount I've invested.

I jockeyed between other daily drivers to keep the miles off of it but now the Pathy is my primary driver and the closest to being on the road. Here's why- Beginning in 2015, I had a mint 02 Crown Victoria LX with 30k miles for about 9 months before buying a 2013 Prius which I owned until July 2021. After putting 100k miles on that appliance, it not only blew a head gasket (avoid the ZVW30 platform at all costs) but even with TRD springs, sway bar, FRS wheels, and wider tires among other upgrades I despised the car. The economy was great when it ran, but after 100k miles it began to nickel and dime me (even doing my own preventative and religious regular maintenance). I sold it to CarMax with the blown head gasket for significantly more than any pile with a lunched motor should sell for and poured the money into the Pathy and my new project.

I never should have sold the Crown Victoria, and bought another white Radwood-era V8 Ford to fill its place. In June 2020 I bought a "driveway find" 94 Ford F150 4x4 for $400, which I've been restoring and laying the groundwork for an overland build as I have the time. I moved to Santa Barbara with my partner, and the truck is in my family's driveway in Orange County so the work is occasional. I've named the truck Althea and I'll create it's own build thread when I have a moment.

Back to the Pathfinder! I have not made many modifications, as most of my free wrenching time is dedicated to maintenance.
I've left the suspension/tire/wheel combo alone. I'm still running the same set of Cooper Discoverer AT3s which have been phenomenal except in ice, I have about 35-40k on them and about 20k miles left on them easily. I live up a mountain pass which frequently gets ice and can be treacherous, so for Althea's build I recently bought some 33x10.50 BFG AT K02s for their severe winter rating and overall durability. I love the snow, so despite being in Central CA with little of it, I suspect I'll get another set of 245/75r16s in K02s when the time comes for the Pathy as well.

Recently I've replaced:
  • Front Rotors and Pads with Powerstop Z36 Severe Duty kit
  • Rear Drums and Shoes with Powerstop's "Auto Specialty" kit
  • Both Rear Brake Cylinders
  • Both lower control arms and ball joints
  • Alternator (nightmare of a job)
  • OEM plastic fan
  • Front inner & outer wheel bearings with National bearings, Timken seals.
  • Old fluid with Lucas DOT 3 Synthetic Brake Fluid
I made a video a year ago with a brief update and general overview if you're interested.

Thank you!
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Great intro video! I like your old school chuck box. You've given me some ideas for the kitchen drawer system I'm planning for Cher, our Jeep GC.



Here’s a recent picture after finishing the brake service in Orange County when visiting family. I forgot to mention I’ve towed several trailers with the Pathy in the last year, mostly utility trailers under 2k lbs, a jet ski, and one empty car hauler that was its heaviest load at 3300 lbs. On one occasion taking our jet ski out, the rear exhaust hanger snapped and left a silver dollar sized hole in the exhaust which my exhaust shop patched up for free.

My next big project is a valve cover gasket replacement, as it’s presently leaking from both.

There have been few mods since I last posted a few years back, but the first which come to mind are a Scangauge II and switching my headlights from my custom projectors in stock housings to some stock Amazon headlights housings I bought. I forgot the housing brand but made the switch about 4 years back with some Hikari LED bulbs that are incredibly bright. I’ve tried to aim them down but ultimately and still looking for a more solid projector setup. My biggest issue with my swap of two D2S DDM Tuning projectors with 55w HID bulbs into the stock housing was the adjusters constantly falling off their track and needing realignment after off road use. There was barely enough clearance between the projectors and the housing to prevent it from rubbing the inside of the headlight lens. The issues may be fine for a street weekend car but for my uses they just didn’t have the durability I wanted. The stock housing also began to fade in our hot CA sun so starting from scratch with new stock repro housings seemed the best bet. Ironically, the DDM Tuning HID 35w bulbs in my stock fog lamps are STILL burning bright now 8-9 years after installation.
Just food for thought for those planning on upgrading a face lifted R50’s headlights.

And a shot of Althea, which is absolutely rust free. I couldn’t be happier even though it’s a money pit. The aftermarket for OBS Fords is ABSURDLY expansive and makes me wish Nissan had the same in the states…
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Tragedy struck- The factory Jatco RE4R01A made it 162,007 miles before giving up the ghost. Going about 70-75, my torque converter went out last week on 101.

Does any one have suggestions on quality transmission rebuilders in SoCal (Orange, LA, or Santa Barbara Counties)?

It’s had a slight delay going into gear on cold mornings for about a month, so I knew the end was coming. Luckily, after losing O/D with a loud clunk, the Pathy limped itself in third, then second to a Walmart parking lot in Oxnard. Of all places, directly across the street from where I sold my POS to CarMax about a year ago. I’ve since towed it home.

Now I am having an extremely difficult time finding a remanufactured unit worth its salt. Most rebuilders I’ve found have dubious reviews at best. :/

My last picture of the Pathy in running condition across from Santa Barbara city hall.

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I am happy to report, the Pathy is back on the road! Below is a picture of it resting at home just outside Santa Barbara. Now at 162,148 Im going to take the opportunity with the valve cover gasket replacement (Felpro) to replace the PCV valve (Beck Arnley), and intake plenum gaskets (Felpro).

Regarding the transmission: It took about a month to find a shop worth its salt, the one who performed the rebuild ended up being a “B+” shop at best. While they rebuilt the transmission and it shifts ok, I feel nickel and dimed by the addition of an oil pan gasket with $350 in installation costs without my permission. By the time it was done and I travelled back to OC it was too late. They also made the MAJOR mistake of “topping off” my tcase fluid with 80w90 when I just replaced it with ATF 500 miles prior to the transmission’s failure. While another gallon of ATF and a half hour to drain and fill isn’t much it is frustrating.

PM me if you live in the Orange County area and would like to know which shop to avoid, I’d post their name but want to avoid litigation. Scotty Kilmer may be right, you can’t trust anyone.

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Does anyone have a successful strategy for preventing rodent damage?
I tried soaking the engine bay (where the rats are targeting) with peppermint extract and this was the result. Seems like the ultrasonic deterrents aren’t much more effective.

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An AAA battery technician once told me to rub scented dryer sheets all over the engine bay. Not sure if that works but maybe worth a try.
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Happy Thanksgiving all,

An update on the Pathy- the transmission shop’s second rebuild attempt left me stranded twice more!

Because their work is so pathetic I’ll put them on blast- DO NOT GO TO “Transmission Masters” in Santa Ana CA.

The initial “rebuild” held for a week before overheating the transmission and leaving me stranded in rush hour traffic just outside Long Beach. The shop took it back, without offering to pay my towing charges (rented a uhaul car hauler) & said it was a software issue that required reprogramming the transmission. They claimed I pulled over in time to prevent burning up the supposedly fresh rebuild…

It took them a week for the reflash. Driving it around town to instill confidence, the Pathy again turned on the overheating light and wouldn’t shift correctly. Back to the incompetent shop it went, no offer to help with towing but the repair was free. This time they claimed the new gaskets interfered with the operation of the transmission- a load of BS if you ask me. They returned it to me after 5 days, and it now sits in my parent’s driveway until I can swap cars and drive it back to SB. I will continue testing it but feel no confidence in the quality of the shop’s work recent or otherwise.

I am now about $3.5k into this rebuild, which seemed reasonable until you consider it’s been off the road for 2 months. I’m at my wit’s end with this shop. Some of me wonders if this is a result of idiocy, the relative rarity of RE4R01A knowledge and parts or some combo of both.

The good news is my regular mechanic (Hans Imports in Huntington Beach) was able to tackle the valve cover warp and leaking valve cover gasket issue with aplomb after I’ve gotten the Pathy back. I have new Nissan valve covers (originals warped) and FelPro gaskets installed. This job was beyond the time I could realistically allot given the 3 hour drive it requires of me to get from Santa Barbara to FV.

Either way, I hope your holidays go better than my transmission rebuild

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My exasperation for this situation lead me to buy another daily- an 01 Ford Ranger Edge 2wd with the 3.0 Vulcan v6, Mazda 5 speed manual, and only 51k documented miles. I truly love my truck, and have no plans to sell it, the Pathy or Althea my 94 F150.

The Ranger, which I’ve named Lady Bird, gets 17 mpg on my commute around town and 22 real mpg on the highway with regular gas. This translates to a massive savings compared to the 12 mpg average on 91 octane the Pathfinder consistently gets on the same commute. It struggles to get 17 on the best of days.

I’ve put 7k trouble free miles on the Ranger, I’ve only had to change the oil and put in a 180* thermostat as the PO replaced the factory thermostat with a cheap unit which failed open about a month ago. I can’t believe how inexpensive parts are, in this supply chain world they’re often about 40% less than equivalent Nissan parts.

I’ve added a Leer mid rise topper which was bedlined by its PO. He worked with CalFire and built a sleeping platform he lived out of the shell with as he fought fires for 10 years. I bought the 3/4” ply platform and shell for $300 and use pieces of the platform as a mobile work bench for my window cleaning and screen repair business. I just remove the “bed” middle sheet of plywood for work. It needs to be sanded down and sealed but for now it works well.

Now, every single one of my 3 trucks has a sleeping platform. I’m not sure what that means

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I’m curious, in 2022 would you recommend one of these r50 pathfinders? I’ve loved the style and they can be picked up cheap with maybe 100k miles. It’s an intriguing idea to me but since I already have an Xterra with vq40 I wonder if it would feel too small, old and underpowered.
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