R50 Pathy/1st gen Xterra auto transmission reliability/longevity? Rebuild cost?


Wiffleball Batter
Finally sold my little DD and now I'm on the prowl for a new one. I'm a manual transmission guy and would prefer to find something with a 5 speed, especially after the trauma of having an AT fail on my tow vehicle (2004 Suburban) on the way home from a camping trip pulling a trailer and carrying the wife and dog (the good news was that it was only a "partial failure" of gears 3-4 and I was able to "limp" home in 2nd.)

Anyway, as I said first preference would be for something with a manual but I'm seeing a lot more AT equipped R50 Pathfinders and 1st gen Xterras.

So my questions are:

Since I'm looking to stay in the $5k and under range, everything I'm seeing has north of 150k on it. My understanding is that the 3.5l (Pathy) and 3.3l (Xterra) are pretty solid motors but how are the transmissions? Am I likely to be looking to get a transmission rebuilt within the next few years if I buy an AT equipped vehicle with this mileage range?

Second, assuming the worst happens and the transmission craps the bed - what am I looking at for a rebuild cost? I have to admit that if I can't find a MT equipped DD I'm leaning towards a Chevy Trailblazer simply because I already know what it would cost to rebuild the 4l60E tranny (the answer is $2k.) If I know that going in I can budget for it.

Since this would be a DD I'm strongly preferring the Pathfinder over the Xterra, just for the more comfortable interior and more powerful engine (and the unibody vs body-on-frame is a non-issue for me.) But if I find a nice X in decent shape for the right price I might jump at it.

I would also note that if I'm willing to accept a slushbox-equipped vehicle then I could also look at the Infiniti QX4. Surprisingly, I've seen lower mileage QX4's going for less than a Pathfinder of the same year. Not sure why that is but I've noticed it several times while scanning CL.

Thanks in advance.


I have a '97 R50 (3.3L/AT) with 191000 miles on it, and I've never had any issues with it since I bought it nearly new in '98. I've kept up on the fluid replacement schedule, and it's been trouble-free. I fully expect it to last at least another 100K.


Great trucks, the tranny can't cost more than 2k right? Seems like every X on this forum is a MT.

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New member
FWIW... I had a 2003 Pathfinder which I put about 100,000 miles on before trading for my 4Runner... from what I had read before buying my Pathy it's a solid transmission, and total failures are not common. I never had any trouble with mine in the least, with no leaks or other mystery fluid losses along the way. Still shifted smooth but solidly when I traded it in. Also, I added a B&M aux cooler to it for extra peace of mind when towing the tent trailer. As others will tell you, periodic fluid changes will go a long way to ensuring reliable service from these. I believe it's a "Jatco" RE4R01A in case you want to Google it...

Good luck.


Wiffleball Batter
Great trucks, the tranny can't cost more than 2k right? Seems like every X on this forum is a MT.
I dunno, one of the guys who has a late 90's Trooper said that the Trooper AT would cost $4k to rebuild/replace, which is likely more than the vehicle is worth. I don't know if that's because it was some kind of "special" transmission or if it is because the Isuzu is kind of an "orphan" vehicle at this point, but I thought I'd throw it out there.
I still have a strong preference for a MT but from what I've seen on CL there are about 10 AT equipped Pathy for each MT. Finding a MT 01-04 Xterra would be easier but then I'd be stuck with the 3.3 and I'm kind of liking the extra power of the 3.5 as well as the timing chain vs. belt.


Fwiw Rockauto has complete reman units for 1950 plus core. I'd imagine a decent tranny shop could knock it out for less.


I have a 2001 Pathfinder 3.5L with 165k that I regularly use to tow an 18ft toy hauler. I added a tranny cooler, OME suspension and air lift helper bags in the rear. Love this truck. Only complaint I would have is that my trailer is an old brick in the wind and because there is so much drag if I dont draft semi trucks or other large vehicles it wont shift into overdrive with the trailer loaded at max capacity for the R50, which is approximately 5000lbs. Lighter loads are no problem. Ive done 2000 mile trips from CA to WA, all over the cascades and back to CA towing and the only time I had issues was making it over the Siskiyou pass on I5 with a full load in 110F heat. It was running warm so I took a snooze in Shasta until the temps came down. Made it the rest of the climb without hitch.