MTB Beater Car Decision- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    MTB Beater Car Decision

    So I have a 2002 Infiniti QX4 that I bought new and has about 130k on it now. In pretty good shape, but it needs brakes, tires, springs, struts, shocks now. I've been using it for a long time as my MTB, surf beater mobile.

    My question: Do I just sell it and buy another newer used car like a 2010's Subaru Crosscheck, something that is cheap, reliable, and can be beat on for a long time? Or, do I spend the money and lift it 6" put bigger tires on it and make it a bad ass MTB banger wagon to off road with? I would probably use it mainly for MTB within 100 miles of the house, and surfing. No real serious off roading, just little mudding from time to time.

    Anybody ever lifted a Pathfinder/QX4 in this year model? Costs? Pitfalls? Any of you guys driving an older Pathfinder/QX4?

  2. #2
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    Lifting any vehicle is an endless path to spending more money and having more hassles than you can imagine. I had a 2007 Jeep JK that I thought bigger tires on it would be cool. After the tires, I thought maybe a little lift would be cool. After the 4" lift, the tires now looked too small, so I spent another $2500 on bigger wheels and tires to replace the 6 month old like new tires that were now "too small". I bought a quality lift kit with great reviews. But NOBODY ever tells you that as soon as you modify your suspension, you are changing basically everything in regards to ride, turning, braking, etc. I took a very good Jeep (I bought new and did the mods at 20k miles) and pretty much made it undriveable on the freeway. The ride was horrendous, stopping was compromised, I couldn't use 6th at normal cruising speeds due to the large tires (couldn't overcome the wind resistance in a higher gear with lower RPM's), so the next step down the rabbit hole was new diff gearing. Once you start to go big, it never stops. As soon as you fix one problem the lift creates, you create a new problem.
    Save your money and buy the Suburu.
    I ended up selling the JK, got 1/2 of my lift expenses back based upon KBB pricing for the Jeep plus adding the extra $$ for a final selling price.
    I was lucky in that regard. I would have been smarter if I had simply gone a little larger with the tires and never done a lift.
    FYI, I have a 2 post lift in my garage, I did/do all my own work. If I had gone to a shop for the lift install and other required changes, I would have lost another $5K easily. I got out relatively cheap.

  3. #3
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    If it is paid off (it better be by now!) I would keep it and repair things as necessary. Not modify it, get away with what you can within reason. If it'll fit bigger tires, shove them in there, or if you have some fender/wheel wells that are already damaged or removable, take them off.

    We go through this every year, "should we spend $1500-$2000 on the repairs the van NEEDS, or should we buy (cough, yuck, finance, cough) a vehicle that will have us spend same amount in the year on something newer and hopefully better". I hate this conversation because I hate more unneeded debt and expenses. I know the van needs work, but it still runs now even if it isn't perfect.
    FATTrailer for the kiddo, As Seen on the blue/green trails around Grand Junction now.

  4. #4
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    This is great advice guys! The one thing I want to avoid is dropping a ton of time and money on an old beater car, when I could have just bought a newer used car for nearly the same amount of cash. I'm only using this car for MTB/Surfing and for the kids to drive around. So, the lifted 4x4 idea may not be the best for new drivers!

  5. #5
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    You have to plan mods completely, start to finish, and do it as a package deal that you can trust to work... Or else you end up spiraling out of control or buying twice.

    Let someone else do the research and buy parts that are known to work together, or buy a kit from a reputable company.

    Pathfinders/qx4s can take a mild lift with slightly oversized tires. Don't go nuts and you'll have a versatile and reliable suv.

    I worked for Infiniti 10 years ago, so we saw those often. They're decent SUVs, just gas hogs. I like older cars, but if you can't work on them yourself it gets unreasonably expensive.

  6. #6
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    It's almost always cheaper to fix your current vehicle (assuming it is paid off), compared to a car payment.
    Those are normal wear items that will"go" on other vehicles too, a 9 year old Subi might need some work as well.
    If you are handy, those are all things that can be done in your garage, rockauto.com is your friends for reasonably priced parts.

    I agree with the comments above about lifting (98 Wrangler here, 4" lift etc etc).

    If you want to keep it reasonable, you can usually do what many call a leveling kit, usually 1" or maybe 2"at most. Let's you go one size up on tire but shouldn't affect driveability much.

  7. #7
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    130k miles is nothing. Do the maintenance (like already mentioned, what it needs is normal wear stuff). There's much more life left in at with only 130k on it. As for a lift kit... keep it under 3" and it's fairly easy and simple. A $200 DIY spacer kit and an alignment. You can easily spend a lot more than that raising your mountain bike 10mm. Over 2-3", and it gets more involved (and expensive) and not worth it unless you really need it. Besides, 2" lift is more than you think. Add to that another inch or 2 via a taller tire, and you're at 3-4". Park next to another QX4 and you'll be surprised how much taller it'll look.
    You didn't quit riding because you're old, you're old because you quit riding.

  8. #8
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    I went with a stock height outback for a camping/biking vehicle.

    Obviously it won't touch real off-road purpose built trails, but it's an absolute beast on forest service roads and anything I'm likely to encounter when headed out for a ride.

    A suv or outback/Forester with good tires is incredible for an adventure car. Im becoming a big fan of skipping the lift, it doesn't raise the differentials anyway.

  9. #9
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    I took you guys advice. Dropped off the QX4 to my local discount shop to get all the minor stuff done. No lift, maybe a 1-2" inch level, followed by bigger tires. I'm going to keep driving this one till 200k or so.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by One Pivot View Post
    Im becoming a big fan of skipping the lift, it doesn't raise the differentials anyway.
    Exactly... that's something many don't realize. But, a lift allows a larger diameter tire, which in turn does get the diff a little higher.
    You didn't quit riding because you're old, you're old because you quit riding.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by fredcook View Post
    Exactly... that's something many don't realize. But, a lift allows a larger diameter tire, which in turn does get the diff a little higher.
    Get the Subaru. Put some trailing arm spacers on there, a 1" lift, slightly larger than stock tires and you have 11"+ of ground clearance.

    Whatever you do, don't put a roof top tent on it.
    Death from Below.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by fredcook View Post
    Exactly... that's something many don't realize. But, a lift allows a larger diameter tire, which in turn does get the diff a little higher.
    That's not necessarily true. For live axles you are correct, but IFS/IRS lifts do provide increased diff clearance. I have no idea what a QX4 has, but assume it's at least IFS...

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by 5k bike 50cent legs View Post
    I took you guys advice. Dropped off the QX4 to my local discount shop to get all the minor stuff done. No lift, maybe a 1-2" inch level, followed by bigger tires. I'm going to keep driving this one till 200k or so.
    Careful w/leveling kits if you carry a bunch of stuff in the back on MTB trips, your rig won't handle the way it was designed to if it's really loaded down. I'd only consider a high quality lift from the likes of OME or sim. If your rig has 130k miles on it, you could probably just get a stock height lift and gain a inch or so since it's probably starting to sag as is.

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