XTerra lurching when backing up and making tight circles

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XTerra lurching when backing up and making tight circles

Postby Rhino » Wed May 15, 2019 7:22 pm

I don't know if I have a problem or not. I'm having some unexpected behaviour so I want to ask YOU, fellow XTerra owner, if this is normal or something to be concerned about.

It's a 2007 XTerra Offroad that I bought used in 2016. It's always used on the street, not offroad. (I truly wish I could go out with you but I just can't afford all the gear I'd need to get myself out of trouble if and when something went wrong.) I drive in RWD all year except when there's snow on the road; then I switch to 4WD/HI. I'm running Goodyear tires, fairly knobby.

Late this past winter, while in 4WD/HI, I started noticing some odd behaviour when I'd back into parking spaces. (To be clear, I would drive just past the parking space, then make a sharp turn to my right to back into the spot.) One or the other of the rear wheels would "buck" as I was backing in. It would try to spin, as if it was on a slippery surface. The parking lot was free of snow in most of those cases and I didn't see any ice either. It struck me as odd that one wheel would start doing that.

I was describing the problem to one of my friends who is pretty knowledgeable about cars and he gave it a try himself while we were over at his place but we couldn't reproduce it then. We shrugged and let it be.

Ten days back, my ABS, SLIP and VDC lights suddenly came on simultaneously just as I was coming off the 401. Long story short, I took it to one of the local dealers and I'd lost a left front wheel bearing which had caused other problems. When I was describing the symptoms to the service people, I made sure to mention this "bucking" problem while backing up. They replaced the broken wheel bearing and replaced the related damage to the brake calipers, road-tested it and assured me that all the problems I'd reported were fixed now. Sure enough, the ABS, SLIP and VDC lights are off and the brakes are working better than ever.

After I got it home, I took the XTerra into a local parking lot to see if the "bucking" problem was truly solved. Much to my surprise it was worse if anything. But my friend had suggested that maybe this behaviour was actually normal for a vehicle like this so I thought I'd ask here.

I did a number of tests and found the following:
1. the bucking happened whether backing in from either side in FWD/HI and FWD/LO but was non-existent or negligble in RWD
2. the bucking while backing up sometimes involved a front wheel too
3. I got similar behaviour even going forward if I tried to make a very tight circle; again any of the wheels might try to spin at any point. This happened even in RWD but was less the wider the circles.
4. I don't think I've ever experienced the bucking at normal driving speeds on the road, just at very low speeds.

So is this normal or do I have a problem? I don't remember any of this bucking in the first two years that I had the truck and I've backed into parking spaces since my first car. This is my first truck and all of my cars have been either rear-wheel drive or front-wheel drive; I've never had a four wheel drive before.
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Re: XTerra lurching when backing up and making tight circle

Postby Drizit » Wed May 15, 2019 8:37 pm

You have what's called a part time 4x4 system in that truck. In 4x4 high or low the front and rear axle are locked together and can only turn at the same speed. However when turning the front and rear wheels must be able to go at different speeds. In a low traction situation like snow or dirt that's not an issue the tires just slip a bit to make up the difference. However in a high traction situation like a dry parking lot the tires don't slip and the entire driveline binds up. That bucking is the accumulated slack and available twisting in your entire driveline letting go when one tire finally does slip. It's really not very good for everything. This is a part time 4x4 system with a transfer case, not a full time awd system that uses a limited slip center diff. Basically you should only be in 4x4 when the conditions are too slippery to be in Rwd. Also keep in mind that when cornering in 4x4 you will absolutely be loosing traction on some of your tires, that and over confidence is why you see so many 4x4s in the ditch every winter.

Now your issue with backing in in 2wd, that is probably related to ether a limited slip or automatic locker in the rear diff. A good way to check without opening it is to lift the rear wheels in the air and spin one. If one goes forward and the other backwards you have an open diff and something else is going on. If however both spin forward you have the answer, some sort of traction aid is at work here.
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Re: XTerra lurching when backing up and making tight circle

Postby Rhino » Wed May 15, 2019 9:38 pm

Thanks VERY MUCH, Drizit, that really helps!

As luck would have it, my friend has a hoist and says we can do the test you suggest next time I'm over there. :-)

From now on, I will use FWD considerably less than I have been.

Thanks again!
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Re: XTerra lurching when backing up and making tight circle

Postby BigRed44 » Thu May 16, 2019 8:42 am

I have the same Truck as he does and it is a selectable E Locker so unless you are in 4low with the locker button on it will not engage. There is a mod to have it selected any time you want. Still do the test Drizt suggests but make sure the button is off before the test.
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Re: XTerra lurching when backing up and making tight circle

Postby Rhino » Thu May 16, 2019 8:50 am

Where's the locker button? It doesn't ring a bell....
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Re: XTerra lurching when backing up and making tight circle

Postby BigRed44 » Thu May 16, 2019 9:23 am

if it is the Offroad Model then it will be in the center console under the temp controls.
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Re: XTerra lurching when backing up and making tight circle

Postby Rhino » Thu May 16, 2019 9:50 am

Yes, it is the Offroad. I've even got a 2007, just like yours. I'll look for that locker button when I get a minute, now that I know where it is. (I don't remember seeing any mention of it in the manual but maybe the official name is different.)

When should the locker button be on and when should it be off?
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Re: XTerra lurching when backing up and making tight circle

Postby Rhino » Thu May 16, 2019 11:04 am

I found it! Just to the right of the RWD/4WD-HI/4WD-LO selector. That helped me find it in the manual. Apparently, that's only ever supposed to be engaged in 4WD-LO at very low speeds when trying to get unstuck offroad. That's why I've never noticed it before. I only went into 4WD-LO for the first time yesterday in the parking lot when I was trying to figure out exactly when the lurching occurred. I've never touched the Lock button and it's off like it's supposed to be for road-driving so all.

Bottom line: until I go off-road (I'm still hoping to do that when money isn't so tight), just leave the Lock off and stay in RWD except when it's really slippery out, then switch to FWD-HI.

Thanks BigRed44 and Drixit!! I learned a lot in this thread.
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Re: XTerra lurching when backing up and making tight circle

Postby Drizit » Thu May 16, 2019 7:08 pm

No problem, even with a selectable e locker there could also be a problem causing it to activate when it's not supposed to. Ether an electrical issue or a physical one.
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Re: XTerra lurching when backing up and making tight circle

Postby Drizit » Thu May 16, 2019 7:28 pm

No problem, even with a selectable e locker there could also be a problem causing it to activate when it's not supposed to. Ether an electrical issue or a physical one.
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Re: XTerra lurching when backing up and making tight circle

Postby BigRed44 » Thu May 16, 2019 8:09 pm

Yeh it should only engage in 4lo but if the previous owner did the mod you can select the locker at any speed in any drive config 2wd or 4wd hi/lo
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Re: XTerra lurching when backing up and making tight circle

Postby Bow_Tied » Sat May 18, 2019 12:51 am

The bucking issue is totally normal, just as Drizit said. It is my presumption on reading your post that there is no bucking in 2Hi in any direction.... save for a very tight turn that simply is dragging the tire treads very slightly.

For all of those reasons Drizit mentions, it is not advisable to use 4Hi / 4Lo on dry pavement or mostly dry pavement. My pathfinder had an AUTO selection on the transfer case in addition to 4Hi and 4Lo- if you have this setting then this or 2Hi is the best choice for variable road conditions especially if mostly dry. If you do not, then use 4Hi sparingly on roads with intermittent snow. Chances are, if you need to ask yourself "2Hi or 4Hi?": you should be in 2Hi, assuming you have decent tires. Why?

In 4Hi and 4Lo the front and rear axles are trying to turn at exactly the same time as Drizit noted. When turning, the inside wheel takes a shorter path through the arc of the turn vs. the outside yet is trying to turn the same number of times. Something has to give, and usually the tires lose traction and "bucks". However, this is creating a load/stress on other parts such as the transmission, transfer case, u-joints, CV axles and more. If this was done for long duration or frequently that torque build up between the wheels will wear or break these parts which =$$$ hence not advisable. Generally 4Hi for on road use is when the roads are mostly snow covered.

As to when to use 4x4 and locker off road - on your first trail run speak with your trail leader about the specific trail. I generally tell newbies to use 4Lo immediately as it is a more controlled and less stressful on the truck. The locker I would advise to leave off (more binding on turning) until just before an obstacle where it might be needed. But always follow the advice of the trail leader.

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