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2006 Nissan Xterra Suspension Upgrade - Project X-Blade Gets A Couple Of Inches Taller

Posted in How To on December 26, 2006
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Over the past few months we have put more than 10,000 miles on our Project X-Blade Nissan Xterra, and we can still say that it's been a satisfying driving experience. In order to have logged all of those miles, the vehicle has made treks to various destinations all over California, Arizona, Utah, and Nevada. So far, we haven't experienced any problems whatsoever with the vehicle. We have noticed on a couple of off-road trips that the rear end of our Xterra was a bit soft, which caused it to bottom out much too easily in the dirt. We also prefer turning off VDC controls to give us more control over the handling and performance. The downhill assist has come in handy on several occasions and, along with the four-wheel-drive system, has performed flawlessly.

Now that we've put some miles on the vehicle and taken the right amount of time to discover its true capabilities on- and off-road in stock form, it's time to add new suspension and tires to the Xterra. For our first suspension system, we wanted something that would, for the most part, keep the vehicle running with the stock IFS suspension package. Rest assured wheeling fans, we would love to have started off this project by chopping off everything below the frame, swapping in new axles, and building one of the craziest Xterras around, but we think we'll hold off on those plans until a later date.

Rancho Suspension gave us a call once it heard about our project vehicle and immediately wanted to be a part of this opportunity since it is in the process of developing a new Quick-Lift suspension system for a number of vehicles, including the Xterra. Please keep in mind that this suspension system was still in its prototype stage during our install, so the part numbers may change as the product becomes available for retail sales. By the time you read this, however, the system should already be available through Rancho.

Instead of taking you through a complete bolt-by-bolt installation, we felt it would be more beneficial to talk about the changes in handling, off-road prowess, street performance, and fuel mileage that we have noticed since adding the new suspension and tires. Below is a brief explanation of our installation process; please consult the instructions for use provided with your Rancho suspension system before undertaking installation.

The front suspension includes a new Quick-Lift shock that utilizes the factory coil spring. You will notice in the above photo the new location of the coil spring plate. What this does is allow the coil to compress more, which results in lifting the front of the vehicle 2 inches. Installation on the front end is very simple and can be done in your garage with the help of a friend.

We jacked up the front of the vehicle and placed it safely on jackstands, removed the front tires, and removed the factory coil assembly from the vehicle. Using a spring compressor, we reinstalled the factory coil spring to the new RS99790 Quick-Lift shocks, installed the dust cover and coil hat, and mounted the new coil assembly back on the vehicle.

Installing the rear suspension takes a little more mechanical know-how and also would be much easier with the help of a friend. For our install, we jacked up the back of the vehicle and placed it safely on jackstands, removed the OE shocks and U-bolts, and loosened the sway-bar end links. Next, we removed the leaf-spring pack from the right side of the vehicle. It is very important to only remove one leaf-spring pack at a time. This makes the job of keeping the rearend aligned much easier - trust us.

We separated the leaf-spring pack by removing the center bolt. It is a good idea to use a clamp to hold the leaves together while removing the center bolt. Then, we inserted the new RS334 add-a-leaf into position 3 from the top down with the long end of the new leaf pointed toward the rear shackle. We compressed the leaf-spring pack so that the provided center bolt would align through the pack and tightened it down. Once the center bolt is tight, you have to cut off the extra length, leaving 0.250 inch showing underneath.

With the leaf-spring pack now assembled, we aligned all of the new leaves with a hammer, installed the pack back on the vehicle, and secured it with anchor/shackle hardware and the included U-bolts and nuts.

Next, we inserted the RSP01036 sleeve into the lower loop of the RS99001 rear Rancho shock and installed the new shocks. Once all of the new parts were installed, we reinstalled the tires and placed the vehicle back on the ground and tightened up all mounting points. The provided U-bolts need to be tightened down to 72-80 lb-ft of torque.

We repeated this entire process on the opposite side, and when both sides were completed we noticed the rear end exhibited a 1.5-inch ride-height change. Combined with the front, our vehicle now sits perfectly level. It is a good idea to drive the vehicle around slowly so the new suspension can settle properly, then recheck all of the mounting points and alignment.

Now that our new suspension was installed, it was time to choose a tire that would showcase its all-around abilities. The BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/AKO tire has proven time and again to be a favorite among off-road enthusiasts. The traction, sidewall protection, and low noise level make it a great choice for just about any application. The Nissan Xterra with its Off-Road package already comes with a BFGoodrich Rugged Trail T/A 265/75R16 tire, and this has proven to be great for us both on and off the road, but our new lift provided us enough room to safely stuff a 285/75R16 BFGoodrich T/AKO tire underneath that would not just make the truck perform better in the dirt but also finally give it an aggressive wheeling look.

We discovered while mounting our new tires that there was a bubble of factory plastic on the inner fenderwell which needed to be heated up and molded flat. You will notice this piece when you add larger tires to your Xterra - it's hard to miss. A few minutes with the heat gun and a rubber mallet, and our new shoes fit with ease.

The first thing we noticed driving the vehicle home after the installation was how much the new ride felt like the old. We hoped our new suspension would ride with the comfort of the stock suspension, and for the most part it does. Because the front coil is compressed more than in its stock form, the front end does have a bit of a bouncy feel to it over highway bumps at high speeds. Our new Rancho shocks have full tuning adjustability. Right now, the entire vehicle is set at Level 5, which is right in the middle between firm and soft.

The handling on-road has really improved due to the new tires. Traction around corners - even in rain - was never compromised. Unfortunately, we do have to report back that we have suffered a small power loss due to the new setup. This is a common occurrence for just about any vehicle that goes through a suspension lift and the addition of larger tires. Currently, there are no gearsets available for this vehicle, but we hope that as they become available we can restore our Xterra's lost power to factory specs.

The combination of the suspension lift and the new BFG T/AKO tires has given us much needed clearance on the trail. Although we haven't achieved so much lift that we can say we're boulder-hopping in our free time, we can say that through the more mild terrain we've thrown at the Nissan performance all-around is improved. During our low-pressure tire test, traction over the rocks was better than with the factory tires, as was climbing ability over a local sand dune.

The most significant improvement we've noticed so far is that the nasty bottoming out in the rear is gone. We spent a day in the dirt at speeds from 5 to 30 mph and never felt the rear end fail. The new tires can stuff completely into the wheelwell without rubbing thanks to the new Quick-Lift system. Please keep in mind this does not mean you can go as fast as you want over anything you want and your Xterra will float over bumps like a Trophy Truck, but if you're an Xterra owner and you like the dirt, you have to agree that the new setup is worth every penny.

Because it is common to notice a mileage loss from a swap like this, we were pleasantly surprised to find out that we only suffered a slight fuel economy loss with the addition of the suspension system and the larger tires. In order to keep our OE computer thinking properly, we disconnected the battery for a few minutes to allow the system to reset itself before testing. If we notice a change in our fuel economy over time, we'll let you know.

So what's next for Project X-Blade? We are working closely with a number of aftermarket companies to help launch some new and exciting products for the Nissan Xterra. Next up for us will be the installation and testing of a set of ShrockWorks rock sliders. If you have any questions or feedback regarding this project, or represent an aftermarket company looking to work with us, please e-mail us at

Parts List For The Rancho Kit Front(2) RS99790 Quick-Lift shocksRear(2) RS334 add-a-leaves(2) RS860410 center-bolt subassembly(4) RS7414 U-bolts(1) RS8011 U-bolt hardware(2) RS99001 rear shocks(2) RSP01036 sleeves

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Rancho Suspension
Monroe, MI 48161

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