2002 Pathfinder...the long road to recovery (build)

About a month ago I started looking at a cheap reliable vehicle capable of being built up as an overland rig but retaining the ability to get me back and forth to work (when needed) and could maintain a decent cruising speed on the highway. I had always wanted a later model Pathfinder with the VQ and a manual transmission, but cannot spend a ton of money. As luck would have it I found a 2002 5spd MT with a blown engine, but otherwise was in good condition for a reasonable price. I contact the owner and planned on going out to pickup the Pathfinder the next weekend. We just got back from the trip to last night and today I began work on the new to me Pathfinder.

The plan:
This vehicle has a lot of miles on it and although the unibody is in amazing condition with no rust I don't know what condition the mechanical are in, except the engine, which is completely blown. Step one is to get the engine, transmission, transfer case and driveshafts out. The transmission and transfer case will be disassembled, inspected, repaired if needed, and reassembled. The driveshafts will get u-joints and and be balanced.

After the drivetrain is reinstalled and all fluids changed I will move on to the brakes, wheel bearings and suspension. Once funds are available I will be installing a 2" coil lift, wheels and tires, arb style bumper, lockers, sliders and skids. The goal is to keep weight down so that drive-ability is not lost.

Known Issues:
Right now the only two known issues besides the blown motor is that the rear windows will not roll down with the driver's switch or the rear window switches and the exhaust system past the largest muffler is completely shot.

Current Status:
Right now I only have to remove the upper engine wiring harness, bellhousing bolts and motor mounts before the engine can be removed. I will probably go ahead and pull the transmission/transfer case as a unit before removing the engine.

If you have any comment on wheels that have the proper backspacing ( I think 3.75") for 265/75 R16 please let me know and where to get them.



I have always liked the R50. Are you just doing a rebuild on the motor or going to add to it? Are you aware of the power valve screws issue?
I haven't taken the heads off the old motor but I did find that the exhaust cam over #3 was broken. Manual VQ35s did not have power valves, so this wasn't a failure point for the old engine. The engine I am putting into the vehicle is from an automatic, but all of its power valve screws are accounted for.

The rebuild is going on over here: http://www.nissanpathfinders.net/forum/topic/44343-2002-pathfinderthe-long-road-to-recovery-build/

Old engine ready for analysis:

Yesterday we inspected the transfer case and it looked amazing, the chain is very tight. It was so good I didn't even both dissembling the transmission for inspection. I will put a front seal in the transmission and be done with it.

Then we moved on to diagnose the old engine. We found out why cylinder #5 had a misfire code, see below. Root cause is either low on oil or something we haven't though of. I will have to get the heads off before I know for sure.

Next week begins the parts waiting game. The clutch kit arrived, but I need the Nissan parts before the drivetrain can start going back in.

THEY FIT! It has been a long time since i have tried oversized tires on an R50 and I forgot what works and what dosen't. Specs are: stock wheels 4 3/4" backspace 16x7 wheels 265/75/16 (31.7") KO2s! The mudflap will have to be removed or trimmed up front and the front bumper MAY have to be cut, but maybe not. Front bumper won't be there for more than a year or two anyways. I won't be using these wheels, I am going to go with 16x8s with 4" of backspace.

About the VQ oil burning, I had read this is due to bad cats (caused by bad gas or excessive fueling/lack of maintenance) sheding ceramic and it being sucked into the engine due to reversion at low rpm then tearing up the rings and cylinder walls.

Parts I have already:



front driveshaft U-joints


rear brake hardware kit

clutch kit

second battery system from my taco

ham radio and antenna

Parts on order:

Every single water hose under the hood except two which are discontinued

rear seal

poly bushings for everything but the sway bars including the panhard and rack and pinion

2" lift springs

kyb struts

bilstien 5100s

strut bearings

camber bolts for struts

Parts I need:

wheels and tires

rear muffler assembly

stereo system (something android auto)

possibly a new welder with a spool gun so I can do aluminum skids and because it's time for a new welder

probably more I cannot think of

Sliders - will probably buy these

Today the title arrived in the mail. It's nice to know that after all this work it is legally mine.

In Texas, at least major cities, we have to get vehicles inspected (even trailers over 4k GVWR which is a freaking pain in the a$$) before we can register them. When I was doing the title work I asked the clerk how I am supposed to drive my vehicle to get the OBDII monitors to a ready state so I can pass inspection when it is not road legal? She said I would have to get insurance on the vehicle and get a 30 day temp tag without registration. So tomorrow I start paying for insurance and I hope to get a temp tag so I can legally drive the thing if I am lucky enough to get it road worthy this weekend.

Getting closer, but it is going to be a BUSY weekend.

I had to pull the passenger cat after having the exhaust completed because I installed the manifold to cat gasket incorrectly.

I wish junkyards could be more sneaky with the paint markings.

All that's left under the hood is:

-Intake manifold upper sections

-computer harness from dash


-throttle and cruise cables

-connect vacuum hoses

-A/C idler

-install battery

-drain any existing oil and take a sample <- maybe I should have done this before installing the engine

-cut open existing filter and examine <- maybe I should have done this before installing the engine

-new oil and filter

-pull plugs , vacuum cylinders, crank engine to build oil pressure

-complete cooling system installation/radiator/fan

-vacuum and charge A/C

-fill all other fluids

Installed new rack poly bushings.

Shinny driveshafts new ujoints and balanced

AND thanks my favorite junkyard for writing, in paint on the front face of the rims I purchased
I have to figure out how to get that paint off without damaging the machined wheel surface.

The bag of goodies...like I said, busy weekend. Oh, and I know all 8 of those rear link bolts are seized and are going to require cutting out with an angle grinder

Not pictured: wheel spacers (shipped today), rear brake shoes and hardware kit, plugs...and OH I forgot an air filter



Desert Rat
This thread is awesome! The front is looking great! I love seeing R50's being modded.

This gives me more motivation for mine


New member
Nice work. Love those blue trucks. I haven't seen anyone put poly bushings on the steering rack before. Where did you get those?