1999 Nissan Pathfinder - 4X4 issue

During a snow storm a couple of months ago, when my daughter put her 1999 Nissan Pathfinder in 4-wheel drive the car would only steer straight, whether going forward or in reverse. Unfortunately, most of our streets have curves, and she was unable to use her 4-wheel drive. She’s experienced no problems driving the car when in 2-wheel drive. Please tell me there is an inexpensive fix to this problem.

Inexpensive , probably not . Have you driven this where the four wheel drive should be used , such as unpaved surfaces . I wonder if there was not really enough snow for the FWD to function . On a 20 year old Pathfinder at least pay for a diagnostic before you actually out a lot of money in this vehicle.

1 Like

You’re absolutely right about doing a diagnostic, I just wanted some idea of what to expect to hear from my mechanic. My daughter has had this car for 10 years and never experienced a problem with the 4-wheel drive. I probably could make a case that our poorly maintained roads are similar to off-roading. It’s as if putting the car in 4-wheel drive disables the power steering.

Some years ago a friend chose to weld the end gears in the front differential of his CJ7 to “lock” the front differential. He reported that on gravel roads at low speeds the Jeep would not turn, it would only slide forward with the wheels turn left or right. This made it impossible to turn around on a trail, big mistake.

That is something different than what was expressed in the first statement. Disabling the power steering would require more effort to turn the steering wheel but would not prevent the driver from making turns.

Perhaps you could ride in the vehicle with your daughter to get an accurate description of the problem.


Just because it was snowy, doesn’t mean there was snow on the ground. Around here it takes a good 20 minutes before snow starts accumulating on the roads. If the roads were still relative dry, then I’d say it’s acting perfectly normal. If not then the transfercase is binding and needs to be looked at.

How often do you change the transfer-case fluid? My 98 Pathfinder lasted almost 500k miles with ZERO drive-train issues. Replacing fluids are extremely important.

1 Like

Roads were wet and slushly, but I will definitely check the transfercase fluid. Thanks for the info.

Really not the right condition for 4WD . As I asked before have you driven this thing in loose dirt or sand .


On some 4X4 systems, it can get kinda locked into 4WD and can only unlock if you drive straight and maybe waver a bit L-R while trying to shift it out of 4WD.

1 Like

4WD is great when someone is off-roading, or if they are driving through deep snow, or if they need to get out of a ditch. For driving on regular roads and highways during the winter, AWD is far superior, given the variation in conditions from one patch of road to another.

I’ve owned both type of vehicles and I’ll take 4wd any day over AWD. Most modern 4wd systems (like in my 05 4runner) is very much like AWD when shifted into 4wd High. The front and rears do not lock in unless I want them to. With an AWD system you only have 1 drive wheel most of the time, then as needed it may lock in one of the wheels in the other axle. The problem with this system is the lag time when the other wheel kicks in. There is also full-time AWD where there’s always one wheel in each axle that’s engaged. Most are not that way.

The other problem with AWD is that many times after driving 60 minutes in a snow storm that lightly covered snow roads are now deep covered snow. For that you want 4wd. We go skiing in the White mountains 10+ times a years. Usually leave Friday night and come back early Sunday morning. With my Highlander - more then once I had to wait a few hours so the snow plows could clear the roads. With my Pathfinders and 4runner - no problem getting through the snow covered roads.

With a modern 4wd system like on my 4runner you could leave it in 4wd all year and not have any issues (except lower gas mileage).

1 Like