Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

Xterra Slippage in snow

I have an 02 Xterra with a very scarry habit of losing the rear-end when driving in snow. Last time I replaced the tires, I was sold tires that didn’t quite clear the wheel well. I was told it was no problem, they could simply adjust the camber/suspension (forget how they termed it) and it would work fine. At the time I lived in a warm/wet climate and had no issues. Now I live in a cold/snowy climate and the car is scary to drive in snow. The Back end loses control and slides/breaks loose when turning. I am wondering if this is typical for an xterra? or is it a tire problem? or could the adjustments that were made on the suspension likely cause this problem? Any help or thoughts would be appreciated! Thanks.

Recommendation is 4 winter tires in the original size recommended by Nissan. “All season” tires are not intended for snow, and that is likely what you were sold in the “warm/wet” climate area.

The tires are Wild Country XTX mud/snow. Would that fall under the classification of “all season?”

Going from warm/wet to cold/snowy, you also have to adjust your driving habits. Slow down, go light on the brakes and accelerator and don’t try to do any turning to quickly.

Is this a 2wd or 4wd drive Xterra?

My experience with 4wd (2000 Blazer 4wd) in the snow can be summed in the following.

  1. Four wheel drive makes it easier for a vehicle to get moving from a standstill. The additional ground clearance makes it easier to get through deep snow. It does not make the truck handle or brake better.

  2. Handling and braking are a function of the tires. For example, the Blazer had Uniroyal Cross-Country tires that were mud and snow rated. We don’t normally get a lot of snow in South Jersey, but the few times it snowed the traction was marginal in or out of 4wd. These tires were replaced with Firestone Destination LE tires. The first snow I drove in was about 8 inches deep. Traction was much improved, about 4 miles into the commute, I noticed the rear tires spun a bit accelerating from a light. I discovered the truck was still in 2wd. After switching to 4wd, the truck handled even better. The point being, tires can make a huge difference.

  3. Most importantly, 4wd does not mean you can drive faster than 2wd. Those who do are usually the ones in the SUV upside down in a ditch alongside the road. In heavy snow, I seldom drive faster than 25 mph and use the brakes as little as possible (I let the deep snow slow the truck down). If someone wants to go faster I just pull over and let them go by.

It sounds like the tire shop mounted tires that were the incorrect size. Adjusting the suspension to accommodate the tires would affect the handling (probably not in a good way). Consider 4 new tires in the correct size and have the alignment returned back to factory specs. If you live in an area with heavy snowfall (Maine, Vermont, etc) consider 4 snow tires mounted on separate rims. Tire Rack’s website is a good source of information.

Good luck,

Ed B.

I was not able to find your specific tyre. Maybe you had the name a little different? In any case, check the tyres. If they are the real winter thing, they should have a snowflake on the sidewall. A few years ago a new technology came out and the name “Winter” indicated the new technology, but today the name difference seems to have away. You want real Winter or Snow tyres, not All Season tyres.

Next is weight distribution. I believe You have an SUV and it may be a little heavy in the front. That can cause some handling problems on snow or ice.

[b] Another common error is to set the tyre pressure at the number showing on the sidewall of the tyre.  That is NOT a recommended pressure, it is an indication of the highest pressure for that tyre.  Most cars and trucks will have a lower pressure recommendation.  Make sure you are using the car manufacturer's recommendation[/b].  Different size tyres add to the possible problems as a different size tyre may need a different pressure.

If you have tires that do not clear the wheel well on an Xterra, then you have oversized wheels with non-plus-sized tires, or someone sold you the wrong tires. I somewhat suspect that you got 19 or 20 inch flash wheels on this thing, and if that’s the case, you need different wheels for driving in the snow.

Suspension adjustments should never be made just to fit an oddball tire unless you know what you’re doing, and you’re setting the car up for some specific handling benefit. I strongly suspect that this shop that sold you the tires was going for looks, and ended up installing something unsafe.

Well, since you didn’t say which model of xTerra you bought, I’m going to ask the right questions:

Looks like the xTerra originally came with 3 wheel sizes:


So, what size rims and tires do you have on it now?


The Wild country Radial XTX’s that are slipping say P265/70R17. The original tire (which happens to be the spare) says P265/65R17. Obviously these were on the same rims. Not exactly sure how to measure a rim but the tape measure diameter is 18.5". Does this make any sense?

Is your vehicle 2wd, 4wd or AWD??


These are the wrong tires for this truck. The tires are now taller, throwing off your speedometer and rubbing on the frame and fenders. The first number, 265, is the thread width. the second number, 70, is the aspect ratio of thread width to sidewall height. The final number, R17, is the rim diameter. So, these tires are taller than the stock tires. Mucking with the suspension settings to get them to fit was a VERY BAD IDEA. Now the tires don’t track properly either, making the situation worse.

Additionally, these are an all-season design with some off-road performance in mind. NOT A SNOW TIRE! recommends Bridgestone Blizzak tires in the original 265/65R17 tire size. These tires were specifically made for snow driving, and, from what I’ve read, will greatly improve your traction on snow.