As a nod to the more vain among us (we’re guilty of this as well), Nitto molds two different sidewalls into the tires, allowing us to choose between a metal fin design with standard lettering, and a traditional design with raised lettering. For our Xterra, we chose to install them with the metal fin side facing outwards.
Before we ordered our set, it was time to do some research. Xterras, despite their relatively compact size, came with fairly large wheelwells. As a result, our stock 2WD Xterra could shoehorn a set of 285-75/16 (approximately equivalent to a 33×11.50-16) tires under it with only minor “melt mods” to the factory splashguards. What’s the “melt mod” you ask? Simple. Nissan, for reasons unbeknownst to us, molded a small bump in the splash guards in the lower rear corner of the splashguards that larger tires will rub on. To get up to a 33” tire under the truck, one simply has to employ a heat source (hair dryer, heat gun, or blowtorch and a lot of caution and fire control devices) and something without nerve endings to hold the heated plastic down while it cools. Basically: heat the bump, smoosh the bump, hold it flat until it cools. No bump. No hacking the fenders, bumpers, splash guards, etc. Easy peasy.
While our Xterra came stock with P-metric tires, Nitto only offers this size in LT variety, load range E. For our purposes with this truck (hauling supplies/passengers for a business and towing Project G20) the LT tire is a better choice. What the hell is the difference? An LT tire is designed to work with Light Trucks (generally, 3/4 to 1 ton) and the heavier loads they carry when compared to their 1/2 ton and smaller brethren. As a result, sidewalls and carcass construction are firmer/thicker.
Load Range E is loosely related to tire plies ratings from yesteryear’s bias ply tire heyday (i.e. Load Range E is 10 ply equivalent), as radial tires generally don’t come with more than 2-3 plies anymore. Since we’d never haul around anything nearly heavy enough to warrant the 80psi max inflation pressure (for 3,750lbs of load carrying capacity), we kept to the stock 35psi for regular road use, and upped the rears to 40psi for times when we're towing.
While we were swapping tires out, we decided to replace our stock steelies with some aluminum takeoffs from a 2008 Nissan Frontier S 4×4. Weighing in at 26lbs instead of 33lbs for the steelies, these wheels not only look better, but will offset some of the weight gained by going to larger E-rated tires. The overall package weighs in at 79lbs per corner compared to the stock wheel/tire combo’s 68lbs. Gaining 11lbs a corner isn’t good for braking and acceleration, but with the lame sub-25mph throttle limiter (Nissan limits throttle opening below 25mph to save the drivetrain from hoonage), it’s barely noticeable. Braking was a little overkill on this vehicle stock, and while we’re likely to see problems trying to do multiple stops in a row or hotlapping the Xterra (uh huh), it hasn’t posed a problem while towing or street driving.