Project Pathfinder Part 6, For Safety sake
Project Pathfinder was not cut out to be a heavy duty tow rig but in this edition we add some important parts to make the task of towing much safer even if our Pathfinder was not designed to tow a full size trailer to begin with.
Driving to races often means driving late at night to dark remote areas. Our stock lights threw a weak yellow beam so dim we could hardly see the road at times. Our lights were barely adequate for city driving and were hazardous on the open road. To fix this we obtained Nissan Motorsports Euro headlight conversion kit. The Euro headlights are standard equipment on Euro Pathfinders and allow the use of an H4 bulb. There are many good aftermarket H4 bulbs available. The Euro lights also have a better beam pattern with a sharp cutoff on the right side to help prevent blinding oncoming drivers. Technically these lights are not DOT approved or legal but they do work much better, don’t blind people and provide much better illumination. You are not likely ever gonna be hassled for these lights. The Euro lights require adding your existing stock brackets to them but otherwise bolt right in. They also require that you splice in the H4 3 wire socket to your stock wiring, an easy solder, and shrinktube wiring job. I recommend that you don’t exceed 100 watt light bulbs or you may have problems with your stock wiring burning up. We used some 55/65 watt Piaa Hyperwhite bulbs which have the power equivalent to 80/100 halogen bulbs. They did seem brighter when driving to our first bulb which was a 80/100 watt Hella. We went with the Piaa’s as the stock wiring harness ran cool with them. With the Hella, the stock wires were slightly warm to the touch. This is a very good bang for the buck mod and we think it has significantly helped nighttime driving safety.
Technosha Trailer Brake Controller
Even with big 4 wheel disc brakes, when towing a dual axle trailer with an underrated short wheel base tow vehicle like the Pathfinder, trailer brakes become very important for safety. Because of this we made sure we didn’t skimp here. We installed a Technosha Prodigy inertia type brake controller. The Technosha is very sophisticated, enabling it to apply the trailer brakes in proportion to the demand. The demand is sensed by an onboard accelerometer. The gain to compensate for a loaded and unloaded trailer can be adjusted in a second via a “boost” button and fine tuned for the braking power onset slope with a roller knob. There is also a manual override slider switch for emergencies if you really need sudden maximum braking from the trailer, like if the trailer gets caught in an oscillation from wind or poor loading and starts wagging the rig. One of the best racers I know, who is also the raining Honda Challenge champ recently totally lost control of his tow rig and crashed because of a similar situation. Even his skill level could not control the trailer. With a proper trailer brake, control could have been regained easily at a touch of a button. The controllers’ electronics are smart, making it somewhat insensitive to mounting position and unlike other inertial controllers, it also works in reverse. The brake controller works flawlessly and seamlessly and greatly aids safety.
Air Lift Spring Boosters
When hitching up our fully loaded trailer to Project Pathfinder our rear end comically sagged, especially the time when we tried to tow a heavy 300ZXTT. Even with our new heavy duty suspension the rear end still sagged 3-4 inches under the load of a trailer. Worse, the nose high attitude caused wander, especially in high winds like the ones the sweep across the areas where racetracks are built. Our new suspension had improved on this situation 100% to where it was no longer a dangerous white-knuckle ride but one trip in a F250 SD truck proved to us that we still needed to do some suspension work.
Air Lift and the Nissan off road specialists Automotive Customizers in Florida came to our rescue with their air bag system especially for towing. The airlift system uses tough polyurethane bags that fit inside the rear coil springs. A small compressor is installed in a protected place inside the passenger side frame rail, which inflates the bags, instantly raising the ride height and increasing the spring rate. An inside the cab controller adjusts the spring rate via a pressure gauge and a remote on/off switch. A sensor keeps the air pressure from dropping below any preset pressure. Since the spring rate rises, the suspension needs more damping to optimize the function. This is no problem because we installed Ranchos remote shock adjusting system a few issues ago! We now have drivers seat adjustable spring and damping rates at a touch of a couple of buttons.
This system makes a world of difference when towing, we can now level out the chassis when it is loaded. For offroad, we can raise the truck up for more ground clearance. Even more interesting is that for on road extreme cornering, we can now increase the rear spring rate and dial in some oversteer if needed! Our Pathfinder was a handling marvel and it now got even better, albeit for advanced drivers only.
With our new mods our Pathfinder is reaching the towabilty of a ½ ton pickup in all aspects except for one, power. Stay Tuned, in following months we will start our build up of our VQ eating 250 hp torque monster tow motor.