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Towing big with the Path

Posted: Tue Aug 15, 2006 4:06 pm
by RacerZX
One of the primary reasons I upgraded from my Murano to the Pathfinder was the added towing capacity. I tow my race car, I tow other cars, I even once helped a friend drag a huge water tank off his property.

The Pathfinder not only comes from the factory with a sturdy integrated reciever hitch, it's got all the wiring for an electric brake contrller already IN the body harness, how cool is that. First off you'll need 3 parts from your local Nissan dealer:

999T8-R517P is a 7-pin "RV style" trailer connector which replaces the old 4-pin connector.

24167-A6000 is a wiring harness which plugs in under the dash and goes to your brake controller (I'm actually not terribly happy with where I put this, I may move it to that pocket above the 4WD and VDC switches in the center console).

25230-79964 is a 6-pin relay which goes under the hood and provides power to the brake controller wiring harness. It's that brown one there in the picture, plugs right into an empty socket.

Next you'll need an electric brake controller. There are many available, but I recommend the high tech Tekonsha Prodigy, a top-shelf inertia based proportional controller which you can find online for around $100 or at your local UHaul for about $200. If you're uncomfortable doing the wiring, most UHaul locations have a hitch and wiring specialist to do this kind of stuff and their rates are pretty reasonable.

That takes care of all the electricals, but there is one glaring area that the Pathfinder is deficient, the rear springs. They are SOOOO soft, seriously, they must have designed the thing to ride nice and soft at the right ride height with ZERO cargo. Put 400-500 lbs on the trailer hitch and she'll sag virtually down to the bump stops.

There are probably more exotic auto-leveling super air-spring setups out there, but I decided to save my pennies (a lot of them) and use the relatively simple auxillary air support bag setup available from Very cheap, works well, and easy to install, can't beat that with a stick.

The air bags go inside the OEM spring, so you squeeze all the air out and thread them in between the coils.

The small air tube comes out the top of the air bag, through the open upper bump-stop, and then I threaded it through the rear subframe to avoid coming near the hot exhaust.

View of the driver's side of the setup, note you can see the air line coming from the passenger's side, plus always use some zip ties to keep things from wiggling around too much.

Then I routed the air lines up around the spare tire and down behind the rear bumper cover and T'ed them together.

And finally the air line goes to a schroder valve (same type of valve as on your tires), which I installed into the trailer plug bracket.

When you need to tow, use any normal air source to fill the airbags with up to 35psi and it keeps the rear end nice and firm.

Posted: Wed Aug 16, 2006 2:09 am
by krnnerdboy
wow....great write up...the airlift 1000 is my next mod. Thanks for your dedication and commitment!!

Posted: Sat Aug 19, 2006 9:30 am
by boogyman
Racer that is a great set up. I noticed a sag in Pathy's that were hauling trailers and wondered what to do about that. You seem to have the best inexpensive way to get it to ride correct. The air valve on the connector plate is an excellent idea. I had thought about airbag suspension, but that looks much easier than the big set-up's and keeps it looking fairly stock.

Posted: Sat Aug 19, 2006 5:35 pm
by RacerZX
Nifty autoleveling air springs would be swank, but since I actually will take this beast off-road I would worry about the durability of the air springs in such extreme conditions. Would REALLY suck to be in the middle of the desert and have one of those things fail on me.

I did a little more work on the setup today, moving the brake controller into the pocket above the 4x4 selector. Here's some pictures to describe how to pull off the under steering wheel panel and the shifter trim panel:

First off, gotta peel off the cover under the steering wheel to de-install the controller from it's existing location. That starts with the door jam trim plate, just pull it up from the B pillar and work your way forward one clip at a time.

Some of your clips will break. This broken one actually has enough head on it left for another application, but I'm sure next time I pull it apart I'll kill it. Just get another from your local Nissan dealer if you need one, or skip it entirely (there's lots of clips, standard Nissan over-engineering)

Pull up most (not all) of the A pillar trim plate...
Image access the left screw holding on the panel we actually want off.

And the right screw is easily accessible.

Then just three clips left, you need to pull out, not down, on the panel with a little wiggle and english and she'll come for you. This is the left clip.

And two on the right.

Next, taking apart the center console trim pieces. It's all just clips, but damn they are a PITA, I had to really take a deep breath of courage to yank on them as much as was necessary. First piece you need to pull is the trim piece on the cup holders, pulls straight up, but really hard to get your fingers in to grip the bugger.

Then shift the shifter into 2nd or 1st, pull up and back on the rear most two clips, then straight out on the middle two clips (where the trim panel turns upwards) and lastly down and out for the top two clips.

Here's the spare electrical connectors behind that block of VDC switches. If somebody with the OR edition could crack theirs open and see what the connector looks like for the HDC switch that would be sweet, please please please somebody :D

Disconnect those connectors (standard push in on the little tab and the connector pulls out), and the whole panel comes out so you can drill/tinker with it to your hearts content.

And last but not least, here's how it looks all mounted up:

Air Bags

Posted: Mon Aug 21, 2006 8:52 am
by Burt
Thanks for the details on the install. I have a couple of questions. with the AirLift set at minimum preasure...I think it is 5psi. Is the ride height of the unloaded Pathfinder the same or higher? When you ride with the truck unloaded, does it feel stiffer in the back? I tow a trailer rarely and want to add the Airlift but don't want the jacked up look when not using or needing it but would like to stiffen the rear suspention with and without a trailer attached. I like to drive into the big sweepers a little more agressively than most and notice the back end want to do a squat/roll thing. I'm also considering the Rancho RS9000 to tighten up the ride.
Any thoughts on those?

Posted: Mon Aug 21, 2006 8:58 am
by RacerZX
The height with just 5 to 10 psi in the air bags is not any different. In fact even with 35 psi it only goes up maybe an inch.

From a driving feel perspective, it's GREAT at 35psi. The rear end doesn't wollow around when you change lanes on the freeway and stuff, really helps tighten up the steering feel. I'd love to find some stiffer springs that are the right length to not change ride height but firm up the rear end.

Posted: Mon Aug 21, 2006 2:09 pm
by Burt
Thanks, I'll order them tonight. They were the AirLift Kit right?
On the stiffer spings issue.
I did some research before I found this great site......the Ranch shocks RS9000's with dial up stiffness are a possibility for what we may want. They even have a in truck adjuster ...the RCX that presurizes the shock at the push of a button for a stiffer ride. They are not air shocks but use air to adjust the dampening by what I understand.
Perhaps you could take a look and share your thoughts.

Posted: Mon Aug 21, 2006 3:02 pm
by RacerZX
Yeah, the Air Lift 1000.

The Rancho shocks are cool, but having to mount up an air compressor sounds like a PITA and a half to me. Also if you only increase the stiffness of your shocks without playing with the springs you can end up with a harsh flinty ride that still rolls a lot on longer corners (because the shocks, while stiff for quick changes, will settle if you're on a freeway interchange or some such sweeping turn). Won't really know for sure until somebody tries it, please do and let us know how it goes :wink:

Posted: Tue Aug 29, 2006 8:44 am
by Burt
Installed the Airlift system yesterday. Although interest in some help while trailering morocycles a coule of times a year...I was more interested in a tighter suspension, particularly the back end which got squirly in sweeping turns and curves. This system did the trick and really tightened it up without getting to bumpy or rigid. The stock front seems good but haven't really pushed it yet trying to get used to the VDC now that the rear is not all over the place.
The cost was about $80.00 delivered.
It took a little less than an hour to install.
At 5psi (no load) the rear is a little under 1/4 inch higher
I'm running at 25psi (no load) which raises the rear a little under 1/2 inch.
At max pressure of 35 psi (no load) the back was up 3/4 of an inch.

Thanks for your research on this.


Posted: Tue Aug 29, 2006 9:06 am
by amr40509
Have you had the car/trailer on a scale to see what load (dead and tongue) you are dealing with?

Posted: Tue Aug 29, 2006 9:28 am
by RacerZX
Roughly speaking, 5200 lbs for the trailer and 450lbs for the tounge.

Right on

Posted: Sat Sep 02, 2006 11:32 pm
by Fofiddy
Carl, great job on your path. Long time lurker first time caller...
Have you noticed any difference with how the vdc reacts with the air bags inflated? What psi do you usually leave it at? I drive rather spiritedly and I've felt the vehicle go from somwhat taught to Kristi Alley in about 20k, patiently praying Bilstien releases a quality setup in the near future.
I've really been considering the airlift it as a solution for wallow and roll primarily and on the occasion I do tow the bikes around. I just pulled a 6x12 loaded with 3 dirtbikes and a mess of camping gear 1500mi 2 weeks ago. I was wishing I had stumbled across this site earlier and was able to secure a set. Even though the rear squated, the ride was incredibly smooth and it never bottomed out, even when pulling that trailer up a rough dirt road to the campesite on the top of a WV Appalachian Which I'll need to post a shot or two of.

Posted: Sun Sep 03, 2006 8:48 am
by RacerZX
The VDC doesn't seem to care, no.

The kit says always have at least 5psi in them, so the bags don't slide around inside the OEM springs and develop tears. Therefore I leave them at 10psi when I'm not towing.

Posted: Sun Sep 03, 2006 7:29 pm
by Fofiddy
How much of a diff does it make for body roll? It doesn't seem to make much sense that it would help if the bags a linked... I figure it compresses one side spilling the excess into the other bag, kind of the opposite of what your trying to achive? Where a Timbren might add the stiffness without forcing the other side up. Either application sounds like it could benefit from a strut tower bar up front (or used in conjunction for a adjustable solution that would aleviate spring sag?) Given it's a ladder frame I'm figureing the frame wouldnt be as rigid as something with an Unibody and might crisp up handling.

So you wouldn't leave the bags at say 20? From a handeling standpoint what differences do you feel dirving through the differen't psi's?
I'm sorry to be such a PITA.

Posted: Sun Sep 03, 2006 10:53 pm
by RacerZX
When the air bags are pumped up it helps body roll a lot, and also just the feel of freeway lane change steering response. Instead of the rear end wallowing around for a second before following the front tires in the direction you've asked for, the rear end gets on with it smartly.

I really doubt there would be any handling difference to be gained from separating the two side's air bags, but the kit does come with hardware to do exactly that if you want to try it.

In my experience the best use for a strut tower bar is as ballast on your opponent's race car. :roll:
Seriously, %99 of the STBs out there are cosmetic at best, and at worst both add weight and ensure that BOTH sides of your suspension deform instead of just the loaded side.

I haven't tried running the airbags at different pressure levels. Honestly I would wonder about the longevity of the airbags if you left them inflated all the time, but you never know until you try, order the kit and let us know how it goes.