By on November 10, 2015


auto parts. shutterstock user 1000s_pixels

Mike writes:


I have a 2009 Nissan Xterra 4WD with 69,000 miles on the clock. It has been very well maintained and caused me no problems whatsoever. Hell, I’m still running on the original brakes and my service people tell me there’s no need for a brake job yet! I’ve been very happy with this truck. But, Nissan discontinued the Xterra in August 2015 and I’m wondering if I should sell mine now (because factory-only parts will become harder and harder to get) or keep it.

I want to keep it! But I do not want to face the possibility of having to replace a left-handed thingamabob in the future and no source of supply for it. Your advice and wisdom is greatly appreciated, as always.

Sajeev answers:

Take it from the guy who spends many a lunch hour on eBay hunting for “New Old Stock”, or NOS, parts for his absolutely insane 1983 Lincoln Continental Valentino restoration project: You’ll always find the parts you need. The myth that parts become unavailable when production ends is particularly frustrating to read, as I live the opposite on quite the regular basis.

What’s the myth’s reality? Manufacturers sell and dealers normally stock parts for 10+ years after production. Some dealers will sit on their stash until they go out of business. I recently got an unobtainium driver’s side turn signal lens for my 1988 Mercury Cougar from a Ford dealer in rural Kansas. It just took a phone call from my local dealer and they found it.

So parts will be available, but 10+ years from now you may not ring up your Nissan dealer to get them. Where will you get the parts instead?

  • Generic auto parts stores: Your local Autozone, NAPA, Advance, Pep Boys, etc. will stock or order damn near any mechanical/electrical bit for your ride for several decades. Lest we forget, factory parts are often made by the same companies that sell parts to these places. Nissan doesn’t make everything by themselves! And being in love with Nissan-branded parts isn’t the wisest move, making quality aftermarket parts worthy of your consideration.
  • Online junkyards: Thanks to the power of computers and the Internet, junkyards are filled with easily accessible parts counters across the country. While restoring the LSC, I effortlessly ordered the factory hood, fender and header panel from LKQ, they pulled the right parts from their local inventory (sourced from a deceased, red 1994 Mark VIII) and delivered them to my paint shop within two days.
  • eBay: If you know the part numbers, you’ll find what you need almost instantly. Don’t have a part number? Check the forums or call a dealership. They should oblige if they no longer stock the part.
  • Brand-specific restoration companies: There are tons of them for American marques, but Google “Datsun parts” and your heart shall be warmed. The future is bright indeed!
  • Other tools: There are third-party websites just waiting to sell you factory parts without the higher price/hassle of eBay or a restoration company.

What if you can’t get the parts with these tools? It’s not very likely for most vehicles, but try every week until you can because it will show up. I must have faith lest my restoration projects fail miserably!

[Image: Shutterstock user 1000s_pixels]

Send your queries to [email protected]com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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43 Comments on “Piston Slap: The Parts vs. Production Fallacy...”

  • avatar
    heavy handle

    The Big 3 enforce that 10-year limit very strictly, and they sometimes don’t even make it that long. A friend had to junk a Saturn after 8 years because his front subframe was gone. Tried to get one from a junk yard but he was told “why do you think we have so many of these in the junkyard in the first place?”
    I’ve experienced the same thing twice with Ford. Some oddball parts may be obtainable, but the stuff that fails regularly is gone.
    It’s particularly bad if you live in a jurisdiction that has regular emissions or safety inspections.

    No such problem with the European brands, they will support you for decades. The Japanese are almost as diligent.

    Part of the problem is that most dealers no longer stock parts. Anything beyond the basic is ordered-in.

    • 0 avatar

      All he needed was a junkyard source in a non-salty state for a replacement, or a friend with a MIG welder and some sheet steel to rebuild the one on his car. Neither sounds that difficult to me.

    • 0 avatar

      My experience with early 80’s Japanese cars, even with the factory part number, when you Google the part, sure enough, the part comes up at many dealers. However, when you contact the dealer, the part is obsolete and no longer available.

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    Ok Sajeev, find me a Lexus IS300 SportCross rear wheel (17×7.5) and have it ACTUALLY be 7.5″.
    I have been searching for the last 2 months, I ordered 2 from 2 different companies which were both mislabeled standard 17×7 IS300 wheels, and I have had no fewer than 3 wheel replacement companies searching the entire US for them.

    I finally broke down and dropped it off to be refurbished yesterday.

    • 0 avatar

      Put the part number in as a saved search on eBay. If it’s that rare, someone will know and put it on eBay. Of course you gotta wait…

      • 0 avatar

        Check out which will allow you to search by exact size. Once you find one call the salvage yard and have them verify the part number. I see 9 of the polished 17×7.5 and 2 of the chrome 17×7.5 within 100 miles of my zip code.

        • 0 avatar
          Land Ark

          That’s part of the problem. Most places have a 7.5″ listed but it ends up being a 7″. You cannot tell the difference between the two visually, and if used, the 1/2 mark inside the wheel is incredibly difficult to see. Stack on top of that that nobody knows there are two different sizes and you get confusion when stocking them.
          There were only 3000 SportCrosses ever sold in the US which means there were only 6000 7.5″ wheels produced for them.

          I still think it’s neat to find such oddball things with such a mundane car.

  • avatar

    I agree with Sajeev. If you’ve taken good care of it, which it sounds like you have, I think you’ve got a long time before you have any issues sourcing uncommon parts. Especially for something like an Xterra, which has a strong enthusiast following

    I currently drive and maintain a ’83 Mercedes 300D and a ’96 Chevy Impala SS.

  • avatar

    Of all the reasons to sell a car, this is not one of the good ones.

    I would presume that a lot of the parts on the Xterra are/were common to other Nissans. God created junkyards to help with this sort of thing.

  • avatar

    IS300 Sport Cross is a bit of an outlier, as I believe they only ever made a few thousand (approximately 3,000 by quick google search). Not sure where you are located, but I have seen more of those 3000 in the last 3 months since moving to NE Atlanta than the last 12 years combined. Ill keep an eye out at local salvage yards to see if they have any of these “under the radar exotics”

  • avatar

    I had a Fiat when they were no longer in the US and before the internet was alive and found parts, I have a saab now and they are dead , except in Turkey in seems, and have had no issues getting parts, you will be fine, keep the truck

  • avatar

    How much stuff do you anticipate breaking on a Japanese BOF vehicle with only 69K?

    Besides, mass production is massive. There are more left-handed thingamabobs already out there than there are tatted-up hamsters.

  • avatar

    Keep it. Your Nissan shares lots of parts with lots of other Nissans, even other brands. Parts are a cash cow for the manufacturer and aftermarket. They will be there when you need them.

    Ebay will have used parts for you Nissan forever.

    I have no problem getting parts for my 50 year old Corvair!

  • avatar

    There will come a day where the parts for your vehicle will have to be ordered, no one will keep them in stock, and it will be impractical to keep your Xterra as a daily driver. However, that day is so far down the road that you will probably have worn it out or want something different long before, so keep on trucking.

  • avatar

    RockAuto is the greatest site in the history of ever for finding NOS parts for old vehicles.

  • avatar

    I agree with Sajeev. Parts for the vast majority of cars can easily be found for many years. The only cars you need to be careful about are limited production models like the Saab 9-4X that I wrote about a little while back. Your Xterra falls into the vast majority and will have parts available for many years to come.

    The brake pads are likely sourced from an outside manufacturer like Akebono, Bendix or Hitachi and they will keep producing the pads as long as there is demand. While you may not be able to buy the pads under a Nissan OEM number at some point, they will still be available in the aftermarket.

    Manufacturers like to share pieces between many cars in order to save on tooling costs and looking at the interchange for your Xterra, I see it shares the front pads with the Frontier, NV200, and the Leaf so as long as those vehicles remain in production using the same brakes the pads will be available from Nissan.

    Even when the car gets older, parts will be around and can likely be found cheaper if the car was mass produced. I remember visiting Rock Auto and buying loaded brake calipers with pads and pins for my W126 diesel for $35 a side since they were on closeout.

    You may find odd bits that are unique to the car a little harder to find at times but as Sajeev mentioned, eBay and salvage yards can be your friend there.

    The parts sharing on you Xterra is not limited to the brakes as the VQ40DE engine was used for multiple models and parts and even complete rebuilt engines are easily found.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      Mind you, the 9-4X wasn’t *meant* to be limited-production. But it commenced production after Saab split from GM, so GM was essentially building it under contract for Saab alongside the 2010-present SRX, with which it is closely related. After Saab defaulted and could no longer pay for the 9-4X, GM refused to build any more. I can’t remember how many were built, but it was something under 500. Of course, no supplier wants to build that few copies of anything, so there’s probably a stash of a couple thousand cars’ worth of cosmetic parts, and probably whole dashboards and interiors. Computer and electronic modules should be similar or identical to the ones used in the pre-facelift (2010-2012) SRX, especially the ones with the 2.8-liter turbocharged V6…which was also used in the 9-5 as the top engine.

  • avatar

    Things might be more available than you think. I had very little trouble finding parts to support a ’73 Mercury Cougar as a daily driver when it was 25 years old. e.g.: the day I needed an upper radiator hose, my local CarQuest had the right shaped hose already in stock. I did have the advantage that the Cougar was built from the same mechanical bits as almost any other ’60’s-early ’80’s Ford, but Xterras & Frontiers aren’t exactly uncommon either.

  • avatar

    I drive an ’02 Dodge and ’03 Nissan and have no problem sourcing parts. Yes you might have search far and wide, call a few junkyards, check eBay, etc, but an Xterra is a mainstream vehicle. Now try finding parts for a ’08 Volvo C30. Sure its a recent(ish) model but no where near mainstream, its downright rare. Thus it took me nearly 3 weeks to locate a headlight assembly at a reasonable price because RockAuto (nor anyone else) doesn’t stock it. Now if paid $800 the dealer (and several websites) were happy to order the part for me – but I wasn’t paying that, so I found a refurbished unit. Like others said the consumable parts (brakes for example) will always be available, just not OEM – instead you’ll have to go aftermarket. But in most cases the aftermarket stuff is better or just rebranded for the OEM anyway. Do you really think Nissan makes their own brakes? Umm no… most components are sourced.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      Projector-beam (especially HID) headlamps, like those in your C30, are a notable exception to the “aftermarket is just as good” rule. Typically, you’ll want to go new OEM for those, or refurbished, like you did. The cheap overseas headlamp units on eBay are rarely engineered to put out proper light patterns and tend to blind other drivers. They may even start a fire in your wiring harness.

      • 0 avatar

        Any and all aftermarket headlamps. Reflectors are not exempt.

        • 0 avatar

          It depends on the car. I put a Depo headlight on my Sentra when I had it, and the beam pattern was indistinguishable from the factory part. I have seen them be terrible on other cars. I think it’s usually worth the gamble. Especially if you buy it from a site like Amazon where you can return it pretty easily.

  • avatar

    2009? That thing is basically brand new. The average car in the USA is 11 years old now so you have 5 years before it’s even average age.

  • avatar

    Who the heck worries about parts availability for a 6 year old Nissan?

    Former daily drivers I have had, and never was shut down due to inability to get parts:

    1963 Corvair in 1986 (23 years, and GM aggressively de-supported the car in the late 60s)
    1987 Mazda in 2004 (17 years)
    1990 Volvo in 2010 (20 years)

  • avatar

    For a common, mainstream, mass produced vehicle that’s not a rare trim level. Parts should be easy to find for the foreseeable future. And I’m talking about the next 20 years, not even a worry.

    For OEM Nissan parts, Courtesy Nissan is the place go, from what I’ve heard.

  • avatar

    If you’re in for the long haul by a parts car.

  • avatar

    This is just silly. Cars are “discontinued” every year, even if the model name lives on. The dealer will have many parts available for many years and the aftermarket will continue to support it for many years after that. Sure if you need some odd little “non wear” item you may have to go hunt through a wrecking yard, but that would apply to a 10 year old car whether the name on the trunk lid is still in use or not.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    I will say that I had some trouble sourcing parts at a reasonable price for a 1997 Jetta with the VR6 engine in 2014, but the Xterra is quite a bit more common than the VR6 Jetta ever was. And I ended up finding what I needed anyway, which was a radiator fan. The one from the Golf VR6 was *not* the same and could not be converted, unfortunately.

    • 0 avatar

      Unable to find, and unable to find at a price you like are two entirely different things. Mercedes will sell you just about any part for any car they have ever made, but you might not like the price very much. BMW went so far as to build a brand new run of gearboxes for the late 1930s 328 – the price was absolutely eye-watering but the cars are worth a million bucks these days.

    • 0 avatar

      I have to disagree. I have found that European cars are usually easier to get parts for. Especially from an OE supplier. Your radiator fan is also listed on RockAuto FYI.

  • avatar

    So from a parts perspective, if you meant to keep your next car a long time, would you buy a Kizashi?

  • avatar

    I can tell you this isn’t an issue on more common cars (anything Japanese – your Xterra) like it was/is with older European iron. Try finding a part for a 15 year-old Audi sometime, it’s not fun. VAG also likes to hide parts diagrams and numbers, often.

    But on a 23-year-old Cadillac? All over ebay, and websites have parts diagrams posted with part numbers. I needed a silver center wheel cap, and had several in varying condition to choose from right on ebay. Same with logo emblems, or a master cylinder, etc. And no Cadillac has even had that engine in it since 1995.

    You’ll be fine til at least 2040.

  • avatar

    A tale of two true orphans.

    Orphan number one – 2005 Saturn Relay FWD3. Vehicle was produced in 2004 – some parts are getting hard to find. The roof rack cross rails were made out of pure unobtainium. I found them through blind dumb luck on a random search. The driver seat has 161K miles of ass time in it and the heater element has failed within. The heater element, no problem, the faux sort of leather seat cover in cashmere – unobtanium. I can see the hand writing on the wall that things outside of basic mechanicals will get harder and harder at this point. A number of parts are no longer produced and many of these have gone to an early grave.

    Orphan number two – 2009 Pontiac G8 GT – thanks in part to the Chevy SS, and the range of interchangable parts, and the early demise of the G8 itself, parts remain rather plentiful. With the Caprice PPV and the Chevy SS both slated for execution in 2017, some things will get tougher. I’ve been told already don’t bend the sheet metal, as there is a lengthy wait. Before PPV parts became plentiful I’ve heard some horror stories of 2 and 3 month waits for parts like alternators (the PPV one has more amps and slaps right in apparently).

    So YMMV – but given the xTerra was a BOF off-roader and not an inherently unpopular minivan of questionable build quality, I would say parts will be around for years to come and you simply don’t have to worry about it.

  • avatar

    I had a 20-year-old Jaguar as a DD for a few years, never had a problem finding parts. You’ll have no trouble keeping that Xterra going for a long time.

  • avatar

    When I still had my old W115 Mercedes (’76, 300D), my local MB dealer [or my internet parts guy in their network] could find inventory at any MB dealer *on the planet* and have parts shipped in at no additional charge.

    Combine that with specialty recyclers and there was never a part I “couldn’t find”, with some effort.

  • avatar

    If I can keep a 1953 Hudson on the road, your Xterra should be cake. And I’m not in Sajeev’s tax bracket, either.

  • avatar

    I don’t think anyone needs to worry about most parts for about 15 years. After that point, stuff starts getting harder to find. So your Xterra should be good for quite a few more years.

    Right now I’m looking for the right ’91-’95 Acura Legend (still haven’t found the right one yet — test drove a cheap ’91 this morning that looked decent in pictures but has too many issues even for its low price). Part of the equation is whether the missing/broken parts on any given example are easy or hard to find. Some are easy (particularly engine, suspension, and brake parts) while some are very hard (interior and some body parts).

  • avatar

    You should have no trouble getting the mechanical parts for years to come. Body parts over the years might be a problem. You should be OK if someone starts to manufacture after market parts like fenders, door etc.

    I have a 26 year old VW Cabriolet conv that i use on the weekends if the weather is nice and i can still obtain every part i will ever need for this car.I can still buy OEM fenders for this car thru the dealers.

  • avatar

    And some vehicles are still manufactured and sold in other markets after being discontinued in North America. So parts can be imported.

  • avatar

    FWIW the round headlights on my 1967 Mustang are the same size and plug pattern as many round headlighted Jeeps. I know that means that I’m not using the correct part with the little “Ford” oval in the center but I’m not looking to be judged in a concurs competition either.

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