Out With The Old, In With The Blue

wanderwebster 08/16/2017. 7 comments
Alaska 2017 Road Trip Pikes Peak Racecars

This was not how I wanted this trip to start.

After getting pulled off the White Rim, Bob and I stayed the night in Moab before making our way back to Salt Lake City the next day. When we first got stuck, we said, “when we’re off the trail we’ll look back and joke about this.” After being out there longer than expected, it took a while longer for it to start being funny. But being back in the city meant it was time to make some decisions, mainly: what do I do with the truck?

Do I spend the money and fix it? Running hot and pinging, and nobody seems to have a solid answer as to why, even those who do see it in person. Do I buy another truck and continue the trip? Do I buy something else and change the goal of the trip?

I figured I would start with what a few people had suggested and replace the thermostat. It had been replaced just eight months prior along with much of the cooling system, but it was the cheapest and easiest place to start. So I did. And that didn’t do anything to keep it cool.

Bob had suggested the pinging could be carbon buildup on the valves, so before he left we put some fuel additive and 91 octane in. After burning through a tank, I didn’t notice a difference.

At this point I was worried about dumping a lot of time and money into a thirteen year old truck, only to have another issue arise. I debated quite a bit and eventually decided that I should look for something new(er). Jeeps are cool but don’t really fit my camping style, mainly that I can’t sleep in the back. Thought about pickups, but that would require a camper shell and more modification than I wanted to spend time on for this trip. 4runners that were new enough and in my price range had the same mileage as my Xterra, and the newer ones don’t have three pedals. FJ prices are all over the place but when I found a low mile, manual Cruiser in my price range it made me wary since other similar examples were much more expensive. What was in my price range that was newer with low miles, three pedals, four-wheel drive, and enough space in the back to sleep was exactly what I had: an Xterra.

I found a couple of manual Pro-4Xs in Denver, so after confirming that they were still available I left Salt Lake. I put the second can of fuel additive in before filling up and on the way out there I realized something...the truck wasn’t running hot. It wasn’t pinging. Why? Why now? Previously it ran hot above 60 mph, but now with the AC running I was cruising at 75 and it was fine. It only protested when I went up a hill, and even then it wasn’t nearly as bad as it had been. I decided that I was still going to go through with a newer truck.

About halfway through my drive I got an email from one of the dealerships: the black Pro-4X had sold. Great. That only left the blue one in Denver and if that sold I’d be SOL until something else popped up that was cheap enough. I got to Denver, test drove it the next day, and bought it.

Time to celebrate! I bought a new(ish) truck! 2013 Xterra Pro-4X, 37,000 miles, manual. What should I do? Well, the Pikes Peak Hill Climb happened to be that weekend.

The first time I went to Pikes Peak, I camped out the night before at the Halfway Picnic Grounds and watched the race from there. This time I camped out at the Halfway Picnic Grounds with the intention of moving up to the Devils Playground before anyone else got on the mountain. When I heard cars driving by at 2:30 in the morning, I knew it was time to get up.

The race didn’t start until eight o’clock and I wasn’t about to sit there and freeze, so back into the sleeping bag I went. I woke up in the clouds but they soon lifted and the day began.

The weather was fantastic, except when the clouds rolled over and the temperature dropped about twenty degrees.

The race ended with quarter-sized hail at the summit, preventing five cars from running to the top. The mountain is not always so kind, so I think everybody was satisfied with a mostly-uninterrupted day of racing.


When I arrived at my campsite I had driven my shiny, new-to-me truck about 100 miles. And all I could think about was how it was not $20,000 better than the truck I traded it in for. I had all night to let that marinate. No cell service, and not feeling like making friends with my neighbors, there was literally nothing for me to do but think about my purchase that seemed more ridiculous by the minute. Had I bought something different I might not have felt the same way, but because it was essentially the same truck with better shocks, a locker, 100 more horsepower and a sixth gear I started to feel like quite the jackass for dropping that much coin on essentially the same car.

Luckily for me the dealership had a return policy, so on Monday morning, I returned it. Getting my money back ended up being a hassle, but eventually it was back in the bank and I was on my way.

This meant I had to get the old Xterra fixed. I was pointed to Thompson Automotive outside of Denver and boy am I glad. They were very kind and much more thorough than anyone else had been to this point. Within a few days both the pinging and high running temps had been solved, and for a hell of a lot less than I paid for the ‘13. Somebody had advanced the timing ten degrees at some point in the last month, so that solved my pinging issue. The radiator cap did not hold adequate pressure and there was a small coolant leak near the intake, and with both of those fixed it no longer runs hot on the highway. I can’t thank Bob, Jamie and Chris enough for all their help.

A long test drive back to Park City showed no problems. I’m meeting my parents in Zion for the Fourth and although I’m not holding my breath, it seems like things are finally starting to go my way on this trip.

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