maXTERRA Bumper Installed!

A bit of background. maXTERRA is the screen name of Dave who builds the best Xterra bumpers around. I only wish I would have found him sooner so he could have done my sliders too :)  His attention to detail (welds, cable routing, accents, etc.) and customer service are both unmatched.

Now, on to the install!

The first step with the maXTERRA was to get the old off. Drop the spare. Now you can see that there are three bolts (19mm) on either side of the frame that hold the bumper (and hitch if equipped) on. There’s also a fourth bolt (17mm) if you have a factory hitch — so four bolts per side. I’d seen on the forums that these bolts come incredibly tight from the factory. I don’t know if it’s because I hit them with PB Blaster a few times a month for a few months before, but that wasn’t my experience. #winning

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Remove the two 19mm bolts from each side holding on the hitch first. Before removing the 17mm bolt (last one) on each side, you need to use a 10mm wrench to remove the 7-pin plug. With the bolts out, it slides down off the open-ended mount (not through the hole like most aftermarket plugs).

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Now remove the 17mm bolt and drop the hitch. The bumper is still attached with one 19mm bolt on each side. Look at your tag lights — follow the wires from the lights back to a connector on the driver’s side. Disconnect the plug and disconnect it from the bumper. You can remove the last 19mm bolts and drop the bumper (tag lights and wire loom still attached… you won’t need any of that to install).

Installing the maXTERRA is largely the reverse of all those steps plus the tire carrier, tire mount, and tag and back-up lights wiring. Dave has installation instructions that make me writing out the step-by-step pretty pointless. The one thing I’d add is torque settings on the bumper bolts. Dave says 80 ft-lbs+. I looked up the installation instructions for an aftermarket hitch and this is what they list: 19mm bolts (136 ft-lbs) and 17mm (86 ft-lbs). If you don’t have a factory hitch, Dave provides the 17mm bolts to utilize all four mounting points on each side.

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A few tricks I picked-up during the install…

  • Doing this alone, one night after work, in the dark, right before a thunderstorm rolls in is not ideal.
  • Dave points out that when pulling the 7-pin trailer harness apart that the little tabs break easily. And that they do, incredibly easily.
  • I had no luck holding the bumper parallel to the ground and pushing it into place between the frame rails. For a minute I thought the frame was too narrow and/or the bumper too wide. Instead, walk the bumper in as far under the truck as you can, and then come up between the frame rails. Then you can push or use a rubber mallet to slide it back even further into place.
  • All of the lights on the bumper are LEDs, so the polarity matters. I found it helpful to simply twist the connections together by hand and leave everything loose (i.e. taillight uninstalled) until I tested it. Once I knew which wires went with which, I made the permanent connections.
  • The license plate comes with four holes and screws. I put the bottom bolts in first, thinking it would hold the plate in place why I did the top bolts (which are actually the tag lights also). Turns out California’s license plate holes are in a different spot than Utah’s. Instead, do the tops first and if the bottom bolts line up after — great. If not, no worries.
  • The bolt that the swing-arm pivots on has a 1-1/2″ bolt head. I have quite a few tools, but nothing I had even came close to being big enough for this bolt (my water pump pliers barely fit around it). Make sure before you start that you have a crecent (adjustable wrench) or similar that’ll handle a bolt head of that size.
Note the clean cable routing and the re-use of the factory tag light plug to make removing the bumper possible without cutting your wiring (again).
Note the clean cable routing and the re-use of the factory tag light plug to make removing the bumper possible without cutting your wiring (again).

Once installed — it was time to add a couple more things to leverage the new bumper.

First up was mounting a table. While not popular on Xterras, they can be see being sported by about every Jeep, Toyota and Land Rover. I asked Dave about fabbing one up for me and sent him a link to the Front Runner Jeep drop-down table as an example. He basically told me for the price, there’s no way he could compete. So that’s what have here — after some measuring, drilling, and sealing — a Front Runner table installed to the hatch side of the tire swing arm.

The final touch was to finally get the Blue Ridge Overland Gear tire system straps, Max Trax bag and tire bag off my Gobi ladder and onto a proper tire. While the Gobi works ok, the added weight — especially when the bags are full — stresses the hatch struts quite a bit. It also made opening the hatch and using the ladder a giant PITA. So I’m very glad to get that very nice piece of gear relocated onto the newly rear mounted spare.

And did I mention how nice this thing is? Some closer detail shots of my new and dirty bumper that hopefully show that Dave’s bumper stands alone.

Ain’t it just beautiful? I’d say it added at least 100 horsepower.