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USED WHEELS: 2005+ Nissan Frontier pickup makes for solid used-truck buy

2005 Nissan Frontier
2005 Nissan Frontier - Justin Pritchard
  • Model: 2005 Nissan Frontier
  • Vehicle type: Pickup Truck

History/description:

Though it remains on sale today, the currently-available Nissan Frontier has been around, largely unchanged, since it was launched initially in 2005.

Battling competitors form Toyota, Ford, Mazda, GM and others, Frontier was (and remains) one of several options for shoppers to consider if they’re after pickup truck capability in a more compact package.

Selection was abundant, via several body configurations, powertrains, upgrade bundles and special edition variants.

Look for two- or four-door models, two- or four-wheel drive, four- or six-cylinder power and feature content including: dual-zone climate control, an auto-dimming mirror, a cargo management system, and more. Other features included leather seating, Bluetooth and navigation.

Hill descent control, an available Dana 44 rear axle and an off-road traction management system dialled up capability, and towing capacity was rated at 6,500 pounds.

A 2.5-litre, four-cylinder engine with about 154 horsepower was the base offering, though many drivers prefer the potent four-litre V6 with about 265. Transmission choices were a five-speed automatic or manual, or a six-speed manual, depending on the model.

What owners like:

Owners appreciated a distinctive and flexible cabin, good build quality, a solid and planted feel, power to spare from the big V6, and lots of off-road capability when properly equipped.

What owners dislike:

Common complaints include a very big turning circle, hefty fuel use on some models, cramped rear seats on some models, and a low-budget feel to some of the interior plastics and trimmings.

The test drive: Frontier comes off as a proven and solid machine, but long-term reliability has a lot to do with how well the vehicle was cared for and maintained by past owners. Shoppers should seek out full service records which prove the truck was consistently and continually cared for through its life. Have the suspension assessed professionally, and especially if any unwanted clunking or slamming sounds are noted during the test drive.

A professional technician can expertly detect any signs of worn out components, including shocks, bushings and ball-joints, that may require attention. This inexpensive inspection could reveal hundreds of dollars worth of repairs.

Check the fuel gauge. If it moves sporadically or becomes inoperative, the likely culprit is a bad fuel sending unit. The solution is replacement of the unit. This issue seemed to affect 2005-08 models.

Some owners of 2005-10 models reported an issue with fluid cross contamination, which may see compromised plumbing allow automatic transmission fluid and engine coolant to mix within the transmission cooler. This can be disastrous and cause expensive damage.

Your best defence is a professional assessment of the transmission and engine coolant condition and levels. A professional can quickly determine, visually, if the two fluids are mixing with one another. If that’s the case, move to another unit.

Other warning signs include engine overheating, fluctuating engine coolant temperature, or unwanted harshness from the automatic transmission. Note that the majority of Frontier owners do not report this issue, but it’s worth being aware of.

Though fairly sporadic, a manufacturing defect in the timing chains on earlier models may be worth noting. The owner’s community suggests that this issue seems most common on 2005-10 models, particularly at higher mileage.

Listen to the engine idling with the hood popped. If you detect a whining noise, perhaps similar to a band-saw, or a rattling, metal-on-metal sound coming from the front of the engine, you may want to move to another unit, or have a professional make a further assessment. Note that some owners have reported timing chain issues resulting in expensive repairs, but that many have not.

The verdict:

Frontier looks like a solid and reliable pickup.  Your best bet for maximum peace of mind is a 2011 or newer unit with satisfactory results from a pre-purchase inspection by a Nissan technician.

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